§ 2.55 p.m.
§ Lord Shackleton rose to call attention to the development of the Falkland Islands and dependencies, the new constitution and future prospects; and to move for Papers.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I rise to move the Motion for Papers standing in my name. Perhaps I may begin by apologising to your Lordships for the fact that an article I planned two months ago has appeared in The Times today, the day of the actual debate. I cannot blame the The Times because I was very late in submitting it; although the editing that made reference to today's debate was not mine, but was intelligence on the part of The Times. I must say that if anyone else had done it, I should have been critical. I apologise to your Lordships. I think that one wants to be careful that one does not use the public press to debate in advance what is being debated in this House. I hope that your Lordships will accept this apology. I was faced with a problem: either to say, "Do not publish it at all" or to be out of date. The only advantage I can see, since there are a number of speakers who are taking part in this debate, is that if enough of your Lordships have read the article, that will perhaps shorten by my speech.
§ Secondly, I should like to say that I am extremely sorry that the noble Baroness, Lady Young, through no fault of her own, is almost on her way now to Brazil, to attend the funeral of the President-Elect of Brazil. I know that she was very anxious to take part in this debate and has taken a deep interest in the Falklands. I am sure that we shall all miss her and certainly we exonerate her from any discourtesy to your Lordships' House because she clearly had to go. At the same time I am very glad that the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, who has been to the Falklands and has taken an interest, will be replying, aided no doubt by the speech that the noble Baroness, Lady Young, would otherwise have delivered.
§ Let me also say—and this may also be a comfort to your Lordships—that I do not propose to make any 905 reference to the "Belgrano" on this occasion. The Motion is worded in terms wide enough to enable us to discuss (to use a word that I confess I do not like) the geopolitics of that part of the world. It is a word that is used frequently by the Argentines in relation to the Antarctic. Because there are many more of your Lordships taking part in the debate than I expected, I propose to try to shorten my speech and certainly not to go into some of the arguments which appear in The Times today, for which I again apologise.
§ As I say, the Motion is wide enough to cover any aspect of that part of the world. There is, in fact, an argument as to what the word "dependencies" means, because South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, I understand, have been dependencies of the Falklands and still are so, but will not be so in a few months' time when the new orders are introduced.
§ In a sense they have been separate from the Falklands; and it is worth reminding your Lordships of the geography of that part of the world. Whereas the Falklands is the same latitude South as London is North and is the ultimate temperate place, never very cold, never very hot, South Georgia—a mere 100 miles further south, although 700 miles to the south-east—is on the same latitude as Manchester, but is sub-Antarctic, with glaciers going down to the sea. It is in that area that there are to be found, in perhaps the richest part of Antarctic waters, the krill, the squid and those fish which have not already been fished out in the absence of proper control and the operation of proper fishing limits.
§ Let me deal very briefly with the constitution because, in a sense, it has been a trigger for this debate. It was proposed that there should be an Unstarred Question to discuss the constitution and the noble Baroness, Lady Vickers, would have put that down. I am very grateful to her for letting us widen this now and I am grateful to the Government for providing time so that we can debate the whole subject. The noble Baroness, Lady Vickers, has played a very important role in relation to the Falklands. She was responsible for the matter of nationality in the Falklands and I am very glad that she is taking part in this debate.
§ As I say, the debate is wide enough to cover any issue, but the constitution itself is not unimportant. It has built into it the provision of human rights, and although this is contained in an international convention, I think it is a pity that the Argentine has not yet subscribed to that particular convention. The fact remains that the power with regard to the future of the Falklands rests ultimately with the Secretary of State, with the Government and with Parliament. No position in that has been altered, though it has been thought that by building in, very properly, the rights of the islanders under the UN provisions, this alters the British position.
§ I shall want briefly to say something about the relationship of the Falklands to that area, including the Antarctic, but first of all I should like to make some comments on the report of the Select Committee of the Commons. I am bound to say that in certain respects they have got it right and in other respects they got it wrong. I think they were wrong in criticising the excellent chief executive of the Falkland Islands Development Corporation and indeed the concept of 906 the Falkland Islands Development Corporation. We originally called it the Falkland Islands Development Agency in our report because we thought the word "Corporation" might frighten the Government since it could have sounded too much like nationalisation. The Government changed it back to "Corporation".
§ The intention was not only to provide a capability which was carefully clued-in to the Government because the chief executive of the Falkland Islands Development Corporation is also the Government chief executive under the Governor and is answerable directly to the Governor and to the Executive and Legislative Councils. Mr. Taylor, Mr. Simon Armstrong and others have done a first-class job in a very short time. One has to remember that setting up an institution of this kind with very little resources, in an island with a population of only 1,800, is not easy; and a degree of progress is being made.
§ However, there is one area where I would wish to be critical and that is the failure to move more rapidly on land reform. I was quoted by the Foreign Secretary when I said in an earlier debate that no other author of a report had had quite so much carried out by a Government. But the fact is that there has been a failure to tackle, on a radical basis, the whole question of land reform. This is partly because the English do not really understand reform in the way that the Scots and the Irish do. The object was twofold. One was to stop the drain of profits from the islands back to this country. As we pointed out, those profits had produced tax revenue to the British Government greater than the sums we were giving in the way of aid. That is certainly not so now.
§ Secondly, we needed to establish a degree of independence, pride and self-sufficiency among the islanders by enabling them to own their own farms. The degree of progress that has been made, though limited, has shown some success. But I would urge on the Government that the policy of gradualism is not sufficient at the moment to ensure the long-term viability of the Falklands. After all, it is for the Falkland islanders, in the first instance, that we are spending the money that we are spending on defence, though of course it is also in the interests of international peace. Such farms that have been broken up and sold are working successfully and I would hope to see more rapid progress.
§ It has been argued by the Government that there are not the people in the Falkands who are capable of taking over these farms; but I beg to differ on this and I should like to see the evidence on which that statement is made. The fact is that if the Falklands are to survive and if there is to be a degree of independence and an opportunity for development in the Falklands, possibly also with the help of emigration, then more progress is needed in making farms available. I would beg the Falkland Islands Company, a subsidiary of Coalite, whose record in maintaining their farms has been good—let me stress that I am not wholly critical, but they have not recently made any farms available in this connection—to bear this in mind. I would beg them, as the principal owners in the Falklands, to give some thought to the need. We argued in our report that there must be a response from the Falkland islanders and the companies if the continuing 907 occupation by the genuine totally British people in the Falkland Islands was to survive and be justified.
§ I should now like to deal with a number of points, though I do not propose to take very long because I know that a number of my colleagues who have themselves been to the Falklands will contribute. I should like briefly to refer to the use that may be made of the airfield. We recommended that Stanley airfield, which was being built with a permanent runway in 1976, should have been enlarged to enable its use by wide-bodies jets and international aircraft. At that time it would have cost about £5 million. Against that, the cost will now be somewhere around £250 million. We recommended that because we saw the future value and development of the Falkland Islands depending very much in the long run—though we were unable, I admit (and we made this clear), to provide an analysis of costs—upon an improvement in communication.
§ Next month this new airfield is going to be opened. It is extremely important that it plays a major role (and the Ministry of Defence have paid for it) in the defence of the Falklands, but we hope that it will lead to a reduction in the costs of the defence forces and that it also has a role in support of civilian activities. I would only briefly mention tourism, about which the noble Lord, Lord Mountevans, will be speaking, the support of our Antarctic developments and, above all, fisheries. Other noble Lords will be able to talk at length on the development of fisheries, which are of the greatest importance. I shall briefly touch on this later.
§ At the moment the Ministry of Defence are not showing the degree of co-operation that I would have hoped for in encouraging and developing the use of the airfield for civilian purposes. The prices they are prepared to charge are excessive, in the view of experts, and it is absolutely vital that some civilian use should be made of the airfield. I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, who I know well understands this, that the Government and the Ministry of Defence should be more forthcoming over the development of civilian use of the airfield.
§ There are certain aspects of military use which would be worth looking at. Sketchleys, the dry cleaners, were prepared to set up a cleaning establishment in the Falklands and they hoped to get service from the military. I understand that now the military are going to put their own cleaning facilities there. It is important that some of these smaller developments should be encouraged. That is not to say that relations with the military in the Falklands are bad; they are in fact very satisfactory and in particular where there is good leadership in the units. Nevertheless, there is the same argument about co-operation with the military which we always hoped would bring in revenue and development as regards the civilian population. This applies to horticulture, and there are other important projects of a kind which in any case need to be pressed forward. There is the spinning and weaving at Fox Bay which is coming along quite well. This is not of course an argument in relation to the military. There is even the possibility of some co-operation with St. Helena. There is tourism and there is the possibility of selling food, whether it be mutton or fish, to the military.908
§ I should like briefly to turn to the fisheries side. It is probable—and other noble Lords will know more about this subject than I do—that one of the wealthiest fishing grounds in the world is to be found off the Falklands and South Georgia. It is calculated that the present fishing, already employing over 100 fishing vessels—there are 25 in Berkeley Sound alone, just to the north of Stanley—is yielding profits of several hundred million pounds. There is a prospect, once a fishing limit is introduced, of a revenue of something like £50 million which would come to the Falklands and which would be a tremendous bonus, bearing in mind that the present revenue of the Falklands Islands Government is something like £4 million or £5 million.
§ Therefore, I urge the Government—and indeed the Foreign Secretary mentioned this in another place—to show a willingness to press on, despite the difficulties and the fact that they are confronted by a possibility of complaints from the Argentine. Already the Argentine industry is calling for these limits and saying that, if the British claim to operate a limit around the Falklands and to command those waters they should enforce fishery limits. This has been agreed by fishery interests, whether they be Soviet, Polish, Japanese or, especially, Spanish. There is a vital need not only from the standpoint of revenue, but from the standpoint of conservation, since otherwise these rich fishing grounds may be fished out. I hope that when the Government hear the arguments of my colleagues in this debate they will move rather more rapidly than they have so far done. Already there are signs that some of the fish off South Georgia, such as the notothenia and the Antarctic cod, have been destroyed.
§ Let me now turn briefly to the question of British possession in the Antarctic and in the Falklands. I have argued on several occasions that the overlapping claims of the British, the Argentines and the Chileans are a possible source of danger. When the Antarctic Treaty was first signed, it dealt with a situation of great danger as between those three countries and indeed between the super-powers. I hope that we shall see the Falklands as playing a role not just to hold the British interest there but in maintaining peace in a part of the world where in another 25 or 50 years' time there could be a real threat to peace, and therefore to the peace of the world.
§ The present defence costs are something less—and perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, can help us on this—than 3 per cent. of the defence budget. Although we have given up our responsibilities for Pax Britannica, this is one area that we can afford. If we were to withdraw at this moment, it would weaken our own claims, our stabilising role and our scientific development. One has only to think if General Galtieri had not been removed from the Falklands how far these Antarctic treaties would be endangered.
§ It is a pity that the Select Committee in the Commons failed to take a view on whether the British claims were good. They said, in effect, that they were not competent to do so. But if one looks at the authorities, whether they are people like Professor Fawcett, Professor Medford or Professor Higgins, all of whom are leading international lawyers of great distinction, one can see that the claims are pretty good. 909 It has been suggested that the Duke of Wellington was doubtful about the claims but, after all, that was 150 years ago and we have been there for 150 years since then, so he might have taken a different view today.
§ I ask your Lordships to regard the Falklands not as a source of loss and a drain on our resources, but in the sense of our duty, our obligation, to people who are wholly British, and furthermore as a possible opportunity of enriching this country. Would it be too much to hope that the British distant water fishing industry might be revived? Other countries are down there in very large numbers. I hope therefore that when we have a reply from the Government we shall hear that they will move on the fisheries side, that they sustain the British position and indeed that they will even be willing to open talks with the Argentines about a possible agreed fishery plan.
§ This would not be popular in the Falklands or in the Argentine, but those who urge us to talk to the Argentines would say that this is an opportunity of achieving some co-operation. But it will call for an initiative from the Government. This is not to say that we differ, any more than the all-party Select Committee did, about the validity of sovereignty and the possibility of discussing it at this moment; but this is a step that could be brought forward. The value of this co-operation—which incidentally was sustained all the time during the Falklands war so far as the Antarctic was concerned—might be extended northwards to take in the fisheries, but I make no constitutional suggestion for this.
§ We have to bear in mind that the Argentines still talk about the Antarctic as Argentine and the Chileans talk about it as Chilean. I hope therefore that if we sustain a strong position in the interests of the Falkland islanders and in British interests, we shall make a contribution to peace in that part of the world. Otherwise in 25 or 50 years' time we shall be regretting that we failed to take the necessary steps. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.16 p.m.
§ Lord Kennet
My Lords, the House is indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, for bringing forward this Motion. Not the first time he has made it possible for us to discuss the Falklands in recent years. We are sorry that the noble Baroness, Lady Young, is not here to answer and even sorrier to know of the cause of her absence. It is indeed a bitter thing that President Neves should have been removed by death, thereby perhaps in some sense weakening the chances of another Latin American country to be able to fight its way out of military dictatorship and into democracy, I hope not too much weakening it. The House will welcome the presence of the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, in her stead.
I start with fisheries, and with a contentious remark. I shall not be making many so I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, will not be sharpening his knife too audibly. The record of this Government and of other Community governments over the past 20 years in fisheries matters has been very poor, sometimes disastrous. We went wrong time after time. We went wrong in those pathetic cod wars with Iceland when we thought it was more important to uphold international law than to face the realities of nature. We were proved 910 wrong on that and partly as a result have largely lost our fishing fleet, or at least the distant water part of it. The fact that Norway did not adhere to the Community when it could have done—and what an accession of geo-political strength that would have been—was very largely due to wrong policies on fish. We have lost Greenland to the Community—which is an even greater geo-political loss—on fish. When we ourselves came in, there were convulsions for eight or 10 years about getting our own fisheries regime accommodated to the virtually non-existent one in the Common Market. We now face the virtual certainty of the same again with the accession of Spain with its, in European terms, super-colossal fishing fleet. It is of interest that it was only last year, 1984, that the European Commission completed its study of the 512 national laws in effect among member states controlling fisheries. Only now does it know what was there before it came on the scene.
A fisheries regime around the Falkland Islands need not be extremely onerous in terms of enforcement. The Government should study—I am sure that they have—the regimes in force now around Papua-New Guinea and around the Solomons—hardly mighty military powers, and neither of them enjoying the automatic protection of a mighty military power. They have diplomatic and administrative fishery regimes which I am informed work reasonably well. If they can, so can the Falklands. Such a regime, if it was properly constructed, could help to reduce the potentially lethal effect of the Spanish fishing fleet on the European ponds.
