Home Office officials have been given a dressing down by their colleagues in the Foreign Office for sending a purchase order to the government of the Falkland Islands and addressing it to the ‘Malvinas’.
Malvinas is the name by which the islands are known in Argentina, whose government has been in dispute with the UK for decades over whose islands they are. The dispute blew up into full scale war after Argentina invaded the islands in 1982.
Last month, officials in the Falklands' capital, Stanley, were sent a purchase order from the Home Office, addressed to “Falkland Island Government, The Treasury, Stanley, Falkland Islands (Malvinas).”
This is a sensitive issue to the islanders, because calling the islands ‘Malvinas’ could imply that they really do belong to Argentina, although they have been inhabited by British settlers and their descendants since 1833.
And it is not the first time the Home Office has done it. When an order addressed to the Malvinas arrived in June 2013, the island’s government complained to the Foreign Office, who promised they would “see what could be done.”
“The answer is obviously ‘nothing’, because the Home Office are still doing it,” the islands’ representative Sukey Cameron said.
Their complaint was taken up by the Labour MP Tommy Docherty, who previously complained when the Department for Business also dispatched an invoice addressed to ‘Malvinas.’ He was promised that they would not do it again.
After tabling a written question in Parliament to the Foreign Secretary, William Hague, Mr Docherty was told by the Foreign Office minister Hugo Swire: “FCO officials have been in contact with the Home Office to remind them of the appropriate terminology for the Falkland Islands. All government departments and agencies should refer to ‘the Falkland Islands’ in all instances.”
Mr Swire added that examples of civil servants referring to the Malvinas are ‘isolated’.
“While I welcome the fact that William Hague has slapped down Theresa May, it’s clear that the Home Secretary doesn’t have control of her officials,” Mr Docherty said. “She should now apologise to the Falkland islanders. This is not the first time this offence has been committed.”
In referendum in March 2013, which produced a 92 per cent turn out, 1,513 islanders vote to retain their status as British overseas territory, with just three voting against.