HC Deb 14 December 1982 vol 34 cc110-1
5. Mr. Ashley

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what percentage of the forces sent to the Falklands were killed in action; and how this compares with previous military engagements.

Mr. Wiggin

Slightly under 1 per cent. of the forces sent to the Falklands were killed in action. It is not possible to make valid comparisons with previous military engagements.

Mr. Ashley

How does the Ministry of Defence justify paying the widows of some privates less than it is paying the widows of others, according to where and when their husbands were killed, and that the Ministry pays nothing to the widows of Service men who were killed in the First or Second World War? Will the Minister re-examine the whole question of war widows' pensions?

Mr. Wiggin

The right hon. Gentleman will acknowledge that there have been substantial improvements over the years. As he well knows, the problem with retrospection is simply that of cost.

Mr. Banks

Would there not have been considerably greater loss of life had the decision not been taken to send a task force of sufficient strength to deal with the problem? Is it not a fact that the efforts of civilians and members of the forces to equip the force and get it under way in fewer than four days represent a remarkable achievement?

Mr. Wiggin

Yes, Sir. Of course, the first part of my hon. Friend's question is hypothetical. However, I think that all commanders were mindful of the need to keep casualties to the absolute minimum.

Mr. Hoyle

Will the Minister say how many of our forces were killed by Exocets and whether the components in them were supplied by British companies?

Mr. Wiggin

The answer to both questions is "No, Sir."

Mr. Viggers

Is it not a matter of shame, which echoes round the world, that the Government of Argentina have failed to accept responsibility for their dead and have made no arrangements for their burial? Has my hon. Friend news of any developments on that score?

Mr. Wiggin

I am afraid that my hon. Friend is right. We are now making plans to ensure that the temporary interment of many of the Argentine dead can be dealt with on a more permanent basis. Unfortunately, we must take on that responsibility. I am making arrangements so that the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Brazilian embassy are consulted about the arrangements that we have in mind.

Mr. McNamara

The Minister may be unable to tell the House how many firms supply parts for Exocet, but he should be able to tell us how many casualties there were as a result of Exocet. Will he be kind enough to do so?

Mr. William Hamilton

Answer the question.

Mr. Canavan

This is a disgrace.

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