§ 2.37 p.m.
§ The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Young) rose to move, That this House takes note of the situation in the Falkland Islands.
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. The very grave situation over the Falkland Islands continues. As Leader of the House I thought it would be the wish of your Lordships that the House should be recalled today, and so have the opportunity to consider again that situation. I believe that the House will want to hear how the Government see that situation, and at the same time will want an opportunity to state its own views. I can assure the House that my noble friend Lord Belstead, who will be winding up the debate, and I, will listen very carefully to all that is said and will take note of it.
§ Our objective over the Falkland Islands is that the people of the Falkland Islands shall be free to determine their own way of life and their future. The wishes of the islanders must be paramount. That is why our immediate goal in recent days has been to secure the removal of all Argentine forces in accordance with Resolution 502 of the United Nations Security Council, and to secure the restoration of British administration. Our strategy has been based on a combination of diplomatic, military and economic pressures, and I should like to deal with each of these in turn.
§ First, we seek a peaceful solution by diplomatic means. In this we have been helped by the widespread disapproval of the use of force which the Argentine aggression has aroused across the world. We have also been helped by the tireless efforts of Secretary of State Haig, who has now paid two visits to this country and one to Buenos Aires. On his first visit, last Thursday, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary impressed upon him the great depth of feeling on this issue, not only of Parliament but of the British people as a whole. They made clear that withdrawal of the invaders' troops must come first; that the sovereignty of the islands is not and cannot be affected by invasion; and 290 that when it comes to future negotiations what matters most is what the Falkland Islanders themselves wish.
§ On his second visit, on Easter Monday and yesterday, Mr. Haig put forward certain ideas as a basis for discussion—ideas concerning the withdrawal of troops and its supervision in an interim period to the conclusion of negotiations on the future of the islands The talks were long and detailed, as the House would expect. Some things could not be considered because they flouted our basic principles; others had to be examined carefully, and alternatives suggested. These talks were constructive, and some progress was made.
§ At the end of Monday Mr. Haig was prepared to return to Buenos Aires in pursuit of a peaceful solution. Late that night, however, Argentina put forward other proposals, which gave rise to real difficulty. But yesterday the position appeared to have eased. Further ideas are now being considered, and Secretary Haig has returned to Washington before proceeding, he hopes shortly, to Buenos Aires.
§ These discussions are complex, changing and difficult, the more so because they are taking place between a military junta and a democratic Government of a free people—one which is not prepared to compromise that democracy and that liberty which the British Falkland islanders regard as their birthright. We seek, and we shall continue to seek, a diplomatic solution, and I know that the House will realise that it would jeopardise that aim were I to give further details at this stage. We shall continue genuinely to negotiate through the good offices of Mr. Haig, to whose skill and perseverance we all pay a warm tribute.
§ Diplomatic efforts are more likely to succeed if they are backed by military strength. At 5 a.m. London time on Monday 12th April the maritime exclusion zone of 200 miles around the Falkland Islands came into effect. From that time all Argentine warships and Argentine auxiliaries found within this zone will be treated as hostile, and are liable to be attacked by British forces. We see this measure as the first step towards achieving the withdrawal of Argentine forces from the area. It appears to have exerted influence on Argentina, whose navy has been concentrated outside the zone. If our authority in the zone is challenged, we shall take that as a sign that the search for a peaceful solution has been abandoned and we shall then have to take the necessary action. Let no one doubt that.
§ The naval task force is proceeding with all speed towards the South Atlantic. It is a formidable force, comprising two aircraft carriers, five guided-missile destroyers, seven frigates and an assault ship with five landing ships, together with supporting vessels. The composition of the force and the speed with which it was assembled and put to sea clearly demonstrate our determination—and at this point I should like to pay tribute to all those who made this possible, both those who helped on shore and those who are now at sea. I can tell the House that morale on board the ships in the task force is extremely high. The ships are carrying out exercises en route, and by the time the force arrives off the Falklands it will be at a very high state of fighting efficiency. A number of civilian ships have now been chartered or requisitioned. These include the "Canberra", for use as a troopship, 291 and the "Uganda", which will be available as a hospital ship.
§ Sustaining a major force at 8,000 miles distance from the United Kingdom is a considerable undertaking, but, as the Ministry of Defence announced this morning, additional measures are now in hand to provide extra capability over an extended period. In particular, the second assault ship, HMS "Intrepid", is being made ready for sailing if necessary. Arrangements are in hand to send additional sea and ground attack Harriers. This will nearly double the size of the Harrier force in the South Atlantic.
§ Our diplomacy is backed by strength and we have the resolve to use that strength if necessary in order to achieve our objectives. But the other aspect of our policy against Argentina has been economic. We have been urging our friends and allies to take action parallel to our own and we have achieved a heartening degree of success. The most significant measure has been the decision of our nine partners in the European Community to join us not just in an arms embargo but also in stopping all imports from Argentina. This is a very important step, unprecedented in its scope and the rapidity of the decision.
§ Last year nearly one-quarter of all Argentina's exports went to the European Community. The effect of this measure on Argentina's economy will therefore be considerable and cannot be without influence on her leaders in the present crisis. I should like warmly to thank our European partners for rallying to our support. This support must surely be one of the most striking examples of the political benefits of membership of the Community. I hope that it will be recognised as such by all our people. The decision cannot have been easy for our partners, given the commercial interests at stake, but they were the first to realise that if aggression were allowed to succeed in the Falkland Islands it would be encouraged elsewhere.
§ The Commonwealth, too, have been quick to help. I should like to thank Australia, New Zealand and Canada for their swift action. They have decided to ban imports from Argentina, to stop export credits and to halt all sales of military equipment. New Zealand has also banned exports to Argentina and has broken off diplomatic relations. Many other countries in the Commonwealth have supported us by condemning the Argentine invasion.
§ I turn now to the question of British subjects. One of our first concerns has been, and remains, for the safety of the British subjects who, through no fault of their own, have been caught up in the consequences of the crisis. They include, apart from the Falkland islanders themselves, the Marines, the British Antarctic scientists on South Georgia and the British community in Argentina. In spite of all our efforts, we have not been able to secure reliable information about the 22 Marines who were on South Georgia and the 13 British Antarctic Survey personnel who are believed to have been evacuated by the Argentines at the same time. According to Argentine reports, these people are on a ship heading for the mainland.
§ There are also reports to the effect that six Marines and the one member of the crew of the "Endurance" who was said to have been captured on the Falkland 292 Islands are now in Argentina. Finally, there are other members of the British Antarctic Survey team who remain on South Georgia and two other British subjects. Their most recent contacts on 12th April with their headquarters in this country indicate that they are safe and well. The Government have asked the International Red Cross to pursue all these cases urgently with the Argentine Government. We trust that their efforts will soon produce the information which we and their families urgently seek.
§ In conclusion, I reiterate that we want a peaceful solution, but it was not Britain who broke the peace. We shall continue to insist on complete Argentine withdrawal from the Falkland Islands and its dependencies. We shall remain ready to exercise our right to resort to force in self-defence under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter until the occupying forces leave the islands. Our naval task force sails on towards its destination. We remain fully confident of its ability to take whatever measures may be necessary. Meanwhile its very existence and its progress towards the Falkland Islands reinforce the efforts we are making for a diplomatic solution. In that solution, the wishes of the islanders remain paramount. There is no reason to believe that they would prefer any alternative to the resumption of the administration which they enjoyed before Argentina committed aggression. It may be that their recent experiences will have caused their views on the future to change. But unless and until they have had the chance freely to express their views, the British Government have no intention of assuming that the islanders' wishes are different from what they were before.
§ My Lords, we have had a long and proud history of recognising the right of others to determine their own destiny. We have an experience unrivalled by any other nation in the world. But that right must be upheld universally, and not least where it is challenged by those who are hardly conspicuous for their devotion to democracy and liberty. That is why we shall continue through diplomatic, economic and, if necessary, military means to secure for the people of the Falkland Islands that same freedom of choice which we have conferred upon others and which we shall continue to uphold for them. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That this House takes note of the situation in the Falkland Islands.—(Baroness Young.)
§ 2.50 p.m.
§ Lord Shackleton
My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Baroness for her speech. I cannot say that it was a very informative one, but I do not think that we should blame her for that. Of course, it is difficult for the Government to go into much detail as to the measures they are taking. Nonetheless, this does not absolve your Lordships from making their contribution and giving consideration to the issues involved in a rather calmer atmosphere than existed last week.
Those of us who belong to the older generation are rather horrified that at this moment we are debating an issue which could mean the question of war and peace. There is a horrible feeling that we have been here before on an earlier occasion, among those of us who remember 1939 when we all hoped it would be all right and it was not. But I will not go back into the past. Although I do not believe that this will lead to war, nonetheless we cannot ignore the fact that the situation 293 is extremely serious. We ought not in our consideration to allow our feeling of national pride, however great it is, to take charge of our heads when so much is at stake.
I should like to make clear that certainly it will be my intention, and it will be the intention of the party to which I belong, to support the Government and support them in the steps that they have taken and to give them encouragement, while at the same time we wish to make points which I hope they will take into consideration. The first and most important issue is of course—as the noble Baroness said—the welfare of the islanders themselves.
Those of us who know those windswept but rather lovely islands will be very concerned for the future of the people there and of their continuing desire to remain British. However, at the same time we ought to acknowledge that we have let them down in the past. I do not mean this Government, I mean all Governments. They have not shown a sense of responsibility and our post-colonial record, as I have said on other occasions, has not been as good as it should have been. I even wonder about my own responsibility, whether when I produce my economic survey report I ought to have said: "But you cannot rely on the British Government to implement that". As I say, in this matter I am addressing Governments and not just this Government.
I think that we are in a situation now where in honour we are committed to do our utmost to find a solution and to allow the Falkland islanders to remain British. Therefore, I do not wish to waste time. There are criticisms that one could make of the Government. One could look to the failure of judgment. No one is sadder than I am, or indeed most of your Lordships' House, at the departure of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington. We paid a tribute to him before. In not taking the opportunity to blame the Government, and not seeking to make party points, I hope that when the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, comes to reply he will not follow the noble Lord, Lord Cockfield, who on the last occasion blamed us by referring to the fact that conventional arms might be more useful than Trident in this situation. This is a legitimate point of view to state.
§ Lord Shackleton
I beg Lord Cockfield's pardon humbly. Indeed, it was the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard. I am very sorry indeed, and I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Cockfield—and I have now learned how to pronounce his name.
I do not propose to waste time attacking the Government but I want to make a rather wider case. Once again, I criticise the terms of the Motion. It is to draw attention to the situation in the Falkland Islands. What seems so difficult to get across to the Government and to people generally is that the issues go very much wider than the Falkland Islands. If we are to take the possibility of armed conflict with unforeseeable consequences, then we need to decide what it is that is at stake. We have discussed the situation of the Falkland islanders on many occasions, and our concern is first of all for them.
I want to look at the Argentine record over many years, not just in relation to the Falklands, but in 294 relation to the dependencies and in relation to the Antarctic. The key to this, which has not yet been appreciated, remains South Georgia. From South Georgia and down through those dependencies, the Sandwich Islands, there could be established a territorial basis which, if the 200-mile economic zone was extended, would give a degree of control over the approaches to the Antarctic and indeed over the fishing resources of one of the richest sources of marine life in the world.
Let us look at the record of the Argentine. The Falkland Islands Dependencies Survey had to be started during the war so as to protect our interest there. It was only in 1952 that the Argentine opened fire on British scientists. There is a chain of determined pursuit of national aims that we cannot ignore. They claim to have repossessed South Georgia. They never had South Georgia. They had a meteorological station on it. It has been under British administration ever since the beginning of this century. Then they chose to put a landing on a volcano—because that is all that South Thule is—and there had to be an evacuation at one time when there was an eruption. They did this in order to strengthen their claim. These are the pursuits of territorial aims.
As with the failure over HMS "Endurance", Governments failed to take action to reassert our rights in that area. They have, as your Lordships know, taken action in so-called Antarctic bases where they have mostly military men and very little science is being done. Your Lordships will be aware that they flew a woman down to have her baby at Esperanza near Hope Bay in order to establish an Argentinian Antarctic citizen. They are claiming this part of the world where peaceful conditions exist and where they wish to make good their competing claims with Chile and Britain. There is, therefore, a great deal at stake in the long run.
Your Lordships have heard all too much about oil. I repeat that it will be 20 or 30 years—certainly 10 years—before any oil is found. People go on saying that oil has been found. There has been no drilling other than that close to the mainland of South America. In the long run—and in your Lordships' House we can do this—we need to look not just to next year or the next five years but to the next 50 years. The Antarctic Treaty is up for renewal in 1991, and if we allow this aggression to go unheeded there will be further aggression because this has been the history of dictators and fascists throughout history.
There is, too, the question of conservation. Some of your Lordships will have read the document about krill by Barbara Mitchell and published by Earthscan. There is enormous wealth in krill. If it is to be harvested, it needs to be harvested in controlled conditions and not just be dealt with by the Argentines giving a licence to the Soviet Union to take as much as they like. It is most astonishing that this is happening. We find these strange alliances, which have also happened in the past.
I do not wish to waste too much time, except to illustrate my case, on the personal side. When my mission was sent out to do an economic survey of the Falklands there were proposals that an Argentine team should be attached to it, headed by an admiral. I agreed; they then suggested he should be the deputy leader. I refused because it was an independent 295 survey. It was independent of the British Government, and I felt that we could not have an official representative as deputy leader, but they were most welcome to send a team along with us to observe what we observed and to study the economics. Because we refused to make him deputy leader, not only did they not participate but they then made it as difficult as possible. I had to travel to the Falklands by devious ways and I had to use a false name for the second time in my life. When I was met by the ambassador he said to me: "The last time I saw you you were using a false name, very respectably". But how can one deal with them? Then there was the extraordinary incident when they intercepted a research ship: they were over-flying the islands. This has been the history.
I am sure it is vital to the future of the Falklands and the future of peace that there should be good cooperation with the Argentine. I would' not myself rule out the possibility of a two-flag or three-flag solution—the kinds of thing which I believe the Government are talking about—but we must continue to support the efforts that are being made up to the point where we are faced by the horrifying spectacle which I think must be avoided at all costs; namely, the invasion of the Falkland Islands by force of arms. The object at the end of the day must be to get a good negotiation.
There are people in this country who are saying: "Is it worth it? Would not the Falkland islanders be better off if they were Argentine citizens?" Perhaps materially they would be, but those of us who are aware of what has happened in the Argentine can understand their hesitation, and no sort of guarantee will really protect them in this respect. We are operating in accordance with the United Nations. Of course I would agree with my noble friend Lord Brockway that there are all sorts of options, and though we understand the pacifist argument we should certainly consider a further approach to the Hague Court, though I do not believe it will be successful. We also hope the Americans will give rather more positive support to their most faithful ally. But in the long run we are operating in accordance with the United Nations, fortified by the resolution, in the interests of peace and stability and in the interests of the world generally.
§ 3.3 p.m.
§ Lord Gladwyn
My Lords, when we last discussed this matter in relation to the Private Notice Question asked by the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition, I made what I think must have been the shortest speech I have ever delivered in this House, saying that I doubted whether it was the right occasion to say anything other than that we all hoped that the measures taken by the Government would be successful! I was rather tempted to stick to that line this afternoon. Indeed I believe myself that it might have been better not to have had this debate at all: that is my personal view. But it is, after all, now a question of a Statement of the Government's position, for which I thank the noble Baroness. So it looks as though all parties should now make their general attitude abundantly clear.
Speaking for the Liberal Party, therefore, I may say 296 at the outset that even though our Leader was not—unfortunately, as I think—consulted by the Prime Minister, we at once approved the proposal to dispatch some kind of force to the South Atlantic with the purpose of reinforcing the demand for the evacuation of the Falkland Islands by Argentine troops, formulated in the perfectly clear and valid Resolution No. 502 of the Security Council of the United Nations. We in no way regret or wish to go back on that approval. On the contrary, the dispatch of a task force seems, if we may believe press reports, to have resulted in at least some change of heart on the part of the Argentine Government, who, we understand, are now at least speaking of the possible withdrawal of their troops from the islands, subject of course—if I may have the attention of the Opposition Front Bench, whose Members are engaged in a conversation which seems to be very important—to conditions which are presently being considered by Her Majesty's Government with the powerful assistance of the American Secretary of State.
The Government, as the noble Lord, Lord Shackle-ton, observed, have not told us very much in their Statement, and I entirely appreciate that they could not or would not think it useful to say anything of the kind. I very much doubt, indeed, whether it would be profitable at this critical moment for us to examine in detail all possible short-term or long-term solutions on the basis of which the Argentine Government might be expected to withdraw its troops and comply with the third demand of the United Nations Resolution No. 502—namely, negotiations.
Perhaps, however, I may just say this: it can hardly be denied that the hurried discussions between Mr. Haig and the two Governments concerned which have recently taken place amount in themselves to some kind of negotiations. Therefore, to say that no negotiations of any kind can start before the Argentine troops have all left and the Union Jack is once more proudly flying from Government House in Port Stanley is surely putting our case too rigidly. Nor is it even perhaps what the Security Council intended. Surely the best thing, even though it may not be immediately achievable, would be for Mr. Haig to announce at some stage that he has got both sides to agree to some formula which, while protecting the position of the islanders of course, would nevertheless give some satisfaction to the long held, if legally quite invalid, claim that has resulted in the present deplorable situation.
I believe that the Liberal Party, along with other parties in opposition no doubt, will base their continuing support for Government policy which now exists on whether they believe that the Government have responded correctly to any proposals that may be put forward for an ultimate solution of the problem on some such lines as these. Of course, aggression must be shown not to pay—I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, about that—but that does not mean that some peaceful solution of the dispute cannot be achieved by negotiation. On the contrary, I think it may.
There is only one aspect to which I should like to refer. During the debate in another place the other day, allusion was made by many speakers to the possibility of replacing the departing Argentine troops 297 by some sort of United Nations force, or even by the installation in the Falkland Islands of some kind of United Nations trusteeship: in other words, the islands would become some sort of ward of the Trusteeship Council of the United Nations. I imagine that if any "force" of this kind is to be dispatched it would have to be authorised by the Security Council. If so, it would presumably have to be approved by the Soviet Union, which might well be difficult.
In any case I am not sure what the exact role of such a force would be. Would it simply assist the Governor? What would its relationship be with the elected Legislative Council? Would it have arms and, if necessary, use them? In sum, would its presence really be necessary? I should be grateful if the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, when he comes to reply, would tell the House the Government's preliminary view regarding the possibility of setting up such a force. Of course, I may be wrong and the intention may be to set it up by some decision of the General Assembly, which I understand—I may be wrong—has to take its decisions by a two-thirds majority vote. I cannot recall, however, any precedent for this and, in any case, the Assembly, as we know, tends to be dominated by what might be called "anti-colonial" elements which, in this connection, might not be altogether helpful.
To involve the Trusteeship Council might also, I imagine, lead us into certain difficulties. After all, the assumed role on the part of this body has been to prepare certain under-developed colonial territories for independent existence, with the co-operation of a trustee in the shape of a fully developed ex-imperial power. But I imagine that the Falkland Islands would hardly qualify as an under-developed country. Again, however, I may not altogether have understood the reasons for suggesting such a solution or, indeed, those behind the proposal for the dispatch of a United Nations force. So I should indeed be grateful if the Government could tell us in a general way whether they see any merit in the one proposal or the other.
Of course, I do not dispute that, in certain circumstances, the United Nations might have a role to play. For instance, the Secretary-General might conceivably, with the approval of the Security Council or even of the Assembly, dispatch a neutral observer of any settlement involving the possible flying of a United Nations flag and so on. And there are surely many other ways in which the United Nations might be helpful, all of which ought to be investigated when detailed negotiations get going and when the main lines of some eventual compromise have been finally determined.
In the meantime, we can only hope and pray that the justifiable indignation of almost everybody in this country as the result of an act of aggression against some peaceful British subjects by a Government with a most unpleasant record, whose chief object seems to be to distract attention from an economic disaster by an appeal to patriotic sentiment, will continue to be shared by the great majority of the international community and notably, of course, by the American people, who seem to be tending to become more and more on our side. Perhaps, eventually, even President Reagan himself will appreciate that the United States can hardly be an umpire in the present dispute—what kind of an umpire: an umpire between right and 298 wrong?—useful, even essential, as the United States will no doubt be able to be as some kind of intermediary.
It is perhaps just as much as a result of the common determination of all countries who feel this indignation to apply economic pressure on the Argentine military junta as of our own quite legitimate demonstration of force that this régime will ultimately be brought to see some kind of reason and, if this results in the departure or resignation of General Galtieri, few tears will be shed. I think that we should all be particularly grateful for the effective and highly expensive action—this point has already been made by the noble Baroness, Lady Young—taken by our partners in the European Community in banning all imports from the Argentine, at great sacrifice to themselves. This gesture is clearly much more significant than the odd £100 million too much that we now, pending friendly negotiations, pay into the Community budget. Is it not even possible that, in view of this splendid gesture of solidarity on the part of our European friends, the Labour Party will reconsider the appalling present policy of taking this country right out of the European Economic Community?
I hope that I have not strayed too far from the question that we have immediately before us, but I think it is not irrelevant. My final word is that we must all expect the Government, by one means or another, to arrive if they can at a peaceful solution of what has so far proved to be one of the most difficult problems arising out of the erstwhile imperial responsibilities of a widely extended empire. Though the Government and the Foreign Office may be blamed—I believe most people will think that they are to be blamed—for not having publicly warned the Argentine Government in time of the likely consequences of any forceful action, they certainly cannot be blamed for having, over many years, done their utmost to find a compromise solution. And I personally believe that—thanks largely to the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, whose departure we all so much regret—all this good work will not be found to have been wasted in the event.
My Lords, one of the maxims of an apparently now despised diplomacy is, as the French have it, "étendre le pont doré à l'ennemi abattu", or, as we say in English, make it as easy as possible for a defeated enemy to accept the terms!
§ 3.15 p.m.
§ The Lord Archbishop of Canterbury
My Lords, I should like to make a short contribution to this debate: first, to associate these Benches with the concern and the prayers of our people for all who are involved in this crisis, and particularly in this place for those Ministers who bear heavy responsibilities in decision-making. I also have a direct responsibility for the appointment and support of the chaplain to the islanders, two-thirds of whom are Anglicans; and their little cathedral church named after Canterbury Cathedral, which figures in many of the pictures of the islands, is one of the focal points of community life there.
There have been in recent days a number of messages exchanged between myself and the chaplain, and only yesterday I received, both from him and from the Easter congregation at their little cathedral, assurances 299 that they were in good heart, steadfast, eager to maintain this link and appreciative of the messages which I had sent them in Easter broadcasts. These are the reasons why I wish to add my thanks for the opportunity of hearing from the noble Baroness, Lady Young, the report on the difficult and crucial conversations of the last 48 hours, and to add my tribute to the efforts for peace being made by the United States Secretary of State.
I do not want to seem to give advice to the Government on the way in which these conversations should be pursued. It is not my purpose to make a speech of that kind. But I think it is proper that I should emphasise the support which I believe the Churches feel for the two most important principles which are at stake in this matter. The first is the overwhelming importance of international law. The second is the right to self-determination of peoples, whether they be large or small in number.
The need to ensure that nations act within international law is the bulwark on which the future peace of the world depends. We would have been gravely in breach of our moral duty if this country had not reacted as it did in this matter. The action of the Argentine Government must be condemned by all who believe in the rule of law, and the will of the United Nations in this matter must be obeyed.
The second principle—that of self-determination—is also one of the foundations on which international relations must be built. The fact that the Falklands Islands community is small and defenceless must not be allowed to remove from it the right to determine its own future. Indeed, there are small islands scattered all over the world whose inhabitants must be looking anxiously at the outcome of this crisis. Our first aim must be to seek a diplomatic solution. That must have our energetic support. But it must not be a solution which fudges these principles. In their resolve to uphold them, I believe that the Government have the support of the majority of this nation.
The fact that the people of the Falkland Islands are British does, of course, affect our feelings. However, I should like to think that we would feel as strongly if they traced their descent from a people other than our own. The two principles which I have mentioned would be in jeopardy, just the same. But we must resist any temptation to stir up feelings of hurt national pride which would cloud our judgment or deflect us from our immediate concern in securing the wellbeing of a peace-loving and, I believe, God-fearing people. We need also to remember that whatever we may think of the Argentine Government, the Argentinians are a Christian people with whom we have many ties. I am especially aware of this, since there are two Anglican dioceses in that country.
We all pray that the use of force will be unnecessary, but let us be clear about what our objective must be. It is that the United Nations resolution must be obeyed so that a way can be found which safeguards the rights of the Falkland islanders to live their lives in conditions of their choosing. Those are just aims, and it is right that we should be united and resolute in pursuing them.
§ 3.21 p.m.