In order to construct this properly—there is a lot of talk about this these days, and here I wish to ask a question of the Government—the possible role of the European Community down there in the South Atlantic comes in. What is the law about Community administration, Community regulations, around the extra-European dependencies and possessions of member states of the Community? What is the experience of France in the Caribbean and in the Pacific? What is our own experience in the Caribbean? Is it true that the Government would favour a Community arrangement for Falkland fisheries? There are many good things about this. If they did, it would be extremely difficult. But there are now so many rumours that it is perhaps nearing the time when the Government ought to say something about their intentions, one way or the other. The phrase has been used that there should be a "multilaterally based" fisheries regime. So there should, that is clear, but what sort? Should it be a Community arrangement, or would it be a South Atlantic Fisheries Committee like the North Atlantic one—that is a poor precedent. Let us hope to learn something from the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, at the end of the debate.
Perhaps I may now turn to relations with Argentina. There is routine support for Argentina from all the Latin American countries, but they cannot do much to support Argentina in their policy because they are too broke to do it. I want to focus attention upon China, because China is another matter. There has recently returned a Chinese Antarctic expedition of 500 people. It was in Antarctica for some time. While it was there it enjoyed Chilean and Argentine logistic support. China has entered a nuclear energy arrange- 911 ment with Argentina. Of course, neither Argentina nor China has signed the test ban and China in point of fact looks like edging closer towards it than does Argentina, which is still a completely undisciplined power in the nuclear field. It accepts none of the international treaties.
Now China also supports the Argentine claim against Britain to the Falklands. This is rather a serious matter and the Government ought in my submission—perhaps they are—to be keeping fairly close to China and taking every opportunity to explain to them that it is not like Taiwan. It may be that China thinks it is, and it should not be difficult to talk about that with China before things get any worse.
I should like to say one word about the new constitution of the Falklands. I hope also that the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, may be able to say something about this at the end of the debate. In the Commons debate of 14th March the Foreign Secretary said—and this is visible for all to read—that the new constitution confirms and enshrines the right of self-determination for the islanders. He then went on to say that it had been suggested that this might mean that the British Parliament was no longer master of the situation, and he assured the House that that was not the case and that Parliament was still the ultimate arbiter of the fate of the Falkland islanders.
I do not say that it is impossible, but it is a little difficult for the layman to reconcile those two statements. I expect it can be done. Let us suppose that the Falkland islanders decided to exercise the right of self-determination conferred upon them by Britain in their new constitution in a way which is unwelcome to Britain. Is it thinkable that they should do that? Let us suppose that they refused to do something which we think they ought to do in future. How is it that those two statements can be reconciled? I am sure that it can be done by the greater skill of the noble Lord.
As to the long-term settlement of the Falkland Islands themselves, there are so many intelligent, constructive and sensible solutions to it. There could be a trusteeship under the United Nations, as has been argued before from these Benches both in this House and in the other place. My right honourable friend Dr. Owen has urged it with strength in one of its versions. One version would be under the General Assembly, which has its advantages; another, and I think preferable, version would be under the Security Council, under Articles 82 and 83 of the Charter. We could do that and that would be good.
There is the possibility of shared sovereignty. This is something not unfamiliar in Argentina. They share the sovereignty of an island with Uruguay; it is called Martin Garcia, and the experiment has evidently been a success. This might be sensible at the end of the day. There is the possibility of lease-back. I fear that this would not be sensible because it would involve the cession of sovereignty to the other side. It is a solution which was advanced by the Government to the House of Commons before the Falklands War and was rejected by the House of Commons at that time, and it is difficult to imagine that it could be accepted now. That is, it is difficult to imagine how it could be accepted without the islanders' consent. With their consent, anything could be done in time.
912 For two years now many of us have been urging on the Government these very sensible, moderately sensible and less sensible solutions. The Government have not been saying much, and we have been biding our time. It now seems to me that the difficulties of simply commencing communication with Argentina are beginning to bulk dangerously large. It is quite simply impossible to get them to talk about any of the preliminary things which have to be talked about before we can come to the main issue. You cannot talk unless you talk; they will not talk unless we agree to talk about the main issue at once. I have to say that I do not think that the Government are to blame for this. It was not quite clear at first to an outsider. It now is clear after attempts at various levels have come either to grief or to nugatory results. It is serious and I want to say that I at least sympathise with the Government in the difficulties they have and to which they can find no very obvious solution. You cannot leap a wall of political weakness on the other side.
There have been new staff appointments in Argentina, involving chiefs of the military staff. We do not know the people because we have no diplomatic representation there. Foreigners do not know them because it is difficult to get there. They do not come here. It is alleged that these are extreme Right-wingers; militarists and highly anti-British, and that the appointments are a victory for the military wing which is still so strong in Argentine politics. I do not know; I cannot know; it may be that those appointments were the cost of permission to President Alfonsin to continue for a while longer. Clouds are gathering. Today, after two years of military trials of the alleged war criminals in Argentina, trials carried out by their own people within the Armed Forces, civilian trials are beginning—actually today, this Monday. There is a list of 2,000 witnesses to be heard in that series of trials. It may be that the trials will be more notable for duration than for results. The internal situation is becoming cloudier and tenser day by day.
Meanwhile, the Argentine Government are beginning to lean perceptibly towards one of the longterm solutions, lease-back, which I described a moment ago as moderately sensible but probably not very, and probably not acceptable. Those of us who have been to Buenos Aires since the war and have talked to Argentine politicians know that the names of senators and congressmen Storani, Gass, and Berhongaray are powerful names in that hesitant democracy. They have all leaned to lease-back. I regret it. I am afraid that there are in our Parliament those who have proferred lease-back to them, unofficially of course—everyone understands that it is unofficial—as if it were on a par with more acceptable solutions, such as United Nations trusteeship or even shared sovereignty. It could be that that will cloud the domestic scene in Argentina yet more.
But now there is little we can do. British parliamentarians have been down there; I was one of them, 10 months ago. It was not very pleasant; our lives were threatened; we were pelted with eggs, which was less important, and the lives of some other people were lost. There were explosions for which the so-called credit was claimed by a nationalist organisation protesting against our presence. We learnt later that there had been an inquiry into the explosion, in which 913 there were eight dead. It was found that that claim had been falsely made and that the explosions were an accident—so it was asserted. I am merely making the point that it was not a very pleasant visit. It is an unfortunate fact that since then no Argentinian parliamentarians have been willing to come to Britain on a return visit. There have even been among them those who have denied that any British parliamentarians have been down there; but such things happen in darkening scenes.
I believe that all that the British public and Parliament can do at the moment is to wish strength and luck indeed to President Alfonsin in holding his country on a democratic even keel, and to wish that he may continue to endure in a situation which is by no means becoming easier from the point of view of an early and beneficial solution to the Falklands problem.
§ Baroness Gaitskell
My Lords, may I ask the Minister a question that might be considered plainly naïve? I was in America when the Falklanders first wanted to stay there years ago. I should like to know whether it is really fair now that we should say that the Falklands belong to us. What gives us the right or the reason to say that that should be so?
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Armed Forces (Lord Trefgarne)
My Lords, as that question was specifically directed to me, perhaps this is hardly the moment for me to answer it. If it was, I fear that I could not do so except at inordinate length.
§ 3.31 p.m.
My Lords, I certainly agree straight away with the noble Baroness, in the question that she put. Perhaps I may first thank the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, for so kindly referring to me and also for introducing this debate. He is the expert on this subject in this House and we were very pleased to hear what he had to say. I was also glad to hear the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, because, although he sometimes takes a different view from me, he has been to Argentina as well and so he has seen both sides. I should like to thank the Chief Whip for giving us time for this debate, and the Falklanders for their fortitude during the invasion and for the way in which they have helped to build up their country since. They deserve the greatest praise possible.
I agree with some of the suggestions made by the Foreign Affairs Committee. However, some—which have been mentioned already by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton—are not so pleasing. The Government's agreement to the suggestions made by the Falklanders concerning their own constitution was very welcome, and I thank them for that.
It is curious that in this age of technology, which brings the furthest corners of the world together, we always worry about instant communication. We persistently hear the suggestion that the Falkland Islands are so far away. They are not really so far away. We have international links with them by phone and telex, and there will soon be regular air flights. But despite those achievements, the islanders need somebody to speak for them in this House. I hope that we shall have a debate on the Falklands at least once a year in order to keep in constant contact with them.
914 Successive Governments in this country have been criticised, particularly in the recriminations following the Falklands war, for not reaching—as the noble Lord has just mentioned—an understanding with Argentina over the islands. In my view, the phrase "an understanding" is a cosy term for a transfer of sovereignty. Argentina has never been prepared to enter into discussions except on the basis of the transfer of sovereignty. I cannot agree with the idea of lease lend because it will only lead to the same troubles we now have in Hong Kong, and that would be very unfortunate.
There will be no changes under a civilian Government, as we saw, regrettably, at the Berne meeting. The present Argentine policy towards the Falklands does not differ, as I understand it, from that of its predecessors except in one respect. I believe that the likelihood of Argentina resorting to armed invasion has definitely retarded and I do not imagine that they will suggest taking that action again. But their ideas have not changed.
Democracy is so deep-rooted in this country that we tend to believe that it is so in many other countries which say that they are to become democratic—hut in the sunny climate of Argentina, democracy has often wilted. No elected Government in Argentina since the 1930s has served their full term of office without military intervention.
I shall illustrate that point by reference to a recent poll in the Argentinian newspaper Clarin published on the 2nd April in which Argentine armed forces personnel were asked questions regarding democracy. Some 61 per cent. said that they would support a coup if the Government there made a sharp turn to the Left; 78 per cent. did not believe in elections as a means of deciding the future of the country; 63 per cent. believed that a strong leader would run the country better than all laws and discussions; 38 per cent. thought that there was a large possibility of war with one of Argentina's neighbours; and 54 per cent. believed that there was a chance of internal conflict in Argentina. Those figures do not speak very well for future relations with the Argentines.
Members of your Lordships' House have a proud record in sustaining and encouraging fundamental freedoms. Your Lordships have fought extremes in all their repulsive guises; for the rights of individuals, for the rights of great countries, and for the rights of little nations. I do not believe that anyone in this House would wish to cast the Falklanders adrift into the fierce political currents of Argentina's political extremes.
I hope, as everyone in this House hopes, for the success of President Alfonsin's experiments with democracy. I hope for peace and security in the South-West Atlantic and on the Latin American mainland. But one cannot buy democracy for Argentina by handing over the Falklands. That is a price we cannot afford and must not pay.
There is one matter in which we could accede to the requests of the Argentine Government. It is a matter we should have dealt with years ago. On 19th March this year, the Argentine Maritime Resources Secretariat issued a statement that it had pointed out the conservation threat posed by Britain allowing uncontrolled fishing in Falkland waters. This was reported in the Buenos Aires Herald of 20th March. 915 As the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, said, the present position with regard to a fisheries policy around the islands is nothing short of a national scandal; that is not the word he used, but I shall say it.
In 1977, the Falkland Islands Council passed a resolution requesting the setting up of a licensed fishing zone. They did not get it. In 1983 they again passed a similar resolution. Still nothing has been agreed. We hear that the Government are discussing a multilateral approach. Why not a unilateral approach that leaves control and profits in British hands?
I shall not go into all the details as the noble Lord, Lord Shaclkleton, has already given so many. But if the Navy cannot do the job of policing the area I should be most surprised. I suggest that two surveillance ships and back-up aircraft would be needed, which I understand would cost between £5 million and £6 million per annum. This sum could be easily found out of the profits on fishing licensing.
The question of the different catches has already been mentioned, so I shall not deal with that point. However, I should like to make one other suggestion. I understand—and I have only received this information recently—that the European Commission has been dealing with the question of community-associated status for Greenland, thus putting that country on a similar footing to the Falklands. The treatment of fisheries is a key feature, as we know, of Greenland's disengagement, if it wants to leave the EEC. Article I of the protocol on special arrangements for Greenland links the import treatment of fishery products from Greenland with the possibilities of access to Greenland fishing waters granted to the Community.
The recent growth of fishing activity in the Falklands area has significant potential for both the islands and the common fisheries policy. It is suggested that the control development of the fishery could help to reduce a threat to the future of the CFP, provide a secure future for a number of Community-distant water vessels, provide much needed employment and development in the Falklands, and tie them much closer to the European Community. So I hope that noble Lords will agree that this is a fairly useful suggestion. I shall cut out the rest of my comments in that regard because I do not want to repeat what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton.
A further reason for the zone for which we are asking is in regard to the future of the islands. Following the Falklands war the sum of £31 million was given to the islands for various purposes. This £31 million assumed within it all pre-war funding. Out of it the development corporation received a mere £4.5 million. This money is likely to run out in approximately two years. For various reasons costs have risen, as was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, as regards the air strip. The roads, hospitals, better health and education all require paying for. The Falkland Islands are not a grant-in-aid colony. They take pride in being self-sufficient and run a local budget. Therefore, unless they are given means by which they can raise sufficient revenue to cover the additional costs, they will be in a very difficult position. The cost of maintaining the new infrastructure falls naturally on local resources. 916 Notwithstanding the extra work of the development corporation under the leadership of David Taylor, which has initiated many new projects, a major new source of income must be found, and found quickly. It is in British and international interests that a fishing zone should be established as a matter of high priority.
I should like to mention the new constitution. I am very concerned—perhaps too late—about the separation of South Georgia from the Falkland Islands under the new constitution. I have examined the Laws of the Falklands, a Falkland Islands government publication, which shows quite clearly that the dependencies were dependencies of the Falkland Islands. To suggest that they have always been administered separately from the Falkland Islands, but administered from Port Stanley merely as a matter of convenience, is not, I understand, legally true. There appears to be no good reason for separation of the Falkland Islands from their dependencies and there are a number of reasons why that is a thoroughly bad arrangement. I understand—and this is why I say that I may be rather late in raising this matter—that statutory instruments were laid before Parliament without anyone making an objection and, therefore, they will stand. This happened on 18th April. Perhaps the Minister will confirm that.
