§ 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. 959 From the onset of the Falklands crisis, we have undertaken to keep the House as closely informed as possible about the situation. Although my last report to your Lordships was only on Monday, I know that the House will agree that such is the seriousness of the situation that it merits a further debate in your Lordships' House this afternoon. At the outset I should like to thank those Members—in particular, the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill of Harrow—who agreed to take off the business which we had intended to take today.
§ Since the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands, the Government have taken every possible step that has a reasonable prospect of helping us to achieve our objectives—the withdrawal of the Argentine forces and the end of their illegal occupation of the islands; the restoration of British administration; and a longterm solution which is acceptable not only to the House, but to the inhabitants of the Falkland Islands.
§ It is the Government's most earnest hope that we can achieve these objectives by a negotiated settlement. We have done everything we can to encourage Mr. Haig's attempts to find a solution by diplomatic means, and I shall have something to say about the latest developments in this area in a moment. But as the House knows, the Government have taken military measures as well to strengthen our diplomatic efforts. Mr. Haig's initiative would never have got under way if the British Government had not sent the naval task force to the South Atlantic within four days of Argentina's aggression against the Falkland Islands.
§ Our military response to the situation has been measured and controlled. On 12th April we declared a maritime exclusion zone. This has been enforced since then against Argentine warships and naval auxiliaries. It has been completely successful, and the Argentine forces on the Falkland Islands have been isolated by sea. Eleven days later we warned the Argentine authorities that any approach by their warships or military aircraft which could amount to a threat to interfere with the mission of the British forces in the South Atlantic would encounter the appropriate response.
§ Then on 25th April, as I told the House on Monday, British forces recaptured South Georgia. This operation was conducted in exercise of our right of self-defence under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter. The minimum of force was used consistent with achieving our objective, and no lives—Argentinian or British—were lost in the operation, though, as was announced yesterday, an Argentine prisoner was, most unfortunately, killed in an incident on 26th April which is now being urgently investigated by a board of inquiry.
§ The latest of our military measures is the imposition of the total exclusion zone round the Falkland Islands of which we gave 48 hours' notice yesterday. The new zone has the same geographical boundaries as the maritime exclusion zone, which took effect on 12th April. It will apply from noon London time tomorrow to all ships and aircraft, whether military or civil, operating in support of the illegal occupation of the Falkland Islands. A complete blockade will be placed on all traffic supporting the occupation forces of Argentina. Maritime and aviation authorities 960 have been informed of the imposition of the zone, in accordance with our international obligations.
§ It is our present understanding that the majority of the Falkland islanders prefer to stay where they are. This is a remarkable testimony to their attachment to their native islands. We cannot pretend that the total exclusion zone has no implications for their wellbeing. But it is something which must be done if we are to achieve the common aim of getting the Argentines out, and I have every confidence that the islanders—whose fortitude and determination we so much admire—will see why we had to act as we did. It is our hope that the International Committee of the Red Cross will be able to establish a presence in the islands, and that with their help or by other means we may be able to arrange for the evacuation of any islanders who may still wish to depart.
§ As my right honourable friend the Prime Minister said in the other place on 26th April, if some of the islanders still in the Falkland Islands wish to be evacuated temporarily and have not the means to do so, the Government will ensure that the necessary means are provided. We are doing all that we reasonably can to help those from the Falkland Islands who have arrived in the United Kingdom, and others who may arrive in the future. A welfare committee has been established by the Home Office for that purpose.
§ If the Argentines choose to challenge our authority in the total exclusion zone, the responsibility will be theirs. We shall enforce that zone as completely as we have done the maritime exclusion zone. The Argentine occupying forces will then be totally isolated. They will be cut off by sea and air. All these measures have been designed to support our diplomatic efforts.
§ Since I last reported to the House, Mr. Haig has put formal American proposals to the Argentine Government and requested an early response. He saw Mr. Costa Mendez last evening but no conclusion was reached. He judged it right to ask Argentina, as the country to whom Security Council Resolution 502 is principally addressed, to give her decision first. Mr. Haig has also communicated to us the text of his proposals. They are the result of Mr. Haig's talks in London and Buenos Aires and of hisdiscussions in Washington with my right honourable friend last week.
§ It is difficult both for the House and the Government that we have not been able to say more about them, especially as in our democratic system we need the interplay of opinions and ideas; and we should profit from the views and analysis of Members of your Lordships' House. But they are Mr. Haig's proposals and negotiations are continuing. We understand from Mr. Haig that it is his present intention to publish them in full, but he, of course, must judge the appropriate time. The proposals are complex and difficult and inevitably bear the hallmarks of compromise in both their substance and language. We are studying them very carefully indeed in the light of the principles and objectives enunciated in past debates. My right honourable friend remains in close touch with Mr. Haig. It was the Argentine invasion which started this crisis and it is Argentine withdrawal that must put an end to it.
§ As this situation has developed, and as the British Government have made every effort to find a solution, this House and those in another place have broadly 961 supported both the Government's objectives and their methods. But in the last few days, it has been argued, first, that we should not have resorted to the use of force and, second, that we should seek greater involvement by the United Nations.
§ My Lords, with regard to the first argument it would, I believe, be totally inconsistent to support the despatch of the task force and yet to be opposed to its use. The diplomatic pressure would be undermined. As long as the Argentines refuse to comply with the Security Council resolution, we must continue to intensify the pressure on them. And we must not abandon our efforts to re-establish our authority over our own territory and to free our own people from the invader.
§ Let me turn now to the United Nations. The House knows that all our action has been based on a resolution of the United Nations. The Argentinian invasion was carried out in defiance of an appeal issued by the president of the Security Council at our request on 1st April. This solemn appeal was endorsed by the whole of the Security Council. But it was brushed aside. Immediately after the invasion we asked for another meeting of the Security Council. That meeting passed Resolution 502. Since then our efforts, those of Mr. Haig and a large part of the international community have been directed to implementing that mandatory resolution.
§ If I may remind your Lordships, Resolution 502 calls for Argentine withdrawal and a negotiated solution to the dispute. Without Argentine withdrawal we have no choice but to exercise our right to self-defence. Of course, if Argentina withdraws it would be out of the question for us to continue hostilities or to refuse to hold negotiations with a view to solving the underlying dispute. We were after all negotiating a few weeks before the invasion. It is quite wrong to suggest that because the invader is not prepared to implement the resolution, the principles of the United Nations require that we should refrain from a limited use of force in self-defence. Such an argument has no validity in international law. It would also be to condone and encourage aggression.
§ The Government have been criticised for their response to the United Nations Secretary-General's statement of 26th April. We agree with the Secretary-General that Security Council Resolution 502 must be complied with. It is Argentina that has flagrantly failed to do this. It is because of that failure that we must be free to exercise our right of self-defence. The Government have told the Secretary-General that any suggestion that Britain has failed to comply with Security Council Resolution 502 is unacceptable, and he has taken note. The Secretary-General's appeal has not been communicated to us in any formal way and we do not propose to make a formal reply to it.
§ We need to consider what further recourse to the United Nations could achieve at the present stage. We need mediation. But we already have the most powerful and the most suitable mediator available: Mr. Haig, backed by all the authority and all the influence of the United States and working to implement a mandatory resolution of the Security Council. If anyone can succeed in mediation, it is Mr. Haig. Of course we support the United Nations and we believe that respect for the United Nations should form the basis of international conduct. But the United Nations 962 does not have the power to enforce compliance with its resolutions.
These facts are perfectly well understood in the international community. Let me quote the Swedish Foreign Minister, because Sweden is a country second to none in its opposition to the use of force and its respect for the United Nations. The Swedish Foreign Minister said of the South Georgia operation:
We have no objection to Britain retaking British territory. Time and again one is forced to observe that the United Nations is weak and lacks the authority required to mediate".
That, I think, says it all.
§ The recapture of South Georgia has not diminished international support. No country that was previously with us has turned against us. On Tuesday, we saw that the support of the European Community remained robust. The world has shown no inclination to condemn Britain's exercise of the right to self-defence. In the Organisation of American States itself Argentina was criticised, despite the claims of traditional Latin American solidarity, for her use of force, and the only resolution passed clearly referred to Security Council Resolution 502 and called on Argentina not to exacerbate the situation.
§ My Lords, we have been involved in constant activity at the United Nations. Our representative in New York has been in daily touch with the Secretary-General since the crisis began. He has discussed with him repeatedly and at length all possible ways in which the United Nations could play a constructive role in assisting Mr. Haig's mission and, if Mr. Haig fails, in securing implementation of Resolution 502. Sir Anthony Parsons has also discussed with Mr. de Cuellar his contingency planning about the part the United Nations might he able to play in the longer term in negotiating and implementing a diplomatic settlement.
§ In the light of these discussions our representative has advised, first that the Secretary-General is very conscious of the complexity of the problem and of the need for careful preparation of any initiative he might take. Secondly, as the Security Council is already seized of the problem, it would not be appropriate for the Secretary-General to act under Article 99 of the charter; thirdly, the Secretary-General would not wish to take any initiative which he had not established in advance would be acceptable to both the parties; and, fourthly, he would also require a clear mandate from the Security Council before taking any action. Our representative has also reported that the Secretary-General has several times stated in public that he was not prepared to take action while Mr. Haig's mission was alive and that he had pointed out that not even the Organisation of American States had asked for him to become involved.
§ In those circumstances, the Government have accepted the advice that the only valid course for the Security Council at the present juncture was to insist on implementation of Resolution 502. The United Nations Secretary-General is aware of that view. Our representative was consequently instructed to ensure that no action was taken in New York which would cut across Mr. Haig's efforts. He has reported that he has had full support of the Secretary-General, and of the President of the Security Council, in carrying out those instructions.963
§ Although we have no doubt about our sovereignty over the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, South Sandwich or British Antarctic Territory, some noble Lords have suggested that we refer the matter to the International Court of Justice. Since Argentina does not accept the compulsory jurisdiction of the court, the matter cannot be referred for a binding decision without her agreement. We have never submitted the Falkland Islands themselves to that court, but we have raised the question of the dependencies on three separate occasions, in 1947, 1949 and 1951. Each time Argentina withheld her consent.
§ In 1955, the British Government applied unilaterally to the International Court of Justice against encroachments on British sovereignty in the dependencies by Argentina. Again, the court advised that it would not pursue the matter, since it could act only if there was agreement between the parties recognising the court's jurisdiction. In 1977, Argentina, having accepted the jurisdiction of a court of arbitration on the Beagle Channel dispute with Chile, then refused to accept its results. It is therefore difficult to believe in Argentina's good faith with that very recent example in mind.
There is no reason, given the past history of this question, for Britain, which has sovereignty and is claiming nothing, to make the first move. It is Argentina that is making a claim. If she wanted to refer it to the International Court, we should consider the possibility very seriously. But it would be hard to have confidence that Argentina would respect a judgment she did not like. I have made it clear that our hopes for a peaceful settlement continue to be based on Mr. Haig's efforts. What, then, will happen if Argentina does not accept the results of those efforts? As the Commonwealth Secretary-General said on 27th April:
In making a firm and unambiguous response to Argentine aggression, Britain is rendering a service to the international community as a whole".
§ My Lords, I beg to move.
§ Moved, That this House takes note of the situation in the Falkland Islands.—(Baroness Young.)
§ 3.33 p.m.
§ Lord Shackleton
My Lords, I wish to thank the Lord Privy Seal for an extremely forthright and clear exposition of the British situation. Some of the criticism of the Government, on which I do not propose to spend much time, might not have arisen had we been given such very clear guidance, both in regard to the United Nations and the International Court. Nevertheless, I welcome the Minister's speech and I wish to give my support—and, I believe, the support of my colleagues in the Labour Party—for the course that is now being followed, both in seeking a peaceful solution and backing it up (which has always been the basis of the policy which is being pursued) with the inevitable and terrifying threat of force. And even now, at this late hour, I share the hopes of the Government—I believe it may well be possible—to avoid an all-out conflict.
I have always thought that in our debates it is, on the whole, undesirable to criticise Members of another House, whether it be the Prime Minister, the Leader of 964 the Opposition or anybody else. It also seems most unfair that one should be allowed to quote what Government Ministers say but not what Members of the Opposition say. Therefore, I do not propose to waste any time in that respect, because we are quite clear in our minds that there has been a flagrant breach of the charter and of the peace and that the intention is that we continue, as we have continued, to operate under Resolution 502. It is important to stress, as I am glad the noble Baroness did, that we are operating strictly within international law and strictly in accordance with the charter of the United Nations. Those who are concerned with the rule of law in international matters must bear that in mind before criticism is levelled at the course that is now being followed.
Although it has been said often, it is worth reiterating that Resolution 502 applies the need for the withdrawal of the Argentine forces and the pursuit of a diplomatic solution. It is also necessary to recognise that under Article 51 of the charter:Nothing in the Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures to maintain the situation in the interests of peace and security".Nothing that the forces have done has been contrary to that policy. That is not just a propaganda expression but a view which has been endorsed by distinguished international lawyers, and the noble Baroness gave us plenty of evidence to support that.
It is satisfactory, as I am sure your Lordships will appreciate, that the Commonwealth and so much of the rest of the world should have endorsed the action which Britain is taking. They see that the success of aggression in these circumstances would lend a threat to them, and therefore on this occasion, although there have been failures in the past, they see it is necessary for us to take the relevant action. I therefore particularly welcome the successful and almost bloodless recovery of South Georgia. There can be no question of it remaining in any other hands than those of the British, unless in due course the course which I have been advocating for 30 or more years comes about; unless it becomes desirable to extend the international regime in the Antarctic further north, as has been done with the new convention on the conservation of resources and wildlife. But until such time arrives, we must continue to administer the territory, which has never been in Argentine or Spanish hands.
I wish to stress again that the peaceful development of the whole region of the South-West Atlantic, with all its implications for scientific co-operation and the development of resources in the area, is at stake. Notwithstanding the failure still to arrive at a regime for the exploitation of the seabed, I still hope it will come about. Indeed, many years ago I used to say that the introduction of peaceful co-operation in the Antarctic would give us on earth a free run for what might be necessary in space. I also wish to stress what is perhaps not appreciated by some when they talk about resources. For example, when they speak of oil from this area, that could be many years ahead. There may be oil, or there may not be, in the Malvinas Basin, or there may be gas there. There may also be copper, and copper has been showing in the Antarctic, along with manganese. As I say, oil is possibly there, 965 but that is a long way ahead and I do not believe it is likely to be exploited in the near future, although the continuous reiteration of the point, particularly the oil argument, in the press, blurs expectations.
I see the development of this part of the world very much as an occasion for international co-operation. Some of our biggest investments are in the scientific field, and this is so brilliantly done by British Antarctic Surveys in South Georgia as well as in the Antarctic. That work would be put at risk if the Argentines —or the Argentinians; I am not now quite sure what we should call them—are allowed to pursue the policy that they are already seeking to pursue in the Antarctic.
I shall not waste time by speaking further on the subject of krill, about which your Lordships are probably heartily sick, even if you have never tasted it, though one Minister has eaten it and pronounced it rather good; that was Mr. Ridley. Orderly harvesting of krill and proper conservation are essential. Whereas our total concern is with the inhabitants of the Falklands, if I dare, I should like to say, though not in a frivolous way, that we ought not to exclude the possibility that irreparable damage could be done by operations. I have in mind the very small penguin colony —containing the King Penguin—about 20 miles from Port Stanley; it is the only one in the Falklands. Your Lordships might think this irrelevent, but we are looking at the totality of an area. If for a moment I may return to discussing the inhabitants, I would say that I am delighted to hear—this has been suggested by myself and no doubt others—that the International Red Cross is being asked to concern itself with the safety of the islands.
