§ Mr. Denis Healey (Leeds, East)
I beg to move, That this House do now adjourn.
When I asked your permission yesterday, Mr. Speaker, to move this motion, I said that the invasion of Grenada appeared to be a violation of the United Nations charter, that it had split the Commonwealth countries of the Caribbean in two and that it raised the most fundamental questions about relations between Britain and her most important ally. Everything that has happened in the past 24 hours confirms the justice of what I then said.
Let me start by quoting an editorial in The Times today —a paper that is not notorious for supporting the sort of views that I put forward. It says:There is no getting around the fact that the United States and its Caribbean allies have committed an act of aggression against Grenada. They are in breach of international law and the Charter of the United Nations.I hope that the Foreign Secretary will confirm that judgment when he speaks this afternoon, because international law is the only thing that stands between the world and anarchy.
If Governments arrogate to themselves the right to change the Governments of other sovereign states, there can be no peace in this world in perhaps the most dangerous age which the human race has ever known. It is quite improper for hon. Members to condemn, as we have, the violation of international law by the Soviet Union in its attacks on Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan if we do not apply the same standards to the United States' attack on Grenada two days ago.
The Security Council is meeting at this moment to consider the matter. I want first to ask the Foreign Secretary to assure the House that Her Majesty's Government will put at this meeting a resolution similar in terms to that which was put at the meeting 18 months ago when British territory in an island in another part of the south Atlantic was attacked by another aggressor, and that they will insist on the immediate withdrawal of all foreign troops from Grenada and the immediate cessation of hostilities.
It has become clear in the past 24 hours that, if there is not an immediate withdrawal of foreign troops from Grenada, the fighting may go on for months, if not years. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] The Prime Minister of Barbados and the Prime Minister of Dominica have both said on the radio in the past 24 hours—of course they are right—that the island of Grenada is ideal territory for guerrilla warfare. It is already clear that fighting is continuing in many parts of the island. They have both said —I suspect that they know about it as they are directly involved in the operation—that that fighting is likely to continue for at least six months. I hope that Conservative Members who dispute that danger will take some notice of what was said by participants in the conflict.
There can be no denial of the grave damage done to the unity of the Commonwealth by what has happened in the past few days. The Secretary-General made his opposition clear on the radio this morning. Next week the Prime Minister will be meeting her colleagues in New Delhi and there is no question but that this matter is likely to arise. Again, I ask the Foreign Secretary to confirm that in all those Commonwealth discussions the Government will 292 stand for the principles of international law and make their condemnation of the invasion of Grenada plain for all to see.
I come now to the impact of the invasion on relations between Britain and her most important ally, the United States. I fear that I must start by saying that information that has come to light in the past 24 hours makes it clear that the statements made by the Foreign Secretary on Monday and Tuesday of this week—I bow to the ruling that you made, Mr. Speaker, at the beginning of the debate not to use unparliamentary expressions—were imperfect, disingenuous and lacking in candour.
The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States issued a communique in which it made it clear that its member Governments met last Friday in Barbados and decided then to undertake what was described in the communique as "a pre-emptive defensive strike" against an independent member of the Commonwealth—Grenada—and to seek assistance for this purpose from friendly countries both in the area and outside.
We now know that President Reagan received this request on Friday night last week but we learnt from Prime Minister Adams on the radio at lunchtime today that Her Majesty's Government received this request on Friday night last week. This was stated in the clearest terms by Prime Minister Adams on the radio at 1 o'clock. He also expressed his disappointment that Her Majesty's Government had not acceded to the invitation. The House will want to know how, in the light of this fact, the Foreign Secretary could tell us simply:There were reports that some members of the smaller group"—in the Caribbean Commonwealth—were seeking military support … during the weekend."—[Official Report, 25 October 1983; Vol. 47, c. 147.]Even more, how could the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, say quite specifically in her statement in the House of Lords on Monday that no approach had been received from Commonwealth countries on this matter at the time when she spoke on Monday afternoon?
I can well imagine that the Foreign Secretary himself chose the formulation in his statement yesterday:No formal invitation was extended"—[Official Report, 25 October 1983; Vol. 47, c. 147.]until Monday evening. However, the plain fact is that the Government were approached by the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States on Friday. I gather that I may not say, Mr. Speaker, that the Foreign Secretary was deceiving the House, but he was certainly misleading it in the words that he used; and it is impossible to justify, by any stretch of the meaning of words, the statement of the Minister of State in another place on Monday afternoon.
We now know from what was said in Washington yesterday that the United States began considering military intervention against Grenada as soon as the military coup took place on 13 October, a fortnight ago. Reports from Washington on British television yesterday declared that the CIA had been planning such an operation for months before a coup took place. Indeed, Mr. Bishop—over whose death the President of the United States wept crocodile tears in his statement on Monday—expressed, in an interview on British radio last August, his concern about the imminence of an invasion of Grenada organised by the United States.
293 Indeed, our Foreign Affairs Select Committee, on examining the situation in the Caribbean 12 months ago, warned the Government of those fears, and the Foreign Office chose not to comment on this part of its report in the answer that it offered to the House last spring.
It is very difficult to resist the suspicion that the United States organised the invitation from the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States so as to justify its invasion. This suspicion is attributed to British officials — from the Foreign Office, I presume—in a report in today's Daily Telegraph, which also attributed to British officials the words that it was seen by the United States as a figleaf for intervention — the same words as were used by the Soviet Government in their statement yesterday.
In any case, reports of a likely intervention by some east Caribbean countries and the United States were widely circulating throughout the Caribbean over the weekend. On Monday, Grenada radio reported in detail the proceedings of CARICOM, when some very important members of the Commonwealth—I mentioned some of them yesterday: Trinidad, the largest Commonwealth country close to Grenada, Belize, which is under threat from Guatemala, and the Bahamas—totally rejected that request.
We know now, too, from reports from Washington yesterday, that the American national security council took a tentative decision to accept the OECS invitation on Sunday evening. Were Her Majesty's Government aware of this? Was the Foreign Secretary aware of it when he told us 24 hours later in this House, on Monday afternoon, that he had no reason to believe that America was contemplating such a step? Either Her Majesty's Government were deceived by their major ally, or Her Majesty's Government were deceiving the House.
The Foreign Secretary told the House yesterday that contacts continued throughout the weekend, but the level at which they continued is very obscure. I suspect that the duty clerk at the Foreign Office was talking to the duty clerk at the British Embassy in Washington. What is disturbing is Senator Larry Pressler's statement on the "Today" programme on British radio this morning that, when the President told certain Congressmen of his intention on Monday, he told them also that the United Kingdom Government were in full support of the policy that he was describing to them. I hope either that Senator Pressler misheard the President or that the President was mistaken. It is very important that the Foreign Secretary should clear this matter up this afternoon.
If one looks through the history not just of the past few days, but of the past 12 months when the possibility of a military attack on an independent Commonwealth state was widely discussed throughout the Caribbean and many other parts of the world ——
§ Mr. Healey
I will give way in a moment.
When one looks at the history of this affair one must feel that Her Majesty's Government have been guilty here of the same sort of fecklessness as they showed in dealing with the threat of an Argentine invasion of the Falklands 18 months ago. The prime responsibility for that fecklessness must lie with the Prime Minister herself. She has shown a lack of grip, a flaccid indolence, in dealing with a threat to British territory. [Interruption.] She has 294 failed in her duty to the House. She has failed in her duty to the British people. She has failed in her duty to the Commonwealth, and she has failed in her duty to the Palace. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. Healey
I should like the Foreign Secretary to tell us whether it is true, as widely reported in the newspapers this morning, that both the Prime Minister and the Palace first heard of the invasion from press reports. Is it also true that a telex from the Government of Grenada announcing the invasion was delivered to an old Foreign Office number which now belongs to a Scandinavian plastics company? [Interruption.] It is difficult to believe that incompetence and lack of grip could go any further. How on earth could the Prime Minister possibly imagine that a couple of minutes on the telephone with President Reagan, when the invasion was already under way, would make any difference?
I hope that the Foreign Secretary will tell us this afternoon what the Prime Minister said to the President during that fraught couple of minutes, and what he said to her. I must confess that my imagination leads me rather in the direction of a dialogue between the Glums.
I turn to the wider implication of what has happened for relations between Britain and the United States of America. The Prime Minister has made something of a cult of her special relationship with the American President at the expense of British interests, of her relations with our European partners and of our relations with the Commonwealth. Indeed, in her recent visit to the United States, she tried to outdo the American President in that astonishing outburst that was so rightly castigated by Lord Carrington a few days later as megaphone diplomacy. Nowhere has her servility to the American President been more evident than on the problems of central America and the Caribbean region. Contrary to all her undertakings at the European summit, she supported the use of force for the solution of the problems of central America although she had signed a communique, along with the other heads of Community Governments, specifically disavowing the use of force as a useful solution to the problems.
The Prime Minister has been an obedient poodle to the American President. [Interruption.] The true state of the relationship was put with brutal clarity by Secretary of State Shultz yesterday when he said:We are, of course, always impressed with the views of the British Government and Mrs. Thatcher, but that doesn't mean that we always have to agree with them and, of course, we also have to make decisions in the light of the security situation of our citizens as we see it.So much for the obligation to consult between allies. and so much for the relevance of joint decision on the use of cruise missiles placed in Britain. To make these points is not to be anti-American, because members of the American Congress make them with as much force as I do.
The fact is that President Reagan has broken the postwar diplomatic tradition of all Governments in the United States since 1945, whether Republican or Democrat. He has abandoned reliance on co-operation and consensus with his allies in favour of what has come to be called a sort of global unilateralism. That tendancy of the United States to go it alone in every aspect of world affairs carries 295 with it immense dangers for world peace, since the American President at the moment sees the world exclusively in terms of red and white. He sees Russia as the foes of all evil in the world — [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Hon. Members may say "Hear, hear" but there were wars in the world before October 1917. There were conflicts in the middle east, Latin America and Europe. That inability to see the world except in the terms of the most primitive comic strip is immensely dangerous.
Of course, the experience that the Prime Minister has undergone in the past week or so was undergone not long ago by President Mitterrand over Chad. Some of the propositions attributed to the American President over the Grenada affair almost beggar the imagination. Apparently he asked the Prime Minister to make Grenada a Crown colony. So much for entering Grenada to restore democratic government. He told the world yesterday that he planned to ask the Governor-General to try to sort things out. I hope that the Prime Minister is aware that the Governor-General of Grenada is responsible to Her Majesty the Queen and not to the American President. I am glad to see that she concedes that point.
It really is time that the Prime Minister got off her knees and joined other allies of the United States, who are deeply concerned about the present trend in American policy. I shall put three specific and urgent suggestions to her. First, along, I hope, with her European partners, she must not offer support for a multinational force in the Lebanon unless the United States joins the European Governments in pressing President Gemayel to give the Muslim majority in the Lebanon a fair share of power, and concedes the right of Syria to have an interest in the problems — [Interruption.] Well, the Foreign Secretary apparently conceded that in his answer to a question I put on Monday. I just hope that he sticks to his guns when he meets Mr. Shultz tomorrow in Paris.
Secondly, the Prime Minister must fulfil the obligations that she accepted with other Community Governments to warn the United States of America against the use of force to solve central American problems. Nobody attacked American action in Grenada more strongly yesterday in the Security Council than the Government of Mexico. That Government certainly cannot be called Communist by any stretch of the imagination. It is about time that the Prime Minister started working with Governments who want conciliation in central America rather than with those who support confrontation.
One of. the most worrying things that the President has said in recent days is that we cannot pick and choose where we defend freedom. [AN HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear."] "Hear, hear," says someone. I do not know whether we can really expect the United States to defend freedom in El Salvador and Guatemala by the same means as the President has chosen to defend it in Grenada. However, I do think that there is a grave danger that he may choose the same methods in "defending freedom" in Nicaragua. It is vital that the influence of all America's allies is brought to bear at this moment to dissuade the American Administration from so dangerous and catastrophic a course.
