HL Deb 17 June 1981 vol 421 cc630-1

2.58 p.m.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

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 over what area of the sea adjoining the Falkland Islands they exercise jurisdiction for the purpose of the grant of concessions in respect of exploration for an exploitation of the mineral resources of the seabed.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade (Lord Trefgarne)

My Lords, under the terms of the Continental Shelf Convention of 1958 and the applicable rules of international law, the United Kingdom has exclusive jurisdiction over the exploration and exploitation of the continental shelf areas adjacent to the Falkland Islands. Certain powers to licence exploration and exploitation are conferred on the Governor of the Falkland Islands under the Falkland Islands (Continental Shelf) Order in Council 1950 and the Falkland Islands Mining (Mineral Oil) Regulations of 1964.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, while thanking my noble friend for his reply, may I ask whether he can add to his kindness by confirming that no purported attempt by the Argentine to grant concessions within this area has been made, and that if one were made, it would be resisted?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I understand that the Argentine State oil company has invited tenders for a block which would cross the median line and we have protested to the Argentinians. We have since followed up our protest with a notice in a newspaper and several journals, to remind companies of Her Majesty's Government's position on the matter.

Lord Brockway

My Lords, is this matter not related to considerations by the Law of the Sea Conference; and would it not be better that this difficult problem should be delayed until recommendations have been made by that conference?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, we certainly hope that the Law of the Sea Conference will reach a conclusion on this matter, although early prospect of that is unlikely. In the meantime, the matter must be judged by the existing norms of international law.

The Earl of Lauderdale

My Lords, can my noble friend say whether Argentina is a signatory to the relevant international convention on the continental shelf?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I am afraid I shall have to write to my noble friend with that information.

Lord Gisborough

My Lords, can the noble Lord say whether it is true that already a number of strikes have been made, some within 96 miles of the Falklands? And if that is true, or likely to be true, what can be physically done by this country to get reparations?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I am not aware of any strikes, as my noble friend puts it, having been made, but I understand that some seismic surveys have been undertaken.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, can my noble friend say whether the warning to which he referred, which Her Majesty's Government have so properly given, makes it clear that any company or individual accepting a concession from a foreign power in this British-controlled area does so at its peril?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, we shall need to deal with that situation if and when it arises. We shall, of course, wish to have regard to our rights and the interests of the islanders.