Discussions over the timing of the third round of bilateral talks are still ongoing between the two Governments.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, following the government of Mauritius saying that they will not support the proposed marine protected area for the Chagos archipelago until the issues of sovereignty and resettlement are addressed, Her Majesty's Government will open discussions on those issues with Mauritius. [HL1306]
Officials from the UK and Mauritius met in January and July 2009. The delegations discussed the latest legal and policy developments relating to the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT). Both delegations set out their respective positions on sovereignty and the UK also set out how the UK needed to bear in mind its treaty obligations with the US and our ongoing need of BIOT for defence purposes. There was mutual discussion of fishing rights, the environment, continental shelf and future visits to the territory by Chagossians.
We welcome the prospect of further bilateral discussions with the Mauritians on BIOT. However, Government policy remains that they have no doubt about the UK's sovereignty over BIOT but that they will cede the territory to Mauritius when it is no longer needed for defence purposes. And, following the judgment in the House of Lords in October 2008 in the Judicial Review of the 2004 BIOT Orders in Council which upheld the validity of the BIOT (Constitution) Order, the Government's policy remains that no one has a right of abode in BIOT and permission is needed for anyone visiting the territory. The Government are not, therefore, seeking to facilitate the resettlement of the Chagossians on BIOT.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the effect a full ban on fishing in their proposed marine protected area for the Chagos archipelago would have upon the Mauritian fishing industry; and whether they have agreed to those proposals. [HL1317]
As set out in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office public consultation document into whether to create a marine protected area in the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT), the Government recognise that there will be an impact on the international fishing community following the establishment of a marine protected area and any resulting restrictions or a ban on fishing. Only one Mauritian company presently fishes in BIOT waters—on the reefs.
The purpose of the consultation which was launched on 10 November 2009 is to seek views more widely from all stakeholders and interested parties to help the Government assess the right option for the future environmental protection of the territory. The consultation period runs to 12 February 2010 and we are encouraging all with an interest to make their views known.
No decision on whether to establish a marine protected area in the territory will be taken until after the consultation period.