Jeremy Corbyn has insisted ministers have a chance to "put to bed" a "horrible period in British history" by allowing UK citizens to return home.

The Labour leader told MPs exiles from the Chagos Islands have suffered "humanitarian hurt" since they were removed from the British overseas territory by 1973 to allow the US to establish an airbase.

He welcomed an announcement that Foreign Office Minister James Duddridge intends to visit the territory in the central Indian Ocean "very soon" and before the Government makes a decision on resettlement.

MPs heard a "cover up" of the Chagos deal, which saw Britain secure a discount on the Polaris nuclear weapons system in return for allowing the US access to Diego Garcia, took place while the islanders have fought continuously for their return.

Ministers delayed making a resettlement decision in March to gather more information despite pledging to resolve the issue before the end of the last Parliament.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has since carried out a further consultation to consider the level of demand for return and to probe other issues, including costs.

Mr Corbyn, who has long campaigned in support of the Chagossians, told Mr Duddridge during a parliamentary debate: "I am delighted you are travelling there, delighted you are meeting the islanders.

"I hope you will, I'm sure you will, understand the humanitarian hurt that the Chagos Islanders have suffered, the justice of their right to return and the real possibility that could be brought about.

"I hope you will agree that as soon as you return from the visit you will meet the all-party group, have a serious discussion with them and of course with the islanders themselves, so we can finally put to bed this horrible period in British history when a group of islanders - wholly innocent of anything - were so abominably treated, so brutally removed from their homes and have suffered for so long and fought so valiantly for their human right to live where they were born and grew up."

Before Mr Corbyn's intervention, Mr Duddridge told the Westminster Hall debate: "I am considering this issue very importantly and plan to travel to the islands and see for myself the situation, to probe some of the issues raised during the consultation, overcome some of the issues that are in the KPMG report and to be as best informed as I can be before recommending and taking decisions on this subject.

"And I'm hoping to do that very soon because I'm acutely aware this is a long-standing issue."

The debate in Westminster Hall was attended by several exiles, many of whom live in the world's biggest Chagossian community in Crawley.

Mr Duddridge said there have been more than 700 written responses to the FCO's latest consultation while officials have met more than 500 Chagossians, including in the UK, Seychelles, Mauritius, Switzerland, France and Tasmania.

He added: "While we know many do want to go back it's important that in the independent feasibility study, and more recently, we recognise that some Chagossians are more interested in securing other forms of support in places that they live - and we should look to see what we can do for everyone, not just those that are returning."

The Conservative frontbencher said he would like to visit some of the Chagos archipelago's outer islands "if time allows" so he can consider all the options.

Opening the debate, the SNP's Paul Monaghan (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross) said the recent three-month consultation offered resettlement conditions which are unsatisfactory.

He added they are "quite obviously designed to scare the indigenous people and ensure their resettlement of the Chagos Islands fails".

Conservative Tania Mathias (Twickenham) criticised the "gross injustice" of removing the Chagossians from the islands.

Addressing the exiled islanders in the public gallery, Ms Mathias said: "You deserve your home, you deserve reparation and an apology and I'm very, very privileged to be in the same room as you today."

Former army officer turned Tory MP Bob Stewart (Beckenham), who served in Bosnia, said the treatment of the Chagossians looks like "classic ethnic cleansing", adding the United Nation's human rights commissioner should "take more interest" in the issue.

Henry Smith, Conservative MP for Crawley, said: "We can't turn back the clock but we can do the right thing now."

He noted people all around the world live next to airbases and it should be no different on the Chagos Islands.

MPs heard the US has raised concerns as negotiations take place over an extension of the original 50-year lease, which expires in 2016.

Shadow foreign office minister Stephen Doughty urged the Government to do "all they can" to find a resolution.