§ Lord Soames
My Lords, personally speaking, I am grateful to the Government for having given us the opportunity for this debate. So far it has been an exceptionally high-class debate. I should have thought that it would be hard to find anybody, either in this House or in another place, who has a greater knowledge of the South Atlantic and the Antarctic than the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, who spoke with such knowledge and with such force about these matters and whose opinions we value.
It must have been difficult for the Government to reach a decision to hold this debate this afternoon, because when they needed to take the decision they could not have known whether or not they would have anything to report to the House. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, that, as one might have imagined, there has not been a great deal more which our noble Leader has been able to impart to us about what has been happening during the past few days. This is understandable. I think it would he wrong and, I hope noble Lords will agree with me, now is not the moment to try to bring pressure to bear on the Government to say more than they think it right to say in public at the present time. Time and time again we have all adjured the Government that our top priority in this terrible situation is to arrive at a diplomatic solution, and in order to achieve that aim we must give them every chance to indulge in what one might term secret diplomacy. It is only along those lines that they will stand a chance of arriving at a diplomatic solution.
We are, of course, deeply grateful to the United States Government in general and to President Reagan and Secretary Haig in particular for their personal commitment and effort. They bear a heavy responsibility in world affairs generally. If we were to fail in our diplomatic efforts in the South Atlantic, I have no doubt that their world position and responsibilities and, I expect, the inclination of the United States people, would require them to take a firm stand between right and wrong.
Not being involved in these affairs, nor privy to the day-to-day or even hour-to-hour unfolding of events, I must confess that, unlike the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, I feel somewhat inhibited from being very "viewy" on the details and intricacies of the various permutations and combinations which might be thrown up during the course of later discussions or negotiations as a key to resolving the issues.
§ Lord Gladwyn
My Lords, if the noble Lord would allow me to interrupt for a moment, my chief point was that I was not going to discuss any of these possibilities. I only made some reflections upon proposals regarding the possible involvement of the United Nations. That was all.
§ Lord Soames
My Lords, what I thought I heard from the noble Lord was that he was not going to discuss them, and then he went on to discuss them. We have all done this from time to time. Therefore, all I shall try to do will be to say a few words about the backcloth against which I believe that we should be judging these events.
301 First, they have come about through a flagrant assault upon British interests. That we can never forget or forgive. It can be argued that there was an error of judgment in the early days on the part of Her Majesty's Government in misjudging what the Argentine action was going to be and in not having ships on station earlier. However, throughout history the democratic system has shown an inability to take military action at what could be the most opportune moment. And this is not the first time in the history of our country that what would have been right was not done on time.
Equally, had we started to torpedo a lot of Argentine vessels in the 200 mile area before there had been any landing on the Falkland Islands—these things are easier to prevent than they are to rectify once they have been done—matters might have stood very different today in terms of the relationship between the Opposition and the Government and between the Government and the outside world. What was certainly an error was that the Argentinians seriously underrated the reaction of the British Government and the British people to their invasion. It is because the Argentinians seriously underrated that reaction that I believe the pressures upon them to arrive at a negotiated settlement must now be very heavy, for a number of reasons. First, for political reasons.
In the Security Council of the United Nations the Argentine Government stands condemned. Whom do they have as friends? Even the Soviets did no more than to abstain in the Security Council. With an economy already in grave difficulties, through their action the Argentinians have brought about decisions by countries who hate having to take these decisions. They have brought about the decision of the EEC to ban trade with the Argentine, to refuse to buy their exports. Doubtless the Argentine will react and will respond to this. In itself this is going to be very serious, in that there is about £1 billion worth of trade, plus, going from the Argentine to the EEC, and also from the EEC to the Argentine, which will now cease until further notice. This will be a very great blow to the Argentine, for it will be superimposed upon the already very grave economic difficulties which they face.
From the military point of view, they have brought about—I do not know whether "mobilisation" is the correct word from the technical point of view, but they have brought down into the South Atlantic an extremely powerful British fleet. If the Argentinians look at this from a political point of view, where are their friends? If they look at this from an economic point of view, where is their salvation? If they look at this from a military point of view, if they do not come to sensible terms with us, then where will they go?
There is one more fact which I believe is playing in favour of a political, diplomatic solution to this problem. It is that the situation is not so difficult, one would have thought, as that which one sees when looking at the Arab/Israeli problem, in that there should not be any irreconcilables. It is evident that the people of the Falkland Islands, whatever they may say about their sovereignty or wishing to remain (this is something that the Argentinians must be aware of), will want to have good relationships with the Argentin- 302 ians in the long term, and that the Argentinians should not therefore be frightened of us discussing with the people of the Falkland Islands the matter of where they see their future. Incidentally, I was glad to hear my noble friend the Leader of the House say that it will be our intention to take into account as soon as possible the views of the Falkland Islanders themselves and where their future lies.
It all adds up to the fact that the Argentinians could and should be looking at solving this matter in a diplomatic and political manner. My fear is that, as the Argentinians tend to dig in, as it were, in a military way in order to make it more difficult for us to budge them, they are going to succeed in digging themselves in more politically, which is going to make it more difficult for the Argentinians to budge themselves. This is a built-in problem and one that points towards achieving a resolution to this problem with some speed.
There are other aspects to this which lead us to hope that a solution will be found with some speed. For instance, my noble friend Lady Young talked about the dispatch of our naval force as demonstrating our determination to resolve this matter. It certainly did and I do not deny that. But it also illustrated something else. It demonstrated how extremely effective and efficient the Royal Navy still is. For the Royal Navy to be able so quickly to get a force to sea with lines of communication 8,000 miles long and, I have no doubt, with everything necessary to sustain them, was a very considerable feat. But those ships—or most of them—are committed to NATO. As soon as we can get this matter resolved and our ships can get back to their proper stations, the better it will be. It is certainly not where the future of the British Navy lies, to spend the next few months or years with a force of this size and character in the South Atlantic. That is another point that puts an accent on speed.
So far as the EEC is concerned, I was glad that my noble friend Lady Young referred to this. I believe this is a great triumph of political co-operation, given the number of brickbats which have been thrown at the Economic European Community over the many years, with comments such as "What are the advantages? What do we get out of it?" being typical. It is certainly not in the interests of many of our partners among the Nine in the EEC to have done what they have; they have done what they have with a degree of solidarity which could never have existed had we not been a member of the European Economic Community and had we not strived ourselves to develop the system of political co-operation.
May I make just one more point as to why I believe it is necessary to proceed with all haste? It is that the world is not a very agreeable place at the moment. There are other areas of the world where peace hangs by a thin thread—and I think particularly of the Middle East. When the media headlines remain the same day after day and week after week, I always have the fear that the topic concerned is taking up people's minds and that others might be inclined to think that under the cover of these events they can take action which they would not have taken in other circumstances. It is a side event of the main dispute, but it is one that should lead us to resolve this matter as soon as possible. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister talked of not countenancing failure. 303 Of course we do not countenance failure, but the pressures are there to ensure that we should not have to countenance failure in a diplomatic solution to this problem.
§ 3.37 p.m.
§ Lord Greenhill of Harrow
My Lords, I will be extremely brief, and all the more so because not for the first time in my life I find myself so much in agreement with what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Soames. Before I proceed, may I say how much I welcome (although in sad circumstances) the transfer of the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, to the Foreign Office, where his talents are particularly suited to the work he will be called upon to do.
I welcome, as do all your Lordships, the necessarily partial clarification of events which the noble Baroness, Lady Young, has given to the House. It is virtually impossible for those who are not privy to all the facts, who are not familiar with all the personalities involved, and who are unaware of the atmosphere in which discussions are being carried on, to pass authoritative judgments on the conduct of negotiations. However, I would like to make two points which are not new but which I believe are worth reiterating at this moment.
First, there is the fickleness of international opinion. The rectitude of our case is incontestable and we are making the most of it—and we are quite right to back it up with a good show of force. The Government have used the United Nations Security Council appropriately and have done particularly well with the EEC. There has been quick and welcome Commonwealth support. But it is not unduly cynical to observe that international indignation does not have a record of great stamina. One has only to think of sanctions against Rhodesia; of events in Afghanistan, Poland and Cyprus; and of outrageous behaviour in the Middle East. Sadly, Governments—both individually and collectively—accustom themselves with regrettable ease to live with aggression and injustice. Our own Government must take special account of this possibility, and for this reason, as the noble Lord, Lord Soames, has said, we must act quickly to exploit the favourable attitude which our actions have already won for us. This is not, as has been suggested in another place, the voice of appeasment: it is the difference between living in the real world as opposed to the world as it ought to be. I think that the media in this connection have a very important role to play. I hope that they will not get bored with the Falkland crisis. I hope that they will continue to emphasise the essential issues that are involved in it.
The second point that I want to make is for the future. When the time comes to consult the Falkland islanders about their own future, the information given to them and the questions put to them must be very carefully considered to take account of all the possibilities. Their response is not, in my view, in any way a foregone conclusion. Without wishing to go back into the past, I would observe that the present problems have in part been caused by lack of frankness by Governments of both parties in dealing with Parliament and with the islanders. I have discussed these matters very often with the noble Lord, Lord 304 Shackleton, and I was very interested to hear his observation on that particular point. The logic of history has been ignored in the past and defence developments have been obscured. My Lords, this must not happen again.
§ 3.41 p.m.
§ Lord Kennet
My Lords, history is often written behind our backs, and that which is written behind our backs is not always bad. Whatever the outcome of the confrontation with Argentina itself, there has already been a bit of good history written in the other compass point which has been referred to already, and I mean the remarkable success scored not only by an appreciation of right and an understanding of history, but also by British diplomacy, in securing the trade embargo in the EEC. In so far as the improvement of the political co-operation machinery in the Community was a particular task set himself by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, I think that we should chalk that up to his credit here and now. It yielded fruit, to our regret, only a few days after he was no longer in a position to take the credit in person. That was an outstanding success. So also was the remarkable speed with which the correct, the only possible, but still always of course the doubtful, decision of the Security Council was obtained. It was lightning action. It went in the right direction and was once again a palpable hit not only for the cause of justice, but for those who one might almost say happen to be the champions of that cause at the moment—namely, British diplomats. So also, to a lesser degree, was the partial Commonwealth action which has been taken in support of those two more visible actions.
I wish to echo all that has been said about how much we owe to Secretary of State Haig in the efforts that he is making. I hope that he will continue to be able to exert those efforts for as long as they are likely to yield fruit. In passing, I should like to ask the Government to point out not only to the Russians but also to the BBC, that Ascension Island is a place which we are happy to allow the Americans to use and not, as they state, a place which the Americans are happy to allow us to use. There is a considerable degree of misunderstanding around the world about the constitutional and political position in which our remaining dependencies—14 of them—now stand.
We have heard wise words about speed from both the noble Lord, Lord Soames, and the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill of Harrow. This is true; but I do not think that we need conclude that at the moment things are necessarily getting worse. It might be possible to sustain that an improvement in the world climate is appearing—a doubtful one, and slowly, but perhaps it is. If we look at the position of the Soviet Union, for instance—and I would like to dwell on this for a moment—it is easy for us to understand their preoccupations which arise from a new economic dependency upon Argentina. The astonishing alliance that the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, referred to, has grown up just recently. They look as though they will have to depend on Argentine wheat and Argentine fish, and to that extent they have Argentina to thank for permitting them to continue with their present policy about guns and butter. They have been pursuing this country since the beginning of the invasion of the 305 Falkland Islands with their usual relentless venom and misrepresentation, in their official propaganda. They have appeared to defend the right of propinquity as a sufficient justification for country "A" to invade country "B". They have themselves exercised rights which seem little better than that in Afghanistan, and they seem to be defending Argentina on the same grounds. They also claim to find some historical justification for the Argentinian action, but for myself I do not think it very clever of them to choose 1830 as the date from which historical claims should be judged. At that date their empire was a good deal smaller than it is now. They did not have Central Asia, nor did they have the northern territories of Japan. Ours, of course, was a great deal larger. If we were all to go back to that date it would not be us who would be the losers. I am merely illustrating an almost childishly obvious point.
The Russians have sent electronic listening ships not only to fool around our fleet, as they always do, but also close in off the Argentine coast, where no doubt they are intended to monitor the conversations between Argentinian dockers and the crews of the ships which are loading Argentine grain. We may hope that they do not send any more, or any more alarming types of ships.
Having said all that, I want to dwell on the other side, on a very recent development. I think that it was four days ago that something new happened not only in the Soviet Union, but also, as a point of minor interest, in Hungary. I am referring to the fact that Soviet journalists in the West were allowed to present to the Soviet people our view of the matter. The Soviet Home Service radio has carried perfectly fair and perfectly full accounts of the fact that the Falkland islanders are British people by origin; that there was no settlement there before them; that they have a system of democracy, and that they have exerted it; that their will is known; and that they wish to stay British and not to become Argentinian. I do not know how often before in world crises—and this is a world crisis—the Russians have so soon allowed access for the truth of the matter, as we see it in the West, to the Soviet people. I think that that may be a good sign and we may hope that it continues; and as long as it does continue, we may hope that the Soviet Union will continue not to veto sensible resolutions in the United Nations and not to take any action which would stand in the way of the settlement that we all desire down there in the South Atlantic.
In another place last week the Prime Minister responded positively to proposals put to her by, among others, the Leader of the Social Democrat Party in Parliament, for an inquiry into what went wrong before the fleet was sent off. I do not think that we can expect an answer from the Government, at any rate in this place, today. But if, in answering, the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, is able to say anything about when or where—we do not press to have the information now, and we are not pressing for this or that form of inquiry—the Government might think it right in due course to hold such an inquiry, to which they have already agreed, we should be very glad to know it.
The Falkland islanders are a democratic people for whom we are responsible. They have an elected 306 council. They have recently—only six or seven months ago—had an election. Every candidate who was elected stood on the plank of continued union with this country. British sovereignty has been uninterrupted for 150 years, and before that there was no continuously settled population. The Falkland Islands have been invaded by a neighbour, by force, and bloodshed was used to secure the occupation of that land. That neighbour is itself a colonialist country in that its history is the history of a people of European origin who have oppressed and reduced an existing native people. At the moment that neighbour also happens to be under a fascist or pseudo-fascist military junta, and this junta is believed to have added (if the figures are right) some 12,000 people to the already long list—already thousands long—of those who have "disappeared" as a result of the attentions of the Government in that country.
Over the decades that neighbour has refused our often repeated invitation to take the sovereignty dispute to the Hague Court, and still refuses it; and now has defied a crystal clear resolution of the Security Council asking it to get out of the Falkland Islands. I agree with those who hold that nothing is to he gained—and we are sure of this—by opposition parties canvassing, in any detail, plans, either military or political, for a settlement in the present rapidly evolving military and political situations. Therefore, as a party, we put none forward.
We continue to believe that the Government—any Government of this country, whichever it might be—ought to continue to seek that combination of political, economic and military dispositions which is likely to restore to the Falkland Islands at the lowest cost in bloodshed—and, if possible, at none—the right of self-determination which they securely enjoyed until two weeks ago. Since that is, as far as we can see, precisely what the Government are doing, we continue to support them, and shall continue to do so as long as that is what we think they are doing.
§ 3.54 p.m.
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
My Lords, the position of the Government in international law in this matter has not been questioned, and I am inclined to take the view that this is, in fact, because it cannot be questioned. It seems to me that legally, in these terms, the Government are entirely in the right. But I am rather reminded of the couplet about the over-confident motorist:He was right dead right as he drove along,But he is just as dead as if he'd been wrong.Therefore, what can come under question legitimately is not the Government's rectitude but their wisdom. We have the right and the privilege in this Chamber to question that wisdom. That is our strength; they cannot do that in the Argentine, but we can do it here. However, as compared with Saturday, when the initial, understandable response to totally unprovoked aggression was counter-aggression—an impulse which I believe all of us felt, whatever view we take and on whatever side of the House we sit—that strong feeling of total indignation may have led us immediately to actions which, on reflection, want looking at again. I have detected, in the note which the noble Baroness the Leader of the House brought to this debate, a 307 far calmer approach to the problem than was to be found in some of the utterances of the Minister of Defence, for example, on television, which seemed to me to be undesirably jingoistic. Perhaps that was understandable at the time, but certain facts are now worth recalling.
I should like to remind the House of one or two of them. The Government have put too many eggs in the nuclear basket, particularly opting for Trident. On the Saturday when we debated this, the noble Lord, Lord Home of the thought that it was wrong to mention this question in the present context. With the very greatest of respect, I venture to disagree with the noble Lord, and I am sorry that he is not here today to hear me do so. The task force contains ships that this Government are planning to get rid of in favour of a weapon designed, so far as it has any purpose at all, to kill Muscovites by the thousand. I was rather interested in a letter which I read in The Times this morning. It was from someone who takes a view diametrically opposite to the one which I myself take on some things. I should like to quote a section from it, because it makes the connection that I was trying to make just now. It is from Sir Peter Smithers. He says:If Britain was unable to respond to a permanent threat by stationing a permanent defence force in the area to defend 1,800 people many thousands of miles from bases without sacrificing the nuclear deterrent or damaging the national economy, it would have been better to explain this to the Falkland Islanders long ago. They could then have been given the choice between repatriation and settlement in Britain, or remaining to run the risks which have now, not surprisingly, materialized".I commend the letter to noble Lords, not that I agree with all its conclusions. However, I think it is true that successive British Governments have lacked the guts to grasp this nettle, and the present Government—perhaps it is not entirely their fault—have been the ones who have caught the consequences of this totally indefensible aggression by the fascist junta of Argentina.
When we consider this question of the Falkland islanders, there is another consideration. Many more people than now live in the Falklands were shifted from their island of Diego Garcia against their will, not by a fascist junta but by ourselves. We removed these people from their island. They are British; they hold British passports. They do not speak English—perhaps that is the difference, I do not know. We moved them out of Diego Garcia and put them in Mauritius, where they are now. One of the creditable actions which the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, took—I believe that it was one of the last things he did before leaving office—was to bring a measure of financial compensation to the people of Diego Garcia for the fact that they had been so unceremoniously ejected from their island by us in order to install the United States there. The United States now has a base there which, contrary to the original proposition, it is now developing on a full-scale basis. Where were then the cries for the paramountcy of the wishes of the islanders? I do not think we heard them. It would not be surprising if an element of that famous British hypocrisy were discerned here.
The Government refused to develop fully an airport in the Falklands. Who did complete the airport? The Argentine air force. Who flies into the airport? 308 Argentine aircraft. Where do Falklanders go for higher education? To Argentina. Where do they go for a major operation? To Argentina. Where do they get their oil? Delivered to them from Argentina by Argentine aircraft to an Argentine built airport. Who encouraged all this? Successive British Governments, including especially the present one.
The final insult, when the Government reluctantly conceded British nationality to the Gibraltarians in this House several of us argued that the Falklanders should be given the same full British nationality as was conceded then to the Gibraltarians. The noble Baroness, Lady Vickers, played a lead in this. It was a close run thing. But in the end these same islanders who are now so very British—so British that we are apparently prepared to send our own forces to die in their cause—were then denied the full Britishness which we were ready to concede to the Gibraltarians. The Diego Garcians were British, but so far from going to war for them we threw them off their island into abject poverty in Mauritius.
Why the differences? There are perhaps two reasons. First, Mauritius has no forces—no army and no navy. Secondly, the Diego Garcians are not white and they do not speak English. They may hold British passports, but in sentimental terms they are "lesser breeds without the law". I do not know that we come out so well when we erect principles into a cause of action on some occasions and totally neglect them on others. Inside this House we may understand the differences which caused us to act one way on one occasion and another way on another, but we must recognise if outside this House it is not seen so clearly.
This matter can, and should, be settled by negotiation. I was glad to hear the noble Baroness the Leader of the House say that. I am sure that we must bring all the islanders off the island who want to come. I am equally sure that the Argentines will not prevent that, nor will they seek to prevent it. I believe that in the end we should sell, or lease, the islands to Argentina. I know that this may be an unwelcome conclusion to some Members in the House, but it is one which has been argued and suggested over the years not only by Members of the Government opposite but by Members on this side of the House.
May I draw to your Lordships' attention a statement made by Dr. David Owen in April 1977 when he was Foreign Secretary. He said:The Governments of the Argentine Republic and the United Kingdom have agreed to hold negotiations from July 1977 which will concern future political relations including sovereignty"—I repeat, including sovereignty—with regard to the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, and the South Sandwich Islands, and economic co-operation with regard to the said territories in particular and the South West Atlantic in general".As recently as February of this year Mr. Richard Luce, who has joined the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, in what I believe to be an honourable if misguided resignation, reporting on his own discussions with the Argentines, said this:The meeting took place in a cordial and positive spirit. The two sides reaffirmed their resolve to find a solution to the sovereignty dispute"—to the sovereignty dispute—and considered in detail an Argentine proposal for procedures 309 to make better progress in this sense. They agreed to inform their governments accordingly".All this of course has been changed by the unprovoked and totally indefensible aggression of the Argentinians, but the Government's position internationally cannot be altered because of that. If we have once gone on record that we are prepared to discuss sovereignty we cannot now say, "Oh, no, forget all that". We have been on record as willing to discuss sovereignty for a long time—for so long that it has tried the patience of some reasonable Argentinians as well as that of some unreasonable Argentinians, and it is not the case that all the right is on our side. We must not condone the unprovoked aggression, but on the issue itself I think we should concede that this is a clash of rights and not an argument between right and wrong. Of course clashes of rights are the most difficult things to resolve. That is why we are in this difficulty.
No one should be compelled to live against their will under this appalling dictatorship, but let us use our forces for peace, not for war. Threatening to shoot it out is not a very sensible thing to do. The idea of putting a blockade round the islands is one which perhaps has some justification, but it is for the purpose of avoiding open warfare and should not be intended to be in itself a causus belli for the purpose of creating warfare. Therefore, this must be approached with the utmost caution, and the Defence Secretary should modify his words in this respect.
I have one or two other things to say, but time is marching on and perhaps your Lordships would appreciate it more if I did not treat you all to the complete statement which I should have liked to make.
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
I will, if I may, bring my remarks to a close. We live in very dangerous times, and I want to urge upon the Government that, in tune with, I think, the more reasonable approach that they have had, we stop the jingoism. It was rather notable that in a poll which took place over the weekend the majority who voted in favour of a shooting war were even more strongly against British lives being lost. What the British people apparently want is war with a bloodless victory. Perhaps that is what Mrs. Thatcher wants. Those of us who have had anything to do with war know that it is not on. War is a bloody thing, not a bloodless thing.
After the war then comes the question, where do we go from here? What do we do? It is not worth getting into a shooting war, and all our endeavours should be to avoid that. I believe that the task force's movement in a westward direction should be slowed and halted at Ascension Island. At that point the negotiations ought to begin, and let us bring this lamentable and desperate episode to an agreed conclusion.
§ 4.9 p.m.
§ Lord Duncan-Sandys
My Lord, your Lordships will, I believe not be surprised when I say that I do not wholly agree with everything that the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, has just said. As I emphasised when we last debated this question, I am totally convinced 310 that the Government were absolutely right to resist aggression; there was no other honourable course open to them. If it comes to war, I have no doubt that we shall succeed in expelling the invaders. But we must try, up to the very last moment, to avoid hostilities which would do lasting damage to international relations and would not in the long run resolve the problem. All three parties—Britain, the Argentine and the Falklanders—must in my opinion be prepared to make their contribution to a peaceful solution.
We must all of us face the facts. Britain can never acquiesce in the illegal occupation of her territory. The Argentine is never likely to recognise British sovereignty of the Falkland Islands. Therefore since Britain cannot afford to maintain a permanent military force in the South Atlantic, a repetition of the present crisis at some future date is quite conceivable. It follows that unless a solution is found, the threat of invasion will hang over the Falkland Islands indefinitely.
The only possible solution that I can envisage is that the Falklanders should seek security as an independent nation whose sovereign status is recognised by the United Nations, and that they should be admitted to the Organisation of American States, to which they would be entitled to call for assistance in the event of aggression. That would provide security for the Falklanders, it would remove the need for Britain's protection, and it would enable the Argentine to withdraw its troops without the humiliation of accepting British sovereignty for more than a brief period pending independence.
Whether an agreement on those lines is negotiable, I do not know; but I cannot see any better way of resolving the present crisis. The trouble is that time is running out. Our fleet is moving south at full speed. When it reaches its destination, the shooting will probably start, and then the situation will no doubt get completely out of control, and could have much wider repercussions.
If the tireless efforts of Mr. Haig do not quickly yield results, we should not I think exclude the possibility of a face-to-face discussion between British and Argentinian Ministers, and even Heads of Governments. Obviously such a meeting would have to be convened by a third country. The most appropriate might well be Mexico, whose President so ably hosted the North-South meeting in Cancun. If encouraged to do so, I cannot believe that Mexico would not welcome the opportunity to assist in breaking the present dangerous deadlock and help to preserve the peace of the western hemisphere. Those are just a few thoughts which I submit to the Government for their consideration.