Let me now comment, briefly, on the present military situation. It is tempting to play the role of an armchair strategist. The newspapers and the rest of the media are very busy doing this, and any amount of advice is being given, but I should not myself wish to go too deeply into it. None the less, though my interest in South Georgia has not been in terms of defence, it is worth mentioning that there are deep water harbours there. The area remains ice-free throughout the year, and there are a large number of abandoned buildings and machinery—unless the scrap merchants have already removed it. There are facilities for providing some support to the fleet in the ghost towns of Stromness, Leith and Grytviken, and so on.
However, it will not be possible to accommodate many ships. Some people might think that a fleet of 75 ships can be put into those harbours. When I was in Grytviken and when HMS "Bransfield" and HMS "Endurance" were there, there was no problem, though some skill in navigation was necessary. But it will not be possible to fill up the harbours with the fleet. None the less they will provide a rest from the stormy seas for some ships' crews and soldiers, though I hope that they are aware of the very dangerous south side of South Georgia. Quite recently I was talking to the former captain of HMS "Bransfield" and he said that on each of the three times that he has been there he has been in serious trouble. It is an area where there are enormous waves on occasion.
How far can we expect the "distant storm-tossed ships" to survive in their numbers? Although in the blockades of the Napoleonic age the Royal Navy kept sea station, I suspect that they were rather more hardened 966 by then. I recall that when I was returning from Greenland a propeller fell off the ship, and bearing in mind that incident, I suspect that some of our ships that are down there are not well suited for operations in such stormy waters, at the stormiest time of year. It is not the case that the weather will continue to get worse, because by the time mid-winter arrives the equinoctial gales will be over, and there will be some improvement. None the less it is very stormy and the dilemma we face is: is it possible to keep the fleet and the ships at sea for any length of time? Therefore in my opinion it is right, and is a logical development, that the Government should now consider an air blockade as well as a sea blockade.
I do not wish to spend any more time discussing the tactical and strategic side. Of course the ideal solution would be to reduce the Falkland Islands by blockade, backed by economic sanctions. It is to be hoped—and there are signs of this—that if the Argentine Government reject the latest Haig proposals, it will be possible for the United States now to lend their full support, and in particular in the economic field.
It has always been a horrifying thought that if you are using the threat of force, you have to go to the brink, and though we are not yet at the brink, we are approaching it. There are, of course, countless places in the Falklands where an unopposed landing is possible. The area is the size of Wales, but it has thousands of miles of coastline, and many islands. I suppose it is possible that the SBS might be reconnoitring. The object of any British Government must be to avoid the horrifying prospect envisaged, perhaps unfortunately—unless it was part of the propaganda—by the commander of the fleet down there.
There have been a number of comments about the United Nations. Though I accept that we have been well served by the United Nations and that the United Nations is not able, as of this moment, to contribute to the solution of the problem, I was relieved to hear the statement of the Lord Privy Seal which went so much further than anything that the Government have said in the past. It is crucial that the United Nations—and this I assume to be the message that we have had from the Lord Privy Seal—will play a role in the negotiations when Resoluton 502 is fulfilled. I do not intend to spend much time discussing what that should be, but as has been pointed out, it might be difficult for the Argentine Government to accept what will be an humiliation. At some stage there will have to be a reasonable and more generous approach. I am not saying that the British Government have not been generous. Indeed it is arguable that they have too much given the wrong impression that they were not prepared to stand up for the Falkland Islands or our rights in the Antarctic. However, at some stage, whoever is to live in the Falkland Islands—and I assume that it will be the Falkland islanders—will have to live in friendship with their nearest neighbour, and this is where the United Nations will have a role. If I may criticise the Government on this point, I would say that I think it is a pity that they were previously a little less clear about this aspect.
I think that the initiative that was taken by Mr. Healey, and which is helpful to the Government, will now be maintained. I was very interested to hear of the actions of our Ambassador in talking to the Secre- 967 tary-General. I think that all of us on this side and throughout the House hope that these approaches, using what might have been ineffective peace-keeping institutions, will now have a success such as they have not had in recent years in other parts of the world. I would certainly hope that in the next two or three days we might hear good news, but we should not count on it.
§ 3.49 p.m.
§ Lord Gladwyn
My Lords, in the last couple of days the impression that we have, rightly or wrongly, derived has been that some kind of forceful action on our part designed to compel the Argentine Government to withdraw their troops from the islands is imminent. In many utterances both in the other place and on television the Prime Minister herself has dwelt on the fact that time is running out; that it would be impossible to keep a task force going for long in appalling and worsening climatic conditions; that we cannot go on negotiating for ever, and so on.
We have also listened to the rather forthright (as might be said) remarks of the task force commander, now apparently to some extent modified, which could certainly be interpreted as meaning that some actual occupation of the islands was both necessary and imminent; while the Argentine Minister of Foreign Affairs himself seems to hold the view that within a few hours from now (I think is what he said) our countries will actually be at war. Finally, Mr. Haig has said, as we all know, that time has almost run out already, and has made last-minute proposals to which the noble Baroness the Leader of the House has referred, and to which I shall also refer a little later in my speech.
In sum, it looks as if the die had actually been cast, and that at any minute now, and certainly after 11 o'clock tomorrow morning our time, when the latest air exclusion zone comes into effect—and we may then, I suppose, actually be in the process of bombing the air strip in Port Stanley—we may hear that fighting has started, that men are being killed and that, whatever the technical legal position may be, we are effectively at war.
The attitude of the Government is, as I understand it, that the Argentine Government committed flagrant aggression; that they were then ordered by the Security Council of the United Nations, which had already determined the existence of a threat to the peace, to withdraw their troops; that for some four weeks they have flatly refused to do so; that the United Nations has no means of its own to compel them to obey the injunction of the Security Council; and that we ourselves, the patent victims of aggression, are thus fully justified, if only under Article 51 of the Charter, in now having recourse to measures of compulsion. That is a perfectly tenable and no doubt in itself perfectly justifiable thesis—save perhaps in only one respect, which I think is slightly ambiguous.
Resolution No. 502 in fact, as we all know, also called on both parties to—I quote the words of the resolution—seek a diplomatic solution of their differences".I think it was never absolutely clear whether by this provision was meant negotiation, in advance, of the terms on which the Argentine troops should be with- 968 drawn or whether it simply meant that after the evacuation of their troops there should be a resumption of the previous talks, which have been going on for many years, regarding the whole future of the islands.
In any case, Her Majesty's Government, as we all know, appear throughout (on the face of it, at least) to have adopted the second interpretation. As late as last Tuesday—and I think the noble Baroness repeated this just now—Lady Young said that Her Majesty's Government could "not negotiate under duress", which presumably meant that they could not enter into any engagement of any sort as regards the future of the islands before the aggressor had withdrawn all his troops, the Union Jack had been run up on what remains of Government House and the British Governor and administration had all been officially reinstated.
But if this is so, then one might perhaps ask: What have the long exchanges of views between the two Governments, conducted through the medium of that indefatigable intermediary Mr. Haig, been all about? As I understand it, these talks have indeed included (I may be wrong) proposals for what might be expected to happen when and if the Argentine troops are withdrawn. For instance, General Galtieri is credibly reported at one stage to have said that he would withdraw his troops on the sole condition that we accepted Argentine "sovereignty" over the islands. "Sovereignty" is a term with varying interpretations. It would not necessarily exclude, I should imagine, some form of condominium. It might even be consonant with some kind of lease-back suggestions. What I should like to know, therefore, is whether such ideas were ever seriously explored in the talks—which apparently must not be called negotiations—conducted over the last three weeks with such persistence by the excellent Mr. Haig.
We know, for instance, that when the Foreign Secretary was recently in Washington Mr. Haig handed him certain "ideas", which, on examination in Whitehall, we were subsequently told, proved to be difficult. In fact, I think they were turned down. Now it would seem that at the very last moment Mr. Haig has put what I suppose would be rather similar proposals to the junta direct, avoiding, apparently, Mr. Costa Mendez, and has also sent a copy of them to us. Always supposing that the Argentine Government accepted these proposals, would we for our part not find it rather difficult to proceed, regardless, with any forcible action? I only ask the question, but I certainly think it is one which should he asked.
In any case—and this is the point I made the other day—ought not Parliament here to have a chance to say, before hostilities actually break out, whether it believes that any of the compromises apparently put forward during the negotiations, or non-negotiations, were worthy of adoption in principle by both parties to the dispute? I think it should have a chance to express itself on that point. In particular, is it a fact that we have throughout maintained (I only ask this question) that whatever agreement on the future of the islands is reached between ourselves and the Argentine Government, quite possibly, I suppose, in subsequent negotiations presided over by an American or even by a representative of the Security Council itself, such an agreement can be applied only with the consent of a majority of the islanders possessing a vote; that is to say, perhaps some 600 or 700 people?
969 It may well be that if Parliament was in possession of all these rather relevant facts it might still—I think it probably still would—approve of the attitude of the Government and, as it were, authorise the use of force against a disreputable regime which has shown itself to be entirely recalcitrant. But, again, it might take the view that the Government might be well advised to make some further concessions to the Argentine point of view before hostilities are actually set on foot.
We are, after all, a democracy, and I doubt whether the Government would be justified in going to war, in effect, unless it was clear that the majority of our people were behind them. At the moment, happily, they are behind the Government; but if by chance anything were to go wrong, we must surely, as a nation, be convinced, not only that our cause is absolutely just, but also that we had made every effort to arrive at what might he called an honourable settlement of the dispute—a compromise, if you like.
I know, of course, that the difficulty here is to some extent that some members of the Labour Party—I certainly would not include the Opposition Front Bench in this House—while warmly welcoming, almost very warmly welcoming, the despatch of the task force in a wave of patriotic emotion, now appear to take the view that it should on no account indulge in any warlike operation, or at the least any operation involving possible loss of life. Anyhow, the Labour Party officially has now decided that the whole issue must somehow be thrown back into the United Nations, and that the task force must just heave to in the increasingly roaring forties during such time, apparently, as it may take for the United Nations to produce what is called a peaceful solution.
Apart from the fact that the United Nations itself has no power to induce or compel the Argentine Government to withdraw its troops, it must surely be clear that such a policy would mean that the task force, given the approach of winter, would have to be withdrawn before any kind of peaceful solution could possibly emerge.
§ Lord Shackleton
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord? He is busy saying what is the attitude of the Labour Party—excluding those in this House. I suggest that he goes down the corridor and listens in the other place, when he will find that he is giving an inaccurate representation.
§ Lord Gladwyn
My Lords, I only hope so. The position up to this morning anyhow seemed to he as I related it. If the Labour Party have changed their official mind, I shall be the first to congratulate them.
In any case, even if the whole question were referred to the United Nations, how could a peaceful solution now emerge? The Secretary-General is the servant of the organisation and has no power on his own to put forward anything. He serves the Russians, the Chinese, and the third world just as much as ourselves. The Trusteeship Council could not conceivably be used to supervise the administration of a society—namely, the Falkland Islands—who are quite capable of administering themselves. The General Assembly is dominated by the third world and has repeatedly come 970 down in favour of Argentine sovereignty over the Falklands. The Security Council has already done its best and will certainly do no more. Any suggestion that it should follow up Resolution 502 with discussions on economic or other sanctions would undoubtedly be vetoed by the Russians. If the proposal were then referred to the Assembly under the resolution "Uniting for Peace what would happen? As we all know, the procedure would at once be rejected by the Assembly.
I might add that, despite what the noble Baroness has said, I, myself, would welcome a statement by Her Majesty's Government that they were willing to submit the whole dispute to the Hague Court. But it is obvious that, as she said, the Argentine Government would not agree and, in any case, it would take over a year for a judgment to be delivered.
To sum up, the position is surely this. If the Government, without further ado, although preferably with the consent and approval of Parliament, proceed to take forcible measures to eject the Argentine troops and get away with the operation without notable casualties, they will, quite rightly, become very popular in the nation—at any rate for the time being; although what the long-term future of the islanders would be is open to any conjecture—for, in such circumstances, they would have taken successfully a calculated risk and, in doing so, would have demonstrated that aggression does not pay. On the other hand, if the operation is unsuccessful or partially successful, then I believe that, from a national point of view—and this would apply also in the event of success—they must be in a position to show that they did everything possible to reach a reasonable compromise; that their failure to do so was due solely to the obstinacy of the Argentine junta; and that therefore the enterprise was justified.
In any case, if we possibly can, we ought to preserve national unity at this critical moment. Suez is no parallel. Then, our conduct was rightly condemned as a violation of the Charter of the United Nations. This time, our cause is quite patently just and recognised as such by the Security Council of the United Nations, by the Commonwealth, by the European Economic Community and by an overwhelming majority of United States public opinion. I have tried in this brief intervention to indicate that national unity might still be preserved if, at the last moment, the Government should frankly consult Parliament and try to get it to agree, as I believe it would, to concur in the policy they are now pursuing.
§ 4.5 p.m.
The Lord Bishop of Rochester
My Lords, the most reverend Primate who took part in the last debate on April 14th is not yet back from an arduous official visit to the Church in Nigeria but, in view of his direct responsibility for the Anglican Church in the Falkland Islands, I know that it would be his wish that there should be a spokesman from these Benches in a debate which is taking place at such a critical moment in this long-drawn-out crisis. I must apologise if a longstanding commitment to a parish in Kent tonight will make it necessary for me to leave before the reply to the debate.
The most reverend Primate has broadcast several messages to the islanders and has received a number of 971 letters and messages in reply. The rector of the cathedral reported that the morale of the people continues to be high even if the threat of further military action in Port Stanley itself fills many of them with horror. The ministry of the rector and the Roman Catholic priest together has been extended not only to those in hospital but also to the Royal Marines when they were under armed guard and to young Argentine soldiers in some distress. The rector concluded one letter by saying:It is necessary to comfort our invaders as well as our own community".Your Lordships will like to know that on the first Sunday after the invasion, instead of singing the National Anthem as had been always the custom until it was banned, the islanders sang "Auld Lang Syne" at the end of a service which was broadcast.
It is to be expected that, after such protracted negotiations and with such imminent danger of armed conflict, there is a mounting concern throughout the whole of Christendom of which the messages from His Holiness the Pope and from the World Council of Churches are but two expressions. Christian leaders of all traditions in Britain and Argentina have been in touch with each other and they are united at this time in prayers for a peaceful solution to the present crisis. Those who take different views on the methods available for resolving the dispute, are none the less united in praying that neither anger, fear nor national pride may cloud wise judgment or deflect those who carry heavy responsibilities from seeking peace with justice and with respect for the affirmations of international law.
In his speech in your Lordships' House after Easter, the most reverend Primate said that he did not wish to give advice to the Government but that he did think it proper to emphasise the support that the Churches feel for the two most important principles which are at stake in this dispute; the overwhelming importance of international law and the right to self-determination of peoples, whether they be large or small in number. His Grace went on to say that while our first duty must be to seek a diplomatic solution, it must not be a solution which fudges these principles. The Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Hume—whom some of us on such an occasion as this would so like to have with us on these Benches along with the Secretary of the Methodist Conference and other Free Church leaders—underlined the importance of these sound principles when he said yesterday that unilateral annexation by armed invasion breaks international law and ignores the rights and expressed wishes of the inhabitants of the islands.
