HL Deb 28 June 1983 vol 443 cc117-8
Lord Molloy

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what progress has been made in negotiations with the Falkland Islands Company on the redistribution of land and control of sale prices.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Young)

My Lords, the Falkland Islands Government has recently purchased three farms in West Falkland owned by one company and is in contact with another company with substantial holdings in East Falkland. A number of sub-divided units from the West Falkland farms will be offered on the local market shortly. I would not expect the Falkland Islands Government further to develop its views on land tenure until the response has been assessed. There is no current negotiation with the Falkland Islands Company on the redistribution of land.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for that comprehensive reply. May I ask her whether she is aware of reports that are reaching this country of British families who are being enticed to go to the Falkland Islands and to have 50 and 100-acre plots?

These families have some support from the Falkland Islands Government, but many of them are discovering, so it is alleged, that they have sunk their savings into dubious enterprises. Ought this not to be a matter for concern, if not investigation, by Her Majesty's Government?

Baroness Young

My Lords, I cannot comment without notice on that particular newspaper report. But on the question of land holdings in the Falklands, I should like to make it quite clear that, as was said in another place by my right honourable friend the then Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, the Government favour a gradualist approach to land redistribution under the auspices of the Falkland Islands Development Corporation. In fact, if demand for land exceeded the amount offered for sale on the open market, the Islands Legislative Council would have to reconsider the position and would be in a position to make a compulsory purchase if it were required.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, may I say further to the noble Baroness that one particular family, the Dow family, and newspapers such as the Sunday Telegraph and the British Farmer and Stockbroker, the farming Association's newspaper, which are responsible newspapers, have supplied the information on which I have put down my Question, which I hope the noble Baroness may agree ought to be looked at.

Baroness Young

My Lords, I will look very carefully in Hansard at what the noble Lord said, when I read the report tomorrow. I will write to him if there is some further information that I can give him on that particular point.

Lord Nugent of Guildford

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that the newspaper referred to by the noble Lord opposite is more usually known as the Farmer and Stockbreeder —not Stockbroker?

Lord Bishopston

My Lords, will the Minister recognise the importance of the two points made by my noble friend's Question? Will she really take a look at this matter now that she has replaced two of the former Ministers who had some responsibility? Also, will she not be misled by the last comment? This is a serious matter not only because the family referred to is involved, but because other people may be misled into thinking that the prospects there are better than they are. Will she urge the Falkland Islands Government to do something about using their powers to acquire land, which I understand they have the right to do, especially with regard to the monopoly of the FIC, which has 43 per cent, of the land, although this is not the only monolopy which inhibits growth? Will she realise how urgent this matter is if people are not to be misled into going to the Falklands without knowing the whole position and if more are to be brought in with better facilities?

Baroness Young

My Lords, I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Bishopston, that I take this matter very seriously indeed. As I have already indicated, we believe in a gradualist approach to land distribution. The Civil Commissioner of the Falklands, in his address to the Islands Legislative Council in December, explained that we considered that this was the best course. Sir Rex Hunt also went on to say that, if the results of the questionnaire (of which the noble Lord, Lord Bishopston, will be aware) showed that the demand for land exceeded the amount offered for sale on the open market, the council would have to reconsider its position. This statement was endorsed unanimously by the Islands Council.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, I apologise to the farmers and stockbreeders who, it seems, are infinitely more useful and important people than stockbrokers. May I also ask the noble Baroness, when she makes her examination, to compare what is happening now and what was envisaged in the Shackleton Report, since there seem to be differences which ought to give us all cause for concern?

Baroness Young

My Lords, I have said to the noble Lord that I shall look at the point which he raised in his first supplementary question. However, I should like to confirm that the Government's policy is very much in line with what was proposed in the Shackleton Report.

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