Thirdly, if events continue as now foreseen, the British Government must, at the very minimum, refuse to accept the deployment of American missiles on British soil unless Britain has the physical power to prevent the use of those 296 missiles against her will. What has happened in Grenada must be a warning to the Secretary of State for Defence, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary in that regard. We on this side of the House—and I believe many on the other side of the House — believe that America's action against Grenada was a catastrophic blunder and that the failure of Her Majesty's Government to prevent it was an unforgivable dereliction of duty.
However, something at least may be gained from the experience of the past few days. This experience should warn America's allies of the danger of servility to a leadership from Washington which could be disastrous to the interests of the Western world. It should remind all of America's allies of the need to unite to shift American policy to the ways of co-operation and common sense.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Sir Geoffrey Howe)
I welcome this opportunity—[Laughter.]—of debating the issues raised by the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) and of doing so in a spirit closer to a true recognition of British interests than he has shown. I begin by bringing the House up to date with the situation in Grenada.
The Americans have now secured both the airports on the island, at Pearls and Salines, as well as the radio station and Fort Rupert. But fighting is apparently continuing at Port Frederick and elsewhere. Several United States service men have been killed. There are unconfirmed reports that 12 Cubans have been killed during the fighting. There is no firm information at present about the extent of other casualties. In addition, there are reports that a number of Soviet nationals may have been detained, and rumours that Mr. Bernard Coard, one of the leaders of last week's coup d'etat, has sought sanctuary in the Soviet embassy. I am not in a position to confirm that. [Interruption.]
The latest information—the House would want to hear this, and it should listen to what I have to say—is that there are no reports of any British casualties. The United States Administration have informed us that they are willing to evacuate United Kingdom citizens to Barbados as soon as conditions allow. HMS Antrim remains ready to be called upon in case of need. We are also making contingency arrangements for evacuation by British aircraft. A consular mission from the British high commission in Bridgetown is standing by to go to Grenada as soon as practicable to establish how many British citizens may wish to be evacuated. The majority of them are long-term residents of Grenada.
I am glad to be able to inform the House that we have received assurances that the Governor-General, Sir Paul Scoon, is safe. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where?"] For his safety, it would not be sensible in the present circumstances for me to say more than I have. [Interruption.] The House must surely be prepared to acknowledge conditions of that kind and should be content to hear the news, of which I have been assured, that the Governor-General is safe. He may have an important role to play in the restoration of democracy in Grenada. He represents one of the few elements of constitutional continuity in Grenada. The American Administration are aware of that constitutional position and have, of course, undertaken to respect it.
297 The House might find it useful to be reminded of some of the events leading up to the present events. When Grenada achieved full independence on 7 February 1974, it was as a parliamentary democracy within the Commonwealth. The Prime Minister, Sir Eric Gairy, governed the country until March 1979 when he was overthrown as the result of a coup d'etat mounted by the New Jewel Movement. A People's Revolutionary government was set up led by a Marxist, Mr. Maurice Bishop. They suspended the constitution and governed by promulgating so-called "people's laws".
That was an unconstitutional regime. It lasted until 13 October, when Mr. Bishop was in his turn ousted by his deputy—I have already referred to him— Mr. Coard, a more radical Marxist. After several days confusion, a revolutionary military council was set up on 18 October, under the chairmanship of General Hudson Austin.
On the following day, 19 October, Mr. Bishop was killed, together with some of his closest supporters. There has been no satisfactory explanation of those killings, which have been rightly and widely condemned. After the killings, a 24-hour curfew was proclaimed which the revolutionary military council announced was to last until 24 October.
On 20 October, the day after Mr. Bishop's death, General Austin called on the Governor-General, Sir Paul Scoon. He told him that the revolutionary military council was in control, and that he intended to announce the composition of a new cabinet three days later. He later extended this to two weeks. On the same day, 20 October, the Grenadian high commissioner in London was called to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office so that we could underline our concerns about the safety of the British community.
On 21 October, the British high commissioner in Barbados learnt that some Caribbean Heads of Government were pressing their colleagues in the Caribbean community to ask for military help in restoring constitutional government in Grenada. We promptly instructed our embassy in Washington to ascertain how the United States Government might respond to such an approach.
On the following day, Saturday 22 October, the United States diverted towards Grenada a carrier group, led by USS Independence. They stated that that was a signal to the local authorities——
§ Mr. Healey
The right hon. and learned Gentleman will recall that I asked him to confirm the statement of Prime Minister Adams of Barbados that in the night of Friday a request was sent to Her Majesty's Government for support for military invasion of Grenada by a number of east European Caribbean—[Laughter]—east Caribbean Commonwealth — states. The behaviour has some similarities. Can the Foreign Secretary confirm the Prime Minister's statement?
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
I am just about to deal with that. We were informed on the same day, 22 October, that Heads of Government of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States had decided to put together a multinational force and to call upon friendly Governments to help restore peace and order in Grenada.
Later that evening, we were informed by the American Government that they had received a firm request from the Heads of Government of that organisation to help restore peace and order in Grenada.
298 It should be pointed out, incidentally, that Barbados is not a member of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States. The United States Government told us that no decision had been taken on how to respond, and that they had concluded that they should proceed very cautiously. They had, of course, no reason to suppose that vie should support any such approach had it been made to us.
On Sunday 23 October, the British high commission in Barbados was informed that a formal request for British participation in a multinational force would probably be handed over later that day. This did not happen, but we received later that day the conclusions of a meeting held in Trinidad by all the Commonwealth Caribbean countries — except, of course, Grenada. They had decided in favour of political and economic measures against Grenada, but were divided about the desirability of military action.
We were in close touch with the American Government throughout 23 October and two American consular officials accompanied our deputy high commissioner from Bridgetown, Mr. Montgomery, on a visit to Grenada over the weekend. The purpose of that visit was to form a firsthand assessment of the risks to British and American citizens. Separately on that day, we were assured by the United States Government that we should be consulted immediately if the United States decided to take any action, and informed that a United States emissary, Ambassador McNeil, had been sent to Barbados to confer with Caribbean leaders.
It was also on that day, 23 October, that HMS Antrim was instructed to sail from Cartagena in Colombia to the vicinity of Grenada, in case the evacuation of British nationals proved necessary. I wish to emphasise that that was a precautionary move, entirely unrelated to the suggestion of some Caribbean leaders that a multinational force should be established.
Ministers met early on Monday morning, 24 October, to consider events over the weekend. We then had available to us the report on the visit to Grenada from the British deputy high commissioner to whom I have already referred. Following that meeting, our ambassador in Washington was instructed to put to the United States Government factors which would have to be carefully weighed before any decision was taken. It was that afternoon that I made a statement to the House. What I said to the House that afternoon represented my complete statement of the truth as I then understood it.
§ Mr. Healey
The noble Lady, the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, said in the other place on the afternoon of 24 October:We have not received any requests from the regional organisation in the Caribbean."— [Official Report, House of Lords, 24 October 1983; Vol. 444, c. 30.]According to the Foreign Secretary, a request had been received on the Friday night preceding that statement. Either the statement was immensely disingenuous or it was plain wrong.
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
The right hon. Gentleman has not been listening to what I have been saying. I have rehearsed the sequence of events and no such request had been received by the time I have just reached.
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
I have explained, and I shall explain again, that on Sunday 23 October, the British high 299 commission in Barbados was informed that a formal request for British participation would probably be handed over later that day, Sunday. That did not happen and, by the time that we came to Monday, the position was as I described it.
On Monday evening we received in London the text of the statement by the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, which had been handed to the British high commissioner in Barbados, informing the British Government, among others, of the organisation's intention of taking action under article 8 of the treaty of that organisation for the collective defence and preservation of peace and security against external aggression and requesting assistance from friendly Governments.
Also on Monday evening, President Reagan informed my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister that he was giving serious consideration to the request from the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States and would welcome her thoughts. He undertook to inform my right hon. Friend in advance of any decision taken by the United States.
While our response to that message was being considered, a second message arrived from the President saying that he had decided to respond positively to the request that had been made to him. Ministers met immediately to discuss the situation and, shortly after midnight on Monday 25 October, my right hon. Friend sent a reply to the President in which, as she told the House yesterday, she reiterated the considerations which we had already put to the United States Government the previous day and expressed our concern at the course of action which he was contemplating.
My right hon. Friend also phoned the President—I am not prepared to disclose the substance of any discussion of that kind — in addition to sending the message, to underline the importance that she attached to the matter. Early on Tuesday morning my right hon. Friend received a message from President Reagan informing her that he had weighed the issues raised in her message very carefully, but had decided that United States participation in the multinational force should nevertheless go ahead.
That then is the sequence of events leading up to yesterday's military intervention. As I have explained to the House, Her Majesty's Government directed the attention of the United States to certain factors that should be taken into account. Some of these included the safety of our own community, the position of the Governor-General, and the fact that the CARICOM countries, the countries. of the Commonwealth Caribbean, although agreed on the need for political and economic measures, were divided on the advisability of military intervention. The United Kingdom and a number of other Commonwealth Caribbean countries took the view that no such action was called for. The situation was such that the United States and some Commonwealth countries in the Caribbean took the other view of the risk to which their citizens were exposed in Grenada.
The fact that, despite the reservations that we had expressed to them, the Americans decided to intervene in Grenada may be a matter of regret. We do not agree with the Americans on every issue, any more than they always agree with us—nor are we expected to do so. On some issues, our perceptions and those of the Americans are bound to be different. In this case, the United States had particular reason to consult most closely with those 300 Caribbean countries that had called on it to help resolve the crisis. Nevertheless, the extent of the consultation with us was regrettably less than we would have wished.
In the course of that consultation, my right hon. Friend made it plain to the United States Administration the views that we took, as one would expect her to do. For the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), when there is a difference of view between the two countries plainly expressed—[HON. MEMBERS: "You did not express it."] —to take that occasion as one for denouncing my right hon. Friend as anybody's poodle is disgraceful. Moreover, the right hon. Gentleman sought to make light—
§ Mr. Jack Straw (Blackburn)
In view of what the Foreign Secretary has now said, which is very different from what he said yesterday, does he now condemn what the Americans have done?
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
Not so, Sir. What I have just clearly said to the House is that this was an occasion when the United States, in company with a number of Commonwealth Caribbean countries, has taken one view and the United Kingdom, together with a number of other Caribbean Commonwealth countries, has taken another view.
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
In those circumstances, it is no more for me to condemn the United States than it is for them to condemn us.
§ Mr. Healey
The United States has committed a breach of the United Nations charter in international law. The matter is now under discussion in the Security Council in the United Nations. Unless Her Majesty's Government wish to continue playing the role that I attributed to them, they must express a view on the violation of the charter. It is the obligation of the Foreign Secretary, representing Her Majesty's Government, to make his views plain and not to run away from the problem.
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
The right hon. Gentleman is right to draw attention to the fact that the Security Council met last night at the request of Nicaragua, and will be meeting again today as a draft resolution has been tabled by Guyana, which would have the Security Council issue a strong condemnation of the action taken by the United States and the Caribbean countries acting with it, and which calls for the withdrawal of all troops involved. The right hon. Gentleman expressed his opinion that this country should support this resolution and in advancing that argument he sought to draw parallels with other circumstances that are irrelevant to this case.
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
In a moment.
301 The right hon. Member for Leeds, East sought to draw attention to the views of the United States President on the dangers posed by the Soviet Union to the world, and dismissed them lightly. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I must draw his attention to this fact as the House considers his commendation of that resolution. The fact is that in Afghanistan troops have occupied the country. In Grenada, the intention of the United States and those who are acting with her is to move as quickly as possible towards the withdrawal of their troops and towards the holding of free elections. Would that the House could count on the prospect of free elections in Afghanistan—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) was heard in silence and the Foreign Secretary should also be given a fair hearing.
