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Falkland Islands

Volume 19: debated on Wednesday 3 March 1982

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asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement on his discussions with the Government of Argentina on the future of the Falkland Islands.

I met the Argentine Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs for discussions on the Falkland Islands question on 26 and 27 February in New York. While we both agreed on the need to resolve the dispute, and discussed future procedures, I made it clear that we had no doubts about British sovereignty, and that no solution could be agreed that was not acceptable to the islanders and to the House. The text of the communiqué was published in the Official Report of 2 March and has been placed in the Library.

We have all read the bland communiqué and we have then read the reports from Argentina in today's press. Can the hon. Gentleman give an undertaking that under no circumstances will Her Majesty's Government countenance the transfer of sovereignty to a country that denies human rights, imprisons trade unionists, denies free elections and in every way goes against all the traditions held dear by the people of the Falkland Islands?

I can tell the hon. Gentleman that, without any shadow of a doubt, there will be no contemplation of any transfer of sovereignty without consulting the wishes of the islanders, or without the consent of the House. The statement reported to have been issued by the Argentine Government yesterday is not helpful to the process that we all wish to see that will resolve this dispute.

I congratulate my hon. Friend on the line that he took in talks with the Argentine Government. Has his attention been drawn to the somewhat aggressive statement in the Argentine press yesterday? Will he assure us that all necessary steps are in hand to ensure the protection of the islands against unexpected attack?

We have no doubts about our sovereignty over the Falkland Islands and no doubt about our duties to the islanders. The statement to which my right hon. Friend referred causes me and my right hon. and noble Friend deep concern, especially as the discussions last week were held in a friendly and cordial atmosphere. Yet, they have been followed by a statement that is most unhelpful. It causes deep anxiety and is not helpful to the process of finding a solution to the problem.

While the Minister's words are welcome, they would be more persuasive if the Government were willing to embark on an economic aid programme for the Falkland Islands. Can the hon. Gentleman say anything about that?

My right hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development is here and is answerable for aid problems. I think that he would want me to stress that the per capita assistance for the Falkland Islands is substantial and that the Government propose to continue in that way.