HC Deb 25 April 1968 vol 763 cc479-80
Q3. Mr. Wyatt

asked the Prime Minister whether he will invite the Head of the Government of the Argentine to London for discussions on matters of mutual concern.

The Prime Minister

President Ongania would be welcome in London at any time, but I believe that matters of mutual concern to the two countries are being satisfactorily handled through normal diplomatic channels and by direct contacts between British and Argentine Ministers whenever necessary.

Mr. Wyatt

Will the Prime Minister confirm that he has told the President of the Argentine that there is no question whatever of our handing over sovereignty over the Falkland Islands; and, if that is so, will he immediately bring to an end the secret talks which have been going on about the Falkland Islands because, if we will not hand over sovereignty over them, there is nothing whatever to discuss?

The Prime Minister

I have had no direct contact with the President of the Argentine, so I could not have made a statement of that kind. But the position has been made perfectly clear, with my agreement, by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary to the Argentine Ambassador. What the Argentine Ambassador was clearly told in March was said to the House at an early hour of the morning during the debate on the Consolidated Fund Bill. I have nothing to add to what my right hon. Friend said.

Viscount Lambton

Has the Argentine declined to sign a contract for the purchase of ships from Scottish dockyards unless there is agreement with the Argentine over the Falkland Islands?

The Prime Minister

I have not heard of that, but I should be glad to make inquiries about it. It is a fact that, for a time, a number of contracts with exporters from this country, private exporters in nearly every case, were held up because of the ban on the importation of meat from the Argentine. There is no doubt that there was a semi-boycott of that kind. I have not heard of the particular case to which the noble Lord refers, but I shall be glad to look into it.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

If, as the Prime Minister says, there is no question of handing over the Falkland Islands to the Argentine, what has been the point of holding the discussions?

The Prime Minister

There have been a number of questions involved in the talks, and there is no doubt that the Argentine Government want us to hand the islands over. They have now had their answer.