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
What has happened in this case does not, and must not be allowed to, weaken the essential fabric of our alliance with the United States. It does not, and must not be allowed to, cast any doubt on the firmness of our joint commitment to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and all that that means.
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
The right hon. Member for Leeds, East suggested that this week's events are relevant to decisions that might have to be taken about the use of nuclear weapons. There is no credible analogy between our exchanges with the Americans on Monday night and the consultations that would take place before any decision could be taken to fire American nuclear missiles from Britain. [HON. MEMBERS: "How do you know?"]
As we have made clear to the House, there are quite specific understandings between the British and United States' Governments on the use by the Americans of their nuclear weapons and bases in Britain. Those understandings have been jointly reviewed in the light of the planned deployment here of cruise missiles and we are satisfied that they are effective. As I say, these understandings are specific, as are the arrangements for implementing them. They mean that no nuclear weapon would be fired or launched from British territory without the British Prime Minister's agreement.
§ Dr. Owen
I understand the Foreign Secretary's reluctance to damage Anglo-United States relations, and fully understand, too, his reluctance to use words such as "condemn" of our principal friend and ally, but I disagree with his judgment that this event does not mean that we should have dual key on cruise missiles. Nevertheless, the Foreign Secretary has a duty to the House to make it clear, as he will have to do in the Security Council, whether he believes that the United States and the other Caribbean states were justified—I use the term "justified"—under article 8 of the charter in invading Grenada. Surely the answer is that they were not justified, and the Foreign Secretary should say so from the Dispatch Box.
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
On a matter of this kind it is still possible for more than one view to be held—[HON. MEMBERS: "Resign!"]—and it is not simply because I understand the reasons that prompt the right hon. Gentleman to respect the need for discretion. Of course we have to take care of what we say about one of our principal allies, but at this time. when the operations in that island 302 to restore democracy to the people of Grenada are still under way, nothing could be less helpful than for me to respond to his invitation to condemn the conduct of the United States.
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
It should not be overlooked that seven independent Caribbean countries have joined the United States in this intervention. Indeed, as the right hon. Gentleman pointed out, they urged it on the United States. It is not perhaps sufficiently recognised that, although these islands enjoy full independence, the islands of the Caribbean have a high degree of mutual dependence. There have been democratic elections in most of those islands very recently. They attach great importance to the consolidation of democratic processes throughout the region.
That is why the original coup of 1979 in Grenada was so disturbing, and why the bloody events of last week so deeply affronted them. The breakdown of constitutional government, the rule of law and public safety in one of their members was perceived as a dangerous disruption by a country in the immediate vicinity.
Not only was that the case, but we must remember that, just as the United States had some 1,000 citizens in Grenada, so the other Caribbean countries which have intervened have nationals of their own on Grenada and have Grenadians in their own islands. It is a very close family of states.
Just as that fact explains much of what has happened, so also it perhaps provides the key to the way ahead. Countries which have participated in the present operation will be well placed to assist the Grenadians to restore and set up the necessary machinery to ensure an early return to constitutionality and democracy.
Ever since the overthrow of Sir Eric Gairy 's Government, Grenada has been without constitutional government. Mr. Bishop declined to hold elections and was himself the victim of violent overthrow.
The countries that have intervened are democratic countries. Their stated objective is to restore democratic and constitutional government to the island. That is an objective which we fully share. It may be necessary and desirable for other Commonwealth states to play a part in that process. We shall be in touch with our Commonwealth partners about that, and we welcome the willingness of the Commonwealth Secretary-General to help towards that end. The Americans, as the House clearly understands., have made plain their wish to withdraw from the Grenadian scene at the earliest reasonable opportunity. Meantime, their forces and those of Commonwealth countries involved are exposed to great danger [HON. MEMBERS: "They should not be there."] We shall do nothing to make their task more difficult. We must all wish for a speedy and successful outcome, one that will quickly pave the way for genuine elections in Grenada, for the first time in many years.
303 The whole House will hope that Grenada will again be able to move forward along the path of democracy and so improve the prospects for peace throughout the Caribbean. [HON. MEMBERS: "Resign, resign!"]
§ Mr. David Steel (Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale)
The Foreign Secretary has told the House that it is possible for more than one view to be held on this issue. Of course that is true, but it is not possible for more than one view to be held by the Foreign Secretary, and he has failed to tell the House what instructions have been given to the British ambassador at the United Nations and what view will be taken in the Security Council. I hope that matter will be cleared up before the debate ends.
It is obvious that the reasons given by the American Administration for this exercise are not validated by any international law or by the charter of the United Nations. Of course, it is pressing the point too far to make comparisons with the Russian invasion of Afghanistan or of Czechoslovakia. Nevertheless, we should be quite clear that the United States Administration have thrown away the moral stance that we have always maintained of respecting other countries' national integrity and the right to resist outside interference. Therefore, I believe that the British Government were right to protest to the United States, but that they took it too late. I believe that the history of our relations with Grenada, over which the Foreign Secretary skated rather lightly, shows that we have been dragged along with a mistaken United States foreign policy over several years.
This morning Secretary of State Shultz was reported as saying that one of the objectives of the exercise was the hope of establishing a friendly Government in Grenada. We all hope for friendly neighbours and friendly Governments, but there is no rule of international law which allows the big powers to go round establishing friendly Governments in the small countries of the world. That is a very dangerous proposition to allow to pass without comment.
There is the danger that in making such criticism of an ally we will be thought to be anti-American. I hope that we can dispose of that now, because some of the most trenchant criticism has come from within the United States. For example, Senator Moynihan—with whose views on other matters I do not always agree—very pointedly said that the United States Government are imposing democracy at bayonet point. That is, I think, a graphic description.
I understand that in his television address President Reagan demonstrated a satellite photograph of the airport development in Grenada, as though it were some kind of defence secret that was being revealed to the American public. The truth is surely very different. The airport has been known to be being developed over some time. There are hundreds of American students at present in Grenada, some of whom, I am told, go jogging round the airport which is under construction. I am further told—I should be grateful if the Foreign Secretary would listen to me, because I want confirmation of this matter—that British employees of a radar company are working with the Cubans in the construction of facilities at the airport. May we have confirmation that that is true? Has the Foreign Secretary assured the President of the United States that 304 they are not part of some international Communist conspiracy? We must maintain a sense of proportion about the construction of the airport, which has been the subject of discussion with the British Government and with the United States Government over several years.
In 1974, criticism was expressed on both sides of the House that we had not adequately ensured fair elections prior to Grenada's independence. Many doubts were expressed, and they were later justified by the fact that the Gairy regime in Grenada, towards the end of its life, became extremely corrupt and violent. A secret police force operated on the island and normal law and order of the kind that we should have been supporting was suppressed. Yet the Gairy regime was propped up and supported by the British Government and by the United States Government.
Those who opposed the Gairy regime—including the Opposition and Mr. Bishop—were gradually outflanked by those who wanted to revert to undemocratic methods. That is what led to the coup and the installation of Mr. Bishop. Neither the British nor the American Government protested about the Gairy regime's conduct prior to its overthrow.
The first lesson that Britain and the United States must learn is that, if we value liberal democracy, which is a diminishing commodity in the world today, we must strongly resist totalitarian tendencies of both the Left and the Right. We must learn that we do not assist the process of encouraging liberal democracy by supporting every thug in Latin America who happens to be anti-Communist. That has been the present American Administration's position. On the contrary, far from supporting liberal democracy, that helps to hand the argument to the Marxists who are then unable to distinguish between liberal democracy and Fascist dictatorships or military regimes.
After the invasion of the Falklands, I recall how we suddenly found our detestation of the military junta in Argentina. Before that we were happily selling it arms. We must draw a firmer line in defence of liberal democracy and against the totalitarianism of both Left and Right. That is the first lesson.
What happened after Mr. Bishop came to power in the coup? The United States Administration reacted by cutting off their aid programme to Grenada and the British Government followed suit. The British ended aid. That was in contrast with the Canadian Government who, in view of that, decided to increase aid to Grenada in its most useful form—people. The EC did the same. Under the African Caribbean and Pacific agreement it maintained its aid programme.
In 1979 as a Government and country we opposed the views of our Commonwealth colleagues and EC partners and were caught in the coat tails of the American Administration. That, surely, is the second lesson that we should learn. The Canadian Government turned out to be right by attempting to prevent the game in Grenada going to Moscow. We ignored that.
The Select Committee in its report of 1981–82 was right to say that we should resume the aid programme. The Government rejected that view in their White Paper. I believe that as things have turned out the Select Committee was right.
In June this year Mr. Bishop went to the United States. For what purpose? One purpose was to try to secure some aid for the airport, the construction of which has now been 305 condemned. Canadian advisers had said that Grenada's economy should be developed with more tourist facilities. Since most of the tourists would have come from America, Mr. Bishop went to America to try to secure aid for the construction of the new airport. He was snubbed by the United States Government. He was seen not at ministerial level, let alone by the President, but by officials. His reputation at home was damaged by his experience, and he went off to Cuba and east Europe to get the funds and support that he was denied by the United States.
§ Mr. Steel
The fourth lesson that we must learn is that the statement by Mr. Shultz yesterday, that the United States does not always have to agree with Britain, has a corollary which the Foreign Secretary enunciated a moment ago. It is that Britain does not always have to agree with the United States.
When the Foreign Secretary referred to the cruisemissile agreement he used precisely the same words as the Prime Minister in her answer to the House in May when she talked about the understandings and the arrangements for implementing the agreement. She said:The effect of the understandings and the arrangements … is that no nuclear weapon would be fired or launched from British territory without the agreement of the British Prime Minister." —[Official Report, 12 May 1983; Vol. 42, c. 435.]No American Administration can guarantee that that will always be so. We have seen, surely, in these events that the House will be asked shortly to take a decision either to deploy cruise in this country without any effective guarantee that there will be control, because there is no dual key mechanism, or to decide not to. Let us not rely on undertakings which date back to the Attlee-Truman era relating to bombers, not missiles.
We must learn another lesson. It has become far too fashionable in Britain and in the United States to denigrate the United Nations as a useless organisation. The smaller states in the world, such as Grenada, are vulnerable to internal overthrow, to neighbouring regimes, to other states and even to the influences of big business. The smaller countries are entitled to greater protection from some form of international policemen. Instead of undermining the United Nations' authority, the British and United States Administrations should develop an active and positive role for that international organisation.
§ Mr. George Walden (Buckingham)
I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for calling me to speak for the first time in the House. I hope that the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Mr. Steel) will excuse me if I do not take up his argument.
I apologise to my constituents, since I shall speak only briefly about their affairs in my intervention in a foreign affairs debate. I am fortunate to be the Member for Buckingham, a new constituency. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes (Mr. Benyon) and to my right hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison), my predecessors, who set me high standards. The constituency has many traditions of excellence, in farming, in the human scale of its industry—Wipac and Airtec — in the British Rail engineering depot at Wolverton and in the independent university at Buckingham. We have our problems about health and rates, and I shall reflect my constituents' concern here.
306 The people of north and mid-Bucks are realistic, reflective and independent-minded. They know that whatever our difficulties things are tougher a few miles to the north. They also know instinctively what I am learning in the House — that we have a duty to look at the broader picture as well as the local and partisan aspects. That goes for the Health Service, and I believe that it goes for Grenada.
Most right hon. and hon. Members must be saddened by the disagreements that we have had with the United States, but I believe that most of us think that our historic relationship with that country is broad and deep enough to bear the weight of these disagreements.
Most of us will remember that only a year ago the whole of NATO, not to mention the Anglo-American relationship, was about to collapse under the weight of a length of piping. I do not want to underestimate the Grenada problem. Small places throw up big principles. However, I doubt whether Grenada can do to Anglo-American relations what Suez failed to do, grave though the position is.
