My visit to the Falkland Islands was the first by a Foreign Secretary. It is a heart-warming place. The islanders are proud of their way of life and much attached to it and to Britain. They have made great strides since 1982. Their population has increased, the fisheries revenue has brought new prosperity and they are confident about the future. I was able to reassure the islanders that, while we seek improved relations with Argentina, their sovereignty is not for discussion and we shall continue to support their right to self-determination.
Will my right hon. Friend confirm that he has discussed developments in the Falkland Islands continental shelf with legislative councillors, particularly the plans for a licence round for oil exploration and exploitation starting this year and coming to a conclusion in 1995? Will he confirm that those plans will go ahead as quickly as possible?
That was something which I discussed in general terms with the councillors in Port Stanley and, as I said in answer to an earlier question, we expect to have discussions with the Argentines about oil before long. The islanders, I found, were interested in exploiting and benefiting from the oil if—it is still a big if—it is found to exist in marketable conditions. We have not excluded co-operation with Argentine interests in this, but it is clear from our general policy that any arrangements of that kind must not prejudice our sovereignty over the islands.
As the present and previous Argentine Governments have made it absolutely clear that they pose no military threat whatever to the Falkland Islands, and as the Foreign Secretary said earlier that Argentine and British soldiers are fighting side by side in UN peacekeeping forces, why is it necessary to continue an arms embargo on Argentina?
I welcome very much what the Argentine Government said about the use of force, but one cannot peer with any great certainty into the future for ever. As I said in answer to an earlier question, it would be a great simplification of all the matters if Argentina were to drop its claim to the islands.