In-shore fishing is doing extremely well on crabs, scallops, clams and mussels, which I believe will provide a good revenue for the future. However, as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, there are people who want land. I understand that there are between 16 and 20 young farmers who are anxious to obtain land. I hope something can be done about that. As I suggested some time ago, there is a need to start market gardening. If these young farmers can obtain the land—and market gardening does not take a great deal of land, with the methods it is suggested they should use—they could negotiate a contract with the military which would be of great value to them. It is unfortunate that the sons of the farmers who are there cannot have an opportunity to obtain land. I realise there is the difficulty of payment. I was told that, roughly, payment for land is based on the number of sheep that you have; between £12 and £14 for each animal is paid for the land you want. I do not know how true that is, but it seems to be a good way of making the calculation.
There are two further points I wish to make. The first concerns the wild-life. There is tremendous wildlife on these islands which will be a great thrill for the tourists when the tourist season starts, as I am sure it will. People will want to see these various specimens and also the wild flowers, and so on. I hope that the tourists will realise that many of these animals, penguins, and so on, will be very nervous and frightened. I do not want them disturbed so that they go to other islands. That would be a great pity.
Perhaps one arrangement we might make with the Argentines is to see whether they will go to the graves of those who are buried at Goose Green. I think it would be an advantage if this could be arranged with the International Red Cross, as was at one time suggested.
There is one further point, which is not a political point. The noble Lord, Lord Strathcona, is, I am told, arranging a dance which I understand I can advertise. 917 It is to be held on 5th June for the trust fund for the Falklands. I expect that the noble Lord will have something more to say about that.
Finally, I thank the retiring Governor, Sir Rex Hunt, for all the work he has done in the past. I wish him success in his retirement. I also hope that the new Governor will be welcomed and that he will be successful in keeping the island happy and peaceful.
§ 3.46 p.m.
§ Lord Mountevans
My Lords, I too, open my remarks by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, not only for introducing his Motion but also for the wide-ranging way in which he did so. I have to confess that my own little axe to grind is that I feel almost humble in the context; at the same time I feel somewhat enchanted that three of the first four speakers in the debate represent families which have an extensive and long connection with the Antarctic.
The preceding speakers have already shown what a wide-ranging debate we are likely to have this afternoon. I shall take up but a few moments of your Lordships' time on the topic of tourism. Having studied the subject in the context of the Falkland Islands for some 18 months, I believe that tourism is an industry which can make a significant contribution to the achievement of what the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, called a degree of self-sufficiency and independency.
There is considerable potential in the Falkland Islands as a tourist destination. There are no small number of people who will wish to go there because no one has ever gone before. In the tourism business we call them the blue-rinse set and we tend to think of "Dallas". But they are affluent people who, if they can reach the islands and if, when they are there, there are ways in which they can spend their money, will leave a significant quantity of it behind. There are also those who wish to go because of the outstanding flora and fauna to be found in the Falklands. Not only are there the marine mammals, the penguins and the land birds; there is also the sheer collective environment in which they find themselves. There are those people who will go for the game fishing which, I am told, is almost too good to be true. There are those people who will go for the wrecks; wreck diving and the opportunities that the wrecks offer. The legacy of the gold rush and the Cape Horn route could make the Falklands a scuba divers' Everest—if that is not an appallingly mixed metaphor.
We must not overlook the military historians. We fought an extremely inspired war in liberating the islands and there are many people who should like to see the ground on which the war was won. Finally, we must not forget the friends and relatives of not only those who died in liberating the islands but also those who are now serving there.
So much for potential, but there are constraints. There is the access problem, which was touched upon by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton. Whoever operates the planes, and whatever sort of agreement the long-haul aircraft operate under, I hope that opportunity will be found to encourage tour operators to take seats on the planes, not least because by paying their fares and taking up capacity tourists will, after all, be subsidising the cost to the Ministry of Defence, which is actually operating the flights.
918 There is a problem of internal communication. There is a problem of accommodation. Work is being done on exploring the possibilities of an international standard hotel, of developing guest houses. It was my pleasure to take the general manager of the Development Corporation down to the Isles of Scilly last February, partly because in terms of Europe the Isles of Scilly most closely resemble the Falkland Islands, and also because I thought that they had a guest house concept to show him which could economically be transferred to the Falklands Islands.
I would ask the noble Lord the Minister to encourage and support the Development Corporation and, indeed, the islanders in the steps which they are taking to capitalise on the marvellous tourist opportunities to be found in the Falklands. With Government support I am sure that a product will emerge. It will be an attractive product and, as I have said earlier, it will make a contribution to the viability of the islands. More importantly, I would beg the Minister to use his good offices to ensure that whatever product emerges does not fail for want of long-haul access.
We know that there will be aircraft from Britain. It has been suggested that there could be aircraft flying from southern Chile, involving a five-hour great circuit avoiding Argentinian airspace. However, in regard to the numbers of tourists that the Falkland Islands can and will be able to accommodate I cannot think of a plane that has the ability to stay in the air for long enough to run such a circuit. While I would not urge, ever, that we should indulge the Falklands in what one might call subsidised tourism in pursuit of foreign currency earnings, there are difficulties between the civilian interests which are seeking to develop a tourist industry and the Ministry of Defence over access in regard to the aircraft and I hope that the Minister will work towards a rational solution of these difficulities.
It is often said—and the noble Baroness, Lady Vickers, touched on this—that tourism destroys the very things which it seeks to enjoy. Because we have constraints in developing a tourist product in the Falkland Islands, we can look for a controlled growth of a tourism industry. I hope that we shall be able to give it every opportunity, and in doing so strengthen not only the islands and the islanders' pride in themselves, but also the image that the islands enjoy among the great public around the world.
§ 3.52 p.m.
§ Lord Buxton of Alsa
My Lords, I, too, should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, very much for initiating this debate. He and I have long been associated together and indeed we have a friendship brought about by these matters. We have been to the Falklands together. I am very glad that he is going to wind up the debate and no doubt he will round off many of the points that some of us are making.
I should like to add only one or two points since so much has been said, and I am sure is going to be said, about the fisheries, but it is an aspect which I believe to be valid. It is not true to say that we cannot police fishing zones. This has been said in the Government's reply to the report of the Foreign Affairs Committee. Fishing rights are jeolously wardened and guarded by 919 those who pay for them, and poachers are almost invariably reported by the rightful parties. This happens everywhere. Most of the permit holders prefer to have things properly regulated rather than to have a free-for-all which only hastens the exhaustion of stocks. Therefore, I do not believe that there will be difficulties with other nations; I am sure that most will welcome it.
The noble Baroness, Lady Vickers, has referred to the question of wildlife. The noble Lord, Lord Mountevans, referred to tourism. I should like to add my own points on that. There is a further grave consequence of the absence of fisheries control which has long-term dangers for the Falkland Islands' economy. I have always felt inhibited about mentioning wildlife in a Falkland Islands debate. I was very careful in all the debates during the time of the journey of the task force in the war not to mention penguins because it would have sounded so superficial in the light of the human and political overtones that seem to overwhelm this whole subject. Whereas the human race may want to exploit to the full the resources of fish and krill for commercial advantage, the beings that also are totally dependent on them for their existence are the wild creatures—the seals, the sea lions, the penguins, the albatrosses, and the huge colonies of sea birds. In the long term these may constitute the Falkland Islands' most important resource. If hordes of foreign vessels are allowed to scoop out marine food stocks to exhaustion, the Falkland Islands' main potential for tourism will be strangled before birth.
In connection with the new airport I have been asked many times: is it really true that there are so many rich American birdwatchers who will go all the way down there, who can afford to fly to the new airport to see penguins? That is exactly the sort of question that would have been asked about Kenya and Tanzania in the 'thirties and 'forties when safaris were major adventures, expensively arranged for opulent visitors from America and Europe. Today holidaymakers in their tens of thousands go on charter flights and tour all over the game parks. Wildlife tourism is one of the most important sources of revenue for the East African countries that have managed to conserve their wildlife.
It is not a digression to say that last month I was in the Galapagos Islands in the Pacific, for the first time since 1964. Then in five days we saw only one Ecuadorian tuna fishing boat. There were no arrangements for tourists, and no accommodation. Last month, 21 years later, there were swarms of tourist boats, including two large cruise ships, served by daily flights from Ecuador to an American war-time air strip on one of the islands. There are one or two hotels and other facilities, and every single one of the 25,000 visitors who go every year at the moment—they are expecting it to rise—go to see the birds, strange animals and reptiles. Compared with 21 years ago, Academy Bay, where the Darwin research station is established, looks like a miniature Cowes, or Cannes, in the South of France.
If they are well organised—and the Galapagos are—there is no harm whatever to wildlife. Ecuador, possessing a wildlife situation of international prestige 920 and renown, was prepared to spend serious money on conservation. By wardening and sound organisation, and by control of access, but also primarily by especially controlling fishing and fishery limits, Ecuador has an iron grip over the whole situation and are doing very well out of it.
I feel sufficiently familiar with this subject to say that the differences in climate between East Africa, the Galapagos and the Falkland Islands are irrelevant so far as birdwatchers interested in strange breeds and naturalists are concerned. They expect to endure exactly the same conditions as the wildlife enjoy or thrive in.
Before long, and as soon as it is made practical, the new airport in the Falkland Islands will throng with charter parties, just like Nairobi or the Galapagos. Wildlife conservation is, therefore, an excellent investment. Unless we are prepared to invest in conservation and national parks, as in Kenya and Ecuador, and unless we first conserve the fisheries and marine resources on which the wildlife depends by means of established fishing limits, much of the Falklands' best prospects of economic viability will disappear.
I hope that I have said enough on fishing limits. I believe that there is practically only one solution. The Foreign Affairs Committee has suggested that on certain subjects there should be unilateral declarations. I believe, quite honestly, that the only way to deal with fishing limits is to have a unilateral declaration.
If I may return to my oft-repeated argument on defence, whatever the national instincts in reacting to the evil invasion and coming to the rescue of the British citizens in the Falkland Islands, I believe that that is not in the long term the most vital significance of the vast and costly effort. It is the defence of our sea lanes and security for the free world. What was at stake fundamentally was the protection of the free world in certain circumstances. On those grounds it is imperative that the Falkland Islands are always in safe and sound hands. I need not even go so far as to be partisan and say, "in British hands", though of course that is the only solution. But they must be in safe and secure hands. I do not believe that anybody in this House would claim that at present or in the foreseeable future Argentine hands are safe and sound.
We know that the Falklands probably saved our lifelines in two world wars—and then it was not even apparent that the Panama Canal might ever be closed. Since the Second World War the Suez Canal has been closed once and could well be again by the look of things, so we have proof and precedent that strategic canals are vulnerable to closure.
If anything, the Panama looks the more likely of the two to be closed at the present time against the current political trends in Central America. If that happens, a secure base in the Falklands would become crucial to sustaining the free world. Obviously the United States is aware of that, and its intervention in Grenada was clearly related to such a possibility. As I mentioned, I was in the Galapagos the other day, 600 miles west of Panama, where the American-built tarmac strip has proved providential for tourists. That was laid down by the United States in the Second World War to protect the Panama Canal from the possibility of 921 attack by Japan. The threat posed to the canal today from inside Central America is far more menacing than it ever was from Japan.
I have explained this before, but I trust that your Lordships will forgive me: the tip of South America is not far from the Antarctic peninsula. There is therefore a narrow channel between the two, called the Great Passage. South of that, on the Antarctic peninsula, or the islands by the peninsula, Russia and others have large scientific bases in the South Shetland Islands. Whatever the Antarctic Treaty says, those are thinly disguised strategic bases, and if Argentina was not a totally dependable ally of the democracies the sea lanes round Cape Horn could be seriously menaced in certain circumstances, if not made unsafe. That would definitely threaten the survival of Europe and the free world. Only the Falkland Islands could then provide the West with surveillance, early warning and some security for its vital supplies by sea. Whatever developments there are in the air, we shall always be totally dependent on vital supplies by sea.
The other factor which makes the Falklands and its new airport possibly the greatest prize of all—and this has been referred to by previous speakers--is secure access in the future to the Antarctic. Most industrial nations are now looking south. Even India is putting down a marker and establishing a scientific base on the Antarctic continent. Any of those nations would give their eye-teeth for the Falklands and particularly for its new airport, and none would dream of giving it up to a vociferous and bellicose neighbour. It may sound fanciful but it is my belief that the new airport may one day appear as of as much significance as Suez did to Disraeli.
As a conservationist I am instinctively against development, especially in the Antarctic, but I have been in the wildlife game around the world too long not to know and accept that the human race will never be prevented from exploiting valuable resources, wherever they are. All we can do—and what we have to do—is take every conceivable step to protect and conserve the natural systems in advance, before the machinery moves in and not, as was the case over the Falkland fisheries, wait until it is all over.
Finally, I believe that if we had not given the wrong signals, first to Peron and then to the junta, but had maintained our traditional and successful stance, which lasted for over 130 years, Sr. Alfonsin would not now be demanding sovereignty. He is merely compelled to do so politically because of the head of steam given to Malvinas mythology over the past 18 years. We have only ourselves to blame. But after the invasion it is really time that we cleared our minds about the best interests of the free world, about the unique prize that we possess and about the possibly spectacular potential that the new airport may offer to future generations.
§ 4.5 p.m.
§ Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal
My Lords, I am always lost in admiration for my noble friend Lord Buxton for never saying, "I told you so". I well remember the warnings that he gave us before the Falklands conflict developed. Of course we are all lost in admiration for the authority with which the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, introduced the debate and the 922 tour d'horizon, if one can call it that, of the Falkland Islands which he gave us and in which he touched on so many issues.
My connections with the Falkland Islands were almost exactly 15 years ago when I arrived on a small trawler in the normal force 10 gale that was blowing at the time. That visit has left a more or less indelible mark upon me in that I grew my beard at the time and have had it ever since. Indeed, it has been alleged in a newspaper that the present Prime Minister does not care for Ministers with beards. Perhaps that is how I come to be speaking from the Back-Benches on this occasion.
Since then I have become president of a small trust—the Falkland Islands Trust—which is not to be confused with other more grandiose organisations. That small trust antedates the conflict. Indeed, my noble friend Lady Vickers was kind enough to say that we are having a fund-raising occasion in about a month or six weeks' time. Finally, in order just to clear it out of the way, I tell your Lordships that I speak as a member of the fish and fishery interests of the Fishmongers' Company here in the City of London.
