HC Deb 27 March 1972 vol 834 cc7-8
5 Mr. Luce

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) if he will report on the progress made under the June, 1971, Joint Statement on Communications between the United Kingdom and Argentina concerning the Falkland Islands;

(2) whether plans for the construction of both a temporary and permanent airstrip in the Falkland Islands are in hand; and if he will report progress.

Mr. Godber

Satisfactory progress is being made. It is hoped shortly to conclude arrangements with the Argentine Government for the construction of a temporary airstrip. We have appointed Messrs. Rendel, Palmer and Tritton, consulting engineers, to make a detailed survey of suitable sites for a permanent airfield, and we hope to receive their report shortly.

Mr. Luce

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Is he aware that improved communications are of key importance to the islanders? Therefore, will he work closely with the Argentine Government to ensure that the construction of both the temporary airstrip and the permanent airstrip goes ahead as quickly as possible? Lastly, will he reaffirm that there will be no change in the sovereignty or status of the Islands without the free consent of the inhabitants?

Mr. Godber

Yes, I am glad to confirm the last point raised in that supple- mentary question. As regards the first point, I had the opportunity of discussing this with the Argentine Foreign Minister when I was in Buenos Aires a short time ago. I think that there is a very good understanding between us about how this work should proceed. I hope that at the end of the day we shall get much better arrangements for communications between the Argentine and the Falklands.

Mr. Marten

What length of runway have the Government in mind?

Mr. Godber

The temporary airstrip will take fairly small aircraft, and we hope to see that established during the summer. For the permanent airstrip we have not yet got the recommendations of the consultants, but we hope to have a sufficiently long airstrip to take aircraft which will be of reasonable size to allow of reasonable communications.