MPs to visit Falklands amid UK tensions with Argentina

Port Stanley, Falkland Islands capital This April marks the 30th anniversary of the start of the Falklands War

MPs from the Commons defence committee are set to visit the Falklands at a time of rising tensions with Argentina over the islands' future.

The trip was agreed in late 2011, but Labour member Thomas Docherty said it was "not a ramping-up thing".

He said it was "an appropriate place" for the committee to visit given the presence of British troops there. The last visit was in 1999.

The UK has rejected Argentina's calls for talks on the islands' sovereignty.

David Cameron has insisted there can be no negotiations as long as the Falkland islanders wish to remain British.

The 30th anniversary of the Falklands War between the UK and Argentina is approaching.

HMS Dauntless

Conservative committee member Julian Brazier told the BBC: "It's true that we have had a visit to the Falklands planned for some time.

"It's a location where there are British troops and as a such it's an appropriate place for the select committee to visit. It's actually several years since our last visit, but there's no specific date in the diary."

Start Quote

The idea that a bunch of middle-age parliamentarians is an escalation of Britain's military presence flatters us beyond belief”

End Quote Thomas Docherty Labour MP, defence select committee

A committee spokesman said the visit had ben "decided at the back end of last year". Asked if the trip had been organised in response to recent events, Mr Brazier said: "It doesn't result from the last few weeks."

The Times reported that the visit had sparked anger from Argentine veterans.

The president of their association, Juan Mendicino, told the newspaper: "Argentina does not want war. It wants peace and the return of our islands through diplomatic negotiation. But the only thing that the English think about is war.

"We don't want visitors from your Parliament. We want the UN to intervene as it has done in disputes across the world."

Mr Docherty said the committee carried out a visit to a British base every six weeks and although the logistics of going to the Falklands were more complicated, "it's no different for us than visiting Colchester, Portsmouth or the Clyde".

He told the BBC News website: "I say this as kindly as I can about my colleagues, but the idea that a bunch of middle-aged parliamentarians is an escalation of Britain's military presence flatters us beyond belief.

"If the Argentine government genuinely believes that, well, they have other things to worry about.

"This is not a ramping-up thing. It's been on the books for some time. The last defence committee had wanted to go, but they simply couldn't get dates that worked for everyone."

He added: "I personally hope there will be an opportunity to pay our respects to those on both sides who lost their lives [in the war]."

'Colonialist'

The Times reported that the latest trip would take place in March and, if so, it would coincide with Prince William's tour of duty in the Falklands.

HMS Dauntless, one of the UK's largest and most powerful air defence destroyers, is also due to arrive in Falkands' waters next month.

The move has prompted an official complaint by Argentina's foreign minister to the United Nations about the UK's "militarisation" in the South Atlantic, but Britain has insisted the deployment is routine.

Argentina continues to press its claim of sovereignty over the islands - which it calls the Malvinas - but Mr Cameron has accused Buenos Aires of a "colonialist" attitude.

His comments were condemned by Argentina's Senate.

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