§ The Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations (Mr. Arthur Bottomley)
I am glad to be able to inform the House that the negotiations with the Maldivian 33 Government have been successfully concluded and that the new Anglo-Maldivian Agreement was signed in Colombo this morning.
By this Agreement, which confirms that the Maldive Islands are a fully independent State, Britain ceases to be responsible for the defence of the Maldive Islands and for the conduct of their political relations with other countries and with international organisations.
The Agreement confirms Britain's unrestricted and exclusive use of those facilities in Addu Atoll which were accorded under the 1960 Agreement for the purposes of Commonwealth defence.
I have arranged for copies of this new Agreement to be placed in the Library and I shall in due course be presenting the text to Parliament for publication as a White Paper.
I am confident that this satisfactory outcome of the negotiations will mark the beginning of a new and happy era in Anglo-Maldivian relations.
§ Mr. Sandys
May I say how glad I am that the right hon. Gentleman has at last brought these tedious negotiations, which I started about 18 months ago, to a successful conclusion? May I ask him to confirm that his statement does mean that, under the new Agreement, Britain will enjoy all the rights and facilities which she now enjoys under the present Agreement?
§ Mr. Bottomley
I am very happy to have been able to draw to a conclusion these negotiations, which were started by the right hon. Gentleman. In reply to his question, I can answer "Yes, Sir."
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
Can the Minister say who will be responsible for the local people in these islands?