§ [SECOND DAY]
Order read for resuming adjourned debate on amendment to Question [25 January]:
That this House takes note of the Report of a Committee of Privy Counsellors on the Falkland Islands Review (Cmnd. 8787).—[The Prime Minister.]
Which amendment was to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:
notes that the Report of the Falkland Islands Review confirmed the failure of Her Majesty's Government to give adequate priority to the Falkland Islands in its defence and foreign policy, its failure to consider the problem in Cabinet or the Defence Committee of Cabinet in the fifteen months before the invasion took place, and its failure to respond adequately to a risk of invasion which it knew to exist".—[Mr. Foot.]
§ Question again proposed, That the amendment be made.
§ Mr. Speaker
Before I call the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, I should point out that in the interests of trying to preserve some of our courtesies I take a poor view of hon. or right hon. Members who, having spoken, conclude that the debate is over, leave the Chamber and we see them no more. That spoils the atmosphere in the Chamber.
I have not selected the amendment in the name of the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins) to the proposed amendment.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Francis Pym)
My own position in this debate is rather a special one. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is one of the major players in the events under review. As Secretary of State I naturally have a strong interest in what is said in the report and in what has been said about these matters before and since its publication. At the same time, I am conscious that I became Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary immediately after the period covered by the review.
Let me say first that I very much welcome the report and greatly admire the way in which Lord Franks and his colleagues have discharged their responsibilities. Their very thorough dissection of a mass of oral and written evidence, all of which they saw or heard personally, is vastly impressive. The result is—or should be—very clear. The facts of a long and complicated story are lucidly and comprehensively set out, and the committee unanimously reached the conclusion that the invasion of the Falkland Islands on 2 April could not have been foreseen and could not have been prevented.
My own conclusion from that is simple. If, by some stroke of a magic wand, the Franks report could have been produced instantly on 3 April, I would not be Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary. As it is, I can only express my great pleasure and satisfaction that my distinguished predecessor, Lord Carrington, my right hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Atkins) and my hon. Friend the Member for Shoreham (Mr. Luce), who resigned at the same time, have been totally exonerated.
Another aspect gives me equal pleasure and satisfaction. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and 915 the officials who serve in it at home and abroad, have been much criticised since the Argentine invasion of the Falklands. The Franks report sets out very clearly for those with eyes to see just how wide of the mark this criticism was. The point is one to which I attach great importance, and I shall return to it later.
It is not for me, nor indeed for the Government, to seek to justify word by word and argument by argument the report of a committee of Privy Councillors who were completely and quite properly independent of Government, but in the absence of compelling new evidence, which neither the Leader of the Opposition nor any other hon. Member produced yesterday, it is my view that the Franks report should be regarded as the authoritative and sensible answer to the questions that have been raised.
A committee of individuals who are nobody's fools and nobody's servants have looked at all the evidence without fear or favour and drawn their conclusions accordingly. I only wish I could be sure that those who seek to make party capital out of this or that remark in Franks, or who challenge the report's conclusions, had read it with a tenth of the care that went into its preparation. Having listened to the Leader of the Opposition yesterday, I can only conclude that he perhaps paid less attention to the report than it deserves and reached the most cursory of conclusions that he felt like plucking out of the air.
There may be others who, not having studied the evidence in detail, have been influenced in their judgment of these matters by what seems to be a very commonsensical point of view, that if something goes very wrong—and the invasion of the Falklands was very wrong indeed—someone must be to blame. I agree. But let us not be led by the all too common British habit of self-denigration to look in the wrong place.
Those to blame are not to be found in the British Government or to the British public service. According to Franks, what could have been done differently or done better in the light of the knowledge available at the time simply does not weigh heavily enough in the scale even to be be of great significance in the apportionment of blame.
The blame lies fairly and squarely on General Galtieri, on the Argentine junta and on their supporters in the armed forces. These are the men who decided to reject the path of legality and of negotiation. It was they who launched in secrecy an invasion of the Falkland Islands that the British Government could not have foreseen in time to prevent. Theirs is the guilt. There are no rules of morality, logic or common sense which require us to spread it further.
Perhaps I could just add one further thought before turning to look at the nature of the Falklands dispute. Lord Franks has done a great service by ensuring that discussion of the lead-up to the Argentine invasion can now focus on what actually happened and not on the many damaging myths that were allowed to gain such widespread currency before the report.
I commend annex A to the House, and I am glad to say that it was given good coverage by at least some of the press. Perhaps it is not too much to hope—perhaps it is—that the right lessons will be learnt from this experience for the future.
Many of the criticisms that have been made of Government policy and actions reflect an inadequate grasp of the nature of the dispute. There never was—nor can 916 there be—any simple solution. The fundamental contradiction has lain between the implacable Argentine insistence on a transfer of sovereignty, and the islanders' firm and consistent desire to retain unchanged their British way of life and administration. The geographical position of the islands has imposed inevitable constraints on Britain's ability to defend and support them against an unstable but militarily powerful neighbour. Over the years, the dilemma has become steadily more acute as the financial and economic realities have led to a contraction and concentration of our national resources.
As Franks makes clear, Governments of both parties have acknowledged this dilemma. They all—before the events of April 1982—reached the same conclusion: that the only proper and sensible way forward was to try to negotiate a settlement to the sovereignty dispute acceptable to all concerned.
All Governments were aware of the costs and difficulties of defending and sustaining the islands if negotiations were to break down. All Governments took the view that it was not only in the British interest, but in the long-term interest of the islanders themselves, that the problem should be solved and that the dangerous consequences of the dispute should be removed. It was the only way to avoid confrontation with Argentina, which would be difficult for Great Britain and tragic for the islanders. Suggestions of appeasement are nonsense. The Government and their predecessors were guided by one essential principle: that no settlement of the dispute could be contemplated that was not in accordance with the wishes of the Falkland Islanders and of this House. That has been and remains at the heart of our policy.
The Government took the view by 1980 that the most likely way of reconciling the Argentines' dominant interest in sovereignty and our interest in protecting the rights of the Falkland Islanders was to advance the leaseback option. We were well aware of the difficulties, but we thought it right to explore this way of resolving the complex factors of the Falklands equation. As hon. Members know only too well, the idea ran into difficulty, and Franks shows how and why. It has been suggested that, in the light of these difficulties over lease-back, the Government should have made a radical change of policy. This is what all this talk of Micawberism really boils down to.
The point can best be answered by a look at the options actually open to the Government at the time. The fundamental choice remained that which successive Governments had had to face: to negotiate with the Argentines; to reinforce the islands and support them in isolation from a hostile neighbour; or to surrender. The disadvantages of reinforcement and isolation were clear and compelling, as they had always been. There was no halfway house between that and negotiation. Reinforcement on any significant scale would have caused the Argentines to end negotiations and the services they provided. We concluded, as did our predecessors, that this would not be in the interest either of the islanders or of Great Britain.
The opposite course would have been to go over the heads of the islanders and to impose on them whatever solution we could reach with Argentina. That would have been to abandon the very principle that had been at the heart of British policy throughout the whole course of the dispute. It would not have been acceptable to the House or the country, and it would have been wrong.
§ Mr. Frank Hooley (Sheffield, Heeley)
There was a third possibility, which would have been to pray in aid the international machinery that exists precisely to resolve this kind of difficulty or, if we still have contempt for that machinery, to seek the advice and help of our allies. That was not done.
§ Mr. Pym
There seemed no need for that, and I recall no call for it at the time.
Would it, nevertheless, have been possible to embark on a public campaign to sell lease-back here and in the islands? It is a superficially attractive thought, but the risks were great. There has been much talk of signals to the Argentines about the Government's commitment to the Falklands. Such a public campaign would have been a very clear one. Its results could so easily have had the wrong effect on opinion both here and in Argentina. That, if it had happened, would have been a double own goal.
We took the third option—to hold fast to the principle that the islanders should not be pressured into accepting a status contrary to their wishes, but to keep the negotiations going, to avoid the very difficult consequences of breakdown and to keep open the prospect of both Argentine and islander opinion developing in a way that would allow a mutually acceptable settlement to be made. The consequences of failure were fully appreciated. Contingency plans were put in hand, but we took no overt action that could have precipitated the breakdown we were anxious to avoid.
§ Mr. Dick Douglas (Dunfermline)
What did the right hon. Gentleman think was in the minds of the Argentines as to what the negotiations were about?
§ Mr. Pym
There are plenty of records of the talks with the Argentines that went on throughout the period of the last Government and this one. A modus vivendi had to be found that would reconcile the dilemma inherent in the problem.
By the end of 1981 the Galtieri Government had taken over, and there were expectations of a more forceful Argentine approach. However, the new Government confirmed to us that their policy remained unchanged—that is of pursuing a settlement through negotiation. The talks that took place in February 1982 went better than expected.
By March the tension was none the less increasing. The reaction in Buenos Aires following the talks was worrying, though not unprecedented. It was clear that in future negotiations the Argentines would be looking for substantive and rapid progress on their terms and that we would have obvious difficulty in meeting them on this.
The Opposition argue that the Government should have taken action then to meet what they claim to have been an imminent Argentine resort to force. Their amendment accuses us of failing to respond adequately to a risk of invasion that we knew to exist. That is quite simply not true. The position was becoming more serious and the need for a full review by the Overseas and Defence Committee of the prospects and the policy options was foreseen. However, the evidence—set out in chapter 2 of the report—was that the Argentine Government continued to attach overriding importance to the establishment of their proposed negotiating mechanism. The talks were not dead. That is a vital point. The negotiating process was still in being and there was good evidence that the bellicose noises being made in Buenos Aires were intended to 918 influence it and not to break it off. The overwhelming weight of the evidence was that there was no consensus within the junta on a possible use of force, that direct Argentine pressures would follow, and not precede, a breakdown of the negotiations and that the crucial period would be the second, not the first, half of 1982.
§ Mr. George Cunningham (Islington, South and Finsbury)
During the three weeks before the event there were pictures on British television screens of the riots in the streets in Argentina that transformed the political position there. There would have been temptations to launch an operation of this kind. The Foreign Office does not seem to have attached any significance to those events.
§ Mr. Pym
I am taking the House through the report in chronological order. With hindsight, it is easy to make the remarks that the hon. Gentleman has made. They do not find their place in the Franks report.
All this is gone into in very great detail in the report, which concludes that there was on balance no case for sending any sort of force to the south Atlantic, at least until three or four days before the Government actually did. The right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) disagrees, not, I fear, out of logic, but because his contributions on this subject became firmly stuck in the 1977 groove long before the Franks committee reported.
It is important to be clear about this. The position that we foresaw on the evidence that we had—and it is all in the report—did not involve a threat of force by Argentina on a time scale that justified the covert despatch of a submarine in early March. The threat was assessed on the evidence as being significant in the second, not the first, half of 1982. The costs and operational penalties of maintaining a nuclear-powered submarine off the Falklands for what could have been a very lengthy period were considerable. We had no evidence in early March of a threat that warranted incurring these costs and penalties.
Let us not forget also that a leak of its despatch in early March might have precipitated a use of force by Argentina which we would have been in no position to resist. The right hon. Member for Devonport has said that he was surprised that the deployment in 1977 was kept secret. I might add that, when a submarine was despatched on 29 March, the fact did, indeed, soon become public.
§ Mr. Pym
If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I listened—and the House did—to his speech yesterday in silence.
Government policy before the invasion was proved wrong by events which could not have been foreseen. But it was based on a realistic assessment of the options and the dangers, in the light of all the circumstances and the evidence available at the time. The report amply bears this out.
Let me say a brief word about the Opposition amendment and the arguments—if that is the right word—put forward by the right hon. Member the Leader of the Opposition yesterday. Her Majesty's Government are accused of failing to give adequate priority to the Falklands issue. It is a charge that has great virtue for an Opposition. It says and means virtually nothing and therefore needs the minimum of supporting logic and argument. That is certainly what it has received.
919 The report sets out the facts against which one can judge what priority was attached to the issue, not only by this Government but by our predecessors. The report shows how policy was formulated, decided upon and then pursued within the guidelines agreed by the Government as a whole. I find it difficult, even with hindsight, to understand how it can reasonably be claimed that a greater priority should have been given to this matter. The Falklands and the dispute with Argentina were recognised as important and were treated as such.
The Leader of the Opposition also made a great deal of the absence of collective consideration by Ministers of the Falklands issue in 1981 and early 1982. The implicit and bureaucratic assumption in this criticism is that in the absence of discussion in formal meetings of the Cabinet or of the Overseas and Defence Committee individual Ministers are operating in a vacuum and that the exchange of information and comment necessary to the effective conduct of government simply stops. Anyone who has worked in government knows this to be nonsense. Right hon. Members on the Opposition Benches have whipped up over this issue something that has the substance and penetrating power of yesterday's shaving lather.
As the Franks report makes absolutely clear, when policy was being formulated and decisions taken—as was the case in 1980—the matter was extensively discussed in Cabinet and in the Overseas and Defence Committee. Later, when policy had been established and was being implemented, there was a constant flow of minutes from my predecessor to his colleagues in the Overseas and Defence Committee to keep them fully informed of developments. My noble Friend Lord Carrington's minutes on this issue were very clear and no one was in any doubt as to the facts as they unfolded. I received them myself, as Leader of the House at the time and as a member of the committee. Right hon. Members on the Opposition Benches who retain some recollection of government will know that such minutes leave all recipients free to comment and to call for a meeting if they think that collective discussion would be desirable.
There is no evidence here on which to justify a charge of collective neglect of the Falklands or governmental failure. The truth is that in their desperate search for material with which to embarrass this Government and serve their partisan purpose the Opposition have lost their grip on reality and sense.
§ Mr. Denis Healey (Leeds, East)
Surely the Foreign Secretary recalls the Franks committee in its report saying that it would have been advantageous to have precisely the sort of collective discussion that the Foreign Secretary now disparages. He will have to be a little less selective in quoting the report.
§ Mr. Pym
As I have explained, my predecessor kept all members of the Committee informed and advised by minute and I received such minutes myself. In addition to that, he had constant discussions, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made clear, with the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Defence. Therefore, I think that the charge that was made of neglect is factually inaccurate.
Much has been made of the Prime Minister's request on 8 March that the paper which Lord Carrington proposed to put to OD should contain an account of contingency planning. My right hon. Friend has already dealt 920 effectively with the curious argument that this request could have been made only on the basis of some foreknowledge that has not found its way into the report. That is self-evident nonsense.
It is also wide of the mark to say, as did the right hon. Member for Devonport, that this request received no response and should have been followed up. The fact is, as the report sets out, that civil and military contingency papers had already been prepared in 1981. They were further developed and were ready as annexes to the paper when the Prime Minister's request was received.
The Franks report is about the past, and so therefore is this debate. But it is relevant to the future, and a number of right hon. and hon. Members have spoken about this. Some hon. Members on the Opposition Benches have done so in terms which I find surprising. There are those who ask why the judgment of successive Governments that it was right to pursue a negotiated settlement is now deemed to be overtaken.
The implication of this question is that nothing significant has changed. I freely acknowledge that ensuring a decent future for the Falkland Islanders will remain difficult—very difficult. But the difference between March 1982 and now is quite simple. The Argentines launched an unprovoked act of aggression against the Falkland Islanders. They gave no warning and refused all calls to withdraw. Their behaviour during the occupation was contemptible. Their attitude towards their own prisoners and their war dead was and is beyond the pale of civilised behaviour. Since they were thrown off the islands, they have not accepted that hostilities have ceased. They continue to talk about war.
Is it seriously argued that we should simply pick up the threads of negotiation as if nothing had happened? We did not want armed conflict with Argentina. The intense negotiations in the weeks that followed the invasion were testament to our wish to resolve the matter peacefully. When Argentina stubbornly prevented this we had no hestitation in doing what has to be done. We have no hesitation now in continuing to take whatever measures are necessary to safeguard the islanders' rights.
§ Mr. Gavin Strang (Edinburgh, East)
Will the Foreign Secretary at least confirm to the House that in the negotiations within the framework of the United Nations that took place immediately prior to the reinvasion by Britain the Argentine junta had agreed to a complete withdrawal of its forces from the islands, to an interim United Nations administration and to negotiations without prejudging the sovereignty issue? It is in the Government's own document.
§ Mr. Pym
What nonsense, and what an extraordinary word—reinvasion. It is an abuse of language.
This does not mean to say that we regard the present situation as immutable. We did not choose our present level of investment in the defence of the islanders and their way of life. It was forced upon us by Argentine aggression. I accept that it is costly to Britain and may prove disruptive of the traditional way of life of the islanders. But it is not a blind "fortress" policy. We are doing no more than a democratic Government, charged with the protection of the islanders against any obvious threat, have to do.
I have said many times that in the longer term it must be right for the islanders—it must be in their interests—to be able to live in a peaceful and beneficial relationship 921 with the mainland. But at present the conditions do not exist. We continue to be faced with an apparently unrepentant Argentina. The scars of war are all too fresh in the islands, both on the land and in the memories of the population. The shock must pass, the islands' economy must be restored and the routine of life resumed.
If any measure of normality is to be restored to the dispute, the first step must be a fundamental change in the Argentine attitude. It may be unrealistic to expect that they would give up their claim to sovereignty as they see it but it should not be unrealistic to expect that they will agree to a final cessation of hostilities and to renounce the use of force as a means for resolving the dispute.
Let us take one step at a time. I cannot predict what the situation will be either in the islands or in Argentina in a few years' time. Ours is a policy not of obduracy, but of prudent common sense and of regard for the islanders, for whom we are responsible and who have the right to determine their own future. It remains our duty to defend and to support them, and we shall.
I said at the outset that I would return to the criticisms that have been expressed of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. As one who came to this office after the events under review, I believe that the House will concede my qualification both to judge and to speak of them. I am particularly grateful to Lord Franks and his colleagues for disposing in such categorical terms of the myth, to which the press, even some Members of this House and others have so often subscribed, that there was in some way a "Foreign Office" policy on the Falklands, based on some alleged appeasement and on disregard for the islanders, which has over the years been foisted by officials on a succession of passive and pliant Ministers. In paragraph 284 of his report, Lord Franks concludes that "this damaging allegation" is totally without foundation.
A study of the report as a whole illustrates just how baseless such assertions are. My right hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne made his views very clear yesterday, for which I am grateful, as did my predecessor, in another place. I welcome this very much. Franks makes it clear that, throughout the course of the dispute, Foreign Office officials have done their job in a thoroughly professional way. They have put to each Government the facts of the situation and their analysis of these facts. They have presented the range of available policy recommendations. And Ministers, as is their task and responsibility, have decided that the right policy has been to pursue the path of negotiation. As the report again makes clear, officials have implemented this policy faithfully. In my view, they have done so with skill and dedication.
The Foreign Office made it clear from the outset that it welcomed the Franks inquiry and it has co-operated to the full. There has probably never been so thorough and exhaustive an examination of the handling by any Department of a single area of policy over so long a period, and the service has, by any standard, come out of it well. Over the course of the dispute its diplomatic skills have been effectively deployed in support of Government policy. The report categorically refutes the many fanciful allegations that have been levelled over the past nine months. It makes no major criticisms. It is only to be expected that, looking back on events, the committee should make observations on what other views might have 922 been reached or steps taken. We all have hindsight, but the report concludes that the view taken by the Foreign Office was reasonable in all the circumstances at that time.
§ Mr. Clive Soley (Hammersmith, North)
Does the Foreign Secretary accept that the criticism by many of us is not of the officers of the Foreign Office but of three Ministers—the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for Defence? The allegation is that they did not take the warning seriously enough. May I adduce as evidence for that the statement in Hansard of 29 March when, in answer to an intervention by the hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Speed) concerning expenditure on HMS Endurance and the Trident missile programme, the Secretary of State for Defence at that time replied:I do not intend to get involved in a debate about the Falkland Islands now. These issues are too important"—the Trident issue—to be diverted into a discussion on HMS "Endurance".—[Official Report, 29 March 1982; Vol. 21, c. 27.]It is the feeling that Ministers did not take the warning seriously enough that is worrying us.
§ Mr. Pym
I entirely accept that not only is it legitimate but entirely right that all Ministers should be criticised. That is the whole point of our parliamentary system. What I have been objecting to, and what I have resented so much throughout the whole of this period, is the fact that officials, who were not able to reply, were criticised and they have been shown by Franks to have been criticised unjustly.
The details of the report are naturally being studied carefully within the Foreign Office. Where there are lessons to be drawn, whether from the crisis itself or from the comments of the committee, or from this debate, I can assure the House that they will be learnt. There is no question of complacency. But I want to mention the broader context. The diplomatic service has all too often been the target for ill-informed criticism. It stays silent and gets on with the job. But to cast doubt on either the motives or the integrity of the service is unjustified and damaging to British interests. The service is engaged in actively promoting British policy, and in promoting and defending the national interest. It does so throughout the world in conditions often of discomfort and sometimes of danger. It is my experience, and that of others who have held this office, that it is a dedicated and professional body. Its reputation in the world stands high. It is a national asset for which we are much envied. To undermine it would be to damage our reputation and weaken our influence abroad—and thus to harm the national interest.
I should like also to say a word about the decision, to which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister referred yesterday, to appoint as chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee a full-time official of the Cabinet Office. The job of the JIC, which is part of the Cabinet Office and is supported by an assessments staff drawn from a number of Whitehall Departments, is to assess information from a wide range of sources. Secret intelligence is only a part of this. Much of the information is either unclassified or classified no more highly than is appropriate to the routine reporting of our posts abroad. The assessments staff works like other Government Departments. It is centralised in the Cabinet Office not because it depends on special techniques or special material, but because it has long been thought sensible for this crucial work to be done centrally on behalf of the Government as a whole.
923 The Joint Intelligence Committee has for many years been chaired by a senior official of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, appointed with the approval of the Prime Minister, and responsible to the Prime Minister for his JIC duties. He has combined this work with his other Foreign Office responsibilities. The system has worked well in practice, but I fully support the view that the time has now come for the JIC to be chaired by an official working full-time in the Cabinet Office without the distraction of departmental duties. [Interruption.] Opposition Members may laugh. The arrangements that have existed hitherto have gone on for several decades and have worked in practice. Meanwhile events have moved on and the volume of work has increased. This decision is entirely right.
There has also been far too much ill-informed comment on the supposed failings of those responsible for intelligence. On this the Franks report speaks for itself, but I should like to add a word of tribute myself to all those involved in various ways with intelligence collection. Our tradition of not discussing these subjects in public should not allow us to underestimate the vital contribution which they make to our national security.
§ Mr. Pym
If the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved) will forgive me, I have given way a great deal and I shall come to a conclusion shortly.
I welcome the Franks report particularly because it enables us to put behind us the recriminations that followed the Argentine invasion. I entirely agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) who made this point so well yesterday in a notable speech. Historians will no doubt continue to argue over this or that point in the report, and to speculate about what might have happened if a different approach had been taken here or there. This may be a fruitful field for them and for those who want to dabble in it, whether to entertain or even to make mischief. But Franks has disposed of the argument that the Argentine invasion was in some curious way the fault not of the junta but of dilatory, negligent or ill-informed British Ministers and officials.
It was essential that there should be an objective inquiry into the events preceding the invasion, that this should be made public and that the House should debate its conclusions. Those conclusions are clear and have not been seriously challenged. It is now time to put them behind us and to move on. The world will not wait while we pore over the small print ad nauseam.
The year 1983 is a critical one in international affairs. The new Soviet leadership gives to East-West relations an added urgency and importance. Arms control talks over a wide range are entering a crucial phase. The search for peace in the Middle East has reached a particularly delicate stage. The agenda of the European Community remains a heavy one, and, not least among many other issues, we must tackle resolutely the question of a future for the Falkland Islands which will neither disguise the difficulties nor duck the principles involved.
This Government are tackling these formidable challenges with the support of the British people. They expect us to look forward to the future. That we are doing, with confidence and with resolution.
§ 5 pm
§ Mr. Denis Healey (Leeds, East)
Whatever disagreements have been expressed so far in the debate, I think that there has been overwhelming agreement—indeed, if the Prime Minister does not mind my using the word, consensus—among Members in this place and in another place on two important issues. The first issue is that our armed forces performed with brilliant professionalism and courage in an operation which the chiefs of staff, we now know, judged to be highly precarious, and which in spite of the quality of our forces might have been a tragic defeat if all the Argentine bombs which struck our ships had exploded.
The second issue on which there can be no substantial dispute is that it was General Galtieri who started the conflict with an act of unprovoked aggression which was rightly condemned by the United Nations Security Council. That is as certain as the fact that Hitler started the second world war with an unprovoked attack on Poland.
The Franks committee was set up to examine events preceding the Argentine attack and to ascertain whether the British Government might have prevented it, as many believed the British and French Governments before the second world war might have prevented the attack on Poland. The Prime Minister rightly said yesterday:the real cause of the conflict was … the gross misjudgment of a military junta".—[Official Report, 25 January 1983; Vol. 35, c. 804.]I believe that that is true and that "misjudgment" is the seminal word. This was confirmed by General Galtieri's interview, a report of which appeared in The Times on 3 June while the conflict was in its final stages. He said to the Italian journalist, Oriana Fallaci:I'll tell you that though an English reaction was considered a possibility, we did not see it as a probability. Personally, I judged it scarcely possible and totally improbable. In any case, I never expected such a disproportionate answer.There is no reason to believe that when General Galtieri used those words he was misrepresenting his own views.
