HL Deb 04 December 1968 vol 298 cc166-8

2.40 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, in view of the negotiations being carried out with Argentina over the Falkland Islands, it would only be logical to hand over the Channel Islands to France.]


No, my Lords.


My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his quick reply. May I ask him whether he is aware that, while assurances have been given to the people of the Falkland Islands that there will be no change of sovereignty, this is something which the Argentine will not accept? Secondly, could my noble friend explain how Her Majesty's Government can sign an agreement which does not incorporate this clause, without which the Government would be "two-faced", both to the Falklanders and to the people of Britain?


My Lords, I think that I can add nothing useful to the Statement on this subject I made yesterday. There will be a Statement on the Falkland Islands, with the leave of your Lordships, later this afternoon. If the noble Earl will be prepared to wait until that Statement is made, it may be that some of his fears will be allayed. If not, we shall have to return to the subject again, because I cannot add anything to what I said yesterday.


My Lords, can my noble friend say whether the Statement will contain the reason why the Falkland Government should know things on which my noble friend himself said on television last night he had to consult Parliament here?


My Lords, of course I cannot prejudge what the Statement this afternoon will say, but I can answer my noble friend's question more directly by saying that this was included in my Statement yesterday. I explained that we had had discussions with the Government of the Falkland Islands in the course of confidential inter-Governmental discussions and that to make such a statement in your Lordships' House would be to make it public. Again I am afraid that I cannot add to that.


My Lords, could the noble Lord indicate whether the words attributed to him in col. 32 of the OFFICIAL REPORT yesterday, when we have been required by the United Nations to discuss it", are correct? If so, could the noble Lord give some enlightenment about how it comes about that the United Nations so readily submits to pressure in regard to our sovereignty, when there was so little activity on the part of the United Nations to bring pressure on Russia with regard to her occupation of Czechoslovakia.


My Lords, the noble Lord's question is well wide of the original Question and Answer and I am afraid I cannot answer it in this context.


My Lords. could the noble Lord say whether Her Majesty's Government are considering any other islands on which they could make the same arrangements as the Falkland Islands?


My Lords, as we have not yet said what these arrangements are, I cannot answer that question.


My Lords, could the noble Lord answer this question, which may help with the Statement later? Is it not a fact that the Falkland Islands became British territory under the sole sovereignty of Great Britain years and years before the Argentine secured its independence from Spain?


My Lords, I think it would be unprofitable to enter into an historical analysis. I can only repeat what I said yesterday. We have no doubt about our legal title to the sovereignty.


My Lords, is my noble friend aware of the occasion in recent history when another British Government were not nearly so kindhearted towards the inhabitants of other islands as the present Government, and gave away the Los Islands to the French, not only without consulting the inhabitants but against an express petition on the part of the inhabitants begging to remain British?


My Lords, my noble friend's historical knowledge is deeper and wider than mine. I am most grateful to him for that useful piece of background information.