I do not support intervention — I oppose it quite simply on principle. As a newcomer, I have listened carefully to the powerful speeches that have been made on both sides of the House with more force than I my self can muster, but I hope that the country as a whole will recognise our Government's courage in making their views clear on what has happened and in trying to convey those views to the United States to head off the situation that has now arisen. Surely it is more usual to be blamed for giving the wrong advice and to be listened to than to give the right advice and not be heeded. I also think that there is nothing reprehensible in trying to minimise the repercussions of these disagreements, in the light of our longer-term relationship with our major ally.
The Government have also been charged with impotence. It is never humiliating to be right, but the charge of impotence touches on the wider problem of Britain's influence in the world today. Britain still has enormous influence. In my experience, it is our biggest invisible export. That influence has been exercised for the good over many years. Things are bad enough in the world, but it is my impression that they would be that much worse without the activity of successive British Governments over the years to moderate the passions that govern the world.
The main reason why I am in the House today and not lying abroad for my country is that inexorably and inevitably our influence in the world will decline unless we put this country in order. Over the years I have become more and more aware of the relentless constraints on defence, on the difficulty of keeping up our high levels of generosity in overseas aid, and of the difficulty of exercising our influence through Europe, which is now a major channel for that influence, because that channel is too often clogged by financial squabbles of one sort or another.
It is impossible to call on this country to exercise more influence and to be more active in international relations if we do not tackle our domestic problems. If we aspire, as some would wish, to a quiet life in the economy, in our education or in our culture, how, in the longer-term, can we ensure our defence? How can we ensure the respect which I believe is due to us? How can we exercise our traditional influence, which is needed more than ever 307 today? It is because I believe that the Government recognise those truths that I am a Conservative Member of Parliament.
This debate reminds us that we need maximum British influence in the world today. Our view may not always prevail, particularly, of course, when other countries, such as the United States, see their security interests differently, but—and this is perhaps my most important point—as the tempo of East-West events quicken, so will the need for Britain's voice of restraint to be heard as loudly and as frequently as possible. I believe that our Government's courageous position on Grenada has heightened and not diminished our influence in the world. We shall continue, I hope, to look to the United States, and I hope that it will continue to look to us for mutual support and advice. We continue to be the bedrock of each other's security. Yet Grenada reminds us that in the longer term we must also look to ourselves and to Europe.
§ 5.3 pm
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Down, South)
The House has just listened with attention to the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Walden), who has taken the courageous decision to address it for the first time in one of the most tense of debates. The House will agree with me that he acquitted himself well.
The hon. Gentleman comes into the House with a great advantage and a great disadvantage. He comes with the great advantage of worldwide experience over a number of years and the ability to see the affairs of this country as they are seen from outside. He comes with the disadvantage of being in a sense typed by his professional association with a Department of State. Perhaps I might say to him that the House of Commons rewards those who serve it and it alone. It regards no qualifications and no status which purports to be brought from outside. It takes its Members as they are; and the hon. Member for Buckingham, who I hope will be a Member of this House for many years, will do best as he serves this House for itself and for its purposes.
I thought that yesterday the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister were under the impression that I had called in question the good faith of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. I want to make it clear that in no sense did I seek to do so. On the contrary, I believe that today he made good the claim that on no substantial point did he mislead this House as to the facts as he knew and saw them at the successive times when he addressed the House. The difficulty of the right hon. and learned Gentleman and the charge against him are different and, in a sense, more serious. It is not in good faith that he has been lacking; it has been in faith—rather perhaps credulity—that he has been excessive.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman had a task that would have been unenviable for the greatest of parliamentarians—that of coming to the House on a Monday and saying that he had been in "the closest possible touch" with the American Government and believed that there was no reason for thinking they would resort to military action, and then returning next day to inform the House that the Americans had taken that action. I was not sure, listening to what he said this afternoon, that either he or the Government have learnt the lesson that 308 should be drawn from that experience. It is the knowledge of what interpretation the United States places upon consultation and common decision with its allies.
Consultation and common decision mean for the United States that it will from time to time take such steps and such decisions as, in its judgment, it considers to be right in the interests of the United States, that it will permit representations to be made to it by its allies, but that in the end it will go its own way regardless.
This has not been the first case from which we can learn that lesson. I disagree with the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) in thinking that this is at all a recent experience. It has been the pattern of behaviour of the United States over the past 20 or 30 years. During the Yom Kippur war in 1973, when the European members of the NATO Alliance said that they saw no reason for it, the United States put its forces on full nuclear alert. It did not listen to the views, and it did not concert its action with the views, of its European allies. Again, hon. Members who were in the last Parliament will remember the humiliating experience of being driven to place upon the statute book a sanctions Act against Iran. Yet hardly had the House recovered from the fatigue of sitting up all night to do so than it heard that, without consultation or information to those who were endeavouring to support it, the United States had engaged in a wild and unlawful attack on the territory of Iran itself.
This pattern of behaviour of the United States is perfectly consistent throughout; it is a pattern that can be accounted for by the policy and outlook of that country.
At the invitation of Her Majesty's Government, the United States is about to station on the soil of the United Kingdom nuclear weapons which, we are told, will be used only after consultation and by joint decision with Her Majesty's Government. Anyone who, after the experience of the last few days and of recent years, imagines that the United States will defer to the views of the Government of this country if it considers it necessary to use those weapons is living in a dangerous fool's paradise. Anyone in office who entertains that illusion is in no position to serve the security of this country.
The United States is dominated by two mutually supporting delusions. The first is that it is within the power of any nation, let alone the United States, to create what it calls freedom and democracy by external military force — that it is within its power to decide how the inhabitants of other countries should, in its interests, be governed, and to bring that about in the last resort by military interposition.
It also believes that the world is involved in a Manichaean struggle between the powers of light and the powers of darkness and that the mantle of leading the powers of light has fallen on the United States. I do not think that the consequences of that delusion, a nationwide delusion held and expressed by Americans of every class and creed, can be better expressed than it was —significantly over 20 years ago — by the Washington correspondent of The Times during the Cuba crisis. He wrote:The President … in effect has assumed the supreme political authority that was always inherent in the American nuclear deterrent. The firm belief is that as the leaders of the Alliance, with control of most of the nuclear power available to the West, the Administration has a right and a duty to defend itself and its allies—even to the extent of bringing about a nuclear exchange. It is also firmly believed"—309 and these last words are the most significant for what will happen unless the Government have wiser thoughts in the coming weeks—in the present situation that there will be no time for consultation; that a threat of war cannot be met by committee decisions.What we should have learnt, or been reminded of, in the last few clays is that the only condition compatible with our national honour and independence for those weapons being stationed on our soil, if indeed they are to be so stationed, is that this country should hold the physical control and ultimate power of decision over their use.
I commend to the Government and the House—and, greatly presuming, if I may, to our American allies—a remarkable and profound statement by, of all people, George Washington. He is reported as having said:The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest.It is an habitual hatred which has diverted the United States from a true perception and appreciation of the real state of the world in which it has to live. It is an habitual fondness which has turned this country into something horribly resembling a satellite of the United States.
I hope that after what we have experienced in recent days we can set aside those prejudices which would divert us from our interest and duty, and that Her Majesty's Government, free of habitual hatred or habitual fondness, will preserve and pursue their sole duty to the interests of the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Julian Amery (Brighton, Pavilion)
The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) opened up broad horizons. There will be time to discuss those on many occasions. I shall confine myself to the immediate problem of Grenada.
No one who knows him would accuse my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary of trying to mislead the House, yet I find it difficult to understand how he could have made so bland and reassuring a statement as he did last Monday. Warships of the United States and our own were close to Grenada. Their purpose was to protect our respective citizens if they were in danger and I imagine that there was some contingency planning between the two. If there was not, there should have been.
Over the weekend there was much talk in the Caribbean islands of military intervention. There appear to have been exchanges between London and Washington—I do not know at what level — about the pros and cons of intervention. It seems strange in those circumstances that my right hon. and learned Friend could have given such a reassuring picture. I should have thought that the crisis was so close that it would have been better for him to have considered sending at least a Minister of State, if not himself, to the Caribbean or Washington to discuss the situation, whatever might have been the policy of the Government. I cannot help feeling that the handling of the situation has not been quite as effective as it might have been. Of course the weekend intervened, but such things have influenced us adversely before.
I come to the main issue at stake, the merits of the case. It will be agreed that there are broadly two schools of thought in Britain. There are those who think that the world is still at peace in spite of local crises East and West. There are those who believe that, in this situation, the 310 causes of those crises must be looked at primarily in their local environments—that each case must be judged on its merits—and that the proper course is to address them within the normal terms of old-fashioned diplomacy as enshrined in the charter of the United Nations and international law, and that we should not allow the struggle between the two superpowers—between Soviet imperialism and the free world — to influence our judgment too much. That is one school of thought which is held largely on the Opposition Benches and may be held by some of my hon. Friends.
There is another school of thought which believes that we are facing a global struggle—not a total war like the first or second world wars, but something more akin to the 100 years war or the 30 years war—a struggle for the control of the world between the two great centres of power in which the imperialism of the Soviet Union is seen, at any rate by those who hold this view, as the aggressor. If one looks at it that way, each local crisis must be considered as, among other things, a battlefield in a not-so-cold war.
I do not want to widen the discussion to the extent that the right hon. Member for Down, South did by illustrating my point too much, but those of us who feel that way say that what happened in Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Afghanistan, Ethiopia and Aden bears out our point and that in our view the free world must try to see where it can prevent the onward march of Soviet imperialism and, if possible, reverse it.
There is a Soviet doctrine that any gain that the Soviets make must be irreversible. I do not understand why the West should share that view. I understand that that is President Reagan's view. I understand also that it is the view that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister took long before she became Prime Minister. It appears from her latest speeches that she still holds it. For what it is worth, it happens also to be my humble view.
Let us focus this view on Grenada. As the House knows, Grenada is a small island. When I was an Under-Secretary of State at the long-forgotten Colonial Office., I was responsible for Grenada. Its domestic problems are fairly small and not too difficult to regulate. But it was in the process of becoming a Soviet base and an extension of Cuba, which is already a major base in the Caribbean, and Nicaragua, which is still in the process of developing into one. There were many Cubans working in Grenada. There were some scores of Soviet technicians, and perhaps, officers, working there as well.
Those developments were seen as a threat to the other Caribbean islands long before the latest coup. These are islands for which we were responsible until recently and which, like many other right hon. and hon. Members, I know fairly well. The developments were seen also as a threat to the United States. The developments in Cuba and Grenada, and in Nicaragua, too, can equally be regarded as a threat to Europe. All supplies from the west coast of America, in peace as much as in war, have to pass through the Caribbean to reach us. We, too, are thus closely involved. It should have been—I imagine it would have been—the aim of the free world, from the time that Mr. Bishop seized power by illicit means, to try to win Grenada back into the free world.
There may also have been an element of urgency about this, because a major airfield was being built. There was a substantial Cuban presence on the island as well as a not 311 unimportant Soviet presence. Had matters not come to a head when they did, the issue might have become much more difficult.
§ Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)
Is the right hon. Gentleman saying by his use of the words "free world" that as long as a regime is anti-Communist it does not matter what sort of dictatorship or tyranny may exist, be it in Latin America or South Africa, about which he has often spoken? Is he saying that that is acceptable? Does the right hon. Gentleman not recognise that repulsive reactionary regimes of the sort that existed in Grenada prior to Mr. Bishop taking over — regimes that are reactionary in every possible way—will lead sooner or later to military changes? Does he not understand that there will be changes by non-democratic means because democracy has ceased to exist in the areas over which the regimes prevail? The regimes which the right hon. Gentleman is willing to defend and justify because they are anti-Communist can be said in many ways to pave the way for some form of Communist regime.
§ Mr. Amery
I shall not take up all the points that the hon. Gentleman made in his eloquent speech. In Grenada there was a pro-Soviet Government and they were helped by Cubans and Soviets. Grenada could have become a threat, in the context of Cuba and Nicaragua, to the other Caribbean Commonwealth countries, to the United States and to Europe.
