HC Deb 04 February 1960 vol 616 cc1199-201
9. Mr. Smithers

asked the Minister of State for Commonwealth Relations whether he will make a statement about the outcome of recent negotiations with the Maldivian Government regarding the use of Addu Atoll by the Royal Air Force.

11. Mr. Dugdale

asked the Minister of State for Commonwealth Relations whether agreement has been reached with the Maldives Government on the terms under which the United Kingdom is to use a runway on the Island of Gan or the period during which it shall be so used.

Mr. Alport

An Agreement was initialed in Colombo on 1st February under the terms of which the Maldivian Government are to make a free gift to the United Kingdom Government of the use of Gan Island and certain other defence facilities in Addu Atoll for a period of thirty years.

The Agreement also redefines relations between the two Governments and re-affirms the obligations assumed by the United Kingdom Government for the defence of the Maldive Islands. It allows for the conduct by the Maldivian Government of their own external relations in the economic and cultural fields. The Maldivian Government have agreed to receive a United Kingdom representative in Male.

The United Kingdom Government on their part are making available to the Maldivian Government a total sum of £850,000, of which £100,000 will be in the form of an immediate payment and £750,000 spread over a period of years will be in the form of economic aid and devoted to specific projects.

The Maldivian Government have also welcomed the United Kingdom Government's offer of good offices for the restoration of the Maldivian Government's authority in Addu Atoll, and both Governments are agreed that this must be a gradual and peaceful process.

At the invitation of the Maldivian Government I am hoping to visit Male on 14th February for the signature of the Agreement.

I am sure that both sides of the House will join in welcoming this Agreement which we hope foreshadows a long period of peaceful co-operation between the United Kingdom and the Government of His Highness the Sultan.

Mr. Smithers

Will my right hon. Friend thank our High Commissioner in Ceylon and Mr. Clark for the patience and skill they have exhibited in arriving at this Agreement? Can my right hon. Friend say something which will make clear to the House what may be the position of the Maldivian population of Addu Atoll in the light of the Agreement?

Mr. Alport

I shall willingly convey the kind words of my hon. Friend with regard to the patient and sustained negotiations which these two officials have undertaken and brought to a successful conclusion. As to the Maldivian inhabitants of Addu Atoll, the Maldivian Government have accepted our offer of good offices and at the same time we have an assurance that they will not seek the return of their officials to the atoll unless we and the Maldivian Government agree that it can be peacefully accomplished.

Mr. Dugdale

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we on this side of the House are not only delighted that agreement has been reached between the two Governments, but that agreement has also been reached between different Ministers in our Government, whose differences were referred to in a leading article in The Times recently?

Mr. Alport

I am not aware of any differences existing.

Mr. Marquand

While adding officially, on behalf of the Opposition, congratulations to the Government on having made an Agreement at long last, may I ask the hon. Gentleman if he will as soon as possible circulate a White Paper so that we may study it in detail?

Mr. Alport

We hope to do so as soon as we can.

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