While some of those whom we all respect would undoubtedly dissent, there are many in all Churches who would accept the cardinal's conditions for a just war: that there must be a grave and just reason for it; that it must be proved to be necessary only at the last resort after negotiations have failed; and that it is waged in accordance with international law. Her Majesty's Government have been at pains to reiterate that their actions and preparations are governed by the resolution of the United Nations. I share the gratitude already expressed to the Lord Privy Seal 972 for what she has told us this afternoon about the Government's continuing consultations with the United Nations.
Many of us hope, however, that whether the dispute is resolved by diplomacy—as we devoutly pray—or whether by economic means involving more of our friends than has been the case up to now, or whether it be in the last resort by military action, it will not be long before the Government make known how they plan to proceed once they have recovered their sovereign rights.
I would make bold to suggest that the Government and the United Nations will have to have a care not only for the Falkland Islands but also for the people of Argentina. Will there not be a need for a major international effort to help Argentina with its economic difficulties so as to reduce the possibility of further attempts to distract domestic attention from the internal problems of that country? It was good to hear the Leader of the House say that diplomatic discussions continue; but we all know that military preparations also continue. The danger for the whole world arises from the fact that modern warfare escalates at a terrifying rate.
It is this fact which unites pacifist and non-pacifist, Christian and non-Christian, the politically-minded and those who abhor politics, in working for a world order in which war would be outlawed. The rector of Port Stanley has written:Please pray for these Island people who have never before been threatened with violence to this extent".Having made it clear that he intends to stay to carry on his work, he added:Please pray for us that we do not fail if things become worse".I feel sure that such prayers will be echoed by many of your Lordships this afternoon. Perhaps those of your Lordships who have a high regard for the splendid language of the reign of the first Elizabeth enshrined in the Book of Common Prayer will also wish to echo at this time the prayer used daily in the Royal Navy of Queen Elizabeth II:Be pleased to receive into thy almighty and most Gracious protection the persons of us thy servants and the fleet in which we serve. Preserve us from the dangers of the sea and from the violence of the enemy that we may be a safeguard unto our most Gracious Sovereign and a security for such as pass on the seas upon their lawful occasions that the peoples of our Commonwealth may in peace and quietness serve Thee our God".To that prayer on this day I believe we would all wish to say, Amen. So be it.
§ 4.13 p.m.
§ Lord Kennet
My Lords, the House will join with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester in that prayer and it will also thank him for reminding us of the words and views of the most reverend Primate the Archibishop of Canterbury and of the Cardinal of Westminster. It will thank him no less for his own careful and extremely constructive speech.
Any discussion of the invasion of the Falkland Islands will be held from now on in the knowledge there is later to be a post mortem on how our country ever got into this mess. The Prime Minister has agreed to that. All that remains is to settle who is to conduct it, how it is to work and wait until the dust 973 has settled enough for it to be able to work. Many questions which now distract us must be left until then. Some heads which now look secure upon their shoulders will, I surmise, roll then and perhaps some that have rolled will speak marvels in the night.
Most of us probably have a touchstone formula for judging whether we can continue to support the present operation. Let me repeat the formula that I have already twice put forward from this Bench. The Government deserve the support of all parties so long as they are seeking to exert that combination of political, economic and military pressure on Argentina which will restore to the people of the Falkland Islands the right of self-determination that they enjoyed until a month ago, and which will do so at the lowest possible cost in renewed bloodshed.
Are the Government doing that? So far as we know they are, and therefore they deserve our support. But the qualification is important and could become more so, so far as we know. We do not really know, because the Government have decided not to accept the suggestion for all-party talks, which has been made by the Liberals and Social Democrats. The proposal for all-party talks made by my noble friend on Monday this week envisaged talks with the three main Opposition leaders in the House of Commons on Privy Council terms. They would not have touched on the operational details but would have included as much background information on diplomatic activities as the Government considered valuable.
The Government have certainly calculated all this and weighed their decision. They will have calculated also the effect on public opinion and on the Opposition parties of inviting the chairman of the Conservative Party—and of that party alone—to a meeting or meetings, as I understand it, of the so-called War Cabinet. Mr. Parkinson was evidently able to report that the Conservative Party were in good heart and backed the Government. Considering that in order to attend last Saturday's meeting, he had cancelled his appearance at a regional party conference in Yorkshire, at which he might have been able to find out, I am not sure how he knew. But there it is, he and he alone was the War Cabinet's chosen consultant on those occasions.
It was not wise. It can only lend colour to some of the violent charges being made against the Government by the extreme left, charges which of course are dutifully repeated, with embellishments, in current Moscow propaganda. In raising the question: "Is this a national expedition or is it a party one?" the Government are bound to run a certain risk. They will have presumably calculated that, too. I hope that they will also remember those Opposition parties who have so far clearly accepted that it is a national expedition. We are supporting it and we are sailing blind. We are being asked for our trust, and we are giving it.
The Argentinians have not given this country much alternative, have they? The choice of any date back to which one is going to press a territorial claim is always an absurd one. To most Governments most of the time it is so absurd as to preclude an irredentist policy altogether. The date of 1830 is a patently absurd one. If anybody is to give up a territory over which he did not exert power at that date, the map of Latin America will be largely redrawn; the American South West will be returned to Mexico. Belgium 974 will disappear. Balkan patriots will once more sharpen their scimitars against the outrageous Turk. Norway will politely groan once more under the Swedish yoke, while we reopen the India Office across the road and the Argentinians themselves give back the greater part of their country to the Amerindians.
What are we supposed to do? The Hague Court cannot help at this moment. Argentina is not among the countries which have accepted its jurisdiction. We have; they have not, just as one would expect. For all Mr. Foot's devoted attention to the last and smallest press release of the Secretary-General, the United Nations can no longer help for the simple reason that we have already been there and the world has had its answer, and that is that Argentina is to get out of the Falklands. They have had 3½ weeks in which to do it and they have not moved a finger. On the contrary, they have built up their forces. Argentina has flown in the face of the decolonisation committee itself whose foundation document, Resolution 1514 of 1960, speaks always of peoples not territories, and roundly asserts their right to self-determination.
The Falkland islanders are, within the terms of this resolution, self-evidently a dependent people. The resolution mentions neither history nor geography as a reason why any country may claim sovereignty over a dependent people: indeed its whole thrust is in the opposite direction. It says in so many words in its very first article:The subjection of peoples to alien subjugation, domination and exploitation constitutes a denial of fundamental human rights and is contrary to the Charter of the United Nations".Argentina voted for that resolution.
Even the Organisation of American States can no longer really help. It has already endorsed the Security Council resolution which requires the Argentinians to get out. The fact is that Argentina has well and truly boxed itself in. None of these organisations has armed forces, and we have. It therefore seems to be up to us, under Article 51 of the charter, to rescue our own people down there from a surprise invasion which, as you would expect, has been roundly condemned by the world community of peoples. As to the Labour Party, I bet they are thanking their stars that it was not Pinochet, since they have not yet got round to embracing Galtieri with that passionate and possessive disapproval which they seem unable to lavish on more than one dictator at a time.
I have talked enough—perhaps too much—about the immediate future. Let us now raise our sights and look to the longer-term goals. Obviously the future of South Georgia and the other British possessions in the far South is going to he easier to settle than that of the Falklands. In the case of the remote dependencies, the Argentinian claim is clearly based on a simple misunderstanding of our own former colonial practice. The fact that these islands were administered from Port Stanley reflected maritime convenience, not political history or legal reality. They were, moreover, never part of the Spanish Empire, which Argentina seeks to inherit, and it might be easier to secure their future if one were to envisage the suggestion, mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, a moment ago—a sort of wobble in the northern frontier of the Antarctic Treaty zone, so that it went north of the 60th Parallel 975 at the relevant places. This would enable us to place the islands in a state of guaranteed demilitarisation. I know the reasons against reopening a treaty which was achieved with such difficulty in the first place, but it should be considered. It might be easier, in the context of a general revision of the treaty, which would get rid at last of these anachronistic and conflicting national claims over the Antarctic Continent, in favour of a regime for the natural resources which would make them part of the common heritage of mankind. I think a lot of them are already—those of the seabed—under the draft Convention on the Law of the Sea.
In any case, we should surely install a civil governor down there as soon as possible—and perhaps this is something the Government might care to comment on at the end of the debate—so that the armed forces would be seen to be in support of a visible civil power. Equally obviously, the Falkland Islands themselves would be too hot a potato to hand to an Antarctic Treaty regime, even an improved one. It was not devised to handle regularly inhabited places with going economies of their own, and the effort to adapt it to that would indeed risk sinking it.
For the islands themselves, tomorrow, the Red Cross might perhaps play a useful role and a larger one than they have played in any modern conflict. The Fourth Geneva Convention agrees that the Red Cross may do various things which go a startlingly long way beyond the traditional dashing about with stretchers and delivering parcels to prisoners. If it is true that the Argentinians have already admitted Red Cross teams to the islands, that is something to build on. The Red Cross's International Committee met yesterday morning at its headquarters in Geneva, and the Government should most attentively consider that possibility.
But the United Nations itself is of course still the best hope for a medium-term settlement, as opposed to a short-term one. When the Argentinians agree to leave, there will probably have to be both a Red Cross presence and a United Nations one. The latter could grow into some sort of peace-keeping force, however small, and a trusteeship arrangement could grow out of that. The trusteeship functions could be exercised by Britain, but reporting to a trusteeship council or committee of the United Nations, on which Argentina would have an honoured place. Sovereignty need not be much of a problem. We could perhaps devise a scheme by which we voluntarily vest our sovereignty in the United Nations, pending a long-term settlement of the dispute; because we should not delude ourselves that that settlement will be any quicker or easier to find after the Argentinian invasion than before.
To conclude, I should emphasise that these hopes are not for now but for later. Today and tomorrow and next week, it is our duty, as a united country, to send the invaders back where they came from in accordance with the clear, recent and binding resolution of the United Nations Security Council. The Government will, I am sure, do this with decision, imagination and restraint. Above all, they will continue until the 11th hour and the 59th minute to try to do it by using the fleet to persuade rather than t o compel.
§ 4.27 p.m.
§ Lord Greenhill of Harrow
My Lords, as the Lord Privy Seal courteously mentioned, I had hoped to be speaking to the House this afternoon about the European Community's agricultural policy. I recognise that in the short term the Falklands dispute is more important, but I venture to suggest that in the long term it is the agricultural policy which may have more effect on us and our children than the current events. I intervened very briefly in our last debate and I propose to intervene similarly briefly this afternoon, but at the same time I ask the House's indulgence, since I am prevented from staying to the end of the debate.
I want to make three points. First, it is clear that Secretary Haig's diplomatic mission is not at an end. His specialised knowledge and his acceptability to both sides demand that he continues it and it is promising and possibly hopeful, I think, that the substance of the proposals he has made to the Argentine Government is occupying them for as long as it is.
The second point I want to make is that until Secretary Haig's mission is exhausted, it is premature to involve the United Nations. I think the Lord Privy Seal's explanation of the Government's policy in this respect is entirely convincing and I am reassured, as I expected, to hear that discussions are taking place—no doubt here in the Foreign Office, and certainly in New York with the United Nations representatives—to cover future contingencies. Until that moment comes, it is better that Secretary Haig should continue as he does.
The third point I want to make is slightly more controversial. I hope that, in considering Secretary Haig's proposals, the Government will have a different sense of proportion from that which they have hitherto publicly shown. I considered saying "a better sense of proportion", but I thought that would be possibly unjust, and certainly presumptuous from somebody who is not privy to what has been going on behind closed doors. This sense of proportion should particularly be used in relation to the wishes of the islanders, to the alleged international effect of a successful settlement involving the totality—I repeat, the totality—of Her Majesty's Government's expressed demands, and, finally, to the eventual regime in the islands.
In my view, the wishes of the islanders are an essential part of the settlement, hut it is at least debatable whether the word "paramount", which was used about respect for those wishes, is in the circumstances entirely appropriate. The views of the islanders must be expressed freely on the basis of very frank information supplied on their future prospects. No promises which are incapable of realisation must be made. In saying that, I think of how, in the colonial constitutions with which we have brought certain colonial territories to independence, safeguards have been included which are clearly incapable, in the event, of being realised.
I do not believe that the international effect of a total Argentinian climb-down would be as important, or as lasting, as the Government have sometimes suggested. It would not banish for the future the use of force, or the threat of force, in frontier modification. It would, of course, be of intense benefit to our own 977 country's reputation and in the way our own country is treated in the future. But I think that the overall global effect of what would have been done should not be exaggerated.
Lastly, it is unlikely, in my view, that the future regime in the islands could put the clock back as far as some comments of the Government have suggested. Events of recent weeks cannot be wiped off the slate and must, necessarily, be reflected in any final settlement.
§ 4.32 p.m.
§ Lord Mishcon
My Lords, I hope that the House will be relieved to know that there will be no dissertation from me as an amateur military or naval strategist as to how a campaign should be conducted, nor a dissertation from me as an amateur diplomat as to how negotiations should be conducted at this troublous time. I speak as a lawyer who is worried that his country should be on the record in a completely correct manner and anxious that, if the Argentines so wish, they put themselves on the record in an entirely unsatisfactory way in world opinion.
I refer to the question of the International Court at The Hague; I refer to the history of this matter which, in your Lordships' House, has been more than confusing on the record, and I refer respectfully to what the Leader of the House has said, which—and I know she will forgive me for the expression—is an over-simplification of the whole of the issues and is certainly not a very helpful contribution. I understood her to say that the issue was purely and simply that an Argentine Government—and I shall state which one in a moment—had refused the jurisdiction in analogous cases in regard to the dependencies in the past; that there was no likelihood of their accepting the jurisdiction of the court now and that it was not for the United Kingdom itself to submit the matter to the jurisdiction of the Court, because it was happy in its possession of the right of sovereignty in the Falkland Islands. Lastly—if I heard her aright, and if I did not she will correct me—she said that if the Argentine Government now decided to submit the question of title and sovereignty to the International Court, the United Kingdom would not immediately acclaim that as a proper and very right proposal, but the proposal would be considered very seriously.
I said that the record here was confusing in the extreme, and it is only because I venture to think that this matter is of such grave importance from the point of view of international opinion, and of making clear to our own people what is happening, that I ask for the indulgence of the House while I go carefully through the history of this matter, so far as this House has recently been concerned.
The first time in recent days that we heard any reference to the International Court was on 30th March, when the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, then speaking as Foreign Secretary, made a Statement in this House on South Georgia, following the landing on 23rd March of a group of Argentines at Leith Harbour in South Georgia. At col. 1279 of the Official Report of that day, in reply to the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, who had spoken about the issue of the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands and the question of a submission to the International Court of that issue, the 978 noble Lord, Lord Carrington, spoke as follows:I have not looked it up, hut my recollection is that we sought to do that quite a long time ago over one of the dependencies—not, I think, the Falkland Islands but one of the dependencies—and the Argentine Government refused. However, that will be one of the ideas which we shall be examining".That, as we now know, was a correct statement. In other words, it was a question of one of the dependencies, not the Falkland Islands, and the United Kingdom showing its readiness to submit that issue to the International Court.