On the occasion when I went down to the Falkland Islands we were salvaging a ship—one more commercial ship. It was possibly one of the most significant ships ever built, and it is now being restored in Bristol. It was built by a forebear of the wife of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, if I may say so. The striking thing about Port Stanley is that there are something like 70 wrecks littered around. There may be a good many more since I was last there. That is not historical accident. It is precisely because of the significance of the Falkland Islands. Particularly in the days of the Cape Horn route, they were the only refuge of so many ships. It is that which brings home to me the area about which I want to talk, which concerns the sea resources surrounding those islands.
Again to relate the situation in the Falkland Islands to something a little closer to home, at any rate as far as I am concerned, one is talking of an area of islands which, if they were plonked down off the west coast of Scotland, would stretch somewhere from Islay to Skye, be inhabited by a population half that of the island of Islay alone. It is a very thinly populated area and the sea is a crucial resource.
I believe that we are in danger, literally, of missing the boat. First, it is shaming to have to admit after all these years that we frankly do not know what the quantity and value are of the fish resources around the Falkland Islands. Some facts are known. Luckily I think that the parameters and percentages are such that, even if the suppositions are wrong by substantial percentages, the argument still holds good. I am told that at this moment there are some 22 Japanese vessels of the charmingly called Kanagawa Fish Jiggers Association. I understand the jiggers are so called because when they fish they literally jig the lines up and down off the vessel. Being Japanese, of course they do it mechanically; they would not do it in a good old-fashioned way. These ships are catching 16 tonnes of fish per day each in one area some 70 miles north of the Falkland Islands. They expect to catch £30 million-worth of fish this season. Next year they intend to expand their fleet by a factor of four, largely because of the restrictions being imposed in the fishing 923 areas of the exclusive economic zone around New Zealand.
One other fact that we can cling on to is that the Minister in another place, John Stanley, said in answer to a question that there was an average of 40 to 60 ships fishing in the Falklands EEZ area at any one time and sometimes the number went up to 100. It is here that the figures become a little more vague. However, if you extrapolate those figures it looks as if the value of the potential catch around the Falkland Islands is of the order of £200 million to £400 million a year—and what is a couple of hundred millions when you are arguing about figures like this? This is thought to be a conservative estimate of the total sustainable yield of fish from the area but one has to emphasise that we do not really know.
The worry about these resources that has already been referred to by a number of noble Lords is twofold. First there is the international, ecological and commercial concern at the overfishing which is taking place due to a total absence of any control. It is worth bearing in mind that if this situation exists, even if you are a responsible commercial concern with an ecological viewpoint, the temptation to go out and grab everything you can before somebody else comes and grabs it from under your nose is almost irresistible. Of course it is highly unsatisfactory in the long term. However, it has happened all over the place. In particular I am told that it has happened with the cod in South Georgia.
The second unhappiness about this situation is that neither the Falklands nor the United Kingdom are deriving any benefit from what is going on. Here we have resources which are almost certainly being overexploited by others. Indeed, by a complicated train of trading relationships, I understand that it is highly probable that the squid exports by the Japanese and others from the Falklands area are ultimately having an adverse effect on the export price which our own fishermen are receiving from their mackerel sales. That is a complicated chain which needs to be developed. Possibly other noble Lords may care to refer to it.
Licence fees in the order of £100 per tonne of fish, or perhaps 10 per cent. of the value being fished, are quite an accepted norm in the industry. This is the way one gets at the potential licence value of the fishery round the Falkland Islands being of the order of £20 million to £40 million per annum. As the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, said, one has to set this against a total budget for the island of the order of £5 million.
As a number of noble Lords—I believe in particular the noble Lord, Lord Buxton—emphasised, the nations which are already fishing there would themselves welcome some degree of regulatory regime so that they would not be forced to go into what they know is an over-exploiting situation because there simply is no way out. Thus we should not imagine ourselves necessarily meeting all that much opposition so far as the regulation is concerned. I hardly think we can expect these fishing interests to be totally welcoming towards paying a licence of 10 per cent. of what they take. However, if that means continuity for their business, I believe they will be prepared to accept it.
924 I have no doubt at all that when the noble Lord comes to answer he will tell us that the cost of policing a fishery zone of this kind would be prohibitive. I am quite sure that the Ministry of Defence, with a little help from the Treasury, will produce figures to show that this policing would be unacceptably expensive. I have to tell the noble Lord right now that I am sure that I am not alone in saying that we will take a fairly jaundiced view of these figures and a very large pinch of salt. The Treasury can prove almost anything if they put their minds to it.
However, to be more realistic, those who have given some thought to this matter have suggested a figure of around £5 million a year for the cost of policing with airplanes and perhaps two ships. Again, bear in mind that it is likely that there will be at least a degree of co-operation from those nations already fishing in the area. Thus it should not be necessary to put an inspector on every ship. However, there may have to be a series of visiting inspectors who check periodically that the ships which are fishing in the area do what they have undertaken to do.
Furthermore, we have, for perfectly respectable and understandable—but perhaps unfortunate—reasons, a massive military presence of all three elements of the forces in the area at the present time: we have radar; once the airport is opened we shall increasingly have surveillance aircraft; and we have a naval presence. We should remember that fishery protection around our own waters is undertaken by ships which are our own. Thus, not only is the task of fishery protection by no means unprecedented for the Royal Navy but also I would suggest that we should look carefully to make sure that we are talking about the incremental costs that would be added if fishery protection was added to the duties already being undertaken around the island. It is not as though we were starting out to police a new EEZ from scratch.
It certainly has been alleged—and indeed the Argentinians are alleging—that if we shout so loud about our sovereignty of the islands, then surely, even if they are expensive, we should discharge responsibly the duties that go with the sovereignty—that is to say, the responsible management of the sea resources surrounding the island. Thus, if one can accept a figure of £5 million to police the area, one sets it against a total income of £20 million and one is left with £15 million for contributing towards the infrastructure to support the kind of fishing industry that one would hope to build up in the islands.
Here, as the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has already pointed out, the new airport, which is due to open next month, will be an invaluable asset, provided the military are not too possessive of it or, again, the Treasury does not get too deeply into the costing of the landing fees for the use of it. In addition to the value of the airport for personnel and for urgently needed parts for communications generally, it is quite clear that a fishing industry established in this area would require all the usual infrastructure of port facilities, fuelling, maintenance and ultimately a factory and freezer facilities.
I believe that I am right in saying that at present large quantities of refrigerated containers are being shipped out to the islands with stores, equipment and food for the people and the troops living there. These 925 containers are then coming back empty. The same is true of merchant vessels going out there. Would it not be very satisfactory if we were able to provide a return cargo for ships which were making the trip anyway and which thereby would get payment for the two-way trip in the traditional tramp steamer manner? I believe that I am also right in saying that there are a number of fishery and commercial undertakings in this country which have expressed a serious interest in developing this kind of activity provided that they have the protection of the control that the exclusive fisheries zone or the exclusive economic zone would give them.
In passing, one should emphasise that it is not a complete 200-mile limit all around the islands. The distance to the Argentine mainland is a little less than 200 miles. There would be a median line between the two. If, as a result of this activity, we could see a revival of our deep sea trawler fleet, this would not only be very satisfactory to distressed areas in this country, especially the North-East coasts of both England and Scotland, but it would also go some way to giving a little comfort to those who worry, as I do, about the decline in the size of our merchant fleet, the numbers of men who run it and the possible need for those resources in times of crisis. A revived trawler fishing industry would not only have commercial benefit but would also have potential military benefit.
The final pressure for getting on with doing something about the fishery problem is the political dimension, which has already been mentioned. No one wants to minimise the difficulty and the delicacy of negotiating with the Argentinians on the regime that is to apply in the South Atlantic. I would suggest, however, that exploitation of these fishery resources is the unique common interest that we share with the Argentine. There is evidence, already quoted by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, in a report from the Eurofish Group—it is, as a matter of fact, a very inaccurate report—according to which it is said that the Argentine is complaining that Britain, in declaring a 200-mile exclusion zone around the islands, has failed to take responsibility for making rational use of the waters' resources. The report goes on to say that the number of ships using these waters for fishery purposes, primarily from the Soviet bloc, Japan and Spain, has quadrupled since the conflict with Britain.
Argentina is therefore aware of the problem just as much as we are. Surely, it is not beyond the wit of man to find some way, without prejudice to the question of sovereignty, to establish a common interest with Argentina in protecting what is a mutual resource. Let us go ahead and do it unilaterally if necessary, but let us extend the hand of commercial friendship and let us show the magnanimity in victory for which we are traditionally supposed to be famous by encouraging the Argentinians even if, on a cold and cynical point, you want to be able to say, "At least we tried but all that happened is that we got kicked in the teeth. So we had to go it alone in the end".
I would urge the Government to do three things at their earliest convenience, not that I place a great deal of faith in how they might interpret that. Nevertheless, I say it. First, they should announce their intention to declare an exclusive fishery zone up to 200-miles or the median line between the Falklands and the Argentine. There is, of course, ample legal precedent 926 for this. It is a practice widely adopted by many nations and one which, incidentally, I believe started among the South American nations many years ago.
Secondly, and perhaps even more urgently, they should establish a major research programme, probably with the collaboration of the Navy, to establish what is the sustainable fishery level of yield in this area. Thirdly, they should invite Argentina to join in a collaborative control regime for the fishery without prejudice to the issue of sovereignty.
Uniquely, among political arrangements, this seems to be likely to benefit the Falklands, Argentina, the international fishery interests and the United Kingdom. What more, my Lords, can one ask? Let us get on with it.
§ 4.26 p.m.
§ Lord Energlyn
My Lords, engraved on my mind is the second speech I made in your Lordships' House, when the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, with his usual courtesy but nevertheless crystalline clarity, showed me the distinction that one has to make between geopolitics and geology. I shall therefore make my position clear. It is as a geologist that I speak at the moment. When the noble Lord's father was on his way to the South Pole he called in to see his old friend, the man who became Sir Edgworth David, the son of the Bishop of Llandaff who at the age of 16 was declared an incurable tubercular and who was advised to take up geology as an out-of-door occupation.
He went out as a young fellow and discovered the margin of the Ice Age for the first time in South Wales. He then went to Australia and founded the New South Wales coalfield. He was also the chief geologist of the Australian army. The noble Lord's father and Edgworth David were great friends. Sir Ernest persuaded Edgworth David to go with him to the South Pole for the ride. He went unprepared. When he reached Antarctica he saw Mount Erebus. Here was a volcano blowing its head off. Without any equipment, up goes David, in typical British fashion—I might almost be tempted to say Welsh fashion, but be that as it may—to discover how the volcano works. That was the first time that it had ever been done. He came down to find that he was marooned, along with the noble Lord's father. They put their heads together. This is my understanding of the sort of conversation that took place. Edgworth David said, "Now look, Ernest. You go off to the South Pole. We have both worked out where the magnetic South Pole is. When you get there pop across and meet me."
That is what they did. It was the first time that anyone had ever reached the magnetic South Pole. It was an enormous achievement, and it illustrates the point that I am trying to make—the great involvement of British geologists, British scientists and British geographers in Antarctica. This is a point that the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, was seeking to establish in his remarkable speech.
Staying within that theme, one has to remember that Antarctica is a fragment of the earth's crust that has been divorced from Africa. About 250 million years ago, during the split-up of the continents, this fragment of Africa was forced southwards. It therefore contains much of the mineral matter that we now know exists in South Africa. No diamonds, so far as I 927 know, have yet been discovered in Antarctica. But most of the other minerals exist. On the other hand, one must not be too flamboyant in one's assessment of the mineral resources of the Falkland Islands. They are not particularly spectacular. As the noble Lord pointed out, it is to South Georgia that perhaps we must look in the future to the mineral developments in Antarctica.
At the time of the Scott expedition there was a geologist called Raymond Priestley, who eventually became Sir Raymond Priestley. He was a very famous geologist. It is a long story, but eventually he endowed me with some of the specimens collected on that ill-fated expedition. Among the specimens was a lump of sandstone which he had derived from a huge bluff of sandstone which ran several hundreds of miles, which he called the "Beacon sandstone", for obvious reasons. I took this sandstone. At that time I had invented a technique for looking at the potential of oil in rocks, and Dr. Elliot and I were able to establish for the first time that there was a potential of oil-bearing rocks in Antarctica. That is the kind of picture that we geologists have. You have few exposures to look at. You have to extrapolate bits and pieces of evidence, and from this draw conclusions.
We have heard talk quite widely of potential oil fields, and so on. In the islands themselves there might be pockets of natural gas, but they will be very limited indeed. What is important in the islands, as has been pointed out by the previous speaker, is the enormous reserves of fish. As these are cropped, naturally one would look for by-products to be derived from these fish in situ as distinct from exporting them as frozen food. In addition to that you have the flora of the sea floor, and from these we now know quite well that they could be a major source of alginates. Again this is a small industry but nevertheless an important industry which could provide considerable income for the islanders.
Above all, the islands have clean air. Although they have a small population they could develop clean air activities, namely electronics. One could have developed on the islands electronic factories which would produce extremely lucrative exports all over the world. This of course raises the issue of the airfield. In my opinion the airfield should be used for the dual purpose of defence and air freight. Therefore it would begin to pay for itself in a short period of time.
The other thing that the islands need is water. Before you can make alginates, or before you can have an electronics industry, or before you can have water, you need energy. At the moment, so far as we know, there are no resources of solid fuels or liquid fuels in any quantity. They would have to be imported. Therefore you turn your mind to the possibility of harnessing wave power, which is difficult and chancy. One might put one's thoughts to the harnessing of wind power. That is another difficult and complicated engineering matter.
One thing to which I should like to draw your Lordships' attention is the picture of Sir Edgworth David climbing in his plimsolls up the side of Mount Erebus, seeing it spouting out hot steam indicating that underneath there must be hot rocks. It is these hot rocks which allow the fish to breed in such enormous 928 quantities. Therefore what it means is that if one sank a bore hole into these hot rocks one could develop a geothermal power station. This could be the source of energy which the islands need for their future development.
One of the best contributions we could make while we have our engineers there constructing the aerodrome is to sink a few deep bore holes—it would not cost very much—to see whether the hot rocks are capable of producing steam and giving to the islanders that which they need: namely, electrical geothermal energy.
§ 4.34 p.m.
§ The Earl of Onslow
My Lords, that must be the most original speech, in the best possible sense, that we have heard about the Falkland Islands. When the Suez crisis was on Lady Eden complained that she felt that the Suez Canal was running through her drawing room. I have a feeling that the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, is going to have a feeling that fish are swimming about his. I am not going to be original in my speech, like the noble Lord, Lord Energlyn, but I am going to hammer home the point about fish and the Falkland Islands' natural resources.