§ Mr. Amery
When there came a second military and bloodthirsty coup, the danger to the Caribbean was underlined, as was the danger to the United States. I think that my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary will agree that the majority of the Caribbeans —I have not added up all the islands—wanted some military intervention to take place. If the report in The Guardian is right, and if I understood my right hon. and learned Friend aright, the Caribbeans wanted us to help them in the process of intervention. They wanted us to give a lead and the United States was prepared, in the circumstances, to take part.
Here was an opportunity for Britain, as a leading Commonwealth power — I shall not say the leading power, because the Commonwealth is a community of equals, but Britain is a leading and founding member of the organisation—to give a lead. Here was our chance to send a Minister to co-ordinate the entire venture. Instead, we abdicated any form of leadership. We should have taken, as the Opposition would have wished, a stand against intervention. We could, as I would have wished, have said, "Let us join wholeheartedly in the intervention." However, we did neither. As a result of our relapse into pallid abstention, the Caribbeans turned to the United States for leadership and went ahead. We showed neither the courage to lead nor to oppose.
This performance cannot do much for the dignity of our country or to enhance our prestige abroad. I do not want 312 to exaggerate the importance of prestige, but we gained a good deal of it in the Falklands operation. On this occasion our performance has not been an effective way of maintaining the position that we then gained.
It is idle to say, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary said yesterday, that the only difference between us and the United States was over whether it was necessary to take action to rescue our nationals. There were much wider considerations of state. I cannot help thinking that my right hon. and learned Friend was adversely or wrongly briefed by the Foreign Office on an exaggerated estimate of what the Third world or the rest of the Commonwealth would think. It is possible that some economic considerations were taken into account or the possibility that Defence Estimates might be raised as a result.
Luckily, the operation seems to have been pretty successful; and now the problem is to repair the damage that has been done to our relations with our closest allies. In my judgment, the damage should never have occurred. Here was an issue on which there was no reason to differ from the Americans. Hon. Members who are old enough will have heard me thunder against the Americans over Suez and other operations where I thought that British and American interests were in conflict. In this instance I see no conflict. There is only a marginal difference of view and I fear that the Americans were right and we were wrong.
Mere gestures will not repair the damage. There will be a need for closer co-operation in the struggle against Soviet imperialism. I believe that this is a cause to which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and, I hope, my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary are as deeply committed as the President of the United States.
§ Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)
The performance that the Government have given us today can hardly be described as the pursuit of arrogant power. It has been a pathetic and demeaning example of what they are incapable of saying to the United States. The United States has demonstrated that it believes that the Caribbean is its own basin. It believes that it can do what it wishes in the Caribbean, and the Government told the House on Monday that they felt that there was no danger of an invasion of Grenada. The following day Grenada was invaded. The British Government still do not know what to do about it or to say to the United States in reply. I hope that we shall recognise throughout the debate the nature of American policy in the entire region and recognise the scandalous role of British foreign policy in the region.
The Americans have sought consistently to undermine and destabilise the Governments of Grenada since 1979. They have sought consistently to undermine and destabilise the Government of Jamaica. They did so until Mr. Seaga was elected Prime Minister. They have consistently sought to undermine and destabilise any Government in the region who have sought to develop the interests of the people rather than the interests of the multinational companies that are busy exploiting those people.
At the centre of the debate and of the activities of the United States lies its belief that its role is to defend the people who pay the Government — the multinational companies. The British Government are doing exactly the same. In every conference chamber around the world, the 313 British Government support American foreign policy. They do not have a foreign policy in the Caribbean or central America. All they know is to follow the United States—except that when the issue of Grenada came up they did not know what to do. So, for three days running, we have had a pathetic appearance by the Foreign Secretary, who has been wondering what to do next. He comes to the House, wringing his hands, wondering what on earth to say next. He knows that he has been made to look an absolute idiot because he was incapable of standing up to the Americans for once. The one thing that the Americans do not respect is the Uriah Heep diplomacy that the British Government operate towards them. The Pavlovian response of agreeing to everything that the United States demands and wants has got them nowhere and has made them look incredibly stupid and shortsighted.
We should consider some of the events in Grenada over the past five years, because a most amazing travesty of history was given to us this afternoon. It is a tribute to the people of Grenada, the New Jewel Movement Government, Maurice Bishop and others who held office in that Government, that a nation of 300 million people should seek to invade a country of 110,000. It is some threat to a nation of 300 million that warrants a military intervention. The real threat to the United States is not a military threat from the people of Grenada any more than there was a military threat from the people of Nicaragua or from the people of Guatemala in 1954. It is a threat of ideas and example. The New Jewel Movement Government in Grenada achieved a sense of liberation for its people, health care, a reduction in the illiteracy rate that makes it among the lowest in the Caribbean, and a reduction in unemployment from well over 50 per cent. in 1979 to 15 per cent. in 1983. The Tory Government came to power in 1979 and during the same period threw 2 million people on to the dole queue. That is a comparison between what the popular Government were trying to achieve in Grenada and what the Government have been trying to achieve here.
I hope that the House will recognise that the intervention in Grenada must be totally condemned. If we are talking about a genuine liberation of the people and genuine self-determination, that means the removal of foreign troops from Grenada. The American troops are doing nothing there but impose upon the people of Grenada a Government who will be subservient to the United States, provide a base for yet more American aircraft carriers in the Caribbean and make the Caribbean safe for American multinationals that continue exploiting people. Exploitation has been going on for centuries, and it has been taken over by American multinationals.
The House should consider the attitude that was taken towards the Government of Maurice Bishop and his colleagues after Eric Gairy left office. In case the House did not realise it, the Government that was led by Mr. Eric Gairy in Grenada—
§ Mr. Corbyn
I am not giving way. The hon. Gentleman will have a chance to speak.
The Government led by Mr. Eric Gairy were by any standards a corrupt and inefficient Government. They were a poodle of Western and American policies. That 314 Government were never condemned by Conservative Members and even now they are not condemned by Conservative Members. Somehow, the theory was built up that it was some form of friendly democratic administration. It was nothing of the kind. It was the opposite.
The achievements of the Government of the New Jewel Movement over the past few years are an inspiration to many people in the Caribbean. Because they are an inspiration, the Americans spent an amazing amount of money trying to promote an economic blockade of that country—the British Government joined in — to prevent foreign aid going to Grenada—the British Government joined in — and to promote CIA methods of destabilisation, as we have seen in so many other countries in the Caribbean, in central America and throughout Latin America. It is wrong for the Americans to take the arrogant view that they can decide everything that goes on within their hemisphere. I reject that, as do many other hon. Members.
While we are considering the situation in the Caribbean, we should also consider what is happening not far away in central America. The present Sandinista Government of National Reconstruction in Nicaragua came to power in 1979. They have achieved much in health care, in education, in housing and in putting an end to illiteracy. What support and help have they received from the British or American Government? They have received an economic and military blockade. American-financed CIA forces have invaded the country, murdering people and destroying the economic base, all in the name of the national security of the United States.
By no stretch of the imagination could one say that either Grenada or Nicaragua could raise an army, air force or navy that could cross the sea or land and invade the United States. The Americans know perfectly well that there is no military threat. They know perfectly well that there is no military threat from anywhere in the Caribbean or central America other than the threat of ideas and inspiration. Two countries have recently sought their liberation—Grenada, which has been so brutally crushed by the American forces, and Nicaragua, which sought its liberation by asking American-owned multinationals to leave and foreign countries to leave it alone so that it could develop its own way of life, democracy, economy and a decent standard of living for its people. That model is too much for American power to contend with, so the Americans have to oppose and destabilise it.
The British and American Governments are obsessed with the Soviet-Cuban threat of domination of the whole region. I ask the House to consider what the Government of Grenada, Nicaragua or any other country should do when the country's trade is blocked off, its aid is removed., and an economic and military blockade is raised against it. What is it to do to get help? Where is it to get support and assistance? If anyone imagines that the Government of either Grenada or Nicaragua were somehow imposing themselves on the people and were forced on them at the point of a Russian gun or a Cuban bayonet, he should read his history of Grenada and what happened there in 1979 when Eric Gairy was forced out of office by a popular revolution. The people could no longer stand the corruption, the secret police and the prison system that he imposed on them. That point must be put across in the House.
315 The Americans' claim that they went into Grenada to protect the lives of Americans and foreigners in the area is farcical. The area in which there was fighting, in which people have been killed and in which murders have taken place is a tourist area, where all the foreign people were, and may still be for all we know. The United States' intention has been to remove the popular Government. I believe that there is a long story yet to be told about what the CIA has been doing in Grenada for the past four years and what it has been up to in undermining the Government before the dispute took place and before the military tried to take over last week.
The British Government announced this afternoon that they were concerned about the breakdown of democracy and about what they thought were not democratic Governments in the Caribbean or central America. Do they apply the same standards to the racist South African regime? Do they apply the same standards to any other oppressive Government? No, they do not. They are obsessed with supporting the United States in the Caribbean and in central America. They have emerged with egg on their face, as they were incapable of putting forward any view whatever to the United States.
We require from the Government a foreign policy that recognises that the people of the Caribbean and central America have had sufficient lectures and blandishments from western Europe and the United States and more than enough of American-owned multinational companies coming into their countries and running the economies for the benefit of people in London, Wall street or any other financial capital. I believe that people in the Caribbean want a sense of liberation which cannot be achieved if, at the same time, forces are being sent into their countries to promote the interests of those in the financial capitals.
I hope that the House will not only condemn the invasion of Grenada by the United States and demand their immediate withdrawal, but that the British Government will also be condemned for standing by and allowing a foreign power to invade Grenada.
The Foreign Secretary and Conservative Members have said that several Soviet or Cuban citizens were on Grenada at the time of the American invasion. I understand that thousands of American troops are stationed in bases in this country. Can it not be said that they are a threat to our democracy? Are they not a threat to us? What are they doing here? I ask hon. Members to have a sense of priority and proportion in this matter. I also ask hon. Members to condemn the American invasion and the inaction of the British Government. We must also at the Security Council condemn the actions of the Americans and demand their immediate and unconditional withdrawal from Grenada so that the Grenadians can sort out their own future in their own way without the assistance of American marines.
§ Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas (Chelmsford)
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Walden) on his excellent maiden speech in terms as sincere but less convoluted than were directed at him by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell).
We face a grave situation in Grenada. It is right that the House of Commons should come together to express its mind and, hopefully, the mind of the nation on the issues involved. Whatever the reasons that inspired the United 316 States to invade Grenada, I believe that the United States acted precipitately, unwisely, and illegally in invading an independent state. The position has been made worse for us as that state is also a member of the Commonwealth. The United States did not act with due consideration for the interest of its allies, particularly its closest ally, the United Kingdom. We are, therefore, right to feel aggrieved at what has happened. We have been treated cavalierly, arrogantly and contemptuously, and we should recognise that fact. The House of Commons should make that view clear.
Having said that and having condemned the United States for its action, that is no reason for turning on the Foreign Secretary as though he were somehow responsible for the actions of the United States. I believe that, within the limits of manoeuvre which were left to the Government, to the Prime Minister and to the Foreign Secretary, the Government have acted correctly and prudently in an extremely difficult situation.
§ Mr. St. John-Stevas
No; it is extremely clear. It is only the convoluted mind of the right hon. Gentleman that is unable to comprehend the distinction that I am making.
While it is right for hon. Members to speak freely, as they are not burdened with the responsibilities of office, that is not possible for those who are charged with conducting our foreign policy. The first matter to be considered was the need to protect British citizens. The Foreign Secretary, having considered the matter carefully, decided that they were not placed in such danger by the events so as to assume that their safety could be secured only by immediate intervention.
When looking ahead to possible developments in the crisis, preventive action was taken when HMS Antrim was moved into position, as an insurance policy, in case emergency action was needed. I see nothing to condemn in the Foreign Secretary's action.
