It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Rosindell, particularly on this subject, in which I know you share a great interest. The fact that so many people have turned up to the debate shows the passion behind the views on this subject. I wager that this is the first time for a very long time—if ever—that the Leader of the Opposition has turned up to a Westminster Hall debate. I will be challenging the House of Commons Library to disprove that hypothesis. It is good to see him here alongside my new opposite number, Stephen Doughty. I look forward to working closely with him on a number of issues.
I congratulate Dr Monaghan on securing the debate, and particularly on getting it today, which is timely for the consultation. He built on a passionate view of the Chagos islands and particularly reflected on the situation in the highlands. I was not there for his maiden speech, but I have read it and it was powerful. It was echoed in the comments by Patrick Grady about the parallels between the problems in both situations.
The all-party group has historically been very active on these challenging issues, and I am grateful for its ongoing contributions. Although I have met members of the group informally, other Foreign Office colleagues have met the group formally in my absence, and quite rightly so.
In response to the debate, I would like to focus on the resettlement of the islanders and recognise the very real problems of their removal in the late ’60s and early ’70s. I begin by reassuring the House that I am considering the matter carefully, and that I plan to travel to the islands to see for myself the situation, to probe some of the issues that were raised during the consultation and to overcome some of the problems that are in the KPMG report, so that I am as informed as I can be before making recommendations and taking decisions on the subject. I hope to do that very soon, because I am acutely aware that this is a long-standing problem.