Those of us who have actually had Falkland Islands' snipe walking around our feet; those of us who have stood within five feet of a spitting, brawling, messmaking, fish smelling, arguing colony of penguins; those of us who have seen elephant seals huffing and puffing and flipping sand all over themselves; those of us who have seen the enormous variety of the Falklands Islands' bird life and sea life will remember that it is totally and utterly engraved upon our minds. It is something which is very special at a world level.
As the noble Lord, Lord Buxton, said, that wildlife is totally dependent upon fish. If we destroy the fish life we shall destroy the wildlife. If we destroy that, we shall make the Falkland Islands uninhabitable, and all there will be will be a totally useless airfield on an uninhabited island. If, however, we take sensible actions to conserve the fish and equally sensible actions to conserve the wildlife, we then have a development potential for the Falkland Islands which makes sense economically, socially and strategically.
It is impossible to underline too much the importance of the Government's now—preferably yesterday, or better still the day before yesterday—imposing a 200-mile fishing limit. To say that it is going to offend somebody is not good enough; if you say that we have to negotiate a multilateral limit, we know how long that will take. It also, I would suggest to Her Majesty's Government, shows a doubt on the rights which the British have to the Falkland Islands. To go and correctly reconquer the Falklands because you have no doubt, and then to signal doubt in the next breath in failing to put down your 200-mile fishing limit in such a way that even the Argentinians are complaining about it, seems to me to show lack of a certain drive. There is also, I believe, no conservation input in the Falkland Islands' Government. In other words, when a development is planned there is not conservation advice immediately available.
This is no criticism of the Falkland Islands' Government. I think it is a criticism of the Overseas 929 Development Authority. The Falkland Islands are in an almost virginal state from the wildlife and natural resource point of view. It is now that one should put in the conservation input before it is ruined, before we have dug out all the hedges in Leicestershire, before we have prairie-farmed some of it. Before we do something we want to know what effect it is going to have in the long term and on conservation. Of course we want wool developed. Of course we want the idea of a clear air electronics industry, but that can only be developed if there is a proper conservation input at the beginning rather than letting black Birmingham-type smoke stacks belch away. I am not suggesting that that is going to happen, but it is important that we should have that in mind.
We have had reference to the possibility of £20 million a year, at its most conservative, being the cost of a licence fee on the 200-mile limit. The Ministry of Defence suggests that it would cost £13 million to police that 200-mile limit. I would suggest that a profit of £7 million is better than no profit at all. It has been suggested by equally intelligent people that it is not going to cost £13 million but nearer £5 million, and that the take on the licence fee could possibly be as much as £40 million. I believe, for instance, that the Japanese chomp their way through 500,000 tonnes of squid a year. I am tempted not to read out the bit about the Kanagawa Squid Jiggers Association, but it is worth repeating. It has 22 vessels reporting some 16 tonnes of squid per day, and the squid is worth some 1,300 US dollars per tonne. This is one company of one country.
To return for one brief moment to the conservation aspect: on Ministerial initiative taken in 1983 Professor Dunnet of Aberdeen University was asked to report to the ODA on conservation aspects in the Falkland Islands. Professor Dunnet has acted for some time as an adviser to the ODA. He duly reported back in 1983, but the report has vanished; no one has seen it. Can my noble friend tell us something about it? Judging by the look on his face it comes as a total surprise to him; but can he please find out for us and let us know?
I think that I have said enough about the fact that the whole ecology rests on fish. This is obvious and can only be further underlined. My World Wildlife brief reads:This is the single most important conservation problem. Fishing vessels from 16 countries operated within 150 miles of the Falklands in 1984, according to John Stanley in a written Commons Answer on 14th December 1984 (Bulgaria, Denmark, East Germany, Finland, Italy, Japan, Liberia, Norway, Panama, Philippines, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, USSR and West Germany)".—not a single British trawler!Of these, Polish and Spanish vessels are fishing the area most intensively. Nobody knows how much fish is being caught because only the Poles submit catch statistics, but the Poles alone are catching about 250,000 tonnes a year. The total catch is almost certainly over 500,000 tonnes and may be much more. Nobody knows whether this level of exploitation is sustainable because almost nothing is known of the size of the stocks, but if catches of similar levels around South Georgia are anything to go by (which almost eradicated stocks of Antarctic Cod in the early 1970s) it almost certainly is not".There are, for instance, no regulations within the three-mile limit regarding net size or how fishing should be carried out, which any sensible fishery regime should apply.
930 There is little more to say. The non-introduction of a fishery regime with established total allowable catches and the continuation of the present free for all allows two bad problems: the early decimation of the fish and the effect upon world prices and trading. The noble Lord, Lord Strathcona, mentioned this. He said that he hoped that somebody else would take it up, and as I have the same brief that he had I shall try to develop it a little. The brief says:The 'knock-on' aspect of item 2 is such that severe difficulties will arise in trading positions such as the Scottish mackerel and herring, as prices will be lower due to trade off values dropping. For instance Marr (Seafoods) … have already drawn up contracts to take squid products from the South Atlantic primarily to the Falklands of up to 60,000 tonnes. This will be marketed worldwide, but especially to Japan. A large part of this product has been exchanged for Scottish mackerel and herring with Eastern bloc countries who play a major role in Falkland fishing operations. They are now pressing us"—that is Marr—to accept much lower values for UK mackerel and herring. For our government to allow such a situation to continue shows a complete lack of understanding, is financially ridiculous for UK interests and would we believe be totally unacceptable to the British taxpayer"—that is, if it were totally understood, which I do not think it is. It certainly came as a surprise to me.
There is one further matter arising on the airport. It will enable rapid turn-rounds of trawler crews, provided they are established out there. This means that the Ministry of Defence have to think of it not purely as a military base. I suggest that also they have to put themselves in the minds of Thomas Cook and set themselves the task of providing a proper airfield. The noble Lord is wincing with horror at the thought, but it is true; this has to be done. Otherwise we shall not have the proper civilian development on the island. After all, the military are present for the service of the civilians—not the other way round.
I make this one final point. Except for the two noble Lords sitting either side of the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, grouse shooting is out of fashion in this Government. I suggest that if either the noble Viscount, Lord Whitelaw, or the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, ran their grouse moors in the way that the British are at the moment running the Falkland Island fisheries they would not be able to have the marvellous crop of grouse that they have for their own and everybody's economic enjoyment.
§ 4.45 p.m.
Lord Campbell of Croy
My Lords, I am sure we all are grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, for this debate and also for the way in which he so helpfully introduced it in his admirable speech. At his suggestion, I intend to address my remarks to sea fisheries as a subject on its own. This is because its importance has increased greatly since the Shackleton Report on the Falkland Islands and, as I hope to show, within the last two years. There are certain valuable fishing opportunities in the seas around the Falklands which have a significance for fishing countries throughout the world. These opportunities can be improved if continuing stocks of fish can be assured and if some facilities on shore are provided and guaranteed. They can be helpful to those European countries which still have elements of distant water fleets remaining. The opportunities in the Falkland Islands could take pressure off European waters, 931 pressure which was considered recently in a debate in your Lordships' House on 11th March. I need hardly say that, if properly taken up, these opportunities would also lead to very helpful development on the Falkland Islands.
The House will know from the concern which I have expressed on several occasions during the past year that I have Spain particularly in mind. I take this opportunity of congratulating the Government on obtaining what seems to be a realistic agreement on sea fisheries on the accession of Spain on 1st January. We do not know the details, but from what we have heard the Government appear to have achieved about the best deal that was possible. Nonetheless, I still foresee that there will be more catching power within the EC than can be deployed in European waters without serious risk to fish stocks there. Spain, I should remind your Lordships, has a fleet which has been operating off the African countries and I hope that Spanish vessels will continue as long and as much as possible to fish off those shores. However, there are still elements of the Spanish distant water fleet needing worthwhile fishing grounds elsewhere. Bearing in mind size and freezing capacity, those Spanish vessels can fish a long way from home.
A significant factor is that Spanish ships are accustomed to fishing for hake and blue whiting, species which are in abundance round the Falkland Islands. They have found and retained markets for those fish also in Spain and elsewhere. If we compare the sizes of fleets in Europe in tonnage—which I suggest is the best method of comparison—the Spanish fleet is about 60 per cent. of the size of the present EC members' fleets put together. It is sometimes stated that the Spanish fleet is as large as or larger than the EC members' fleets, but that is in numbers. Tonnage is a better guide because many of the Spanish boats are small, operating locally, mostly for shellfish for which there is a large market within Spain. They are not competing with British fishing vessels because they are never far from their home port.
At the other extreme, there are very large and mostly modern distant water vessels. Although the world's distant water fleets, including Britain's, have been disappearing fast, Spain's has contracted little because of agreements and joint ventures with many other countries in Africa and elsewhere.
Those distant water vessels should not expect to compete in waters round the United Kingdom unless opportunities elsewhere are denied to them. It is in Britain's interest that opportunities should not be denied elsewhere to those Spanish vessels. Some have been fishing round the Falkland Islands and are fishing there now, but without a proper system of conservation and management and without facilities on the islands which would transform this into a regular and substantial fishing operation. The remaining part of the Spanish fleet, some 300 to 400 vessels, are the middle section which do expect to fish in European and North African waters and are the potential competitors of other EC fishermen in the EC pond.
To try to ensure that I am not misunderstood or misquoted by over-simplification, I must make it clear that I am not suggesting that these vessels, the middle 932 section, should be sent forthwith to fish over 7,000 miles away off the Falkland Islands. Some in due course might find that profitable, but only with much preparation beforehand and in concert with their big brothers of the distant water fleet. Even after Spain and Portugal join the EC in January, the EC fleet will be third in size in the world after Japan and the Soviet Union.
This brings me to the present position in the seas round the Falkland Islands. No fishing limits are observed; not only Spain but several other nations, notably the Soviet Union, Japan and Poland, have fishing vessels operating there, clearly to their financial advantage. Without any supervision or co-ordination, there is a danger that stocks may be seriously damaged; and this happened some years ago after a concentration of Soviet fishing effort round the Falkland Islands. I recognise that there is some difficulty for the United Kingdom Government in declaring and controlling a 200-mile fisheries limit. The whole question of relations with Argentina and other South American countries is involved. But I would remind your Lordships that the rest of the world accepted de facto the extension of fishing limits to 200 miles in 1976 and 1977. From the Opposition Front Bench, I was dealing with the Bill on this which passed through your Lordships' House at that time, and I remember it well. That de facto establishment throughout the world of 200-mile fishing limits was established by customary law in anticipation of the United Nations Law of the Sea Convention.
As a result, 200 miles is now universally accepted for fishing limits and it would be expected for substantial, inhabited islands like the Falkland Islands, whatever is the sovereignty position. I would not press the Government to take action which they calculated would be regarded as highly provocative. What I would point out is that it is in everyone's interest to reach the kinds of agreements which would normally accompany 200-mile fishing limits. In addition, fishing vessels of other countries would be able to use land-based facilities which would greatly help them as they are having to operate far from home. It would be very beneficial to the development of the Falkland Islands and would add employment for the islanders. Such agreements would also provide arrangements which would ensure conservation while opening opportunities for valuable catches. The 200-mile fishing limit may not immediately be possible though I hope it will be possible soon, but in the meantime beneficial agreements, agreements of the kind that I have suggested, should not be delayed.
I should like to ask the Government—for reply this evening if possible—whether they are actively seeking such agreements. It has been mentioned during the debate so far that the Argentines, presumably the Argentine fishermen's organisation, are complaining that there is no fisheries' limit arrangement and that there is no supervision of such a zone. Can my noble friend, when he replies, confirm this and say what is the position of the Argentine Government themselves if their views are known?
It is clear that there are extensive resources of fish in the waters round the Falklands Islands and round South Georgia. They are being exploited now by the fleets of other countries in a haphazard way which 933 would deplete and in due course decimate the stocks. Some of these species are not familiar to British housewives but there is no reason why British fishermen should not in due course join in the fishing in that area. For example, British fishmongers' slabs do not often have squid on them. Very large quantities are now being caught around the Falkland Islands. There seems an inexhaustible demand for squid in Japan. Squid has been an export from Britain for years. It is a by-catch for British fishermen.
I recall 25 years ago that fishermen in the Moray Firth, when they caught squid with their other catch, would simply throw it over the side. Then they discovered it was a delicacy in Mediterranean countries, and I am glad to say that exports were arranged. I had a picture in my mind then of British holidaymakers in Rome or Florence sitting down perhaps to a very expensive meal and not realising that the squid they were eating had been landed at Lossiemouth and flown to Italy. In the same way, squid is a valuable catch and the squid fishery alone around the Falklands Islands is a source of this species for parts of the world which at present cannot get enough of it. The potential for the Falklands' economy in the fisheries round the Falklands and South Georgia is very great, but I would tell the Government that I think that action is necessary soon.
§ 4.58 p.m.
§ Lord Elibank
My Lords, I find myself in this debate in the unhappy position of being in a minority, I think probably of one, in viewing the plans of the Government and their many supporters round the House with an increasing measure of incredulity. I propose to take advantage of the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, that we should treat this debate in the broad, general sense. I know that some of the points that I may have to make may be unpopular but at least I can offer your Lordships the consolation that I shall make no further mention of fish.
My difficulties start with the campaign itself two years ago and the objectives of the various parties who went into that campaign. The objective of the Government, as far as I can see, has always been consistent and clear. It was to protect the democratic right of the inhabitants of the Falklands to decide their own future as they thought best. The difficulty that I see is that, in my view, the British people went into this debate with another objective which was, quite simply, revenge. They were appalled by the sight of a foreign army on their island, by the molestation of their citizens, by the taking prisoner of their troops and by the hauling down of the Union Jack over Port Stanley. The relevance of this seems to me that when the war was finished, when our troops had gloriously completed their campaign, the objective of the people of this country was met in full. Their interest in and commitment to the Falkland Islands sharply diminished and in many cases it disappeared all together. It is against that background that one ought to try to look at some of the proposals which have been put forward and to attempt to weigh what measure of support they would have in this country.
As I understand it, the Government have two main pillars in their policy towards the Falklands. One is quite obviously defence—defence of the people and 934 their rights, defence of the mineral and fishing resources and so on, in the area—and also the protection of such mineral rights as exist in Antarctica, assuming that we can maintain our interest in that area. The other pillar, as I see it, is an attempt to promote the economic viability of the Falklands now and in the future by means of whatever sensible investments are available.