With respect to Lord Carrington, there is no reason to believe that the man was mad. We must all be impressed by a speech in another place yesterday in which the noble Lord gave a reasonable answer to many of the criticisms made of him. If in the course of a distinguished career as Foreign Secretary he made any mistakes, I think that they stem from his belief that anyone who did not share his urbane, moderate and civilised approach to diplomacy was totally unreasonable or even certifiable. That is what he said about General Galtieri a week ago. He said:No one assumed or even thought that we were dealing with a lunatic … You can't go about your business as a Foreign Secretary if you assume that everyone you are dealing with is a lunatic.Whatever General Galtieri was, he was not a lunatic. He was vain, complacent, stupid and badly informed, but there are other political leaders of whom the same might be said. Certainly he was far less irrational than Hitler or Mussolini, and he does not compare remotely with leaders such as General Idi Amin, Colonel Gaddafi or the Ayatolla Khomeini, with whom modern Foreign Secretaries have had and still have to deal. Foreign Secretaries have to make judgments about how such people may behave and how they may induce them to behave in ways that are more conducive to our interests. I believe that it was easier to make such judgments about General Galtieri than about many other Heads of Government and Heads of State.
925 That was the central problem which the Franks committee was set up to explore—whether there was something which the British Government might have done to influence General Galtieri to behave more sensibly and to ensure that he did not make the crucial misjudgment about how we would react if he attacked the islands, on which his decision to invade was based.
It will not do for the Foreign Secretary to suggest that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen), who believe that things might have gone better and that steps might have been taken to influence General Galtieri to take different action, are acting for party reasons. That view, and other views which have been expressed in the House in that direction, have been stated by the Financial Times and The Guardian and by leading writers in The Times and The Daily Telegraph. There is a case for the Government to answer. It is deployed in the Franks report and I do not believe that in central areas we have had answers yet.
The Prime Minister naturally placed overriding importance on the last paragraph of the Franks report. I feel that that paragraph does not exonerate the Government from the real charge against it. It concentrates on whether the Government could have foreseen that General Galtieri would invade the islands on 2 April rather than at some other time. As this was decided only the day beforehand, the Government could not have foreseen it. If they could not have foreseen it, they could not at that stage have prevented it. However, I found the careful choice of questions and the even more careful choice of words used by the Franks committee in its report to answer the questions both perverse and disingenuous. As someone observed in a newspaper this morning, it is rather like someone saying that it cannot be predicted that it will snow on Christmas day. That does not mean that it is sensible to go around from November onwards without an overcoat in one's wardrobe and without anti-freeze in the radiator.
The real question that the Government have to answer—the report gives material on which reasonable men can make a judgment—is whether by different actions the Government could have led General Galtieri to regard invasion of the islands as something too dangerous to contemplate.
As the report rightly says, no one can be certain on this matter. In the end General Galtieri invaded and the Government acted as they did. If they had acted differently, no one can be certain what the situation might have been. I believe that the report provides enough evidence to suggest that the Government's sins of omission and commission were serious enough to raise the possibility that different actions could have led General Galtieri to reject invasion. We can learn important lessons of general application from studying the report, one of which the Government have already decided to implement. I refer to the appointment of an independent chairman to the JIC, which I think the Prime Minister will recall I recommended to her when we debated the matter last summer.
There are also some lessons of specific application to the policies that we still need to lead the Falkland islanders from a situation which has destroyed their peaceful, normal way of life. They are no longer a rural community 926 such as those in the Hebrides. They are now outnumbered five to one by a military garrison whose only purpose is to defend them.
Another matter on which there has been surprisingly broad consensus in the debate so far in both Houses is that we have finished up with the worst of all worlds. We are stuck with a Fortress Falklands policy, which all Governments thought was the least desirable, at a cost so far of £2 million per head of the adult Falkland islanders. The cost is falling entirely on the British taxpayer.
The first conclusion of the Franks report is that the Government did not give the Falkland Islands priority in the collective consideration that they deserved, given the enormous political, military and economic cost of getting it wrong. The cost of getting it wrong is already £2,000 million. As Lord Belstead, Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office told us a week ago in another place, that sum has been spent or committed. There is still no explanation—the Foreign Secretary did not attempt to meet the point—why the Overseas and Defence Committee of Cabinet did not meet for 15 months before the invasion to consider the issue. According to the report, there was no formal consideration of the problem outside the Foreign Office for 15 months before the invasion took place. As the Prime Minister told us yesterday, the OD met 18 times in 1981 alone, but it did not discuss the Falklands.
I find it difficult to credit that the very Latin American section of the intelligence community, which was concerned only with affairs in Latin America, met 18 times in the nine months before the invasion without once considering the threat to the Falklands. That was in spite of the fact that the latest full JIC assessment, which was made in 1981, was that there might be a sudden attack on the Falkland Islands if Argentina considered that negotiations were getting nowhere. As we all know, the Government had decided as far back as October 1981 that it would be impossible to negotiate to any meaningful end.
It will not do for the Foreign Secretary to suggest that these are partial and artificial considerations being advanced by an Opposition who are trying to score party points. In paragraph 292, the Franks report says:We cannot say what the outcome of a meeting of the Defence Committee might have been, or whether the course of events would have been altered if it had met in September 1981; but, in our view, it could have been advantageous, and fully in line with Whitehall practice, for Ministers to have reviewed collectively at that time, or in the months immediately ahead, the current negotiating position; the implications of the conflict between the attitudes of the Islanders and the aims of the Junta; and the longer-term policy options in relation to the dispute.In a report, in the drafting of which my ex-private secretary Sir Patrick Nairne had a hand, those are quite tough words. For the Foreign Secretary to believe that that criticism of the Government does not even deserve consideration is utterly unjustified.
It is the Prime Minister herself who must carry the major responsibility for not giving the Falkland Islands problem the importance it deserved in terms of consideration in Cabinet. She must also carry a special responsibility because it was she who said in this House more than a year ago when she rejected the demand to keep HMS Endurance in the area:other claims on the defence budget should have greater priority."—[Official Report, 9 February 1982; Vol. 17, c. 857.]It would have cost £3 million to keep HMS Endurance in the area, out of a total defence budget for the year of more than £12,000 million. For the Prime Minister to suggest in public that there was no way, in a budget of more than 927 £12,000 million, that £3 million could be found to keep HMS Endurance on without damaging interests of greater priority was the clearest signal to the Argentine Government that we did not consider it to be an important matter. I do not believe that in the light of those facts the Government can seriously claim that they gave the Falklands adequate priority.
I shall now deal with whether we might have persuaded General Galtieri out of invasion if we had sent different signals to him. This ground was well traversed in this House and the other place yesterday in some extremely penetrating speeches, especially from Opposition Members here and from both sides of the House in the other place. What has emerged is that the prime responsibility for any errors of omission or commission does not lie with Foreign Office officials or with the Foreign Secretary. Indeed, I noticed today that the Foreign Secretary is trying to turn the Franks report to the advantage of the Foreign Office, and in the same way as the Royal Navy tried to turn the Falklands war to its advantage. I do not blame him for that. He has suffered too much from some of his neighbours recently in that regard.
A real responsibility lies with other Departments of Government—it is itemised in the Franks report—and especially with the Secretary of State for Defence and the Prime Minister. Responsibility also lies with the Home Secretary because the decision to strip of British citizenship the very islanders on whom our claim to sovereignty rests, and whose families have been there for at least four generations, was extraordinarily ill judged. Moreover, it has still not been put right. There is a private Member's Bill on the subject that awaits time which the Government will not give it.
§ Mr. Healey
The Government have taken that line on the Falkland Islands because of the repercussions involved. If they do something for the Falkland Islanders, they must do the same for the citizens of Gibraltar and Hong Kong.
§ Mr. Healey
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will let me finish this point. In committing herself to the Fortress Falklands policy that now prevails, the Prime Minister has taken no account of its repercussions on Gibraltar and Hong Kong. If she believes that she can treat the Falkland Islanders as a special case in this instance, there is no reason why she should not do the same and have done the same in the case of British citizenship.
§ Mr. Shersby
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I am the hon. Member who intends to promote the Bill to which he has referred? I voted against the Government throughout the passage of the British Nationality Bill and did my best to secure British citizenship for the Falkland Islanders, but the Opposition voted the other way. The Opposition did not support British citizenship for the Falkland Islanders, so it is no good the right hon. Gentleman trying to pretend otherwise. He should ask his hon. Friend the Member for Lambeth, Central (Mr. Tilley) and his right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) about that. Moreover, the Division lists will show how they voted.
§ Mr. Healey
My right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley), through the osmotic process from which hon. Members on the Front Benches are able to benefit, has told me that the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Shersby) did not vote against citizenship for the Falkland Islanders alone but against British citizenship for all the categories that I have mentioned.
My point is that, in view of the threat to the Falklands that successive Governments have reckoned to exist, there was a case for making an exception for the Falkland Islanders, despite the repercussions. There is no doubt—Franks makes the point—that the Government's decision to strip the islanders of British citizenship was seen as another sign of the extremely low priority that the Government gave the problem.
§ Mr. Healey
No, with respect to the right hon. Gentleman, I should like to deal with another point. I have given way a great deal. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh".] Very well, I shall give way to the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) whose views on this subject and others never cease to startle me.
§ Mr. Powell
As one who both moved and voted for amendments on the Bill to confer British citizenship on those inhabitants of the Falkland Islands who did not possess it, I assure the right hon. Gentleman that nothing happened in that Bill which stripped those islanders of any status in this country which they had under the existing law. The right hon. Gentleman is mistaken.
§ Mr. Healey
I am afraid that my right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook, whom I was invited to consult on that matter, tells me that the right hon. Gentleman is again mistaken.
The major responsibility for the errors of omission that led General Galtieri to believe that he could invade the islands with impunity lies with the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Defence. They decided, against the advice of the Foreign Office, the Falkland Islanders, our ambassador in Argentina and a substantial part of the House—both Conservative and Opposition Back Benches—to remove HMS Endurance, which was a symbol of our defence commitment. More important than that, they decided to get rid of those ships on which any effective military reaction to invasion must depend—HMS Invincible and two assault ships.
We could not have carried out the reconquest of the islands as in the end we did if it had not been for those decisions which were supported by the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Defence, but which were opposed by the Foreign Secretary.
In yesterday's debate in the other place, in as clear and cogent a speech as he always makes, Lord Carver said that HMS Endurance was the casualty of in-fighting in Whitehall. But it is the Prime Minister's responsibility to deal with in-fighting in Whitehall. The Foreign Office was right and so were the Falkland Islanders, the ambassador 929 and my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) to say that that would be seen in Argentina as a symbol of disinterest—and so it was.
The central charge is that once the Government had retreated into what our ambassador called Micawberism, and had decided to string along the Argentines in talks without any clear objective, the risk of invasion without warning became real. It had been predicted by the last JIC report in 1981 and it was expected by the Government by the end of 1982. It is from that point—the last 18 months of the story—that the fecklessness of the Government passes belief.
There was no ministerial discussion of the problem. It emerges clearly between the lines of the Franks report, and from what the Foreign Secretary said in interviews, that the Foreign Secretary saw no point in having a meeting of OD unless he could first detach the Prime Minister from the Secretary of State for Defence. He sent a whole series of minutes in an attempt to change her mind. She did not do so, and in the court of the empress, if the empress is against one, there is no point in the grand vizier calling a meeting of the Privy Council.
A disturbing remark was made by Sir Michael Palliser, the former permanent secretary at the Foreign Office, in a television discussion involving himself, me, and the right hon. Member for Down, South a few days ago. Justifying the fact that there had not been any discussion, Sir Michael said:On … March 18th or 19th, events began in South Georgia, and I think it was that which actually helped to trigger an Argentine invasion, which would otherwise, more probably, have taken place later—not least because it would have been a much better time, to do it later, from their point of view, for obvious reasons".The "obvious reasons" were the withdrawal of Endurance, the disappearance of Invincible to the Australian navy and the withdrawal of two assault carriers.
Sir Michael was interrupted by the right hon. Member for Down, South, in a state of some excitment, who said:…would have taken place.Sir Michael said that they thought there would be a slow escalation of pressure from the Argentine Government. He added:And at that point it is quite clear to me that Lord Carrington would have had to say to his colleagues: We now have the option either in effect giving way to Argentina—which is politically, morally and in every other way unacceptable—or of sending a proper force down there to defend that place. And I think that that was probably what was in his mind, in waiting for the psychological moment to do it.If we are to believe Sir Michael's account of the position a year ago, the Foreign Secretary saw no opportunity to change the Prime Minister's mind unless the Argentines first escalated the conflict. He hoped at that stage to achieve some collective consideration and a shift in the Prime Minister's position. The question we must ask ourselves is, supposing the invasion had arisen not in March but in September or October, what precisely did the Foreign Secretary plan to do about it? By that time we would have been unable to assemble the task force that the chiefs of staff judged necessary. That was made clear by Admiral Sandy Woodward in interviews not long ago. If we had waited until the end of the year, when the Foreign Office expected an invasion, we would have been unable to resist it. Certainly we would not have had a force 930 capable of repossessing the islands or of defeating a full-scale attack. And those are the only purposes for which the Government apparently considered it sensible to send a force.
Another point deserves consideration. A full-scale assault in the sense of a simultaneous attack by all arms of the Argentine forces was never the real problem. When the Argentines finally invaded the islands, they did so with a comparatively small force of marines. Yet at that time we did not even have sufficient explosives on the islands to crater the airfield. The result was that the Argentines used the intervening weeks before the task force arrived to build up a formidable force of arms on the islands. Our Harrier and Vulcan bombers—which were apparently sent there only to give Bomber Command a part of the action—wholly failed to deny the Argentines the use of the airstrip, even when the battle was engaged.
As a result, we faced a difficult and dangerous position when we had to reconquer the islands. It might have gone wrong. The chiefs of staff warned the Prime Minister that it would at best be a precarious affair, and so it proved. The Prime Minister misunderstood the nature of deterrence. She appeared to agree with me when I said in a debate last summer that an ounce of deterrence was worth a ton of defence. To deter an antagonist, we need a force sufficient to convince him that he will in any case suffer substantial losses if he attacks, with a significant risk of escalation. That could have been provided much more simply than the Government pretend.
The best witness of that is Lord Admiral Hill-Norton, who said last week, with all the authority of an ex-chief of defence staff and also ex-naval attaché in Buenos Aires:leaving aside the tragic loss of 255 lives and nearly 800 wounded on our side, while it might have cost possibly £10 million to deter that aggression, it has cost £2 or £3 billion to defeat it."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 17 January 1983; Vol. 437, c. 1208.]That is the burden of the charge against the Government, which they have not made any attempt to meet in all the debates over many months.
Late in the day, after the landings on South Georgia, the Government at last began to act. Because there had been no prodding from the Prime Minister, it took the chiefs of staff from shortly after 3 March until 26 March to give the Prime Minister advice. She told us yesterday that she received that advice on 26 March. She did then act. I shall quote what the right hon. Lady said in yesterday's debate because it nowhere emerges in the report. She said:On 29 March we sent a nuclear submarine, and on 31 March we sent seven warships from off Gibraltar. They were not to act on their own. They were to await the full aircraft carrier force. In view of the chiefs of staff's advice that a deterrent force would require an aircraft carrier, and that to win would require a much bigger force, I was anxious that we should not put people in jeopardy. We should have sufficient forces to protect them the whole time."—[Official Report, 25 January 1983; Vol. 39, c. 804.]What does that imply? Is it that the Government had decided to send a task force—rightly so—on Monday of the week in which the invasion took place on the Friday?
§ Mr. Healey
The Prime Minister said that she sent seven warships from off Gibraltar on the Wednesday, 931 which were to be part of a larger force and should not act on their own. It made no sense to send them unless they were to be part of a larger force that she was planning to send. She was right to do so.
§ The Prime Minister
The right hon. Gentleman will remember that it was on the Wednesday night that we received the raw intelligence and on the Wednesday night that we decided to alert preparations for a task force. As ships were exercising off Gibraltar, we decided to send them on their way. They were not to act on their own. I think that that is mentioned in the Franks report. They would have had no function unless there had later been a task force. The decision to send a task force was taken by Cabinet.
§ Mr. Healey
The right hon. Lady confirms my point. I quoted what she had said, and she has just confirmed it.
The one part of the Franks report that is totally inadequate is paragraph 333, a "final warning to Argentina". The first warning was given on 23 March by the hon. Member for Shoreham (Mr. Luce). All that he was able to say—it was almost an invitation to invasion at that time—was that it wasthe duty of this Government and of any British Government to defend and support the islanders to the best of their ability."—[Official Report, 23 March 1982; Vol. 20, c. 799.]As we had no ability at that time, and the Argentines knew it, that was not a very formidable warning.
The next step was taken on 25 March, when the British ambassador warned the Foreign Secretary of Argentinathat Britain was committed to the defence of … sovereignty in South Georgia as elsewhere.That was not terribly impressive either. Then, whena threat to the Falkland Islands themselves was perceived, the Prime Minister contacted President Reagan on 31 MarchBy that time, the Prime Minister had had the raw intelligence and had, according to what she said yesterday, sent seven warships from off Gibraltar to be part of a larger force. She took no steps whatever to warn the Argentine Government that they would face such opposition if they attacked. She made no contact with them at all. She merely rang her friend, President Reagan, who at some stage telephoned President Galtieri. I believe that it took him 24 hours to make that telephone call. It did not take place until 1 April, although that is not stated in the report.
The Presidentstated forcefully that action against the Falklands would be regarded by the British as a casus belli.It was not wise to entrust President Reagan with that phrase. We do not know whether, at his end of the telephone 8,000 miles away, President Galtieri understood it. As, at that time, the Foreign Secretary had decided to send a task force, why on earth did the right hon. Lady not tell Galtieri so? If she had told him, it is overwhelmingly probable that, at the last minute, he would have ordered his ships not to invade.
That is the main burden of the case against the Government for fecklessness and irresponsibility in dealing with a threat that they knew to exist. Now we are stuck with the Fortress Falklands policy because there is no alternative, and everyone agrees that it is the worst of all worlds. There is no chance of the Falkland Islanders restoring even the semblance of normal peaceful life while they have to accept a garrison on such a scale. As Lord Shackleton pointed out, the islanders have no chance of leading a normal life unless, somehow, normal relations with the Latin American mainland can be restored.
932 The Government's position on Fortress Falklands is somewhat obscure. The Prime Minister was unequivocal and absolute about it, as she always is when she knows what she thinks. Fortress Falklands is the policy; there is no alternative. The Foreign Secretary said in an interview on Friday, however, that Fortress Falklands was the wrong way to describe the situation, which is really like our situation in Britain. We have some forces to defend us, and so do the islanders. Our forces in this country, however, do not outnumber us by four to one.
The most interesting remark, which I fully applaud, was made by Lord Belstead in a debate in another place on 17 January. He said that the Government had no desire to keep a permanent military base in the south Atlantic. He suggested that, once Argentina agreed to renounce the use of force in pursuit of sovereignty, Britain would be able to reduce its forces. What he went on to say was wise, and has been said by many people in the debate He said:I do not think that this is the time or the occasion on which to speculate about future political developments. The islanders themselves will have their own views, but at present they still need time to recover from the physical and psychological after effects of the Argentine invasion.He went on to say, using words that we often use when we are in government:We remain fully committed to consulting them in due course and to respecting their own wishes about their political future."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 17 January 1983; Vol. 437, c. 1267.]Those are the words that the right hon. Member for Devonport recommended to the Government, and which were rejected by the Prime Minister in an exchange yesterday. There was no mention of paramountcy. Lord Belstead said that we were fully committedto consulting them in due course and to respecting their own wishes about their political future.That phrase was always used by the previous Labour Government when they discussed those matters. It was hardened up to such an extent that it made negotiation extremely difficult over the past few years. None of us can pretend that the time is right for a new attempt to solve this problem by negotiation, but the time must come. When it comes—
§ The Prime Minister
The right hon. Gentleman has made some remarks about paramountcy. The right hon. Member for Stepney and Poplar (Mr. Shore) in the famous cross-examination on 2 December 1980, speaking of the wishes of the Falkland Islanders, said to the Minister of State:Their wishes are surely not just 'guidance' to the British Government. Surely, they must be of paramount importance. Has the hon. Gentleman made that absolutely clear to the Argentine Government?"—[Official Report, 2 December 1980; Vol. 995, c. 129.]
§ Mr. Healey
The right hon. Lady is well aware that I do not share the views of my right hon. Friend on that matter. Nor did the previous Labour Government. However, the Prime Minister must not seek to evade her responsibilities about what her deputy Foreign Secretary said in another place eight days ago. That is an important matter. The right hon. Member for Devonport made that clear in his exchange with the Prime Minister yesterday.
What worries us most of all about this affair and what emerges most clearly from a study of the report and of the facts that I have put before the House is that on this, as on other issues, the right hon. Lady switches from feckless 933 Micawberism to an inflexible and bellicose rigidity and a rejection of consensus, which it is the aim of diplomacy to achieve.
That was well described by Lord Carrington in yesterday's debate when he talked about people whocarry chauvinism and insularity to such a degree that one almost feels they disapprove of anyone in the Foreign Office talking to a foreigner.The Foreign Secretary is familiar with that. Lord Carrington went on to say:But the alternative to negotiation is confrontation. In general, confrontation is not in the interests of the country, is extremely expensive and very often in the long run leads to war."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 25 January 1983; Vol. 438, c. 160–1.]The style and temperament of the Prime Minister is incompatible with the successful handling of our domestic policies. It is a total disaster when it is applied to foreign affairs.
§ Mr. Richard Luce (Shoreham)
When I made my resignation speech on 7 April I told the House that I had approached this issue with the greatest of humility. I do so in the same vein on this occasion.
Having listened to the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), I can say that he is a man with many qualities, but I think that even he would agree that the quality of humility is not high on his list. It seems extraordinary, if he were trying to be objective, that he did not refer to the fact that the Franks report contains considerable criticisms of the previous Government and their inaction over the occupation of Southern Thule. At the least, he might in passing have referred to it.
It is necessary, and I am sure that the House agrees, to show humility on this occasion, not least because since the early debates on 3 and 7 April, 255 brave men have died for the Falklanders, for our country, for justice and freedom. Moreover, we have now in front of us, the object of this debate, an objective report produced by Lord Franks and his team.
Like many others, I asked for this inquiry in April of last year, and I did so for three reasons. First, I thought that it was important to establish the truth. Secondly, I thought that it was essential to examine the damaging assertions made over the course of the few weeks after the invasion. Thirdly, I thought that it was important to learn lessons from what had happened, and lessons are there to be learnt.
Anyone who, like myself, asked for the inquiry and went on to welcome the composition of that inquiry—which included the right hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) and Lord Lever—and then turns round and criticises the report, calling it a "whitewash" or "dismal", has a heavy responsibility to justify his views to the House, or his motives will be open to suspicion. For my part, I accept and welcome the report. There are useful lessons to be learnt from it.
I accept my share of responsibility for the decisions which I helped to make when I was Minister of State. We all, including myself, have prejudices, but the value of this occasion is to try to approach this subject objectively. It is futile to have a sterile debate in which we seek to apportion blame to each other. It is an unattractive aspect of our adversarial system that there is an almost 934 instinctive, perhaps even an unconscious, demonstration of what I can only call the "Oklahoma" syndrome—continually playing the gramophone record to the tune ofAnything you can do I can do better,becomes tedious and boring for the public.
I prefer and admire the humble position of the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) who said at the opening of his speech:There but for the grace of God go I."—[Official Report, 25 January 1983; Vol. 35, c. 815.]None of us could, by any stretch of the imagination, call ourselves whiter than white. We all make mistakes, but, to judge from some of the remarks from the Labour Benches, the Labour party never made any mistakes. The right hon. Member for Devonport deserves to be listened to.
The truth is, as The Guardian put it on 19 January, that "if there are few villains, there are precious few heroes either." That is a fair summary of the background of the 15 years leading up to the invasion on 2 April. We now have the Franks report, and its two main conclusions, which it unanimously reached, that the invasion could not have been foreseen and that no blame or criticism is attached to the present Government for the aggression.
There are criticisms of successive Governments and there are lessons to be learnt. It would be extraordinary if there were not. The question that has been asked in the House and elsewhere is, why in these circumstances should Lord Carrington, my right hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Atkins) and myself have resigned on 5 April?
I explain once again to the House the reasons for our resignation. I hardly need explain to the House that there was, in the first week of April, a grave crisis. It was essential for the country to unite behind the Prime Minister and the Government. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office was the lead Department in this affair and the Ministers in that office were the target for a great deal of criticism. It was essential for the Prime Minister to lead the country with a team of Ministers at the Foreign Office who were not open to accusations about responsibility for the invasion or the inevitable recriminations that arose from that.
It was for that reason that the three of us decided that the honourable course was to resign. I believe that honour is not something to be despised. To this day I believe that that was the right decision to take, even though in Lord Carrington we lost one of our finest Foreign Secretaries in this century.