Secondly, the Government made it clear to the United States Government that they believed that their action was unwise, and we counselled against it. That advice was rejected. The fact that the advice was rejected is not the responsibility of the Government. What on earth were the Government meant to do? What would the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) do in such circumstances? Were we to declare war on the United States because it did not accept our advice? Britain is entitled, both as a nation and as an ally, to give advice but not to impose that advice on an ally.
Thirdly, on seeing our prudent advice rejected, the Foreign Secretary realised that further damage could occur to the Alliance, on which the security of the world depends, if he had denounced the United States in intemperate terms. He might have avoided a few cheap jeers from Opposition Members and earned some cheap cheers. However, they would have been earned at the price of jeopardising the security of the free world.
Throughout this crisis the right hon. Member for Leeds, East—
§ Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
The right hon. Gentleman is winding his way back to the fold.
§ Mr. St. John-Stevas
The hon. Gentleman seems to think that other people's motives are as low as his. I am speaking my mind—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Nellist
The right hon. Gentleman has used the expression "free world" to describe the conditions pertaining in Grenada. What freedom can exist on that island when the per capita income is £400 per year?
§ Mr. St. John-Stevas
There is a clear distinction between political freedom and economic prosperity. They may be linked, and I hope that the Grenadians will enjoy both in due course, but I do not wish to be led astray into a discussion of that kind.
The right hon. Member for Leeds, East has sought throughout to squeeze the last drop of party political advantage out of the crisis. That has been the case when we have heard him in the House and when we have heard him on television. I was astounded when he referred in the House yesterday to Grenada as a territory subject to the Queen. He knows that any advice tendered to the Queen in the present constitutional position can be given only by Ministers of the Grenadian Government. The British Government have no status, and the Queen has no status in the matter unless she is being advised by the Grenadian Government. For the right hon. Gentleman to pose as a champion of the palace is unconvincing.
The right hon. Gentleman's stance has unleashed the anti-American feeling that is strong in many Labour Members and, apparently, among members in other parts of the House. That sentiment came out in the speech of the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn). The right hon. Member for Leeds, East does not share that feeling, and it was his duty to attempt to restrain rather than to encourage it.
Damage has undoubtedly been done to the Alliance. The first duty of the Government is to seek to repair that damage as quickly and effectively as possible. It is right that we should make our views known through diplomatic channels, but it would not be right for the Foreign Secretary to stand at the Dispatch Box and condemn the United States. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] That is not the place to do it.
The Foreign Secretary has to balance the existing situation against the other interests involved in the Western Alliance, and that is what he has done. He has not condoned or supported the American action and he has made it clear that there are other interests to be considered besides those involved in the immediate crisis.
We must certainly work for the early withdrawal of foreign troops from Grenada and for the early reestablishment of constitutional government. I believe that those are the objectives that the Government have set for themselves. It is easier to state those objectives than to achieve them, but I believe that the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary are working towards them and that they deserve the support of the House in their efforts.
§ Mr. John Fraser (Norwood)
I went to a large West Indian gathering at Lambeth town hall on Saturday night where there was a sense of sorrow and outrage at the murder of Maurice Bishop. His Government was not free of blemishes in the erosion of human rights—everyone ought to recognise that—and it was not democratic, but it was a popular Government and, whatever the political persuasion of those at the gathering on Saturday, they shared a sense of outrage.
A sense of outrage at the American invasion has been added to those feelings. The invasion disregarded any courtesy towards the British Government and all the conventions about the territorial integrity of states. Therefore, I express the outrage of West Indians and the much wider outrage of the whole community.
There has been a breach of international law and there is grave anxiety, underlined by the Labour party for a long time, about whether we can trust the United States in matters involving international co-operation. There are lessons to be learnt in relation to cruise missiles.
Let me underline the major anxieties. The fact that there has been a breach of territorial integrity goes almost without saying, but an extension of that principle should be underlined. People say—perhaps unjustifiably—that if the United States can intervene in such a heavy-handed manner, disregarding the views of the British Government, why can they not exercise some influence in, for example, Haiti, which has suffered the erosion of human rights for so long and from which, incidentally, Eric Gairy was learning a trick or two before he was deposed in 1979?
Why could not the Americans exercise some influence or intervene in Chile or in Guatemala, Honduras or El Salvador? Why is it only in states such as Grenada—small, Left and black — that there is this sort of condescending intervention, which would not be tolerated in other countries with different political persuasions and a different kind of population?
The third anxiety is how we can trust the United States in any matters in which we are supposed to have an accommodation. In this case, there were about four days for consultation. We were assured at Question Time on Monday that there was no question of an American military intervention. When cruise or Trident missiles are involved, there will not be four days for consultation; there may be only four minutes. If we cannot get an accommodation and have an honest agreement between allies in present circumstances, how can we believe that it could be done in other circumstances?
I am not expressing animosity towards Americans. It is inevitable that our two countries, with a common culture and language, are tied together, rather like East and West Germany. [Interruption.] I meant that light-heartedly. However, we must counsel the Americans on the way in which they behave.
If Fidel Castro and Yuri Andropov had got together to construct a propaganda exercise, they could not have done better than President Reagan has done this week. The Americans have thrown away all the moral advantage that they possessed over Afghanistan, but they have done much worse than that. They have sown the seeds of a whirlwind in the Caribbean. This is the first time that the United States Government have interfered overtly in a British Caribbean country.
319 That is a significant development, and although support for the Americans has been expressed by several independent Caribbean states, the United States has created a legend and it will reap the effects of it in the years to come. The Americans will not always have friendly Governments in Jamaica and close allies in Barbados. They have created a legend in Bernard Coard. He will become a hero, perhaps not tomorrow or the day after, but certainly in the months and years to come. No doubt he will be taken out of the Soviet embassy and off to Russia. He will become like some of the heroes in Africa.
There are lessons to be learnt. First, once democracy starts to deteriorate, it is extremely difficult to restore it. There was no way of getting rid of Eric Gairy except by a military coup. Without a restoration of democracy, the only way to get rid of Bishop was another coup. I am not approving of coups; I am simply saying that we have to pay careful attention to the way in which democracy can so quickly, sometimes almost inexorably, deteriorate.
I end with a Jamaican proverb which is relevant to what President Reagan has done in Nicaragua, El Salvador and other parts of central America. The Jamaicans say:The higher monkey climb, the more he expose him ras.President Reagan has exposed his ras on this occasion. He has also done something that I have seen monkeys do at Whipsnade zoo. To put it proverbially, he has urinated over the Foreign Secretary. It is a strange irony that President Reagan should turn our Foreign Secretary into a wet.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. Before I call the next speaker I must tell the House that the Opposition Front Bench spokesman wants to begin to reply to this important debate at 6.35 pm. Brief contributions will enable me to call more hon. Members.
§ 6 pm
§ Mr. Ivor Stanbrook (Orpington)
The American Government have chosen to defend their actions on three grounds. First, they have said that they are there to protect innocent lives. That is a genuine and important consideration but there is no evidence to justify it. The evidence does not show that acute state of affairs which might have justified it. Secondly, they have spoken of restoring order. That is a dangerous doctrine which could be applied elsewhere by people of whom we do not approve. Non-interference in the internal affairs of independent states is the fundamental principle of international law and the United Nations charter. Thirdly, they quote such justification as there might be from the existence of a regional pact. That is perhaps the most dangerous doctrine of all, because there are other regional pacts around the world involving Communist powers which have been invoked by the Soviet Union as a justification for invading its neighbours.
However, we must accept that a state is entitled to regard a situation as affecting its vital interests to such an extent that it feels justified in acting in the way in which the United States has. It is a great pity that the Government have not recognised that that is the real case for the United States. It is not necessary for the Government to be an apologist for the United States when the United States justifies its actions on unreal grounds.
320 The United States is determined to prevent the growth in Grenada of a power base serving the interests of Soviet Russia. It is applying the Monroe doctrine and the doctrine of the sphere of influence. In that sense it is acting in the time-honoured way in which great powers have acted throughout history. It is better for us to recognise that and consider what justification there is for action on those grounds than to go on attempting to justify it in the way in which my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary has.
The biggest consequence that arises from the way in which the United States is trying to justify its action is that it makes it more difficult to denounce the Soviet Union for its invasions of Afghanistan, Czechoslovakia and Hungary. There is some hypocrisy in United States propaganda in that respect.
Equally, it is foolish for United States politicians to compare, as we have heard some do recently, this situation with the Falklands. There is no such parallel because the Falklands were and are our territory and the Falkland islanders are our citizens. They were seized from us and they had to be recovered. It is not at all the same as an invasion of an independent state.
What lessons can we learn from this experience? The first is that we cannot trust the United States to support us in all circumstances when its interests differ from ours. It dithered at first over the Falklands. We cannot ultimately rely upon it and therefore we must be prepared to defend our vital interests ourselves and, if necessary, to go it alone. We can do without cruise if necessary but we cannot do without our own nuclear deterrent.
Secondly, we should pause before undertaking any future joint ventures for friendship's sake. If British interests are not directly involved, we should not support the United States in its ventures around the world, whether in Lebanon, in central America or in the position that we have established over Belize.
Thirdly, we cannot go on condemning Soviet Russia and at the same time applaud the United States when each side is merely defending its own interests. Let us cooperate more with our friends and neighbours in Europe whose interests are more similar to ours.
My final point has already been raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas). In trying to help clear up the mess that has been caused we must remember that Grenada is an independent sovereign state, a member of the United Nations and of the Commonwealth. Grenada paid us the compliment of adopting our Queen as its Queen when it became independent; therefore, she is its head of state. However, we have no right to interfere. The right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) was wrong when he said on the wireless this morning that the Queen must order the Governor-General to instal a new Government. The Queen has no such role. She has no right to suggest that any such move should be undertaken. That would lead only to a misunderstanding.
§ Mr. Stanbrook
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will want to correct me in due course, but perhaps he will allow me to explain my point first.
The Governor-General has been appointed on the authority of the Queen as Head of State, but he takes his orders from the Ministers in Grenada, not from the Queen.
321 The only position in which the Queen becomes relevant is when it may be necessary to appoint a new Governor-General. In that event the appointment must be made on the advice of Ministers in Grenada. The United Kingdom Government have no role to play in that and the Queen has a role only as the Queen of Grenada, not of the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Healey
With great respect, it was not I, but the Foreign Secretary, who said that the Governor-General should play a role in forming a new Government. I said that President Reagan had suggested that the Governor-General should do that and that he had no right to do so because the Governor-General was not responsible to the President of the United States.
§ Mr. Stanbrook
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman, but he has forgotten precisely what he said about this matter. He has made so many statements lately about British subjects in Grenada, and so on, that he does not realise that he has fallen into error and contributed to a misunderstanding, an example of which he has just given us.
Grenada is not a colony; it is an independent sovereign state. The Queen's position there is not related to her position as Queen of the United Kingdom. The right hon. Gentleman said this morning that the Queen must act in a certain way. but she must do no such thing. It does not serve the interests of peace for someone of the right hon. Gentleman's status to add to the confusion and misunderstanding.
The Government's position in this affair has been honourable. They are doing their best but they are ill advised to follow the United States line in justifying what has been done. This is a straightforward case of power politics. We must accept the realities but press as soon as possible for the restoration of the original position and non-interference in the affairs of sovereign independent states.
§ Mr. George Foulkes (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley)
I do not have enough knowledge to comment on what the hon. Gentleman has just said about the attitude of the Queen, but I hazard a guess that she has been greatly disappointed by the pathetic performance of her Foreign Secretary today.
I can provide a little more evidence in support of the contention of my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) that the invasion was to a large extent preplanned and premeditated, and that the Foreign Secretary was naive—to say the least—when he said on Tuesday that only on Monday evening had the American Government given serious consideration to military action, and that their decision had been taken only on Tuesday morning. Does anyone seriously believe that the American marines could have been in action as quickly as that?
