HC Deb 30 June 1983 vol 44 cc697-8
Q2. Mr. Wigley

asked the Prime Minister what criteria she will take into account in deciding on the length and size of the British military presence on the Falkland Islands.

The Prime Minister

The principal criterion will be the threat posed by Argentina to the security of the Falkland Islands.

Mr. Wigley

Is the Prime Minister taking into account the cost of maintaining the military presence on the Falkland Islands? Does she believe that the £400 million a year announced by the Secretary of State for Defence on Monday—£500,000 for every family on the islands—is a reasonable ongoing cost when that money could halve the total of 17 million children a year under the age of five around the world who die from malnutrition? Would not that be a more sensible use of the money than concentrating it on 2,000 families on the Falkland Islands?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman is suggesting the alternative—that one lets those families be governed by the fascist Argentine junta.

Sir Bernard Braine

Does the Prime Minister agree that until Argentina formally ends the hostilities that it started last year, the interest, honour and credibility of our country requires the maintenance of an adequate garrison — [HON. MEMBERS: "Reading."] Does my right hon. Friend agree that until Argentina purges itself of those responsible for the disappearance and murder of 30,000 people, including Community citizens and some Britons, there can be no question of making further political progress?

The Prime Minister

It is absolutely right to defend the people of the Falkland Islands and their right to self-determination with regard to their political future. It is also absolutely right to defend the sovereign territory on which they live. That would be so even if there were a change of Government in Argentina. As I understand British democracy—we have just had an election—it is the right of people to choose their future which matters.

Mr. Maclennan

Does the Prime Minister's answer to the hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley) mean that she is prepared to enter into discussion with the Argentine Government when that Government are transferred from the junta's hands to a civilian regime?

The Prime Minister

No, that cannot be so. We defend the right of British people to determine their own future when they live on British sovereign territory. Day after day and month after month in debates in this House in the last Parliament we accepted that the rights of the Falkland Islanders were paramount. Is the SDP going off that view?

Mr. Latham

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the vital criteria—to use the word in the question—are exactly as she has said? Do they not include defending the Falkland Islanders' democratic right to exist as they do now, and giving full support to our armed forces in their job?

The Prime Minister

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I hope that Government Members will do both.

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