§ 4.14 p.m.
§ Lord Chalfont
My Lords, this is a critical time in the diplomatic phase of this crisis, and like many others of your Lordships, I was not surprised that there was not much information forthcoming from the Government at the beginning of the debate. There are some things that are better carried out without a great deal of sound and fury, and away from the glare of publicity. Perhaps I may here interject a small personal parenthesis. I think that the Government at some stage might regret the lavish endowment of press representatives and media persons who are 311 accompanying our fleet to the South Atlantic: however, that is a small aside.
As many of your Lordships have already said, this is no time for uncertain sounds to issue from this House, or from Parliament as a whole. I think that one of the most heartening things about this crisis since it has begun—and there is not much in it to cause optimism—has been the attitude of the official opposition parties, most of which, most of the time, have adopted a statesmanlike and responsible approach to the Government's problems. There have of course been predictable noises from a few people—some people who perhaps do not count the safety, the honour and the reputation of this country among their principal concerns.
I should like to mention what I believe to be one of the more outrageous suggestions which have come from certain quarters: it is that the Prime Minister might engage this country in war for party, or even for personal political reasons. Personally I find that a contemptible suggestion, which reflects only upon the motives and the reputations of the people who make it.
What has happened has implications not only for this country and for the Falkland islanders but also for the rule of international law and the preservation of order around the world. In fact it presents a threat to decency in the world community. As I think every noble Lord who has spoken has said, the future of the Falkland Islands must, if possible, be solved by negotiation, and not by force. But negotiations sooner or later there must be. It is no good either side in the dispute saying such things as, "Sovereignty is not negotiable". In a negotiation of this kind, of course it is negotiable.
We must also take care that, in saying that the wishes of the Falkland islanders are paramount, we do not lose sight of the fact that we must consider their wishes in the light of their interests, their long-term interests; and we must consider their wishes and their interests in the light of the long-term interests of many millions of other people who are also British citizens.
I shall not attempt to offer any suggestions about the detailed negotiations. As the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, and others have said, this is not the moment for that, and it is not the place for that. But when, first of all, the crisis and then the negotiations are over, there will be many lessons that we must learn from this crisis. It has been suggested that there should be an inquiry into the circumstances that led to the successful invasion of the Falkland Islands, and, as I understand it, the Government have taken a sympathetic view towards that suggestion. It may emerge as a result of that inquiry that there were failures of intelligence, or failures of communications, or failures of political judgment—failures of all three. That we must wait and see.
However, I believe that there is something that we must learn from this crisis which is much more important than simply to analyse and investigate the mistakes, if there were such mistakes, which led up to the invasion. What is more important in my view is that, as a result of what has happened so far and what might happen in the next few weeks, we shall have to undertake a fundamental reassessment of our external policies. We shall have to examine with great care, and without any preconceptions or prejudices, the 312 assumptions which underlie our foreign policy in the last 20 years of this century; and we must also make a fundamental reassessment of how we allocate our military resources in support of whatever foreign policy we decide that we should have. That will be the most important task facing us when, as I hope and believe, the crisis of the Falkland Islands is peacefully and honourably settled.
In my view, there will now have to be a serious and profound debate in this country—in Parliament, in the Government and in the country as a whole—about the external policies which we should pursue in the light of the lessons which this crisis has taught us. But, as others have said, that is for later. It is not for now. What we need now is a Government, a Parliament and a people who are totally united in their determination to demonstrate that brute force in international politics cannot be allowed to prevail. Only in that way—because if we weaken we are lost—can we achieve an honourable solution to the crisis.
I have there used a word which may have gone out of fashion a little in politics and international affairs—the word "honour". I have received, as I expect many of your Lordships have, a great postbag of mail about the crisis and the dangers with which it presents us. I will mention just one letter which I received this morning. It came from someone who said in the course of his letter that he was a bricklayer and did not know much about politics. It was a simple letter in which he advanced the view that perhaps we in this country had been too complacent in the past about attacks on our honour and freedom, and the last words of his letter were:Godspeed to the fleet, good sense to the Government, and, for the people of Britain, an honourable solution".At this stage that says almost all that needs to be said about this crisis. I hope that we in this House at least can join in expressing our unswerving support of the armed forces of the Crown in whatever task they are asked to undertake. I hope too that we can wish the Government, whatever may be our political views and beliefs, every success in an undertaking which will require great reserves of courage, resolution and wisdom, and all the resources at their disposal. And I hope your Lordships will indulge me if at this stage—because I have not had an opportunity to do it before—I pay a personal tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, and say how much his wisdom and courage will be missed in the next few weeks.
But, most important of all, for the people of this country as well as the people of the Falkland Islands, an honourable solution is what we must seek. I hope, and I am confident, that the Government will, over the coming weeks, behave in such a way that people all over the world will say that this is still a country to be reckoned with, not because it has nuclear weapons or is prepared to go to war to defeat the aims of an aggressive dictator, but simply because it has behaved with courage and compassion and, most importantly of all, with honour.
§ 4.24 p.m.
§ Lord George-Brown
My Lords, I ask for a certain degree of indulgence because what I am about to say is clearly out of step with the prevailing mood of the 313 House. I say it because I think it has to be said by somebody. I shall speak with as much moderation as I can, and I hope your Lordships will understand that I would not do it unless I thought it had to be done.
I do not agree with the prevailing mood that it is somehow wrong for a free Parliament—and we are, after all, part of a free Parliament—to manage to have two meetings and at some stage criticise what the Executive have done. The noble Lord, Lord Soames, said in the course of his speech that up to then we had had a magnificent debate. What he meant was that we had had a wonderful prayer meeting at which we had patted each other on the back and undertaken to say nothing rude about the Minister. There had been no debate. In the last few speeches a little of that has emerged. I found myself listening with great interest to the noble Lord, Lord Duncan-Sandys, and with a certain degree of interest to the latter part of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins. But we have not done what a free parliament is for—as I say, this is our second meeting—which is to challenge the Executive to defend what they have done.
I gave a hint of my own feeling at the end of our Saturday debate, in which I did not speak for long because I had not put my name down to speak and I did not want to behave wrongly towards the House. I hinted then that I thought the Executive, the Government, had gone wrong, and since that Saturday debate I have thought more and more about it (it is a problem for which for a short period I once carried responsibility) and my worries, fears, doubts and misapprehensions have grown. I feel that we have succeeded in wrong-footing ourselves all the way through. We wrong-footed ourselves by not having a couple of small ships on station, as we did in the period when I was negotiating, as we did in the period when Dr. David Owen was negotiating, but as apparently we did not do this time. We have wrong-footed ourselves, having let the thing happen—and Heaven knows, every Foreign Office policy paper was always written and submitted on the basis that if we let it happen we were lost—by militarily over-reacting.
There is no question—nobody seems to be denying it today, neither the Government nor anybody else—that the situation must be peacefully settled by negotiation. To over-react in this way and to challenge the others in this way makes that, to put it very mildly, that much more difficult to do and, withal, could make it impossible to do. We have wrong-footed ourselves by having so spoken and so behaved—and let us not think that the media dream these things up; a good deal of massaging goes on to produce the stories that appeared in this morning's newspapers—as to have boxed this country into a corner. We have increased the degree of face that we at some point have to lose, by talking and behaving as the Executive have been doing. And above all else, we have managed completely to misunderstand the basis on which a British foreign policy should be erected and to which ends it should be conducted.
To back up what I have been saying, I would draw the attention of the House to the references to "them or us"; asking—telling—the Americans to choose between them or us, to decide whether the United States is an ally or a neutral, letting it go out (I am quoting here; all these statement are quotes) that we 314 have "no need of umpires". Gracious me! that is exactly what we need. That is what the United Nations and this modern world is about. When nations get into conflict, somebody has to umpire it. If that were not so, why go to the Security Council in the first place?
As Lord Duncan-Sandys said, having gone to the Security Council and having with great diplomatic skill and effort on the part of Sir Anthony Parsons and our team there got their resolution, what we now need is to get the Security Council's resolution made effective. Whose responsibility is that? It is the responsibility of the United Nations. That is why we went there. It is not something that one party to the dispute is entitled unilaterally to impose upon the other. If one party to a dispute is entitled to do that then it does not have to go, it should not go, to the Security Council.
The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, once my tremendously strong right arm, if I may say so—he has become a little more my left arm now than in those days made the point I was going to make myself: that the whole business is made redundant if we insist that we must go to war—and again I am quoting—to avoid toppling our Government or our PM personally".The Argentinians must go to war to avoid toppling General Galtieri or his Government. We have made the whole process that we ourselves engaged upon redundant by the things we are saying, and I think we have wrong-footed ourselves by doing it.
The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, was kind enough to the Prime Minister to say that he did not believe that she or any member of the Government had ever said such a thing. He is a good newshound man himself; he has been around Whitehall both as a Minister and as a newshound; he has been both a recipient of massage and a masseur. He did some good massaging in my day, so I know he knows the trade. Those things are not printed unless somebody from No. 10 wishes that they should appear. I am bound to say to this House that one of the things that bother me about this whole situation more and more, and has led me to make what is going to be, as I say, an out-of-key speech, is that I think war is much too serious a matter—and I am no pacifist—to be embarked upon for or in those sort of terms.
In any case, unilateral blockades by one country of another after you have been to the United Nations and asked them to take responsibility, the declaration of a 200-mile zone in which another party is not allowed to enter, create awful precedents which others may wish themselves to pursue. We almost had a war on our hands with a very close ally in our own seas in respect of a neutral zone, a blockade zone, a no-go zone, of much less than 200 miles. Today everybody has made kindly references to Al Haig—and so, of course, they should; so should we all. Kissinger is alleged to have said, "He is almost breaking my heart". They have both had heart by-passes, and Kissinger said, "I only travelled 3,000 miles, he is travelling 8,000 each time". He is doing sterling work; and, of course, we here should be, as everybody has been, kind and understanding. But the media has not been, and there have been some very wounding references to the messages which A1 Haig is supposed to have had to have delivered to him to get him to see 315 the scene properly; and I regret those very much indeed.
Let me say this, too. We are sure about our interests, or we think we are. I think we have got them muddled up, as I said just now. But America also has interests, and she is entitled to be something more than just our friend, just our supporter. She has interests on her own continent, and she is entitled to consult them. If I were the American Secretary of State I would be considering American interests; and you have to take her interests on her continent into account as well as ours, as we see them in the South Atlantic.
That brings me to this question of British interests, for it is on them alone—and on the balance of them—that a British foreign policy can ever be erected. I used to get into awful trouble with my colleagues in the Labour Party in former days because I said, "You can't have a Socialist foreign policy as distinct from a Conservative foreign policy; you have got to try to make a British foreign policy". Quite a lot of our British interests do not change when Governments change, and some of our interests cancel out some others. At the end of the day it is a matter of balance to decide the policy you run. Saving face, maintaining a physical presence, upholding a disputed sovereignty for 200 years in the case of a group of islands 8,000 miles away may be a part of those interests. You take those into account—yes, you should—but they are only a part of your interests, not all of them.
Incidentally, there has been a great misrepresentation and a great misappropriation of Lord Palmerston throughout this public debate. The one reason why I had his picture put up in my room when I was Foreign Secretary (I regret to say that my successor, or his successor, had it taken down again) is that the great thing that Palmerston always stood for was "the balance of British interests"—"ma'am", he used to say to Queen Victoria. Take them and knock them together and make something out of it for Britain. He was not an imperialist only; he was not a colonialist only; he did not think that trade and commerce were somehow immoral and should not be taken into account when weighing up the balance of British interests, as too many people (if I may say so, some Ministers) have been doing in the last week or so.
Here I back up something that, again, Lord Chalfont said. Islanders—we have a duty to them, of course; we must fulfil it. But whether they be the islanders in the Falklands or whether they be the inhabitants of Gibraltar or anywhere else you like, they cannot be given the right of veto. Again today the noble Baroness was talking about their rights being paramount. They cannot be, because if somebody else's rights are paramount in deciding British foreign policy then we move the whole responsibility from Whitehall and the British Parliament to Government House and whatever passes for a Parliament in the place where you say it is paramount—and that cannot be so. This has to be understood by Ministers; but I do not think it is. They cannot be given the right of veto.
We also have other interests, remember, in Latin America. I was disappointed in the attitude taken by the Archbishop in this respect, but as a good Anglican 316 I will take it up with him in the appropriate place. But he seemed to me, as so many others have done, to slide off this question of our other interests in Latin America. They are enormous compared with our interests in the Falkland Islands, and we are placing them at risk. If one is erecting a British foreign policy, one has to put them in the scales as well. The House will not need me to tell it the size and scope of our interests in Argentina itself. That has to go into the balance.
May I repeat to my ex-colleagues in the Labour Party something I have said so often before. It is something that was said to me by the late Ernest Bevin when I was a very young man. He said, "For heaven's sake, don't try to make your policy on the basis of choosing between the goodies and the baddies. Decide what you want for yourself. Go for that; and deal with the goodies and deal with the baddies".
The Labour Party would not have been taking the position it has been taking for the last week or two except for its distaste, which I share, for the nature of the ruling régime in Argentina. When we succeeded, in my day in the Foreign Office, in negotiating an agreement with the Spanish Foreign Minister over Gibraltar, it was rejected—not because the agreement was thought to be wrong, but because we did not like General Franco and his fascist régime. That is no basis for erecting a British foreign policy. It led us, because of our memories of being so wrong about what to do at the time of Nazism in Germany, to a position where we saw Hitler everywhere; and that led us into the disaster of Suez. This is a different kind of thing, but it could be an equally sensational disaster if we go on seeing Hitler almost everywhere we look.
Also, in erecting a British policy, we have to consider the question of our joint interests with the USA. We must put that in the scales. If the United States, having considered their interests, do not make the kind of choice we are trying to push on to them as between an ally and a neutral, then we have to consider whether we want to be with them when this is all over. We have long complained about the lack of consultation by them with us before they make policy decisions, especially during the Carter régime and, to some extent during the present one. How do we think the present President of the United States feels when he is being told the things we are being told at this moment?
We also have our own domestic economic and financial situation to consider in erecting British foreign policy. With great respect to the Government and to the noble Lord, Lord Cockfield, who spoke on this subject the other day, we cannot act so cavalierly about costs and resources in a situation like this when we are saying that they are all-important in every other situation, in creating three million unemployed, including some of the people that we have had to call in to try to get these ships together. We must weigh that in the balance: that any British foreign policy must take the domestic situation into account; and, with respect, this policy is not doing so.
There is so much more that one feels one would wish to say. My guess is that, in the policy papers which have been put up by the much-abused Foreign Office, these matters have all been set out for consideration at No. 10. But I must say, as one who gave the present Prime Minister quite a bit of support before she 317 became Prime Minister and during that election—and I came in for a lot of abuse for doing so from ex-colleagues of mine—that I think we have a problem. If she does not mind (or even if she does), I should like to say publicly that you can get a situation where a Prime Minister feels that she must appear to be twice as virile as anybody else might feel it necessary to appear in that office, either because she is perhaps overly conscious of the fact that she is a woman or because she knows that she is in her present office against or despite the wishes of most of her more immediate cousins. Again, that is no basis for conducting our affairs in the way we are conducting them. It is certainly no reason for going to war.
As everybody has said, there are negotiable solutions here to be had. There is a choice of them to be taken. I liked the idea put up by the noble Lord, Lord Duncan-Sandys. I have myself tried to negotiate the two-flag solution, in which one flag stood for the "Rock" and the other flag stood for our responsibility for the citizens who are British. There are a number of solutions. If any of the other solutions involve that other flag flying, let us not duck the issue; any of them will involve that. We should have swallowed that problem a long time ago. We have to swallow it now. We have got international support—and, no doubt, in the course of getting it, we have written a lot of IOUs which will surface in due course.
My Lords, in my view—and this is where your Lordships may finally run out of patience with me—we should now halt the armada at wherever is the right place to halt it. If it is Ascension Island, halt it there, and do not go forward from there. Allow others—it is suggested that Mexico would do it, or surely the OAS or somebody there would do it—to negotiate the least disagreeable solution of all those that are available for us to swallow. Do not start a war.
We gave Russia cover at the time of Hungary, your Lordships will remember. They were grateful for it. It caused our Hungarian colleagues, comrades and friends grave misgivings. We are now providing the same service for the Soviet Union in the case of Poland and in the case of Afghanistan. We are again providing that same service. We have taken the world's attention off Russia's misdeeds and the sufferings of the people that she is oppressing while everybody attends to this issue of whether we or the Argentines are the aggressors here. I wonder, shall we never learn? I come back to what I have said before: I am damned sure that Palmerston would have understood that.
§ 4.47 p.m.
§ Lord Mishcon
My Lords, it is always difficult in your Lordships' House to have prepared a speech and suddenly to decide, having heard the immediately previous speaker, that the best thing to do is to tear up the prepared speech and endeavour to deal with some of the points that had been made—points which I, speaking purely for myself, find more than objectionable. I say that perfectly frankly. My Lords, when we are facing a national and international emergency, with 1,800 British subjects having had their land occupied, whether it be by a dictator of the Right or by a dictator of the Left, after naked aggression in pursuit of territorial claims, I never thought that I would hear a 318 former Foreign Secretary of this country say that that is a dispute which has to be dealt with on the basis of the rights of each side, that that was an occasion when we needed an umpire, when we are carrying out our rights under the Charter backed by a United Nations Security Council decision and sending out a task force of our lads. I never thought that I would hear an ex-Foreign Secretary of this country at such a time say: "Stop where you are! Let somebody else get you out of your mess! Let somebody else negotiate; let somebody else decide!"
What has this country become if somebody can make a speech of that kind? My noble friend Lord Shackleton said—and he did not use the words—déjà vu. He was thinking of 1938 and 1939. He was thinking then of naked aggression in pursuit of territorial claims.
§ Lord George-Brown
My Lords, could I just interrupt? The noble Lord said: "What has this House become when such a speech can be made?" But what kind of free Parliament would he actually have?
§ Lord Mishcon
My Lords, the freedom of Parliament is to express views. The freedom of the individual Member of your Lordships' House is to say in regard to any views that have been expressed that he personally is ashamed of them, and I am saying that at this moment. It is all very well to say that one sees a Hitler behind every corner. There are many small countries, including those in South America, which are seeing a Hitler at this moment, and all the threats of a Hitler, if this is allowed to go by without a task force, without the ability of a free country to say: "You do not do this. Out you go with your armed forces".
I cannot but say this: I am proud of my Front Bench, who declared in answer to the speech of the Leader of this House that so far the party of Opposition was behind the Government. That did not mean in any way—and that has been said very clearly—giving a blank cheque to the Government. I am going to say this, if I may move on to another aspect of this matter: it is a fact—and here we can face it very frankly—that public confidence, which needs to be at its height at this moment and not at its lowest depth, has undoubtedly been shaken by the events of the past few weeks.
I am not going into the question of whether a couple of ships in the right place at the right time would have stopped the Argentinians. Many of us will wait to a future date for that inquiry and for the intelligence reports, and we are not going to discuss them now. We are going to face the facts as they are. From the public point of view, there is no doubt at all that confidence has been shaken, and understandably so, when for example—and it is of course an important example—a person of the stature of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, has to resign together with his colleagues.
At this moment, I am asking for this amount of confidence to be given to the public. There cannot be at this stage, for obvious practical reasons, the formation of a national Government. What would give the public confidence in my view is this: if there were a definite statement made that at this moment, which is such an important and urgent moment in our history, the combined wisdom of former Prime 319 Ministers of this country who are still with us could be at the service of the Government. Without belittling any of those five, I believe that national confidence would be very much strengthened if, for example, it were known that the noble Lord, Lord Home, and my right honourable friend James Callaghan were available to the Government in order to give their guidance and their counsel. That would give a national aspect indeed, in my view, to future Government policy.
Having said all that, of course nobody wants sabre rattling. Nobody wants a war. Obviously, we must look for every diplomatic means of settling this dispute, provided that it is known throughout the world that the task force that is going out has the support of this country, that the Argentinian forces must move—whether it be with a question of one flag or two flags we will not be dealing with today.
But without any question of doubt, what we have to bear in mind is that dictators have different logic to pursuade them into judgments than a democratic Government have. The dictator of the Argentine knows that he stands or falls—it may be lives or dies—by the result of what he has done in the Falkland Islands. That means not only a dangerous situation, but it means that all the adept skills of diplomacy will be necessary provided that force goes out of the Falkland Islands to afford that dictator just one little bit of saving of face. It may very well be, as I and others have said before, that a question of two flags flying while negotiations take place will be worth the saving of lives.
This is not the speech that I was going to make. It may be a worse speech or a better speech. At least I feel healthier as a Member of your Lordships' House for having said what I have said. I trust that the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, will not mind the way in which I felt I had to deal with his remarks as a Member of these Benches and of your Lordships' House.
§ 4.56 p.m.
§ Viscount Montgomery of Alamein
My Lords, I hope that the House will show the same indulgence to me as they have to the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, because I feel that what I am going to say may also be somewhat out of tune with the general feelings in the House. It may be for slightly different reasons. As your Lordships know, I have been concerned for some 25 years in promoting British interests in Latin America in general and in Argentina, among other countries, in particular. It therefore might be useful if I made one or two observations from, as it were, the other end of the telescope which has not really been very much considered.
First, I totally concur with everything that has been said about deploring Argentine aggression. That must be right and I have said so to the press. However, it behoves us to consider how this has come about. This has been due partly to their frustration because they have been seeking a settlement for many years. Secondly, I think that it is important to understand that Argentina does not think and never will that it is indulging in territorial expansion. For 150 years they have believed irrefutably that these islands are part of 320 their national territory, and they believe so now in the same way as be believe that the Isle of Wight or the Isles of Scilly are part of Britain. They are brought up to think this and they have been claiming the Falkland Islands in international fora for many years.
It is very important to recognise that, however many people may make derogatory remarks about the present nature of the Argentine Government, whether or not General Galtieri falls is quite irrelevant, because the Argentine people are solidly behind the action—or the intention of the action, if not the action—and the wish of Argentina to obtain sovereignty of the islands.
Let us look a little at what this sovereignty entails. The whole issue of sovereignty, which is after all the core issue, is viewed slightly differently from either end of the Atlantic. Argentina does not really have a great deal of interest in the overall administration of these islands. They are occupied by people who speak a different language, but they feel that these islands are part of their national territory. That is why we should have been working for so many years—as indeed the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, said—to try to solve this issue together, because in fact together we have a lot to gain. We have had several debates on this subject since I have been a Member of your Lordships' House and I have always asked the Government to press on with the subject of these negotiations. I still believe it is not too late.
We have since then matched Argentinian aggression with a degree of retaliation which is not inconsiderable, and it is questionable whether the world support we have got at the moment would last in the event of an outbreak of hostilities. We won an initial point very early on by securing the United Nations Security Council resolution deploring Argentine aggression. That was most fortunate, but if we attack Argentina or get into battle in the South Atlantic, I put it to your Lordships that United Nations support, and indeed Latin American public opinion, would very quickly turn against us because the Latin American nations believe in the other principle enshrined in the United Nations Charter about the importance of de-colonisation of the Americas by the European nations. Indeed, we ourselves participated in helping Argentina to do precisely that in the early days of the last century. I think it is important to realise that opinion would change if hostilities broke out.
I believe, like the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, that it is not too late and that indeed the sooner negotiations start the better, on the basis that ultimately sovereignty may need to be ceded in one way or another. I was particularly interested to hear the suggestion made by the noble Lord, Lord Duncan-Sandys, which is quite new; and he is a man of great experience. The only problems with that suggestion is that the Falkland Islands are very small and it is questionable whether they are a viable proposition. But of course every proposition must be considered if this situation is to be de-fused.
One further point, my Lords. It has been said that the wishes of the islanders are paramount. Like the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, I question that. I believe that British interests are paramount. I do not think it is widely known what the islanders really want, except that they want to be left alone in their beautiful islands, to which the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, so 321 eloquently referred. It is perhaps not so widely known that there are only some 25 farms on the main islands and half of them belong to one company; so whether we should persist in taking such risks to protect such a small oligarchy is highly questionable.
At the same time we are putting at stake the lives and interests of 100,000 Britons or Anglo-Argentines who have lived in Argentina very happily for many decades. I put it to your Lordships that our objective at the end of the day should be to negotiate a transfer of sovereignty which would provide for joint development of the economic resources of the South-West Atlantic—joint development of economic resources—Britain and Argentina together. That is in the best interests of Britain, of the islanders, and for our relations with Argentina and with Latin America as a whole.
§ 5.4 p.m.