Later on in that very same debate, my noble friend Lord Shackleton asked the Foreign Secretary this question:I would ask him to check on one point. It is my recollection that an attempt was made on more than one occasion to refer the question of the Falkland Islands to the International Court and that Argentina always refused to participate. It is important that that should be confirmed, because this is a matter of international law and I have no doubt that the advice would have been that the British claims were valid".The noble Lord the Foreign Secretary replied as follows—and I am quoting from col. 1281—… my recollection is the same as that of the noble Lord. I did not know about more than one case, but I will certainly look it up".As we now know, the reply of the Foreign Secretary—obviously, inadvertently—was quite inaccurate, because we have now heard that the question of the United Kingdom submitting the Falkland Islands dispute to the International Court was never a suggestion made by our Government to the Argentine Government.
I continue with the story. On 14th April, there was a debate in your Lordships' House on the Falkland Islands, and my noble friend Lord Stewart of Fulham then took up the matter. At col. 367, he said: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".That statement, obviously made by my noble friend in the belief that the United Kingdom had suggested to the Argentine Government in the past that the Falkland Islands should be submitted to the International Court from the point of view of a decision as to title, was made in good faith. In the ministerial reply on that occasion it was at no time refuted.
I pass now to what happened as a result. On 20th April, The Times made the assumption in the course of an editorial that the whole question of the Falkland Islands and the dependencies had, at the suggestion of Her Majesty's Government to the Argentine Government, been proposed to be submitted to the International Court for jurisdiction and for judgment and that the Argentine Government had declined. That was in connection with the Falkland Islands, not the dependencies. And that, following no doubt upon the exchanges in this House, was the assumption which was made in the editorial in The Times.
More seriously than that, a special April issue by Chatham House, published by the Royal Institute of International Affiairs, specifically dealt with the Falkland Islands dispute. In that publication, there was an article by James Fawcett on the legal aspects of the Falkland Islands dispute. For the benefit of the House and those who would not know it, James Fawcett was until recently President of the European Commission on Human Rights and formerly a Pro- 979 fessor of International Law at King's College, London. In that article, relying again, one imagines, on what had been said or inferred in this House, Mr. Fawcett said that a proposal by the United Kingdom in 1948 that the issue of title to the Falkland Islands and the dependencies should be referred to the International Court had been refuted—I use his word—by Argentina.
On Monday, 19th April, there was a discussion in your Lordships' House on a Statement relating to the Falkland Islands. In answer to a question of the noble Lord, Lord Robbins (who I am glad to see in his seat)who—I believe only for the purposes of the record—had asked the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, for details of the cases in the past when the Government had offered to submit the question at issue—namely, the title to the Falkland Islands—to the International Court, the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, said, at col. 399, to the surprise, I believe, of many noble Lords,The Argentines have never shown any interest in referring the sovereignty question to the International Court and the fact is that we have not proposed it. That, therefore, is the way in which the question of reference to the International Court stands at the present time".I ventured then to make a respectful suggestion to the noble Lord that it was about time that we did make a statement that, subject to the withdrawal of the Argentine forces from the Falkland Islands, we would show our preparedness to submit the question of title to the International Court. What is the International Court there for if it is not there for a matter of this kind? With great respect to the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, one is being offensive to the International Court in thinking that at the critical stage in international affairs which we have reached they would not be able to come to a decision, by arrangement, within the space of one year.
§ Lord Gladwyn
My Lords, I think I said in my speech that I should very much welcome a decision by the Government to submit this matter to the International Court, though recognising that a judgment would take a considerable time to become effective.
§ Lord Mishcon
My Lords, the noble Lord correctly summarises what he said, but he did say in the course of his speech, as he will find tomorrow when he reads the official record, that it could not be done in under a year. I am saying that by special arrangement I have no doubt that it could. This matter has been going on since 1833. I should not have thought that it would be a dreadful thing if Argentina had to wait a year for a decision regarding their claim. Be that as it may, I go on to quote from the same column, because my noble friend Lord Stewart of Fulham then said this, to show the surprise that he certainly felt:My Lords, is the noble Lord the Minister quite certain that we have never proposed to take this case to the International Court? I had understood long ago that we were willing to do so and that the Argentines were not".To this the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, replied:My Lords, my advice is as I replied to the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, a couple of minutes ago".And that is that we have never suggested it to the Argentine government at all.
I put down a Question on 22nd April, purely to get the record straight, and with his customary courtesy the 980 noble Lord, Lord Belstead, saw to it that there was a very speedy Written Answer, which appears in the Official Report of 27th April. I am not going to bore your Lordships with reading out my Question or the detail of the Answer. All I would say is that the noble Baroness the Leader of the House was absolutely accurate and fair in reading out the dates when the question of the jurisdiction of the International Court, the judgment of the International Court and the submission to the International Court regarding the dependencies, but never regarding the Falkland Islands, had been put to the Argentine Government.
I am going to repeat merely the dates. The dates are December 1947, April 1949, February 1953 and the date to which the noble Baroness referred when the International Court, on finding that the Argentines had not submitted to jurisdiction, struck the case out of the list: May 1955. There is one pregnant fact, one terribly material fact regarding all those dates. From 1947 to 1955 there was one Government in power in Argentina and one dictator. And his name was Peron. There was no other Government at all. As we very well know, Peron was deposed in September 1955. This means that no other Government except Peron's Government has ever had this question submitted to it: "Are you prepared to go to the International Court?" Only one Government was that proposed to, and it was Peron's Government.
So not only are we aware today that never at any time was it suggested that the question of the Falkland Islands should be submitted to the International Court —never was that suggestion made to the Argentine Government, only the suggestion regarding the dependencies—but we also know that even with regard to the dependencies it had been put to one man and one Government alone and never to any succeeding Government—and certainly not to the presentArgentine Government, where the President, as we know, was elected only in December of last year.
I am not saying that at this moment there is a likelihood that the Argentine Government would accept the suggestion. What are we to lose in world opinion if they do not? Let us make the statement—I suggest in public and privately to the Argentine Government—that if their forces are removed we are prepared to put the issue of title and sovereignty to the International Court. We have confidence in our case. If they agree, that is wonderful. If they disagree, then let the world know that they have disagreed. But let not the record be as it is at the moment, that the suggestion has never been put to the Argentine Government of submitting the question of sovereignty to the International Court. I respectfully make the suggestion now to Her Majesty's Government and I make it purely so that our country's record is clear in the eyes of the whole world.
§ Lord Fraser of Kilmorack
My Lords, before the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, sits down may I just put one point to him and ask a question? It has always seemed to me that it is the advocate not of the status quo but of change who has to make his case. As I understand it, the noble Lord has been going on about us not wishing to go to establish our case at the International Court. I hope that the noble Lord will correct 981 me if I am wrong, but it seems to me that the Argentinian Government have had an adequate period of time to take their case to the International Court.
§ Lord Mishcon
My Lords, I hoped that I had made my point clear but, if not, I am most grateful to the noble Lord opposite for allowing me to do so now. The statement should be that, if the Argentinian Government is prepared to go to the International Court, then we certainly will accept the jurisdiction of the International Court. That was the statement that I made. Surely it must be a matter of strength and not legal technical argument at this time as to the submission to the International Court? If I may say so, the noble Baroness, Lady Young, disappointed me when she said that, even if the Argentinian Government said now that they were prepared to take their claim to the International Court, we would not necessarily accept that but would give the suggestion serious consideration.
§ 4.51 p.m.
§ Lord Beloff
My Lords, with your Lordships' permission perhaps I might take up the argument from there, because it seems to me that the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, has, as it were, interrupted the progress of our debate by introducing a major irrelevancy. The fact of the matter is—and the noble Lord knows this as a distinguished lawyer—that it is not customary, and cannot in any legal system be customary, for someone who believes that he has an unchallengeable right, suddenly to get up and say, "Perhaps after all I should see what the court has to say".
§ Lord Mishcon
My Lords, if the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, will forgive me, if he was right then why did somebody of the eminence of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, as Foreign Minister, say that he thought that it had been done and that he certainly would consider the whole question?
§ Lord Beloff
My Lords, I am not suggesting that it should not be considered now or that it should not have been considered in the past. I am explaining—because I think it is important that, as the noble Lord has said, there should be unity and understanding—the circumstances of the past. The fact of the matter is that in any legal system, supposing I am sitting in my garden, inherited by me from my father and my father from his father, and some neighbour came along and said, "This garden really belongs to me", I doubt that if I went to the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, for professional advice, he would say to me, "Run along to the court and establish your case". He would say, "If your neighbour has a legitimate claim on your garden, it is your neighbour who will go to the court and the processes of the law will take their course". I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, holds a different opinion of the legal system from that which I have described, but I am going to continue because I think it is important.
There is another point. In a domestic situation, it is true that if my neighbour chooses to make a claim, however ill-founded, against my property, the courts will normally hear his case and I do not have to give my assent. As has been pointed out more than once in 982 this House by more than one Minister, in the case of the statute of the International Court, cases can be heard only if both parties are agreeable to seeking a solution. The Argentinian Government are one which, for reasons good or bad which need not concern us, have been unwilling to accept the jurisdiction of the International Court. If a future Argentinian Government were to change their view, then surely the Lord Privy Seal is quite right to say that in that new situation Her Majesty's Government would consider the problem as a fresh one.
There is a third point. There are other methods, which are known to international law, of deciding matters of territorial dispute. One of these is arbitration. In the dispute between Argentina and her neighbour Chile over the islands in the Beagle Channel, Her Majesty was asked to nominate an arbitrator. That arbitrator happens to have been my late and lamented colleague Sir Humphrey Waldock, a distinguished Justice of the International Court. He, as an ex-naval officer, pursued this matter in the stormy waters with which we are becoming so familiar—the channels, gulfs and streams of that part of the world—and decided on the basis of his on the spot exploration and of historic charts and documents provided by Argentina and Chile, that the Chilean claim was irrefutable. That was rejected by the Government of Argentina; not by the late dictator Peron, upon whose head the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, seems to wish to visit all the sins of Argentina, but by a much more recent Argentinian Government. A recent Argentinian Government have also sought the mediation or arbitration of His Holiness the Pope. Again, when His Holiness the Pope found that Chile was in the right, the Argentinian enthusiasm for that channel somehow disappeared. It is surely right, if we are discussing methods of solving this grave problem, that the record in relation to methods of peaceful settlement of the Government with which we are dealing, should be present in our minds as well as the structure of the international law we have and the statute of the Court of International Justice, which would come into play if it was thought that that was the correct method.
I think it is very important to go back—because I consider this to be a red herring—to what I believe to be the central tenor of the speeches made in your Lordships' House both today and on previous occasions when this grave subject has been discussed. It is, the necessity of maintaining as far as possible national unity. On the whole, and certainly in your Lordships' House, a great deal of unity has been displayed. It has not necessarily extended universally and I think that the waters of public opinion have been to some extent muddied in various quarters. In the first place, certain journals and certain elements in the media have tended to take an attitude of, if you like, jingoism, which does not redound upon the country's credit and which does not, I believe, represent in any way the mood of the country, which is serious in respect of these matters. In this country today, there is no euphoria and no jingoism, and there is no mood of, "We will be in Berlin by Christmas". It is wrong of the press to suggest it is so and it is wrong for people to take articles or headlines in the press as indicating that that is Britain's mood.
983 On the other hand, there have been doubts cast in other quarters on the bona fides of Her Majesty's Government. I believe it is reasonable, because we are not at war—and God willing, we may still not be at war—for serious newspapers and the media to present the opposing case, whether it be the opposing case on the legal, political or any other aspect of the matter they choose. Therefore, I do not object when The Times gives a place to an Argentinian presentation of the Argentinian case, because I believe it is highly desirable that we should know what they think. But when today The Times prints over four columns an article of which the main thrust is that this whole business of the Falkland Islands has been stirred up by Her Majesty's Government in order to reverse their ill fortunes at Hillhead, I believe this passes the bounds of decency in journalism. It was not a thing which anyone, not even Mr. E. P. Thompson, should have written; and it having been written, it is not a thing which a great national newspaper read throughout the world should have been willing to print. The fact is that I feel particularly wounded, I have no doubt along with the noble Lord, Lord Blake, that this Mr. Thompson is described by The Times as an historian. Some historian! Some history!
The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, with his customary gallantry, perhaps quixotic, has jumped to the defence of his party as a whole, and I will not attempt to batter down these defences. But there has clearly been a move in some sections of the Opposition away from the position, which was an extremely robust one, at the beginning of this conflict, and I think therefore that it is worth trying to say very briefly what the major logic commands.
It seems to me that when the invasion happened—and I leave out the question of an inquest as to whether it could have been avoided—when Argentina took over control of the Falklands, we had two options. One was to say, Well, we have failed to defend them; we must make the best of a bad job. We must allow Argentinian rule to continue and we must do our best through the United Nations, through the Red Cross, through allocating sums for resettlement, for our 1,800 fellow subjects who live there. It is not something important enough in these difficult times for the country to offer lives or treasure to safeguard". That is a perfectly logical point of view. But it was not the point of view taken by the Opposition; it was not the point of view taken by and large in the country. That, as it were, "make peace now" was, rightly or wrongly, overwhelmingly rejected.
The only alternative was to see whether there was sufficient countervailing power, moral, economic, political or military, available to seek the withdrawal of the Argentinian troops, so that the whole matter could be explored, if you like, by the Court, by mediation, by arbitration, by the United Nations or by any other form of negotiation, so as to create a long-term future of greater security for these, our fellow subjects. And that does seem to have been the course which was urged upon the Government, not only by their own supporters but by the Opposition parties as well, and it is, to judge from the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, this afternoon, with all his criticisms, still the position taken by at least 984 one of the Opposition parties. And I think with some reservations it was taken by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn.
But if we do this, if we use pressure, if we use this very difficult combination of military and other pressure, we must be quite clear what it is we are trying to do. It is, I think, again important—I am sorry the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, is not in his place—not to be misled by academic arguments over sovereignty. Sovereignty is not all that complicated a concept, and the Argentinian concept of sovereignty, as enunciated by General Galtieri and others, is perfectly correct. If you have sovereignty over a territory you decide its laws, you decide how its people shall live, you decide what language its children shall be taught in the schools. You may make other claims; Governments vary. But what sovereignty means is the ability to make laws for the population of an area over which you claim it. That sovereignty clearly is unacceptable because if it were ever to be accepted it should have been accepted three weeks ago.
I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill, was quite right in saying that it would be absurd to wipe out history. We cannot go back to the day before the invasion. There would have to be a transitional period, there would have to be international guarantees if the troops were withdrawn, and appropriate consultations held with the population in freedom. I am sure the Lord Privy Seal was quite right to assure the House that at that moment the United Nations would have an important, perhaps a determining, role to play. But as the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, said, the United Nations cannot do the first part of the job. The first part of the job is General Haig plus the task force. It is getting the Argentinians out of the Falklands.
§ 5.6 p.m.
