The Falkland Islands is one of Britain’s biggest military bases and as part of the UK was, “entitled to its cut of the defense budget,” Secretary of State for Defense Michael Fallon MP said on Tuesday as he visited the Falklands for the first time.
He reiterated that sovereignty of the Falklands was not up for discussion with Argentina, adding, “the sovereignty issue was settled more than 30 years ago.”
Mr Fallon who is the first in his position to visit the Islands in 14 years said there was no particular reason for him to visit at this time, other than that a Defense Secretary should visit military bases and there had not been a visit to the Falklands for some considerable time.
The Defense Minister Secretary confirmed that £180 million over 10 years has been allocated for investment in Mount Pleasant. Fallon said he would be releasing details about some of those investments during his time in the Falklands, but said there were already plans for a £22 million refurbishment of the Mare Harbor jetty and also for a £60 million new power station.
Asked about increased privatization at Mount Pleasant, Mr. Fallon said this was not unique to the Islands.
“We want to make full use of the assets we have in the Ministry of Defense, particularly our airfields, because the additional investment being made in defense partly depends on the efficiency savings made”.
Any savings made are now returned to the defense budget whereas previously they would have been returned to the Treasury.
“We have every incentive now to make our operations as efficient as possible. So if there are savings to be harvested at Mount Pleasant, we gain and the Falkland Islands
Government gains, because it creates greater diversification,” said Mr. Fallon.
Mr. Fallon said the inadequacies surrounding the terminal at Mount Pleasant regarding the inability for a bigger commercial operation to be expanded had already been raised with him.
The Defense minister said “it is obvious that something needs to be done,” and added that there were also a number of airfields elsewhere that were being looked at to see if there could be more civilian use of them.
MLA Mike Summers confirmed on Thursday that MLAs had held a constructive discussion with Mr. Fallon and his team about the economic developments which would sustain the Islands going forward. This had included the development of terminal facilities at MPA, “to enable greater throughput and an improved passenger experience.”
MLA Summers said Mr. Fallon had also raised the subject with CBFSAI in the Governor’s presence, but the outcome was not known to MLAs at this point.
Mr. Fallon said he would be discussing further during his visit the replacement of the accommodation at Mount Pleasant.
“As the economy grows in the UK we’ll need to attract people into the armed services and retain them; that means keeping their families happy and people’s expectations are higher now.
“We are investing in, and upgrading the defense of the Falklands and also upgrading the infrastructure in the accommodation of our people here, as we do anywhere else.”
Asked if there was an increased threat from Argentina, Mr Fallon noted there was a new president in Argentina, but that nothing had changed with the stance of the British Government.
He added that the current Labour Leader, Jeremy Corbyn was, “a bigger threat to the Falklands than Argentina,”with his inability to accept the Islanders right to self determination. Mr. Fallon also said he thought this would be used as an election tool by Mr. Corbyn in the future.
“I can’t believe Jeremy Corbyn wants to override the wishes of the Islanders - it’s an extraordinary position to get into.
“We’ve always made it clear the sovereignty issue is settled and Islanders made their views crystal clear in the 2013 referendum.
“You couldn’t get a more decisive vote in a referendum than the one you had. It was
democracy in action,” he said.
Mr. Fallon said he would be taking back with him the determination of the Islanders to have their wishes respected, but also a sense that the sovereignty issue had been settled a long time ago now, and could not be changed without the wishes of the Islanders. (Penguin News)