HC Deb 18 May 1982 vol 24 cc189-90
Q3. Mr. Dykes

asked the Prime Minister if she will make a statement on the Falkland Islands.

The Prime Minister

Our representative at the United Nations has had a further meeting with Senor Perez de Cuellar. The negotiations are continuing and we are doing all that we can to reach a peaceful settlement, although there are principles on which we cannot compromise. There remain substantial difficulties. I believe that we shall know within the next day or two whether an agreement is attainable. We cannot have endless Argentine prevarication. We have been negotiating in good faith for six weeks and there has still been no sign of Argentine willingness to implement the Security Council's mandatory resolution.

Our determination to ensure that all Argentine forces are withdrawn from the islands remains absolute. We have throughout made it clear that we shall take whatever steps are necessary to bring this about. We are meanwhile increasing the military pressures on the Argentine Government.

Mr. Dykes

I thank my right hon. Friend for that detailed statement. Does she agree that the Government have now done all that they can to achieve a peaceful settlement? Before the awful prospect that full-scale hostilities will have to begin, can we reconsider those specific items of Argentine intransigence that have made them resist, adamantly and stubornly, the demands of the Secretary-General, to which the British Government have already acceded?

The Prime Minister

We have done everything that vv e can to try to secure a peaceful settlement. The Argentines have shown their intransigence by flouting every part of the United Nations mandatory resolution. Not only did they flout the resolution but they have gone in the contrary direction by piling extra men and equipment to the islands.

Mr. Strang

Is the Prime Minister aware that the speech that she made in Perth last Friday convinced many people that she was more intent on a military solution than a peaceful settlement? that would be acceptable to the vast majority of the Commons, but: not to the Right wing of the Tory Party. Is it the case that: the Argentine Government are prepared to withdraw their troops from the Falklands without requiring Britain to concede the principle of sovereignty first?

The Prime Minister

We were negotiating in February—with the islanders—in New York, long before the invasion. It was the Argentines who broke off those negotiations. We were negotiating over the South Georgia incident. It was—

Mr. Cryer

Answer the question.

The Prime Minister

I shall answer the question in my own way and in my own time.

It was the Argentine Foreign Secretary, Senor Costa Mendex, who broke off a diplomatic solution to the South Georgia incident the day before invasion. For six weeks we have been trying to reach a negotiated settlement. If we are not able to do so, most of my right hon. and hon. Friends, and most hon. Gentlemen, would not flinch from a settlement by force.

Mr. Waller

If, unfortunately, it became unavoidable that the use of force had to be contemplated in the defence of British interests, would it not be highly irresponsible for any actions to be delayed, not for operational reasons and in defence of Service men's lives, but simply to consult Members of the House, however eminent they might be?

The Prime Minister

I believe that any military action or option cannot and must not be delayed by people who are extending negotiations. To say that we have to consult people in the House, apart form being constitutionally wrong, would give notice to the invader of when we intended to take action. That would be stupid as well as totally unjust to those whom we expect to fight for us.