Speech

Falkland Islands reception: HMS Clyde

Speech by Michael Fallon, Secretary of State for Defence.

I’m delighted to be here.

One of the most important parts of my job is visiting our troops and civilian personnel around the world, and meeting the local people where they are based.

I have been trying to come here for some time and I’m pleased to have made it. It is over a decade since a Defence Secretary has visited the Islands so it is long overdue.

It is a pleasure to have had the opportunity to spend time with you and to hear about life and the issues on the Islands, and to remember those who lost their lives in the conflict.

This morning I laid a wreath at Liberation Monument and tomorrow I will be visiting Blue Beach Cemetery, and the Argentinian cemetery. It is very moving to be here to reflect on those events.

I want to start with a simple message, we will always defend your right to determine your future. That matter was settled over 30 years ago, and reaffirmed in the 2013 referendum.

Last year I reaffirmed that commitment with a £180 million investment over the next decade to modernise the military infrastructure. And I am pleased to announce that I expect to announce a contract for the work to upgrade Mare Harbour next month, and to award a contract for the new Power Station in May with work starting this year.

And this visit is an opportunity to hear about the success story of these Islands.

Over the last 3 decades your efforts have developed a thriving, self sufficient, self governing democracy that has enjoyed remarkable growth and economic development.

And I’ve already experienced the strong community and identity that exists here.

Today I have been hearing about the opportunities for future economic development. There are plenty of prospects, whether from development of onshore activities, diversification of agriculture, science and technology research, development of exports markets, or increasing the already successful tourism sector.

The British government wants to help you realise those economic opportunities.

Our position on sovereignty will not change but as the Prime Minister has said, we want a more positive and productive relationship with the new Argentinian government.

We are determined that doing that should translate into new economic opportunities and prosperity.

This means an end to the measures that are damaging your economy, so that you are free to trade, to travel and to welcome all into the wonderful Islands.

What it will not involve is any question of the position of the Falkland Islands changing.

If we can achieve it, then a more stable South Atlantic is in all our interests.

With the support of the UK, I am confident that the Falklands Islands can look forward to an even brighter future.