One of the aspects that has emerged during the course of the debate involves myself and the New York talks, and the phase immediately afterwards. To simplify it, the question has been posed, should our judgment at that time have led us to take precautionary measures? The right hon. Member for Devonport posed that question, as did the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil (Mr. Rowlands), although we are now dealing with this matter of judgment on a basis of hypothesis.
The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil spoke yesterday, and I listened to him carefully but decided not to interrupt, because that would have been discourteous in the circumstances. I have heard him make many impressive speeches. However, his speech yesterday was below his normal standards and he did not do justice to himself.
935 In the 1960s, the 1970s and the early 1980s we faced three options, which are set out in the report. The first was the policy which my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary described as reinforcement and isolation. The second was talks on non-sovereignty, which would soon have led to the first option. The third was to talk seriously on all aspects of the problem, including sovereignty.
I am firm in the view that successive Governments were right to see whether it was possible to find a modus vivendi so that the islanders and the people of Argentina could reconcile their interests if at all possible, subject always to the essential safeguard of which each Government always spoke—the consent of Parliament and of the islanders. That was the right policy.
It is against that background that I remind the House that no Government had decided to incur the substantial costs of establishing a permanent deterrent force, although there remained always a risk of military action, certainly, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister set out so clearly yesterday, from 1973 onwards. Each Government, one by one, thought that it was worth taking the risk and hoping that by keeping the dialogue going and searching for a modus vivendi it would not be necessary to resort to force or to send a permament deterrent force there. Of course, the dispatch of ships there temporarily could be helpful. It is not, however, a permament deterrent force. Indeed, one might argue that the Argentines, if they wanted to take action, would simply wait for the ships to withdraw, provided, of course, that they knew of the existence of the ships in the first place.
There have been successive dictatorships in Argentina. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) will rightly remind us, dictatorships are, or tend to be, unpredictable. Successive Governments have had the continuous problem of predicting the unpredictable, knowing that at no time did they ever have, of their own decision, a permanent defence force there. That is a difficult thing to do at any time.
There has been reference to the New York talks. The purpose of those talks was to discuss an Argentine proposal to establish a negotiating commission, which Argentina proposed should complete its work by the end of 1982. The principle of establishing a negotiating commission was acceptable to us. We accepted it, subject to Cabinet approval, in New York.
As the House will understand, we had considerable difficulties over the timing proposals of the Argentine Government. To have completed talks under the negotiating commission on all aspects of the problem by the end of 1982 would have been counterproductive and not at all sensible. We therefore reached a compromise which, I think, both sides thought acceptable. Paragraphs 294 and 296 set out, I believe reasonably fairly, the context in which we went into those talks.
After the talks came the unilateral communiqué—it did not reject everything that had been agreed, but was much harsher than the communiqué and the agreement in New York—and the harsh press criticisms, which were clearly designed, from the point of view of Argentina, to put extra pressure on us to get ahead with a negotiating commission. Naturally, we sought, through our ambassador, reassurances from Dr. Costa Mendez that Argentina intended to continue negotiations. That reassurance we gained.
Much attention has been focused on what happened on 5 March at the meeting which I attended and which was 936 chaired by Lord Carrington. Of course, as the Franks report displays, we examined ruthlessly every aspect of the problem. We came to the conclusion that Argentina would give the negotiating commission a try—although we would have to test the sincerity of Costa Mendez in view of the developments of the previous two or three days—but that if no progress was made there was a likelihood that Argentina would resort to the United Nations, that it might undertake a Spanish type blockade, as seen over Gibraltar, and that during 1982 it might decide on adventurist exercises of a military nature.
At that time, as the Franks report sets out, together with the background, we did not advise the Prime Minister that we should deploy ships. Paragraphs 327, 328, 329 and 330 give the background and show the sharp distinction that Lord Franks draws between the conditions in 1977, which were far more dangerous, according to the evidence, than the conditions at the end of February and in early March. Against that background, with hindsight, we all wish that we had sent ships in earlier months. However, if we strip hindsight from reality, which was the purpose of the Franks report, and look at the circumstances of the time, we see that the Franks report concludes that the actions that we took cannot be regarded as unreasonable. I have to say to the House, in all honesty, looking at the circumstances and stripping away hindsight, that I do not believe—Lord Carrington feels the same—that we would have done anything different.
What, therefore, are the lessons? I feel certain that there are lessons to be learnt on the intelligence side. When we are faced with problems of serious national interest, it is essential that the intelligence services should be in the best possible shape. I welcome the decision of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to appoint an independent chairman for that purpose.
Secondly, I should like to touch on the relations between the Government and Parliament. Those who suggest that Parliament should have been better educated by Ministers, of whatever Government, over the years talk in rather patronising terms. I believe, however, that successive Governments could have been more vigorous in inviting Parliament to face more sharply the options that confronted us. Indeed, one might speculate—
§ Mr. Andrew Faulds (Warley, East)
Does the hon. Gentleman not agree that the problems, so far as the House is concerned, are twofold? First, there is a staggering degree of ignorance about South America in all quarters of the House. Secondly, the problem is that no Government had the guts to direct British public attention to the need for the problem to be solved rationally.
§ Mr. Luce
The hon. Gentleman states, perhaps in a different way, what I am trying to say. I was intending to say that had we had the present kind of Select Committee system in the 1970s—a Select Committee that looked sharply at the options—there would not necessarily have been a different story, but at least there might have been greater understanding between the Government and Parliament. I welcome the fact that today we have a Select Committee that is looking at this problem, albeit late in the day.
The final lesson on which I wish to dwell relates to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. There have been allegations that officials ran the policy and that they did not put the national interest first. I recall many allegations 937 being made that the Foreign Office was rotten to the core with appeasement. Here, if anything, is an example of irresponsibility without power. Ministers, at all times, Labour and Conservative, have, as the evidence to Franks shows, been in charge and have taken policy decisions, as should be the case. They have been accountable to Parliament. Secondly, from my experience, Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials do put the national interest first.
British diplomacy, once praised, believe it or not, by General de Gaulle as the finest in the world, is designed to further British foreign policy and the national interest. We do not live in a cocoon in Britain. We have to live in the real world that surrounds us. We have to work with our friends. We have to talk and negotiate where necessary in order to reduce the risk of confrontation and war and to create stability. I would have thought that the efforts of our diplomats, on the instructions of the Government, to get resolution 502 passed was a supreme example of this.
I come now to the future. The very act of invasion, to my mind, has closed the prospect of talks with Argentina for the foreseeable future. But the problem will not go away. Even with a democratic Argentine Government, which we must hope will emerge one day, the very nature of the problem will not, in my view, change much. We have to begin to look to the longer term. There has to be the possibility of a broad approach and a framework in the southern Atlantic which, I believe, makes sense, particularly if Antarctica is included, which will permit common interests to be identified and where strategic interests can be reviewed in the widest possible sense. To that extent, I welcome the establishment of a Select Committee to look into these problems.
The House and the country will not forget how, against all the odds, 28,000 men and women responded to the outstanding leadership of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and showed the guts and the determination of which all can be justly proud. Nor should we forget that it was Galtieri and the junta who misjudged us and invaded. The lesson to the world, let alone to Argentina, is "Do not underestimate the British."
§ 6 pm
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)
The hon. Member for Shoreham (Mr. Luce) is a man who speaks with conviction and sincerity, and the House will always listen to someone who has the courage to resign when he thinks that it is in the interests of the country, or his Department, to do so. He comes from a family with a long record of public service, and I do not dispute in any way the conviction with which he put forward his views this afternoon.
Nevertheless, I must make two comments. First, the hon. Gentleman is one of the few people who comes out well in the Franks report:We acknowledge the skill with which Mr. Luce and Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials handled the formal talks".There are not many bouquets like that. He can be happy about that.
Secondly, I was sorry to hear him say that even if he had another 5 March he would not have advised sending ships. With respect, that was a misjudgment. It is not enough to say that it was a hindsight and we can all look at it with hindsight. The two contradictory statements—his 938 own communiqué, followed by the unilateral denunciation from Argentina—were enough, in my judgment, to set the alarm bells ringing.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I understand the hon. Gentleman. All that I can say in response is what I feel about the number of decisions that were taken at that time.
In reading the report I have tried to put myself into the position of officials, the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister. In my opinion, they relied too much on evidence coming from the Joint Intelligence Committee, and did not use their political nous enough. I feel very strongly that there was too much recourse at that time to what was being said and the careful analyses that were being put forward—which, I might add, differ in hardly any particular over a period of years. It is for civil servants to advise, it is for the JIC to interpret the documents, and for politicians to decide.
I in no way seek to make offensive points here, but the judgment was wrong. The Government had all the evidence, and the evidence pointed in different directions. The JIC's evidence pointed in favour of a distant invasion. The newspapers in Argentina pointed in the direction of an early invasion. Our ambassador in Buenos Aires talked to some of the newspaper editors and came to the conclusion that they were officially inspired. He reported that. Apparently, it was in the telegrams. The JIC's evidence must always be given great consideration and weight, but one must not rely just on the Red Book. The Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary sit where they sit because they have the political judgment and they have to make it. In my opinion, that is the case against which the Prime Minister does not have sufficient defence.
I shall cut out much of my speech, because the indictment of my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) was so powerful that there is no need for me to go over it again, and I shall not do so. However, I want to take up one or two points.
I take up immediately the point that was made by the hon. Member for Shoreham about Southern Thule. Here is an instance where Franks has got it wrong. I challenge Franks directly. Franks telescoped the story so much that it is inaccurate in detail and misleading in its conclusion. I shall demonstrate that. If hon. Members wish to refer to the matter, it is in paragraphs 52–56 of the report.
We all know now that Southern Thule is an uninhabited, remote and desolate island some 1,500 miles to the south-east of the Falkland Islands. It has not been inhabited, as far as I know, within living memory. On 4 January 1977, I saw a telegram which reported that there was an Argentine presence with tents and huts, flying the Argentine flag. At the same time I asked for an immediate report. The next day, having asked for an immediate report, the then Foreign Secretary summoned the chargé d'affaires of Argentina to the Foreign Office to explain the presence on Southern Thule. Action was taken immediately on the matter. The British ambassador, again under the instructions of the right hon. Gentleman, lodged a formal protest in Argentina. The Foreign Minister of Argentina said that the station was purely scientific, and he gave an assurance that the station would be withdrawn.
939 I ask hon. Gentlemen to read paragraphs 52–56. Do they see there any mention of the facts that the station was withdrawn? There is none. In fact, in March 1977 the station was withdrawn. Paragraph 57 says:On 14 February 1977 … a Buenos Aires weekly political news-sheet, published an article about the occupation of an 'island' (Southern Thule) in the South Sandwich Islands".It was occupied then. It had been occupied for about six or eight weeks.Argentina maintained a presence there and it was still in occupation at the time of the invasion of the Falkland Islands".
§ Mr. Callaghan
Perhaps the hon. Lady will allow me to finish the point, then I shall gladly give way.
There is an illusion there. In fact, the Argentines left Southern Thule in March 1977, and we did not know that they had returned, because they did not return again, until February 1978. There was bad faith. They went back. However, no one could judge from that account that the representations had been successful and that the Argentines had withdrawn and then, in bad faith, gone back again.
I am discussing the inaccuracies of the Franks report. For 338 paragraphs the Franks report painted a splendid picture, delineating the light and shade. The glowing colours came out. When Franks got to paragraph 339, he got fed up with the canvas that he was painting and chucked a bucket of whitewash over it.
I come back to the telescoped and therefore misleading account. The Defence and Overseas Policy Committee of the Labour Government met when we heard the information. We decided to reconfirm our sovereignty but at that stage not to send a task force. Would hon. Members have done anything different? I am sure that the Foreign Secretary would not have done anything different. He would not have sent a task force to recover the island. But, we said, in reconfirming sovereignty, we will endeavour to engage the Argentines again on the possibility of joint scientific activities without prejudice to our sovereignty. Was that a sensible way of looking at the matter? I say this to the hon. Member for Shoreham, because I dare say that these facts are not known to him, and certainly they are not known to many other people. The Argentines replied that they were very interested. They thought that there was a case for a joint scientific expedition. Perhaps, they added, we could have joint studies to quantify oil and fishing prospects around the dependencies.
The conclusion of that second occupation—none of which is referred to here—was that the then Foreign Secretary reported to me on 13 March 1979 that following the discussions that he and his officials had hadthere is agreement in principle. Argentina accept that their station on Thule will have no implications for sovereignty.That was the correct way to deal with the matter. I am not attacking the Government at this point. That was the correct way to handle the problems of the small uninhabited islands—keep the temperature down and do not get boxed in to the point of having to surrender or to fight.
The Prime Minister presumably agrees with me because she took no action on Southern Thule for the first three years and she was right to do so. I am not disagreeing with her. But that only illustrates the nature of the problem. By starting in 1965—a fair time to start because by that time the United Nations resolution had been put 940 through—Franks neglects earlier history. There is an earlier history to Southern Thule and it concerns the hon. Member for Shoreham.
In 1955 the Argentines established a base hut on Thule. They carried out radio transmissions. Protests were made but the Argentines remained. The Conservative Government made no attempt to remove them. I am not complaining; I am saying that no attempt was made to remove them. However, they evacuated eventually because of nearby volcanic activity. When last year the Prime Minister scorned us for not attempting to remove the Argentines from Southern Thule, saying that she had had to do it, did she know any of that history? I do not think she did. What is more, I do not think that Lord Franks did either.
§ Mr. Luce
I apologise for intervening twice, but whatever the rights and wrongs of the actions taken by successive Governments on this issue over the years, the main assertion that has been made is that the way in which we approached the Southern Thule problem was that it was one signal amongst many over several years to the Argentines that the British lacked resolution. That is the only point I was seeking to make and it seems wrong that Labour Members should not take it into account.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I take the hon. Gentleman's point. It really is a small matter—[Interruption.] It is small in relation to the problem but it is big because it illustrates what has to be done and how successive Governments tackled it. It is interesting from that point of view. I would not have spent so long on it had the hon. Gentleman not challenged us. However, having the facts, I might as well give them to the House.
The Government did not assess the Argentines' actions correctly. They therefore failed to respond in time. That is a matter of fact; it is not a matter of opinion. We can say whether they were culpable in failing to assess them, but they did. The second point is that the Argentine Government's mistake was that they believed that they would have a walkover. They were surprised at the strength of the British response, as both the hon. Member for Shoreham and my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East have said.
What would have given the Argentines reason for thinking that there would be a walkover? Southern Thule was a long time before but were there other, more proximate, reasons? I think there were. Paragraph 123 of the Franks report says:On 19 January 1982 the Governor of the Falkland Islands submitted his Annual Review for 1981. He noted that the Islanders' relations with both Britain and Argentina had deteriorated during the year.What were their suspicions? Their suspicions have already been mentioned. They were the refusal to grant British citizenship to Falkland Islanders in the British Nationality Bill, the announcement of the withdrawal of HMS Endurance, the financial cuts in the British Antarctic survey, and—note this—especially the threatened closure of its base at Grytviken in South Georgia. They were also concerned about the fact that there had been six overflights by Argentine air force aircraft without response—whether with protest Franks does not say.
That was what the Falkland Islanders were thinking. If they were thinking that, were not the Argentines thinking the same? They knew that they had overflown. They knew that we were threatening to close the Grytviken base. They 941 knew that we were proposing to withdraw HMS Endurance and they knew that we were not giving citizenship to the Falkland Islanders. What conclusion were they to draw at that time?
Those are some of the reasons why Galtieri made this blunder—of course, it was more than a blunder, it was a crime. Those are some of the reasons why he thought he would have a walkover and that all we would do was protest to the United Nations and get a resolution and that would be the end of it. I am not saying this without some background knowledge. However, he mistook the resolution of the House and the resolution, determination and stamina of the Prime Minister.
The British people have made up their minds about two issues. First, they think that the Prime Minister, at a time when some of her colleagues were faltering, saw the job through when there were difficult and great losses. I can well imagine the mental strain that she was under. The British people understand that. They support and applaud her. But they also believe—this is where I wish that she would go part of the way—that she could have made more effort and that she did not do her job properly before the moment when the war broke. My right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East has demonstrated that and I shall give only one more illustration of it.
I promised the Prime Minister that I would deal with the question of 1977. That has now been well rehearsed by my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil (Mr. Rowlands). In contrast to the hon. Member for Shoreham, I thought that he made a splendid speech and I congratulate him on it. He has been so bustling, aggressive and enthusiastic about it that there is no need for me to say much more about the question that I asked. I said in Cabinet that if we were asked—we are all betraying Cabinet secrets—to explain the presence of the force that was sent, we should say that it was being sent for normal exercise purposes.
When the hon. Member for Shoreham made his report on 30 March I asked a long question, which I shall not bore the House by reading. I summarise it. I asked the Minister whether when it became known that, without fuss or publicity, Britain had sent ships to the Falklands a diplomatic solution followed. I have reconsidered my question and I do not want to alter it. I stand by what I said. In paragraph 66 the Franks report goes on to say:We have found no evidence that the Argentine Government ever came to know of its"—the fleet's—existence … The Argentine threat receded, and it was agreed after the talks that the naval force could be withdrawn".Both those statements are accurate. I offered no evidence to the Franks committee on the matter. I discussed it with the Franks committee, and I decided, and it of course agreed, that I should not offer evidence on it. However, both statements are accurate and I am not ready to go further today than what I said at that time.
The major issue at that time—I know that some hon. Members are trying to push this as though it was the only thing that mattered—is the point that was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil—that we were there. We were in a position—this is also in the Cabinet minutes—to buttress our negotiations were they to break down. We were not able to repel the full assault but we 942 were there and able to do so. That was the point about 1977 and I hope that the House will understand that I cannot go any further at this time.
§ Mr. Ivor Stanbrook (Orpington)
The right hon. Gentleman is being very tantalising. Did the Argentine authorities know or not?
§ Mr. Callaghan
I am not going any further into that matter.
In view of another question that has been raised I should say that the Chief of the Defence Staff told us that the force that it was proposed to send was appropriate. That is the difference between 1977 and 1982. November 1977 was only one incident, but there were many others before and after. Towards the end of 1978, the Government whom I had the honour to head wished to demonstrate to the Falkland Islanders our continued concern and our willingness to defend them. We also wished to demonstrate our concern to Argentina. We took the very important decision that there should be a programme of regular visits by Royal Navy ships to the Falkland Islands, to begin in April of the following year, 1979.
As part of the deployment we understood from the Ministry of Defence that some ships would be visiting Brazil at that time and that they would go on from there to the Falklands. What was the purpose of those periodical visits and the presence of those ships? In the words of the minute, the visits would beessential visual evidence of Her Majesty's Government commitment to defend our dependent territories.In April 1979, we were all engaged in other affairs. I do not know, and I have not inquired, whether a ship was dispatched as it should have been under the direction of the Cabinet minute of April 1979. On 3 May, the Prime Minister took over. The decision had been made to make periodic and regular visits. I ask the right hon. Lady: what happened to the policy? Were ships sent, and, if so, on how many occasions?
If there was an announcement that Endurance was to be withdrawn—such an announcement was made—nothing would have more clearly signalled to Argentina our commitment to the Falkland Islands than regular, periodic visits by Royal Navy ships to Port Stanley. Perhaps the Prime Minister was not told about the policy. Perhaps when my back was turned the Ministry of Defence went back into its bad old ways. I do not know. There is no reason why the Prime Minister should not have reached a similar decision after she had reflected on the matter. Had she done so, that signal would have offset nearly every other signal that suggested that we were weakening in our determination. There was strong evidence in the summer of 1981 that the Argentine Government were turning up the heat. Paragraph 97 of the Franks report clearly shows the Argentine Government's view.
I return to the point about Ministers not discussing the matter collectively. Lord Carrington dismissed the problem, as I would expect someone from another place to do, by saying that one cannot carry on government by continuous committee. It is a great pity that Lord Carrington never had the discipline of the House of Commons. Since the days of the great Lord Salisbury, every time we have had a Foreign Secretary in the House of Lords it has always been a disaster in the end. That is a lesson that we should learn. We should have the Foreign 943 Secretary in this Chamber. We should have made clear to him our view of the Falkland problem and he might have had to attend a few meetings.
Lord Carrington sent a long minute to the Prime Minister on 14 September 1981, which stated:The risk of ultimately becoming involved in a military confrontation could not be discounted … Supplying and defending the Islands would be both difficult and costly.It was important to realise that if we were heading in that direction in August and September 1981.
At the same time, the chiefs of staff—not under the directions of the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary or the Ministry of Defence but of their own volition—made what they called a short politico-military assessment of the United Kingdom's ability to respond militarily. They completed the assessment on 14 September 1981. It noted that Argentina had built up some of the most efficient armed forces in South America. They concluded that the British military response would primarily have to be a naval one.
It is extraordinary that those two papers—the minute from the Foreign Secretary stating that we were perhaps heading for a military confrontation, followed by a paper from the chiefs of staff on 14 September, which they approved, pointing out the difficulties that we would have—were not considered sufficient to call a meeting for Ministers to consider the problem collectively.
I feel ashamed that the Government acted in such a half-hearted way. It is absurd to think that such a matter should not demand a meeting. Lord Carrington could have asked for the meeting. All of us have a different way of conducting our affairs, but I say to the Prime Minister that if I had been in that position and seen those papers I should have called such a meeting. We would have had one, and we should have tried to work out what we would do faced with the possibility of an attack on the Falklands.
On 14 September the chiefs of staff memorandum with its politico-military assessment was ignored. Paragraph 113 of the Franks report states:In the period that the Chiefs of Staff paper was being prepared there was some anxiety … about the lack of detailed contingency plans for the protection of the Falkland Islands themselves and of the Royal Marine platoon there. … The Assistant Chief of the Defence Staff (Operations) reported that"—to the commander-in-chief's committee, not to Ministers—pending consideration of the Chiefs of Staff paper by the Defence Committee, there was no enthusiasm in the Ministry of Defence for detailed contingency planning.He reported that in September 1981. Between then and February 1982, neither of those papers, which were of the utmost significance, was considered by either the Defence Committee or the Cabinet. That is a disgrace and a dereliction of duty on the part of those responsible. Apparently the reason why there was no urgency was lethargy. Ministers are open to severe criticism about that.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East said, that omission had consequences later. When the fatal day arrived—described in paragraph 333—and we could see that an invasion was imminent, the Prime Minister contacted President Reagan and asked him to make it clear to the Argentine Government that the Government could not acquiesce in action against the Falklands. Could one imagine anything more feeble than those words, "could not acquiesce"? I am glad that President Reagan was entrusted with his Latin phrase and stepped it up a bit.
944 The excuse that the right hon. Lady gave is that she wanted to know, but could not without the collective advice of the chiefs of staff, whether an operation to retake the islands was feasible. Nor, she said, was it possible to go further without the approval of the Cabinet. Why did she not get the approval of the Cabinet earlier? Why did she wait until then in order to get these things put right? Those matters should have been prepared, and in her heart the right hon. Lady knows it.
When it seems that we are looking for scapegoats, more charity would be extended to the right hon. Lady if she could ever bring herself to admit that sometimes she was wrong. She had a most difficult decision to take. Everyone involved did, and I do not envy them their task. I agree with the right hon. Member for Devonport. The Government cannot escape the fact that they got it wrong, but they could have considered the problem much more carefully.
That damning sentence—about wishing to know whether an operation was feasible—makes the case against the Prime Minister for failing to exercise sufficient control and oversight over what was happening within her own Cabinet. Because of a lack of vigilance and foresight in the months leading up to the invasion the Government are guilty of an error of judgment in preparing to meet an act of aggression. It is impossible for anyone to escape that conclusion, except, apparently, Lord Franks. The Government can argue that the official intelligence that reached them did not warn them strongly enough, but they are not eunuchs. I shall not develop the point. The Government should have applied the political touch to the matter and made their own decisions. I cannot think of a previous Prime Minister who would not have done so, whether it be Sir Anthony Eden, Churchill, or Clement Attlee. They would all have been much more conscious of the problems that would be faced once the islands were taken and we had to set out to retake them.
I disagree with those—and agree entirely with the hon. Member for Shoreham—who have criticised the policy of successive Governments or the attitude of Foreign Office officials. Those of us who had to study the problems did all that we could and did the best job that we could in that position. That includes the right hon. Lady's Government up to the middle of 1981, when there was an attack of Micawberism and apparently no initiatives were taken. If I had to make a contrast in my favour on this matter it is possible to examine the record for every year and see that my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil and the right hon. Member for Devonport tried all the time to seek new initiatives. If we ran into the sand we would try to find something else. I did not believe in the need for permanent deterrents, unlike the hon. Member for Shoreham. Once anyone there knew that we were determined to fight and could do so, any invasion would have been called off. Of course, there are difficulties in dealing with a junta, which by its nature is a dictatorship. It would be preferable to deal with a democratic Argentina.