§ The Earl of Perth
My Lords, I have listened with the greatest interest to what the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, said about the importance of national unity at this time. I would only say that I agree with him and I hope that what I am now going to say will not be interpreted otherwise. My Lords, it is a fortnight since our last debate and no one can doubt our strength and our resolve in this dispute. We have triumphantly retaken South Georgia. From tomorrow we have declared the Falklands shall be blockaded both by sea and by air. There are afoot urgent and secret negotiations, diplomatic negotiations, to try to bring an end to the problem. Often such secrecy is right, but I believe the time has now come for us from our position of strength to announce, to take the initiative on, what we would propose to do in the event of the Argentinian forces having withdrawn from the Falklands. I believe it is not enough to say we are then prepared to resume negotiations. Of course, that, in a sense, goes without saying, but I suggest we should go further now.
What should we do? What announcement should we make? Lord Mishcon has advocated at length our saying that we would put the whole case to the International Court at The Hague. I would go even further. In our last debate I suggested that we examine the possibility of a mandated territory solution, not in South Georgia, but in the Falkland Islands. Yesterday some of your Lordships may have seen a very powerful 985 article in the Financial Times, informed and detailed, about the possibilities in this respect, signed by one Justinian. I do not know who he was, but clearly he was somebody of great knowledge as an international jurist. The article showed very clearly how we could, quickly, if we so wished, put the Falklands into trust in the United Nations. Lord Kennet indeed touched on this in his speech. I would ask the Government to do just this, or rather to examine doing just this now. I know that it involves bringing in the United Nations once more, and now, but not, I suggest, in the sense that perhaps Lord Greenhill of Harrow was suggesting when he was talking about the difficulties of the United Nations coming into the picture at the present time.
My Lords, if we follow such action, how does it meet our principles, our stated aims? First, there are what are sometimes termed the paramount interests of the islanders. We must assume that, under the United Nations' trusteeship, particularly if we are to be the administrators, the way of life of the islanders would be safeguarded. But—and this to me is a vital point—we should at the same time immediately amend out nationality Act to the effect that if ever any of the present islanders wished to come back to this country they would be British citizens. We could say that with the knowledge that the Falkland islanders are an entirely special case, and they would be the more so in this instance because they would be inhabitants of a trustee territory. So we would not, as it were, be opening the floodgate to endless other claims for becoming British citizens. I believe that an arrangement such as that would be one which the islanders would welcome. Secondly, we have to show that aggression does not pay. In what I propose the Government should do, it goes without saying that the Argentine would have to start its withdrawal, and in withdrawing I would very much hope that the good offices—indeed, the forces—of the United States of America would join ours in ensuring what is needed to effect this withdrawal.
I come to the question of sovereignty. I should have thought that if we take the action of putting forward the proposal that the islands under United Nations trusteeship, there can be no clearer proof that we are the sovereign nation. There remains the question of the flag—perhaps a symbol of sovereignty. Again and again, as your Lordships know, the Argentinians have said, "We will never, never, lower the flag". Does it really matter so much? If we have the United Nations flag flying, if we have our flag flying and if the Argentine flag flies alongside ours, would that not be a symbol of peace?
§ The Earl of Lauderdale
My Lords, I apologise for interrupting, but is the noble Earl not saying that the aggressor would then be rewarded by having his flag flying? Surely that is contrary to equity?
§ The Earl of Perth
My Lords, this is one of the big questions. Is the question of a flag flying, which is only one flag among several, a matter of reward when that country is not sovereign and when the United Nations is administering the territory? I would say, the more flags the merrier.
§ The Earl of Lauderdale
My Lords, I am sorry to interupt again, but surely this is a question of allegiance 986 to the Sovereign? The noble Earl is suggesting that somehow allegiance to the Queen can be sort of rubbed out or erased, or in some way obscured and made palatable to the Argentinians, when in fact these people owe allegiance to the Sovereign which is symbolised by their flag.
§ The Earl of Perth
My Lords, I am not suggesting that we should wipe out allegiance. What I am suggesting—and I continue to suggest it—is that we should consider putting the Falkland Islands as a trust territory (and it has happened before in past history) under the United Nations, with us administering it. Of course that is a difficult concept, but I believe that the time has now come for open diplomacy and for the Government, who have acted so firmly and clone so well to date, to consider very seriously taking action along the lines that I have advocated. Of course there can be endless variations. But the main thrust of my remarks is the following: Do not let us just say that, once the Argentinians have evacuated, we are ready for negotiations; let us rather, even now, tell the world what would be our position and what we would want to do and what we are prepared to do. I believe that the world would understand our position. We would have struck a blow for peace and ensured the long-term wellbeing of the islanders.
§ 5.16 p.m.
§ Lord Shinwell
My Lords, the Lord Privy Seal in opening the debate explained its purpose and it was, as I understood her observations, to ascertain the views of Members of your Lordships' House about the situation in the Falkland Islands. If I had been consulted—and that is asking too much—about the nature of the Motion on the Order Paper, I would have worded it differently. Instead of asking that a "note of the situation" should be debated, I would have asked for the approval of Members of your Lordships' House.
Of course, having regard to the absence of complete political unity in the country--I note in passing that some Members of your Lordships' House have requested that there should be national unity—it is embarrassing for some Members of your Lordships' House to express themselves in a forthright fashion and objectively. I shall express myself both objectively and subjectively—that is to say, I shall venture to do what I am sorry to say some Members of your Lordships' House who have participated in this debate have failed to do, and that is to relate the facts of the situation, and I repeat, the facts of the situation.
There have been irrelevancies; there have been suggestions of what might happen in the foreseeable future and even in the distant future, when negotiations would be continued perhaps over a long period of time. There have been references to the situation of the islanders themselves and whether they should determine their future. There has also been—and I hope that I shall be forgiven for what I now say, but even if I am not forgiven I shall say it—from some parts of your Lordships' House an exhibition of sophistry such as I have never encountered in any debate in which I have taken part. I shall not refer to the culprits; I shall leave them to their tender consciences.
987 I return to the first point which I ventured to make—namely, that this debate is to ascertain the opinions of Members of your Lordships' House on the situation. That would mean that we would have to stand up and be counted—and why not? After all, the thousands of our men in the Navy, the Air Force and the Marines with all their equipment, the logistical element and the wherewithal in order to undertake an attack if it is thought to be necessary, are our men. At least what we can do, even if we have certain inhibitions about the situation and have to indulge in irrelevancies and repeat what has happened in the past over and over again, is something to instil confidence in the officers and men out there.
§ Lord Shinwell
My Lords, that is the least that we can be expected to do. I must at this stage interrupt myself, because I do not want to be accused of being a warmonger. I do not like war any more than anybody else. As it happens, I am not called upon to participate in the conflict. That is sometimes embarrassing, because when one takes part in a debate on a subject of a military character, one can at once be accused: "It is all very well for you, but you are not doing any fighting". If I may say so, that would apply not only to me; it would apply to every one of us. So I am in very good company. There it is.
Nevertheless, I hope that we are behind our forces and in complete unity as regards that. We wish them well. We are behind them and will render them, not all the assistance that they require, but such as is available to us to offer. I should have liked to say that in various parts of the country; I should have liked to say it in the other place. I shall come to that. Here I have to deal with some political aspects, but they are related to the subject.
When my noble friend Lord Shackleton opened the debate on this side of the House he referred to "speaking on behalf of his colleagues". I indulged in a wry smile—unconcealed. My noble friend spoke on behalf of his party—which part of the party? Anyhow, he is hardly competent, not being the Leader of the Opposition, to reach any conclusion about it, unless he is told by some people about it. Who told him that the party was behind what he said subsequently in the course of his very useful speech? The fact of the matter is that we are far from being united in our party, and no one deplores that more than I.
It may be thought that even in a situation of this kind, where our forces are presented with difficulties and some of them may appear to be insurmountable although I hope not—we must express our view irrespective of Government decision, Government action, Government intention. Let me make it quite clear—I am speaking now for myself and not for the party to which I still belong—that one can deplore the activities of a Government in monetarism, in currency, in unemloyment, in social matters and the like, but when one's country is faced with the possibility of conflict we must be behind them. It is another matter in peacetime, because then we can quarrel, enter into conflict, be turbulent even and fight the Government as hard as possible. That is my view.
988 Let me come to the facts of the case. What are they? If anyone wants to correct me later on, he may so do; I shall give way. What are the facts? The facts are simply these. There was an act of aggression—point one. Nobody could challenge that. We were not advised of the act of aggression in advance—point two. Nobody could challenge that. I say that all the more because there is a suggestion that no action should have been taken on our part if there was a possibility of negotiation. But there was no hesitation on the part of the Argentine Government to act by occupying some of the islands with thousands of men—which undoubtedly was an act of aggression beyond dispute—and at the same time to offer negotiations. If the Argentine Government had advised the British Government in advance that they intended to take aggressive action but were prepared to negotiate at once in order to avoid it, or even immediately afterwards, it would have been another situation. But they did nothing of the sort. It was a forthright, determined act of aggression, beyond dispute. Then we had the United Nations almost unanimously condemning their action, and by that reckoning supporting the United Kingdom Government.
That brings me to the question of the United Nations. I must be careful about this because although it is past history I believe that it is relevant. But I am reminded of what happened in the case of Suez. Indeed, Suez has been mentioned in the course of the debates. I can recall sitting in my usual seat in the other place when it was announced that President Nasser had seized the canal. I can also remind myself of what was said by the then Leader of the Labour Party, the late, lamented Hugh Gaitskell. He was sitting almost alongside me—and I was then still a member of the Parliamentary Committee—and he got up and condemned President Nasser in forthright language, referring to President Nasser as the potential emperor of the Middle East with aspirations and ambitions to control that area. He condemned him outright. I actually applauded what he said—nothing could be better than that.
But what happened 24 hours later? He changed his mind completely in his speech. Why?—because the late Mr. Nye Bevan, one of the greatest of our members and socialists of the period—a great orator—leading the Bevanites, condemned the Leader of the party and made a quite different speech which led the Leader of the party to withdraw almost all that he said the previous evening. We have had something of the kind this time. When this trouble occurred the Government made their case in the other place and it was repeated in your Lordships' House. There was a feeling that the Labour Party—and I expected it—would support the Government, and it did. There were, of course, some malcontents—if I may dare to call them so: the militants, the Bennites—who were against anything that the Government were doing and against anything that the Labour Party Executive was doing. They were in opposition. Nevertheless, led by Mr. Michael Foot, the Leader of the party in the other place, and supported by Mr. Denis Healey and a number of others, the party supported the Government. True enough, it asked for negotiations to take place. Incidentally, referring to this matter of the United Nations, at that time—and I challenge correction on this point— 989 not one of them asked that the United Nations should be asked to intervene at that stage, although the United Nations had already made its announcement condemning the aggression and supporting the United Kingdom Government. That was a subsequent afterthought. That is what happened.
If I may say so, the same applies to the suggestion about referring the matter to the International Court of Justice. My noble friend Lord Mishcon, with his legal subtleties and his historical knowledge of legal affairs, was able to make out a case as to why it should be done some time or other. But imagine the situation as regards referring the matter to the International Court of The Hague: in the meantime our people are out there —the marines, the airmen and our other men—waiting to see what will happen, suffering the weather conditions, and wondering whether or not the country is behind them.
§ Lord Mishcon
My Lords, I must ask the noble Lord to allow me to make this intervention because, unconsciously, he is misrepresenting me, and that is not his fashion. I made it absolutely clear that the reference was to be made after the withdrawal of the forces from the Falkland Islands. I made that absolutely clear.
§ Lord Shinwell
My Lords, I accept what my noble friend says for himself, but that was not the position, of the Argentine Government, or was it? Did the Argentine Government say they would like this matter referred to the International Court of Justice, and in the meantime they would not send their soldiers into the islands? No, of course not. My noble friend agrees with me—probably for the first time. What are the rest of the facts? What are the other facts? Mediation. Reference has been made by my noble friend Lord Mishcon to speeches made in the past and which are recorded in the Official Report. There is also recorded in the Official Report a speech I ventured to make three or four weeks ago, in the course of which I said, among other things, that I wanted co-operation from the United States Government, but I doubted whether mediation would be wise. That is in the record. As things have happened I doubt whether the mediation was wise.
If at that time it had been suggested that the matter should be referred to the United Nations, one could have understood it, and perhaps something more beneficial would have followed. But the intervention of Mr. Haig? I do not blame Mr. Haig in the least. I can understand how willing he was to undertake this task. I happen to know General Haig, and I have had associations with him in the past. I know that he is a man of considerable integrity and I would not accuse him of anything improper, but I do not believe that he was capable of solving this problem. That is not because of himself or any failings on his part, but because of the obstinacy and obduracy of the fascist Government in the Argentine. I repeat, the fascist Government in the Argentine. Let that not be forgotten. If I may say so, let it not be forgotten by some members of my party who seem to be supporting the Argentine Government by implication, not directly, and failing to recognise that it is a fascist Government capable of most horrific activities.
990 Now I come to this conclusion, which no doubt you welcome because I am probably speaking too long. I speak because that is how I feel about it. Nobody wants peace more than I do. At my time of life one wants peace more than when one is younger. When one is younger one can afford to have a bit of trouble, but reaching my venerable age—for which I apologise—one wants an element of peace in the remaining years that are available, or months, it may be, who can tell.
Here we are in a situation that is not our fault. I recognise that there have been some inconsistencies on the part of various Governments in the past in relation to the Falkland Islands and the people there. Something better might have been done, and for that probably I am as much to blame, as an ex-Member of the Labour Cabinet, as anybody else, but that is over, and perhaps we can rectify it in the future. The latest reference to the negotiations which I read in the press and heard on the television this morning was that Washington is making a further effort through the medium of Mr. Haig. I hope that something develops that is beneficial of character and can avoid conflict. But, if it does not, what is the alternative?
Will some Member get up and say what the alternative is? What is the alternative? To withdraw our Forces? To accept humiliation? To be laughed at? We talk about the need for world opinion. It has been referred to several times in the course of today's debate. Is that the kind of world opinion we want? Of course we do not want to be a great global power in the future. We cannot expect that, but we want to be regarded as a country with moral principles of the highest possible character and quality. That is all.
As for myself—and I wish I could say the same for the members of my party in your Lordships' House and also in the other place and in the country—I hope that we are united behind the Government in this affair. If we are not united, let us not talk about victory, but I hope we shall succeed in solving the problem in the Falkland Islands and in the Antarctic, and all the rest of it. I hope it can be done with as little bloodshed as possible.
We can only hope for the best. Meanwhile, I repeat what I said at the beginning to the noble Baroness the Lord Privy Seal. She wanted to ascertain the opinions of Members of this House. She has had various opinions. I hope she will reject some of the opinions which were not opinions at all, not even impressions, but irrelevancies, sophistry, and the rest. I hope she will go back and tell Mrs. Thatcher and the members of the Cabinet that by and large the Members of your Lordships' House, although they may have some qualms about Government policy in general, are behind them in this affair.
§ 5.36 p.m.
The Earl of Selkirk
My Lords, it is a very real privilege to follow the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell. The robust directness with which he addresses himself to the subject is refreshing. Let us not forget that there are men today who will be suffering hardship, danger, and discomfort and doing so at the orders 991 of Parliament. We must never forget that they are acting on our behalf.
Before I deal with what I call the major issue may I make two preliminary remarks. I would like to see service Ministers restored to the Government. I should like to say why. The major task of a service Minister is to say whether he has the forces available to fulfil the duties which are imposed upon him. That may fall to a great extent to the chiefs of staff. I believe the chiefs of staff are entitled to have the advice in politics, in economics, and in public relations which perhaps service Ministers can give. I hope that that will be considered.
