HC Deb 13 April 1959 vol 603 cc647-8
56. Mr. Brockway

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations what request he has had from the Maldivian Government to resume the negotiations, recently suspended by them, about the Royal Air Force staging post on Gan Island; to what extent discussions have taken place between the two Governments about the future status of the Maldives; on what date it is proposed that Major Phillips will be relieved by his successor; and if he will make a statement.

The Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations (Mr. C. J. M. Alport)

I would refer the hon. Member to my answer to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison) on 19th March. I have received no request from the Maldivian Government to resume negotiations. A representative of the Government of the Maldive Islands has arrived in London with authority to discuss the resumption of negotiations and I have confirmed to him Her Majesty's Government's offer to renew the talks in Male, Colombo or London. I understand that their representative has now reported to the Maldivian Government in Male and awaits their reply.

In the meantime we have been compelled to make it clear that the series of totally unfounded accusations against the British representatives and R.A.F. personnel on Gan Island, which are reported to emanate from the Office of the Maldivian Government representative in Colombo, do not provide a happy augury for what, we believe, can be a friendly and fruitful resumption of our negotiations.

Mr. H. A. Arthington-Davy, who is to be attached to the staff of the United Kingdom High Commissioner in Colombo in succession to Major Phillips, sailed for Colombo on the 11th April and will proceed to Gan to take up duty as Adviser on Maldivian affairs as soon as normal consultations with the High Commissioner have been completed.

Mr. Brockway

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that lengthy statement. Is it not desirable that there should be an impartial inquiry into the Maldive Islands in view of the contradictory and confused reports which have been received; and secondly, in considering the future status of the islands, would it not be desirable to associate Ceylon and India in these negotiations?

Mr. Alport

I think the hon. Gentleman is under some misapprehension with regard to the position in the Maldivian Islands. All these matters are entirely for the Maldivian Government, who are in control completely of their internal affairs.