We must wait for some time before discussions can begin, but I trust that the right hon. Lady understands that we shall not be content, for our sakes as well as for the sake of the islanders and our relations with our friends in Europe, the United States and South America, just to stand pat now. We should be understanding, and not push the Government too soon. As has been rightly said, the islanders have time to consider their position, but we must be prepared to consider at the appropriate time all the 945 solutions that have been put forward. If Argentina will be reasonable about the matter and not insist on absolute sovereignty, we can make any number of agreements, even with the junta, that would enable the people of the Falkland Islands to enjoy a more secure life than they will have, even in the armed camp that exists now. There are other suggestions, such as extending the Antarctic treaty or a United Nations trusteeship. One good thing that has emerged from the lamentable affair is that hon. Members and the British people are at least aware of the problems that we face with some of those small territories. We have dealt with Belize, although we have committed troops there and we must watch the position. However, we escaped from Belize in the end. Other countries are still with us. We should build on this in the House. We must carry the country with us when we try to settle those affairs, because educated and informed public opinion is the most reliable thing in a democracy.
We have not heard the last of this matter and the House must return to it on many occasions. I hope that once this debate is out of the way, and we have all said our piece, we can get on and think about the future of the islanders as well as our relations with them and with other countries. But if I must sum up the past decade, I do so by saying that there was a Labour Government who preserved an honourable peace and a Conservative Government who won a costly war.
§ Sir John Nott (St. Ives)
My right hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton), in a short and excellent speech yesterday, said most of what I wish to say today. For myself I am prepared to rest on the Franks report in its entirety. The terms of reference of the committee were agreed by the official Opposition. Indeed, I recollect that the terms of reference were amended at the request of the Leader of the Opposition. The membership of the Franks committee was agreed by the Leader of the Opposition and by all the principal parties in the House. For a former Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), who does not like the outcome of such a report, to state that it is a whitewash does no great service to the constitutional process of this country or to our ability to conduct inquiries of this kind.
I am not in a mood for either self-justification or recrimination. The British people have had enough of both. It was a tragic event, but we won. No Government have existed, nor will a Government ever exist, that can say with the benefit of hindsight that they might not have done a few things differently. In the real world of government, that will always be so. We happened to be in power when a dictator chanced his luck. We responded, and the dictator failed. To this day, it astonishes me how little went wrong in what, by any standards, must have been one of the most remarkable military achievements of modern times.
I accept that this debate is not about the conflict but about the days, months and years leading up to the invasion. Like many hon. Members, I have retraced my steps to the pre-invasion days in March, and while I recognise with the benefit of hindsight that some things might have been done differently, in the round Franks is 946 right. There is no evidence in his report that an act of unprovoked aggression would have been prevented had we acted differently at the time.
I understand that the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East is distressd, after all that he has said over many months, that the Franks report has vindicated the Government, and made the right hon. Gentleman look rather ridiculous. [Interruption.] The Franks report does not whitewash the right hon. Gentleman, who, throughout the months of conflict, stuck to his story that the Argentines knew about the 1977 deployment. He denied that that was a covert deployment. In response to his remarks a moment ago, I ask him why he was unwilling to tell the Franks committee—a very distinguished group of Privy Councillors—about his reasons for saying that in the House. All the evidence given to the Franks committee was secret and much of it was of the highest security sensitivity. If the right hon. Gentleman wished to say anything of a sensitive nature to the Franks committee in order to justify his claim, the committee would have respected it because it was dealing with such evidence; and I do not doubt that it would have made a statement to that effect.
Yet the right hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Rees), the former Home Secretary, and Lord Lever were both on that Committee and put their names to a report that states clearly that no evidence was produced to show that the deployment was known to the Argentines. Had the right hon. Gentleman been a Minister when he made those repeated claims to the House about the 1977 deployment, he would have been accused of misleading the House and he would have been charged by the House to justify his claim. He still has not done so.
I said in the difficult Saturday debate—[Interruption.] I said in the difficult and disastrous Saturday debate, and I repeat it today, that if that deployment had been covert it could not have had a deterrent impact. However, if it was known, then it was an irresponsible exercise to place undefended frigates within the range of a navy several times their size and with a significant capability to strike with land-based or carrier-based aircraft at undefended frigates in the South Atlantic. I must say to the right hon. Gentleman that if it was known to the Argentines, then it was an utterly irresponsible act to have been undertaken by the Prime Minister at the time.
I must remind the right hon. Gentleman that such a deployment was against the advice of our chiefs of staff. As the Franks report makes very clear, since the paper was substantially in every detail the same paper that the right hon. Gentleman as Prime Minister had before him at the time, I am puzzled that the chiefs of staff gave different advice to him from that which they gave to us. I suspect that what happened was that the then Prime Minister insisted that frigates should be deployed and the chiefs of staff acceded to that request, but I have no means of knowing. All I know is that the chiefs of staff advised us against it and I believe that the deployment of two frigates in that situation would have been an irresponsible act.
§ Mr. James Callaghan
I will not answer the first question the right hon. Gentleman asked me. I went into it in some detail with Franks; there are asterisks in the report and I do not propose to go further. As regards the position of the frigates, the only error I made in my supplementary question, because it was a supplementary question, was that I said 400 miles when it should have 947 been 1,000 miles. They were out of range. That disposes of that argument. As regards the position of the chiefs of staff, if they are to be brought into it, the note is thatthe chief of the defence staff said the proposed force was appropriate".
§ Sir John Nott
As someone who was more than preoccupied for many months in keeping British naval ships out of the range of Argentine aircraft, I assure the right hon. Gentleman that 1,000 miles off the coast of Argentina was not outside the range of the Argentine aircraft carrier with its embarked aircraft. The aircraft carrier had a range stretching far further into the Atlantic than 1,000 miles. With hindsight, which is what this debate is all about, I believe that the deployment of a surface presence by us would only have served to precipitate the event we were trying to avoid and that my noble Friend was quite correct to reject it.
That brings me to the deployment of a nuclear submarine. Much has been made of this. Again, since I did not have the luxury of hindsight at the time, let me do what the right hon. Gentleman, the Leader of the Opposition and the Opposition Front Bench have been indulging in ever since; let me have the luxury on this occasion of indulging in some hindsight myself.
First, may I say that there was never any complete means of defending the Falkland Islands against aggression without the maintenance of the kind of garrison, the kind of radar and the kind of combat aircraft cover that we have deployed there now. It was either garrison Falklands or a trip wire of a kind which successive Governments had positioned in the Falkland Islands, because rightly they were not prepared to go for garrison Falklands. We knew the Argentines had an airborne capability, and frigates and SSNs, no matter how many had been there, could not have prevented an airborne landing in the Falkland Islands.
It is worth recalling—I speak here from memory—that the Argentines moved up to 1,000 men into Stanley by Hercules aircraft within 24 hours of the first seaborne landing. It is simply not the case that an SSN or frigates could have effectively defended the Falkland Islands against the airborne capability which we knew perfectly well the Argentines possessed.
Since, as Franks confirmed, we had no intelligence until 31 March of a possible invasion, it was clearly out of the question to respond to each and every outbreak of Argentine belligerence by moving a large garrison to the Falkland Islands. We could not do this each time the newspapers raised a scare. Such a policy had rightly been rejected by all Governments.
Secondly, although I do not deny, again using hindsight, that had we possessed different intelligence we might have positioned an SSN in the South Atlantic to have had it available if required, I have considered with great care the simple question what we would have done if an SSN had been there on 2 April and we had been faced with an invasion at that time.
After the sense of real shock understandably expressed by Parliament at the loss of life in the sinking of the Belgrano and felt, I may say, very strongly by me at the time, and the attacks made on the Government by right hon. Members of the Opposition at the sinking of the Belgrano, I was astonished only yesterday to learn that the then Labour Government under the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East, according to the story told by the right 948 hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) who was Foreign Secretary at the time, gave authority apparently to the submarine commander to sink laden ships in international waters 50 miles from British territory before a single shot had even been fired. No resolution 502 there; no recourse to article 51 of the United Nations charter there. For a member of a Government that sent a submarine to sink unprovoked ships on the high seas before a single shot had been fired to have lectured us on the United Nations charter—
§ Dr. David Owen (Plymouth, Devonport)
Is the right hon. Gentleman saying to the House that, if he had covertly sent an SSN on 8 March and it had been around the Falkland Islands on 1 April, he would not have sought to warn the oncoming Argentine fleet that if it came within a 50-mile zone of the Falklands it would be shot at? Is he really saying that he would have stood back and waited while such a fleet came into the exclusion zone and not have authorised the firing of a torpedo, but would instead have gone to the United Nations and invoked the UN charter? If that is what the right hon. Gentleman, who was Defence Secretary at the time, thought, no wonder the invasion took place.
§ Sir John Nott
I had with my right hon. Friends and with the chiefs of staff day by day to take the most difficult decisions on the rules of engagement. I assure the right hon. Gentleman that never did I take a decision on rules of engagement with my colleagues without first considering what would happen if our bluff was called. I have subsequently considered the question what we would have done, and my view of the matter is clear. If an SSN had fired a torpedo outside British territorial waters at an Argentine merchant ship approaching the Falkland Islands at that time we would have been condemned as the aggressor by the whole world. We would have had no support from any allies. Indeed, the more I consider the 1977 deployment, the more I realise what an irresponsible and useless act it was.
The nuclear submarines, which performed so brilliantly in the campaign—no one is a greater enthusiast for them than I—have now acquired a magic reputation. Had an SSN in the sea area surrounding the Falklands interdicted a seaborne invasion—and there is no assurance of that—it is likely that such an invasion would have been accompanied by conventional submarines, the most dangerous weapon for use against the SSN. We knew perfectly well that Argentine submarines had exercised with American nuclear submarines and, thus, that the Argentine submarines knew how to deal with SSNs. Such an invasion would have been accompanied by a conventional submarine and other anti-submarine warfare assets, and it is facile to suggest that an SSN alone could have stopped that invasion.
The right hon. Member for Devonport, I suspect, got it wrong. I doubt whether the rules of engagement were quite as he suggested. That is my personal opinion, and I would need to check. However, it seems more likely that the rules of engagement stated that the SSN should interdict an approaching vessel, check it out, give it a warning and use the minimum force. It would have been irresponsible to give that order, for it would have forced the submarine to the surface to challenge an Argentine surface ship. No sane person would ever advise a nuclear submarine to do that.
949 The story of the 1977 deployment is impossible to understand, and I reject—as I rejected in the Saturday debate—the fact that that had any deterrent impact at all.
I come briefly to Endurance. At the time of the Endurance announcement we made it clear that naval ships would deploy occasionally to the Falklands. It was necessary for me to bring the defence budget back into balance with the 3 per cent. growth. The naval staff recommended to me, as it had recommended to my predecessors, the scrapping of Endurance. It was either Endurance or another frigate, because the cost of running a frigate—a major defence asset—was approximately the same as the cost of running Endurance.
Speaking purely from a narrow defence interest, it made no sense at all to retain a ship that had no real defence capability—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]. The right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) would have taken the same decision had he been in charge. To hear the Leader of the Opposition call in aid the Admiral of the Fleet "Lord Hill-Dreadnorton" is one of the most amusing things that I have ever heard. Given, too, what the right hon. Member for Leeds, East did when Secretary of State for Defence, he finds an odd ally in Lord Hill-Norton.
After the aggression took place, I did not deny that the Endurance decision might have been taken as a signal. I accept that as an ex-post facto judgment. However, it cannot seriously be suggested that it was a central issue of the time. The right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East tried to defend his position on Southern Thule. The Franks committee looked at that and said that the arrival of the Argentines on British sovereign territory, the fact that they remained there and came back in 1978 was clearly a much greater signal than the removal of Endurance could ever be.
The right hon. Gentleman took the first decision not to extend the airfield. While he was deploying frigates to Argentina, his Government were selling them type 42 destroyers. In fact, the right hon. Gentleman gave many more signals to Argentina, including lease-back, than I ever gave by saying that we would withdraw Endurance and deploy an occasional frigate in her place.
§ Mr. James Callaghan
We did extend the runway. Secondly, if the right hon. Gentleman believes that Southern Thule was such a terrible signal, why, for three years, did he not remove the Argentine base hut? It was there for only the last year of our regime, but he had three years in which to remove it if he thought that it was so wrong. Why did he not attempt to do so?
§ Sir John Nott
I am merely saying—[HON. MEMBERS: "Answer"]—I shall try to answer—that as a result of the list of signals given to the Argentine of Great Britain's declining interest in the Falkland Islands, nobody with hindsight can suggest that the withdrawal of Endurance and the announcement that we would deploy frigates in her place was anything like the strength of signal given as a result of the right hon. Gentleman's failure to remove the Argentines from Southern Thule.
§ Mr. Healey
The right hon. Gentleman says no one can suggest that. However, that was done by the Foreign Secretary persistently for more than a year. The Falkland Islanders did so, as did the ambassador and many of his hon. Friends. He ignored them all. Does the right hon. Gentleman regard them as nobodies?
§ Sir John Nott
The right hon. Gentleman made a weak speech and he has said all that already. The truth of the affair is simple. The Argentines believed, as many other nations had come to believe, that the British people had lost the will to take firm and resolute action. It is as simple as that. They believed that British Governments had lost the will to respond. I suspect that historians will judge that that charge will more easily lie at the door of successive Governments of a Social Democratic-Labour kind than the Government of whom my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is leader.
The right hon. Member for Leeds, East, made much of the failure to call a meeting of the defence committee to consider Falklands policy. I am at a loss to see why such a meeting was required. That is what I told the Franks committee. On average, the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and myself met once, sometimes twice, a day. There was a continuing dialogue between us on the widest range of issues, and the main strands of our Falklands policy were agreed.
I supported wholly Lord Carrington's approach. When the South Georgia landing took place, the only sensible policy was one of diplomacy and not the threat of force. Lord Carrington was worried, and so was I, that any deployment of even an SSN would become known at that juncture and aggravate the crisis. As it happens, the deployment of an SSN on 29 March, or speculation of it, was all over the British newspapers within 36 hours. It might have made it all the more difficult for the junta to retreat from its position on South Georgia.
May we call it a day, now that we are concluding an inquest on the inquest, which the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition asked to be set up and agreed, but of which he apparently does not like the conclusions because they have spoilt his fun? Outside the world of Parliament, I believe that the people want to look to the future.
The right hon. Member for Devonport made an excellent speech yesterday. I wish that he had been the Labour Party's spokesman throughout the Falklands campaign. Many brave people died defending the islanders' liberties. I can say to the right hon. Gentleman that no former Minister of Defence, knowing the awful power of the Soviet forces that threaten us, can want a single soldier, sailor or airman to spend one day more in the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic than is absolutely necessary.
We can all talk of the need for a solution to the problem, as we have been talking about it for 20 years, but no one in this debate, nor over the earlier period, has provided such a solution. While they do not do so, we must continue to defend British citizens and territory in that part of the world.
It is my privilege to have served alongside our services when they were engaged in a hazardous and extremely difficult operation, and to have served under a great leader; and it fell to me to report to the House, which was never easy, the tragic loss of life which resulted from the Argentine aggression. If I felt responsible for that tragic loss of life, I should certainly feel a sense of shame; but I do not, and the Franks report has not found the Government responsible. I hope that we can now put this behind us, and look to the nation's future, or we face a much greater threat, if only all parts of the House could see it.
§ 7.2 pm
§ Mr. Donald Stewart (Western Isles)
In his plea of mitigation the right hon. Member for St. Ives (Sir J. Nott) claimed that he lacked the benefit of hindsight at the time of the invasion, but the charge is that foresight was then in short supply.
It is not surprising that the right hon. Gentleman, the Prime Minister and members of the Government should welcome the report, because it has been a lifebelt for them, and they have snatched it with both hands. The same applies to the pleas to let bygones be bygones and to forget all about it. That would suit them down to the ground. Unfortunately, we had to pay a price for what was done and we should learn lessons from it.
An American lawyer is alleged to have ended his peroration to the jury by saying thatthese are the conclusions on which I base my facts.I should not go as far as that about the Franks report. I thought that the facts were accurate until the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) said that in places even the facts were not as accurate as they ought to be.
It is scarcely credible that the invasion came "out of the blue" as the Prime Minster has claimed. General Haig's view, as related to Sir Nicholas Henderson, was that for some time the junta had been bent on the invasion. Other evidence has been forthcoming to support that view, although we are asked to believe that it was a sudden brainstorm of Galtieri within a couple of days of the invasion force moving off.
If the Prime Minister is to be compared to historical figures—Churchill and so on—which seems to be a frequent practice of Conservative Members, the one that springs to mind—in this one respect only—is Nelson, who put his telescope to his blind eye in defiance of the plainest signal. There was no lack of signals for the Argentines to read.
The right hon. Member for St. Ives dealt in some detail with the withdrawal of HMS Endurance, and this is my main point. The intention to withdraw HMS Endurance was probably the greatest signal for the Argentine. It is a feeble riposte by the Prime Minster and the Government to say that the presence of HMS Endurance, in the event, did not prevent the invasion, or, as the right hon. Gentleman said, that the vessel had "no defence capability". What counts is that the decision showed a lack of commitment to the people of the Falkland Islands.
In the only quotation that I shall make from the report, I submit that that fact is brought out clearly. Paragraph 286 states:We recognise the limited military value of this vessel; but, as the only regular Royal Navy presence in the area, her symbolic role was important in relation to Argentina".Later the report states:HMS 'Endurance', as a token of the Government's commitment to the defence of the Falkland Islands and the Dependencies, was a valuable complement to that. That was clearly borne out by the press and intelligence reports of Argentine reactions to the decision to pay her off.The warning was spelt out in February 1982 by the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East—this is where the right hon. Member for St. Ives is weak in talking about hindsight—when he spoke of the proposed withdrawal of the vessel asan error that could have serious consequences."—[Official Report, 9 February 1982; Vol. 17, c. 856.]952 President Truman was reputed to have a notice on his desk which read "The buck stops here." The Prime Minister's desk should have a motto reading "The buck stops anywhere but here." As many speakers have emphasised, the right hon. Lady is not prepared to accept responsibility, but even if she was not in possession of the full facts, as Prime Minister in charge of the Cabinet she cannot avoid responsibility.
I supported the sending of the task force. I have no reason to believe that any other option was then open to the Government. I still believe that in the circumstances that was the correct thing to do. I did not support the people of the Falkland Islands with the hope of keeping a certain piece of land coloured red on the map.
The Argentine invasion presents us with a new position. A "Fortress Falklands" stretching into the foreseeable future is nonsense. The Prime Minister has said a good deal about the Falkland Islanders' wish to remain British. One wonders what she said to the 400 islanders who were to be deprived of British citizenship by the Government's mean-minded legislation.
Many of us, in different parties, have been pressing successive Governments for modest expenditure in the Falklands. It was turned down, to be replaced today by astronomical costs. Moderate outlays may have convinced Argentina of the British Government's serious commitment to the islands. I do not believe that any British Government will shoulder the current burden indefinitely. Sooner, rather than later, the islanders will recognise that the status quo cannot be regained.
An 80-year-old woman has been flown to the United Kingdom for an operation on her hip. That is untenable for serious illness or injury in the future. One Falkland Islander said on the radio, at about the time of the invasion, that he had three daughters and that a big garrison would mean that they would be courted by soldiers, who would marry them and take them away. The result would be an ageing population in the islands. The islanders will now be aware of the threat of Argentine hostility, which could erupt at any time into attack.
Like the hon. Member for Surbiton (Sir N. Fisher), I have been a supporter and defender of the Falkland islanders' interests, but, unlike the hon. Gentleman, I accept that no arrangement can be made now. As the Foreign Secretary said today, the scars are too fresh. I do not think that anybody would quarrel with that.
We have a new situation that demands a new answer at the end of the day. One hopes that a democratic Government will come to power in Argentina and that the British Government will face the situation before them.
§ 7.9 pm
§ Sir Bernard Braine (Essex, South-East)
Like the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), I gave evidence to the Franks committee, but, unlike him, I make no criticism of what is in the report. Given its terms of reference, I think that the committee of inquiry tackled an immensely difficult task and performed it very well.
One can understand the mortification of those who hoped that the report would provide material for the impeachment of Ministers, especially, of course, the Prime Minister, for high crimes and misdemeanours. How discomfited they must have been by its final conclusion that no blame can be attributed to the present Government for the Argentine invasion of 2 April.
953 It would be far better to start by recognising, as my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary did this afternoon, who was to blame for that act of aggression. It was the Argentine junta, and no one else. It would be far better to acknowledge from the outset that the errors and miscalculations—and they were many—of successive Governments were redeemed in a sense by the courage and resolution of the Prime Minister. If it had not been for her—if matters had been left, for example, to the prescriptions of some among us in this House and many outside—we would not have recovered the islands from the aggressors. Of that I am convinced.
I thought that the Prime Minister put her finger unerringly on the crucial point when she said yesterday:No solution which satisfied the Argentine demand for sovereignty pure and simple could possibly be reconciled with the wishes of the islanders or of this House."—[Official Report, 25 January 1983; Vol. 35, c. 795.]That should have been seen from the beginning, in the mid-1960s, when the issue was first raised in a major way. It was certainly seen by many of us in this House but not, alas, by those in successive Governments who determine policy. I cannot fully accept therefore the account that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary gave of the conduct of policy. The facts point in a somewhat different direction.
It can be demonstrated that, although no Government would have defaulted on the promise to consult the Falkland Islanders' wishes, efforts were constantly made to weaken their resolution by forcing them into increasing dependence for their external communications upon Argentina and by discouraging investment and development. It was a matter of time, of playing it long. There was certainly a combination of confused objectives—outright cession in 1968, condominium in 1973 and lease-back in 1980, and, as I shall show, from 1976 onward an appalling moral blindness.
Initially, there was the failure to understand that, as the process of decolonisation gathered momentum in the late 1950s and 1960s everywhere else in the former colonial empire—a healthy and necessary process and one very much to the credit of our country—the Falklands were an exception. It was ironic that this, the one dependency that was paying its way, was completely debt free and was making a net contribution to the British balance of payments and yet it was left out of account.
Since the idea of integration with the mother country was not acceptable here, there was a clear failure to ensure proper constitutional development, as in every other colony. Was that a deliberate act of policy designed to avoid annoying the Argentines?
I can reveal to the House for the first time that between 1972 and 1975 communications from the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association to elected legislators in the Falkland Islands were sent but were never received. Falkland Island legislators were effectively cut of from any contact with their fellow parliamentarians in the Commonwealth for two and a half years. Were these letters intercepted? Was there a misunderstanding? Or was this by design? If by design, what was the purpose? Was it to isolate the islands' leaders the better to exert pressure upon them? The information is there in the 954 Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. There ought to be an inquiry into the matter. I told the Franks committee about it; I see no reference to it in the report.
Then there was the failure to ensure appropriate economic development and to implement the admirable Shackleton proposals with Argentine co-operation if it could be secured, but without it if necessary.
§ Mr. Russell Johnston (Inverness)
Before the hon. Gentleman leaves that point, which is new to the House, I am puzzled to know why the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, since it received no response and would normally expect one, did not pursue the matter then. Could he please explain that?
§ Sir Bernard Braine
The matter was pursued by correspondence by the Secretary-General, Sir Robin Vanderfelt, and I checked the statement that I have just made with him earlier today.
I suggest that early inquiries be made about the matter. It is very serious indeed, and I find it very difficult to understand why it has not been pursued.
There was also the failure to realise after the military coup in March 1976 that it would be politically unwise and morally wrong to engage in negotiations on transferring sovereignty over the islands to a cruel and repressive regime, openly condemned at that time by world opinion for its appalling violations of basic human rights. There was the failure to insist before such negotiations began that the Argentine Government should provide information about the fate of British and other European Community nationals who were known to have disappeared into the junta's prisons and torture chambers.
It was not that successive British Governments wanted to betray the Falkland Islanders—after all, repeated promises had been made in the House that there would be no transfer of sovereignty without consulting them—but that their postures, if not their actions, or inaction, so often gave the Argentines the impression that they would do so in the end, more by neglect than by abandonment. The impression was given that the Falklands were a nuisance, an obstacle to improving relations with an important Latin American country which offered a lucrative market for our exports, including, if I may say so, arms. Was it not the case that the Labour Government would have sold Harriers to the Argentines if they had wanted them?
The real story is disgraceful. There is a perceptive passage in Joe Haines' book "The Politics of Power" which shows how the decision-makers viewed the matter. Mr. Haines, it will be remembered, was the very able press secretary of the right hon. Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson) when he was Prime Minister. He wrote:If it were possible to compress the FCO's ideal world into a single concept I suppose it would look something like a Common Market peopled entirely by crusading, anti-Communist Bedouin. If I lived in Gibraltar or the Falkland Islands I would not sleep at night for worrying about it, because so far as policy is concerned those terroritories are peripheral.My concern therefore is not with what the Franks report says, but with what it does not say; not with the reasons why negotiations with Argentina were not pressed with more skill, vigour and imagination, but with why after the Fascist coup in March 1976, when it quickly became clear that the junta was palpably unfit to govern its own people, negotiations were pressed at all.
Consider the situation in Argentina by February 1977 when the then Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary 955 announced in the House that he was reopening negotiations and would be sending out a Minister of State to pave the way.
The Leader of the Opposition yesterday said that in his day mistakes did not result in the loss of lives. He is forgetful. The first casualties of the Argentine junta were not British service men or Falkland Islanders; they were Argentine. On the very day on which the Minister of State went to Buenos Aires—I am sorry that he is not here, because I should like to say this to his face—on 21 February 1977 and confirmed that Britain was prepared to discuss the issue of sovereignty, evidence was given by Argentine human rights activists to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva that up to that date 2,300 people had been murdered and more than 20,000 people had disappeared. According to The Times of 22 February, the witnesses gave details of appalling tortures.
