HC Deb 23 March 1949 vol 463 cc342-3
2. Mr. J. Langford-Holt

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs how many aliens have established posts on British territory in the Falkland Islands or their dependencies; and what steps have been taken to remove such organised posts as have been set up.

Mr. Mayhew

Occupied posts have been established, in defiance of our protests, by the Argentines on Laurie Island in the South Orkneys group, on Gamma Island in the Palmer Archipelago, and on Deception Island in the South Shetlands group; and by the Chileans on Greenwich Island in the South Shetlands group and on South Graham Land.

The House will be aware that His Majesty's Government have, on more than one occasion, offered to refer this question to the International Court of Justice at The Hague, but the Argentine and Chilean Governments have not seen fit to avail themselves of this offer. In August last, the future of the whole Antarctic region formed the subject of a formal approach by the United States Government to the Governments of the countries concerned. The outcome of the United States approach is not yet clear, but it is hoped that international discussion will eventually lead to an amicable settlement of our differences with the Argentine and Chilean Governments; and that no question will therefore arise of the removal of the Argentine and Chilean parties.

Mr. Langford-Holt

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the impression has been given that the Government's attitude towards this problem has been very weak indeed? How long will this violation—for violation it is—of British territory be tolerated by His Majesty's Government?

Mr. Mayhew

I do not agree that the Government's attitude has been weak. I think we have shown a good example of restraint in this matter and of going through the proper forms of international collaboration. As to the second part of the supplementary question, I have nothing to add except that the results of the United States approach must be known first.

Colonel Gomme-Duncan

Why should the British Government have to refer to an international organisation the ownership or otherwise of a definite piece of the British Empire? Surely what little we have left, has nothing to do with any foreigners?

Mr. Mayhew

It is perfectly proper if a difference of view like this arises that we should if we wish refer it to the International Court, and that is what we have offered to do.

Mr. Kirkwood

Seeing that the Opposition are so hilarious about my hon. Friend's reply, do they want the Government to declare war?