§ Lord Wigg
My Lords, I do not think that the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, would be complimented if I rallied to his defence, but I should like to give him a word of advice. Perhaps he would like to bring his gods up to date, because Lord Palmerston lived a long time ago and the authority he then exercised was of course derived from the victories in the Napoleonic wars and in a period of great expansion. Lord George-Brown might in fact do himself a bit of good here if he took a jump from Palmerston and studied the life of the late Lord Haldane and the contribution he made to education and technological advance in this country. Unfortunately, his advice was not taken, and many of our troubles are due to that fact.
We live in a worn-out, effete class system which has now been run down, which caused even The Times—that devoted supporter of the Conservative Party—to say that the philosophy of the Conservative Party today was a mixture of Poujadisme and the inhibitions and frustrations of the petit bourgeois. They were unkind things to say and I would bring that up to date by suggesting that Mrs. Thatcher herself is not exclusively a Poujadist or a disciple of the petit bourgeois. I think she is a rather obstinate, very limited exponent of the philosophy of the Housewives' League and those of us who are familiar with the Housewives' League recognise all the signs.
I thought, too, that there were some signs of it in the rebukes of the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, particularly regarding a couple of phrases. He said he wanted it to go forth that the Government had the support of the British people. That message to the Argentine Government will not be very effective because they do not care tuppence about the support of the populations over whom they rule, but, as a military junta, they will take notice of the facts; and it is the facts of the situation with which I want to deal.
§ Lord Mishcon
My Lords, if the noble Lord will allow me to intervene, I not only referred to the support of the people behind the Government but I said—which is much more important from my point of view—that the task force had the support of Parliament.
§ Lord Wigg
My Lords, I am sorry: I did not want to labour the point—"the task force had the support ". 322 That is the point with which I want to deal. It is not sufficient that the task force has the support. What matters is whether it is equipped to do the job the Government have asked it to do. It is that with which I shall deal but I want to deal with it, if I might be permitted, in my own way.
It is a fact—I say this having listened to the debates which have taken place in this House and having read those which took place in another place—that there is universal condemnation of the action of the Argentine Government; and the attitude of the British people as a whole was expressed eloquently by the Archbishop of Canterbury when he said that as a nation we support the rule of law and condemn aggression wherever it takes place, and if it is within our power we would put that situation right. The question is: have we got that power?
The noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, pointed out that we had gone to the United Nations and had the support of the United Nations. Having got that support, we then proceed to act in our own way and we put together a task force which is universally acclaimed here—universally, as expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, when he said that it had the support of the public.
Let us just stop for a moment and consider what has happened. First of all, I ask noble Lords at some time to have a look at page 74 of the Statement on Defence Estimates. There is Table I showing ships of the Royal Navy and their serials. It is said that all ships with serials 1 to 7, and serial 8, the "Island" Class and three of the coastal minehunters in serial 9 are assigned to NATO. So this particular force which has been taken away from NATO is now down mid-way between this country and Argentina. To that extent our NATO commitments remain unfulfilled so that the action of the Government here was to "let the bulldog out", as a letter in The Times said the other day; but what about the back door?
I do not think this is particularly clever. This force has been put together and we are told from the very word "go" that it can do the job. Although I spent all my working life in the armed forces of the Crown, as did my forbears, I have no strategic knowledge and very little experience of what is called "general staff work". I was just a humble old military clerk, who peddled paybooks, mess books and the like, but who became interested in the subject and studied military history in terms of deficiencies in what, in army terms, were A and Q problems.
I looked at this force which has to go out with 1,800 marines and the 3rd Parachute Regiment on the "Canberra", and several hundred other troops on the "Invincible" and the "Hermes", and I wondered what arrangements would be made for heavy casualties. I looked to see what had happened to the "Britannia", because we have always been told that the "Britannia" could be used as a hospital ship. I made inquiries and I found that the difficulty about using the "Britannia" was getting supplies of diesel oil.
But now, several weeks afterwards, and after the operation has been planned, the "Uganda" comes into Naples today, the children are taken off, it will be going into Gibraltar and will then be sent off—but weeks afterwards. So the question of hospitalisation is clearly an afterthought. Then we were told this 323 morning that a number of trawlers have been requisitioned as minesweepers. If we were going to declare a "no-go" area and the Argentine was likely to mine it, we ought to have thought about the minesweepers so that comes a bit late.
But, as I said earlier, my concern about these matters comes from a lifetime of real interest in the subject, and I then started to ask myself the question: What are the aircraft which the "Invincible" and the "Hermes" will carry? There are eight Sea Harriers on the "Invincible" and 12 Sea Harriers on the "Hermes". When I was a member of the Government there was a great fight about the continuation of the Harrier. I fought the good fight, and I am glad to say that I was on the winning side—I will not say against whom—and the Harrier survived, so I am glad that I fought on that occasion.
But I ask your Lordships to remember that the Harrier is essentially a replacement for the old Hunter. It is a close support aircraft. But the Sea Harrier is a different animal altogether. It is not like the RAF Harrier, which has its problems, and the Government are taking the appalling risk of putting in these Sea Harriers as the only protection which they have. They are virtually coining off the factory floor, because the are completely untried—untried in battle, certainly, but untried in many other ways—and I do not doubt that a number of those 20 Sea Harriers have come from the factory floor. They are going in, are armed with the cannon and the Sidewinder. I do not think that it is the ultra-sophisticated L-type Sidewinder—it is probably the J-type—but it is a very powerful weapon indeed. But the combat radius is not more than 200 miles.
Since the middle of last week everybody, except the British public, seems to know that the old "Hermes" has been in trouble. She has had propeller trouble. At a press conference on Good Friday, they let it out of the bag that two or three of the ships were being slowed down. There is no secret about that, because, as we know, the Russians have been surveilling us and they will report that. But it is without doubt that the "Hermes" has had trouble. How significant it is, I do not know, but on the evidence that has come out she has lost speed and the other ships have slowed down. I noticed that for two or three days The Times has been saying that there are minor troubles. But they are troubles of great significance, because if you are going to fly the Sea Harriers off the "Hermes" using the ski-jump you have to push the speed up, and if you cannot push the speed up and only one prop is working she will have steering trouble as well.
But you are virtually sending in this force without effective air cover, because the Sea Harriers will be up against the Skyhawks. I do not think that they have Sidewinders. I believe that the Argentines ordered a couple of hundred of them, but President Carter embargoed them and I do not think they got them. But they have the Mirages and they are armed with a very formidable weapon, the R.530, and have a combat range which is much further than that of the Sea Harriers. So you are sending a force down there with no effective air cover, and you propose to land between 1,800 and 2,500 marines and boys from the Parachute Brigade in an opposed landing, against 4,000 or 5,000 troops who have been dug in. Whether or not it 324 upsets the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, I am "agin" it. I do not play politics with other men's lives. One of the things that is on the line is the question of the defence policy of this country from the 1957 White Paper onwards. I come down and I make—
§ Lord Duncan-Sandys
My Lords, may I thank the noble Lord for not disappointing me and for having once again, as he has done in every speech that he has made in the last 25 years, referred to the 1957 White Paper?
§ Lord Wigg
That is absolutely right, my Lords. I hold it as the most disastrous document that has ever been introduced by a British Government. It was a dishonest document. It followed on the moral of Suez. It had in its framework Blue Streak, which was cancelled on Maundy Thursday by the noble Viscount, Lord Watkinson. It led to Skybolt which was cancelled. It led to the Polaris, which he himself attacked when he was a Minister. I will send him the articles from The Times, if he likes. But the policy that he advocated privately he was attacking publicly. And now we come to the Trident. They are all of one piece and I say, as I have said on every occasion that I could, that this country cannot sustain a defence policy without some form of selective service. It cannot afford to pay for it.
What I want is this. I do not care tuppence about ex-Prime Ministers. They are instruments of public opinion. They know very little about the subject. What I should like to see now is one more effort to get the defence policy of this country on an all-party basis, established by the facts; a defence policy which, as the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, said, takes into account the external policies of this count' y up to the end of this century. What is required for that is men of undoubted integrity, of undoubted knowledge and of undoubted courage, who would put the interests of the services behind them and put the interests of their country first.
I make three specific suggestions. The three men whom I would choose to do the job are, first, Marshal of the Royal Air Force—a member of your Lordships' House—Lord Elworthy, who I think is a man of great intellect and was one of the best Chiefs of Staff that we have had; secondly, Field Marshal Lord Carver and, thirdly, Lord Zuckerman. You would have three men there who could not be paralleled in terms of their knowledge and experience. They should report to the Government, on the most confidential and, indeed, absolutely secret terms, on the understanding that the leaders of the Labour Party should be brought into consultation, with the deliberate intention of trying to put an end to the military nonsense which, since the end of the war, has cost us—and I repeat the figure again—no less than £112,000 million. Yet, when the chips are down, all you can do is to take away the whole of the support that you have for NATO, and bog it down in the middle of the Atlantic in terms which, if it takes on the Argentines, may involve us in a military disaster of the first magnitude. This is not solely the fault of this Government, because the Labour Party have something to answer for as well. There were three men—I say this to the noble Lord, Lord Duncan-Sandys, because he helped to bring their careers to an end—all on that side of the House: Viscount Head, Sir Fitzroy Maclean 325 and Mr. Brian Harrison, all Members of Parliament, who all disappeared from public life because they could not stomach the dishonesties of the 1957 White Paper for which the noble Lord, Lord Duncan-Sandys, was personally responsible.
Viscount De L'Isle
With great respect, I have been in the House for 36 years and I have never heard a more abusive and unconstitutional speech in my life in this House. I hope that the noble Lord will cease, otherwise I shall have to move that he be no longer heard.
§ Lord Wigg
The noble Viscount can so move if he wants to, but that is his responsibility. I am going to say what I want to say. If it is abusive it is the truth, and it is the truth which should be told. I say again that there were two Conservative Ministers and one Parliamentary Private Secretary whose careers were ended because of their opposition to the 1957 White Paper. I have opposed it as well. I am saying that the 1957 White Paper was a dishonest document. I have always said so, and I say it again now. If the noble Lord wants to move that I be not heard, that is up to him. I do not care tuppence. I have said what I have got to say. What I want to do, what I have tried to do for 25 years, is to get the defence policy of this country on to a sound basis, within our capacity to pay. What is at issue now is not only the future of the Falkland Islands. Far more than that, what is at issue is whether this country has got any future at all except as a small island off the North-West coast of Europe. That is why I make the plea that I do: to take the opportunity of examining what is happening and what may happen before it happens. We should take the opportunity of getting it right for the future.
§ The Earl of Onslow
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, surely it is most unfortunate that he should use the word "dishonest" and attack somebody's personal integrity without using any evidence to back it up. If the noble Lord feels that what the noble Lord, Lord Duncan-Sandys, did in 1957 was dishonest and unworthy of his office, then he should produce facts and figures, not just hurl cheap abuse across the Chamber.
§ Lord Wigg
My Lords, what more evidence could I produce? I have said that the 1957 White Paper was a dishonest document. If the noble Earl will take the trouble to read the White Paper, look up the additions of the total number of strengths which were required and then examine the subsequent White Papers and the subsequent statements of the Minister himself, he will see that the figures there were false, whether he was personally—
§ Lord Sandys
My Lords, the noble Lord is not speaking strictly relevantly to the debate and I think that it would be the wish of the House to proceed.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ Lord Buxton of Alsa
My Lords, if I may be allowed to bring your Lordships back to the subject of this debate and the important matter which confronts us, I wish to refer very briefly to a subject which was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Kennet: the sudden emergence on the scene of the Russians, a matter which has been referred to in the media today as Russia seeing a bit of mileage out of embarrassing Britain. Having been very recently in the Antarctic, the Falklands and so on, I feel that I should put the matter in its proper context.
Russia has a very considerable presence in the South Atlantic and in the Antarctic. What she is doing is following, as always, her long-term objectives, strictly adhering to a typical strategy. There is no question of simply trying to embarrass Britain. What she is doing is hoping to undermine stability in the South Atlantic and in the Antarctic. She has considerable fishing fleets round South Georgia, very considerable Antarctic bases and considerable shipping. By going in to support and assist a military, fascist dictatorship she is doing nothing untypical, for Russia, and is hoping thereby to prevent us from restoring stability in the South Atlantic.
Noble Lords should know something about the Antarctic bases. Most countries, including Britain, have bases which are most appropriately sited from the environmental and scientific point of view on the Antarctic peninsula. The Russian scientific bases in the Antarctic are very carefully and strategically ringed and dispersed round the Antarctic Continent. Whereas most countries have their bases where they are most convenient or where they want them from a scientific point of view, the Russian bases are carefully sited in a strategic sense. If she were able to undermine the stability of the South Atlantic by preventing our restoring sound and proper government in the Falklands, and also the situation in South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, she would certainly turn her attention to Argentina.
I think that the Argentine fascist generals should think twice before looking forward to such a situation because Russia will very quickly turn it into a communist dictatorship. At that point, Russia will have a foothold down at Cape Horn. It is no accident that one of her main bases in Antarctica, which I myself saw the other day, is on the South Shetland Islands, immediately opposite the bottom point of South America. She would thereby straddle what is called the Drake Passage, which is the way through from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
Perhaps I may be allowed to be what may sound slightly fanciful. Most of the free world, including ourselves, are trying to topple the South African Government. Let me remind noble Lords that Russia has very carefully placed an Antarctic scientific base immediately opposite the Cape. She would 327 thereby straddle the only other passage round the world between the Atlantic and the Pacific and the Indian Ocean.
I want to remind noble Lords today that there is no question of Russia meddling to embarrass us. This is part of a long-term strategy. I hope that Mr. Haig, the President and the United States will bear in mind that if we do not restore stability—quite apart from the arguments about sovereignty or the paramount rights of the Falklanders, which I support—America will be helping to bring about the one thing which she wants to avoid if she does not ensure that we get proper backing from them.
The last point I want to mention is that there has been rather a lot in the newspapers recently about so-called dissident voices in the Falkland Islands and suggestions that perhaps the Falklanders have changed their minds and would really rather be with Argentina, or would rather not have Britain back, or whatever it may be. Let me remind noble Lords that about 18 people have been involved, most of them expatriates and not Falkland islanders. How one Englishman, or Welshman, or whatever he is, managed to get such fantastic coverage when he has got nothing at all to do with the Falkland Islands except for having bought a one-third share in a farm is one of the mysteries of the media. And I say that as chairman of ITN. I can only assume that a lot of reporters and people are hunting around hoping to find a dissident voice and somebody to oppose what is happening, simply for the sake of news.
I would urge the Government and my noble friend Lord Belstead to keep this very much in mind and to ensure that the wrong people are not listened to. There are only two people in this country at the moment who are qualified to speak for the Falkland islanders. One is a member of the Legislative Council. The other is the Governor. There is nobody else here at this stage who is qualified to represent the Falkland islanders. Noble Lords should also remember that anybody coming here from the Falkland Islands can do so only with the sanction of Argentina or with the actual, deliberate encouragement of Argentina. At this moment, nobody can come here on their own without going through the Argentine and without the permission of the Argentine. Therefore, all views expressed must be suspect. When the time comes, we have to find out, through the elected representatives, what is the opinion of the islanders. Finally, may I apologise to the House and to my noble friend Lord Belstead because unfortunately I have to catch a train and cannot wait until the end of this debate to hear my noble friend's reply.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ The Earl of Perth
My Lords, that we are in the right is recognised by the United Nations and, in some ways even more importantly, by our friends in the EEC and the Commonwealth, who have not only agreed to a resolution but have taken action which is of great importance to us in our attempts towards an economic blockade. We also have the right as an outcome of this, and indeed we have the duty, if necessary, to face bloodshed to uphold the rule of law. But let us remember two facts. For the past 17 years we have 328 been negotiating with the Argentinians about the Falkland Islands. This must mean, by the very nature of things, that in some degree we recognise that they have an interest. The second point we also ought to remember is that the Falkland Islands are 8,000 miles away. The present negotiations must be about people and sovereignty, and not about the third principle which I believe was given to us by the noble Baroness the Leader of the House—namely, aggression. Aggression is something that is highly undesirable and we should not, as it were, teach somebody a lesson by the use of aggression. What we want to do is to ensure the wellbeing of the people and the question of sovereignty.
In that connection, I recall how after the first Great War there were a number of mandated territories in which the League of Nations held the main control but appointed some power or other to operate the mandate. The ultimate purpose of that was that in due course (which might be several years) there would be a plebiscite and in that plebiscite would be decided by the wishes of the people what should be the future of the territory. I am not advocating this as a solution but it is something worth bearing in mind in the negotiations which are now going on and in which we are having the very welcome help of our friends from America—in particular that of Secretary of State Haig.
In my judgment, subject to military and naval considerations which I cannot assess because I do not have the capability, we should have our naval force, our task force, continuing in a passive rather than attacking role. In other words, we should continue our blockade of the Falkland Islands rather than contemplate a landing. This may mean less speed and I well understand why the noble Lord, Lord Soames, and others advocated speed. We would all like to settle things quickly if we could, but it would be a great mistake if the Government concentrate too much on the immediate rather than long-term situation. This situation may take many weeks, indeed many months, before it is solved.
§ 5.34 p.m.
§ Lord Walston
My Lords, I believe we are all agreed, or almost all agreed, that the course which the Government are pursuing at the moment is the correct one. I must confess that I have considerable sympathy with the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, in some of the things he said, although I would have suggested to him had he been in his place that much of this would have been better said (and I hope it will be said) in the weeks and perhaps the months ahead, when in the light of the present situation we can take a very dispassionate and cool look at the whole of our defence posture.
Certainly I would support the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, when he said that much as we respect the views and desires of the inhabitants of the Falkland Islands, our foreign policy must be based on the beliefs and the interests of this country as a whole, which are paramount, and not on the interests of one very small section of it. That is in no way pre-judging the issue and it is in no way detracting from my support of the Government's present policy.
My support is strengthened after listening to the short but extremely concise speech made by the noble Baroness the Leader of the House. She brought out 329 two points which were later elaborated upon by the most reverend Primate and upon which I should like to dwell for a very brief period. The first is the fact that we in this country now believe in the rule of law and not in the rule of force, and that we believe in the self-determination of peoples. The days when international disputes were settled by the use of gun-boats or expeditionary forces are, I hope, over for ever, and the fact that we took this dispute in the first instance to the United Nations shows that we believe that in deeds as well as in words. I am very happy that we did that, and I am very happy that the result was what it was. We must pursue this matter still further. We must do our best to persuade the United Nations that they should take further action in this matter and not just sit back and leave it to us and to the Argentines to play a very dangerous game of bluff.
What are the implications of an actual shooting war? It can be nothing but war, once the shooting starts. It is not only the appalling loss of life that will take place. It is not only the military strains which will be put upon us and upon the other side. We cannot expect that, if the matter does develop into a shooting war, it will simply be left between Argentina and ourselves. The whole of the continent of South America would be involved. The whole of the American continent would he involved. We know—and the noble Lord, Lord Buxton of Alsa, has reminded us—that the Soviet Union will be a very active onlooker and can only benefit. The implications of a shooting war are frightening and widespread. Just because they are frightening does not mean that we should be deterred from them. It may come to that, and we have shown that we are prepared if it should come to that. But clearly, we must make every effort to avoid that final resort to force. We must use every effort to continue pushing the United Nations into implementing their resolution.
The second point to which the noble Baroness referred, and which was also referred to by the most reverend Primate and the noble Earl, Lord Perth, was the will of the people of the Falkland Islands themselves. We have said on several occasions that we are prepared to listen and to pay due regard to their wishes. But I do not believe we have made that sufficiently clear to the world at large.
I fear that the rest of the world is looking upon this as a form of modern-day colonial struggle. Even the people of the United States cannot help looking upon it in that way. I should like to read to your Lordships a letter that I have received this morning from a friend of mine in the United States. He is an eminent jurist and he refers to this matter in his letter. He speaks of the lack of knowledge of the people in his own country concerning this matter. He writes that it must be realised:First, front and centre, that the issue is one of people, not of rock; secondly, that … these people have always been, still are, and long to remain British; thirdly, that this not only makes absurd the charge of 'colonialism'—which term, in its pejorative sense, always refers to the domination of one unwilling people by another—but actually makes it perfectly plain that the very real 'colonialism' involved is on the part of the Argentinians; fourthly, that it is a feature of all peaceable law that dubious claims resting on asserted ancient right are not to be implemented by violence, and that this is particularly true as to national boundaries …; fifthly, that the one and only contemporary thing that could give any colour to the Argentinian claim—and I think it is in fact what 330 does give it colour to the unreflective—is the mere physical closeness of the Falklands to Argentina, something which would legitimate, inter aria, the Russian action in Afghanistan—or perhaps later in Iran and Turkey… I do think it desperately important that the American people be brought to see, with highest possible clearness, the issues raised by this ugly aggression".If that letter can be written by a highly intelligent man in a very sophisticated part of the United States, concerning his own fellow countrymen, then I suggest that there is a job that this country can do, that Her Majesty's Government can do, in making it abundantly clear that we are perfectly prepared for this issue to be settled, as we have over very many years, by the international court and that we are prepared to abide by its decision whether it be for us or against us. Secondly, if the decision should go in our favour, we will then be prepared to have a plebiscite, a referendum, among all the inhabitants of the Falkland Islands to see what really are their wishes. Those are things which I understand Her Majesty's Government are prepared to do, but I do not think that it is sufficiently well known, even in this country. It is certainly not sufficiently known in the United States and one can be quite certain that if here and in the United States it is not known, then it is not known in the third world, which, for us, is of vital importance. Therefore, I would urge upon Her Majesty's Government to make it abundantly clear what our position is in this respect.
There is only one other point that I should like to make. We know the difficulties that occur when national pride is involved, and, indeed, when personal survival is involved. The personal survival of the present rulers of the Argentine may not be something which we are particularly keen to promote. But as realists we must accept the fact that they will fight for their own personal survival, and that if they are shown to their own people to have lost this great national effort, then they themselves will go. Therefore, they will resist it to the last and the last may be a very painful one.
What we must do, what statesmanship must do and, I hope, what Secretary Haig is now doing on his journeyings, is to give them a way out of the present situation into which they have got themselves without realising its full implications. With a certain degree of diffidence I would make one suggestion. I do not believe that it is realistic to accept the fact that the rulers of the Argentine at present will simply quietly withdraw their forces, haul down their flag and have the Union Jack hauled up in its place. I do not believe that that is "on". But, I think that there is an outside chance—1 put it no higher than that—that they would be prepared to haul down their flag and withdraw their forces provided that the flag that was run up was that of the United Nations.
It would, perhaps, be a little difficult for us to do, but there is no reason why we should not accept—since we first went to the United Nations—that, in return for withdrawing our forces back to Ascension Island, and in return for the Argentines withdrawing their forces back to their own mainland, we would hand over the administration of the Falkland Islands and their dependencies to the United Nations until such time as the international court had adjudicated on the matter.
It may be a small detail, but I think that that is a possible way of enabling the Argentines to withdraw 331 from the Falkland Islands without the loss of face which would make it impossible for them so to do.
§ 5.47 p.m.
§ The Earl of Cork and Orrery
My Lords, I have to confess that I am probably in a minority in your Lordships' House, not because I am going to say things that people disagree with or dislike particularly, but simply because I have had a feeling for some time that this was not a very good time to have a debate of this sort. Now, when the Falkland Islands squadron is within a week of landfall; when Secretary of State Haig is hovering over the North and South Atlantic like a striped and starry dragonfly, and half the world is standing on tiptoe with either amazement or alarm, it seems to me that this is the moment to be quiet. Therefore, I can comfort your Lordships with the knowledge that I have practically nothing to say—nothing at all about the past and present and almost nothing about the future.
However, before I say the little that I do wish to say, I should like to make one small request. Must we go on talking about the "task force"? This may be trivial, but I am not sure that it is all that trivial. A "task force" was a term invented, I think, by our American allies in World War II for their particular convenience. I am perfectly prepared to accept that when a force of this kind is sent to sea it has actually been given a task to carry out. The English word is simply "force". If that is not thought to be good enough, then there are two very excellent words immediately available. "Fleet" may be a little grandiloquent for the circumstances, in which case there is "squadron". If neither of those will do, then I personally will settle for "the Falklands force".
Whatever the outcome may be, when it is all over it will be plain to us and to the world at large that what we set out to do in relation to the Falkland Islands has been met with either failure or success. Our failure or success will, I believe, dictate the standing which we then have in the future in relation to the rest of the world and possibly to the peace of the world. I do not claim to be able to define the word "success". I do not even postulate any particular type of success or type of outcome that is desirable. All that I do say—and I say it with some certainty—is that "success" implies peace—and here I refer with approval to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont—peace with honour, and an outcome which will meet with the satisfaction at least of all the parties concerned. Our finest hour, in the Churchillian definition, is now 40 years behind us, but I suspect that we are approaching another hour in which, in microcosm, we might be faced with the fate of reaffirming or betraying that earlier hour, for this reason: that, if we fail, we shall have no standing in the world and, if we succeed, a vast amount will depend upon it in the future.