I think I am correct in saying that there is a reference in Lord Home's biography to a question he put to Lord Mountbatten. He said, "Since the war service personnel have been sent on expeditions, patrols, or what you like, on something over 30 occasions, and not one of them had been foreseen". That is the hardship which any defence department necessarily has to face. For that reason the chiefs of staff should be entitled to advice from service Ministers with whom they can closely consult.
It is interesting to think that HMS "Invincible", so far as I know, was last in the Falkland Islands in December 1914. That was the prelude to the most decisive naval victory in the First World War, the Battle of the Falkland Islands, in which the whole of von Spee's squadron was eliminated. Why did that succeed? It succeeded because it was done in complete secrecy. The first thing that von Spee knew was seeing the tripod masts of two battle cruisers in Part Stanley. If he had known they were there, of course he would not have gone near the place. This was the inspiration, if you like, of the First Sea Lord, Lord Fisher, at that time to send the right ships at the right time, and as quickly as possible. They had only just finished coaling.
We are in a very different position today. The first reference to the Falkland Islands in Hansard was about a fortnight before the invasion took place. It would have been quite possible technically to move a brigade group to the Falkland Islands within that fortnight, but to have done so would have aroused a publicity throughout the world which would have been regarded—and I believe this was in the minds of the Foreign Office—as aggressive, and we were prevented from doing so.
This has become a new element in any military tactics which is of far reaching and considerable importance. We have sent a task force to the South Atlantic with about as much fanfare as any task force has ever had in the world. Even Joshua when he blew down the walls of Jericho could not have made more noise. We knew exactly what the equipment was, what the ships were and how many men there were, and if by chance something was not to be photographed, they said so—we were told not to photograph whatever it was—so that, in other words, everything was being supplied. That is a point of far-reaching importance. It may be said that it was done to intimidate the other side or, as we used to say before the last war, so much information was given in the papers that nobody knew what was true and what was false, and there can be 992 quite a lot in that. However, it is not that straightforward, and that leads me to make a few comments about what has occurred.
We have seen the Prime Minister being needled by two people hired by the BBC to try to get military information revealed. That has happened not once or twice, but three times. The Prime Minister is, of course, extremely competent and able to look after herself without any bother. But are we really to go on allowing that sort of thing? The frivolities of peacetime are all very well, but lives are now at stake and, in any case, what do the people doing the interviewing want? I suppose they say they are seeking the truth. If the BBC really gave the truth and nothing but the truth on their news, I would not mind, but they mix hopelessly fact and opinion, and so long as that goes on I suggest there is a limit to which one should tolerate opinion being put forward; and I believe it is a matter which the Government should look into, especially in the present circumstances.
Lord Paget of Northampton
My Lords, is it really fair to blame the BBC when we remember that on the Saturday morning the Prime Minister herself, in the flutter of debate, announced not only that the Fleet was going but the names of the ships and where they were? Anybody who did that in the last war would have been shot.
The Earl of Selkirk
My Lords, the Prime Minister acts on her own responsibility. I accept that, and no doubt it was a question of policy. I am talking about the grilling of Ministers who carry high responsibility. From what I can gather, it seems that the Ministry of Defence has gone with the tide, as it were, and said, "Let them have all the information available", and, while I can understand that happening, I suggest there are limits.
I will give another example. Somebody said, "This was a private conversation between General Haig and the Argentine Minister of Foreign Affairs". If it was private, it should not have been referred to in public, and if it was not private, it should not have been said to be private. Another gentleman said, "These are the points where they intend to land on the Falkland Islands". Anybody with any experience of intelligence must appreciate that any detail that can be put together is of enormous value, and stating what is the talk in London and so on, guessing from London and matters of that kind, are all extremely valuable, and I suggest to the Government that when lives are at stake it becomes a matter which should be looked at carefully.
I have so far been making preliminary points and I now come to the crux of the aspect I particularly wish to deal with. What is the central question of foreign affairs? Noble Lords will remember the early chapters of Genesis where, at the end of each verse, we are told:And he saw that it was good".So the question, the central question, of foreign affairs which we must ask ourselves is whether the world we have created since the war is good or not. Is it worth trying to protect? The world we have created (in which, we have been told, we have 151 ambassadors; we were given that information recently) contains about 160 sovereign nation states. Are we to say that 993 that situation is worth trying to preserve, or shall we let things rip and say, "We cannot preserve it. Just let any big power come along and take it away"?
A large number of sovereign nation states cannot defend themselves; indeed, I should guess that 75 per cent. of them cannot. Are we to stand back and say "It does not matter"? As I say, that is the central question; namely, whether the structure of international affairs will continue as it is today, or break up. To mention a few names—Cambodia, Laos, Afghanistan, Eritrea and, I suppose, Angola are only a few of those at risk from neighbours. We took South Korea, but I doubt if ever again the United Nations will unite for an action of that sort.
We have seen recently some rather clever letters in The Times. While I will not quote them, they have said, in essence, that whatever we did now we should be wrong. That is really a marvellous burglars' charter; once you have something, you just sit back and say, "The United Nations will now defend me. If anybody now does anything against me, in view of the stand I am taking, they will be in violation of one or other clause of the United Nations Charter". Think how Hitler would have liked that ! He would have taken Czechoslovakia and said, "The United Nations will prevent anybody else from interfering". Those who have been reading the letters in The Times in recent days will have noticed that that is the basic implication of what they have been saying—that whatever we do, we are in some way in breach of some part of international law—and that just will not do.
As the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, said, great questions of principle are involved here, and unless we are prepared to act, I can see no reason whatever why what has happened should not go on all over the world. We are being brave, and I congratulate the Government on the courage that has been shown. I hope that both Houses of Parliament will say, "Whatever happens, if our men go into action, we are behind them". It is extremely important that both Houses take that view.
It is infinitely regrettable that after 35 years of building up the United Nations with the main object of preventing violent action between countries, Argentina should have torn up their agreement in the trusteeship of the council, as the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, said. We have been encouraging people to shout, "Uhuru" and, "Merdeka" and so on. Shall we let them all run away and say that it does not matter? Are we going to let things rip? The noble Lord, Lord Brockway, is about to speak and I hope he will tell us whether he believes in "Uhuru" and "Merdeka", or whether he would slip away from the treaty of supporting the world which we have set up since the war.
§ 5.48 p.m.
§ Lord Brockway
My Lords, I shall be expressing views with which many Members of this House will disagree. However, I have learned while I have been here of the very generous tolerance there is for conviction.
In view of what has been said in this debate, I think it as well to begin with a comment about Argentina. No democrat can possibly have any sympathy with Argentina. The word "fascist" is often used in a biased way, but it is literally true of Argentina; its Government is anti-Semitic, has imprisoned thousands 994 for political reasons, has tortured people and has made thousands disappear so that we have no knowledge of them. No one who is a democrat can have any sympathy towards Argentina. I add, however, that many of us have been horrified to learn that the Government of this country have for years been supplying that fascist Government with military equipment. I have described that in detail before, but the thought that in this war British soldiers will be killed by weapons made in this country is something of which we should all be ashamed.
Secondly, I want to say this. One is amazed that Argentina should have been an ally of the United States of America. The Government of the United States appear to take the view that any ally against suggested communist influence is justified. They do not reach a conclusion upon whether a Government is totalitarian or democratic. Even the most totalitarian Government are accepted by the United States Government as an ally if they could be used against the spread of communism. Therefore, we have today this extraordinary situation in the attitude of the United States Government.
I want to ask this very simple question. Why are the British in the Falklands today? I suggest that there is only one justifiable reason for it. It is that the people in the largest Falkland island have asked to be British. It is because we believe in self-determination. When those people seek to be British we have no right to reject them; we have the right to protect them. But I go on to say this. While we have that justification, we have no justification at all to be in the Falklands on the basis of the old, imperialist, colonialist attitude of occupying other territories in the world. I know that in the minds of some Members of this House that idea still lingers, but because it is democratic, this country has now given up the idea that we should control other parts of the world without the consent of the people living there. We are not in the Falklands for imperialist, colonialist reasons; the only justification for our presence is the fact that there are there people who desire us to be there.
I go on from that to say that I fear that the islanders —the justification for our presence—may be the greatest victims of the military actions that are now taking place. They were of course immediately the victims of the invasion. The Government have spoken as though, at the end of the conflict, it will be possible to restore the Falkland Islands and the status of the islanders to what they were before the invasion took place. That would be utterly impossible.
Not only have the islanders suffered from the invasion that has taken place, but inevitably they will suffer from the blockade which is now being instituted. Up to the moment it has been said that the Argentinians have treated them well. Do your Lordships seriously believe that in blockade conditions the good treatment of the islanders would be maintained? I should be even more fearful if there is an attempt to re-occupy the island by force. It has been said that there will be no assault on Port Stanley, where most of the islanders live. But their farms and sheep are all over the territory; an attempt at military occupation would necessarily mean disaster for the islanders on whose behalf we have been acting. I say sincerely to this House that if we are thinking of the good of the islanders, we 995 should be thinking in terms of seeking as peaceful a solution as we possibly can.
Resolution 502 of the Security Council is accepted in this House as the authoritative directive for our actions. It demanded the withdrawal of the Argentine troops, and references are repeatedly made to it as though that were its only demand. In fact, the first demand of Resolution 502 was an immediate cessation of hostilities—the first and the overriding demand—and the last demand was to ask Argentina and the United Kingdom "to seek a diplomatic solution". The definite proposal of Resolution 502 therefore was that there should take place together a cessation of hostilities and a diplomatic effort. Neither side has responded to those appeals. Argentina had already invaded. Since the appeal it has poured more troops and more ammunition into the island. Since the appeal for an immediate cessation of hostilities the British have sent their fleet, they have established their naval blockade, they have occupied South Georgia, and now they have announced for tomorrow a complete blockade. Neither Government—on either side—has accepted the demand of Resolution 502 for the cessation of hostilities.
§ The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Belstead)
My Lords, the noble Lord must not take silence on my part as being agreement with what he is saying. When I wind up for the Government I shall seek to contradict what the noble Lord is saying.
§ Lord Brockway
My Lords, I am quite sure that the noble Lord will be ready to do that.
I go on to say that the only influential diplomacy has been through the initiative of Secretary Haig. Yes, we have given him support in that. I have so often differed with Secretary Haig, but I pay tribute to the tireless energy with which he pursued his efforts. But, instead of their taking place together—a cessation of hostilities and diplomacy—the policy has mainly been one of hostilities accompanying diplomacy, it being believed that by a show of strength one can ultimately bring about diplomacy and one's purpose.
§ The Earl of Onslow
My Lords, is the noble Lord saying that by a show of weakness one will ultimately get one's diplomatic way?
§ Lord Brockway
My Lords, I apologise to the noble Earl; I am becoming rather old and a little hard of hearing.
§ The Earl of Onslow
My Lords, I will try to repeat it more clearly. Is the noble Lord then advocating a display of weakness, and saying that that will enable us to get our way diplomatically?
§ Lord Brockway
Of course not, my Lords, but I do not believe that strength or weakness is really determined by military power. There has now been the suggestion —and I welcome it—that we make some appeal for United Nations intervention. I believe that if the Haig mission fails, as it is likely to do, the United Nations are by far the most effective means of bringing about a peaceful settlement. They should renew 996 their demand for a cessation of hostilities. They should call for a truce. That will mean the withdrawal of the supply of Argentine troops and their ammunition from the Falklands, and it will mean the withdrawal of their fleet to their ports. I suggest it should also mean a withdrawal of the British fleet, at least as far as South Georgia.
The second suggestion is that the United Nations should be asked to place a peace-keeping force in the Falklands to replace the Argentine forces. I believe it would be very difficult for the Argentine Government to refuse a proposal of that kind made by the United Nations with the support of the world. I would hope that such a United Nations peace-keeping force might extend to South Georgia. We have had a wonderful tribute paid here by my noble friend Lord Shackleton to the relationship between South Georgia and the southern Antarctic, and to the scientific co-operation. To maintain this, I should like to see South Georgia permanently under United Nations control.
For these reasons I want to say quite plainly, not only on behalf of myself but on behalf of very many others, that we cannot support the Government in their determination to press ahead with a military solution. It will cost hundreds and perhaps thousands of lives, with the danger of the war escalating. It will cost millions of pounds, and we shall see a further crippling of our welfare state and of the standards of life of our people. I beg the Government to do all in their power to prevent the escalation of this war and, by approaches to the United Nations in the way that the Labour Opposition has suggested and in the way that I have emphasised tonight, to seek to bring this crisis to an end, not by death, but by a peaceful settlement which will do justice to all people.
§ 6.4 p.m.
§ Lord Balfour of Inchrye
My Lords, I will not follow the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, except, if I may, to offer him my sincere sympathy in his inability at one moment to hear an interruption, because I, too, suffer from the same disability as he does. Your Lordships will be relieved to know that I have no intention at all of endeavouring to debate the major issues, which have been so well covered by the Leader of the House, by Lord Shackleton and by others. I have but one purpose only, and that concerns the brave inhabitants of the Falkland Isles, who are now going through a terrible ordeal. They are dedicated British citizens who have declared that their main wish is to see the restoration of a British administration under a governor. It is on this issue that I want to raise a question with Her Majesty's Government, not in criticism but with a desire for clarification, because I think that at the moment there is room for doubt in the case I am about to deploy.
The Prime Minister has made a clear and unqualified pledge that the interests of the inhabitants are "paramount". I have looked up in the dictionary what "paramount" means. The dictionary says that "paramount" means,supreme; superior to all others".Therefore, that pledge given by the Prime Minister, unqualified, is supreme and superior to all else. On the other hand, the Foreign Secretary, Mr. Pym, 997 addressing the inhabitants of the Falkland Isles, said, as reported by the BBC, that we would safeguard the islands' inhabitants' interests—and here are the governing words—so long as we are able to".My question is this. Do the words of the Foreign Secretary limit in any way, in a reasonable and understanding way, those of the Prime Minister, with her unqualified pledge; or does the Prime Minister's pledge come within the boundaries of Mr. Pym's words? That is a question to which I should like the Government to give a clear reply, because it may be that we shall be having, happily, a negotiated settlement—I am hoping so—and that settlement might include some multinational administration, either immediately or to be set up in the future. If the islanders said, "No; we want our Governor back, and let us have things as they were before", could this mean that the islanders' choice could wreck a settlement that we thought was in their interests, in the light of the Prime Minister's unqualified pledge?
In fact, does the unqualified pledge give to the inhabitants a virtual veto of any settlement now or later on if it is not to their liking? That is a direct question to which I am sure we should get a direct answer. Does the pledge come under the Foreign Secretary's words, which I interpret as meaning that there is a possibility of the inhabitants' wishes not being granted in full if those wishes are not in accord with a settlement? I raise this in no spirit of criticism but in order that we in this country, and the islanders, should not have anv misunderstandings now or in the future.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Lord Noel-Baker
My Lords, I will not follow the noble Lord in the very important questions which he has raised and to which I hope the Government will be able to give a satisfactory answer. The scandalous aggression by the Argentine junta against tine Falkland Islands presents itself to every British citizen in a double aspect. First, it is an arrogant insult to our national pride, designed to humiliate us before the world, designed to show that we no longer have the military and naval strength to protect territory which is indisputably British in international law, which we have governed in unbroken sovereignty for a century and a half and the inhabitants of which warmly and vehemently support our cause. Secondly, the scandalous aggression of the junta is a flagrant violation of the Charter of the United Nations, the sanctity and integrity of which is the most vital of all British national interests, as it is the most vital of all national interests for all the members of the United Nations.
