[Mr. George Howarth in the Chair] — British Indian Ocean Territory

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:30 am on 10th March 2010.

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Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn Labour, Islington North 9:30 am, 10th March 2010

The box is of the Government's own making from 2004 onwards. The previous Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, who had a good record on the issue, declined to appeal against the decision in 2000, so it stood. In 2004, the Orders in Council were introduced. It seems necessary for all of us to help the Foreign Office get out of the box in which it put itself in 2004. Going through endless appeals and incurring incredible legal costs is not the way to do so. The way is through discussion, conciliation and arrangements for a proper return to the islands.

Proposals have been made, which I support, for the establishment of a marine protection zone around the Chagos islands. They are a unique and pristine environment. uninhabited except for itinerant yachtspeople who apparently call there from time to time. Some fishing also takes place, and an income is received from issuing fishing licences. The idea of a marine protection zone arises from the legislation passed by the House recently. In all other cases where marine protection zones are being established, they combine an absolute ban on the taking of organisms or fish and limited quotas and sustainable fishing arrangements.

Consultations on marine protection zones around UK islands rightly have to involve the local communities and fishing communities. It is obvious that to achieve such a zone, there must be consultation. The proposals for the marine protection zone around the Chagos islands include that there be no take and that, apparently, no consultation with anybody other than a fraternity of biologists and scientists. I have great respect for biologists and scientists and for what they are trying to achieve, but experience shows that conserving natural resources and ecosystems is best done by involving the local population. The experience of nature reserves in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean islands is that if a Government ordain that a certain area is a total environmental protection zone, which no one may enter, poachers come in and illegal activities happen. That leads to an army or security force creating a war zone to protect the zone. Achieving the co-operation of local people works very well, as in Madagascar.

I was happy to accept an invitation to Royal Holloway college in January to discuss these very matters.