There is another item of information which was not revealed to the House until I dragged it out. Among the "disappeared" at that time was a British subject, Walter Nelson Fleury, aged 22, who had been abducted in Buenos Aires in August 1976. He has never been heard of since.
All the civilised world had known about the savage turn of events in Argentina before the reopening of negotiations, save Whitehall—or did it know and choose to turn a blind eye? A United States Congressional Committee had taken evidence of the appalling crimes being committed. President Giscard d'Estaing of France had protested against the abduction and almost certain murder of French nuns. The Catholic Institute for International Relations had published details of kidnapping and murder of priests by the brave Argentina navy, and the killing of the bishop of La Rioja in an arranged car accident after he protested against the repeated violations of human rights.
Later on, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights reported to the Organisation of American States that large numbers of people had been killed while in detention, that thousands had disappeared and must be presumed dead, that torture and other cruel and degrading treatment has been used systematically and that the right to fair trial had been denied.
The House should know that the methods of torture and killing were unbelievably cruel. The testimony of Graciele Geuna about her treatment and that of fellow prisoners in the La Perla camp at Cordoba published by Amnesty International—information available to any Member who chooses to ask for it—is one of the most horrifying documents that I have read in my life. Executions at La Perla were carried out in the presence of senior Argentine officers, including, it was alleged, the son of President Videla. The junta was not content to treat its own people in this way. People of 29 other nationalities were swept into its prisons and torture chambers—among them several hundreds from European Community countries. Dr. Douglas Gillie Whitehead, a British citizen born in Berwick, was abducted from his home in Buenos Aires in September 1977. His brother Derek was abducted on the same day. Neither has been heard of since.
It is not surprising therefore that, as the 1977 negotiations got under way, The Times said in its leading article:There should especially be no discussions on sovereignty with a Government that is running its own country with such disregard for basic human values. Even by South American 956 standards the Government of Argentina is an exceptionally nasty one … It is not a country with whose Government Britain ought to consider even talking about the future status of one of its colonies.In November 1977 the United States Secretary of State, Mr. Vance, visited Argentina and presented the Government with a list of 7,500 missing persons. What were the British Government of that day doing? They were bravely fending off the Falkland Islands lobby in this House. They were pressing on with the negotiations. Indeed, by February 1978 two joint British-Argentina working parties were hard at work at Lima in Peru. One of them was engaged in discussing sovereignty. The date is important, because a few weeks after that the International Commission of Jurists noted that 23 judges and lawyers had been murdered in Argentina, that 41 had disappeared and that 109 had been detained for varying periods.
When these cosy little diplomatic talks were under way, the tide of murder and repression was at its height. The victims included parliamentarians—they were not safe. They included diplomats, academics, doctors, judges, trade union activists, journalists, teachers, students, priests and even housewives; no one was safe. Yet our representatives could continue discussing how Falkland Islanders, British in blood, bone and tradition, might be persuaded to join this corrupt and cruel state.
Not one speaker in this debate, or at any time throughout the debates on the Falklands, has chosen to reflect on those facts. In every civilised country in the world there has been discussion and protest resolutions have been passed. The European Parliament has pronounced on the matter, but no resolution has been passed in this place. Why? Because there has been a conspiracy of silence on both sides of the House.
So it dragged on. Alas, I have to say that the process of negotiation against this background of evil continued under the present Government. In November 1980, when my right hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) was patiently trying to persuade the Falkland Islanders to agree to lease-back, and also visited Buenos Aires, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights reported to the Organisation of American States that 5,000 people had been executed without trial in Argentina. It specifically charged thatPersons belonging to or connected with Government security agencies have killed numerous men and women subsequent to their being placed in detention".In God's name, what were British Ministers doing negotiating with the representatives of a criminal regime over the possible transfer of British people and British territory to that kind of rule?
The turning of a blind eye to the iniquities of the junta is not dealt with in the Franks report. There is a passing reference in paragraph 273, but I submit that this aspect was bound to stiffen the resolution of the Falkland Islanders, who knew perfectly well what was going on, and it was bound to stiffen the resolution of Back Benchers who were determined to support them.
What lessons can we draw from this sorry story, redeemed only by a magnificent military rescue operation? First, it is clear that we should not have encouraged Argentina at any stage by acquiescing in negotiations, especially after 1976, to think that there could ever he a transfer of sovereignty unless the Falkland Islanders 957 expressly wished it. The islanders made it plain over and over again in the resolutions in their legislature that they did not want it, and they want it even less now.
Secondly, there can be no resumption of negotiations, anyway until, at the very least, Argentina is purged of its self-appointed, cruel, corrupt and heartless military regime and returns to democratic Government and respect for fundamental human rights. There are rumblings of discontent there now. The thousands of relatives of the disappeared ones are agitating for justice, as mass graves are now being opened up and bodies are found. But the prospect of normalcy returning to Argentina is remote, at least for a long time.
Thirdly, I agree with those who have said in the debate that we should learn from the past, that we should put it behind us and start thinking positively about the future. I have been giving some thought to that aspect. It seems to me that the argument over sovereignty is largely a sterile one. Sovereignty is not an end in itself; it is a means to an end. It is a means of safeguarding the security, the interests and the way of life of an identifiable national group.
If the Falkland Islands had been 400 miles off the coast of Australia or New Zealand, there would have been no problem and they would have been integrated happily with one or the other long ago. However, it has been their misfortune that their nearest neighbour is a notoriously unstable state governed by Fascist bullies who are skilled only in the arts of suppression and murder. That has been their fate.
Where then do we go from here? It is unrealistic to assume that there can be any resumption of bilateral talks with Argentina for a long time to come. Everyone must accept that. Surely that will leave us in a position in which the islands remain, in the eyes of a large part of the world, as a colonial dependency requiring substantial subsidies from Britain and a large garrison. Sir Nicholas Henderson was right in his article of last Sunday to warn us of the pitfalls ahead. In my opinion, therefore, it is not too early to turn our minds to taking an entirely new approach.
In Antarctica Britain has loyally abided by the treaty under which disputes over sovereignty have been frozen and issues of resource control and development are contained within a wide multinational framework. This has been the means of keeping 10 per cent. of the earth's land surface demilitarised and of advancing scientific research and co-operation between about 14 nations. It is a model regime. Is there not a case for trying to harmonise this entirely civilised approach to Antarctic questions with our approach to the Falklands? One way of moving towards that would be for Britain, after a decent interval, to indicate to the United Nations that she would be prepared to put the Falkland Islands under United Nations trusteeship provided, and only provided, that British administration remained.
There is, of course, no precedent for that. All the other 11 United Nations trusteeship territories were detached from powers that were defeated in the first and second world wars. No power has hitherto made use of the provision in the United Nations charter to place a dependent territory voluntarily under United Nations trusteeship. However, I must tell the House that it could be done under articles 87 and 88, and here it is essential 958 to remember that the essence of United Nations trusteeship is that sovereignty, in the sense of legal title, is held in trust by the United Nations for the inhabitants and no one else.
In my opinion, it is inconceivable that even a recalcitrant Argentina would be prepared to harass a trusteeship territory in the way in which it has harassed a British colony for the past 20 years. Article 76B would entrench before the eyes of the world the Falkland Islanders' rights to self-determination. A move in this direction would show that Britain seeks a peaceful, responsible, fair and just solution to the problem in the interests of the islanders and the international community. It would be more in harmony with the Antarctic treaty system. It would enable the Falkland Islands themselves to become what they are geographically placed to be—a gateway to the Antarctic that is safe, secure and free.
I do not envisage any quick solution on the lines that I have set out, but it is essential, after the recent blood-letting, for Britain to demonstrate, as it has been doing for some years in the Antarctic, that she is ready to co-operate with other states in the south Atlantic for the good of all. It is just possible, but only just, that out of the errors of the past we can both safeguard the interests of the Falkland islanders and build a happier relationship with their neighbours in the region. That is the task to which we should now turn our hand.
§ Mr. Russell Johnston (Inverness)
It is always a great pleasure to be called after the hon. Member for Essex, South-East (Sir B. Braine). The hon. Gentleman has a rollicking style, as we all know. He always reminds me of the knights of derring-do whom I read about in my childhood. He is what one might describe as a straight guy. He is well known in the House for standing up for human rights wherever they are oppressed. He is also known on the issue that we are discussing as being a regular critic of both the British and Argentine Governments and of all Governments of all persuasions. One feels that what he says is very straightforward.
I prefer to follow the remarks of the hon. Member for Essex, South-East than those of the former Secretary of State for Defence, the right hon. Member for St. Ives (Sir J. Nott), who made a remarkably unapologetic speech. He came to us smiling—perhaps that is his style and perhaps that is the way that he does it. His speech was not impressive. It was rather depressing to find that he seemed unable to be other than extremely partisan. A succession of speakers from both sides of the House have tried to avoid being partisan and to consider the real problems that face the House and which, as the Franks report states, have faced successive Governments.
I have never sought to suggest that the problems faced by the Government and the Prime Minister in the stressful times leading up to the despatch of the task force and the progress of the force to the islands, as well as the various negotiations that were in train before the invasion took place, were other than intensely difficult. It cannot really be suggested that others would have approached them in a different way. It is wrong to suggest that we on the Opposition Benches were not tremendously emotionally involved. We had to ask ourselves whether it was right to give support to the Government while lacking, as inevitably was the case, the information that the 959 Government had. I remember how I ended my speech on 20 May. I said that there was a feeling that a landing was inevitable. I continued:If that is to be, the calculation and the responsibility lie with the Government. Our thoughts and prayers will be with our forces who, in the bitter cold of the South Atlantic, will have the job of correcting political misjudgments—some with their lives."—[Official Report,20 May 1982; Vol. 24, c. 523.]And some did. We are now told that really there were no misjudgments. I find that hard to accept.
First, the Falkland Islands issue, despite its recognised and evident high risk, was undoubtedly judged over many years not to be a priority by successive Governments. These successive Governments, advised by the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence, made a mistake in view of what ultimately took place. It was a mistake not to give the issue a higher degree of priority. The Franks report warns against the dangers of the wisdom of hindsight with which we are all so well endowed. That is true. But it can equally be said that Governments are expected to exhibit prescience. If they fail to do so, they are not meeting the expectations of those who elected them.
The right hon. Member for Bristol, South East (Mr. Benn) is not in his place. I profoundly disagree with his views. I am sorry that I was not present yesterday but I have studied carefully the speeches that were made, and I believe that the press is wrong to say that we should not spend a second day discussing the Franks report. It was a pyrotechnic day yesterday and it is wise and sensible for the House soberly to consider the issue in the light of that pyrotechnic day.
However, the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East remarked thatthe Prime Minister … emerges … as someone profoundly disinterested in the Falklands".—[Official Report, 25 January 1983; Vol. 35, c. 832.]That is borne out, it is suggested, by paragraph 292 of the Franks report. That paragraph was quoted by the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) as he spoke from the Opposition Front Bench. That is fair comment but in fairness it cannot be confined to the right hon. Lady. Those of us who were involved in advancing the Falklands case and have been damned as having prevented agreement might also come into that category.
A headline in this week's The Sunday Times says:The Falklands lobby mesmerised Governments.That lobby was not at all co-ordinated. It was all-party and based on nothing more complicated than the belief that the few sheep farmers on that desolate group of islands who depend on us should not be betrayed to a tyrannical Government. There was nothing planned or political about it; it was a straightforward gut reaction. Many hon. Members such as myself and the right hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart) have lived on remote islands. We know what it is like and felt a natural sympathy for the Falkland Islanders.
Much has been made of Lord Carrington's suggestion that the public should be educated. It was considered and rejected. I am not convinced that it was realistic to consider it in the first place. But far from there being an attempt to educate, there was no attempt to engage in a dialogue with people such as me. The hon. Member for Essex, South-East can correct me if I am wrong, but I am not aware of any attempt to engage in dialogue with members of the Falklands Association so that they could 960 put conflicting points of view that may have led the Government to approach the problem from a slightly different angle.
Furthermore, hon. Members with an interest in the Falklands had other pressures on their time. The suggestion that we did nothing other than promote the interests of the Falklands is nonsense. We alleged on 2 December that there were plans in the Foreign Office to get rid of the Falkland Islands. That has been hotly denied today but no one denied it hotly to us then. Perhaps that is one of the reasons why Back Benchers such as myself feel that the Foreign Office is secretive. No Minister from any Government has appeared willing to engage in a dialogue with us.
§ Mr. John Stokes (Halesowen and Stourbridge)
Without in any way wishing to show a lack of respect for the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston), he will recollect that the Liberal party has not been in power for 50 years. Therefore, is there any experience or expertise that the Liberal party has which can be added to our knowledge of these extremely complicated matters?
§ Mr. Johnston
Electoral history agrees with what the hon. Gentleman said. The hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes) may believe that he holds reasonable and democratic views. I am examining an issue that I have had knowledge of for some time.
The Prime Minister yesterday dealt with contingency arrangements. That has been referred to today. That was the subject of a terse and proper note that she wrote on 8 March. Several hon. Members have asked what arrangements were made. When the Argentines landed, they made much of the fact that they were achieving a bloodless seizure of the Falklands. There was much talk of the fact that they had been trained to do that. It is clear that they wanted to make a quick grab and did not want to engage in a major battle. It is therefore fair to argue that they would have been deterred by far less than the armada that the chiefs of staff postulated. They set out what Britain would need to forestall a full-scale invasion. I am not sure of the difference between a full-scale invasion and an invasion. Nevertheless, there had to be a carrier, two or three frigates, a submarine, support vessels and the rest. I doubt whether that size of force was necessary to deter, even if it was necessary to engage in a direct conflict.
The hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. Walker) is shaking his head. I remember when I did my national service in Berlin that we had 12 tanks that were regularly paraded up and down the Olympic stadium on the Queen's birthday. No doubt that cast tremendous fear into the Soviet breast, but I do not believe that they represented a challenge. They represented an effective token presence. That also is what HMS Endurance was about. One cannot argue the importance of HMS Endurance remaining in the South Atlantic when one knows about its limited power and, at the same time, say that a larger force was necessary to represent a proper deterrent.
The Prime Minister said yesterday that if two frigates were sent she would have been fearful for their crew. What about the marines who were already on the islands? Obviously, that is not the same—there were only a few of them so they were less important. My simple point is that one does not need the same force to deter an invasion as one needs to engage in hostilities.
§ Mr. Bill Walker (Perth and East Perthshire)
Does the hon. Gentleman accept the normal military interpretation of deterrence, which is the ability to inflict an unacceptable level of damage on a would-be aggressor? Unfortunately, politicians do not always understand that. It would have been suicide to send two ships without aircraft cover. There is no way in which surface ships could have coped with the Argentine air force, even if they had had Harriers.
§ Mr. Johnston
As the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) said yesterday, it was a mistake not to send a submarine because the Argentines were not looking for a conflict. They were looking for a quick grab. All the signals demonstrate that. The Foreign Secretary dwelt on that today. He said that to have a submarine there would cost quite a lot. How much? He said nothing that proved that the deployment of a submarine would have represented an unreasonable burden on the fairly flexible defence budget that all Governments operate. The hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. Clark) is muttering from an extremely reclined position. Perhaps he has something to say.
§ Mr. Alan Clark (Plymouth, Sutton)
I make no apology for what I said. It was that the frequent pauses and longeur in the hon. Gentleman's speech may be attributed to the sub-functions of reading a speech with imperfectly corrected vision.
§ Mr. Johnston
The hon. Gentleman is happy to be rude. I am not willing to respond to that approach. My argument is simply that there is evidence to suggest that the Government could have provided an effective deterrent but did not do so. That mistake is unique to the present Government.
Paragraph 2 of annexe A in the Franks report says:"Assertion: Clear warnings of the invasion from American intelligence sources were circulating more than a week beforehand.Comment: No intelligence about the invasion was received from American sources, before it took place, by satellite or otherwise.All I, as a Back Bencher, can say is that I find that extraordinary. I always understood that there were CIA agents on every street corner in Buenos Aires. It is extraordinary that we maintain an intelligence system without apparently receiving any return. Clearly James Bond is dead.
I wish to mark the points made by other hon. Members about the British Nationality Act but will not develop that theme further.
In conclusion, I shall try to look forward, not back, in my remarks, as many hon. Members have done, and which the press has rightly asked us to do. The Prime Minister, in her opening speech yesterday, clearly and succinctly expressed the problem—the clash between the Argentine demand for sovereignty and the islanders' wish to maintain the status quo. The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), with whose views I often disagree, said fairly clearly yesterday—I shall paraphrase him—that successive Governments had cynically shown deference to the idea of the paramountcy of the islanders, while putting all conceivable pressure on them to alter their views, and that that was almost irrespective of Government and was not an honest approach.
§ Mr. Rhodes James
I was sorry not to hear the hon. Gentleman's opening remarks. I remind him of his contribution on 2 December 1980, when he spoke on behalf of the Liberal party—it is annex F of the Franks report. It was a major factor in the destruction of the leaseback proposal put forward by the Government, which was also the policy of the previous Labour Government, and was our honest endeavour to try to reach a peaceful solution. The hon. Gentleman said that he did not want to look back, but only to look forward. I suggest that he looks back on his own record.
§ Mr. Johnston
I was speaking about that matter before the hon. Gentleman entered the Chamber. It is not entirely fair to make such an intervention in the middle of my speech when I had already dealt with that point. I only gave way because I usually respect the hon. Gentleman's views.
I said that I agreed with the right hon. Member for Down, South in his analysis of the matter. With respect to my hon. Friend the Member for Devonport, I slightly dissent from his style of references yesterday. It is a statistical fact that in size the Falkland Islanders represent a parish council. However, that is not the impression that we wish to convey. All hon. Members will remember that Peter Jenkins of The Guardian said during the conflict that because there were few islanders we should not be over-concerned about them. We should not take that view. Freedom is no less worth safeguarding, defending and, if necessary, fighting for simply because not many people are involved. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Member for Devonport would not have wished to suggest anything else.
I have already set out my opinion in my speech shortly before Christmas. I wish that we could defend our position in the Falklands, but we must as a House and a Government make an analysis of what that will cost. If that means that we reach the conclusion that the cost of maintaining the security of the Falklands against capricious attack—which may happen at any time—is unbearable, we must say that directly and bluntly to the islanders. Successive Governments have failed to do that. They have approached the problem in a two-headed manner. They have tried to suggest that they would safeguard the islands, while simultaneously trying to reach an agreement that they knew would not be acceptable to the islanders.
We must look to the United Nations. Lord Kennet mentioned that yesterday in a most interesting speech in another place. He spoke about the Antarctic solution and the Antarctic treaty. The hon. Member for Essex, South-East also referred to that. I hope that the Prime Minister, when she replies, will say whether she views such an idea with an open mind.
There is also the possibility of developing a United Nations force. The fact that Guatemala has today broken off negotiations and now lays claim to the whole of Belize will create a comparable problem for Britain. It will be interesting to hear some direct comments on that within the ambit of the debate.
I agree with the Foreign Secretary that it is impossible to speak to the Argentines until they, clearly and unequivocably, renounce the use of force. But we cannot 963 stop there. The right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East quoted Nicholas Henderson in an article in The Sunday Times headedAt some stage the problem will have to be internationalised".The House must recognise that. Seeking to do so will be the most effective way to defend the rights of a small but decent and inoffensive people who have been hardly and violently attacked. We must pursue that way forward.
We must also at long last seek some regulation of arms sales. My right hon. Friend the Member for Devonport was right to point to the inconsistency of our criticism of France while we are competing with her throughout the world to sell arms to totalitarian regimes. Surely the lessons that we have experienced during the Falklands war give us some reason to consider a new approach to this problem.
§ Mr. Douglas
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. At the beginning of the debate, Mr. Speaker delivered some strictures on hon. Members who came into the debate and then walked out. Would you consult Mr. Speaker about the fact that some hon. Members have sat through the debate for two days without being called, while other hon. Members, who openly admit that they were not here yesterday, have been called? I am not questioning the calling of speakers, but it appears to be preposterous after the strictures that Mr. Speaker administered at the beginning of the debate.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I sympathise with the hon. Gentleman, but that is a frequent occurrence, and not only in major debates.
§ Dr. Alan Glyn (Windsor and Maidenhead)
I am happy that I do not fall into the category referred to by the hon. Member for Dunfermline (Mr. Douglas). I was here yesterday for all the debate as well as today. I shall try to be brief so that other hon. Members may speak.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) touched on a most important point. He congratulated the Franks committee on its work and the depth in which it examined the issues. We must remember that not only did the Opposition have a say in the composition of that committee, but that two Opposition Members served on it and that there was a chance to alter the terms of reference.
Paragraph 339 of the report completely vindicates my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and her Government. Any attempt to overturn that vindication would not be well received by the 28,000 troops who fought for liberty in the Falklands, with the attendant loss of many lives. It would not be a credit to them because in the end the magnificent operation was a complete vindication of our nation and our determination to defend freedom against armed aggression.
Successive Governments have tried to negotiate. They have had no success, because they have always had to balance sovereignty and the interests of the islanders against the difficulties of our trade relations with South America and our fears of overturning them.
The friction was first manifested in October 1975, with the Shackleton report. That was the first sign, and it is dealt with in paragraph 34. Paragraph 43 suggests that 964 some form of compromise might have been reached. If one looks at column 841 of yesterday's Hansard and the remarks of the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) today, one sees that there is a slight difference. The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil (Mr. Rowlands) gave the impression yesterday that the Government in Buenos Aires did not know about the force, whereas today the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East gave the impression that they had known about it. In any case, I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives (Sir J. Nott). What sort of deterrent would it have been against an enormous force on the mainland?
In 1977 Mr. Crosland suggested to the islanders that we might be prepared to negotiate but their interests must be protected. The dialogue continued, but at the back of their minds any Government must have known that as the Argentine Government became stronger their demands would become firmer.
Paragraph 119 is most important. On his accession, President Galtieri was in a very strong position. Not only was he Head of State, but he had the navy completely under his control. It is not beyond belief that the task force that he sent out as a manoeuvre could have beer given an order to change course and invade. That proposition has not yet been put forward.
There have been many criticisms of our intelligence operations. With a dictatorship, one has to balance press reports against the reports of our intelligence organisation. It is easy to criticise, but Argentina is so large that it would be almost impossible for any intelligence network to cover the whole country. Forces could be gathered in one part of the country or another, and there might be very few people who really knew what the intentions of the Government were. In the Western world intelligence is available and the naval attaché can go everywhere, but even if one were allowed to go everywhere in Argentina it is such a vast country that it would be almost impossible to cover it. That is one of the factors that is not considered in depth in the references to security in the Franks report.
Both the Conservative party and the Labour party have always stressed the importance of the islanders, and the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston) has just stressed that point too. But the question is not only about the islanders; it is about sovereignty and resorting to armed attack when diplomacy has completely failed. It is difficult to deal with dictators. One cannot get a straight answer out of them.
In paragraph 339 the Government are completely absolved. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and all her Government have come out unscathed. However, there are many lessons to be learnt, as the hon. Member for Inverness and many other hon. Members have said. There should be better intelligence links between the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence. I understand that that will be rectified. In future, we shall have to spend a great deal of money on the islands. If we are to continue with the fortress conception it will be expensive. It will be a long time before there will be a Government in Argentina with whom we can negotiate. The islanders suffered terribly under the Argentine Government's domination during the occupation.
We would be well advised to look at the new Shackleton report. We failed to observe the contents of his first report. Perhaps this time we shall take note of the second report and observe it. Many points in the report deserve attention. The other lesson that we must learn is 965 that we have basic interests to protect in the Antarctic. I go along with hon. Members who suggest that there should be co-operation of all Governments interested in the Antarctic so that the development of that area can be a co-operative effort. No doubt the Falkland Islanders can play a role in that. Many other countries will also be concerned. It was mentioned in another place yesterday that there are considerable claims on that part of the world. We should continue developing it and join other countries in doing so. That could be of great benefit.
I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister for taking the initiative and making it clear that this country is not effete but a great nation that is capable of mounting an operation such as has never been mounted before. I take pride in being a member of my right hon. Friend's party.
§ 8.6 pm
§ Mr. George Foulkes (South Ayrshire)
Last week when the Franks report was published I said that the report wasan establishment cover-up and a whitewash".—[Official Report, 18 January 1983; Vol. 35, c. 179.]Conservative Members seemed to be shocked at the time. The Prime Minister asked me to withdraw. I did not and I shall not. I shall argue the case in more detail this evening. Indeed I received unexpected heavyweight support for my remarks when my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) used the word "whitewash".
The Prime Minister knows that she made a mistake. The strength of her reaction in mounting and sending the task force is a sign that she knew that she had made a mistake. She was forced to set up an inquiry. She did not do so willingly. Therefore, she set about ensuring that it would be so constituted—its members, the terms of reference, the method of its operation and publication—that it would be a cover-up rather than a revelation.
