HL Deb 21 February 1985 vol 460 cc669-70
Lord Boyd-Carpenter

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 was the cost to public funds resulting from the loss of life and damage to property and ships caused by Argentina in the course of its invasion of the Falkland Islands.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Armed Forces (Lord Trefgarne)

My Lords, the cost of the Falklands campaign and of subsequent expenditure in 1982–83 was £780 million, but it is not possible to disaggregate these costs. Over the following two years provision of £550 million was made for residual campaign costs and the replacement of lost equipment. In addition, expenditure by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on compensation, rehabilitation and development aid since 2nd April 1982 until the end of the current financial year is expected to amount to some £27 million.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, in thanking my noble friend for that very interesting and informative reply, may I ask him whether that substantial expenditure on behalf of the British taxpayer will be borne in mind when applications are made for financial assistance for the somewhat rickety Argentine economy?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, we certainly bear all such considerations in mind in the circumstances to which my noble friend points.

Baroness Nicol

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware of the degree of dissatisfaction in Port Stanley with the state of repair of some of the civilian buildings, both public and private? Will he accept that I have had a letter in the past week to that effect? Will he assure the House that at least part of the £27 million will go to helping civilians to get back at least to their previous standard of living, if not to a better standard?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I was recently in the Falkland Islands and I am aware of the kind of views to which the noble Baroness refers. Of course much of the money provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office will be used for the purposes that she describes.

Lord Boston of Faversham

My Lords, can the Minister say anything about the extent to which claims for compensation are still anticipated and in particular about how those relate to merchant shipping?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I am not aware of any significant claims that remain to be assessed, but if the noble Lord is aware of any, I shall be happy to look into them.

Lord Taylor of Blackburn

My Lords, is the Minister aware that the cost mentioned represents the cost of 15 new hospitals and 25 large comprehensive schools in the United Kingdom?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I am aware that the total sum of money is very large, but freedom does not often come cheap.

Earl Lloyd-George of Dwyfor

My Lords, can the Minister tell the House whether the detection and lifting of mines in the Falklands is still proceeding satisfactorily? In addition, is it not a fact that the failure of the Argentines during the hostilities to keep adequate records of such minefields under the Geneva Convention has made that operation even more hazardous than usual?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, it is the case that a large number of mines in the Falkland Islands remain in position and have not yet been removed. We are working very hard to devise methods of doing that, but, as the noble Earl may be aware, plastic mines are particularly difficult to deal with in that way.

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