But there is this to be said about the present situation, and, God knows, it is not original at all. The Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands came about largely out of desperation. There was a regime harassed and almost bankrupt, facing rioting in the streets and demands for its own downfall. Not for the first time in history—in centuries and centuries of history—did that Government, like many other governments and 332 rulers before it, turn to the ever present and popular remedy—the nation-uniting military adventure overseas.
This is the situation that we now have and this is the one with which we have to deal. There looms ahead of us a similar, analogous situation in which another nation finds itself approaching again a state of desperation within its own borders, and this time a nation far more powerful than the Argentine, far more influential, far more dangerous and far more capable of annexing small islands overseas. I refer, of course, to Soviet Russia.
That situation may never arise, but if it does, it may well be that we shall find ourselves in a key position in relation to it. Let us drop our curious national pastime of denigrating ourselves, especially in the hearing of foreigners, and recognise that, in fact, in the free world as a whole, and indeed, in the world as a whole, in association with the United States of America, we occupy a key position in the defence of freedom. If we fail in equity and wisdom to solve the Falkland Islands problem, who will pay any attention to us in this possible future Armagedon? On the other hand, if we succeed, then the issue of peace or turmoil throughout the whole world may ultimately depend upon us.
This is the situation in which we find ourselves and, in my opinion, it is potentially a situation of this enormous magnitude. You may say that this is talk; how do we translate this into practical action? Let us face the fact that we cannot translate it into practical action at all. Let us accept the chastening truth that almost none of us speaking here this afternoon has, can or will say anything that will have the slightest effect on what the outcome is likely to be or on what action the Government will take. That is perfectly proper and correct. The only action that is open to us—and I believe it to be a vital one—is that we should pray; if you do not like that word, use some other word that corresponds to that particular function—whatever you find suitable.
Governments, rulers and even expeditionary forces of fighting men in the past have been moved and even inspired by moods and atmospheres. I believe that we can apply ourselves to the task of creating, deliberately by an act of w ill, a national atmosphere and mood of calm resolution. What are the factors that are required in this situation? Some of them are courage, resolution and the will to fight if necessary. These are requisites. On the other hand, inflamatory speeches, gratuitous irritations and bellicosity of any kind are to eschewed. There is something else to be eschewed. There are people in high places, or places high enough to command the attention of the media, so that their words can be heard all over the country and, for that matter, all over the world, who are prepared to snipe at and to criticise the Minister of Defence, the Ministry, or both, and demand the resignation of the Minister. At a moment like this, that kind of attack is to be condemned, and I ask your Lordships to join with me in condemning it. Later on it will be different, but now what is required is silence.
When any force goes to war one of the greatest assets it has is that quality which we can understand but not readily define, morale. Perhaps I shall be 333 forgiven if I speak in platitudes. The morale of a force comes from the top, working down through the chain of command until it arrives at the ratings and rank and file at the lowest levels. If anything goes wrong at the top, it goes right down to the bottom. If men of any rank lose their confidence in the overall direction of the operation in which they are concerned, their morale is affected and that is greatly to their hurt. If we destroy or if we damage the confidence of the man at arms in the direction of the operation in which he is concerned, the overall command, the high command or the overall direction, in which term I include the political direction, then we do him a disservice. He will still preform the task that we have set upon him, and, if necessary, perform it at the cost of his life, but the quality that we require of him is courage and, if we damage his confidence, then we require a higher price to be paid by him in the coinage of courage. That we have no right to ask of him.
Therefore, let us wait in silence until this operation is over. Then, if ever, will be the time for sniping. Then, if anyone feels so disposed, will be the time to call in question the conduct of this or that Ministry or Secretary of State, Then, if ever, will be the time for post mortems and then, if ever, will be the time for saying that the tactics were ill-conceived or the strategy ill-carried out. The high morale with which men are sent into battle is of vital importance. Therefore, let us now be silent. That is my suggestion and my request. Let us be silent, pray for wisdom and fortitude, and support the brave.
§ 5.59 p.m.
§ Lord Beloff
My Lords, when I ventured briefly to take part in the debate on this subject on Saturday morning, 3rd April, I did so because I thought that there was a danger that we might underrate the ramifications of what, at that time, still appeared to be a rather isolated and peculiar act by an individual military ruler. I suggested first that the ramifications of the problem were larger than at first they were made to appear—and the remarks which the noble Lords, Lord Shackleton and Lord Buxton, have made about the general position in Antarctica somewhat fortify that conclusion—but also that the situation would bring into play (and this again has come out vividly in today's debate) the interests and national outlooks of a great many countries, including our own, the United States, and the Soviet Union. That indeed has happened.
One must not forget that when one has these international ramifications they affect not merely the conduct of Governments but the attitudes of people, or of sections of people. It is interesting to note, now that the Soviet Union has more and more come out, after its first cautious neutrality, to the support of Argentina, that some of the voices which call for us to recall our fleet, or our task force, are voices which have frequently been heard justifying the role of the Soviet Union in world affairs.
Similarly with the United States, as the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, reminded us in a speech which, however much it may have worried us, was worth making because these are important points, the United States has been revealed to have interests which may, in the last analysis, be the same as ours because we also 334 have an interest in the stability of the whole of the American Continent, but interests which it naturally regards, and has naturally regarded, from a somewhat different point of view from that which comes most obviously to us.
It seems to me that, given the fact that we cannot—and I think it is right that we cannot—be told what are the particular lines of diplomatic activity on which the Government are at present launched, with or without the aid of the American Secretary of State because other interventions are at least conceivable, we are left with two tasks which, as part of a Parliament, we can perform. One is—it is unnecessary but perhaps it is always worth saying—to call the attention of the Government to the primary need of maintaining a national outlook which is as unified as possible (unity is impossible, but as unified as possible) on what are the precise points for which we are aiming, and the precise points in the course of diplomacy for which we are sticking out.
Whether it should be done, as was suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, by calling into counsel elder statesmen, or the device of the confidential discussions with leaders of other parties under the seal of Privy Council secrecy, there are various ways in which this can be done by Ministers. As one goes round the country and listens to, or overhears, conversations on this subject, there is still a great deal of confusion, a great deal of uncertainty—which is not surprising, since the crisis came upon us quite unexpectedly from the point of view of the vast majority of people—I am convinced that there is a task to be done in internal information. The primary purpose of Government in this direction must be always that whatever we do commands the maximum attainable support.
A similar task naturally confronts the Government in their relations with friendly nations and with allies. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Walston, was perfectly entitled—and indeed it was desirable that he should do so—to call our attention to the obvious difficulties confronting us in having perhaps to convince the American people, or sections of the American people, of the basic elements in our case: the basic fact of an unprovoked aggression; the basic fact that whatever may be thought about sovereignty the Argentine has never been willing to submit this to an international tribunal, to the Hague Court.
There are many facts which could be put across. It is difficult for them to be put across by professional diplomats who must spend a great deal of time receiving people or sending people off on these intercontinental excursions. I would have thought that there was a case—and I have argued this before in other connections and I repeat, if I may, my argument—at any rate at a time like this, for Britain to be represented in Washington by someone of Cabinet standing. If the Prime Minister were to send to Washington now, to supplement the great efforts which the American Secretary of State is making, someone who had her confidence and was a public figure in the United States, it would contribute something to what I believe may come to be the crucial factor in the whole situation.
Many noble Lords have said—it has been said in speeches in the other place and the Government have said it—that we are trying to do something which 335 is extremely difficult; that is to say, to obtain an acceptable and peaceful solution not from a Government which shares our own ideals, but from a Government which, in word and action, repudiates them. We are often told—I am not sure that somebody did not say this in the course of today's debate—that the days of gunboat diplomacy are past; that nothing is done by force. But in fact things are done by force. The Argentine now holds the Falkland Islands and South Georgia through the exercise of military force, and in no other way whatsoever. If its armada had not sailed the governor would still be in Government House with the Union Jack flying over him.
One could argue then whether that was a desirable permanent feature of the scene, but that it has been done by military force seems to me to be self-evident. We are trying to do something more difficult, which is to use the threat of military force, together, as the noble Baroness the Leader of the House said, with the economic pressure of ourselves and our friends, to bring about an important change in the situation: perhaps not the return to the status quo, which we may agree, is over-ambitious, but at any rate an important change through the threatening of the use, and the successful use, of force, because it would appear that that is the only argument which in this situation, confronted with this type of Government, we can use.
I find it difficult to agree with the suggestions that have been made that there has been a movement of the Argentine Government, that they now seem willing to accept certain compromises which at first they repudiated, and at the same time the same people disconnect this from the fact that the fleet is moving. If we had not reacted in this way, if the Government had not created the task force, does anyone believe that Argentina would have negotiated about anything at all? They would have consolidated their possession of the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, in Thule, and no doubt ultimately over the whole of the area of Antarctica which they claim. We are using force, and to try to avoid this and to say: "Well, it is just a form of diplomacy," is, I think, unfair both to those who, as the noble Earl has just reminded us, are taking the risks of this action, and indeed unfair in the sense that we may be deceiving our own public as to what it is we have embarked upon.
I would add only one point, because often there is, or may seem to be, a relatively small issue which has a great effect upon public opinion. I think many people are saying, "We should not use military force as a last resort to retake the islands because an inevitable result would be the death of a large number of the people whom it is our declared object to liberate". I do not wish to enter into the varied possibilities of military operations and the pressures associated with them, but if things were to reach the point where it looked as though the Falklands themselves might be the scene of hostilities, I think our consciences would be better served, and the support of our people better assured, if we were to ask a neutral country for the time being to evacuate the islanders and not leave them as hostages between rival forces I hope it will not come to that but, as I say, it is often on such specific points rather than on the major issue that one suddenly comes up against resistance in public opinion, and the present 336 operation, with all its delicacy, is one which, above all, can succeed only if public opinion is with the Government.
§ 6.11 p.m.
§ Lord Davies of Leek
My Lords, nearly every angle and shade of opinion about the Falklands problem has by now been uttered. Nevertheless, the dimensions of the problem with which we must deal outside the Falklands area have not, in my view, been thought through in depth. Whether or not one agrees with the way in which my noble friend Lord Wigg criticised the 1957 White Paper, the serious allegations he made about the quality and extent of military equipment should be looked into or denied right away. My noble friend takes the trouble to examine these problems. While one may disagree with some of the remarks he makes, they are serious and should be looked into. On 5th April, The Times wrote:Few countries in the world have been dominated for so long by a single company. One company owns 45 per cent. of the farm land in the Falklands and employs more than half the 1,800 people. There are 6,500 sheep and this company owns 3,000 of them".Point number one, therefore, is whether we should throw into the area, for that kind of economic activity, two-thirds of our force, thus making us the weakest link in the NATO chain of defence. That is the price in Western Europe we are paying for this exercise. That cannot be denied, and unfortunately it has not been publicly written up or sufficiently thought about in depth.
The seriousness of the crisis grows. Nevertheless, it is the duty of the Government and all of us to thank Mr. Alexander Haig for his diligent and steadfast efforts to find a peace formula. I believe his efforts to have been sincere, whatever background one may consider in relation to the interest of the United States in the area. As I say, I believe Secretary of State Haig has been absolutely sincere in his efforts to find a formula for peace with honour—I use the word especially mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont—in that part of the world.
It seems that at present there are no signs of a formula for a truce by Downing Street, so we seem to be rather adrift on that aspect. Certainly Britain has a duty to protect the Falkland Islanders. We failed in that duty the moment Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands. Britain failed in that duty for many reasons and while none of us can know all of them, I would say—I shall be criticised for saying this, but it is the truth—we have been overwhelmed for years by the bugbear and fear of a Soviet attack on the West. As a result, we have spent our treasure, including our technology and thought, on a mighty missile mania and nuclear overkill.
I promise not to delay your Lordships for long, 10 minutes at the most and perhaps only eight. I had intended to use the United Kingdom Trident programme as an example of an unnecessary squandering of British treasure to maintain what we consider to be overkill. I still believe that we could found a tripwire force of a fleet and troops enough to keep the ambitious dictator Galtieri from overwhelming the 1,800 islanders. We failed to do that and some day—not now, because maybe the Government will need the unity of all of us behind them—we shall have to find out why this coup, which has been on for a generation, succeeded.
337 The first elementary lesson in logistics is to have the right amount of firepower in the right place at the right time. This country could have afforded, had our information been accurate and our thinking in depth, to have had exactly that at the Falklands and so prevented this dictator succeeding with his coup. I take the point made by the noble Earl, Lord Cork, and I shall not make deep criticism of men who now have responsibility behind closed doors to find a formula for success and peace. The Government knew the potential wealth of the area; my noble friend Lord Shackleton and others have made careful studies and we have heard from both sides of your Lordships' House an analysis of that aspect. Meanwhile, the Defence Committee of another place were busy arguing and making explosive statements about the furtherance of the Trident programme to give us security. We do not have that security now.
There is no point reiterating what has already been said, but I ask noble Lords to consider some of the implications from the point of view East-West strategy if the war were to escalate—never mind how, just if it were. A British fleet of some 36 ships is now moving in that direction with all the possible weapons it may need. My first question must be—these are the sort of questions we must ask ourselves—whether our order of battle for NATO is weakened by folly or neglect or by this move into the South Atlantic. Are we now the weakest link in the chain of NATO defence? Reagan is hoping to see Brezhnev if he is well enough to see the American President. I believe a change is taking place in the United States for a rough modus vivendi with the Soviet Union. In my view, Her Majesty's Government represent a weak link in the strategic and diplomatic chain for the defence of Western Europe. However, if we have to fight, we must, as ever, close ranks behind the Government, whatever party may be in power.
I wish to comment on China, another part of the world in which I have been interested for a generation. That country is very concerned about what is taking place. She could not support us because of the shadow of Hong Kong. It is no good denying that because it is a similar situation. China did not come in; they hoped the third world would find a solution through peaceful negotiations. So did India, and that is why that country did not fully come in. It was Spender who wrote in The Exiles, "History has tongues", and if ever the strategists' tongues were wagging, it must be in relation to our present move into the South Atlantic.
I have been eight minutes, and I shall take only one more minute. The questions now are, first, has this situation made Britain an unreliable ally for Western European defence? Secondly, could Britannia meet her commitments to the West when asked to deliver them? How could she with the fleet now where it is? Taiwan is a problem; it is America's "Falkland Islands". Many people may not realise this, but differences are now taking place in China involving the United States of America over the supply of first-class military equipment to Taiwan, which, to use a figure of speech, is now the "Falkland Islands" for America. Is there today a place in international politics for the real use of violence as an instrument of policy in the nuclear age? That is a philosophical question, and it might be a theological one, too. How does one win 338 in this kind of age?
Let me mention the question of invasions. I remember the Bay of Pigs incident in 1961, when Castro, despite all the intelligence given to us, over-whelmed the invasion. Everything went wrong. I remember Suez. At the moment President Reagan is begging Argentina to send troops into Nicaragua because he wants to undermine what he considers the communist and revolutionary elements there.
What would be the effect in the Falklands on the pact that Churchill denounced? He was upset when he was not asked to join the Anzus Pact. I think that at that time my noble friend Lord Shinwell was Minister of Defence. We were not asked to join the Australia, New Zealand, United States of America Pact; and those countries' attitude to the South Atlantic problem will be different from ours.
This is not a problem to go into smiling. It is not a problem that is easy to solve, but I sincerely believe that these matters should be considered, come what may. If not, the nation will have to stand together to win a place for democracy and commonsense in this part of the world.
§ 6.22 p.m.
§ Lord Caccia
My Lords, if what the Government had in mind and hoped to get out of the debate was an expression of support from party leaders for the course on which the Government are set, then I hope that they will be content with what has been said in the House today. Even more, I would hope that the Government of the Argentine would also take note of that conclusion, if it is the one which the Government have reached. Otherwise I submit that in a democratic assembly like this many views on possible solutions, on attitudes to be taken, have very rightly been expressed and provided that they do not mislead the Argentine Government, that in a sense, as has been said, is what we are here for.
For myself I certainly do not wish to add to the possibilities which have been suggested to the Government. I hope that they will feel themselves fortified that every corner has been looked at, and if they have not noticed everything everywhere, well there it is now displayed to their view. But that is not now a matter for us but rather for them. Here may I say how glad I was to hear one noble Lord re-echo the words of Sir Harold Nicolson who described the objectives of successful diplomacy as public engagements privately arrived at. This is a moment for privacy. I hope that they will be allowed to have it and come forward only when they think the right moment has been reached.
Much has been said in criticism of successive Governments, and from all sides of the House and irrespective of party allegiance. Maybe it is right occasionally to take such a look, but at the same time in a wider aspect I would submit that what successive Governments have been able to do for this country in devolving from empire into a Commonwealth has been of outstanding success. It has been a remarkable story, and at the end of it what do we find? Despite a recession, despite the high figures of unemployment, the general standard of living in this country is now higher than it ever was in the period of Empire. That is something in which we can all take pride.
There are of course hard cases left and part of the 339 difficulty in this is that what we do in one of the hard cases is apt to reflect on what might happen in the others. Certainly, as an ex-Foreign Secretary sitting in front of me has said, British interests must be of paramount concern, and I think that successive Foreign Secretaries have always felt that is what the general policy of the British Government should be. It should be to pursue British interests. That is what they are there for.
Having said that it comes to a question of interpretation, and I would submit that in this respect the present Government have had great success in getting the United Nations to pass the resolution that it did pass, in gaining the support of the Commonwealth which they have achieved, and in securing the promised support of the EEC. That is no mean achievement at this point.
In this the attitude of the United States becomes crucial. As the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, said they must consult their own interests. The Secretary of State and the President of the United States are there to protect the interests of the United States. That is fair enough. But when they are considering their interests I hope they will concentrate on the fact that they have supported the United Nations resolution which among other things called on the Argentine to withdraw from the Falkland Islands. That must become a prime objective of the United States.
Secondly, I would hope that they would also have in mind, as they must the kind of consideration advanced by the noble Lords, Lord Shackleton and Lord Buxton of Alsa, that this is not merely a question of the islands themselves it is not just a question of 1,800 inhabitants. Wider issues, wider interests are involved and above all there is the question of whether or not a resolution of the United Nations once again shall be flouted. Who is going to try to prevent it being flouted? I believe that the role for this inescapably falls principally on the British Government. It is their territory and they have been set on a course to recover that right. It might be that the United States can act although committed to our side over the resolution; it might be that they can help find some way out by negotiations. That again is the policy of the Government and is what I understood to be the general view of party leaders on all sides should be our prime objective. To help that objective there is now a force ready to use if necessary behind it, but only in the last resort and if necessary.
Having said that, I hope once again that the Government will take comfort generally from the support that they have had in this House and will not in any way be discouraged by the number of ideas which have been put forward to help them to find a negotiated solution without in any way going back on the terms of the resolution and the course upon which they have been set.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Lord Brockway
My Lords, we are concerned with the present and the future: an inquest on the past has still to come. However, I want to refer to one fact which is very relevant to the question and of the significance of which we are only now becoming aware. 340 In the last few years this country has armed the navy and the army of our opponents. If British soldiers are killed in any military activity it will almost certainly be done by arms built in our yards and in our workshops. In the last few years Britain has supplied Argentina with destroyers, naval helicopters, missiles, armoured cars, an aircraft carrier, minesweepers and Canberra bombers.
It is very fortunate for Britain at this moment that a contract was not signed three months earlier than its endorsement. That contract was for Lynx helicopters specially adapted for anti-submarine activity. They have already been built. One has recently been tested in Somerset. It is already painted with the Argentine flag. If that contract had been three months earlier and activity in the 200-mile zone was being conducted, helicopters provided from this country would now be destroying our own submarines. I want to urge very strongly that this is evidence that the hideous arms traffic in the world should be ended. Over these years we have been supplying arms to a fascist dictatorship, even during a period of diplomatic conflict between this country and Argentina. I hope that the lesson of this may be learned, and that there may be a revision of our whole arms policy.
My Lords, we have to be very clear about the reasons for our involvement in the Falklands. Even from the Government Benches two different reasons are stated. The first is that the residents in the Falklands seek to be British citizens, as they have done for many years. I believe that reason to be absolutely justified. Self-determination is the very heart of democracy. Those people have shown amazing loyalty to Great Britain. They have paid more in taxes to us than we have given in aid to them. Nevertheless, they have sought to be British citizens.
But there is a second reason which is given even from the Government Benches for our involvement in the Falklands. It is that they are our territory, that we have sovereign rights over them. Yes, my Lords—sovereign rights if the peoples desire it. But there has been a great deal of imperialist nostalgia in the attitude to the Falklands by many who have spoken on this subject. We gave up political imperialism in the 'fifties, and it ought not to be a reason for our intervention in the Falklands that we seek to keep them merely as continual colonies of this country. I want to suggest that it is of urgent importance that we should discover what is the view of the islanders now. There have been conflicting reports. I should like to suggest that we would propose that United Nations observers should be allowed to go to the Falklands and test the opinion of the British residents there.
Our terms of reference for activity in the Falklands were laid down in the United Nations Security Council Resolution 502. That resolution has been applauded because it demanded, quite rightly, the withdrawal of the Argentine troops. But that is not all that the resolution said. Its first and determining demand was for the immediate cessation of hostilities in this area; and the final demand was that the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom should seek a diplomatic solution of their differences. Neither has been done. Argentina has poured more troops into the Falklands and has sent more weapons into 341 the Falklands. Great Britain has started its fleet and has operated a 200-mile zone where Argentine ships would be sunk. Instead of a cessation of hostilities there has been aggravation.
Secondly, so far as diplomacy is concerned, we welcome the fact that the Leader of the House in her speech placed this first; but while she placed it first, it surely must be admitted that it has been secondary to military activities. She spoke of the discussions with Secretary Haig of America. The initiative there was by America, and not by us.
I want to make constructive proposals which may assist the bringing about of a peaceful solution to this problem. First, I hope we will accept, and I hope Argentina will accept, the suggestion made by Peru for a three-day truce while negotiations are continued. I would go very much further. I would urge that a truce should be declared during the continued negotiations. Secretary Haig's efforts have not yet ended. The United Nations Secretary-General has just returned to New York with a view to initiating negotiations. I hope that he will take steps to call a renewed meeting of the Security Council, and that the Security Council will seek ways of carrying out the two demands which it made in Resolution 502 which I have mentioned.
My Lords, I want to make a very serious suggestion for action by the United Nations. I am indebted to Brigadier Harbottle and General Rickhey in their book for this proposal. In 1947, the United Nations appointed a Good Offices Commission to bring peace between the Netherlands and the people of Indonesia. That commission was composed of representatives of some member states. It succeeded in its purpose. Why should it not be repeated now? Why should not the United Nations now appoint a good offices commission to try to bring about a solution of this problem? I go very much further than that. I should like to see the United Nations mobilising a peace-keeping force to go to the Falklands and replace the Argentine Army which is there.
If it is suggested that Argentina would reject such a proposal, may I point out that I understand that it has rejected a proposal by Secretary Haig that there should be a tripartite administration, an administration by the United States, by Britain and by Argentina together. While it has rejected that, Argentina would find it very difficult indeed to reject a suggestion that the United Nations should take over supervision of the islands. That proposal would have worldwide support, and Argentina would lose even what support it has if it objected to it.
Lastly, my Lords, I want to make a suggestion to which I have been inspired by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton. I do not commit him to the conclusions which I draw from his contribution. There is a precedent for non-military action in the very area of the Falklands. We often speak of the Falklands as though they were one island occupied by British subjects. In fact, they are a vast archipelago of two large islands and over 200 smaller islands. South Georgia is 700 miles away from the Falkland Islands where the British residents are, and there is an entire difference between them. The Falkland Islands with its British residents and temperate climate; and South Georgia, with ice and snow. South Georgia and the other islands are more identified with the South Antarctic 342 than they are with the Falkland Islands. They represent its approach.
It is hardly known that in the South Antarctic all the nations which have claimed territory there—Britain, America, Russia, France and other nations—have now signed the Atlantic Treaty of 1959 and have agreed to engage in peaceful scientific work only. Since then, they have fully co-operated, informing each other of their scientific discoveries. That is an example of how there can be co-operation for peace instead of antagonism leading to war. There, the cold war has been abolished and national antagonisms have been abolished. It is an example to the world, and I beg Her Majesty's Government, as they are approaching this situation in the Falklands, to take the precedent of nearby South Antarctica as a principle which they should seek to adopt in bringing about a settlement in the Falklands.
§ 6.47 p.m.
§ Viscount Watkinson
My Lords, the views of the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, are well known to your Lordships' House. I know that he holds them with great sincerity, and he and I could debate matters for a long time without merging our respective views. But I should, if I may, as a past Minister of Defence, like to say something about the speech by the noble Lord, Lord Wigg. I see that he is not in his place. I do not think that he was expressing the sense of this House in his personal attack on the 1957 White Paper and on my noble friend Lord Duncan-Sandys, who produced it. That is perhaps not very important. What is important is the implication that might be drawn from his remarks that our forces now on their way to the Falklands were not as well equipped as they might be—and all the rest. That is just not so. I want to say as plainly as I can that I believe that those forces are well adapted to the task they are going to undertake. I believe that they will give an exceedingly good account of themselves if they have to do so, and I hope that this House sends to the men and women in the task force their very best wishes and their total support for what they may have to do if so ordered.