I do not say that with hindsight. I said that that was likely to happen. I described the Franks committee in that way on 8 July. I said that because of the predisposition of the members, the background and the self-protective mechanism of the establishment, which Conservative Members know so well and use—
§ Mr. Foulkes
As the hon. Gentleman says, some Labour Members tend to be sucked into the establishment as well. I said that that was likely to happen. The committee was not independent. It was not like a Select Committee, which cannot be picked because it is already in existence to investigate matters.
The Committee had then to report to the Prime Minister, and the Prime Minister saw the report first. She had the right of deletion on the grounds of so-called security or international relations. When she had seen the report, there was a carefully orchestrated campaign of leaks, and if that did not come from 10 Downing street—I suspect that it did—it may well have come from Smith square or somewhere else convenient.
The press leaks concentrated on the concluding paragraphs of the report, and were a deliberate exercise to condition minds to expect a certain outcome from the 966 report. It was a brainwashing exercise, to get into people's minds the three words which became the headlines—"Franks clears Maggie." That was the simple slogan and one that we have come to expect from the Prime Minister.
There was then a statement in the House, which was also carefully organised and selective. However, the Prime Minister was caught out by my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) in that. She was selective to reinforce the conditioning that had already taken place in the leaks. The hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. Walker) said that we could have read the report before the statement, but there was hardly time to scuttle out to get it and no time to read and analyse the report. There was no time for us to refute the way that the Prime Minister was introducing it or for us to respond. Hon. Members and the public were conned. We were conditioned to expect a certain outcome, and we all thought that that was the outcome.
Now that hon. Members have had time to read the report carefully and the press has had time to analyse it, there has been a great revelation. The text of the report and the conclusions form a complete non sequitur. The conclusions are not justified by the text. Thank goodness, there is the beginnings of a backlash against that brainwashing. The Sunday Times said that the conclusions were at odds with the evidence and The Observer said that seven out of 10 people think that "Franks is a cover-up."
The British public and hon. Members cannot believe that Argentina could prepare, organise and mount an invasion force without us ever knowing, and with all the sophisticated mechanism of our intelligence. The Argentine press seemed to know. Even Mrs. Madge Nicholls—remember her?—saw the likelihood of an invasion and wrote to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister replied that the marines on the island and HMS Endurance were adequate to repel such an invasion. We do not hear much of that letter in the report, but it was certainly a mistake.
I can offer an explanation why the Prime Minister did not anticipate what would happen. She does not hear what she does not want to hear, and that applies in economic policy as much as in anything else. Whether it was for reasons of dogma, cost or anything else, the signs were there of a possible invasion but she did not want to see them.
In reading Franks I cannot understand—I said this to the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James) in a radio interview the other day—how the right hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) can have been right, as Franks said, yet all those people who ignored his constant warnings can also be right. The Franks report says, again and again, in paragraphs 86, 90, 95, 151 and 187 that warnings were repeatedly given by the Minister of State and the Foreign Secretary.
Those hon. Members who savaged the Minister of State—I agree with the hon. Member for Cambridge on this—organised this. The hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston) may say that it was not organised, but we have interviewed representatives of the Falkland Islands committee on the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, and they told us that it was an organised lobby. Those hon. Members who organised the opposition to lease-back, without also accepting the consequences of such a rejection—that consideration should be given to preparing 967 fuller contingency plans for the defence of the islands—bear their share of the responsibility for the invasion. I include the hon. Member for Inverness.
§ Mr. Russell Johnston
It is not the case that there was any organisation on that day in which I was involved.
§ Mr. Foulkes
Almost every hon. Member who spoke and savaged the Minister is a member of the Falkland Islands committee. I agree with the Foreign Secretary that the past is useful particularly when looking to the future.
The Prime Minister has said that we now have no alternative to Fortress Falklands. That cannot be the case. When she says "we", she speaks for herself, for her war cabinet and perhaps for some of her more militaristic cohorts. It is not the only option for the House or for Britain. The right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) yesterday concentrated on the dangers of getting on the unfortunate hook of the word "paramount"—that dreadful, dangerous word. There are 1,800—
§ Mr. Foulkes
I agree that it was not just Conservative Members. The 1,800 Falkland Islanders cannot have unlimited call on the United Kingdom taxpayers' money into the indefinite future to the tune of £1 million a day and more and more for ever and ever. The troops are already restless. There is no likelihood of a civil airlink with South America, or of a commercial development of the islands, with the constant and continuing threat of Argentine attack.
There is some hypocrisy in the use of the word "paramountcy". It is all right on sovereignty, but the islanders' views were not paramount when the British Nationality Act went through the House. The islanders' views are not paramount now when they support Lord Shackleton on land transfer and ask the Government to accept Shackleton's principal recommendation on land transfer. The Government have rejected it. So much for the paramountcy of the islanders' views.
Let us be honest about it: talks on sovereignty mean giving priority to the ownership of the islands rather than to the interests of the islanders. I am concerned not about the ownership of the islands but about the interests of the islanders. Some time—sooner or later, and better sooner—the pressure will be on us from our allies in Europe and America, from Latin America, from the United Nations and even from the islanders, to find a negotiated solution.
The solution may have to wait for a general election in Britain, and a Government who are less reactionary than the present Government. It may have to await an election in Argentina, and I am less pessimistic about that development than Conservative Members. However, we must find a solution that involves no garrison with five times as many troops as islanders, no enormous expenditure, no constant threat. It must be a solution that the Argentines can be persuaded to accept and the islanders will accept.
It is not only militants who are already saying this. Yesterday it was being said effectively by Lord Carrington, and eloquently by Lord Carver, who saidSurely, we cannot contemplate as permanent such an absurd disproportion between the defence effort and the actual United Kingdom interests involved … No other citizens of this country or of its dependencies have in the past or do now receive 968 that kind of support on anything like that scale … However distasteful it is to consider it, there is no alternative to consideration of some solution to the sovereignty issue which will satisfy Argentine amour-propre.That is not a coded message; it is plain.
There is more and more cause for negotiations to look at the options. I am glad that the hon. Member for Essex South-East (Sir B. Braine) mentioned United Nations trusteeship positively. There is also the tripartite arrangement, or the lease-back arrangement again. All of these need to be examined. The Select Committee on Foreign Affairs is looking at that now. We have heard evidence from a large number of people. Next week, we shall be putting these options directly to the Falkland Islanders when we visit the Falkland Islands. That is something that the Prime Minister has not done. It is something that the Government have not done. It is something that needs to be done.
The resolute approach that we hear so much about is all right if the advice is sure and the direction is right. If the advice is poor and the direction is wrong, it is dangerous and, as we saw, even fatal. In the interests of the islanders and in the interests of the British taxpayers and peace, the Government must eventually start negotiating. I finish, as Lord Carver concluded yesterday, by saying:my plea to the Government is that they should not do or say anything which will make the issue even more difficult than it already is."—[Official Report, House of Lords,25 January 1983; Vol. 438, c. 178.]
§ Mr. Charles Morrison (Devizes)
Contrary to the views of the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Foulkes), the Franks report, in my opinion, is a masterpiece of analysis and presentation. I have no argument whatever with its conclusions. Nor, I think, should anyone else. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Atkins) remarked yesterday, there can be no six people in the whole of the United Kingdom who know more than did the members of the Franks Committee about the subject in hand. But, of course, the report comes as a disappointment to many, as it supplies no scapegoat. I suppose it is a sort of national characteristic that we like to have a scapegoat—someone to blame so that the rest of us can sit back happily and a little smugly pointing the finger at a latter-day Admiral Byng. However, as Franks provides no scapegoat and while the Leader of the Opposition was generous enough yesterday to blame General Galtieri, others have exercised a great deal of licence in reading between the lines. The firm conclusion of Franks is that they are wrong.
It gives me particular pleasure that Foreign Office Ministers have been exonerated from blame. Since the Government came to office in 1979, the Foreign Office has probably had the finest team of Ministers in the Government. It is one of those political ironies that, in spite of that being the case, so many of them have fallen by the wayside. I am equally delighted that the Foreign Office itself has been exonerated. It has been subject to monstrously unfair criticism from some sections of the press. I trust that there are a number of journalists dining unpleasantly on their own poisoned words. The stigma has been removed from the Foreign Office at home, and this can only do good to the credibilty and confidence of our embassy staffs around the world. It did no service to the name of Great Britain among people abroad to know that representatives of our country were under suspicion and 969 apparently held in little confidence. I am therefore delighted that the report has exonerated the Foreign Office.
Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) who made a notable speech yesterday, I doubt the value of such a report as Franks unless it is to learn lessons for the future rather than to rake over the past. I wish to make one point only. Since 1967, British Governments have been prepared to cede the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands, subject to conditions. In other words, successive Governments concluded that it was not in the paramount and best interests of the United Kingdom and of the islanders to retain sovereignty. I see no reason to quarrel with that conclusion. Events have shown only too clearly that that was a negotiating position that could have been the foundation for an assured future, almost certainly on a lease-back basis, for the islands' economy, for the islanders and for Anglo-Argentine relations. That progress was not made may have been largely due to grasping stupidity on the part of Argentina.
There is, however, another point that we cannot ignore, which inhibited the chance of agreement. That point is summed up most succinctly in three words in paragraph 99 of the report. Those three words are "domestic political constraints". The context is the letter written to our ambassador in Buenos Aires giving that as the reason why no further progress could be made in negotiations. I read those three words as a euphemism for us—for this House and for our predecessors.
This House must take a major part of the responsibility for the strategy of general Micawberism. Not for the first time this House allowed its head to be ruled by its heart. It allowed emotion to overrule logic, most particularly and most recently on 2 December 1980 when, effectively, it killed off this Government's sensible proposals for a new initiative. None of us can escape some blame for that. Perhaps some of us are guilty of sins of commission while others of us are guilty of sins of omission.
§ Mr. Faulds
I endorse entirely the argument that the hon. Gentleman makes. Will he not add that the problems of the House of Commons are not only the appalling ignorance of most hon. Members about South America but also the malign role played in the opinions voiced by the House of Commons, because hon. Members have been suborned by the activities of the public relations outfit working for the Falkland Islands Company?
§ Mr. Morrison
I do not hold it against the public relations people who were operating on behalf of the Falklanders. After all, if people do not blow their own trumpet, who will play it for them? I shall be dealing with the point about knowledge in this House if the hon. Gentleman will be patient.
Effectively, on 2 December 1980, this House willed an end without insisting on the provisions of the means to uphold it. Fortress Falklands was the only policy to do that. Even that meant major change for the islanders. Implicitly, on 2 December, the House said that nothing should change, that the Falklanders should be allowed to continue to do their own thing just as they had done before, even benefiting, no doubt, from a continuing use of Argentine schools and hospitals. As we have now been forcefully reminded, that option sadly was not on offer. In effect, we allowed a romantic ideal to be the enemy of 970 reason, common sense and the long term interests of the United Kingdom and the Falkland Islanders. I hope that that does not happen again, there or elsewhere.
It might be said in our defence that if we had been more aware of the facts a majority of us might have reacted differently. I emphasise "majority" because I know full well that there are some hon. Members who would never be convinced of any view other than that the Falkland Islands should be allowed to continue as they have done up to 1982. Here I take up a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Shoreham (Mr. Luce) in his excellent speech. If the programme of education, referred to particularly in paragraphs 61 and 98, had been pursued, things might have been different, but they were not. Why did not Governments—I say "Governments" in the plural—pursue a programme of education? Perhaps it was simply because they did not want a row, and a row on the Falklands might have seemed out of all proportion to the size of the problem. However, I cannot help feeling that that sounds a little wet.
So now the three policy options in paragraph 73 have become two—and for the time being in reality only one, and that is Fortress Falklands. Nevertheless, in the fullness of time the scene will change. It may change as a result of the development of moderation and democracy in Argentina. It may change as a result of national or bilateral or international initiatives, such as perhaps those foreseen by Sir Nicholas Henderson. Already some sensible Argentine voices are being raised, and ultimately it must be better for us to have Argentina and, indeed, the rest of Latin America as friends rather than as enemies.
As no less an authority than Lord Home said yesterday in another place, some timea political solution to this problem will have to be found."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 25 January 1983; Vol. 438, c. 167.]So, when peace is less brittle and joined by good will, I trust that we shall show that we in this House have learnt from the experience of 1982, because what happened then must never happen again.
§ Mr. Dick Douglas (Dunfermline)
I shall try to be brief and not necessarily follow the speech of the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Morrison) on this matter.
I come fairly new to an assessment of the Falklands situation. However, in fairness to myself, I should say that when the composition of the committee was announced, while not necessarily criticising those who were on it, I pointed out that the composition was fairly narrow and that if someone like Mary Goldring had been a member she might have provided a breath of outside air. I shall not dwell on that subject, because in my view the committee dwells too much on the legal burdens of proof and does not deal with the situation in sufficiently human terms.
The structure of the report, of necessity, has to deal with a logical—or seemingly logical—sequence of events. However, the operation of human affairs does not progress in that way. Even governmental affairs do not progress in that way. When some people write their memoirs, or the history of Governments, they tend to give the impression that there is a logic to human affairs. However, when one examines the work of my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson) and his reminiscences about the Labour Government of which he was Prime Minister one gets the impression that things occur not necessarily 971 in a logical consequence—for instance, waking up and saying "We should stop the supply of arms to South Africa".
If we assess the situation in terms of legal standards of proof, the conclusions in paragraphs 266 and 239 are correct. No one can accuse the members of the Government of conspiring to let the Argentines invade on 2 April. Again on 2 April, no one could anticipate that on that exact day and at a specific time the Argentines would attack the islands. So Franks is correct that in standards of legal proof there was no mens rea—to use the legal term. However, that is not the same as seeking to anticipate the actions of another state or body of individuals. I do not expect to be burgled tonight, but if I lived in some parts of our cities I would take more care and greater precautions than I do living in the quietude of Auchtermuchty. Of course, the Prime Minister is correct to say that the situation in 1977 was not the same as in 1982, but, given the balances of probability, what were the circumstances that would have altered the Argentine response?
I want to deal with a few significant points. If we were to argue that the alternative policies that were placed before various Governments were roughly equal, certain situations evolved in late 1981 and early 1982 that would tilt the balance of probability in favour of the Argentines taking more strenuous action.
The first is the character of the junta led by General Galtieri, who had relatively friendly relationships with the American Government, who thought that he and his junta were a bulwark against Communism. Secondly, there is the presence of Admiral Anaya in the junta. I want to dwell a little on what I think is an error in the Franks report in relation to him. For some time he had been a naval attaché in the United Kingdom. However, the dates given in paragraph 62 appear to be incorrect. My information—I hope that this will be checked—is that Admiral Anaya completed his term as naval attaché in London in January 1976. It is not clear precisely when Massera's message was conveyed to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, but it was clearly after September 1977. If by then, as I am informed, Admiral Anaya was director of naval personnel, it seems most unlikely that he had any diplomatic function. He certainly was not naval attaché at the time. Therefore, I suggest that a correction or some explanation of paragraph 62 is needed, although that is a marginal point.
Anyone assessing the intelligence should have asked Mr. Carless for his assessment of the toughest person in the junta and there is nothing in the Franks report or anywhere else to suggest that that was done. Therefore, I suggest that such an assessment was not necessarily undertaken by the Government.
We know that in the talks in New York in 1980 and 1981 several members of the Falkland Islands Council were in the company of Ministers. In January 1981 the Falkland Islands Council debated the motion that:While this House does not like any of the ideas put forward by Mr. Ridley for a possible settlement of the sovereignty issue with Argentina it agrees that HMG should hold further talks with the Argentines at which this House should be represented and at which the British delegation should seek an agreement to freeze the dispute over sovereignty for a specified period of time.I draw attention to that because some Members of the Islands Council were soft on the sovereignty issue and some were hard. In subsequent elections those who had shown any support for the sovereignty issue were defeated. 972 The Argentines had listening posts in the Falkland Islands and they knew exactly how the Falkland Islanders were reacting.
Another point in relation to this aspect is the significance to the Argentines, if not to us, of the 150th anniversary of Britain's claim to the islands. That may not weigh heavily with hon. Members but it is significant to the people of Argentina, just as Burns' "Scots, wha hae", about the battle in 1314, is significant to Scots. That is drummed into them. The Argentines believe that they were cheated of their claim to the Falklands 150 years ago, and the anniversary of their cheating has considerable significance for them. The factors that I have listed led to a toughening of the Argentine attitude.
The right hon. Member for St. Ives (Sir J. Nott), who is not in his place, made a cheap and demeaning speech about the contingency plans in 1977. I have great regard for his intellectual ability, but I wish that television cameras had been in the House today and yesterday. We should then have seen displayed the attitude of mind that made Lord Carrington shy away from presenting the issues to the Cabinet. It is one thing to be confronted with a ministerial colleague who is high-handed and aloof, but when there are two such Cabinet personalities—the right hon. Member for St. Ives and the Prime Minister—one can see why they would have been too much for the diplomatic niceties of Lord Carrington. [Interruption.] The Secretary of State for Employment has his own sophisticated way of dealing with such matters. Had the British people not only heard the speech of the right hon. Member for St. Ives but seen it today, they would realise why Lord Carrington took the view that he did.
Lord Carrington said yesterday:During the course of 1981 and the beginning of 1982 I sent a number of minutes to my colleagues on the Overseas and Defence Policy Committee, keeping them abreast of what was happening. If any of them felt more discussion was necessary a telephone call to the Cabinet Office could have arranged a Defence Committee meeting. But my colleagues shared my view that nothing had happened during those months to alter our original decisions.".—[Official Report, House of Lords, 25 January 1983; Vol. 438, c. 159.]That takes a bit of believing. Faced with a combination of the right hon. Member for St. Ives and the Prime Minister, Lord Carrington knew that he was on to a hiding to nothing on that issue.
§ Mr. Holland
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, since I have been invited to make it. As the hon. Member for Dunfermline (Mr. Douglas) pointed out earlier, some hon. Members have sat through two days of debate and we do not have unlimited time.
§ Mr. Speaker
Both Front Benches have been kind enough to say that they would take five minutes off their winding-up time, which means that they will not start until 9.10 pm. That is in an effort to enable us to have some more speakers. I hope to call three more speakers before 9.10 pm.
§ Mr. Douglas
I shall try, Mr. Speaker, to draw my remarks to a conclusion.
973 Paragraph 284 of the Franks report clearly shows that in every case Ministers made a policy decision and sought a negotiated settlement that would be acceptable to Argentina and the islands.
We come to the main charge against the Government. Neither the officials nor the intelligence services were to blame. However, there was clear ministerial responsibility, and, therefore, although Lord Carrington says wrongly that one blames the man in charge, one should blame the woman in charge. The person who should have resigned was the Prime Minister. We are dealing here with the nature of government and the view of Cabinet collective responsibility. The Prime Minister's attitude is in direct variance to that.
It is all very well to talk about Fortress Falklands and to analyse what might happen in future, but in strict practical terms I do not see the people of Dunfermline—including those who work at the naval base at Rosyth—who made a significant contribution to the task force effort, accepting in perpetuity that Britain should stay in the Falkland Islands and use our wealth, both human and capital, until kingdom come to defend the posturing of the Prime Minister.
§ Lord James Douglas-Hamilton (Edinburgh, West)
I listened with great interest to the hon. Member for Dunfermline (Mr. Douglas), but I shall not pursue his remarks in view of the limited time.
The two points that I shall make relate to Southern Thule and to Sr. Constantino Davidoff. We know from the Franks report that Southern Thule was probably invaded in November 1976, yet there was no mention of the matter in the House of Commons index until about one and a half years later. I listened with great interest to the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) because his account in the House this afternoon was rather different from the version given by the Labour Minister in another place on 10 May 1978. Lord Goronwy-Roberts said:We understood that the residence, if I may call it that, was to be temporary; and it is a fact that, because of climatic conditions, seasonal adversity, it is practically impossible to be there all the year round.The right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East gave the impression this afternoon that the Argentines left because of the protest, but one and a half years later the Minister gave the impression that they left because of climatic conditions. The former Prime Minister, Lord Home, stated in another place on 10 May 1978:Is it not very dangerous to leave that sort of situation hanging in the air for 18 months or longer, and would it not really encourage the Argentine Government to try something more ambitious, and even more dangerous?"—[Official Report, House of Lords, 10 May 1978; Vol. 391, c. 977–78.]Those seem to be strangely prophetic words today from someone who had no axe to grind in the matter.
Two days later, my hon. Friend the Member for Essex, South-East (Sir B. Braine) asked a question of the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil (Mr. Rowlands). It is in the public interest that, when a British dependency is invaded, the House of Commons should be informed about it. I was glad to read a letter from my hon. Friend the Minister of State dated 23 August last year, written after the repossession of Southern Thule, making it quite clear that the Argentines who were there were all military personnel.
974 In contrast, the impression given in the reply of the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil on 12 May 1978 was that the personnel were civilians engaged in scientific work. It seems that they may have been military personnel and that they went there, as paragraphs 52 and 53 of the report state, with the approval of the Argentine naval commander-in-chief. The Argentine Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent a communication to the British chargé d'affaires saying that the purpose had been to establish a research station within the jurisdiction of Argentine sovereignty.
Paragraph 54 of the report states that the Argentine expectation had been that the British reaction would have been much stronger. At the very least, the House should have been informed about the matter. As paragraph 54 goes on to state:If the Argentine personnel had been captured, the British Antarctic Survey party on South Georgia would have been taken off as a reprisal. According to further intelligence, there was an Argentine Navy contingency plan for a joint air force and navy invasion of the Falkland Islands.When it met on 31 January 1977, the Joint Intelligence Committee assessed that the purpose of the expedition was to probe the British Government's reaction to such a demonstration. I suggest that the reaction was so muted, with the House of Commons not learning about the incident until one and a half years later, that the Argentines were given an incorrect impression about British willingness to stand by the Falkland Islands. It was a regrettable omission.
As a result, awareness of the extent and nature of the threat was at a lower level in the House than it would have been if we had known that a considerable number of military personnel had been sent there by the Argentine commander-in-chief, which I believe was the situation. I do not say this in any spirit of recrimination, but I hope that we will be given an assurance that, whatever the actions of the last Government, if any such action were to occur again the House would be informed immediately and not 18 months later.
I wish now to refer to Sr. Constantino Davidoff, who may have been involved in another probing exercise. He made a contract with the highly respected Edinburgh firm of Salvesen to purchase equipment on South Georgia and to dispose of it. It is interesting that the Franks report confirms that his two trips to South Georgia took place on board Argentine naval ships, the Almirante Irizar and later the Bahia Buen Suceso. It emerges that he broke the terms of his contract. When civilian and military personnel were landed on the second occasion reindeer were shot and the Argentine flag was raised.
The Governor gave it as his view that Sr. Davidoff was being used as a front to establish an Argentine presence. Also, I understand that Captain Barker of the Endurance gave evidence that there had been collusion between Sr. Davidoff and the Argentine navy, naval headquarters in Argentina having congratulated the Bahia Buen Suceso on a successful operation. He also pointed out that it had maintained radio silence, that there were flights over South Georgia by Argentine aircraft, and that the activities of the Almirante Irizar, all without clearance certificates, indicated collusion.
I mention these facts—I could mention others but I will not in view of the time—because the recent approach which appears to have been made on behalf of Sr. Davidoff to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office should 975 be examined carefully. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office was fully justified in the circumstances in making it clear that it would refuse him permission to land again in South Georgia for the time being at any rate.
No doubt many lessons can be learned. This is not a time for recrimination, but in future if something appears to be going seriously wrong the House of Commons should be kept fully and immediately informed.
§ Mr. Stuart Holland (Vauxhall)
Several arguments have been nailed during the debate, one being that the crisis was unavoidable because it was unforeseen. Franks makes it plain that, throughout February, pressure was mounting. Hon. Members have drawn attention to this and also in particular to the fact that the Prime Minister minuted a telegram from the ambassador to Buenos Aires on 3 March saying:We must make contingency plans.That was a month before the invasion. This was the Prime Minister who said that the Falklands crisis all came as a bolt from the blue when, in fact, it came in a minute in a red box a month before the invasion.
Several hon. Members have tried to address themselves to the lessons of the Falklands crisis and the invasion. It is clear that the islanders have been grossly disserved. Many of them, for example, now have unusable ground. There is talk of moving Stanley itself because of the difficulty of disposing of Argentine plastic mines. There is no attention to the real needs of the islanders. There is even quite appalling talk of further colonisation of the islands on plots of 100 acres of grade 5 land, equivalent to the top of the Cairngorms, which could perhaps suport six to eight sheep each but not a family, with no wheat, no vegetables and no processing for market.
In social terms, what is being done by the Government for the people themselves rather than the claims to property? What about hospital and educational facilities? What are the retirement prospects for people who traditionally have not been able to retire on the islands but have retired elsewhere, whether in Britain or in New Zealand?
The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), who is not with us at present, said that sovereignty in the Falklands could never be conditional. He is wrong. Effective sovereignty is always conditional, including the sovereignty of the Crown or the sovereignty of the House of Commons, of which it is so jealous and proud. The Crown in Parliament, not the Crown, is sovereign here. Parliament does not dictate that solutions should be unchanged for ever. Rather, it prides itself on being able to amend initial cases so that they are better adapted to real needs and circumstances. If the Government do not recognise that fact, we shall be condemned to fighting the battle of the Falklands for ever.
