Parliamentary Questions on Chagossian Return

parliamentSeveral highly interesting Parliamentary written question relating to Chagossian return have been asked in the last few days (printed in full below). Much credit is due to the all-too-few politicians in Westminster who turn their interest to the Chagossian cause.

Patrick Grady, International Development Spokesperson for SNP, submitted a range of questions including one asking for a timeline to be set out for the Government’s decision on supporting Chagossian return to their homeland.

Mr Grady also questioned what discussions concerning Chagossian return had taken place with the Department of International Development and other relevant bodies. Prior to the election the Government indicated such conservations would take place as they claimed not to be satisfied that the independent KPMG study into return offered sufficient “certainty.”

UKIP’s sole MP Douglas Carswell also submitted a question relating to the Chagos Islands, questioning whether the terms of the agreement which allows the US to use Diego Garcia as a military base would be altered during the current two year window of renegotiation. If no new terms are agreed by 2016, the deal will continue to allow the US to use military facilities on Diego Garcia until 2036. With the All-Party Parliamentary Group, we would argue that if the UK chooses to maintain the base, mutual support for Chagossian return must be a fundamental condition.

What do the questions and their answers tell us?

Patrick Grady, the SNP International Development Spokesperson who submitted written questions on Chagossian return this week

Patrick Grady, the SNP International Development Spokesperson who submitted written questions on Chagossian return this week

A timeline is certainly not revealed in the answer to Mr Grady’s question. Rather the Government states “we will explain our conclusions to interested parties in due course.” Perhaps not much can be read into such an answer but we would certainly suggest there should be a Parliamentary debate on the issue before any “explanation” is delivered to vaguely defined “interested parties,” which one would hope would mean simply “Chagossians.”

On the question of what “discussions” had taken place around the topic of Chagossian resettlement, the relevant Minister James Duddridge states that “Home Office, Department for Work and Pensions and the US Government” officials have been consulted as part of the process. This is in addition to previous consultations with the “Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Department for International Development and the Ministry of Defence.”

This is more or less to be expected but it is reassuring the issue of pensions and welfare is being considered as formalising the status of Chagossian pensioners, often the most keen to return as soon as possible, would be crucial to any return to the islands.

A final question question querying the UK’s response the an international tribunal’s decision that the UK had breached international law in establishing the Chagos Islands Marine Protected Area in 2010 was also submitted by SNP Spokesperson. The response states the UK is willing to engage with Mauritius, who’s Government brought the case, and has written to the Mauritian Government.

It also emphasises that the court found “no improper motive” in the establishment of the Marine Protected Area (MPA). This is a highly questionable claim since the judgement in fact stated that “political concerns” were the chief reason for the timing of the MPA’s creation.

What do the parties say about the Chagossian fight for justice?

 

UKIP's only MP Douglas Carswell also submitted a question relating to Diego Garcia this week

UKIP’s only MP Douglas Carswell also submitted a question relating to Diego Garcia this week

Since their conference earlier this year, the SNP have been formally committed to supporting the Chagossian people’s right to return home.

Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Alex Salmond has spoken passionately about the injustices suffered by the Chagossian people whilst two SNP MPs, Paul Monaghan and Alan Brown, have joined the Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group.

UKIP has not expressed a formal policy position on Chagossian return. Some senior figures are though reportedly sympathetic.

 

The Questions in Full

 

UKIP’s Douglas Carswell on US-UK deal over Diego Garcia

 

British Indian Ocean Territory: Military Bases
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Written Answers
23 Jun 2015
Douglas Carswell UKIP, Clacton

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what plans his Department has to revise the terms of the 1966 Exchange of Notes concerning the Availability for Defence Purposes of the British Indian Ocean Territory.

James Duddridge The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

The British Indian Ocean Territory remains a vital strategic asset for the UK and the US, and a key contributor to our broader bilateral defence relationship. We have consistently said that we want to see the US presence there continue. No decision has yet been made about whether to seek to revise the terms of the Exchange of Notes, but we will have in mind this continuing, shared strategic interest.

 

 

SNP’s Patrick Grady on return timetable, ongoing work relating to return and Chagos Marine Protected area

Patrick Grady Shadow SNP Spokesperson (International Development)To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what steps the Government is taking to comply with the award of the Arbitral Tribunal in the case of Chagos Marine Protected Area Arbitration (Mauritius v. UK) dated 18 March 2015.James Duddridge The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth AffairsThe Arbitral Tribunal agreed with us that it had no jurisdiction to consider sovereignty, and found that there was no improper motive in the creation of the Marine Protected Area (MPA) around the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT). In respect of the Tribunal’s findings about the process of establishing the MPA, it noted that it is now open to the UK and Mauritius to enter into negotiations to take account of Mauritian interests in the marine environment of the Territory.The Government wishes to implement the award in the spirit of greatest possible cooperation, and has written to the Mauritian government several times since the award, making a proposal to hold consultations about the protection of the marine environment as early as July………………………….………………………..

British Indian Ocean Territory: Resettlement

Patrick Grady Shadow SNP Spokesperson (International Development)

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what discussions he has had with (a) the Department for International Development and (b) other relevant bodies to facilitate Chagossian resettlement on the Chagos Islands in 2015.

James Duddridge The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

Following consideration of this issue in the last Parliament, officials from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Department for International Development and the Ministry of Defence are working jointly to clarify the areas requiring further analysis announced in my Written Ministerial Statement of 24 March 2015 (HCWS461).

To aid this further analysis, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has also sought information from the Home Office, Department for Work and Pensions and the US Government on relevant issues and on essential practical requirements associated with options to resettle a Chagossian population as well as continuing discussions with other interested parties including Parliamentarians and Chagossian representatives. This work is ongoing, and we will explain our conclusions to interested parties in due course.

…………………………………………………..

British Indian Ocean Territory: Resettlement
Patrick Grady Shadow SNP Spokesperson (International Development)

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, when the Government plans to make an announcement on allowing Chagossian resettlement on the Chagos Islands.

James Duddridge The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

Following consideration of this issue in the last Parliament, officials from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Department for International Development and the Ministry of Defence are working jointly to clarify the areas requiring further analysis announced in my Written Ministerial Statement of 24 March 2015 (HCWS461). To aid this further analysis, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has also sought information from the Home Office, Department for Work and Pensions and the US Government on relevant issues and on essential practical requirements associated with options to resettle a Chagossian population as well as continuing discussions with other interested parties including Parliamentarians and Chagossian representatives. This work is ongoing, and we will explain our conclusions to interested parties in due course.

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