HC Deb 21 January 1981 vol 997 cc248-9
6. Mr. William Shelton

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he has received the views of the Falkland Islanders on the various alternatives that were placed before them recently; and whether he will make a statement.

Sir Ian Gilmour

At a meeting on 7 January the Falkland Islands Legislative Council passed the following motion: While this House does not like any of the ideas put forward by Mr. Ridley for a possible settlement of the sovereignty dispute with Argentina, it agrees that Her Majesty's Government should hold further talks with the Argentines, at which this House should be represented and at which the British delegation should seek an agreement to freeze the dispute over sovereignty for a specified period of time. This motion represents the outcome of debate in the islands since the visit by my hon. Friend the Minister of State in November last year. We are now considering the next steps.

Mr. Shelton

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer, but in this new situation the probability is that no solution will be reached for some considerable time. If that is so, what plans has he to aid the Falkland Islands? Does he agree that if no such aid is forthcoming the situation might be resolved in Argentina's favour by the continuing economic problems at present facing the islanders?

Sir Ian Gilmour

With respect to my hon. Friend, I do not altogether accept the premise of his question. I do not think that it is necessarily true that nothing will happen for a long time. Apart from anything else, the Argentines have been pressing for developments. I therefore think that it is premature to answer substantively my hon. Friend's question about aid, although he knows that we are committed to supporting the Falkland Islands in every practicable way.

Mr. James Johnson

What plans do the Government have for the future of the islands? Are the people there—fewer than 2,000—to be condemned, like Muhammed's coffin, to be suspended between Heaven and Hell?

Sir Ian Gilmour

The whole point of our talks with the Argentines is to provide a secure future for the Falkland Islanders.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that without the wholehearted support of the people of the Falkland Islands there will be no sell-out to Argentina? Does he agree that there is great potential in the Falkland Islands—possible oil and great fishing reserves? Will he consider aiding the Falkland Islands financially in regard to communications, particularly with the extension of their airport? If that were done, there would be no problem at all in dealing with Argentina.

Sir Ian Gilmour

We have many times made it clear that the interests of the Falkland Islanders are paramount, so there can be no question of a sell-out. As my hon. Friend knows, extension of the airport will be very expensive, I have nothing to add to the answer that my hon. Friend the Minister of State gave.

Mr. Maclennan

In the light of the resolution passed by the Falkland Islanders, will the Government withdraw the proposed lease-back suggestion from the agenda for any discussions that they may have with the Argentine Government?

Sir Ian Gilmour

It is not on the agenda at the moment, so it does not have to be withdrawn. All that we shall be discussing for the moment is the freeze.

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