A long-term Falklands lesson is that indecision, inertia and incompetence on the part of Government led to a drift into crisis. Few hon. Members have addressed that lesson in terms of the wider implications for defence policy. There are two dimensions. The first has been the admitted unusability of nuclear-powered submarines in this crisis. The former Secretary of State, the right hon. Member for St. Ives (Sir J. Nott), told us that conventional submarines could track down a nuclear submarine and that the nuclear submarine could not surface. Our forces simply were not adapted to deal with situations of that kind.
976 The right hon. Gentleman also reminded us that in his view the real enemy is in Europe and the Soviet Union. Given the scenario of an inability to react to events—the marked feature of what occurred in March 1982 was inaction and indecision—what assurances have we received that that would not recur if there were a crisis in Europe?
Let me take one scenario, although there are others. Instead of the Hungarian crisis in 1956, Czechoslovakia in 1968 and the recent Polish crisis, what if there were a combination of all three? We might know that the Warsaw pact forces were mobilised to deal not with a foreign threat but with internal repression. [Interruption.] I am glad that the hon. Member for Windsor and Maidenhead (Dr. Glyn) agrees, because I was struck by his argument that, had we over-reacted at a certain stage in the Falklands war, it could have been interpreted as an offensive move. That is precisely the dilemma we face over the lowering of the nuclear threshold in the European theatre.
Yesterday, the Prime Minister told us that to have sent three frigates would not have helped. She said that the sending of one or more nuclear submarines would have meant continuing negotiations. She said that a covert presence would not have deterred. In other words, we never had the right thing in the right place at the right time.
How would we deter movement across frontiers in Europe, not, as expected, of Warsaw pact forces, but possibly of other forces crossing frontiers to defend themselves against the Warsaw pact? One thing is certain—there would be no Franks report or two-day postmortem after such a crisis, because in a nuclear holocaust we would all be dead.
The inability of the Government to have an adaptable and appropriate response for the Falklands is one of the key features of the Franks report. In their view it was either all-out war or nothing. Those are the two options that they considered they faced. But that will be our peril if we translate the same options into the European theatre.
What is the record overall? It is too little, too late, on the Government side. Instead of a resolute approach, the Government were irresolute, indecisive and, in key respects, by failing to act on information, incompetent. When she needed to act, the "iron lady" had her feet off the floor. She was saved only by the courage and commitment of the armed forces. She has made a mess of the economy and now a mess of the Falklands. This report and debate are not the jewel in her crown; they could well be the beginning of the end of her Government.
§ 9 pm
§ Mr. David Crouch (Canterbury)
This is not the time for recrimination. It is a time for short speeches. I found the Franks report fascinating. I have read it twice. One needs to read it twice to read between the lines. I enjoyed having the advantage of hindsight. I wish that I had known all the facts a long time ago. As a Back Bencher, I feel very much wiser now about events in the South Atlantic. Over the past 17 years I have seen many reports, read so much advice and so many warnings, and they are all in the Franks report.
There is more to come, because surely the 30-year rule has been broken. In the year 2012 there will be a great deal more. Diaries and an autobiography may be written and published. I suggest that by then it will be history and academic, if it is not already.
977 This debate has been reflective. We have been raking over the ashes. Why? To see where we went wrong and to see what lessons are to be learnt from this tragic episode.
The Franks report is largely about Ministers and their advisers—what they said and did, and what they did not do during the past 17 years. There is little in the Franks report about Parliament, yet Parliament, like the islanders, seems to have been one of the principal stumbling blocks to finding a resolution to the problem. We did not know enough. We were consulted occasionally. We were said to be hostile, and so were the islanders when they were consulted, but was that not worth a little more attention from successive Governments? Parliament may be supreme, but I suggest that our attitude over the Falkland Islands has been superficial.
Lord Carrington knew that. He knew that he would have to carry the House, public opinion and the islanders with his propositions to find a solution if his studied approach was to be understood and eventually accepted. My right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office knew that and believed that an education programme was needed. It has been referred to in the report. Our ambassador in Buenos Aires knew and called it "a sales campaign." I am afraid that we did not have it. We probably would not have swallowed it, and Lord Carrington was probably right in assuming that perhaps it was not worth while pursuing, because opinion in the country was not prepared to accept anything that would have allowed the ceding of sovereignty to a country which my hon. Friend the Member for Essex, South—East (Sir B. Braine) described, and was referred to in the Franks report, as having an appalling record in human rights.
Parliament is supreme. In the end, it is votes in Parliament that count. Parliament should have been given another chance. The Government, and previous Governments, did all that they could to find a solution. I do not accept that a larger military presence would have helped the efforts to reach a solution by diplomatic means. It might have been counter-productive. However, we should not have allowed the Argentines to believe that we in Great Britain and Parliament did not care about what went on 8,000 miles away in the South Atlantic.
I believe that Parliament should have been brought into the act. That is the lesson that I have learnt from reading the Franks report so closely. Parliament should have been more inquiring about our position in the south Atlantic. We should have counted the cost and the consequences of failure to find an answer. But we did not press any Government, and no Government exactly pressed us. It is not so today.
Today we have a Select Committee on Foreign Affairs. As has properly been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Shoreham (Mr. Luce), by Lord Greenhill of Harrow yesterday in the other place, and others, the Select Committee could have been invited to examine the problem by the Government. At the end of the day it would have reported, but it would have looked at the problem in great depth. That is the difference between then and now. Today Parliament is more inquiring and has more capability to inquire. It wants to know, it needs to know, and it must know more detail. It really wants to have the opportunity of Franks all the time, but not after the event.
978 I conclude on the simple and single point about a Select Committee. If one had existed in the 10 or 12 years before the crisis, I believe that we should have been reading its version of the Franks report, not with hindsight, but at least with the foreknowledge of a real crisis that could have emerged and could not be left on the shelf for long.
§ Mr. Speaker
The winding-up speeches should start now, but will be postponed until 10 minutes past nine.
§ 9.5 pm
§ Mr. Gavin Strang (Edinburgh, East)
In the five minutes that remain to me I shall endeavour to make only three points.
First, I believe that the central issue in relation to the Falkland Islands conflict is the fact that the Falklands are a relic of Britain's imperial past. It is monstrous that we should sacrifice Service men's lives and spend thousands of millions of pounds to defend them into the indefinite future. It was an act of unprovoked aggression by the Argentine junta, but I believe that to recapture the islands by force was politically and militarily wrong. Nothing has happened since to make me change my mind.
Secondly, I believe that history will condemn this Government in particular for their refusal to accept the negotiated settlement on offer in the closing days before the recapture and our troops landed on the Falkland Islands. Under United Nations auspices agreement was available on the basis of a complete withdrawal of Argentine forces, an interim United Nations administration and negotiations without prejudging the sovereignty issue. That fact is in the Government's document and it is in a letter that I received from the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
The reasons given by the Government in that tawdry document, the report of the negotiations, for not accepting those terms are wholly inadequate when we see that the alternative was to press ahead with the military action which was at best a dangerous exercise and which involved the loss of many lives and was bound to do so. [Interruption.] I see the Foreign Secretary shaking his head. Let me give him one quotation from the letter from the Minister of State, the hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow), with reference to the question of prejudging the sovereignty issue:The Argentine response to our proposals given to them on 17 May suggested only that negotiations on the future of the Islands should be initiated without prejudice to the rights, claims and positions of the two parties.That was the position.
§ Mr. Strang
No. I think that the right hon. Gentleman's statement does not square with the report of the negotiations that the Government published. Time does not allow me to quote from the Government's document.
What are the lessons from the Falklands episode? First, successive British Governments and Parliaments should have recognised that there was no long-term future for the islands under British sovereignty and proceeded to negotiate a settlement that accepted that and secured the best possible deal for the islanders.
My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition rightly focused attention on the importance of the United 979 Nations throughout the affair. The United Nations General Assembly in 1965 passed a resolution urging the Argentine and British Governments to get together to negotiate a settlement on the issue. The important issue is not what the Government did in advance of the invasion but what they did after the invasion. The real lessons to be learnt are the failures of successive Governments in advance of the Argentine invasion of the islands.
I hope that the Foreign Office is looking carefully at some of our other dependencies, some of the other relics of our imperial past, so that we can avoid further tragic loss of Service men's lives and further indefensible commitments of resources and expenditure in the future.
What of the future for the Falklands? We have the worst of all worlds. We have lost so many lives so tragically. We are committed to spending thousands of millions of pounds into the future. The position is worse than when we started, because we do not even have the basis for the most important element of the economic development of the islands—a regular air service between the South American continent and the Falklands.
This whole episode has damaged Britain's interests. The real issue is how quickly will the present Government or any British Government have the statemanship to reopen negotiations and secure a settlement before more British lives are tragically lost.
§ Mr. John Silkin (Deptford)
There have been many powerful and important contributions to this long debate, and, if he will permit me to say so, none more powerful and none more important than that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), the former Prime Minister. But, at the end of the debate, we are left with the basic question: could the invasion of the Falklands by the Fascist junta of Argentina have been prevented? In my view, the answer is "Yes".
The right hon. Member for St. Ives (Sir J. Nott), in effect, said to us "Why debate this issue now? Forget the past; it is the future alone that concerns us." I believe that everyone has a duty to give the best judgment he can on the events that led up to the Falklands war. To do otherwise would be to ignore, indeed to betray, the young people who lost their lives or were wounded in the South Atlantic, and their relatives and friends. British or Argentine, they were the ones who suffered.
Among those young people was one young man, a lieutenant in the Royal Navy called David Tinker. He was killed in HMS Glamorgan when an Argentine Exocet hit the ship. He was only 25. The letters that he wrote home are vivid and evocative. He wrote about what he believed to be the reasons for the war. He wrote:This one is to recapture a place which we were going to leave undefended from April and to deprive its residents of British citizenship in October, and to recapture it, having built up their forces with the most modern Western arms (not even we have the air-launched Exocet which is so deadly) and fighting ourselves without two of the pre-requisites of naval warfare, air cover and airborne early warning which have been essential since world war 2.Those are powerful criticisms and would deserve in any event to be considered, but coming as they do from this young man who died, we have a double duty to examine the accusations he makes.
David Tinker made much of the fact that we and our allies built up and equipped the Argentine forces. My hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Mr. Newens) yesterday 980 gave a frightening list of equipment that the Argentines received from us. In fact, they are still being armed by us, as my hon. Friend told us. The Rolls-Royce engines that are being supplied to the six frigates in Hamburg in Germany are destined for Argentina. As the Foreign Secretary pointed out this afternoon, Argentina has not ceased hostilities. Why then are the Argentines still being armed by us?
If it was wrong, and I believe it was, for any Government to have supplied Argentina with arms in the past—all Governments were to blame for that—from the moment that the unilateral communiqué was issued on 1 March 1982, it became, to my mind, criminally negligent to do so. Yet arms were being supplied even to the moment when Argentina invaded.
David Tinker's other criticism was that the war was about recapturing British possessions that the Government had intended to leave undefended. In September 1980 Lord Carrington minuted the Prime Minister on his three alternatives—Fortress Falklands, protracted negotiations with no concession on sovereignty, or substantial negotiations on sovereignty. The option that everyone, including the Government, rejected was Fortress Falklands. The Prime Minister fairly told us yesterday that short of Fortress Falklands it was impossible completely to guarantee the safety of the islands from military aggression. If that is so, why as late as 3 February 1982, seven weeks before the invasion, did the Prime Minister write to Mrs. Madge Nicholls of Gerrards Cross thatour judgment is that the presence of the Royal marines garrison is sufficient deterrent against any possible aggression"?Did the right hon. Lady really believe that the presence of a Royal Marines garrison comprising 42 men could possibly prevent the islands being invaded? This is puzzling, especially in view of what she said yesterday. Incidentally, I find it almost incredible that the Franks tribunal, composed of so many able and intelligent men, should not have thought it worth while to consider the Prime Minister's letter to Mrs. Nicholls, bearing in mind its clear relevance to the events of the time.
The Prime Minister has been asked about the letter to Mrs. Nicholls on a number of occasions. I recall well the occasion when she was asked about it by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition. She has chosen never to reply to these questions. I hope that by now she will have thought of a convincing answer and will enlighten us when she replies.
§ Mr. Silkin
No, I shall not give way. I do not have time to do so.
There was always the possibility of an Argentine invasion but it was considered that the time scale would be relatively slow, that it would come in stages and that the right hon. Lady would have plenty of warning before she needed to take action. The aggression of 2 April came, as the right hon. Lady has said, "out of the blue". However, she should have been well aware of the danger of an Argentine invasion. The warnings were there in the papers that she should have read.
As early as 12 October 1979 Lord Carrington sent the right hon. Lady a memorandum demanding a discussion during the following week. He had already been pressing for a decision on policy since 20 September 1979 but the Prime Minister had decided that the matter "could not be rushed". In October 1979 Lord Carrington wrote: 981If Argentine concluded that there was no prospect of real progress towards a negotiated transfer of sovereignty there would be a high risk of its resorting to more forceful measures, including direct military action.The Prime Minister's reaction to that powerful warning of "direct military action" was to postpone all discussion of the Falklands by the Defence Committee until January 1980. Yet additional confirmation was coming in the whole time to her that the Falklands issue was becoming urgent. In November 1979 the JIC warned that if the British Government were not prepared seriously to negotiate on sovereigntyThere was a high risk that strong military action against the Falklands Islands could not be discounted.By January 1980 Lord Carrington was also warning his colleagues thatto continue to stall could be risky".It is interesting that he used the word "risky".
On 29 January 1980—two months after the warnings from the JIC—the Prime Minister finally got round to considering the problem that had lain on her table for four months. It was agreed that continuing the Labour Government's approach should be rejected and that further talks with the Argentines should be held. But between January and July 1980 the Prime Minister appears to have forgotten all about the subject until it was agreed in July to reach a solution on the basis of a lease—back arrangement.
When the Financial Secretary to the Treasury was sent to the Falklands in November 1980 to discuss a lease-back with the islanders, he appeared to be under no illusions about the dangers. I recently watched a television programme in which Mr. Terry Peck, a leading islander, appeared. According to Mr. Terry Peck, when the Financial Secretary to the Treasury was in the Falklands, he warned Falklanders on more than one occasion that if they did not agree to sovereignty going to Argentina the Argentines might use military force to capture the islands.
Therefore, within the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, within the Government, there is no doubt that Ministers were saying that there was a danger that the Argentines might invade. Surely the Prime Minister must have been aware of that or was she not on speaking terms with her Ministers? From that point onwards, the report shows that the Prime Minister received no fewer than six further warnings, either from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office or from the JIC, about the military danger from Argentina. If she refused to believe any of those warnings, she should at least have believed General Galtieri.
During the spring and summer of 1981, General Galtieri was commander-in-chief of the Argentine army. He deliberately chose army day—a significant occasion—in 1981 to threaten Britain by saying that after a century and a half the Falklands issue was becoming intolerable. Did not the Prime Minister appreciate the significance of that?
There can be no doubt that time and again the Prime Minister was warned that Argentina might be considering undertaking a military conflict. On each occasion she ignored the warning or temporised. She failed to insure against the risk, the high risk as it had been described.
The total identification with the people of the Falklands that the Prime Minister now purports to have did not exist in those critical months. Indeed, it was worse. The signals 982 that were being sent out to the Argentine Government, almost from the moment that she took office, were that the Prime Minister did not mind what happened to the Falklands and that, in any event, there was not the slightest possibility that we would do more than put up a token defence if the islands were invaded.
It is in that context that the issue of HMS Endurance arises. Franks devotes no fewer than five long consecutive paragraphs to HMS Endurance. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office was well aware that the decision to withdraw HMS Endurance would be seen in Argentina as a sign that Britain was no longer interested in the islands. The islanders certainly knew that, as my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition pointed out yesterday. On 26 June 1981, they sent a message to Lord Carrington that was phrased in the strongest possible terms. It included the following sentence:They feel that such a withdrawal will further weaken British sovereignty in this area in the eyes not only of the islanders but of the whole world.The then Secretary of State for Defence was adamant that HMS Endurance had to go despite Lord Carrington's many attempts to get the decision cancelled. I am sorry that the right hon. Member for St. Ives is not present. He said today that he had to weigh up the cost of maintaining HMS Endurance against the cost of maintaining a frigate. We lost three frigates in the war. However the Prime Minister may try to dodge the responsibility, it remains firmly with her. In the conflict between the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for Defence, which continued over a long period, she sided with the Secretary of State for Defence. She could hardly have been ignorant of the feeling in the House. Several early-day motions were tabled on the subject, one of which was signed by more than 150 hon. Members.
On 9 February 1982 the right hon. Lady was tackled about the decision to withdraw and pay off Endurance by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East. It was not hindsight. I know that my right hon. Friend will forgive me for saying that it was not even foresight. It was plain common sense. He warned that the consequences in the south Atlantic could be serious. The Prime Minister considered the issue and, faced with a bill for £3 million, asserted that other claims on the defence budget had greater priority. That assertion was not lost on the Fascist junta in Buenos Aires.
§ Sir Victor Goodhew (St. Albans)
The right hon. Gentleman is saying that the decision on Endurance was enough to invite the junta to attempt a landing on the Falkland Islands. How does he reconcile that with his view—and the view of the Labour party—that the British nuclear deterrent should be abandoned? What effect would that have on Russia?
§ Mr. Silkin
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman should read the Franks report. If I am allowed to progress, he will realise that I am not talking only about Endurance. The Fascist Government of Argentina was guilty of aggression on 2 April 1982, and there is no disputing that. Nothing can excuse that action. But, however mistaken, it is not surprising that they came to believe that such aggression would not be resisted by the British Government. As early as July 1981, the Argentine press had interpreted the withdrawal of Endurance as showing thatBritain was abandoning the protection of the Falkland Islands.983 That was the very conclusion that the islanders anticipated in their message of 26 June, and against which my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East warned so forcefully in February 1982.
There were other signs—perhaps the hon. Member for St. Albans (Sir V. Goodhew) will listen to them—about which the governor wrote on 19 January 1982 in his annual report to the Foreign Office. He listed three signs, including the decision to scrap Endurance. He specifically mentioned the cuts in the Antarctic survey and the threatened closure of Grytviken in South Georgia. But the point is not how suspicious the islanders may have been. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East reminded us, the clear signals received in Buenos Aires were that the Conservative Government—unlike their predecessors—no longer wished to protect the islands. One of those signals was the defence review with its slashing of the Navy, including the projected sale of Invincible.
Yesterday the Prime Minister quoted the 1981 paper from the chiefs of staff. She said that it concluded thatto deter a full scale invasion, a large balanced force would be required"—that is the important point—[Interruption.] I hope that the Home Secretary will not object to my continuing with my speech. The paper continuedcomprising an Invincible class carrier with four destroyers or frigates plus possibly a nuclear powered submarine, supply ships in attendance and additional manpower up to brigade strength, to reinforce the garrison."—[Official Report, 25 January 1983; Vol. 35, c. 801.]The important point is that the list included an Invincible class carrier, and the Prime Minister had already decided to sell Invincible. By selling Invincible, she would have made it impossible for the task force to sail on 2 April, and we all know that if General Galtieri had waited for just six months the Falklands would now be lost for ever.
On many occasions in the past, when faced with Argentine threats, British Governments have immediately increased their defences. Winston Churchill and Clement Attlee did so, and in 1977 my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East did so, too. The Prime Minister followed none of those leads. She chose the path of vacillation and dither. That was the choice most likely to lead to a military adventure by the Argentines. It was the choice most likely to realise the worst fear of the intelligence assessment of July 1981—the fear that Argentina would conclude that there was no hope of a peaceful transfer of sovereignty, and that in those circumstances a full-scale invasion of the islands could not be discounted. Such an invasion could be made with a minimum of warning and could lead only to the bloodshed, the losses of brave men, ships and aircraft, and the bitter and costly aftermath of war that we have seen and are seeing today.
On page 84 of the report, the Franks committee describes the difficulties of closely monitoring Argentine preparations for invasion. The committee concludes that the operational problems and the large areas of Argentine coastline and hinterland made it impracticable for the intelligence agencies to provide earlier warning of what it believes to have been a last-minute decision to invade on 2 April.
I accept that, but two things surely follow of which the committee made no mention. First, however late the final decision, the invasion could not have been mounted in a day. The logistics must have required weeks of preparation 984 and of concentration of forces. Secondly, even if the limitations of our intelligence were so great that those preparations could be made in peacetime without the knowledge of our intelligence agencies or our diplomats, it is impossible to believe that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office was unaware, and failed to make its political masters aware, that an invasion could come out of the blue without warning or foreknowledge. There is nothing in the report to show that the committee asked the question or even considered it, but I ask it now and the House is entitled to an answer. Was the Prime Minister aware that the Falklands could be occupied with any foreknowledge on our side? Did she ask, as she clearly should have asked at least as early as July 1981, how much warning she would have? If she knew the truth, it was knowledge of vital importance to the decisions of Government at any time when invasion was an available Argentine option. If she did not know, only her incompetence can explain that fact.
The Prime Minister has taken upon herself the image of one who can do no wrong. She thinks, as was said in The Economist last week, that she can walk on water. She presents herself as saddled with a Cabinet of weaklings, who have to be told exactly what to do. She is the presiding genius who alone, in the end, has to make all the vital decisions, such as coming home from the Falklands to rescue the pound.
The reality is a story of dither and postponement and failure to read or understand the papers. Some day there will have to be a change. Some day our fences with Latin America will have to be mended. Some day reconciliation will have to be the key word. Fortunately, it will fall to someone other than the right hon. Lady to undertake that task.
§ The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)
Throughout this two-day debate there has been total agreement on both sides of the House that the campaign itself was brilliantly conducted and bravely fought. One was grateful throughout that time for the total support of hon. Members from all parts of the House.
We listened with particular interest to the speeches of my right hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Atkins) and my hon. Friend the Member for Shoreham (Mr. Luce), who both resigned when the invasion occurred because they believed that it was the right and honourable thing to do.
I shall comment on one or two of the things said by the right hon. Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin). At the beginning of his speech he commented upon selling arms to Argentina. I can only remind him that both this Government and his have been responsible for that. I have a list: eight ex-RAF Canberras were sold to Argentina in 1968, two type 42 destroyers were contracted in May 1970 and two Lynx helicopters in January 1976. Both Governments sold Sea Dart surface-to-air missiles. We have both been guilty of selling arms to Argentina. Both of us tried to cultivate friendly relations with the Argentines. Franks said that he thought that that was part of a signal to the Argentines, but we were both trying steadily to get closer relations with them and to co-operate more with them.
The right hon. Members for Deptford and for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) referred once again to HMS Endurance. 985 The right hon. Member for Leeds, East quoted what Lord Carver said about Endurance. I shall complete that quotation. He said:Let us remember that 'Endurance' was not withdrawn. 'Endurance' was there and had not the slightest effect upon the invasion".—[Official Report, House of Lords, 25 January 1983; Vol. 438, c. 178.]That is the fact of the matter. The right hon. Member for Deptford has spent a great deal of time talking about Endurance. Obviously, I wish that we had kept it. In fact, we have kept it. I wish that we had said that we would keep it, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence indicated, and as I thought I had indicated when I opened the debate yesterday.
We were not the first Government to say in a defence review that we would no longer keep Endurance in deployment. Having made that decision, nor were we the first Government to go back on it and say that it would stay. The fact was that Endurance was always going to stay until the end of that summer. She would always have been deployed until the middle of April. There was never any question of her leaving before then. The fact is also that Endurance is there for only about four months of the year, after which she comes back to this country and goes down again for the summer months. As Lord Carver said, Endurance was there when the invasion occurred. It was there previously when shots were fired across the bows of the RRS Shackleton. She was not a deterrent. However, she will remain deployed during those months of the year.
The right hon. Members for Deptford and for Leeds, East commented that the task force could not have been assembled by the end of the year. It is not the case that the task force could not have sailed by the end of 1982. HMS Invincible would still have been in the Royal Navy. She was not due to be handed over to the Australians until late 1983, so she would still have not been handed over and the task force could still have sailed this year. The assault ships HMS Fearless and HMS Intrepid had already been reprieved, as the former Defence Secretary told the House on 8 March, by the time of the Argentine invasion. By the time that HMS Invincible would have been due to go to the Australians, HMS Illustrious and HMS Hermes would both have been on station, with HMS Ark Royal coming in later. It is not true that the task force could not have sailed later.
The right hon. Member for Deptford made some comment, as did the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen), about the paramountcy of the islanders' wishes. I hope that there will be no change in policy about this, because the policy has been the same for many years. At the beginning of the Franks report it is said that the then Michael Stewart, now Lord Stewart, made a statement in the House following the end of the first round of negotiations in which Lord Chalfont was involved. Those were terminated, but fresh ones had started and Mr. Stewart made a statement to Parliamentwhich announced the decision to continue negotiations and which confirmed that the British Government would continue to insist on ther paramountcy of the Islanders' wishes.That was in 1968.