It is perhaps natural that many of our compatriots, faced with the flagrant insult to our national pride, feel that it can only be wiped out by war, by the use of force—and it seems that our Prime Minister is among those who take that view. As my noble friend Lord Brockway has eloquently argued, it is a dangerous policy. It is dangerous, as he said, in a very high degree to the inhabitants of the Falkland Islands; it is dangerous to the British community, 100,000 strong, who live their lives in the Argentine; it is dangerous to the hundreds, perhaps many thousands, of our forces for whom we have so ardent a feeling of support; it is 998 dangerous to them for it may cost, as Admiral Woodward now says, very large casualties in a long and bloody battle. It is dangerous to British standing in the world, for I am afraid that our military actions, and, above all, our naval and air blockade, have raised doubts—and in some cases hostile doubts—in many foreign minds and there is at least a risk that world opinion might come to think of us as almost as aggressive as the junta itself.
I want to argue that there is another policy which would wipe out the insult to our national pride more effectively, with more humiliation to the Argentinians, with greater effect on the world at large and which we can and which we should pursue. That policy is the use of the United Nations. I want to speak of it in a preliminary and narrower way than that in which my noble friend Lord Brockway has done so adequately this evening. I want to argue that we should have used the United Nations to ensure the early and total departure of the invading Argentinian troops from the islands with the least possible delay.
The Government began by what I think was the perfectly correct procedure of taking the Argentine aggression to the Security Council. And they achieved a very notable result. The vote against the Argentine aggression was 10 to 1, and the 10 included all the nonaligned members of the Council. There were four abstentions and each abstention was a deliberate, considered refusal to condone the aggression which the junta had committed. It was, by implication, a resounding condemnation of their crime and I suggest that it would have been normal procedure, it would have been what was expected, if our Government had proceeded with the matter in the Security Council. This is what I should have liked to see them do.
I wish they had sent to the Security Council our Foreign Secretary, then the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, with his immense personal prestige, and that he had invited Mr. Alexander Haig to join him there. I believe that, together, their case would have been virtually irresistible. They would have said that the Council has adopted Resolution 502 condemning the junta crime; but that the United Nations was not created to pass resolutions; it was created—read Article 1 of the Charter—to suppress aggression by the collective action of the members designed to exert pressure on the criminal. The Foreign Secretary and Mr. Haig would have gone on to cite Article 4, which lays down the measures short of the use of armed force which the members of the United Nations could be called upon to take in order to bring the aggression to an end. Those measures include Article 41: the severance of economic relations, the ending of communications of every kind with the aggressor, by rail, sea, air, telegraph, radio and others, and the severance of diplomatic relations. Suppose they had called on the Council to ask members of the United Nations to take the last of the measures that I mentioned, to sever diplomatic relations with the aggressor, to withdraw their ambassadors from Buenos Aires? Is it possible that with British and United States Foreign Ministers urging the case the Council could have refused to adopt that measure?
If they had made that request, perhaps some Latin American countries would have refused to do their legal duty, would have refused to break their diplomatic 999 relations with Buenos Aires; but I believe it absolutely certain that we should have had with the withdrawal of at least 100 or more ambassadors from the Argentine capital. Imagine what the effect of that would have been upon the minds of the civilised and noble Argentinian people. I believe that it would have brought the invading troops tumbling out of the islands I believe it might have brought the junta tumbling down.
But suppose that measure of diplomatic disapproval had not sufficed. Under Article 1, the Council could call upon the members of the United Nations—and we could have called upon the Council to demand it—to break their trade and financial relations and stop all communications of every kind between their own country and the offending aggressor. That would have brought an appalling pressure to bear upon the junta. Again, I think it extremely improbable that the junta could have survived, still less that it could have insisted on keeping its troops in the Falkland Islands.
However, suppose the economic, financial and communications actions had not sufficed. Suppose the Prime Minister was right and that in the end military action was indispensably required to turn the invaders out. In that case, we should have been acting with military help under the charter of the other members of the United Nations, of the United States, of NATO, of the Scandinavian countries, of Canada, Australia, New Zealand and many other Commonwealth countries. I believe that is the policy which it would have been normal for the Government to pursue, and I deeply regret that they lapsed instead into the old diplomacy in its most ineffective form.
If we tried that policy now, if the Foreign Secretary went tomorrow to the Security Council and invited the United States Secretary of State to join him there, I think we would have less momentum behind our case; I think that our legal and moral position would seem less powerful than it would have been if we had acted swiftly after our triumph over Resolution 502. But I believe that it is not yet too late. I believe that the actions I have proposed might still succeed, and when the invading troops have left the Falkland Islands then the way will be open for the long-term peaceful settlement which everyone desires.
§ 6.25 p.m
§ The Earl of Cork and Orrery
My Lords, I follow the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Baker, in one respect only—to refute so far as I possibly can the major premise on which his argument was based. He understands, so it appears to me, that the action we are taking now arises from what we conceive to be an offence against our national pride. I think your Lordships will agree with me that it is no such thing. We are not a small, touchy nation of boy scouts to react in that kind of way. We are acting in defence of the principle of self-determination and the rule of law, and nothing else, within the framework of the charter of the United Nations. If the noble Lord can base his argument on so false a premise as that, I hope I may be forgiven for not choosing to follow the rest of it.
The only reason why I chose to speak at all was that I happen to have come back recently from a week in Washington, where I had the opportunity to speak to 1000 Congressmen of all ranks and degrees, to Senators, to Ministers, to people of all kinds—men, women, taxi drivers and so forth—and I found an astonishing degree of unanimity in the support that they were giving to us. So far as I can judge from my own immediate contacts, this support and approval was 100 per cent. I do not mean for a moment it is 100 per cent. all over the United States, or perhaps over Washington. But this is the effect. It was stimulating to a most extraordinary degree. I simply wish your Lordships to know that this is the effect that I obtained in Washington.
As for what goes on at home, I suggest that there are one or two things that we could very well do without. We could do without armchair strategists. These people may be of all kinds; they may actually be professional strategists, but they speak round the fireside or they speak to one another in the smoking rooms of the clubs. I do it myself, it is great fun. But I do not do it publicly. We should be a great better off if a lot of other people would follow that rule and keep their opinions and their advice concerning matters on which they are totally incompetent to pronounce—as I am—to themselves.
We can do quite well without retired officers going before the television cameras and the microphones to tell us how they think that the Royal Marines, for example, might behave in South Georgia, or in the Falkland Islands; the options that are open to them, how they know from their experience what those options are and how they might be carried out. I do not know what the motivations are of such persons but they might do well to reflect that in making these pronouncements they are likely to be listened to not only by friends but by enemies as well. They should consider that perhaps they are placing at risk the lives of their former comrades in arms.
We could do without television interviewers who make impertinent and unfortunate interviews with young—rather pathetic sometimes—wives and mothers who are in an obvious state of distress as a result of the removal for some indefinite time—perhaps for ever—of their young husbands and sons. They do us no good at all. Nor do offensive remarks about the Argentine people. This is not the same thing as the junta. When it is all over—successfully from our point of view and from everyone's point of view I hope, except the junta's—we and more especially the Falkland Islanders have to live on terms of amity with those people. It will not be made any the easier if we deliberately and quite gratuitously stir up a lot of mud in the meantime. I think we could do quite well without erratic and sometimes contradictory remarks from flag officers of the Royal Navy.
§ The Earl of Cork and Orrery
I think we could do verywell indeed without the right honourable gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale, Mr. Michael Foot. I think we could do with, on the other hand, many more Shinwells. The speech we have heard this evening from the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, is worth 100 speeches and utterances from the armchair strategists and a great many other people. He calls for unity behind the Government, which is heartening coming 1001 from one of his party, and I know that his sentiments are echoed very largely within that party and within other parties as well. With that unity, we could produce the overall requirement at this moment—that is unity, quiet strength behind the men of the fleet.
§ 6.32 p.m.
§ Lord Monson
My Lords, when it was announced earlier this week that we were to have another debate on the Falklands crisis, two or three noble Lords said to me: "What's the use? Surely everything that can be said has been said already ". I do not really believe this is so as, for example, the interesting and informative speech from the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, reminded us. But even if it were so, the message has obviously not got through to the extent that it should. One has only to look at the correspondence columns, and not only the correspondence columns, of the daily and weekly publications that circulate among the supposedly better educated and well-informed sections of the population, to see not only expressions of anxiety, which are perfectly natural and understandable, but also in some cases expressions of cynicism, contempt and even hostility for our cause—the cause of justice.
When in a previous debate just over a fortnight ago, I drew certain parallels with the 1930s and talked of a latter-day Nazi-Soviet pact, at least one noble Lord muttered dissent, to put it mildly. Yet the morning after the brilliant liberation of South Georgia by our forces with virtually no casualties—certainly no fatalities and only one Argentinian wounded—the Morning Star, Moscow's mouthpiece, screamed in banner headlines: "Bloodshed in the Thatcher War of Revenge."
Only a few days previously, in an incident which received far too little coverage in the British press, in the centre of Madrid 20,000 extreme right-wing Falangists were giving Nazi salutes and screaming anti-British and pro-Argentinian slogans. Of course, it is not the first time that the extreme left and the extreme right have made common cause, and it will not be the last; but it is well worth mentioning all the same, because if there are still some who seem to doubt the justice of our cause they really want to look at the sort of people who are opposing us.
However, the purpose of this debate is not only to reaffirm the basic principles of right and wrong, important though those are, but to take note of fresh revelations and insights. Although my sister's godfather, of whom I saw quite a bit during my boyhood, was a former governor of the Falkland Islands and told me something about them, I admit to never having been there and never indeed having been anywhere in the vicinity. However, two days ago I was privileged—and I use that word advisedly—in company with a number of your Lordships, to meet some of the islanders for the first time, together with the governor—and I stress the word "Governor" and not ex-governor—Mr. Rex Hunt. It was a most impressive and moving occasion. For those who were unable to attend, may I warmly commend the magnificent speech made by the honourable Member for the West Derby division of Liverpool, Mr. Eric Ogden, in another place on 7th April. I think that 1002 said all that needs to be said about the Falkland Islands and their people.
The meeting on Tuesday reinforced, if reinforcement were needed, the anti-appeasement feelings which I hope all of us, or nearly all of us, share. One instantly realised that, in present circumstances and after all that has happened, to suggest that the Argentine flag fly alongside the British flag in Port Stanley is tantamount to suggesting that 37 years ago this month the swastika ought to have flown alongside the Union Jack in St. Peter Port and St. Helier. This is not a far-fetched analogy because, with the exception of Alderney, where the native people were evacuated and replaced by slave labourers from the Continent who were treated quite abominably, the German occupying forces in the Channel Islands did not on the whole treat the inhabitants badly—no worse, I would think, than the inhabitants of the Falklands are being treated by the occupying forces at this moment, and at least the Germans did not try to change the culture and the way of life of the inhabitants.
It is not so much the politics of the invader that sticks in the gullet, nor even the behaviour of the invader, but simply the fact that they are invaders. For that reason, it seems to me it will take many, many years before the Argentinians are ever trusted again in the Falklands. And for that reason glib suggestions for condominiums, joint administrations, joint police forces (whether the police be armed or unarmed), simply will not hold water. Those who advocate such courses should realise that an Argentine presence, after all the traumatic experiences the people have suffered, is likely to drive out up to 95 per cent. of the islanders—islanders who have lived there for up to eight generations and who have made sacrifices for Britain in two world wars.
Contrary to the snide and devious insinuations being made against the islanders in some quarters in this country, my impression was that they are certainly not insular and are not anti-Latin American as such. On the contrary, as far as I was able to ascertain in the short time available, they have warm feelings towards Chile and Uruguay, which I believe are reciprocated. It is to those countries on the South American Continent that I believe they would wish to turn in the immediate future, and not to Argentina. Incidentally, to those who say: "What a lot of fuss about so few people", I would commend another excellent speech made in another place on 7th April by the honourable Member for Shoreham, Mr. Richard Luce, who declared that it did not matter whether there were 1,800, 18 million or 18 Falkland islanders, or whether they lived 800 miles or eight miles away: whatever their size and whatever their distance away, they deserve justice and fair play just the same.
A Church of England clergyman at the meeting—a Kelper himself—Mr. Millam, reminded the meeting that in World War II a higher proportion of the islanders had sacrificed their lives for Britain and democracy than did those from any other part of the Commonwealth. I think that is a fact which should be more widely known. Speaking to me privately afterwards, Mr. Millam wondered why so many in public life seemed to be oblivious of the fact that self-determination is a fundamental Christian principle, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester 1003 pointed out so admirably this afternoon, and that in the last resort Christian principles may have to be defended by means of a just war.
As for those who complain, quite inaccurately as it happens, that the Falkland Islands and the Falkland islanders are costing British taxpayers too much and that they should be dispensed with in some fashion on that account, the reverend gentleman suggested these were hardly Christian principles but rather the principles of Judas Iscariot. Faced with this choice, I know which way I should like my country to go, and I am certain that the vast majority of the British people feel the same way.
§ Lord Kaldor
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I remind him that last year many of us went into the Lobby to vote against a Government provision which deprived the Falkland islanders of their British citizenship? All that he says now about what the Islanders did for Britain in the last war comes very strange, if the Government last year went out of their way to provide in the British Nationality Act that after next year the Falkland islanders would cease to be British subjects.
§ Lord Monson
My Lords, all I can say to the noble Lord, Lord Kaldor, is that, for what it is worth, I voted for the Falkland islanders having British citizenship.
§ 6.41 p.m.
§ Lord Mottistone
My Lords, I have a few brief points to make, the first of which does not seem to me to have been made in great depth, except by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, in his splendid speech. My impression is that the Government have done surprisingly well over the whole of this operation. They have hardly put a finger wrong, whether it be in their dealings with the outside world, with the Security Council, with other nations, with the EEC and in everything that they have done to try to get the rule of law effected in the part of the world with which we are concerned, or whether it be in the gradual build-up of naval pressure to give that extra impetus. I hope very much that they will continue to perform as well as they are performing now.
I should also like to extend congratulations to the fleet and its commanders, which many others have already done. They have performed their function supremely well and I have every confidence that they will continue so to do. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, touched on the sea-keeping capabilities —I was not sure whether of the ships or of the men—but I can assure your Lordships that our ships are built to stand rough weather. The North Atlantic is not very dissimilar to the waters in which they are now operating, and indeed on occasions is very much rougher. As for long periods at sea, in the British Pacific Fleet, in which I had the honour to serve, we had to go all the way from Sydney to just south of Japan to operate, which was not a very different distance and covered much the same kind of area. The sailors are trained to stay at sea, as are the Royal Marines, so in the warships we have men who are accustomed to this practice.
I do not think that your Lordships will be too fussed about how they stand up to the strain of the operations 1004 which they have so far had to endure, and may indeed have to endure more in the future. I say "so far had to endure", because all the time in the Navy one's enemy is at least 50 per cent. the sea. One of the great benefits for the Navy is that when it comes to war the life is not very much changed, as it perhaps is for the Army when it goes into operation. So we can be very confident that our Navy will execute whatever the Government call upon it to do.