If we look at defence—and a number of speakers have touched on this during the debate—one or two points strike us straight away. The first and the most obvious is the outlay of money. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, if I am quoting him correctly, mentioned 3 per cent. of the defence budget. That is a pretty miserable percentage of anything, but of course when it is 3 per cent. of an enormous lot of money it still becomes quite a strain on the Exchequer.
The other undoubted effect of our concentration on these islands is the distraction of our resources, military, material and intellectual, from the theatre in which our life depends: the European theatre. I think that is wholly wrong for a country with the limited resources, both military and financial, that we can command.
There has been a certain reference during this debate to the usefulness of the Falklands as a defence outpost in any future conflagration. I would put it to your Lordships that any such conflagration, which I suppose is more likely to take place in Antarctica than elsewhere, will be settled either under the aegis of the United Nations in a peaceful atmosphere of some compromise, or by means of some eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation between the great powers, if we are as unfortunate as that. I cannot really believe, in either case, that a few battalions of British troops, a squadron or two of ships and the equivalent number of Hawker Harriers is really going to be able to play an important role in the determination of the outcome of such a conflagration. I believe we deceive ourselves if we think that the success we won in the modest war fought in the Falklands will ensure our success in any similar venture. I would suggest to your Lordships that the mini-war we fought in the Falklands was the last one of that sort. The next conflagration will be more serious and will involve more powers; and our military resources will be marginal to the achievement of success in it.
So far as the mineral rights are concerned, some reference has been made to oil, of which there is undoubtedly a large quantity around the Falkland Islands, but of course in the current state of the world market, with prices falling and the market in a state of over supply, the commercial viability of the exploitation of oil around the Falklands is very limited. In fact, in my submission it is simply not realistic in the immediate future and probably not in the long-term future. I suspect that broadly the same would be true of the minerals of Antarctica.
To look again at the economic viability, I think there is one basic fact to be borne in mind about the population of the Falklands; that is, that prior to this campaign it had been in more or less steady decline for a number of decades. That, it seems to me, is the fate of outlying, isolated islands and locations throughout the world, not only British, but of any other nationality. The attraction of city life, if may one put 935 it that way, is so great, particularly to the young, that I cannot envisage the younger generation wishing to live and farm in the Falklands for a number of decades in the future. I believe that had it not been for the campaign, it is quite likely that the decline in the population that we have seen would have continued until the islands were finally depopulated and the only presence on them would be either a British or an Argentine garrison.
The injection of the cash which Her Majesty's Government are putting into the Falklands at the present time surely can arrest and possibly reverse this trend for a period of time, but, I would respectfully suggest to your Lordships, in the end the Falkland Islands are doomed to depopulation. One thinks that only 400 miles away is the land of the Argentine which, whatever may be said about her international currency failings, is a glorious country, rich in agricultural resources, and offering a way of life which one would have thought was far more attractive than life on a somewhat barren island.
§ Lord Shackleton
My Lords, I am mystified by the noble Lord's reference to a "campaign". I am not sure what he is talking about.
§ Lord Elibank
My Lords, when I said "the campaign", I was referring of course in the first instance to the military campaign of two years ago. I thought I had made that abundantly clear. If I have misled the noble Lord in any way, I should be happy to clarify it. That is the only campaign to which I intended to make reference. I had no other purpose in mind.
What I have said is all by way of criticism, and I think it behoves anyone in my position, who has criticised the tremendous efforts made by the Government and others to further the cause of the Falklands, at least to put forward his alternative views. I believe—and this may be an unpopular thing to say—that we should hand over the Falkland Islands in toto, with sovereignty and full control, to the Argentine Government within a measurable space of time. If we try to assess what that time should be, personally I would say that five years is ample time for the inhabitants to consider their position and whether they wish to stay or to go. At the end of that time it would be for the British Government to offer a generous measure of compensation both to those who stay and to those who wish to go.
I would not be in favour, as has been mentioned by one or two speakers today, of an elaborate treaty, attempting to safeguard the rights of our citizens, whether it be in relation to language or law, or economically. I am afraid that I have insufficient confidence in the integrity of future Argentine governments to suppose that any such agreement would be worth the paper on which it was written. That is why I favour a clean break.
936 I believe that if we did that, we would satisfactorily honour our commitment to the inhabitants and I believe that we would also restore our very damaged relations with the Argentine and, to a lesser extent, with the rest of South America. I also believe that we would relieve the British Exchequer of an intolerable burden.
§ Lord Somers
My Lords, may I just point out one thing to the noble Lord? Has he remembered that the Falklands are within a fairly short distance of a large and powerful country which is only too anxious to take them over and which regards them already as her own property? If they were to have their own sovereignty and we were completely to wash our hands of the Falkland islanders, how on earth would they ever be able to defend themselves?
§ Lord Elibank
My Lords, the answer to that is that if we handed over complete sovereignty of the Falklands to the Argentines, it would clearly no longer be our responsibility. It would give this warning period of five years for them to make up their minds, but any Falkland islander who stayed would become subject to Argentine foreign policy and system of law.
§ Lord Buxton of Alsa
My Lords, may I clarify to the noble Lord—although I do not think it is necessary for anybody else—that I never said anything about a conflagration in the South Atlantic. I was saying that in the event of a conflagration in the northern hemisphere, where it is most likely to be, it is then vital to have safe and secure maritime communications in the south.
§ Lord Elibank
My Lords, I can only accept the noble Lord's clarification. I did not have his speech particularly in mind when I was talking about a conflagration. It was my thought that any relevant conflagration would be in Antarctica or around south America. But I take his point that we do not want one to originate anywhere.
§ 5.11 p.m.
My Lords, I do not think it will come as any surprise to the House, least of all to the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, if I do not follow the noble Lord who has just spoken, except to say that there are values other than economic, and also that expediency is ever the enemy of justice. But I should like to say that to take part in a debate led by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, is both a daunting experience and an extremely stimulating privilege. It is my suggestion that it would take a brave and indeed arrogant Government to ignore his views. Those two previous Governments who ignored the major recommendation of the first report of the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, in 1976, to lengthen and improve the runway at Stanley—so major a recommendation that it was telegraphed to Her Majesty's Government well in advance of the publication of the report—have both learned to live with the knowledge that the cost of ignoring that advice was not just in money but also in lives.
As long ago as 1977 the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, wrote to me a letter suggesting inter alia, 937 no doubt with tongue in cheek, that the older he became, the more he was convinced that all Governments, of whatever colour, are nothing other than thoroughly dishonest. As a parliamentarian, I believe that this healthy scepticism is as good a premise to start with as any. Indeed, one of the first actions of the Conservative Administration in May 1979 was to tell a barefaced fib that,the majority of the Shackleton recommendations"—that is, the 1976 recommendastions—have now been implemented".
§ Lord Trefgarne
My Lords, I remember very well the case that the noble Lord describes. It was I who made that assertion on behalf of the Government and I stand by it to this very day.
My Lords, my memory serves me that it was one of my noble friend's colleagues who originally made the assertion in reply to a Question for Written Answer in another place. I am surprised that my noble friend takes credit for that statement, because it is one for which I myself should not like to take credit.
My Lords, that is as may be. The point is that I well remember his response on that occasion, when he rather airy-fairily suggested that he did not want to get into the qualitative and quantitative argument. But that is a detailed point. The major dishonesty of which we must be very careful is that of any Government if they are so vague, so vacillating and so insecure in their convictions that predators of one's own interests, and indeed of the free world's, are encouraged to feed off those interests.
For years now we have been reminded on numerous occasions that the Foreign Office, rather like Mae West, "just love foreign affairs". What I ask is: what of their love of a clearly stated foreign policy? As we have been reminded by the noble Lord, Lord Buxton, on a previous occcasion, there is no such confusion between strategy and tactics by the Soviets, who have stationed their major scientific posts in the Antarctic smack opposite Cape Horn, the Cape of Good Hope and the toe of the South Island of New Zealand—the three nearest landfalls to Antarctica.
One is reminded of a famous chapter in A. G. McDonnell's England their England, which I might add was written in 1925, where the raconteur is working as a personal assistant to a United Kingdom delegate to the League of Nations, who is planning to deliver a speech of the greatest importance to the League of Nations in plenary session. Upon asking two beautifully dressed young men from the Foreign Office what was the policy of Her Majesty's Government on this subject, the personal assistant received looks of astonishment that are reserved only for congenital idiots and the reply:Her Majesty's Government do not have a foreign policy, except maybe for one—that we must be nice to the French".It is for this reason that I most warmly welcome the new constitution of the Falkland Islands, in that it is a major statement of foreign policy and, as such, I 938 congratulate Her Majesty's Government on having the courage to resist the pleadings of those who suggest on so many occasions that we must not upset the Argentinians.
Similarly, I welcome the continued assurances of Her Majesty's Government that they are confident and secure in their case for sovereignty of the Falkland Islands and the dependencies, and that such a subject is not for debate with those who table claims, all of which must be spurious by their very nature. But I believe that this firm statement as such by Her Majesty's Government is not enough. Her Majesty's Government must be aware that for decades the history of Argentina has been written and re-written by Argentinians for Argentinian hearts and minds. True security in the whole of the south-west Atlantic lies in the success of successive Governments to state the United Kingdom's case to the people of Argentina, not just government to government but, to borrow the motto of the BBC, nation unto nation.
Your Lordships will recall the truly magnificent diplomatic endeavours of our representatives in Washington and the United Nations in the spring of 1982. However, I have strong reasons to believe that our most powerful allies believe that our on-going interest in the south-west Atlantic is at best eccentric and at worst positively Gilbertian. I ask my noble friend to tell your Lordships' House what is being done in this direction. In case my noble friend thinks that I ask this question lightly, may I ask him whether he has counted, or has lost count of, how many times the leader of the new democratic Argentina, President Alfonsin, has taken the opportunity to state the purity of the Argentinian claim and to insist upon negotiations, upon the unnegotiable?
Furthermore, I ask my noble friend, and other noble Lords who have so far been so patient with me, to consider this short extract. It comes from a quasi-official publication written by an Argentine Admiral, Admiral Fraga, as recently as 1984, if I recall rightly, and it is called Introduction to Antarctic Geopolitics. This short extract reads:this"—this is Argentinian ambitions in that area—will also be achieved with permanent and effective presence in all our waters and our Antarctica, upholding our rights and our titles but accompanying them with extensive scientific/technical and logistic activity, so that wherever the Argenine flag may flutter one may know of our irrevocable spirit of struggle at all times in order to satisfy as far as possible Argentine aspirations and interest in Antarctica".
§ 5.19 p.m.
§ Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos
My Lords, we are extremely grateful to my noble friend Lord Shackleton, for enabling us to have this debate and for his opening speech, which again showed his great knowledge of the South Atlantic and its problems. The economic study of the Falklands, published in 1982, over which my noble friend presided, is of very great value, as indeed the Government themselves have recognised.
No one is more entitled than my noble friend to look critically at the progress which has been achieved and the problems which remain. As he made clear in his remarks, these are formidable indeed. Other noble 939 Lords who have spoken have also shown a great knowledge of the area and I think that by now all the topics of importance and also of controversy have been covered. I should like at this stage to add my good wishes to the retiring Governor, Sir Rex Hunt, who conducted himself with courage and dignity at a time of crisis.
I shall try to deal very briefly with what I see as the main issues raised in this debate. They come under three headings. The first is the current state of the Falkland Islands. The Foreign Affairs Committee of another place described the Government's responsibilities quite clearly. The report is in my view an extremely important document. It said:The islanders went through a traumatic experience which they will not forget in a hurry. The infrastructure of the islands was badly damaged".The report of the Select Committee goes into this in great detail. I do not propose to quote from it at length but one paragraph summarises the position. Paragraph 167 contains the final assessment of the committee:As an urgent response to an allegedly critical situation it is difficult to imagine any enterprise being proceeded with at a more funereal pace. The Falkland Islands Government representative, Mr. Monk, described the ODA's approach to the establishment of the FIDC as 'very sluggish'. It had tended to hold up all sorts of small development. This sluggishness has undoubtedly given rise to understandable, and in our view, justified resentment in the Falkland Islands".Those were the conclusions of the All Party Committee in another place. Perhaps the noble Lord will be good enough to comment on this when he replies.
The noble Baroness, Lady Young, whose absence we regret but understand, recognised that the recommendation of my noble friend in relation to the land reform programme, to which my noble friend referred in his speech, was one of the most important in his report. Yet it has been given very low priority by the Government. This again is something on which the noble Lord may wish to comment. The £4.6 million out of a total development grant of £31 million indicates the true importance attached to the corporation by the Government, as the committee itself pointed out.
My noble friend mentioned the importance to the economy of the fishing industry. This has been underlined in some very impressive speeches by a number of noble Lords. My noble friend's study recommended a 200-mile limit. It is only fair to remind ourselves that this recommendation was in fact backed up with a great deal of detailed argument. We also know about the extensive operations of foreign fishing fleets around the Falklands and also further south around the dependencies. The Select Committee in another place, while agreeing that there is a strong case for the regulation and licensing of fishing, does not favour the 200-mile limit in view of what it calls:the considerable political and practical problems to be overcome".I do not dismiss these arguments lightly and I do see merit in their recommendation for an indigenous fishing fleet in the Falkland Islands, but it would be interesting to know the Government's views and intentions at this time. I think that they will need to 940 take very careful account of the important speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Buxton, who is also one of the experts in this area, and of the detailed recommendations of the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona, and of the remarks of the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, and the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy.
The right honourable and learned Gentleman the Foreign Secretary has spoken in another place of what he described as a,multilaterally based conservation and management scheme".It would be helpful if we could be told today what precisely that means. Have any other countries been approached about this proposal, and if so, which countries and what has been their response? The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, asked about possible European Community involvement. Perhaps we could be told if any or all of our Community partners have been consulted by us on the question.
Other matters upon which we would appreciate comment are the reported granting of prospecting rights in the Falklands to the company known as Firstland Oil and Gas. What is the scope of the rights granted to this company and what potential revenues and taxes have the Government agreed with the company? I do not know a great deal about this company; perhaps the noble Lord can enlighten us about that as well.
My noble friend referred, as did other noble Lords, to the new airfield. There is as the House will know some concern about the latest estimated cost of the airfield and also the army base, especially given the overall expenditure there compared with the severe stringencies we have to endure here at home. There are reports which put the cost up substantially by as much as £70 million. We should be grateful if the noble Lord could clarify the position and also tell us the latest position about the civilian use of the airport.