The right hon. Member for Stepney and Poplar (Mr. Shore), in his cross-examination of my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary on 2 December 1980, made it clear that he, and I therefore assume his party, still believed in the paramountcy of the islanders' wishes. He said: 986The Minister was asked a few moments ago whether, if the islanders were to opt for the status quo, that would then be the Government's view on the matter and they would sustain it. He did not give clear reply to that. If the Government are to honour their commitment that the views and wishes of the Falkland Islanders are to be paramount, which is the word which has been used hitherto, he must assure the House and the Falkland Islanders that the principle of paramountcy of their wishes about their future will be sustained by the British Government"—[Official Report, 2 December 1980; Vol. 995, c. 134.]I think that the right hon. Member believed that, and when the campaign began I think that I heard the right hon. Member for Leeds, East say that the Labour party still believed in paramountcy. I hope that no one is trying to slide out of it now. It is fundamental to the islanders' belief.
I noticed that there was one occasion on which the right hon. Member for Devonport did not use the word when he made a statement to the House, and used the word "consult" instead. When the islanders rejected the scheme to have joint co-operation on scientific work on another dependency in addition to Southern Thule, saying that there would be Argentine occupation of South Georgia and Southern Thule, the right hon. Gentleman accepted that, and the negotiations broke down. That was not the only time that the negotiations broke down. Sometimes Labour Members have spoken as if there have been negotiations all the time. That was not so, and there were times when they broke down completely.
The right hon. Member for Leeds, East quoted Lord Hill-Norton as saying that £10 million would have been sufficient to deter. I cannot imagine what anyone thinks £10 million would have bought in terms of deterrence, compared with the enormous number of things that were needed on the islands, and which we are now having to carry out to deter properly.
Both the right hon. Member for Deptford and the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) referred to the warning to Galtieri and suggested that I might have done something stronger than get on to the President of the United States. However, by the time that we did that, diplomatic relations had virtually broken down because of the incident on South Georgia. The relationship between our ambassador there and Costa Mendez was such that Costa Mendez was saying that the diplomatic channel was closed.
The right hon. Gentlemen will also know, and the evidence is cited throughout the report, that the Argentines attach enormous importance to their relationship with the United States, which they had continuously been cultivating for a considerable time. It seemed to be obvious to get on to the most powerful President in the world, of whom they thought highly and with whom they were trying to achieve closer relations.
It was absolutely right, under those circumstances, to get on to President Reagan. The sequence of events was very interesting. After putting representations through the United States' ambassador in Buenos Aires, President Reagan himself tried to telephone President Galtieri. It is interesting that President Galtieri refused to take that telephone call for some four hours. It was thought afterwards, as information reached us, that this was the four hours in which the junta was meeting and deciding, come hell or high water, that it was going to invade. It was only after that that Galtieri took the telephone call from President Reagan who was on to him for nearly an hour and told him in no uncertain terms that Britain would 987 regard this as a casus belli. The right hon. Member for Leeds, East had fun with that. I doubt whether there is anyone who does not know, in that position, what a casus belli means. Galtieri knew full well what it meant.
President Reagan also said that it would have a great effect on Argentina's relations with the United States, which Argentina valued, as we now know that it did. It was only the headlong determination of the junta to invade that caused Galtieri to reject President Reagan's pleas and also caused him to reject President Reagan's offer to send Vice-President Bush down there to try to find a solution to the problem. The junta was absolutely determined to invade. Nothing, but nothing, would deflect it from its course of action.
A number of hon. Members have analysed carefully the position as it was in early March long before the South Georgia incident. The South Georgia incident started on 19 March. It was not serious for some time because, after Argentina had put its people on to South Georgia at Leith, the next news was that it had taken a large number off. Many hon. Members have focused on the period in early March as the turning point. They have tried to show that there was clear evidence that a crisis was upon us, that Argentina had given up hope of negotiation, that it should have been assumed that Argentina was turning to the military option then and therefore that immediate military dispositions should have been made.
That has substantially been the argument. It seems to me that those who mount the argument fall headlong into the trap that Lord Franks wisely avoided—the trap of hindsight. Those who use that argument start from the point that the invasion occurred on 2 April. They have looked for any sentences in the report that could possibly bear on that point. They cite selectively the final paragraph of the JIC report in 1981 to build up a picture suggesting that the Government should have known that an invasion was imminent and that they should therefore have dispatched ships. The argument simply does not hold water.
The true sequence of events is clear from the report. Talks had been held in New York in February 1982. The report, as many hon. Members have noted, compliments my hon. Friend the Member for Shoreham on his conduct of the talks. There was first a joint communiqué recording that the meeting took place in a cordial and positive spirit and that both sides reaffirmed their resolve to find a solution to the dispute. Then a unilateral communiqué was issued in Buenos Aires upon which much comment has centred. Undoubtedly, this represented a hardening of Argentina's attitude. I gave many instances yesterday of previous hardening of Argentine attitudes. The Government fully recognised that at the time. The Buenos Aires communiqué recorded the proposal made in New York to establish a system of monthly meetings. The unilateral communiqué described the system as an effective step for the early solution of the dispute. That does not sound like negotiations breaking down.
§ Mr. Dalyell
If it is a matter of hindsight, why did the Prime Minister in her own handwriting—according to paragraphs 152 and 147—write on the telegram to the ambassador in Buenos Aires:we must make contingency plans"?
§ The Prime Minister
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I am coming to that precise point.
988 There was a press campaign in Buenos Aires, as there had been on several previous occasions, and it is that to which the hon. Gentleman is referring. Again, using hindsight selectively, that has been portrayed as another clear warning of imminent invasion. It was not so. An Argentine Government source was quotedas saying that parallel plans had been formulated in case the proposed meetings did not produce sufficient progress towards a solution—again a reference to negotiations. [Interruption.] This is what the report says in paragraph 139, and the hon. Gentleman should read it:These included recourse to the United Nations and the breaking off of economic and political relations. The source preferred, however, 'at the moment' to discount suggestions of Argentina's using force to resolve the dispute".The famous article in La Prensaspeculated … that, if present tactics were unproductive, a first step might be to cut off services to the Islands followed by a progressive cooling of bilateral relations".The report went on to say that in the longer runThere would be no flexibility in Argentina's minimum demand for restitution of sovereignty before the 150th anniversary",and that is why I wrote on the top of the telegramwe must make contingency plans".Let me say this to the hon. Gentleman. It seems that a number of hon. Members think that just because one writes to the chiefs of staff and says that we must make contingency plans they could overcome all the fundamental geography or the fundamental fact that the islands are 7,000 miles away and that one can only reinforce them from Ascension.
§ The Prime Minister
The fact was, and the report refers to it, thatno Government was prepared to establish a garrison on the Falklands large enough to repel a full-scale Argentine invasion, or to provide an extended runway for the airfield, with supporting facilitiesand without that it was not possible to have a rapid contingency plan that would have overcome all the geography. The right hon. Gentleman's Government did not. We did not. We needed a full airfield, a full airstrip, fully defended, fully equipped with aircraft, and a full garrison in residence to have effective contingency plans. It is absolutely a travesty and thoroughly misleading to suggest that merely by sending a nuclear submarine and a couple of frigates one could have overcome all of the difficulties to which the chiefs of staff referred time and time again—time and time again—in the four papers that are referred to in the report, which were all similar, and which all had the warning "If you are going to deter without that you will have to send a full aircraft carrier force and that might not be enough when you get there. Therefore you need a very much larger task force." That, eventually, is what we had to send. I said yesterday that to make effective contingency plans we should have had to send 104 ships and 26,000 men, but I doubt whether Opposition Members would ever have accepted that. [Interruption.]
§ The Prime Minister
I want to say a word about the future. [Interruption.] That is totally and absolutely untrue, and I must ask the hon. Member to withdraw. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw".]
§ The Prime Minister
I think that I, too, then can turn a deaf ear.
Hon. Members on both sides of the House have made use of the phrase "Fortress Falklands" as if it were a policy in itself. It is not. If the Falklands are at present a fortress it is purely and simply a state of affairs caused by the Argentine aggression of 2 April and by our determination that that aggression will not be repeated.
Our policy is to create conditions in which the islanders can live happy, prosperous and free lives under a Government of their choosing. Much time is needed in order to fulfil that policy in all its aspects. There is a great deal to be done to restore normality to the lives of the islanders after the brutal shock of invasion and occupation. From my visit to the islands I can testify to the extent of the disruption and the time and effort that will be needed to re-create normal life and enhance the community's prosperity.
First and foremost, the Argentine Government must commit themselves formally and unequivocally to a cessation of hostilities. That has not happened. Even in the past few weeks we have been exposed to contradictory statements from Buenos Aires and New York, some bellicose and threatening, some denying hostile intent—again, the same double-sided approach. That does not create confidence either for me or, I suggest, the House and the islanders. If and when Argentina makes a clear declaration that hostilities are at an end, there will have to be a period in which I hope that they will be prepared to work towards full normalisation of our bilateral relations. That, too, is bound to take time. Meanwhile, it is obviously premature for either the islanders or ourselves to speculate, as has been done both in the House and in the media, about specific policies for the long-term future.
At this stage I shall say only that I have been urged by certain Labour Members to enter into negotiations with Argentina. About what? It is obvious that the Argentines see negotiations solely as a means of achieving the direct transfer of sovereignty over the Falkland Islands and the dependencies to Argentina. That is totally unacceptable to us and the islanders and no amount of pressure will induce me to enter into negotiations on that basis.
In opening the debate yesterday I reminded the House that within a week of the Argentine invasion I announced that a review would be held of the way in which the Government discharged their responsibilities in the period that preceded 2 April 1982. The Government wanted an inquiry of absolute integrity and independence. Therefore, I sought one of our most distinguished public figures, Lord Franks, as chairman. His name was agreed with the Opposition parties. The right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins) described him as a man of outstanding ability and experience. I suggested a former permanent secretary, Sir Patrick Nairne, who was also agreed by the Opposition parties. I suggested two Privy Councillors from each of the main political parties. The Leader of the Opposition named two and I proposed two former Conservative Cabinet Ministers. I then suggested 990 terms of reference and they were agreed by the Opposition. No Prime Minister has ever gone further in submitting a Government's record to scrutiny and investigation.
I always believed that the Government could not have foreseen the invasion and that they could not be blamed for the unprovoked aggression of the Argentine Government, but I was prepared to put that belief under the microscope of an inquiry. No one who has spoken in this debate, and that applies to me as well, has seen or heard more than a fraction of the evidence that was available to that committee. Its composition, its deliberately wide terms of reference, the mass of evidence available to it, and the thoroughness with which the inquiry was conducted give to the Franks report a unique authority. That report exonerates Her Majesty's Government on the two central issues. The invasion of the Falkland Islands could neither have been foreseen nor prevented.
In effect, the Opposition reject the report's findings. They reject a unanimous report which their representatives signed without reservation. Of course, for the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot) the report is a bitter pill to swallow. He pointed out that his noble Friend Lord Lever of Manchester and his right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) retainedthe right to make their own independent assessment and to produce their own report if they so wish."—[Official Report, 8 July 1982; Vol. 27, c. 477.]By its amendment tonight, the Labour party is condemned. Just think what the Opposition would be saying if the position were reversed. Just imagine if the Franks report had turned against the Government and I was standing at the Dispatch Box rejecting the findings and quarrelling with the conclusions, refusing to accept the referee's decision. Like the Leader of the Opposition, I agreed the members of the committee and the terms of reference so that an impartial judgment could be made of all that we had done. We placed our reputation in the committee's hands and the Government accept the verdict.
§ Question put, That the amendment be made:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 240, Noes 292.994
|Divison No. 50]||[10 pm|
|Abse, Leo||Campbell, Ian|
|Adams, Allen||Campbell-Savours, Dale|
|Allaun, Frank||Canavan, Dennis|
|Alton, David||Cant, R. B.|
|Anderson, Donald||Carmichael, Neil|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Carter-Jones, Lewis|
|Ashley, Rt Hon Jack||Cartwright, John|
|Ashton, Joe||Clark, Dr David (S Shields)|
|Atkinson, N.(H'gey,)||Clarke,Thomas(C'b'dge, A'rie)|
|Bagier, Gordon A.T.||Cocks, Rt Hon M. (B'stol S)|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Cohen, Stanley|
|Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (H'wd)||Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.|
|Beith, A. J.||Conlan, Bernard|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||Cowans, Harry|
|Bennett, Andrew(St'kp't N)||Crowther, Stan|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Cryer, Bob|
|Booth, Rt Hon Albert||Cunliffe, Lawrence|
|Boothroyd, Miss Betty||Cunningham, G. (Islington S)|
|Bottomley, Rt Hon A.(M'b'ro)||Cunningham, Dr J. (W'h'n)|
|Bradley, Tom||Dalyell, Tam|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Davidson, Arthur|
|Brocklebank-Fowler, C.||Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli)|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)|
|Brown, R. C. (N'castle W)||Davis, Terry (B'ham, Stechf'd)|
|Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith)||Deakins, Eric|
|Buchan, Norman||Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)|
|Callaghan, Rt Hon J.||Dewar, Donald|
|Callaghan, Jim (Midd't'n & P)||Dixon, Donald|
|Dobson, Frank||McNally, Thomas|
|Dormand, Jack||McNamara, Kevin|
|Douglas, Dick||McTaggart, Robert|
|Dubs, Alfred||Magee, Bryan|
|Dunnett, Jack||Marks, Kenneth|
|Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.||Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)|
|Eadie, Alex||Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)|
|Ellis, R. (NE D'bysh're)||Martin, M(G'gow S'burn)|
|Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)||Mason, Rt Hon Roy|
|English, Michael||Maxton, John|
|Ennals, Rt Hon David||Maynard, Miss Joan|
|Evans, John (Newton)||Meacher, Michael|
|Ewing, Harry||Mikardo, Ian|
|Faulds, Andrew||Morris, Rt Hon C. (O'shaw)|
|Field, Frank||Morton, George|
|Fitch, Alan||Moyle, Rt Hon Roland|
|Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Newens, Stanley|
|Forrester, John||Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon|
|Foster, Derek||Ogden, Eric|
|Foulkes, George||O'Halloran, Michael|
|Fraser, J. (Lamb'th, N'w'd)||O'Neill, Martin|
|Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley|
|Garrett, John (Norwich S)||Owen, Rt Hon Dr David|
|George, Bruce||Palmer, Arthur|
|Ginsburg, David||Park, George|
|Golding, John||Parker, John|
|Graham, Ted||Parry, Robert|
|Grant, John (Islington C)||Pendry, Tom|
|Grimond, Rt Hon J.||Penhaligon, David|
|Hamilton, W. W. (C'tral Fife)||Pitt, William Henry|
|Harman, Harriet (Peckham)||Powell, Rt Hon J.E. (S Down)|
|Harrison, Rt Hon Walter||Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)|
|Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy||Prescott, John|
|Haynes, Frank||Race, Reg|
|Healey, Rt Hon Denis||Radice, Giles|
|Heffer, Eric S.||Rees, Rt Hon M (Leeds S)|
|Hogg, N. (E Dunb't'nshire)||Richardson, Jo|
|Holland, S. (L'b'th, Vauxh'll)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Home Robertson, John||Roberts, Allan (Bootle)|
|Homewood, William||Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)|
|Hooley, Frank||Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)|
|Horam, John||Robertson, George|
|Howell, Rt Hon D.||Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)|
|Howells, Geraint||Rodgers, Rt Hon William|
|Hoyle, Douglas||Rooker, J. W.|
|Huckfield, Les||Roper, John|
|Hudson Davies, Gwilym E.||Ross, Ernest (Dundee West)|
|Hughes, Mark (Durham)||Ross, Wm. (Londonderry)|
|Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Rowlands, Ted|
|Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Ryman, John|
|Janner, Hon Greville||Sever, John|
|Jay, Rt Hon Douglas||Sheerman, Barry|
|John, Brynmor||Sheldon, Rt Hon R.|
|Johnson, James (Hull West)||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Johnson, Walter (Derby S)||Short, Mrs Renée|
|Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Silkin, Rt Hon J. (Deptford)|
|Jones, Rt Hon Alec (Rh'dda)||Silverman, Julius|
|Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Skinner, Dennis|
|Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald||Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)|
|Kerr, Russell||Smith, Rt Hon J. (N Lanark)|
|Kinnock, Neil||Soley, Clive|
|Lambie, David||Spearing, Nigel|
|Lamond, James||Spellar, John Francis (B'ham)|
|Leadbitter, Ted||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Leighton, Ronald||Stallard, A. W.|
|Lestor, Miss Joan||Steel, Rt Hon David|
|Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Stewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)|
|Litherland, Robert||Stoddart, David|
|Lofthouse, Geoffrey||Stott, Roger|
|Lyon, Alexander (York)||Strang, Gavin|
|Lyons, Edward (Bradf'd W)||Straw, Jack|
|Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. Dickson||Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley|
|McCartney, Hugh||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)|
|McCusker, H.||Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)|
|McDonald, Dr Oonagh||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)|
|McElhone, Mrs Helen||Thomas, Dr R.(Carmarthen)|
|McKay, Allen (Penistone)||Thorne, Stan (Preston South)|
|McKelvey, William||Tilley, John|
|MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor||Tinn, James|
|Maclennan, Robert||Torney, Tom|
|Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.||Willey, Rt Hon Frederick|
|Wainwright, E. (Dearne V)||Williams, Rt Hon A.(S'sea W)|
|Wainwright, H.(Colne V)||Williams, Rt Hon Mrs(Crosby)|
|Walker, Rt Hon H.(D'caster)||Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)|
|Warden, Gareth||Wilson, Rt Hon Sir H.(H'ton)|
|Watkins, David||Wilson, William (C'try SE)|
|Weetch, Ken||Winnick, David|
|Wellbeloved, James||Woodall, Alec|
|Welsh, Michael||Wright, Sheila|
|White, Frank R.||Young, David (Bolton E)|
|White, J. (G'gow Pollok)|
|Whitehead, Phillip||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Whitlock, William||Mr. James Hamilton and|
|Wigley, Dafydd||Mr. Ian Evans.|
|Adley, Robert||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.|
|Aitken, Jonathan||du Cann, Rt Hon Edward|
|Alexander, Richard||Dunlop, John|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael||Dunn, Robert (Dartford)|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Dykes, Hugh|
|Ancram, Michael||Eden, Rt Hon Sir John|
|Arnold, Tom||Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke)|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Eggar, Tim|
|Atkins, Rt Hon H.(S'thorne)||Elliott, Sir William|
|Atkins, Robert(Preston N)||Emery, Sir Peter|
|Baker, Kenneth(St.M'bone)||Eyre, Reginald|
|Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)||Fairbairn, Nicholas|
|Banks, Robert||Faith, Mrs Sheila|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Farr, John|
|Bendall, Vivian||Fenner, Mrs Peggy|
|Benyon, Thomas (A'don)||Finsberg, Geoffrey|
|Benyon, W. (Buckingham)||Fisher, Sir Nigel|
|Best, Keith||Fletcher, A. (Ed'nb'gh N)|
|Bevan, David Gilroy||Fletcher-Cooke, Sir Charles|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Fookes, Miss Janet|
|Biggs-Davison, Sir John||Fowler, Rt Hon Norman|
|Blackburn, John||Fox, Marcus|
|Blaker, Peter||Fraser, Rt Hon Sir Hugh|
|Body, Richard||Fraser, Peter (South Angus)|
|Bonsor, Sir Nicholas||Fry, Peter|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Gardiner, George (Reigate)|
|Bottomley, Peter (W'wich W)||Gardner, Sir Edward|
|Bowden, Andrew||Garel-Jones, Tristan|
|Boyson, Dr Rhodes||Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Glyn, Dr Alan|
|Bright, Graham||Goodhart, Sir Philip|
|Brittan, Rt. Hon. Leon||Goodhew, Sir Victor|
|Brooke, Hon Peter||Goodlad, Alastair|
|Brotherton, Michael||Gorst, John|
|Browne, John (Winchester)||Gow, Ian|
|Bruce-Gardyne, John||Gower, Sir Raymond|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Gray, Rt Hon Hamish|
|Buchanan-Smith, Rt. Hon. A.||Greenway, Harry|
|Buck, Antony||Griffiths, E.(B'y St. Edm'ds)|
|Budgen, Nick||Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)|
|Bulmer, Esmond||Grist, Ian|
|Burden, Sir Frederick||Grylls, Michael|
|Butcher, John||Gummer, John Selwyn|
|Carlisle, John (Luton West)||Hamilton, Hon A.|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)|
|Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (R'c'n)||Hampson, Dr Keith|
|Chalker, Mrs. Lynda||Hannam, John|
|Channon, Rt. Hon. Paul||Haselhurst, Alan|
|Chapman, Sydney||Hastings, Stephen|
|Churchill, W. S.||Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael|
|Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th, S'n)||Hawksley, Warren|
|Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)||Hayhoe, Barney|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Heath, Rt Hon Edward|
|Clegg, Sir Walter||Heddle, John|
|Cockeram, Eric||Henderson, Barry|
|Colvin, Michael||Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael|
|Cope, John||Hicks, Robert|
|Corrie, John||Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.|
|Costain, Sir Albert||Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Holland, Philip (Carlton)|
|Critchley, Julian||Hooson, Tom|
|Crouch, David||Hordern, Peter|
|Dickens, Geoffrey||Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey|
|Dorrell, Stephen||Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldf'd)|
|Hunt, David (Wirral)||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)||Miller, Hal (B'grove)|
|Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas||Mills, Iain (Meriden)|
|Irvine, RtHon Bryant Godman||Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon)|
|Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)||Miscampbell, Norman|
|Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)|
|Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey||Moate, Roger|
|Jopling, Rt Hon Michael||Monro, Sir Hector|
|Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith||Montgomery, Fergus|
|Kaberry, Sir Donald||Morgan, Geraint|
|Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine||Morris, M. (N'hampton S)|
|Kershaw, Sir Anthony||Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)|
|King, Rt Hon Tom||Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)|
|Knox, David||Murphy, Christopher|
|Lamont, Norman||Myles, David|
|Lang, Ian||Neale, Gerrard|
|Latham, Michael||Nelson, Anthony|
|Lawrence, Ivan||Neubert, Michael|
|Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel||Newton, Tony|
|Lee, John||Normanton, Tom|
|Le Marchant, Spencer||Nott, Rt Hon Sir John|
|Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark||Onslow, Cranley|
|Lester, Jim (Beeston)||Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.|
|Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Rutland)||Page, Richard (SW Herts)|
|Lloyd, Ian (Havant & W'loo)||Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil|
|Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)||Parris, Matthew|
|Loveridge, John||Patten, John (Oxford)|
|Luce, Richard||Pattie, Geoffrey|
|Lyell, Nicholas||Pawsey, James|
|MacGregor, John||Percival, Sir Ian|
|MacKay, John (Argyll)||Peyton, Rt Hon John|
|Macmillan, Rt Hon M.||Pink, R. Bonner|
|McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury)||Pollock, Alexander|
|McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st)||Porter, Barry|
|McQuarrie, Albert||Prentice, Rt Hon Reg|
|Major, John||Price, Sir David (Eastleigh)|
|Marland, Paul||Prior, Rt Hon James|
|Marlow, Antony||Proctor, K. Harvey|
|Marten, Rt Hon Neil||Pym, Rt Hon Francis|
|Mates, Michael||Rathbone, Tim|
|Maude, Rt Hon Sir Angus||Rees, Peter (Dover and Deal)|
|Mawby, Ray||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Mawhinney, Dr Brian||Renton, Tim|
|Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin||Rhodes James, Robert|
|Mayhew, Patrick||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Mellor, David||Ridley, Hon Nicholas|
|Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Roberts, M. (Cardiff NW)||Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M.|
|Roberts, Wyn (Conway)||Thomas, Rt Hon Peter|
|Rossi, Hugh||Thompson, Donald|
|Rost, Peter||Thorne, Neil (Ilford South)|
|Royle, Sir Anthony||Thornton, Malcolm|
|Rumbold, Mrs A. C. R.||Townend, John (Bridlington)|
|Sainsbury, Hon Timothy||Townsend, Cyril D, (B'heath)|
|St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.||Trippier, David|
|Scott, Nicholas||Trotter, Neville|
|Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)||van Straubenzee, Sir W.|
|Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')||Vaughan, Dr Gerard|
|Shelton, William (Streatham)||Viggers, Peter|
|Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)||Waddington, David|
|Shepherd, Richard||Waldegrave, Hon William|
|Shersby, Michael||Walker, Rt Hon P.(W'cester)|
|Silvester, Fred||Walker, B. (Perth)|
|Sims, Roger||Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir D.|
|Skeet, T. H. H.||Waller, Gary|
|Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)||Walters, Dennis|
|Speed, Keith||Ward, John|
|Speller, Tony||Warren, Kenneth|
|Spence, John||Watson, John|
|Spicer, Jim (West Dorset)||Wells, Bowen|
|Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Sproat, Iain||Wheeler, John|
|Squire, Robin||Whitelaw, Rt Hon William|
|Stanbrook, Ivor||Whitney, Raymond|
|Stanley, John||Wickenden, Keith|
|Steen, Anthony||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Stevens, Martin||Williams, D.(Montgomery)|
|Stewart, A.(E Renfrewshire)||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)||Wolfson, Mark|
|Stokes, John||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Stradling Thomas, J.|
|Tapsell, Peter||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)||Mr. Anthony Berry and|
|Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman||Mr. Carol Mather.|
§ Question accordingly negatived.
§ Main Question put and agreed to.
That this House takes note of the Report of a Committee of Privy Counsellors on the Falkland Islands Review (Cmnd. 8787).