Strong evidence obtained by the Foreign Affairs Select Committee on our visit to Grenada shows that, even before the coup and the assassination of Maurice Bishop, the United States was planning for just such an invasion. I would not be able to advance evidence that the coup was engineered by the CIA in order to justify the invasion, but such things have happened.
The right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) listed all the reasons which, in his and the 322 Americans view, might justify such an invasion. Hon. Members who visited Grenada will recall that representatives of the Grenadian Government pointed out to us that in August and September 1981 the Americans carried out an exercise called Amber and the Amberines at the military base of Viequez in Puerto Rico, during which they planned, prepared and rehearsed an invasion exactly like the one that has just taken place. It involved reference to a point "Amber" which corresponded exactly to the airport where the invasion took place. The ranger troops, who landed at Port Salines, had been involved in that exercise. I am looking at the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths), because he was there too.
What was predicted when we visited Grenada in March last year has now happened. There is strong evidence to support the view that the invasion was preplanned and premeditated, but neither the Foreign Secretary nor any other member of the Government has yet told us whether the Americans have been deceiving our Government or whether our Government—and the Foreign Secretary in particular—have been deceiving the House. I hope that we shall be given a reply to that question today.
We have heard references to the reasons for the invasion. There can be no reasons for such a blatant breach of the United Nations charter; there can only be excuses. But the aim of restoring democracy is the most pathetic excuse imaginable. Some of my hon. Friends have already spoken about Gairy's regime. Who decides which democracies are acceptable? I do not want the Americans to be the arbiters of what is acceptable. Gairy maintained his power with the help of the mongooose gang—the night ambush squad which struck terror into the people of Grenada. That is not what I call democracy. That is not a democracy that I would wish to restore.
I hope that, even if the Foreign Secretary makes no other unequivocal declaration today, he will make an unequivocal declaration that we will not countenance the possibility of the automatic return of Sir Eric Gairy. That suggestion is being made. I heard Gairy on the radio today. He is staying in San Diego and being looked after by the Americans. He is ready to return, and I am sure that his return is part of the plan. I hope that our Government will give an unequivocal declaration that they will not countenance the return of that dictator.
Gairy was not only a dictator. When the coup in which he was deposed took place, he was at the United Nations trying to persuade it to set up a special committee on flying saucers. Not even hon. Members opposite are as loony as Sir Eric Gairy. Some hon. Members opposite were impressed by his knighthood, but we have been told that he recommended himself for the knighthood and the Queen could not refuse it.
On another occasion we must devote more time to the question whether we can automatically assume that Westminster democracy is the only kind of democracy. Is Westminster democracy automatically the right kind for a small island where it is difficult to maintain, or even to countenance, the neutrality of the Civil Service? With such a small population, people live in each other's pockets. Westminster democracy is not necessarily the only or the most appropriate kind.
§ Mr. Russell Johnston (Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber)
Will the hon. Gentleman at least make it clear that he believes in regular elections, whatever form the democracy may take?
§ Mr. Foulkes
I am happy to make that clear. Indeed, both Government and Opposition members of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee made it clear to the representatives of the Grenada Government that regular elections were an essential part of democracy.
§ Mr. Foulkes
My hon. Friend confirms what I have said. If we accept that justification for an invasion, where will we end?
One of the most depressing aspects of this debate and of the two Government statements yesterday is that the Foreign Secretary has said nothing about the future. He has merely tried, inadequately, to justify his lack of action in the past. The Americans say that they will move out as quickly as they moved in. How many times have we heard that before? How many times have we seen American troops move in, intending to move out again quickly, but remaining not for weeks or months but in some cases for years? It is easy to move troops in; it is not so easy to move them out again.
I hope that the Foreign Secretary will make a clear declaration about what is to happen now. What has he done during the past few hours while he has been absent from the Chamber? What is he telling the Americans ought to happen in the future? The House would like to know that, even though the Government have acted pathetically in the past, they will be more resolute in the future.
§ Mr. Spearing
Does my hon. Friend not agree that many Caribbean politicians made clear to the members of the Select Committee their regret that the United Kingdom had no firm policy in the area and their view that the United Kingdom's lack of enthusiasm was creating a political vacuum?
§ Mr. Foulkes
I endorse that point, which was also made earlier in the debate by my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) and in the report of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, where it received a pathetic response from the Government. If this is an example of the resolute approach that we hear so much about from the Government, this country is in a sorry state.
§ Sir Peter Blaker (Blackpool, South)
In February 1974 I visited Grenada as a junior Foreign Office Minister and handed over the instruments of independence. I have therefore followed with interest and concern the events in that country in recent weeks. I hope that Grenada will emerge from its recent travails in peace and with freedom. Apropos of the remarks of the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnor and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes), I should be very surprised if anybody except himself hopes to see Eric Gairy as Prime Minister again.
§ Sir Peter Blaker
There is no comparison between the problem of the control of cruise missiles in this country and the situation in Grenada. The cruise missiles will come to this country at the invitation of the European countries. Their use will be governed by arrangements that have survived for more than 30 years and have been regarded as satisfactory by successive Labour and Conservative Governments. These arrangements have recently been 324 reviewed. They mean that no missiles can be fired or launched without the agreement of the British Prime Minister. I mean agreement, not consultation. Those arrangements have recently been confirmed as valid and satisfactory by both sides.
In contrast, Grenada is an independent country that lies close to the United States of America. As far as I know, there is no agreement or convention that obliges the United States to consult us about its actions in respect of that country. Nevertheless, the United States consulted us, and we advised it that we were against the action proposed. However, the Americans rejected our advice. The surprising fact is that some hon. Members—particularly Opposition Members—seem astonished that our advice is sometimes rejected by the United States. Many hon. Members seem to assume that we have the right to tell the United States what it should do, even about a country that is much closer to the United States than to us and to expect the United States to accept it. Some hon. Members have even described the Americans' rejection of our advice as a betrayal. That is farcical.
The right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) said that the failure of Her Majesty's Government to prevent the American and Caribbean action was a dereliction of duty. Perhaps he did not think about what he said. If he thinks about it he will realise that he must have taken leave of his senses to say it. It cannot be a dereliction of duty that we made our views clear and that they were rejected — unwisely in my view — by the United States.
It is said that our advice should have been accepted in particular because Grenada is a Commonwealth country. But there are about 45 Commonwealth countries and that is one third of all the countries in the world. Is that proposition valid for them all? If so. we shall have much more influence in the world than we have had in recent times. It is to me a wholly novel doctrine that if the United States is concerned. in the formation of its foreign policy, with a Commonwealth country it must do what we say. I should very much welcome that, but it is very unlikely to happen. Indeed, just to propound the idea demonstrates that it is ridiculous.
Our action has shown that those who claim that this Government slavishly follow the policies of the American Government are wrong. We are not—in this case or in any other—the slavish supporters of the United States. Disagreements between the United States and this country from time to time are inevitable, because we are both free countries. Our relationship with the United States is not like that of Bulgaria with the Soviet Union. Bulgaria has no option but to do what it is told. We have our own view. There are bound to be differences between free countries just as there are differences between Members of free Parliaments. However, an association of free countries is in the long run much stronger than an association of countries that rests on compulsion, as does the Warsaw Pact.
The people of Grenada have not had a chance, during the past four years at least, to express their views. I do not think that they had much chance to express them under Eric Gairy before that. I hope that they will soon have the chance once more to express their views. I welcome the fact that Secretary of State Shultz has said that it is the intention of the United States to remove its forces from Grenada as soon as possible. I believe that it would be reasonable for the troops of the Caribbean countries 325 involved to remain somewhat longer, if that is the wish of the people of Grenada. I believe, too, that there may be a bigger role for the Commonwealth when we begin—I hope in the not-too-distant future—to set the scene for free elections in that country. It is clear, too, that there will be a role for the Governor-General in that election.
Finally, if the events of yesterday lead to the restoration of democracy in Grenada, some good will have come from this affair.
§ Mr. Allan Roberts (Bootle)
In some respects Grenada is similar to Bootle. Give or take a couple of thousand, Grenada has roughly the same population and 60 per cent. to 70 per cent. of the people are practising Roman Catholics. The rest are Protestants, most of whom go to church. Before the curfews and the murder of Bishop, Whiteman and the other Ministers, one could see children wearing their church school uniforms going to church at 8 am or 8.30 am. The traditions of the Catholic church were introduced from Britain, and the traditions of the Church of England were safeguarded in Grenada under the Bishop regime. Thus, to say that there are similarities between Bootle and Grenada in the size of the population and in its attitude — despite the fact that the Grenadians are black and my constituents are of Irish descent—is not that far from the truth.
The subject of this debate is Grenada, but a parallel has already been drawn with Afghanistan. I am one of the few hon. Members to have visited both countries. Before any misconceptions about my attitude towards Afghanistan at the time of my visit and afterwards are thrown at me, I should like to quote from the press release that I and my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Central (Mr. Litherland) issued within two days of our return from that fact-finding visit:Our visit to Afghanistan has further reinforced our strongly held view that social change, social reforms and Socialism cannot be carried through or implemented by the gun and tank but only by consent and democratic processes through the ballot box. We call on the Soviet Government to withdraw its troops immediately from Afghanistan.Social change, social reforms and Socialism cannot be implemented by the gun and the tank, nor can democracy be imposed on an independent sovereign country by a foreign country using the gun and the tank. That is exactly what is being attempted now, and it has its exact parallel in the Soviet position in Afghanistan. If the Foreign Secretary condemns one — just as I condemned Afghanistan after my visit—he must condemn the other.
§ Mr. Patrick Nicholls (Teignbridge)
If the hon. Gentleman is saying that the one occupation is as bad as the other, he should take into account the nature of that occupation. The Americans — in my opinion, quite wrongly — seek to impose Western democracy on another country. However, only yesterday the press reported that the occupiers of Afghanistan had slaughtered hundreds of men and women and had bayoneted about 12 innocent children. Surely the hon. Gentleman agrees that the two forms of occupation are not in any way comparable?
§ Mr. Roberts
I also read that story in the The Guardian, which came from a rebel source and was not confirmed by other diplomatic sources. Therefore, we must put on one side the question whether there is any veracity in that report. If the stories are true, they are to 326 be condemned. However, I believe that democracy will not be restored and that there will not be an election in the foreseeable future in Grenada as a result of this invasion. I have visited Grenada and have traversed the terrain. It is just as it has been described by other Opposition Members, and it is very suitable for guerrilla activity. If troops go in with the gun and the tank to impose democracy, particularly given that small island's recent history, they are unlikely to succeed. Such action will probably result in a superimposed regime that is a puppet of the United States of America.
The right hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. JohnStevas) criticised my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) for making party political capital out of this issue. I thought that that was what the Americans were claiming they were trying to do in Grenada—create an environment in which there was an opposition that could make party political capital without which there is no democracy. I make no excuse for making party political capital out of this issue.
The right hon. Member for Chelmsford asked what we expect the Foreign Secretary to do. I believe that the Government and the Foreign Secretary should do three things. First, the Foreign Secretary should make the statement that was made by the right hon. Member for Chelmsford. The idea that because a person is in government he cannot speak the truth denigrates politics. If, as the right hon. Member for Chelmsford said, the Americans acted wrongly, the Foreign Secretary should say so.
Secondly, the Foreign Secretary should tell us that the British Government will condemn the American action and vote for a resolution along those lines in the United Nations. The Foreign Secretary should also tell the Americans to keep their cruise missiles, because we know now that we shall not be consulted before they are used.
Many myths have been presented about Grenada. When I was there, I told members of the Government — Maurice Bishop and Whiteman—that they should hold elections. I had no doubt when travelling the country as a tourist, not just as a parliamentarian, that it was a popular Government. If the Government had held an election, they would have won. We do not know why they did not.