The noble Lord, Lord Caccia, said—and how right he was—that he hoped that some of the more divergent views in our House would not encourage the Argentine junta to feel that we were not entirely united. I do not believe that that is so; and I think that perhaps it might be not a bad thing at this late hour to come back to what I believe are the two major issues that Her Majesty's Government cannot concede. In this, I would express my personal support for that Government and particularly for the Prime Minister. From my past ministerial times I know well the sort of pressures that lie upon her.
My Lords, whether we like it or not, the world's eyes are upon us. They are on Britain—and not only those of the countries that have publicly supported us: many more who would like to support us if they dared to do so are watching anxiously to see whether we have the courage to show them by our own actions that aggression does not pay. That, I think, is what it is all about. If we can show in this case that aggression has not in the end served any purpose for the military regime which put it into effect, then we shall have done much to influence the course of many events that still 343 lie ahead. This is a responsibility that I think our country cannot shed, even if it wished to do so; and, as I sense the present view of the country and, I believe, of Parliament, we intend to carry it out as best we can.
But, my Lords, let us be clear. All that we are seeking to do, by whatever means we must in the end use to do it, is to make it plain that unprovoked military aggression on this small, remote group of islands cannot be seen to pay, cannot be seen to bring any advantage to the Government which initiated it or the country which presumably supports that Government. In this we are entirely inside the purport of the United Nations resolution.
The second point which we cannot avoid, a responsibility that we cannot avoid—and most noble Lords have agreed to this whatever their views may be, including the noble Lord, Lord Brockway—is the right of ultimate self-determination of the people of the Falkland Islands. It is really quite irrelevant in many ways that they are British citizens. They have a right of self-determination. This has been temporarily taken away from them. It is our job somehow to see that they get it back, and they will then be able to choose freely what they want to do in circumstances that will, of course, have changed. This is a right that they have and a right that we must see they can exercise again as soon as possible.
It is inevitable that someone at my advanced years must look back to his time in government and wonder what lessons then could be applied now. It seems to me that when you have a difficult task ahead, you had better try to stick to some basic principles and try, as the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, said, to make this well known to the country if you are going to get support. It is these two basic principles that we cannot avoid and we have to see through: the principle that aggression does not pay; the principle that people have a right to sell-determination that cannot be taken away from them by military occupation. How do we do it? That for the moment is up to the Government. All we can do is to hope that the Government, fortified by reasonable support—not unquestioning support—from Parliament and the country will do the very best that they can. The debates that have so far been held on this issue have greatly benefited from avoiding either witch-hunting or violent arguments about who was right at any one time. That is really what destroyed us at Suez. It is a lesson that we should learn now.
Having said that, anyone who spoke here who has ever had any interest in these events must know that there are not any easy options. Let us very much hope that Mr. Secretary Haig may yet have some success. Again, I think that this country owes him a considerable debt for the degree of application that he has put into a very difficult task. But he may not have success, and probably there are hard knocks ahead and a long period of strain for our country. Our people should prepare themselves for this.
The Government should perhaps be doing more to make it plain to our people that they may have a long period of strain ahead and that Mr. Haig's efforts will not in the end or not at this moment succeed. Perhaps I should add there that I feel very strongly, with other noble Lords who have spoken, that if Mr. Secretary Haig does not succeed at this time, this does not mean 344 that the USA in some mysterious way has opted out of the situation. The USA, in my view, is totally involved and must do more to defend the implementation of the UN resolution for which it voted. To be a neutral broker is not enough at this time. So far no one can have any complaint about the efforts that that great country has made. All I am saying is that I hope that they will not end; they must be intensified if Mr. Secretary Haig goes again to Buenos Aires—if he does—and finds that he cannot make any more progress.
In my view, there really is not much more to say. The Government are there to do a job. They need the reasonable support of Parliament, which so far they have had. But in all this not only Government but the media, Parliament and the people are the face of Britain which the world is watching with great anxiety, to see whether we have the guts to try to prove that aggression does not pay and that self-determination should be allowed to work.
So far, if I may say so, I think all of us have well expressed the will to try and do this. But I must say again that we are only perhaps at the beginning of a hard, long and difficult period which will test the strength and will of the Government. It will be difficult for us here in Parliament watching events, trying to be helpful in a way yet also feeling a right to be critical. It will be even more difficult for the media. As one noble Lord said, one must hope that they will not get it wrong, get bored with it all and turn it into some kind of triviality which must be rapidly appeased.
It is a great issue. It is an issue on which many future developments in relations between nations now depend. Does the doctrine of deterrence against aggression work, or does it not? Do free peoples have a chance to stay free and determine their future if they wish to, or not? Those are the issues on which I personally wish the Government all success and offer what little support I can to that end. I hope that we in this House will do what we can to try to see that those principles are achieved, however long and however difficult it may turn out to be.
§ Lord Noel-Baker
My Lords, before the noble Viscount sits down, may I ask him a question? He says that it is vital that the Argentinian aggression should not succeed; in other words, that the Argentinian forces must be withdrawn in accordance with the resolution of the United Nations Security Council. But would he agree that the Security Council has not fulfilled its duty simply by passing a resolution? That it should be using co-operative action of members of the United Nations to bring pressure to bear upon the Argentinian junta—
§ Lord Sandys
My Lords, if the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Baker, would restrict his remarks to a question and not make a speech, it would assist the House.
§ Lord Noel-Baker
My Lords, may I put the question that I want to put? Would the noble Viscount agree that our Foreign Secretary should join Mr. Haig in going to the Security Council and seeking the withdrawal of ambassadors from Buenos Aires, economic sanctions and other measures which may be needed?
§ Viscount Watkinson
My Lords, I am probably out of order, but I thought that we were to have the pleasure of 345 a speech from the noble Lord earlier on in the debate. But I noticed that we did not. I personally missed it because, although I rarely agree with much that he says, I applaud his sincerity and his long and noble career in public life. He has asked me a question. He should address it more properly to the Government. On the whole, he is right if I sense that what he is saying is that we should now make every diplomatic effort possible to secure the withdrawal of the Argentine forces from the Falkland Islands before they come to the stiff arbitrament of war itself.
§ 6.59 p.m.
My Lords, I should be very surprised indeed if any of your Lordships could be anything other than admiring of the reaction of Her Majesty's Government to the assault by Argentinian forces upon British sovereign territory. It was both a forceful and most proper statement of indignation and a memorable statement of determination to restore the status quoante. I beseech Her Majesty's Government in no way to lessen their resolve. Like the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, I, too, have the most terrible feeling of "déjàvu" or, perhaps more properly, of "déjàlu", if there is such an expression, because noble Lords who read the last book (published after his death) of that remarkable strategist and historian, Captain Liddell-Hart, will recall the title, which was, Why do we never learn from history? The answer was interesting: very simply, that we can never learn from history because human nature never changes.
I believe that one of the major political lessons of the period between 1933 and 1939 was that negotiations with fascists can only result in allowing unto them the spoils of war without having to go throagh the necessity of going to war. Noble Lords will recall that it was the international community, aided and abetted by the Parliament and Government of the United Kingdom, that successfully negotiated away the Sudetenland, the Ruhr, Austria and Czechoslovakia with hardly a shot being fired. That is why I was totally astonished by the observation of my noble friend Lord Montgomery of Alamein, when he suggested that the Argentines invaded the Falkland Islands because they were irritated by the lack of progress in the negotiations between the Governments of Britain and Argentina. I am sure he will recall that that is precisely what Hitler said: "The reason I invaded Czechoslovakia was that the Czechoslovakians provoked me into so doing."
§ Viscount Montgomery of Alamein
My Lords, may I just say to the noble Lord that when Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia it has never been suggested that that country had always been part of Germany, whereas the Argentines, who took this aggressive action, have always, rightly or wrongly, suggested that the Falkland Islands were their property.
My Lords, but the Germans have always suggested that German-speaking Czechoslovakia was part of the Greater Germany—all the normal bellicose arguments of fascist dictators. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, as usual in his most eloquent way, made a crucial point, as did the noble Lord, Lord Caccia, and above all the noble Lord Lord 346 Buxton of Alsa, who, in a memorable speech, said that we were not talking alone of 1,800 people. That bears repeating, I think, although in a sense it hardly matters. We are not talking of two windy rocks some 8,000 miles away from these shores: we are talking about the global strategy of our NATO allies, and I would beg your Lordships to consider that 80 per cent. of our strategic material comes by way of the Cape of Good Hope and that the Indian Ocean today is a Russian lake. We should consider how many friendly ports—that is, friendly to the United Kingdom—there are on the whole of the West Coast of Africa. We should also consider what would happen if, at the same time as serious trouble brewed in South Africa, trouble also exploded in Panama. What then, Cape Horn'? What then, the Straits of Magellan? What then, the Drake Passage? I know that American strategists have no doubt whatsoever of the importance of the South Atlantic as a trade route and a strategic route. At this stage I must support the astonishing "courage" of the noble Lord, Lord Hill-Norton, in his action in not speaking today. How he had the courage to keep silent, I shall never know; but there we are.
I would suggest we should also remember that, only 20 years ago, if someone had suggested, at least to me, that there would be drilling for oil in the middle of the North Sea, I would have put it down, partly out of my ignorance and partly out of the astonishing technical achievement that it undoubtedly is. I would have dismissed people who made such suggestions as cranks. But who knows in 1992 what the important economic, let alone the strategic territories will be fought over by the nations when the Antarctic Treaty in 1991 falls in and has to be renegotiated? Who then will control the Magellan Straits, Cape Horn and the Drake Passage? Will it be Russia, under the skirts of Argentina or Chile, or will it be NATO?
It is for those reasons that I fear what I see as a classic example of what I always think of as "Foreign-Office-speak", because after the determined expression of Her Majesty's Government there now appears this phrase—and I beg of your Lordships to look to this language—which speaks only of "the restoration of British administration". I ask my noble friend if he can possibly say precisely what that term means. When the Argentines categorically and firmly state that sovereignty is not negotiable, I believe it is a very serious weakness of Her Majesty's Government to suggest by words or action that it is negotiable. I must support my noble friend Lord Beloff in raising the question: Are we making the case strongly and consistently enough with our major ally in NATO; namely, the United States of America? I wholly support his suggestion that a plenipotentiary extraordinary be sent to Washington to hammer home our case from all its angles. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, at least, will recall that in 1915 Sir Rufus Isaacs, the first Marquess of Reading, was sent to the United States to negotiate on our behalf the total replanning of the economy of the United States of America so that they could get wheat to the eastern seaboard in order to feed the Allies. It was a highly successful diplomatic endeavour. I would go further than my noble friend and ask Her Majesty's Government seriously to consider sending someone of great experience in these matters—and who better than the 347 noble Lord, Lord Shackleton?
I believe it is apt that the motto of the Falkland Islands should be "desire the right", for when Governments ignore—this is yet another lesson of the period from 1933 to 1939—the evidence of oppression of a minority or the oppression of small nations, and when they bend principle in the direction of expediency, they always lose out heavily in the long run. It is for this reason that I rejoiced to read the suggestion by Mr. Henry Fairlie that the right honourable Lady the Prime Minister might better be called Elizabeth than Margaret, for she indeedhas the heart and stomach of a king".
§ 7.9 p.m.
§ Lord Mottistone
My Lords, I too would like to congratulate the Government on the actions they have taken, and particularly on the speed with which they assembled the force which is now on its way to the Falkland Islands. Whether it is ever used or not is another matter, but surely that speed must be convincing to the world in believing that we really mean what we say. Let us hope we keep that up.
I must mention one or two things that the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, said, and I also want to support what my noble friend Lord Watkinson said. The noble Lord, Lord Wigg, displayed a shattering ignorance of things naval—but one would not doubt that, coming from somebody who said that he was mainly interested in Q and A affairs in the army. But, in particular to suggest by innuendo that the propulsion machinery of the "Hermes", and the fighting capability of the Sea Harrier and its ability to land on ships, were somehow suspect, was surely an aid to nobody at all, except possibly our prospective opponents. It was much more disgraceful and—I seek a word which is not too insulting—nastier than anything of which he accused other noble Lords. I think that it was pretty disgraceful.
To take another point which he made, which was later picked up by the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, about the question of ships being assigned to NATO, I should like to remind your Lordships that this has frequently happened in the past. When I was last engaged in action in the Far East, my ship was earmarked for NATO and there were many with us who were assigned to NATO. It is a very common practice for ships of the fleet to be moved around the world and, in the event of something nasty occurring in the NATO area, they are switched back again.
The great thing about maritime operations is that you can, more or less, put ships where you want when you want, if you are wise enough to guess where they should be, and in the past we have generally tended to get that right. So that is the great point about maritime warfare which must not be forgotten. It is also relevant to those who say that we should turn the fleet hack at Ascension Island. You do not have to do that kind of thing. Sail them on to what is an appropriate distance from where they might be used, and do not take them any closer than is sensible. It is perfectly straight forward.
To reiterate what I see as being the purpose of our operation, which is exactly the same as that outlined 348 by my noble friend Lord Watkinson, who put it very well, the first point is surely to prove that aggression must be resisted, particularly aggression by dictators in totalitarian régimes. Secondly, the wishes of the islanders must be paramount, as my noble friend the Leader of the House said in her excellent opening speech. In that connection, taking the point made by my noble friend Lord Buxton, any information coming out of the Falklands now, which purports to come from the islanders and to give an idea of their wishes, must be suspect until all the Argentines have left the islands. It is nonsense to suggest anything else.
Though a lot of what the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, says must be respected, and in his speech on the Saturday before last, which I followed, he made a lot of points with which most of us in this House would agree, the thought of a UN inquiry while the Argentines are still in the Falklands is absolute nonsense. You would not get the truth. The truth could come only after you got the Argentines out. I personally think—and this point was made by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton—that the Argentines, almost above all peoples, should be got out of the Falklands, because they currently have just about the worst record of disappearances, tortures and murders of any dictatorships today.
There are others, and perhaps some that we do not know enough about, such as Russia. But one has read in recent times what seems to be totally authenticated information about the appalling actions which the Argentine Government have committed, and it would be totally irresponsible of any British Government, in any circumstances, to commit their citizens to the rule of such a nation until they have put their own house in order. Let us hope that they will, but until then we must make every move that we possibly can.
That leads me to say that we must be totally firm in our dealings with these people. As we know to our cost, dictatorships respond only to firmness, and firmness it must be. In the event that they force us to do it, we shall have to defend our 200-mile zone in the way we have said. If that means fighting, then fighting it will have to be, and we must be totally firm about that, too. In that event, I have a feeling that people who are used to land warfare see the fact of one ship being sunk as meaning total war; but it need not be in the circumstances of today. I have been involved in many operations where it has not been like that, such as when I sank an Indonesian ship during the Indonesian confrontation operations, at the same time as our ambassador was sitting in Jakarta. That kind of war is not strange, if it is conducted at sea. It is when people get eyeball to eyeball that matters get a little difficult.
Against that background, may I lead quickly to the points that I really want to make. Particularly in the media, the press, the television and so on—and, I regret to say, in many of the speeches in your Lordships' House—there has been far too much speculation about what might happen to us; such as whether we should do this, whether we should do that, and whether, if we do such-and-such, this will happen to us. It seems to me that that is not the best thing upon which to concentrate. We have given the Government a fair degree 349 of latitude to get on and do the job, because I think we, as a House, believe that they are going in the right direction. But, surely, it would be much more to the point if, particularly in the press, we gave attention to the risks which the enemy will run, because their position is quite desperate.
If they force us to fight—and it will be of their own volition—they will undoubtedly lose ships, possibly most of their ships, and they do not have very many, anyhow. If they lose their ships, what about the sabre-rattling in the Beagle Channel? What about the possibility of Chile being a little nasty on her own account? Would it be wise to lose their ships? What are they going to do to support the islands that they have wrongly taken from the British, such as South Thule? How are they going to support other places? They have a lot to lose and they must do a bit of thinking.
How about their troops? We do not know how many there are, but, obviously, there are more than 3,000 or 4,000, and perhaps there are very many more. They probably include shock troops and they are locked up in the Falklands. There is every prospect that, if they do not take them out by agreement, they will just be sitting there. These are, surely, the very troops—if they are the best ones, and they ought to be—whom they will need to defend the junta against their own fellow countrymen. I should think it most unwise for them to press this any further. They might also lose aeroplanes, of which they do not have very many; and they cannot afford to lose too many, because they do not have many friends around them in South America.
They have locked up some sizeable military units, which they may well require to protect and prop up their own regime. I should have thought that the very dicey military situation, added to the economic and trading restrictions with which our gallant friends in the EEC and in the Commonwealth have helped us, should make the Argentines think very carefully about whether they have bitten off a good deal more than they can chew. I am fairly certain they must have thought that it would take us a month or two to get the troops together. They probably thought that it would take as long as it took for Suez, but that is another story. So they would be well advised to say to themselves, "Let's call it off". If good sense prevails and the Argentinians remove their occupying force and allow us to liberate our fellow countrymen in the Falkland Islands, perhaps we can talk. And then perhaps we shall talk a bit more—but not beforehand.
§ 7.20 p.m.
§ Viscount Hanworth
My Lords, I think your Lordships will be relieved to know that my speech should take well under five minutes. I think that the situation which has arisen in the Falkland Islands should transcend all party boundaries. Some noble Lords may be aware that a week ago I put down a Starred Question asking the Government to establish machinery for inter-party consultation, and it appears that at that stage, at least, they had not done so. Today, although speaking from the SDP Benches, some of the things I am going to say may not be popular and certainly should not be taken in any way as representing my party's policy or thinking. It does not do so.
350 We have always, rightly, been concerned with the wellbeing of the Falkland islanders, but I venture to suggest that we should never have given quite so much importance to their emotional views on purely British sovereignty. I say this because their material wellbeing and long-term future obviously depend to a very great extent on Argentina. This was so for oil, air transport, communications and hospital facilities. It should have been possible to reach a sensible compromise with Argentina long ago. Today we must, more than ever, be concerned with the islanders' wellbeing, but with lives at stake if war results and with thousands of Britishers living in Argentina, the islanders' wishes should not dictate our every move in negotiation with Argentina. In fact, it is now impossible to get a real consensus of their views.
I am a soldier and I entirely agree with the decision to dispatch a naval and military force. Had we not done so, our military credibility, and that of other countries in the West, would have been enormously reduced in areas where other troubles may occur in the future. What I regard as sheer folly—I repeat, "sheer folly"—is the intransigent attitude taken by the Government in publicly stating demands likely to be wholly unacceptable to anyone in Argentina, let alone their government. The Government are apparently set upon a determined course of self-destruction and, potentially, an enormous loss of life in a war which almost certainly cannot be won before the world turns against us, as it did in the Suez crisis, or before other nations become involved. It is nonsense to talk about principles, as the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury and others have done. Most wars have been fought on principles, with God on our side. And what about the IRA?
Let us hope that negotiations can be made a viable alternative. Nevertheless, let me make it quite clear that if it is impossible to obtain what others, particularly the Americans, consider a reasonable solution—I make that statement deliberately because I do not trust our own Government's views on this—then I regretfully support all necessary military initiatives. Finally, let me say that, having talked to other peers, I believe the views I have expressed are shared by a far greater number of peers than the speeches today indicate, which show a sign of jingoism which I find appalling.
§ 7.26 p.m.
§ Viscount Massereene and Ferrard
My Lords, here is one peer who does not agree with a word which the noble Viscount who has just spoken has said. However, when one peers through the smog surrounding the Foreign Office, as I have been doing, it reminds me of a saying, though I cannot remember who said it:A diplomat's life is a terrible life. When he is not straddling an issue he is dodging one".We have seen a bit of dodging today, and presumably there is quite a lot of dodging going on in another place.
I am a simple man. From my point of view, this is a simple issue. It is a question of what is honourable and what is dishonourable. If we let the Falkland Islanders down now, it will be highly dishonourable and we shall have no credibility in the world.
I was very interested in what the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, had to say in his, as always, excellent 351 speech. He said, quite rightly, that sovereignty is negotiable. I hope he did not also mean that self-determination is negotiable. I understood him to say that, though it may be that I am thinking of the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown. I cannot say that I agreed with a great deal of what Lord George-Brown said.
Self-determination is more important than sovereighty. Until the Falkland islanders decide to come under Argentina we must support them. The Argentinians must withdraw from the Falkland Islands. The idea put forward by one or two noble Lords that we must turn back the task force is a monstrous suggestion. The Argentinians must withdraw all their troops from the Falkland Islands. When that happens, we can negotiate.
I should like there to be a referendum in the Falkland Islands after all Argentinian pressure has been removed. There could be United Nations observers at a referendum in which the Falkland islanders would decide for themselves whether they want to remain British subjects or to go in with the Argentine. A referendum could be held every 20 years for every new generation, or it could be held perhaps every 10 years. However, there can be no negotiation over self-determination.
I, too, appreciate the efforts which have been made by Secretary of State Haig. He is rather like a yo-yo, going backwards and forwards. I am surprised that he is not becoming, rather like a boxer who becomes punch drunk, jet lag drunk. We must remember, however, that Mr. Haig, as is his duty, puts America's interests first. One of America's interests is not to be unfriendly to the Argentinian régime, because America regards the Argentinian régime as a bulwark against communism. I do not necessarily agree. If a country has too harsh a régime, it can act as a boomerang. I am not so sure that the Americans are on a good wicket there.
The Argentinians' claims to sovereignty are, as we have heard this evening, a complete negation of international law and are also morally wrong. The Argentinians themselves have had very little to do with the Falkland Islands. I believe it was a Dutch ship's captain who first sighted the islands in the 16th century. In the 17th century, one of our ships also sighted the Falkland Islands. We had a small garrison on the Falkland Islands in the early 18th century but then Spain came along and we moved out. If anyone has the slightest claim to the Falkland Islands apart from us, it is probably Spain. Argentina was in the Falkland Islands and had a governor there early in the 19th century for a short period, but she never settled the islands. We are in the Falkland Islands 100 per cent. by right.
However, we have let them down. We ought to have provided far more financial help for them. We should have always kept one or two ships on station there. We have let them down and I hope that, when all this blows over and the Falkland Islands have decided to remain British (which I am sure they will, because the islanders are by blood 100 per cent. British), we will keep ships there, because, as we all know, there is vast wealth in the South Atlantic. It always amazes me that so many people actually think that the 56 million of us in this country can live by hanging out 352 each others washing. We cannot do so. It is quite impossible for us to do so and we call only live by large overseas investment. I believe that in the future, the South Atlantic will be one place where it will be extremely necessary to invest.
I should just like to end by saying that, if we climb down now, we shall lose credibility throughout the world. The sad fact is that ever since the war we have been quitting the whole time. We have never stood up for our rights. This Government were elected by the people to stop this trend and to stop us being trampled on. We have been quitting all the time, but here we have a 100 per cent. good wicket on which to stand our ground and I hope that we shall do so.
§ 7.34 p.m.
§ The Earl of Onslow
My Lords, I think it is right on occasions such as this to give maximum support to the Government for doing the right thing. The Government have acted with courage and very rapidly. My noble friend Lord Massereene and Ferrard has a very strong point when he said that right-wing and military dictatorships who practised torture and the disappearance of their subjects encourage a very strong and active left-wing reaction. That is three-quarters of the problem of what has been happening in El Salvador and other parts of Latin American. Latin America is an extremely unstable place. Surely it would be impossible for this debate to be happening in Argentina. I cannot imagine the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, or his Argentinian equivalent, getting up in the Argentinian Parliament and advocating that what they call the Malvinas should be ceded back to the British without him being howled down. We may disagree with him but ours is a civilised race which allows him to express those views. I suspect the same would go for the noble Lord, Lord Wigg. If an Argentinian admiral stood up and said that the force which had been sent was ill-equipped and not in proper working order, instead of going peacefully to his taxi he would have gone straight to prison.
If Her Majesty's Government are not successful, it will allow the borders of Latin America to be changed by force. Somebody commented the other day that there are more border disputes between Cape Horn and the Rio Grande than there are anywhere else in the world. In the case of Chile and the Beagle Channel, the Argentinians have been found against but have paid no attention. There is the argument between Venezuela and Guyana and if my history serves me right, we nearly went to war with the United States in 1898 over exactly this border dispute. There is also the argument between Peru, Ecuador and Chile about their borders, and there is the still festering sore between Guatemala and Belize. Everybody in that neck of the woods seems to think that they can discourage any comment on their internal situations by going back to what some Spanish viceroy said between about 1550 and 1826, when, as we all know, Canning called the new world into existence to redress the balance of the old.