We have heard from my noble friend and others about the constitutional development. This is of the first importance both to the islanders and to ourselves. No one can argue that the proposed new arrangement is a great constitutional advance, and we noted with interest the Foreign Secretary's remark in another place on 14th March when he said:The ultimate authority in matters affecting any dependent territory is of course this Parliament".—[Official Report, Commons 14/3/85. col. 494.]That is something that we and others must always bear in mind.
I should be grateful if the noble Lord would clarify one matter about the separate constitutions. We understand that the Governor of the Falklands will be Commissioner for South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands and will consult the Falklands Executive Council about matters relating to the dependencies. It must be doubtful whether it is prudent in the longer term to establish this kind of relationship between the two territories. They are not and never have been one constitutional entity. To establish this link could prejudice the position later on. The Government may be well advised to think again about the implications of this new move.
In parenthesis, I should like to ask—and I should really know the answer—why the two Orders in Council which set up the new constitution are not 941 subject to the normal affirmative or negative procedure, which would enable us to debate the orders in another place and here as well. There must be a good explanation and perhaps this was written into a statute at some stage. I understand from my noble friend that in the absence of a debate on the orders, the Government have been good enough to allow time for this debate, and we of course appreciate that.
There are several other internal problems. We have heard several most interesting speeches, including one on tourism by my noble friend Lord Mountevans, and by the noble Baroness, Lady Vickers, who raised a number of interesting points. However, I shall move quickly to my second heading; namely, the future of Antarctica, in which my noble friend Lord Shackleton has a deep interest.
We know that in due course the Antarctic Treaty will be reviewed, with all that implies. It is clearly vital that any final solution should be based on international agreement. The alternative is a dangerous free-for-all—an Antarctic Klondike rush; although my noble friend Lord Energlyn was cautious about the possibility of that and about the range and volume of resources in the Antarctic. Renegotiation of the treaty at this time does not seem to be practicable; but we and other countries should be thinking in the longer term and preparing for talks when the moment is right. The Falklands, South Georgia and the Sandwich Islands are obviously important in this context. As I have suggested, the Government should not commit us in advance or box Britain into an awkward situation, in view of the implications for the islands generally.
My third heading is our relations with Argentina and the possibilities of improving them. Given the change of Government in Buenos Aires and the genuine goodwill which I believe exists in this country for President Alfonsin—goodwill which is reciprocated, I understand, by many elements in the Argentine itself and certainly, as I well know by the Welsh colony in Patagonia—it is tragic that we have not been able to make more progress by now. We much regret the collapse of the Berne talks. They should never have broken down as they did, although we understand the reasons. The one word that stands between the Argentine and ourselves, between success and failure, is, as we all know, the word "sovereignty".
President Alfonsin cannot and should not forget the responsibility of his predecessors. The British Government must not forget the feelings of Argentinians about the islands. Nor must they forget the comparative fragility of the new Government, which every democracy in the world must try to sustain. We must find a way to include this issue on an agenda for debate at some stage, and we hope that will be at an early date. The Argentinians must not make sovereignty so urgent and strident a clarion call at this time. They must remember the history of the past few years, the illegal invasion under the Galtieri Government and the blood that was shed. A failure to appreciate that was the weakness in the courageous speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Elibank.
942 Sir Nicholas Henderson, our former ambassador in Washington, gave good advice when he said:Let us sit down together with an open agenda so that we can define what we are going to discuss later on".And in paragraph 96 of the Select Committee Report, the same point is made:This does not mean that the United Kingdom Government should not agree to the inclusion of the 'sovereignty issue', as at present defined by Argentina, on the agenda for talks in the immediate future, but it does mean that they should be willing to discuss the means by which progress can be made to try to find a negotiated settlement with Argentina as requested by the United Nations. Unilateral moves by the United Kingdom Government, not related to the question of sovereignty, should also, however, be considered".That was the recommendation of the multi-party Select Committee in another place.
This country has had a good deal of experience in these matters. I notice that in the context of the Falklands both Hong Kong and Gibraltar have been mentioned from time to time by noble Lords and by others outside. The Government deserve all praise for their conduct of the Hong Kong negotiations but I do not believe that the situation there is analogous to the Falklands. We held Hong Kong on a lease which ends in 1997, and that is that. Yet for all that Government spokesmen have demurred, I believe that Gibraltar is a different case. It is an example of the Government's ability to conduct negotiations with Spain on a range of crucial matters, and to discuss them successfully, while not excluding sovereignty absolutely from the agenda.
I note that in The Times last Friday the Government have suggested a resumption of talks with the Government of Argentina. If that report is true then we warmly welcome the Government's initiative. I hope that the Argentine will respond constructively. An end must be brought to public recrimination and propaganda if any settlement is to be reached, and if success is to accompany talks. The first step must be for us to lift the exclusion zone and for the Argentine formally to end hostilities. But once that is done—and with goodwill it can be done—I believe we can then make progress.
§ 5.37 p.m.
§ Lord Trefgarne
My Lords, perhaps I may add my vote of thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, for introducing this debate this afternoon. Since the last major debate in this House on a broadly similar theme in December 1983, there have been major advances in the development of the islands. The new constitutions have been promulgated for the Falklands and for the dependencies, which are to be known as South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.
We stand firmly by our commitments to enable the islanders to live in peace and security under a government of their own choosing, and in that setting to promote their political, social and economic development. These commitments govern our approach to all the issues under discussion today. I wish I could report advances in improving our bilateral relations with Argentina, which, traditionally, had been comparable with the good relations we continue to enjoy with the rest of South America. Noble Lords will, I am sure, like the 943 Government, be thinking particularly of Brazil. It was with great sorrow that we learned of the tragic death of the Brazilian president-elect, Dr. Tancredo Neves. His long experience in Brazilian political life and his talent for reconciliation will be sorely missed. My right honourable friends the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, and the Lord President of the Council, have sent messages of condolence. Indeed, my noble friend Lady Young has left this afternoon for the funeral, and that is why I stand before your Lordships tonight.
I should like to pay tribute to Lord Shackleton's contribution to the development of the islands. His two economic studies of the Falklands, drawn up in 1976 and 1982, remain basic texts for any discussion of this subject. As the noble Lord himself recognised in the debate last December, the Government have implemented the great majority of his recommendations.
One of our first tasks after liberating the islands in June 1982 was a rehabilitation programme. A total of £15 million was allocated for this. The tasks were daunting. The larger projects in particular were hampered because of factors such as shipping congestion in Port Stanley and overburdened local resources. Although port handling facilities have been immeasurably improved since then, other constraints remain and will inevitably influence the pace of future economic and social development.
The Government responded in December 1982 to the recommendations in the noble Lord's study of that year, by making an allocation of £31 million for the development of the islands' economy over a five- or six-year period. This has been used to take forward a number of the noble Lord's recommendations. A central element in these was the establishment of an agency to co-ordinate and stimulate development. The Falkland Islands Development Corporation began to operate last summer and has made an encouraging start under the management of David Taylor as chief executive and Simon Armstrong as general manager. I had the privilege of meeting both these gentlemen when I visited the Falklands earlier this year and was able to be briefed at first hand on the activities of the corporation.
Several of the noble Lord's recommendations related to the development of the islands' natural resources, especially wool, inshore fisheries and tourist potential. These are being implemented under the auspices of the corporation, and I shall have more to say on some of them in a moment. The noble Lord's study also touched upon infrastructure needs. Our allocation included provision for upgrading essential services, such as Stanley's electricity and water supply, which were not dealt with explicitly in the report, as well as proposals for harbour improvements.
In a few areas, however, the Government do not share the noble Lord's views. Land transfer, which he has raised again today, is one of these. The Government still consider a gradual approach to land redistribution, under the auspices of the Falkland Islands Development Corporation, to be more in keeping with the capacity of the islands' existing agricultural population and more consistent with 944 realistic immigration prospects, than the scale and rate of redistribution recommended by the noble Lord.
Before the conflict in 1982, the Falkland Islands Government had virtually completed the subdivision of one farm, Green Patch on East Falkland, into six smaller units. The subdivision of a second farm, Roy Cove on West Falkland, again into six units, was interrupted by the invasion. Over the past two years, as well as completing the formalities on these earlier subdivisions, the Falkland Islands Government have been involved with arrangements for the subdivision of two further properties. These are Packe Brothers Farm on West Falklands in 1983, which has been split into eight units; and, most recently, San Carlos on East Falkland, whose sections have been purchased by seven individuals.
Twenty-seven farms have been created from these four subdivided properties—over half since the end of 1982. They account for about 408,000 acres of the total acreage and farmland and roughly one-fifth of the islands' livestock. In addition, there are about 10 independently-owned small farms, mainly small islands; and the Falkland Islands Company is encouraging share farming on some of its farms. There is still much to learn about the process of land redistribution. The administrative and legal problems are considerable and there are many issues relating to the existing subdivisions to be resolved.
Detailed statistics are not yet available for production on the most recent subdivisions. The evidence suggests that productivity on the Green Patch holdings, however, has increased by some 15 per cent. since subdivision, and the trend is still rising. If this pattern repeats itself elsewhere the prospects for small farming appear good. The higher rural incomes generated could, in time, encourage opportunities for specialisation, such as contract shepherding or the provision of mechanised services. At the same time, the evidence about the number of islanders wishing to own their own land is not easy to assess with precision. Some islanders prefer to be employed on a large farm rather than be self-employed. Others perhaps lack the necessary managerial and entrepreneurial skills, or the necessary finance. Yet others are interested only in specific parcels of land. These are among the reasons why the process of land redistribution should be a gradual one.
The Falkland Islands Development Corporation has an important role to play in fostering a land redistribution programme which keeps pace with demand. The corporation has already prepared a package of measures to assist farmers with land and livestock improvement. Roughly three-quarters of the small farmers have applied for assistance under this scheme. The main priority is fencing, which is essential for proper management and productivity improvements on the subdivisions. A farm management adviser has now taken up post, and will be working in close co-operation with the Agricultural Research Centre.
The main aim of the development corporation is to identify and support small-scale commercial enterprises, including those based on the islands' chief natural resources, and to promote some diversification in their economy. A wool mill, which will produce yarn and knitted goods, has been established at Fox 945 Bay East on West Falkland, and should be opened next month. Fox Bay East is also the base for a pilot inshore fisheries project which is examining the commercial potential of shellfish resources. The initial results have been encouraging. The corporation is also working on proposals for the development of small-scale industry and services, including tourism, and has commissioned a survey of the islands' transportation needs. It is meanwhile heartening to be receiving reports that various individual islanders are engaging in successful small-scale enterprises.
I turn now to the question of fisheries. Many noble Lords have today talked, quite rightly, about their concern over the depletion of fish stocks. The Government are fully aware of the increasing need for an appropriate conservation and management regime in the south-west Atlantic. Under normal conditions the unilateral declaration of a 200-mile limit could have been an appropriate response to the problem. But there are particular political and practical difficulties involved in the circumstances of the Falklands. We have therefore decided to adopt a different approach. As my right honourable and learned friend the Foreign Secretary said in another place on 14th March, we have decided to explore the possible ways in which a multilaterally-based regime for fisheries conservation and management might be established. We are taking steps to develop that approach. Noble Lords will appreciate that it would not be helpful to go into greater detail at this stage. This is an important and complex subject which we need to follow up on a confidential basis.
I hope your Lordships will not underestimate the difficulty of policing such a unilateral zone if it were to be declared. My own view is that the costs, for example, would be substantially greater than some of the figures which have been mentioned in your Lordship's House this evening. It is perhaps worth recalling that a number of the nations whose vessels are fishing in the zone now are among those who do not support our claim to the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands and thus, if we were to declare a unilateral limit, we might find ourselves in much greater difficulties in policing it than noble Lords imagine.
§ The Earl of Onslow
My Lords, before the noble Lord leaves that point, can he say what will happen if we do not get multilateral agreement? Will he consider putting a time limit on getting multilateral agreement?
§ Lord Trefgarne
My Lords, my noble friend is putting what I regard as a hypothetical question. We have embarked upon a policy of securing a multilateral regime for the area concerned. I hope and believe that that is attainable, and I would rather not speculate on a course that we might seek to adopt if, in the end, that was not possible. We have not yet determined that it is not possible. On the contrary, I hope and believe that it will be.
§ Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal
My Lords, may I ask my noble friend again whether he has put a timescale on how long he thinks it will take him to decide either that it is possible or that it is not possible? If it is more than couple of years what we are being told 946 is that he can forget it because there will not be anything left.
§ Lord Trefgarne
My Lords, again I hesitate to put a rigorous time barrier on such discussions. My own experience in these matters, such as it is, leads me to suppose that a barrier of that kind is not the way to achieve the aims that we all want to achieve. Therefore, I hope my noble friend will forgive me if I do not answer his question in a specific way.
A key element in the development of the islands is the new airport at Mount Pleasant, 30 miles from Port Stanley. This meets another of the recommendations of the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton. We expect the civil and developmental role of the airport to become progressively more important. From the beginning it will be used by civilian passengers travelling on internal flights and on airbridge flights to Britain. When completed, it will be available for commercial operators wishing to establish external air services. Meanwhile, it will retain the function of enhancing our rapid reinforcement capability. As my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence has explained, once the airport is completed in 1986 it should be possible to reduce the level of forces permanently stationed on the Islands.
The main, 8,500-foot runway will opened by HRH the Prince Andrew next month. The airport is due to become fully operational in early 1986, after the second runway, needed for all-weather facilities, is completed. In this context I should once again make clear that allegations that we are establising a strategic or NATO base in the Falklands are totally without foundation.
Another important achievement to which the Motion draws attention has been the introduction of new constitutions for the Falkland Islands and for the dependencies, replacing the constitutions dating from 1948. A Select Committee of the Falkland Islands Legislative Council had embarked on a review of the constitution before the Argentine invasion of 1982. Her Majesty's Government accepted all the Select Committee's main recommendations, which enhance the democratic nature of the islands' administration, and have since taken full account of other views expressed by island councillors.
Orders in Council containing the new constitutions were made by Her Majesty on 20th March and laid before Parliament on 28th March. The constitutions will come into effect on the day of the general election to be held in the Falkland Islands later this year. The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, asked me specifically about the legislative provisions which provided for this parliamentary procedure. It is the British Settlement Act 1887.