I condemn the coup d'etat and the murders of Bishop, Whiteman and the others that led to the excuse for the American invasion. I am sure that the coup d'etat would not have occurred but for the destabilisation of Grenada and its economy by the American and British Governments. I have no doubt that the airport, which was planned when Grenada was a Commonwealth country under Sir Eric Gairy, would have been built by the Americans and the British if we had responded to Bishop's request. Bishop was forced to go to the Cubans because we cut off all assistance. Cubans are stationed there, but so are Canadians. Canada is one country that did not cut off aid. It has sent advisers there to reconstitute the cocoa crop. I believe that there are more Canadians than Cubans on Grenada. Bishop and his Government went anywhere they could to get help.
§ Sir Anthony Kershaw (Stroud)
I hope that the hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Roberts) will forgive me if I do not follow his thoughts in the few minutes that I have. The interests and advantages of the state are what should inspire foreign policy. We must also allow the United 327 States that way of making up its mind. The United States was faced with the creation of a military airfield in a strategically sensitive part of the world. I do not go for the excuse that the Americans were rescuing their citizens because, like my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook), I do not believe that they were in danger. Nor do I go for the idea that we must divide the world into goodies and baddies. We must deal with goodies as well as baddies, and we must make our own policy.
The military airfield was important. It was provocative for Grenada and its backers to place that airport there and to dedicate it to an obvious use. This was bound to make the United States react. I suppose that Grenada and its backers thought that they could have it both ways. If the United States did nothing, it was threatened by a military airfield; if the United States reacted, Grenada had a good propaganda point. The United States had a good propaganda point, but it has had to pay a price for what it has done. It reasonably decided that its safety depended upon that action.
It is natural that there should be some difference between the policies of the British and the United States' Governments in that part of the world. We are much further away from Grenada than the United States and we have less influence, except historically and linguistically than we used to. A small proportion of our trade is with that part of the world. We must face the fact that our natural interests in that region are different from those of the United States.
It is not true to say that because our advice has been rejected on this occasion by the United States we cannot rely upon it ever to take our advice about cruise. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South (Sir P. Blaker) said, the arrangements for cruise are entirely different. In that matter our interests are the same, whereas in Grenada our interests are different from those of the United States.
If we can remember after this crisis that fundamentally we and the United States and the safety of us both depend upon our understanding each other and on co-operation then this setback will not have been entirely bad.
§ Mr. Healey
The House must agree that this has been a worthwhile debate, although it has brought little comfort to the Government, who were described by a senior Conservative Back Bencher with Foreign Office experience as being guilty of a pallid abdication of duty. That is a reasonable description of the Government's behaviour.
We heard a thoughtful maiden speech from the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Walden) which was informed by his great experience of foreign affairs. We look forward to hearing him again.
From the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) we had his familiar impersonation of General de Gaulle, and there was an equally familiar performance from the right hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) as Obadiah Slope.
I am afraid that the Foreign Secretary did little this afternoon to redeem his reputation. He made it clear that there was imminent risk of military intervention by the United States in Grenada since the United States was issued with the formal invitation by the east Caribbean 328 Commonwealth countries at their meeting in Barbados. Barbados was obviously involved in it, although not a member of the organisation.
It is a reasonable belief that the invitation to the United States Government was formal, unlike the invitation to the British Government, according to the Foreign Secretary, because the United States had put these countries up to it. It had organised the invitation.
The Government have made it clear—or have they? Yes, they have—in the past three days that they thought the United State's planned course of action was disastrously mistaken, but when the imminence of possible invasion was apparent to everyone except the Foreign Secretary the Government did nothing about it for three whole days.
It is not surprising, therefore, that President Reagan was able to tell American Senators on Monday that the British Government were in support of his course of action. The Government should have recognised the danger. There were many courses open to them. They could have mobilised opposition from Commonwealth countries, not just in the Caribbean, such as Trinidad and Belize, but from Canada, which has strongly condemned the action in the past 24 hours, and from friendly countries in the area outside the Commonwealth, such as Mexico, which has been compelled, at some risk to its position, to condemn the action in the Security Council debate.
The real charge against the Government is that they had formed a view of the circumstances. They believed that the Americans were wrong, that the Americans might be invading an independent state in the Commonwealth, but they did absolutely nothing to prevent it. In other words, they have replaced megaphone diplomacy with doormat diplomacy.
No one who has listened to the Foreign Secretary during the past three days can fail to reach the conclusion that throughout the whole miserable affair the Government have shown themselves lacking in grip, fibre and resolution and, like the pusillanimous pussyfooting of the Foreign Secretary in trying to explain how he did not really agree with the Americans, but did not think it proper to say so, their behaviour must be profoundly distasteful to anyone who cares for the dignity of Great Britain in world affairs.
Unless the Foreign Secretary can assure us when he replies that the Government, who will be called upon to express a view at the end of the Security Council debate which is now under way, are prepared to express their opposition to American policy and to call for the immediate withdrawal of the invading forces, as they did under similar circumstances over the Falklands 18 months ago, I shall ask the House to vote against the motion.
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
By leave of the House, Mr. Speaker, I begin my reply to the debate by joining the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) in welcoming my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Walden) and congratulating him on his contribution to our debate. I endorse what the right hon. Gentleman said—that my hon. Friend made a distinguished, well-informed contribution to a debate on a subject about which he knows a great deal, and we look forward to hearing him again.
I must tell the House about the circumstances that have arisen in Grenada during the course of the day. We have heard from the high commission in Barbados that it is once 329 again possible for civilians to go safely to Grenada. The first such civilians that we shall be sending will be a consular team to determine the whereabouts and circumstances of British citizens on the island and to explore the possibilities of bringing out those who may wish to leave. That news in itself is a promising development.
During the debate, the wisdom of the action of the United States Government and of our own position has been investigated and questioned from a number of different points of view. It is no part of my intention today to defend each and every attitude of the United States Government, but I shall address myself to the questions raised about the actions of Her Majesty's Government.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery), in his thoughtful analysis, suggested that all questions of this kind should be considered by reference to one criterion—whether the action being taken or not taken serves the ultimate outcome of the great ideological conflict, which he says prevails in the world. He said that there was room in this matter for only one view. It must be said that in the conflict that is taking place between the democracies of the West and of the Soviet Union and her allies, judgments must also he made about the proper place and position of independent states and of the interests of those independent states, including, for example, those in the Caribbean which do not agree with the action of the United States.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Sir A. Kershaw) drew attention to the fact that there were special reasons for the United States to take a different view, together with some of the other Caribbean states, on what ought to be done in this case. We did not agree with that, and clearly expressed a different position. My right hon. Friend the Member for Pavilion—in the phrase that the right hon. Member for Leeds, East sought to mobilise in his speech about a "pallid abdication of duty" —suggested that once we had formed a view different from that of the United States we should have expressed our dissent more loudly and vigorously. I understand those who take that view.
However, I do not believe that it would have served my right hon. Friend's purpose, or this country's, or the common interests of ourselves and of the United States, for us to have amplified and magnified our views. We could not have done more to make our position clear. There was no need to do more in the way that is suggested.
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
No such preventative was necessary. We made our position clear.
The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) put his argument in the simple analysis with which he urged the Government, on the one hand, to avoid undue fondness and, on the other, to avoid undue loathing. It should be clear from the way in which we have approached this affair that we were not following either position. Our view was not the same as that of the Americans, as we made clear to them. There was no question of undue fondness unfluencing our judgment in that respect.
Those who have spoken from the Opposition Benches include the leader of the Liberal party. The right hon.
330 Gentleman showed some understanding of the difficulties of the decision that faced the United States and the Caribbean countries to intervene in Grenada, but he questioned the wisdom of their action and its legal justification. In reply, it must be said that it is primarily for those who have carried out the operation, not Her Majesty's Government, to undertake a detailed justification of their action.
Taking account of all the legal and practical considerations, and of the interests of our citizens and their safety in these circumstances, we came to a different conclusion, as I explained to the House. We would not dispute that a state has the right in international law to take appropriate action to safeguard the lives of its citizens where there has been a breakdown of law and order, nor that there is any provision in the charter of the United States that makes it unlawful to take such action. Those are the considerations that no doubt the United States and those acting with it must have had in mind. We took a different view of all the circumstances that apply in this case.
The right hon. Member for Leeds, East also asked about the attitude that we should be adopting towards action in the United Nations. In his first speech he offered a prescription for the kind of action that we should have taken, and he reinforced that in his second contribution. He argued that we should plainly condemn the action that has been taken and call for the withdrawal of United States forces. That is not a position that her Majesty's Government find it appropriate to adopt.
This action has now been taken by a number of countries which are our allies. It has been taken for reasons which it is for them to explain, but, above all, to initiate and carry through a process for restoring the prospect of democracy in a Commonwealth country. As I said earlier., the forces of a number of Commonwealth countries, as well as those of the United States, are now engaged in action to achieve that end. It would not serve the prospect of restoring democracy in Grenada if we were now to urge the withdrawal of forces engaged in that process.
The final form of the resolution that will be discussed in the United Nations has not become clear. All that we have seen so far is the first draft of the first resolution to be tabled. I make it plain that we shall not be supporting that resolution. When we see the final shape of the resolution, I shall be in a position to form the view of Her Majesty's Government, and the House of Commons will be able to judge that then.
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
Apart from those who have questioned the positon in that way, there are those on the Labour Benches, and the right hon. Member for Leeds, East is one, who have paid scant regard to the way in which what is now taking place will affect the prospects for democracy and constitutional rule in Grenada and little attention to the interests and legitimate concern expressed by other Commonwealth countries. Grenada's neighbours are concerned about the way in which the island was being and would be run in the light of the latest coup. Labour Members who have concentrated on attacking the United States and its President are wrong. Such attacks are of no service to the interests of this country or of any other country.
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
In our assessment of our reaction to this decision there is no question of our taking any blind view of fidelity to the United States. We have formed our judgment of the prospects, we have expressed our view that the action should not have been undertaken and we have not initiated action to support it. It could only be a matter for regret that Labour Members have relished the deployment of an anti-American case for its own sake.
The right hon. Member for Leeds, East said that it was not anti-American to suggest that President Reagan had broken the whole post-war tradition of acting on the basis of co-operation and consensus with the allies. He argued, in an absurd phrase, that the President of the United States is following a unilateralist policy which is creating danger for the world. It must be clear that the right hon. Gentleman has been delighted, to his shame, to use this debate as an occasion for pandering to anti-American sentiments. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Indeed, in his speech the right hon. Gentleman seemed more concerned to attack the United States Administration than to discuss Grenada.
As for the claim that President Reagan has broken with the whole post-war tradition of acting in concert with the allies, that is, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, an entirely facile and unworthy proposition. As has been said in this debate, there have been differences in the past between the views taken by the allies, and there have been differences between the views taken by the United States and Great Britain. There have been such differences, and there will be such differences again, because they are inevitable in any alliance. It is an inevitable feature, because the North Atlantic Alliance is one of free states committed, among other things, to defend their right to disagree with one another. Would that such a right were defended by the Warsaw pact, where dissent is crushed by tanks before a day or two have passed. If there were such a change in the position within the North Atlantic Alliance, we should acquire the characteristics of the Warsaw pact. That might suit some Opposition Members, but it must be said that it does not serve the interests of the British people.
The suggestion that the American Administration are following a unilateralist policy — which Opposition Members normally support and which on this occasion crept into the speech of the right hon. Member for Leeds, East — is absolute rubbish. The close consultation between the members of the Alliance—[Interruption]—remains still an essential purpose of the Alliance.
The right hon. Member for Leeds, East also talked about servility. That, too, is utter nonsense. It is demonstrated by the fact that we disagreed with the view of the United States on this occasion and did not participate in the intervention. We formed our own conclusions. There is no trace of servility there.
I invite the House to reject the motion.
§ Question put:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 211, Noes 336.335
§ Question accordingly negatived.