Furthermore, the Antarctic Treaty, which I have actually gone to the trouble of looking up, is really rather a good document. It was signed by everybody; first by Argentina and lastly by the United States of America. The first part of Article 1 states:The Antarctic shall be used for peaceful purposes only".It is a treaty of nobility and sense. When the treaty 353 comes up for renewal and discussion in 1991, it is essential that nothing should upset the renewal of that treaty. If Argentina is allowed to get away with this particular form of flagrant aggression—and it has been said by several noble Lords already that there is no question of going to the World Court because Argentina knows that she will lose—then the Antarctic Treaty will also be in peril, and that would be a grave loss to the world.
One or two extremely heartening things have happened in this country and in Europe as a result of these rather unfortunate happenings. The trade unions at Rolls-Royce immediately lifted an overtime ban on working on Harrier engines over the Easter weekend. Somebody ought to say to the engineering union concerned, "Thank you very much indeed for putting your country before your own immediate interests." I believe we should also say very clearly and loudly that what the dock workers did at Portsmouth to get that fleet to sea was nothing short of miraculous. Rumour has it that the engines for HMS "Hermes" were in little bits and pieces all over the floor on the Wednesday afternoon, but she sailed out of Portsmouth Harbour in full battle order on Monday morning. That is a stupendous effort by a lot of people pulling together and showing what we in this country really can do when we try. It is very heartening.
We should also say thank you to our European partners. We are in the process of having a fairly sticky old argument over money between a Conservative Government in England and a Socialist Government in France. What happened? Straight away, the French came to our aid. So did Germany, and Germany has more to lose in her trade with Argentina than we have. All of these things are heartening and they raise the morale of everybody. We ought to be grateful and the message ought to go forth that we thank those people who have come to our help.
The American reaction, I would suggest, has been of a slightly lower standard. Mrs. Kirkpatrick going to dinner with the Argentinian ambassador in the evening of the day on which the Argentinian forces occupied the Falkland Islands was, I would suggest, a shabby piece of behaviour. I would also suggest that if the United States had been as firm with us as the French, Germans, Italians and the EEC would have been, the Argentinians would have been in no possible doubt whatever where the world interest lay. The Americans, in spite of Haig's later efforts, gave the Argentinians the impression that they were neutral, and neutral between right on one side and wrong on the other side. That, I regret to say, is not what a great democracy of the United States should be. Perhaps they have gone a little way towards redressing that balance. I saw a report in the New Standard today that they have been providing satellite intelligence to us and to the Royal Navy—"Thank you" if it is true; it was not denied by Washington.
It is quite essential that, if this dispute is to be solved by diplomacy, the force must be there to back it up. It must be a very strong and very powerful force and there must be absolutely no doubt at all in the gaucho general's mind that it will be used. If that doubt is not there, then there is less likelihood of that force being used. The more certainty there is that if the naval blockade does not work, there will be an air 354 blockade and then possibly even a blockade of the grain ports, then we will not have to go and attack the Falkland Islands. We do not want to get hurt ourselves if we can avoid it. We just want to make sure that they get hurt if we have to do it. With luck diplomacy can work. Diplomacy in this case can only possibly be used if the force is overwhelming and the will to use it is absolutely certain.
To paraphrase Pitt, the Falkland Islands will be safe by our exertions, and possibly the world by our example. Finally, I should like to remind your Lordships' House—and I think that this is apposite—that just before the Battle of Quatre Bras, Wellington said, "By God! Boney's humbugged me". He then went on to win the Battle of Waterloo. Perhaps the Foreign Office was humbugged, but I sincerely hope that it will go on to win the diplomatic battle without the use of the force which we must, however, be prepared to use.
§ 7.42 p.m.
§ Lord Thomas of Swynnerton
My Lords, while supporting, like most other noble Lords, the agile and highly successful diplomatic policy followed by Her Majesty's Government and also the swift and successful military policy in support of that diplomatic policy, I would like to follow my noble friend Lord Montgomery of Alamein down the corridor of speculation about Argentinian reactions and psychologies, although I think that your Lordships will find that I shall not reach the same point in the corridor as my noble friend reached.
What is the nature of the country which is putting us to this particular trial? Argentina is a very interesting country which has not really been discussed in the course of this debate except, perhaps, in relation to its present rulers, particularly by my noble friend Lord Mottistone. Argentina is a country which has had one of the most successful economic histories in the world and one of the most successful records of stable government, although both of those things came to an end 60 years ago. Since that time, the history of Argentina has been a very interesting reminder that, in the world development tables, countries can go down as well as up. The one thing which has been produced in Argentina in the last 50 years very successfully, has been an increasingly strident and hysterical nationalism, the consequences of which we are now facing.
Along with a great deal of the press my noble friend Lord Montgomery—I hesitate to put the two together so lightly, but I think that my noble friend will forgive me—has suggested that all Argentinians are solidly behind the policy which the Argentinian Government have put forward, although there was a certain ambiguity about the way in which my noble friend put it which raised a question mark in my mind anyway as to whether he was right. He suggested that all Argentinians are behind the policy and then he hesitated, to wonder whether he would have been better to have said, "the way in which the policy had been carried out". I think that there is a fundamental distinction between the two, as I am sure your Lordships will agree.
As a matter of fact, I am sceptical as to whether it can really be said that all Argentinians are, indeed, behind the policy. My noble friend Lord Onslow 355 raised a very interesting question, wondering whether in fact there could be any speculation in Argentina about the nature of the policy without the person concerned suffering very severely. In fact, one person has raised doubts publicly about the policy. His name is well known to your Lordships and it is without any question the name of the most distinguished Argentinian living at the present time—Borges, the writer. I have no doubt whatever that his name will be remembered a great deal longer than any other Argentinian living at the moment. He has publicly stated that the policy pursued by his Government is mad. But if he has said that, it may well be that there are a great many others who privately think the same thing although, as my noble friend pointed out, the chances of those remarks being said with the same freedom with which they are naturally said in this House and in the other place, are of course remote.
Also, there is the question as to whether Argentinians have always felt like this. My impression is that before 1929, during the period of economic stability and economic growth and political stability, feelings about the Falkland Islands were a good deal less strong than they are now. Indeed, I cannot help thinking that it is significant that the President of Argentina who lasted the longest—General Rosas in the 19th century—privately tried to arrange an undertaking with this country whereby the Argentinians would abandon their claim to the Falkland Islands in return for our abandoning the debt which they had incurred with us. The decision to turn down that imaginative proposal was taken by none other than the then Foreign Secretary, Lord Palmerston, whose record has been challenged in one way or another during the course of this debate by many noble Lords, as a matter of fact I think quite wrongly. Speaking as a good Conservative, I recall very well that Lord Palmerston was very tough with weak countries, but nothing like so tough with those that were strong, like Germany. However, that is by the way.
I simply want to suggest that the Argentinians cannot be expected to be quite so solid as my noble friend suggested or as the press has suggested is the case. Even if it were true that they are solidly behind the Government in feeling very strongly about this matter, there remains the question: what does it matter if they feel very strongly?—because very often people have felt very strongly and have led their countries to disaster. We recall very well that many Germans felt very strongly about the Treaty of Versailles. Other Germans felt very strongly about the Jews. Hitler forced them to live down to those very strong feelings, with the greatest disaster which has befallen the German nation.
There is another matter that I should like to draw to your Lordships' attention and it refers to the many allusions made by noble Lords to the consequences on the rest of Latin America. The noble Lord, Lord Walston, for example, said that if we went to war with Argentina the whole of Latin America would support Argentina. The noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, said that our actions threatened our other friendships in the whole of that continent. There is a different point of view. Inaction could also damage our friendships with those countries. For example, what 356 about the Chileans? What if the very strong feelings, to which I have referred and which have led the Argentinians to the present folly, should be followed after their success, if we were to give way, by very strong feelings about one or two issues in which the Chileans are concerned?
Then there is the question of other democracies in Latin America. At the moment it certainly seems as though some of them have given support to the Argentinians, not perhaps in the way in which the policy has been executed, but on the principle of the claim. Even if, in excitement, some of them have, indeed, surrendered to rhetoric and to the support of the Argentinians over this, I think that it can easily be represented and should be represented by our diplomatic representatives, and probably is being represented by our diplomatic representatives, that those democracies can be brought to recognise the paramountcy of the principles so admirably put by the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury in an earlier part of this debate.
If we were to surrender the principles which the most reverend Primate put so well, I wonder too whether we would really be helping the Argentinians. Should we not be giving an impression to them and to the world as a whole that this kind of romantic nationalism can in fact succeed, however ill-executed?—because noble Lords may have read in the press that at the moment when this plan was carried out the Argentinian ambassador was not in this country at all, but was in Rome. I make no suggestion that that is a particularly appropriate place for him to have been at that moment, but there can be no question that the Argentinian Government took no care to find out exactly what our reactions might be. This ill-executed policy would then be rewarded.
If we did support this folly, or accepted this folly in any way, should we not be ensuring a continuation in power of a Government which, without doubt, as my noble friend Lord Mottistone pointed out to us, have in fact—and this is not to state it too strongly—tortured their way to survival over the last 10 years? That said, I think that we should have no doubt that in its present form Argentina is not a country which will have any compunction about the use of force. It is a country which certainly understands that force can be successful, as my noble friend Lord Beloff pointed out, and which therefore behaves in diplomacy in a very different way from ours.
In conclusion, I shall simply say that crises of this nature very often concentrate the mind and, as my noble friend Lord Chalfont suggested, enable us to state first principles without fear of being thought platitudinous. Without any question, the principles put forward by the most reverent Primate—the need to maintain the rule of law and the need to try to secure self-determination—are the governing ones which, however important the question of the islanders or the islands may seem, determine our activities in this severe crisis. It seems to me that that consciousness of the principles involved explains what some see as the essential paradox of Her Majesty's Government's policy, which is that once we have again secured control of the islands, then anything more or less can be negotiated, but until we have secured that control, nothing should be.
§ 7.56 p.m.
§ Lord Shinwell
My Lords, by any standards associated with your Lordships' House this has been a remarkable debate; remarkable in the sense that in oratory and in eloquence it compares favourably with many other debates. Not that one takes exception to those debates of an inferior character. We must be prepared to listen to all kinds and types of oratory and even eloquence. But it is remarkable in another sense. Many of those who have taken part in the discussion seemed to avoid making reference to the primary issue, perhaps because it presents problems which are difficult to solve, complications, contradictions, having to turn the clock back, revelations about our history, criticisms of Governments and of personalities associated with Governments. All that has emerged, but rarely has attention been focused on the primary issue, to which I venture to refer.
Before I do so, I must make a personal observation. I was unaware that a list of speakers had been prepared, perhaps because I did not receive a Whip or even notice. So, when I arrived at your Lordships' House this morning, I saw the list and, as I wished to offer a few observations, I appended my name—No. 31. I regret having to intervene at such a late hour, more particularly because my bedtime is approaching. At my time of life it is sometimes necessary to have a little relaxation. However, in the circumstances I make no complaint.
But there is one complaint that I am entitled to make, although it has nothing to do with defence, foreign affairs or even with the Falkland Islands, except in a remote fashion. When my post arrived this morning at a quarter to one I received a note from the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor that the House was meeting this afternoon. I had, of course, observed the newspapers and knew that we were expected to attend, but I had received no notice until a quarter to one when my post arrived. I think that we shall have to go to war with the Post Office if this is the kind of service upon which we have to depend. So much for that.
What is the primary issue? Of course, there have been what are called by those who spoke, constructive proposals, constructive suggestions. If I may say so in passing—it is no more than that; just in passing—I have listened to these constructive suggestions ever since I entered public life, 79 years ago, before the First World War. These constructive suggestions are the temporary aberrations of some people who regard themselves as having a superior understanding of the topics in which we are occasionally engaged in discussions—no more than that; they are ideas, notions, constructive suggestions.
Let us return to the point. What is the primary issue? It is simply that the Argentinian Government committed an act of aggression based on what we understand by international law. They violated that law. That is the important issue. The rest, for what it matters, is discussion, indulgence in eloquence, whatever you like, and also the constructive suggestions. Let us focus attention on that. Let us not escape from that. That is the principal issue. They committed an act of aggression.
What happened as a result? The United Nations, to its credit—by a majority, I understand, but at any 358 rate almost unanimously—came to the conclusion that this was an act of aggression and that Argentina should be condemned. And so they were. I observed that some of those who took part in the debate who were inclined to object to the Government's policy were unaware that the United Nations had come to that decision, although so often they argue in favour of the United Nations when it suits their book. This was an occasion when they ought to have appreciated what the United Nations had done. They were upholding international law as we understand it and as they understood it.
What are the Government expected to do? In the opinion of some of my colleagues in your Lordships' House and those in another place, and many in the country, the last thing that the Government should undertake to do would be to threaten the use of force, forgetting that the act on the part of the Argentinian Government was itself an act of force. Indeed, it was a declaration of war according to their philosophy. That is what it was. They occupied territory over which they had no sovereignty, no right of administration, no rights of any kind. It was an act of aggression. What does one expect the Government to do in those circumstances?
It has been suggested by many of my colleagues, and I can understand their sincerity in the matter, that, far from indulging in force, or even threatening force, we should seek to come to some conclusion based on negotiations. How is it possible to negotiate—as indeed the Prime Minister said in so many words, and how right she was—as long as the Argentine Government has a vast number of its forces in the Falkland Islands? If negotiation is likely, if it is desirable, then surely the first thing that should happen is for the Argentine Government to withdraw its forces from the islands. Then we can proceed to negotiate.
Here I want to make it clear that of course I, along with others in your Lordships' House and many outside, although we support the Government in the sending of a task force to a destination 8,000 miles away, think that we should seek every possible road in the direction of negotiations. But you cannot negotiate as long as an act of aggression has been committed and there is no intention on the part of the aggressor to withdraw. That is the first thing.
A great deal has been said about the lack of support on the part of successive British Governments for the people in the Falkland Islands. It may be true enough. But we have to understand the reason why. Given that the islands are 8,000 miles away, as we know, that they are in an area which it is dangerous and difficult to approach and difficult to live in, and that the number of persons involved is not so large as some people seem to think it is and talk about in that sense, surely the Government, no matter which Government, can be excused for not attending to the wants and welfare of the people in the islands as they themselves thought they deserved. Quite frankly, I see no reason why we should use that as an argument in support of the action of the aggressor in taking possession of the Falkland Islands.
Something has been said also about the future. How are we going to deal with the problem in the future? suggest that we should not worry so much about the future, whatever it may hold for us or for those involved in the Argentine, in the Antarctic, or in any 359 other part of the territory involved. We should not worry too much about that, as we should concern ourselves with the immediate issue: what should the Government be expected to do?
Something has been said about the intervention of the United States' emissary. I should like to refer to something I ventured to say in your Lordships' House last week on that issue. I said, and I repeat, that we do not expect, nor is it desirable, that the United States should act as a mediator. Co-operation, yes, I said, but not mediation. Now they have mediated. They have intervened. They have produced various ideas. With what success? None whatever.
I am not going to complain about the failure of Mr. Haig to have his ideas and notions about negotiation accepted by the Argentinian Government. I am not going to complain about that. But I ask myself the question—and I have not got the answer to it—would it not have been more desirable on the part of Mr. Haig on behalf of the United States Government to have immediately condemned the Argentine Government for its act of aggression, instead of seeking at once to mediate and find a way out of the problem? I should have thought that that was active and useful co-operation and far better than anything in the way of mediation.
I also ask myself this question: why is the American Government so anxious to mediate? They have interests in that area. Of course they have. So have we. But the American Government has also got interests in NATO, in the West of Europe, and, as we have to concern ourselves with them as an ally, they have to concern themselves with the United Kingdom as an ally. It is not desirable at all that they should undertake a task which seems objectionable to people in this country—and it is objectionable to many of us—and that they should intervene. Besides, I am not aware that they were asked to intervene, or asked to mediate. Perhaps we should be told by those who are going to wind up in this debate, or told on some subsequent occasion, whether they were asked by the British Government to act as mediators or to intervene in any sense of the word. I am not sure that they were.
That brings me to the conclusion. The conclusion is this: we must, whether we like it or not, stand by the Government. It does not mean that we have to support the Government in every particular: in economic matters; in social issues; or even in foreign affairs or defence. But, when the British Government, the United Kingdom Government, which is, after all, our Government elected democratically by the people of this country, whether we like it or not—it has to be accepted if it is elected democratically—decide on a course of action, particularly when there is a possibility of war—in peacetime it is quite different, no one would raise the issue at all—it is our duty and responsibility in the highest sense of the term to stand by that Government in every particular.
§ Lord Shinwell
That does not suit some of our people, including some with whom I have been associated in the Labour Party, but that does not worry me a bit. Many of them are pacifists; many of them 360 do not believe in defence at all, and many of them would prefer to rely on high moral attitudes which mean nothing except that they are expressions of opinion, but nothing more than that. I should have liked the Labour Party not to have indulged in support of the Government in muted tones but to have come out in a forthright fashion and say, "At a time when there is a possibility of conflict, we are behind Her Majesty's Government". I should like to see that happen.
A final comment on the question of defence, a subject about which much has been spoken today. I listened to my colleague Lord Wigg when he made reference to the activity of the noble Lord, Lord Duncan-Sandys, way back in 1957 and I wish to correct or at any rate amend, what Lord Wigg said; I have as much knowledge of the subject as anybody else. I do not believe that the act was one of a dishonest character at all. It was a mistake. It was premature. It was based on the belief that the time had arrived to go beyond using conventional weapons or conventional strategy and undertake something much more devastating. That was the purpose of it. It failed, as we discovered not long afterwards, and subsequently we had to rely on our conventional forces, and that brings me to the point I wish to make about defence.
What have we discovered as a result of the decision of the Government to send a task force? A week or two ago some Questions were being asked in the House of the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, the Deputy Minister of Defence, in the course of which I wanted to put a question which I was unable to put at the time but which I put now. Even if we support Trident—and there is some dubiety about that—is it not a fact that we must rely on conventional weapons and conventional strategy, whether or not we like it? In particular, do we not have to rely (this was the point I wanted to put then, but I put it now) on the strength of our maritime capability? That is what we have now discovered. We have found that when it comes to the crunch and we are faced with an act of aggression, when we are unable to use our land forces and are unable to use nuclear weapons, we have to use our maritime forces, those available to us.
If it is suggested, and rightly so, that those forces are not as adequate as we should like them to be, that is not the fault of those to have advocated a strong Navy capable of safeguarding our trade routes and able to come to our rescue if we are faced with a problem of the character of the one which now exists. Therefore, I urge the Government—proceeding, of course, as ably as they can with all the power at their command to negotiate, if the opportunity to negotiate is there—to negotiate only on the basis that the Argentinians are prepared to withdraw from the islands. Let there be no mistake about that; that must be the first consideration.
If there are to be changes in the Falkland Islands—if there are to be investigations into the economic, social and other properties available in the area in the course of years, all the better for us and all the better for those in those territories—so be it, but the essential thing is that we should go on demanding, before there is any question of negotiations and coming to some conclusion about the fate of the people in the islands and any other issue involved, that the Argentinians 361 withdraw their forces. If they do not, then it is up to Her Majesty's Government to use all the force at their command to uphold their rights in the area. If anyone objects to that, it can be objected to only on the grounds of bigotry and unfair opposition to a Government who, in existing circumstances, are doing their best.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Lord Monson
My Lords, first I must apologise to the House for the fact that my name is not on the list of speakers. In fact, I telephoned the Government Whips Office as early as 10 o'clock yesterday morning to put my name down and my name was one of the first to go down, but, because of the confusion that I suppose is inseparable from such a difficult occasion as this, my name was mistakenly omitted. I wanted to stress that to show that any prolonging of the debate was not due to a last-minute decision on my part.
When my noble friend Lord Chalfont said that this was no time for uncertain sounds from this House, my spirits rose. When, a few minutes later, he suggested that we should relinquish, or at any rate compromise upon, our sovereignty, my heart sank. When he wound up by stressing the necessity for an honourable settlement, my spirits rose once again. I believe that much of the slight mental confusion that runs through recent public comment arises from the understandable yearning for a peaceful settlement and the commendable desire to avoid casualties. The pressure of those worthy sentiments is such that it is all too easy to lose sight of one central fact. We are in the right, and they are in the wrong; and in that context I was greatly heartened by the robust speeches of the noble Lords, Lord Mishcon, from the Labour Benches, and Lord Kennet, from the SDP Benches, and indeed the speech to which we have just listened from the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell.
We—our people, that is; the Falklanders, who are just as British as we are, decent, hardworking people who have never harmed anybody in their lives—are the victims of aggression. They—the Argentinians—are the aggressors. The noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, told the Government, "Do not start a war"; but the Argentinians have already started a war, as the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, pointed out. By any objective criterion, there is not an atom of substance in the Argentinian claim, whether by the criterion of self-determination or by historical criteria. Let us remember that in the approximately 400 years since the Falkland Islands were discovered, Argentina occupied the islands, with under 50 men, for a mere 13 years, or less than 3½ per cent. of the total time during which the islands have been known. The Norman French were the first settlers. Even by the criterion of geographical propinquity—if one accepts that as a valid criterion, which I certainly do not—the Argentinian claim falls down. If all countries were to launch claims on territories as far away as 300 miles from their own country (or 1,200 miles in the case of South Georgia) against the wishes of the inhabitants, the world would be a much more dangerous place than it is.
With that knowledge in mind, the Prime Minister seems to be resolved to stand firm, as one had always 362 hoped and suspected she would, and to resist the doctrine that might equals right and that aggression must be rewarded. But in case the few trembling hands plucking at her sleeves in any way weaken that resolve, let us assist the Prime Minister by disposing of the red herrings being strewn in the path of resolution.
The first red herring is the "pile of rocks" argument. I think that was first advanced by Dr. Johnson, who is always trotted out when somebody wishes to attack patriotism; those who employ it conveniently forget that the word" patriotism" had quite a different meaning in the eighteenth century from what it has today. In any case, the islands are not, of course, a pile of rocks. As we in this House must now all know from the descriptions given to us by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, they are productive, and provide a modest but contented living for their inhabitants. Admittedly, the islands are no larger in area than Belgium, but Belgium's size did not prevent us taking up arms on her behalf in 1914.
The second red herring, advanced by the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, but con-contested by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Swynnerton, is that the Argentinian people are enthusistically in favour of the invasion. Well, my Lords, if that be so, so what? Most of the German people, so long as Hitler was winning, were enthusiastically in favour of his territorial conquests. They, too, had been indoctrinated in their schools with the belief that Germany had a right to the historic lands of the east first colonised by the Teutonic knights and to the former Hapsburg territories. The fact that millions of people believe that wrong equals right does not make it so.
The third red herring is the plight of the Anglo-Argentinians, the many tens of thousands of formerly British people who live in Argentina. These people chose of their own free will to go and live under a foreign flag. What is more they chose to go and live in a country which in recent years has more often than not been under the rule of a dictatorship or a semi-dictatorship. Of course we feel for them and of course we sympathise with them, but their interests cannot rank very high in our order of priorities, for the reasons that I have given.
The fourth red herring goes something like this: "Our actions will affront Latin American opinion". The former British ambassador to Uruguay, Sir Geoffrey Jackson, who knows South America extremely well and not just as a result of his kidnapping and imprisonment, thinks otherwise. He has made the point that most South Americans respect the rule of law, especially international law, so gravely flouted by the Argentinians.
Despite what the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, says, I think that most people do detect echoes of the 'thirties and early 1940s in what has happened. The noble Lord, Lord Morris, made this point well. The Argentinian invasion of the Falklands with relatively few casualties resembles the German invasion of Czechoslovakia. The only difference being that the Argentinian invasion is even less justifiable than the German invasion, if that is possible. There were a handful of people in Czechoslovakia with national socialist sympathies, but so far as I know there is 363 nobody in the Falkland Islands who sympathises with the Argentinian junta.
We also have a latter-day Nazi-Soviet pact: Russia supports Argentina, as does their mouthpiece in this country the Morning Star. Then again, does not the newsreel footage that we have seen of stunned and apprehensive islanders transfixed by the massed might of an occupying army mirror the experiences of the Channel Islanders under the German occupation between 1940 and 1945, as depicted so well in a recent television series?
It has been said in this debate that the "interest of the islanders cannot be paramount", and indeed I would agree—but not for the reasons given by many other noble Lords. Because, even if the islanders were by some misfortune bribed and cajoled to accept Argentinian sovereignty as a result of this act of aggression, it would have the most terrible consequences for other parts of the world. Aggression would be seen to pay dividends. Gibraltar, Ulster, Hong Kong (and indeed Macao and Taiwan) and possibly, if this does not sound too fanciful, in 20 years' time even the Channel Islands, if an extreme left-wing or an extreme right-wing government were to come to power in France (stranger things have happened) would all be at risk; as would, rather sooner, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Réunion, St. Pierre and Miquelon, and all the French Pacific possessions: no wonder M. Mitterrand has come out so strongly on our side! The same applies to Belize and to Guyana (which is now the subject of Venezuelan claims). In the future Trinidad and Jamaica could be at risk: after all they were once part of the Spanish Empire. Fidel Castro could claim with as much justification as Argentina to have inherited the mantle of the former Spanish Empire.