§ Lord Kennet
My Lords, before the noble Lord leaves the constitution, can he tell the House anything about the apparent contradiction between the islanders having self-determination—which is enshrined in the constitution—and this Parliament remaining the arbiter of their fate? Have they a veto over their future? If not, can the noble Lord explain why?
§ Lord Trefgarne
My Lords, no, In the last resort, decisions as to the constitutional disposition in the 947 Falkland Islands remain for the Westminster Parliament. The Falkland islanders do not have a veto, but of course we take their views very closely into account.
§ Lord Trefgarne
My Lords, I think that it therefore devolves upon us to take account of the views of the Falkland islanders, as we have been doing ever since we became responsible for these things some years ago. We also keep in mind the conclusions of the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, in his reports on the dependencies' potential, particularly in terms of marine resources. We have noted the noble Lord's view that further investigation into this potential is necessary. The British Antarctic Survey continues its important activities.
As for the importance of the Falkland Islands and dependencies in relation to Britain's activities in Antarctica, Mount Pleasant's role would clearly include use as a stepping stone to Antarctica, though both Chile and Argentina have well-equipped airports and harbours nearer to Antarctica than the Falklands. Facilities in the dependencies, on the other hand, would have to be developed almost from scratch.
Your Lordships will I am sure agree that it is important to prevent our dispute with Argentina over the Falkland Islands affecting the operation of the Antarctic Treaty. We do of course continue to take part in Antarctic Treaty system meetings at which the Argentines are also present. We are aware that this most valuable treaty may be reviewed in 1991, and we shall work constructively in that context.
I should now like to turn to the question of our relations with Argentina. During the last debate on the Falklands in this House my noble friend Lady Young expressed the hope that the new Argentine Government under President Alfonsin would respond contructively to our proposals for the improvement of these relations. So far they have adopted a position on sovereignty every bit as unyielding as that of their predecessors. Members of the Argentine Government suggest that Britain is intransigent in refusing to discuss sovereignty over the islands. But the fact is that it is Argentine insistence on making agreement to discuss sovereignty a precondition to talks on any other aspects of our bilateral relations that prevents any movement out of the present impasse.
We, the islanders, have noted statements by President Alfonsin and other members of the Argentine Government that they intend to pursue their claim to the Falklands by peaceful means. But the Alfonsin Government have refused to declare a definitive cessation of hostilities and continue to make it clear that discussion of sovereignty, however extensively it may be disguised, could only have one outcome: the transfer of sovereignty to Argentina irrespective of the wishes of the islanders. We cannot simply ignore the events of 1982—and our commitments to the islanders—by engaging in discussion of sovereignty.
We are persevering in our efforts to persuade the Argentine Government that the only realistic way 948 ahead is through discussion of practical measures where progress would be of benefit to both sides. Earlier this year we transmitted the latest in the series of messages that we have been exchanging with the Argentines through the protecting powers. The details must remain confidential, but that message once again put forward practical steps that would enable confidence to be re-established between our two peoples. We look to the Argentines for a constructive reply.
The Government continue to believe that an improvement of commercial and economic relations would be the natural starting point in the improvement of bilateral relations. Both sides have an interest in improved trade, and the Argentine Government have publicly stressed the need to increase their exports as a contribution to tackling their daunting economic problems. Both Her Majesty's Government and the European Community have several times proposed a reciprocal lifting of the trade embargo that has been in place since the conflict. I should add that the British Government have also taken a consistently constructive approach to the international arrangements for the rescheduling of Argentina's official debt in the Paris club context. I would also remind your Lordships—as we have reminded the Argentine Government—of our continuing readiness to see a properly supervised visit to the Falklands by the next-of-kin of Argentine servicemen who died there in 1982.
I now turn to some of the other points that have been raised during the course of the debate this evening. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, in his opening remarks, and several other noble Lords referred to the fact that we had separate constitutions for the dependencies. The dependencies are a separate, United Kingdom-dependent territory with their own laws and revenues. They will continue to be administered from Port Stanley purely as a matter of convenience. They have no indigenous or permanent population. The detailed provisions of the new constitution for the Falkland Islands—revising and developing the representative government there—would be far in excess of the needs of the dependencies. That is why we decided to proceed in the separate ways that we did.
The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, asked me about the Firstland Oil and Gas Company. The licence granted to Firstland Oil and Gas confines the company to onshore exploration only. It has no implications for possible off-shore activity. Details of the licence were given in a letter from my honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs to the honourable Member for Linlithgow, which was published in Hansard on 25th October. Further details were given in a letter from my right honourable friend the Prime Minister to the honourable Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley, which was also published in Hansard—this time on 4th February.
The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, in his remarks referred to the possibility of extending the provisions of the Antarctic Treaty. As my noble friend Lady Young told your Lordships on 6th December 1983, the extension of the Antarctic Treaty area to include the Falklands and the Falkland Island dependencies 949 would require the unanimous consent of all 16 consultative parties. It would give not only Argentina but also the Soviet Union and Poland the right to establish scientific stations on sites of their choosing and to man them with military, though unarmed, personnel. The Antarctic Treaty is—
§ Lord Shackleton
My Lords, I made no such recommendation for the reasons that the noble Lord is now giving.
§ Lord Trefgarne
My Lords, I apologise if I misinterpreted the remarks of the noble Lord. Perhaps it is of benefit to other noble Lords that I can explain the difficulties of that proposition. As I said, the Antarctic Treaty is geared to territory where there is no permanent population. Its direct application would therefore not meet the situation of the Falkland Islands.
May I make another point about the fishing problem which was in the mind of many noble Lords who spoke? It is worth recalling that on 22nd July 1982 when we announced the lifting of the 200-mile total exclusion zone, we established and replaced it with a protection zone of 150 miles radius. Through the protecting powers we asked the Argentine authorities to ensure that their warships and military aircraft did not enter the zone, but Argentine civil aircraft and shipping were also requested not to enter the zone unless they had the prior agreement of the British Government. It is interesting to note that not one of them has applied for that permission since that time.
The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, asked me too about interim operations at the Mount Pleasant aerodrome, I think with particular reference to civilian facilities. Operations in the period up to the completion of the aerodrome will have to be restricted to minimise disruption to the continuing works; but there will be at least as many places available for civilians on the wide bodied Airbridge as on the present Hercules and airsea services combined. I know that that was very much a matter in the minds of Falkland Islanders when I was there a few months ago. I hope that I was able to reassure them along those lines in the remarks that I made.
I believe that I have covered the point about the separate constitutions. I have recited the Act of Parliament under which they were made. Drafts of both orders were placed in both Libraries of Parliament for the benefit of your Lordships and Members of the other place.
The noble Lord, Lord Mountevans, referred to tourism. The Falkland Islands Development Corporation recognises the importance of tourism in diversifying the economy of the Falkland Islands. It agrees with the noble Lord that specialist tourism—wildlife, historic shipwrecks, and so on—offers the greatest potential. The guesthouse concept to which he referred is being developed. Spare accommodation on two farms is being converted into guesthouses. The development corporation has also commissioned the British Tourist Authority to undertake a market survey in Western Europe and North America to assess the market potential more accurately.
950 My noble friend Lord Onslow referred to Professor Dunnet's report on conservation. It is true, as my noble friend explained, that he prepared a report on the conservation and ecology needs of the Falkland Islands Government. That was commissioned by the Overseas Development Administration on behalf of the Falkland Islands Government who have had to consider the implications of implementing his recommendations in the light of other calls on their financial resources. Other expenditure has had to take priority, anyway for the time being.
Several noble Lords have referred to the strategic importance, as they see it, of the Falkland Islands, particularly if, for example, the Panama Canal were to be closed. Your Lordships may be influenced by recollection of the exploits of Her Majesty's ships using the Falklands' harbours in both world wars and point to the Falkland Islands' continuing significance if it becomes necessary to ensure security of passage in that area for the defence of freedom. But advocates of that view must recognise that changes in many aspects of naval warfare since the Second World War make it much less likely that Falkland harbours would play the same role in any future period of crisis, tension or war.
I say again, as I said earlier in my remarks, that there is no question of turning the Falkland Islands into some sort of NATO fortress. That is most certainly not the purpose of our military presence there. For the future, we prefer to think in terms of the islands role in facilitating access to economic resources in the South West Atlantic and Antarctica, particularly through civilian use of the new all-weather airport at Mount Pleasant.
My noble friend Lord Elibank suggested that we should hand the Falkland Islands over to Argentina. Needless to say, I profoundly disagree wtith my noble friend. Has he considered, I wonder, the rights and wishes of the Falkland Islanders themselves? If he has been there, as a number of your Lordships have, he will know very well that that does not for a moment comply with their view. Has he considered the implications of what he suggests for the rule of international law? I do not for a moment think that we could acquiesce in a suggestion that any country could have what it has sought to take by force. Has he considered the implications of the views of the Scecurity Council of the United Nations in this matter when it passed its resolution following the Argentine invasion in 1982? Above all perhaps, has he considered the feelings of the relatives of 256 or so British men who give their lives in that conflict?
My noble friend Lord Morris made an interesting speech, as he always does, but I hope perhaps that he will take a little more care with the drafting of some of his remarks in the future. He also explained how President Alfonsin so often repeats his claims to the sovereignty of the Falkland Islanders. I think he compared that unfavourably with the remarks of the British Government. Perhaps he was thinking that we do not declare our claim often enough. As far as concerns President Alfonsin, methinks he does complain too much.
I have been asked, too, about the cost of the airport which is presently under construction. As The Times reported on 6th April, the PSA's present estimate of the cost of the works at Mount Pleasant is £395 951 million updated to September 1984 prices. That is made up of £276 million for the airport and £119 million for the additional garrison works which were announced by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence on 21st September last year. That is the expenditure which the Treasury has approved. Suggestions that the cost of the works will turn out to be higher are therefore purely speculative. Indeed there was no evidence of that when I was there recently.
Our efforts to improve relations with Argentina are in no way incompatible with our commitments to the islanders: I have described the progress made on a wide range of development projects currently under way in the islands. A reduction in tension in the South Atlantic would allow us to reduce our defensive military presence in the Falklands and to concentrate on its economic and social development. We would also hope to see increased co-operation with Argentina and others in the development of the resources of the wider region. A report on the Falklands by the Foreign Affairs Committee of another place recently endorsed these twin themes of Government policy. I hope that they will also receive the approval of your Lordships.
§ 6.7 p.m.
§ Lord Shackleton
My Lords, I am conscious that we have had a certain refreshment in numbers of Peers who have now joined us, no doubt not to take part in the debate on the Falklands or even to listen to us, but to proceed onto the other very important business that follows. None the less, in winding up I should like to make a few remarks. I again repeat my apologies for the fact that the article which I planned for The Times two months ago not by my deliberate intention appeared today. I again repeat that I think that it is undesirable for noble Lords to use the public media to further their arguments in a debate which is to take place, and I censure myself. But it meant that I was able to make a rather shorter speech, with somewhat regrettable consequences, as I was not able to deal with some of the arguments on the Antarctic, and I think that I must say something on that. I must say something also to the noble Lord, Lord Elibank, whose speech I admired. It was a brave speech in the circumstances.
The BBC correspondent, Robert Fox, when he returned from the Falklands complained to me that one of the difficulties was that the Shackleton reports were now treated as holy writ and that therefore it was a matter of interpretation. Who am I to quarrel with the different interpretations that may be put upon the words that I utter? But I am bound to say to the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, who has done extraordinarily well at very short notice in the absence of his noble friend, that I have never myself said that the great majority of my recommendations have been carried out. What I said—and it was quoted in another place; I cannot remember the exact words—was that no other author of a report had had so much carried out by a Government.
However, as I shall seek to show, there are certain quite important omissions from my original report. The main one is the absence still of any encouraging noises on conservation from the Government. This is 952 very relevant to the argument both on fisheries and on conservation generally. I think this is a tragedy. This was one of the recommendations in our 1976 report and in our 1982 report. The noble Lord refers to the progress that has been made. It is nine years since the first report and we still have Green Patch brought up as an argument for progress.
I said on that occasion, and I have said more recently, that unless the Government proceed with more vigour in the development of the Falklands and the reform of the land tenure there is no point in our seeking to hold on to the Falklands because the numbers will go. The noble Lord, Lord Elibank, will be proved right unless there is some progress on this.
As has been made clear, the fisheries in particular could provide for the Falklands revenue vastly in excess of what they are receiving at the moment from farming. This has been shown courageously and the same recommendations have been made as were made by Gordon Eddie in my report in 1976. Marr and Sons and a number of others including the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona, have indicated that we can now proceed more forcefully than in the past. I would ask the noble Lord to urge his officials, to consult his colleagues, to consult those with expert knowledge on this matter and to proceed with greater vigour on the development of the fisheries.
There have been several references to the Antarctic. I think there is some misunderstanding about the Antarctic Treaty. It is a treaty without limit. It is an indefinite treaty. In relation to the 1991 review date, so many subscribing nations could ask for a review but it does not mean that that treaty will not go on. However, what we were arguing, and what I was arguing, is this. For want of (if I dare use the word) "geopolitical" gain, which has certainly been used by the Argentines, I want to see a solution, not to bring the Antarctic Treaty to cover the Falklands, for various reasons, but a degree of co-operation between the Argentine, Britain and Chile. I particularly stress Chile because the Chilean Ambassador, who had read my article (and I apologise again about that) said that the Chileans are not seeking, in their little colony of children and a school in the Antarctic, to disrupt the Antarctic Treaty. Would that the Argentine Ambassador had been here to say the same thing!
I commend the Government for their determination to go on trying to find some kind of accommodation with the Argentine. I am sure that those of us who have talked with them in the past will find great friendliness. Certainly after the previous break in relations, for which I inadvertently was responsible in 1976, I was a welcome visitor to every party at the Argentine Embassy, when the chargé d'affaires attributed the fact that he had been left for an extra three years in London entirely to my doing; and this suited his children's education. There is no basic hostility between the Argentine people and the British people. I urge the Government to look, in the context of possible negotiations, on the fisheries and on conservation to see whether we should not make a gesture and try to make a proposal of the kind that I have mentioned.
I shall not proceed to debate further with the noble Lord, Lord Elibank. I ask him to consider that there is a point of view such as he holds and many people hold. 953 I think it would be wrong. Nor do I think it necessary, quite apart from the fact that it is arguably dishonourable, to hand over the Falklands without a determined effort to do the duty that I think we can do. I am grateful to the many noble Lords who have taken part in this debate. It has been a useful one. I am certainly grateful to the Government for providing the time, and I ask leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.