Only two honourable solutions are possible. I should have liked to say that there were three, but the interesting suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord DuncanSandys, attractive though it superficially is, would be fraught with danger for the Falklanders when one considers the instability and the border disputes endemic in so much of central and South America: the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, listed a great number of them.
No, the first honourable and realistic solution therefore is to return to the status quo ante. Interestingly enough, it is this solution that is favoured by another British ex-diplomat, Mr. Peter Jay, our former man in Washington, who, let it be noted, is no supporter of this Government specifically, or of traditional Conservative/patriotic principles in general.
The only other honourable solution would be one which makes some extremely modest concessions to Argentinian chauvinism and irredentism. By this I do not mean a condominium or lease-back arrangement, both of which, I believe, are, in the long term, fraught with difficulty and peril, but something more like allowing the Argentinians to erect their flag on some remote part of one of the islands, in return for an arrangement to exploit the mineral and marine wealth of that particular part of the South Atlantic, Britain jointly with Argentina, and for the benefit of the Falkland Islanders, Britain and Argentina in that order. The revenues from such an arrangement should enable 364 us to station a permanent garrison on the islands.
Once again, my Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont has said, whatever long-term solution there is must be an honourable one which avoids any suspicion of capitulation. The British people will never forgive a Government or party who contemplate any other type of solution.
§ 8.27 p.m.
§ Lord Mayhew
My Lords, I believe that I have detected in the debate some feeling that since we last discussed the Falklands, on the whole, on balance, events have developed favourably, rather than unfavourably, for our cause. If so, I think that this is fair. Since we last discussed the subject the blockade has been operated quickly and efficiently, and is respected by the Argentinians. Our support worldwide has been remarkably satisfactory. Not only has there been that of the Commonwealth and the European Community; I think that we can be moderately satisfied with the reactions of the Organisation of American States. Our success at the Security Council and with American public opinion has been very reassuring, and such criticisms have been made recently of the Foreign Office that I should like to pay tribute to the work in the United States of Sir Anthony Parsons and Sir Nicholas Henderson. I think that they have both done the country extremely well.
I see on the tape that the European Community has now agreed to continue the blockade, in the first instance for one month. That, too, is satisfactory, and extremely reassuring. Last night I attended a political meeting in Woolwich, and as I entered a leaflet was pressed into my hand. It was a Labour Party leaflet, and it read: "Quit the Common Market now". Well, there is a contribution to solving the Falkland Islands dispute—" Quit the Common Market now"!
§ Lord Mayhew
It is extraordinary that the key foreign policy issue for the Labour Party, Her Majesty's Opposition, is to quit the Common Market now. Of course I exempt the occupants of the Opposition Front Bench. In fact I am bound to say that in the short time that I have been a Member of this House I cannot recall any one of them, on any issue, actually defending the policy of the party to which they belong, and for that they are widely respected in this House, I have no doubt. But the attitude of the European Community has been magnificent. For the Opposition to accept the support of our friends and allies, at considerable cost to themselves, at our time of danger, and then simply to kick them in the teeth, is to me incomprehensible.
As I say, since events have developed rather more favourably these last few weeks, one might have expected in this debate some hardening of attitudes, some raising of the demands that we expect to be met by the Argentine Government. But that has not been detectable at all. On the contrary, there have been a number of speeches—the speech of the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, and of the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery—which were of a studiously moderate and extremely restrained 365 kind. I must say that I thought the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, was a bit hard on the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, who put a thoroughly unpopular point of view but in an admirable manner, and a point of view that needed to be stated.
Lord George-Brown's speech contained, as one might expect, a number of colourful and striking phrases. I liked the phrase that the Government had "needlessly increased the amount of face we had to lose". That is certainly a danger to be guarded against. I suppose all of us are keenly looking forward to seeing, perhaps on our television screens, the Argentine troops re-embarking in Port Stanley those amphibious troop carriers, moving rapidly backwards in the opposite direction—preferably on the left of the road—and we are looking forward to seeing the Governor returning, preferably in full uniform, and starting again a long period of British administration.
I think many people will feel when this happens that that in itself is a considerable recovery of face; indeed, I would say that those events will go a very long way to redeeming the honour of this country in this affair. That is why I felt some sympathy with what some of the more moderate speakers were saying, because even if that meant some kind of satisfaction to the preposterous claim which started this whole affair off, it would be a great achievement; it would be a justification of the task force; it would be something, I believe, which the Government could accept without grave criticism or opposition.
There were other phrases of my old parliamentary colleague, my old Government colleague, the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, which struck me very much. He said, "We must have an umpire". Here I disagree. "We must have an umpire", he said. But we have an umpire already. The umpire is the Security Council. We appealed to the Security Council, and Argentina was given out, so to speak (if we are talking about umpires, that seems the most appropriate phrase). I say that we need an intermediary at this stage; not somebody to say what is right and what is wrong, but somebody to help us to reconcile our different views. I see that, today, President Reagan talked about being an honest broker. I do not care for that very much; I do not think that is a very good description—an honest broker. I think that what we need is somebody who starts from the base of the Security Council resolution which condemned Argentina as an aggressor.
But now, of course, I come to the point about the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, which I think shocked the House. He said, "We must stop the fleet now and ask someone else "—perhaps Mexico, he said—" to act as intermediary". The noble Lord said, "We must stop the fleet now". I must say I was surprised at this. He said that he had Lord Palmerston's picture up on the wall when he was Foreign Secretary. Lord Palmerston would not stop the fleet now.
§ Lord Mayhew
No, my Lords, he would never have stopped the fleet now. He understood that diplomacy needed to be backed with power, and he would never have stopped the fleet. Surely there is some midway 366 course between (using the noble Lord's words) needlessly increasing the amount of face which we might lose and, on the other hand, humiliating the country, which is what would be done if we stopped the fleet now. That really cannot be accepted. However, I will now leave the noble Lord's speech.
§ Lord George-Brown
No; forgive me. The noble Lord has had a certain amount of fun. Actually, I stand by the phrase, "needlessly increasing the amount of face you need to lose". When the noble Lord has been able to go home and work it out, he will see that there is some sense in that. But having had his fun he said that there is a half-way house between stopping the fleet, as I suggested, at some convenient point, and not stopping the fleet at any point. Would he like to tell the House what is that half-way house?
§ Lord Mayhew
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, when he goes home and studies my words in Hansard, will see that I carefully used the phrase "middle course", not" half-way house". I think we understand each other about this.
§ Lord Mayhew
May I come now to what the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, called constructive suggestions—and I am sorry to say this to the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell. I do not wish to give offence, but I thought his speech was full of constructive suggestions which he very much suggested we should not make. The noble Lord, Lord Duncan-Sandys, made one of the constructive suggestions. He said, to my great surprise, that the Falklands should become independent and should rely on the OAS for protection. I could not have heard him aright. How can 1,800 people become an independent country, and how can the OAS protect anybody when it is so divided and unreliable? I could not understand that at all.
I am very sorry that Lord Wigg questioned the effectiveness of the naval task force. Considering the difficult start it had, with no warning from the Foreign Office, I think the task force was assembled and made ready in an exemplary manner, and also that the stationing of the submarines for the blockade was done in an exemplary manner. I was very sad to hear the criticisms, I think unjustified, which the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, made.
Of course it is true that "Hermes" is a very old ship, and very old ships are not always reliable. That is true; but why is "Hermes" in the fleet today? "Hermes" is in the fleet today only because a Labour Cabinet 16 years ago cancelled the construction of the new carrier and phased out the whole carrier fleet. That is why; and we could have done with some of those carriers today.
My Lords, I have exceeded my time. Lord Gladwyn spoke for my party, and I thought admirably set out the position as we see it. In their search for a negotiated peace backed by naval power we wish the Government and the task force every success.
§ 8.38 p.m.
§ Lord Stewart of Fulham
My Lords, the Government have enjoyed much support from the House during this debate—but not unanimous support. I think it is fair to say that the section of opinion which did not support them found its fullest expression in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown. As he put it, the Government had wrong-footed the whole thing on occasion after occasion. I am afraid there is a good deal of opinion in support of the view that the Government wrong-footed it first of all in behaving in a way which enabled the Argentine forces to get into the Falklands at all. That was certainly a case of wrong-footing; but that, it is I think agreed now, is to be the subject of inquiry later on, and I hope a very full and expert inquiry. Meanwhile, we have other things to consider.
But I cannot at all accept the view that the Government have wrong-footed things in their handling of the matter (if you can mix up feet and hands like that) since. They went to the United Nations. That was obviously the right thing to do; and owing to the skill of our representatives there and the good sense and judgment of most of the other members of the Security Council, we got a clear verdict requiring the Argentine forces to get out. Of course, if we lived in a much better ordered world than we do, we should have a United Nations that not only could pass a resolution like that but could immediately give instructions to its permanent armed forces to go and see that the resolution is carried out.
That is what we should like to have: a United Nations' peacekeeping force which could enforce the decisions of the Security Council. But, as we know, we have no such thing and therefore it was inevitable that once this verdict was given the world would look to Britain, the injured party, justified by the decision of the Security Council, to go ahead; and if the Argentine forces would not come out themselves in obedience to the Security Council resolution, it was, in the first place, Britain's duty to see that they did. The effect of the resolution is to legalise the use of force by us, to make actions which otherwise are entirely contrary to the Charter legal and proper. That is the effect of the resolution. The Argentines have been ordered out; we shall be justified in seeing that they go. And we shall be justified on another ground, that we are simply defending our own territory.
There is no serious doubt that this territory is ours. The noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, said that one ought to have an umpire. This is what the whole thing is about. But there is an umpire in this question and that is the World Court of International Justice. It is not our action that has prevented the case from going there. For those reasons, for the defence of our own territory, for the execution of a Security Council's decision, the fleet is sailing; and it is sailing with the support of the great majority of the Members of both Houses of Parliament. I stress that in view of some of the remarks that have been made about the attitude of the Labour Party on this question. We have dissidents on the matter; and, listening to the debate, I must say that there are dissidents on that side of the House as well, so that we ought not to press that too much.
It is all the more important that the fleet should sail 368 because of the nature of the country against which it is directed. This is not a country of which we could say that this has been an unfortunate misunderstanding between countries which would like to be friends with one another. This is a brutal, fascist dictatorship which knows quite well that what it is doing is contrary to humanity and contrary to the rule of law.
It is the rule of law that I think—and here I agree with my noble friend Lord Shinwell—is the central issue here. If Argentina can get away with this, anybody who has the power can get away with anything. There is the good old rule, the ancient plan, that those should take who have the power, and those should keep who can. This question and principle has come before the world on many occasions, and over and over again it is made clear that if you let the rule of law be defied the danger rapidly increases; if you stand resolutely and resist, you are successful and you improve the situation for the future.
At this stage one has reached the point of saying that nearly all of us support the sending of the fleet and there is the natural temptation to give the Government military and naval advice as to what the fleet should do when it arrives. This is a temptation that without much difficulty I will resist; and I think it is something that we should all resist, because nobody except the Government can have the knowledge to have an opinion which is worth while. But I am obliged to say that if it should turn out in future that the expedition was ill-prepared or that the Government's handling of the matter was bad, the Government will then meet the very harshest criticism. That is what politics is like. Governments have to do things in which there are risks, in which they can only be condemned on the grounds of hindsight; but, none the less, if they get it wrong, they will be condemned. For whatever Government is in power that would be true.
I would add another point following something I said in the Saturday debate. I said then that in advocating the view I do, I hoped I was not underestimating the great difficulty and possibly the great cost of the task. I share the opinion of those noble Lords who have urged the advantage of getting a quick decision. But it is not absolutely within our power to say how quick the decision will be. By all means, if a quick decision can be got, let it be got. The Government may face a situation where they are up against a tough, difficult and expensive proposition.
It is there that there may be some strain on the national unity, because expense may mean taxation, and taxation will be a question of, "Are you sharing the burden of this fairly among the different sections of the population?" I urge the Government to give very careful thought to that question. If we are going to be a nation in a serious military confrontation, it is greatly important that there should be the same strict observance of social justice as there was in the last war and which made possible the maintenance of national unity during that war. I hope that that warning will not be necessary; that it will not be so long and expensive as I fear. I merely say that that might be so; and it would be foolish to go into the adventure not recognising that this is one of the results which the Government might have to face.
The other thing, apart from giving the Government military advice (which I do not propose to do) is that one is tempted to engage in what my noble friend Lord 369 Shinwell described rather unkindly as constructive ideas. I must admit that one of the most interesting features of this debate has been the number of constructive ideas that have been put forward about the future of the Falklands. I do not doubt that the time will come when they will be useful and important, some of them at any rate—some of them more useful than others. I think it is fair to say that a mere blind repetition of the phrase, "the wishes of the inhabitants are paramount", as if there were nothing else in the world that mattered, will not get us where we want to be. But I would say at once that there is one thing that one must not do with the inhabitants, and that is to put them under a fascist dictatorship against their will.
We do not know what sort of answer will prove to be the best. We shall have to seek it in the knowledge of the fact that we are finding the defence and rescue of the Falklands an extremely difficult operation. This is bound to colour our thinking about the future of the Falklands. There are many other interesting and important points raised; and I say this again: the time to weigh them up is when the Argentine occupation has come to an end. It is quite impossible to talk about seeking the opinions of the inhabitants while the Argentines are there. Moreover, if in future we make any new arrangement about the Falklands, anything that differs from their situation before the invasion, it could be represented in some quarters as having given to Argentina something that she wanted.
It must be made quite clear before anything even resembling that is done, that the Argentine invasion has been defeated. It is that situation that makes it possible to consider what my noble friend Lord Shinwell called constructive ideas. I hope that that is not regarded as too polemic. I do not think it is. It has not been my practice generally, either in this House or in the other place, to advocate polemical solutions to problems; but there are occasions when you have absolutely to he clear. This is one of them. The rule of law must be established beyond doubt. Then we can consider all the other aspects of the matter—and very complicated and difficult they are.
In conclusion, I want to raise this point: What are some of the lessons that we can learn from the events that have already occurred? One is the need for fuller understanding between ourselves and the Government of the United States. I believe that Mr. Haig embarked on this venture with goodwill to this country and with a genuine and proper concern for the interests of his own. We have felt that some of the things that he has done have not been as we should have liked them. More recently, I think that we have tended to take a more favourable view. What we learn from this is that there ought to be better understanding. It was quite clear that the American Government did not at the beginning understand at all how the British Government and people felt about the Falklands or why they felt as they did.
It is equally true that we had not properly considered America's view of her concern for the American continent as a whole. We have heard that there was such a thing as the Monroe Doctrine. We learned that at school. I doubt if we have given proper weight to how America feels today about problems of the American continent as a whole. This is the kind of thing we 370 have to straighten out in the future. The lesson has certainly been rubbed into us that it is extremely important that we should understand each other; that Anglo-American understanding, both as part of NATO and outside that context, is vital for our own welfare and the peace of the world.
Another lesson that we have to learn is what are the possibilities—much greater than we thought—of the European Economic Community? I will here say what the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, was perhaps too tactful to say: I think that anybody who advocates at the present time that we should quarrel with the United States, weaken NATO and come out of the European Economic Community—well, I do not know how I should finish that sentence! Anybody who fulfills those conditions is severely lacking in understanding of the interests of this country.
There is another grimmer lesson that we learn: I understand that a Russian spy ship is following the fleet and may be sending more or less useful information to the Argentine. That the Soviet Government should support a fascist dictatorship in contravention of a decision of the Security Council is—as I think Gibbon remarked somewhere—a matter for censure rather than surprise. I am afraid that that preaches us this lesson: those who advocate measures of disarmament for this country on the assumption that we have no ground for any anxiety about the goodwill of the Soviet Union are mistaken.
There was a very interesting piece of information given us by the noble Lord, Lord Kennet—that the Russian Government are now allowing their own citizens to know the nature of the British case about the Falklands. This is interesting and perhaps hopeful. It rubs in what I think has always been the lesson about the Russians: never despair of coming to some sort of reasonable understanding with them, but do be careful when dealing with them.
Altogether, what this adds up to is this: Britain serves her interests best when she is an active member of a group. It is well known that we are not a super power. Our population, our total wealth, do not support it. But we are, as one of the reports on the Foreign Office once said, a major power of the second rank. It was once unkindly said of us by Dean Acheson that we had lost an empire and not found a role. We are finding a role now, not in isolation but as an active member of various groupings: the United Nations, primarily; the Commonwealth; NATO and the European Economic Community. The value of our being a member of those groups has been brought out at each point in the development of this particular crisis.
That therefore suggests what Britain's position in the world is: that we can become a great and respected power if we recognise that we do it as a member of various groupings fulfilling our obligations to those groupings. Perhaps one other thing: one hopeful sign is put to us by the noble Earl, Lord Onslow. He mentioned the attitude of the Rolls-Royce workers and the workers of Portsmouth. I do not think that that is entirely unconnected with the fact not only that this is Britain and their country, but that this is Britain standing up against a fascist dictatorship. We have generally been at our best when we have been supporting a libertarian cause. That, if I may say so—since 371 everybody has his own view of Lord Palmerston—is one of the things in which Lord Palmerston was interested: the promotion of liberal constitutional regimes against the old tyrannies of the 19th century. Out of the grave difficulties—and I repeat I do not underestimate the great gravity of the military situation—there may come something in which Britain is revived, renewed and respected.
§ 8.56 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Belstead)
My Lords, the quality of this debate has fully justified the decision to recall Parliament early. In such a crisis, the Government must inform and consult Parliament. The views of your Lordships individually and the collective view of this House must contribute to the Government's conduct of affairs. When aggression has been committed, when the concern of the whole international community has been aroused, and when British subjects and British territory are under threat, then it is vital for the Government to have the fullest parliamentary support.
Following on the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Stewart, may I say that the Government are much heartened by the speeches made by noble Lords speaking for their parties today. The Government also appreciate the contributions of your Lordships who have close personal knowledge of the South West Atlantic—not least of course the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, who spoke early on in our debate—and noble Lords who have long and close experience of international affairs. Also, the House on this occasion much appreciated the speech of the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury. Although I am sure your Lordships will not expect me to reply to all your questions during negotiations, the message which the Government take away from your Lordships' speeches is that our policy must be based upon determination, realism and concern. Those are the qualities which I assure your Lordships we are determined will underlie our actions.
From the very moment of the Argentine invasion, the Government have made clear their determination to achieve an Argentine withdrawal and the return of the Islands to British Administration. Yet Her Majesty's Government, both under previous administrations and now, have always been ready to negotiate over this dispute. We have always been aware—both under previous governments and the present one—that we must be realistic in pursuit of a settlement. Traumatic events have occurred in the South Atlantic which are bound to affect the future of that region. We will consider proposals that safe-guard the wishes of islanders and are in accordance with our commitment to them.
However—here the Government differ from the noble Lord, Lord Brockway—we believe that those wishes cannot be freely expressed while the present illegal Argentine occupation continues.
§ Lord Brockway
My Lords, that is not what I said. I said we could not expect them to express their opinion under duress and I proposed that the United Nations should send observers there in order to obtain their opinion.
§ Lord Belstead
My Lords, while of course the illegal Argentine invasion continues. It is there that the Government and the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, part company. Many of your Lordships who spoke in the same sense will have been particularly heartened by the plain and robust statement of the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill, that the rectitude of our case is incontestable. Perhaps I may just say to my noble friend Lord Morris that the Government are in no doubt about the United Kingdom's title to the islands, a matter to which the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, referred on 3rd April. As early as the mid-18th century there was a British settlement on the Falkland Islands. From 1770 until 1833 there was, it is true, a period of some confusion, with Spain, Britain and the then Buenos Aires Government at various times occupying the island. But in 1833 the British again occupied the islands and from that date we have been in open, continuous, effective and peaceful possession, occupation and administration of the islands. Thus—
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
My Lords, would the noble Lord not accept that there is one thing which cannot be overthrown by force of arms, and that is the force of geography?
§ Lord Belstead
My Lords, I think it is precisely an opportunist and cynical attempt to take advantage of the force of geography which has led us into one of the most difficult crises the world has known since 1945. What I have just been saying leads us to take account of another factor which the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury recognised as being of fundamental importance and which is indeed enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations—namely the right of self-determination of peoples. In this context it is highly relevant that the inhabitants of the islands, for whom the Falklands are home, have repeatedly made clear their wish in the past that the islands should remain British.
I mentioned also as a basis of our action, concern. Throughout the crisis the Government themselves have been concerned, and have been aware of the concern of others, that bloodshed should as far as possible be avoided. While we have made it quite clear that we are prepared to assert our rights by force if necessary, it is our firm view, to which we are bending every effort, that Argentina should agree to comply with the Security Council resolution which enjoys the overwhelming backing of world opinion.
It is obvious that the Argentines hoped to take us by surprise. The suddenness of their decision to invade and the speed with which the action was carried out were clearly intended to present our country with a fait accompli. They obviously expected that we would wring our hands and that the world would shrug its shoulders. But instead we have shown ourselves united and resolute. I was most grateful to my noble friend Lord Soames for pointing to the miscalculations of Argentina. The Argentines little dreamed that we would assemble such a powerful naval force in so short a time. They have been clearly dismayed by the vigour and the degree of unanimity with which the United Nations Security Council condemned the invasion and called on Argentina to withdraw.
But that was not their only miscalculation. They 373 also failed to take account of the strength and variety of the diplomatic links which bind us to other countries in the world. They were undoubtedly distressed at the United States' condemnation within the Security Council of an invasion in which the principle of self-determination has been so clearly broken.
My noble friend Lord Soames rightly drew attention to the action of our partners in Europe. I thought it might interest your Lordships if I were to say that the European Community has decided, as your Lordships know, to impose a complete embargo on all imports from Argentina. The necessary texts were approved in Brussels today, and they will come into force as soon as they are published. No Government can readily contemplate the loss of a quarter of its export trade, and that will be the consequence of the united decision with which the European Community has marked its condemnation of the Argentine aggression. And to ram home the message, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand have taken that decision also—and of course New Zealand has broken off diplomatic relations.
My noble friend the Leader of the House described the efforts that the American Secretary of State, Mr. Haig, has been making to promote a settlement. These efforts are beyond praise. They have been firmly based on the need to respect the United Nations Security Council resolution. They accept that Argentine withdrawal must be a precondition for all subsequent negotiations. Mr. Haig is also aware that the wishes of the islanders themselves have always been the touchstone of this country's policy and must continue to be taken fully into account before any final settlement is reached. These negotiations, and the precise details of the proposals being discussed, are necessarily highly sensitive—
§ Lord Mayhew
My Lords, would the noble Lord allow me to intervene? That is the second occasion on which he has said that negotiations are now taking place. Could he clarify whether this is the official position of the Government; that negotiations are already taking place?
§ Lord Belstead
My Lords, the Secretary of State, Mr. Haig, made his services available and we then invited him to London. The fact that he is moving between the United States, London and Buenos Aires means that he is of course the carrier of proposals; but those are proposals which are in his safe hands. We have made it quite clear that of course we will not go into detailed negotiations until there is a withdrawal—that is an absolute sine qua non—of the Argentine troops from the Falklands. I regret that in the particular situation in which we find ourselves it has not been possible to tell this House further details of precisely what is envisaged; and the Government appreciate your Lordships' understanding why this is so. But this I would like to say—we shall continue to seek a diplomatic solution in accordance with the United Nations resolution and with the British Government's own stated objectives; and it goes without saying that we shall keep Parliament up to date as the days go by.
The noble Lord, Lord Caccia, adjured the Government to take note of the many suggestions made by 374 your Lordships during this debate, and I will certainly undertake to draw all of them to the attention of my right honourable friend. But may I draw your Lordships' attention, finally, to the warning of the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton. The noble Lord warned us about Argentine territorial ambitions in the South Atlantic—not just their claims to the Falkland Islands. We are fully aware of the danger of whetting the Argentine appetite. If their current act of agression is not resisted or nullified, then they might indeed be tempted to disturb the balance represented by the Antarctic Treaty; a balance which is valued by all the claimant countries concerned, and on which the peaceful future of that continent depends.
I believe that the people of this country well understand the implications of this crisis. I think that this was very well brought out by my noble friend Lord Onslow, who referred to the strenuous efforts made to get the ships away, and our thoughts are with the men of the task force as it moves south. We are continuing to seek a diplomatic solution through respect for the rules of international behaviour, through our determination to stand by our commitment to the Falkland Islands and their inhabitants and with the admirable solidarity with which our friends and partners throughout the world have stood beside us at this testing time.
On Question, Motion agreed to.