The next point on which I want to touch, because I feel so very deeply about it, is what I believe to be the irresponsibility and lack of sensitivity of the media—the radio, the television and the press—and the total lack of understanding of the role which they should be playing. Many noble Lords have made strong points. My noble friends Lord Beloff, Lord Selkirk, Lord Cork and Orrery, the noble Lord, Lord Monson, and many others have touched upon this point. It seems to me that it is most unsuitable for them to continue in the peacetime way in which they have got themselves trained. I get the impression over the years that there has been a shift in emphasis in the way in which programmes are presented—and, indeed, the way in which even newspapers are presented—away from any form of education and towards entertainment. The primary bias is entertainment. Therefore, they must seek to have a confrontation, because that entertains people. That is why they are insensitively brutal when they are asking difficult questions of Ministers who are trying to do their best in giving them answers; for example, why they publish information and other people's opinions which, on the whole, do not add to the country's knowledge in any significant fashion. We must know what the Argentine people think about. So I should have thought that the press needs to be encouraged by anybody who who can encourage it.
I do not suppose that it makes a whit of difference here. I wrote a letter to The Times which included some criticism of it, but it was not published. I received a charming letter back to say that it had not been published. I think that perhaps the press do not want to have things published which indicate that they are not perfect, because they are really rather arrogant in their surety of their own rectitude. However, that is enough of that.
I should like to finish by making one suggestion to the Government, which is not for action by them. A lot of talk has gone on about what the United Nations might do and what we might do in turning to it. Something which the United Nations could do which would suit the bill—not that we should press them to do it; they should take the initiative themselves—is to say to the Argentine people "Look, if you remove your forces from the Falkland Islands in accordance with Resolution 502, before somebody comes along to kick you out, then we in the United Nations will give due regard to your claims—their validity will no doubt be argued about later—when they come to be discussed after you have withdrawn your forces. If, on the other hand, you do not respond to what we, the United Nations, have said to you, and what the British have said to you while operating under Article 51 as the aggrieved party, you will forefeit all right to administration of the Falkland Islands. Other people may do it. We in the United Nations 1005 may set up a trusteeship under other articles, but you, the Argentines, will not have a right to administer. You can trade with them, but that is one thing which you will forfeit if you do not do precisely what Resolution 502 calls for".
That could come from the United Nations at this stage of the game. Earlier on, everybody was trying desperately to be even-handed, but that point is now passed. We are the aggrieved party and have so far been doing everything that is right, as my noble friend the Leader of the House explained so carefully to us earlier today. That kind of threat from the United Nations might just tip the balance. Your Lordships may say that that is treating them like children, and perhaps it is. But they have been behaving rather like a teenage bully-boy, who is rather oversure of himself, and when you have somebody like that—and we have all had to deal with children of that kind of age—it is a very good thing, as a punishment, to take from them the thing which they want most and to say, "You can have this back if you conform to the rule of law". That, I think, the United Nations might do to help us all.
§ Lord Gridley
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I ask him whether he agrees that the circumstances are that the Falkland Islands were a colony, and will still be a colony if they are returned to the status which they had before the Argentines invaded, and that nobody has any right not to treat them as a colony? In the case of all the colonies of which we have divested ourselves over the last two decades, we have honoured the provisions of Article 73 under the United Nations Charter. We shall have to do the same with the Falkland Islands. We shall have to give the islanders themselves the opportunity to decide what they wish to do. And that would be in accordance with the charter. Perhaps I did not follow what the noble Lord was trying to indicate, but that is what I think the situation is.
§ Lord Mottistone
My Lords, perhaps I could clarify it. All I am saying is that at the moment—we disagree with this—the Argentines claim the Falkland Islands. So do we. After all this is over there will have to be a settlement. The United Nations could say to them, "One lot of people who will have no right to a solution will be you, the Argentinians, if you do not obey Resolution 502". That might be a way of stopping them. This does not mean that we should not therefore go on with Article 73 and give paramount importance to the interests of the islanders themselves. Somewhere down the line, though, the Argentines will have to be in this discussion. I am suggesting that, if they were threatened by the United Nations with nor being allowed to be even in the discussion about whether they had an administrative right there, it might make them change their minds. It is probably too late—and probably they are also too stupid. But it would be worth a try.
§ 6.53 p.m.
§ Lord Gore-Booth
My Lords, there is one unpopular point which I hope will help the noble Lord who has just spoken. It has been crossing my mind that the Argentines obviously will have to suffer for the stupid 1006 piece of aggression which they have committed. They are not stupid people but they have been pushed by their stupid and aggressive elements into committing this offence against the whole of what we have been trying to teach ourselves for several generations about international relations. I fully support anything that is said along those lines. Also I think that it is extremely important that, without being unnecessarily offensive to the people who have committed this crime, we should keep them reminded for a time to come of what they have done.
Having said that, and having seriously meant it, I think also that we shall have to remember as time goes on—though we shall not remember it very quickly—that the Argentines inhabit a very splendid country, with great resources and with great talents, and that sooner or later the two countries and, indeed, many other countries which have been offended by Argentina because of this dispute will have to live again with that country. So what I suggest is that we keep this in mind. I do so because I took the trouble during my last period in the Foreign Office to visit Latin American countries in order to find out what they were like. I can assure noble Lords that at their best, with their talents—whether they be artistic, or industrial or anything else—they will have (though they will not have it for some time to come) something to give to the world.
At the front of our minds we shall have our admiration and thanks to our armed services and we shall remember what they did in this period. We shall not forget this as a very creditable period in British history, British armed forces performance, and so on. But in the end we shall be living together again. Having taken very special trouble in my career at the Foreign Office to get to know that country (though I am not pleading their case at all) somebody, I think, owes it to the world—to the United Nations which has been very much mentioned, quite rightly, in this debate—to remember that there is some very fine talent in that country as well as great natural beauty and that at some date in the future—no doubt not in the lifetime of many of us, if not all of us here—there will again be a time when we can regard the Argentines as reconciled to the rest of the international community.
§ 6.57 p.m.
§ Lord Milford
My Lords, I wish to thank the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Baker, for his speech which, to me, was one of the most constructive speeches we have heard this afternoon. He has given me great hope about the United Nations. He showed what the United Nations could do for humanity and for peace if it was allowed to do it and if it was approached in the right way. Again I thank the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Baker.
I and my wife have just returned from the Continent where we met many people who are interested in politics and what is happening in the world. They could not believe what was happening in this country. It was a sort of dinner party joke, a Gilbert and Sullivan light opera, when they saw on television a vast task force being assembled, with flags waving and jingoistic comments from the crowd—all for what appeared to them to be only 1,800 people and thousands and thousands of sheep. They could not believe it. 1007 That is the image, in a large part of the European Continent, of what has been happening in this country.
Of course nearly everybody loathes the Argentine Government and condemns it for giving way to impatience and capturing the islands by force. But often they shrugged their shoulders and said, "After all, you took it away by force 150 years ago". They were very proud that they hated the Argentine Government, because they were not guilty of helping this loathsome regime by the sale of arms or by economic help, or of welcoming them as a bulwark against communism and the liberation movements.
§ The Earl of Onslow
My Lords, could the noble Lord say to which part of the Continent of Europe he is referring? France, Italy and Spain, as well as ourselves, have all sent arms to the Argentine.
§ Lord Milford
My Lords, that is no excuse for Britain doing so. Only when we got back home and heard the radio and television reports of events in Parliament and read the leading captions and articles in the press did we realise what an appalling abyss we were on the edge of. Naturally we bought the newspapers as soon as we could when we arrived, and this is the sort of thing we read: "We fight and no deal", said the Daily Mirror. "Stick it up your junta and full ahead for war", said the Sun. "Battle stations and bully for Britain", said the Daily Star; while The Times was telling us, "We are all Falklanders now". This is some of the jingoistic stuff that we read when we first came back to Britain.
To many people abroad, unfortunately, Britain is still thought of as a dying colonial country, and a country still pleased to find an opening to put the clock back. In a large part of Europe our right honourable lady Prime Minister is depicted as a resolute, hard firebrand. One cartoon in a very respectable newspaper in Italy depicted her as the "Madonna Cannone", the woman being fired out of the cannon at the Falkland Islands' circus. Many snide and amusing remarks have been made about this, but serious people have asked, where was the statesmanship and where was the United Nations—which was created for just such a situation? If our first lady Prime Minister wants to go down in history as a great statesman—and I hope and believe that she does—she must build herself up as a saviour for peace rather than as a threatening rattler of arms. She will go down in British and world history with far greater acclaim if she stands solidly behind the United Nations: helping it, building up its authority and image, and extending its ability to prevent war.
No statesman—man or woman—should be so arrogant and impatient as to brush aside the perhaps slow and plodding machinery of the United Nations. The truth is that we and the Argentinians have disregarded the United Nations' resolution, however much one twists this way and that over legality. I believe that the statement made in your Lordships' House this afternoon dealt too much with the legality of the situation and the legality of the United Nations, instead of getting down to the human side and what everybody wants, even if the legal side does not quite fit into that.
I feel a curious mystification as to why the West's two leading democratic countries—Britain and America—support and help (except for the moment) to build up 1008 Argentina, Chile and South Africa. Why do they? This is puzzling me the whole time. Why are these very reactionary Governments supported by America and Britain? Is the answer that the Antarctic could be very rich in oil and valuable minerals? And is it because these countries have very long strategic coastlines plunging into the Antarctic? The Falkland Islands may have terrific importance in the future, as a base for the exploration and exploitation of the Antarctic. In any case, I am absolutely certain that the sheepfarmers on the Falkland Islands will be pushed aside.
I do not believe that this threatened war is only about the islanders. I believe that the three main countries mixed up in this dispute are trying to clean up their own difficulties. First of all, Argentina is facing political unrest and wants some patriotic flag-waving to get the country out of its mess and to get the people behind the Government. Secondly, I believe that after the warlike image of President Reagan, America is finding it pretty hard to build up the image of being a peacemaker. Thirdly, our own Prime Minister is having trouble with her Back-Benchers and the opinion polls are not going too well for her. And she has just lost a by-election. So the Prime Minister is building up a Boadicean image, and a glorious military victory would put her right back at the top again. Let us turn away from all this dangerous hypocrisy and do all that we can to help the United Nations to get us and Argentina out of this crazy mess.
§ 7.5 p.m.
§ The Earl of Onslow
My Lords, when one follows the noble Lord, Lord Milford, I think it is worthwhile suggesting to him, and here I would agree, that we will have to look into the arms trade after this is all over. We ought to look into it; it is fairly unattractive but, be that as it may, the Italians and the French have sold the Argentinians missiles, the Germans have sold them frigates—as have the French; the Dutch have sold them an aircraft carrier which we in turn had sold to the Dutch. So for the noble Lord to say that Europe has not sold weapons of war to the Argentinians is factually incorrect.
There is a rather good piece in Livy Book VI where, right at the beginning, Carthage is about to siege Saguntum at the start of the second Punic War. The Roman governor at Saguntum goes to the Carthaginian general and says to him, "In the sleeves of my toga I have either peace or war. Take which you will". It seems to me that the Argentinians have exactly that choice. Either they comply with the United Nations resolution and get out of somebody else's territory, or face the alternative.
I was at the same meeting with the Falkland islanders as the noble Lord, Lord Monson, and the first speaker made the shortest speech by any politician ever. He just said, "We want the Argies out and we want to go home". Then he sat down. The chairman of the meeting was expecting a much longer speech and this slightly unbalanced him—but in fact it was a very moving speech. It does not matter that there are only 1,800 islanders; it is their home and they should be allowed to go to it. The noble Lord, Lord Gridley, said that it was Article 73 of the United Nations Charter which deals with the freedom of self-determination.
It is also interesting to point out that when the 1009 Turks first invaded Cyprus, the then Prime Minister, Harold Wilson (and I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, was probably Foreign Secretary at the time) said that we would not use force; that he would not react to the treaty guarantees of the 1960s—and to all intents and purposes, this gave the Turks carte blanche to take over another hunk of Cyprus. Of course, it is rather attractive to get up and advocate war—especially as, thank goodness! I am too old to participate. But none of us wants to see a lot of fragmented 18-year-old Argentine conscripts. None of us even wants to contemplate a torpedo going into the side of a crowded troop ship and the screaming, the agony, the blood and the guts, and the drowning horror that that would precipitate. But sometimes choices have to be made.
The Argentinians can stop this quite easily by saying that they will withdraw. Nobody is asking them to give up their claim to sovereignty. I could even suggest to them a way whereby they might get it. I would suggest the following. If they were to say: "We know you have been there 150 years. We think you should never really have been there in the first place just because a gentleman of the Royal Navy called Captain Onslow put you there". Then they go on to say, "We will give you automatic Argentinian citizenship, if you want it, and we will then proceed to bribe you, to make it so pleasant; we will give you your roads and your this and your that. We will make life so pleasant for you that you will actually want to become Argentinian citizens in due course", From the Argentinian point of view, that would seem to me an infinitely more attractive and infinitely more intelligent way of going about it, and, I might suggest, rather cheaper as well.
My Lords, let us assume, hopefully, that we do get an Argentinian withdrawal and an agreement. I think what has been very clearly stated—it was stated by Lord Thomas in the last debate—is that the Argentinian Government is really very unstable. If one of those members of the junta signs an agreement with Her Majesty's Government, with the Americans, with whoever it may be, it appears that he then has to ask all the other members of the junta, all the other generals, then the colonels and then the majors, and finally it goes all the way down the line to an acting unpaid lance-corporal, a reserve cook in Tierra Del Fuego It is very difficult for Her Majesty's Government to negotiate with something like that. How can we be sure that if we get a reasonable, hopeful, diplomatic solution, even with American physical guarantees, they will not go back and make a claim and start over again? This is what worries me. It is difficult to negotiate with a Government which is really fairly amorphous.
My Lords, I have just one other thing to say. Australia and New Zealand have very nobly come to our aid with sanctions. In Europe we have said to the Argentinians, "You may no longer trade with us". Would it not he a reasonable thing to do to suggest to the Australian and New Zealand Finance Ministers that they should be able to make up that 300 million dollars, or was it pounds, a year worth of trade in cereal and agricultural produce which the Argentinians do with the European Communtity? That would 1010 show that it is not only moral to be on the side of righteousness, but also that it pays.
§ 7.13 p.m.
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
My Lords, noble Lords with experience of warfare will agree with the noble Earl that there is seldom anything glorious about it. It is usually boring, generally disgusting and sometimes very frightening. But I do not think I was ever more scared than when watching the Prime Minister on "Panorama" on Monday. There was this clear one-track mind repeating and repeating the clichés of conflict, quite oblivious to the possibility that there might conceivably he another point of view or that there might conceivably be an alternative course of action. It was very alarming indeed.
But I think today we have heard from the noble Baroness a rather less aggressive turn of phrase than we have heard from, for example, the Secretary of State for Defence on previous occasions. I hope against hope that even at this late stage this means that the Government are still not only hoping for a peaceful outcome but still bending every effort to ensure that that occurs. I still hope that, in the regrettable absence of Lord Carrington, there is someone with this view in the Cabinet; perhaps the noble Baroness is one of the doves, if that is not too damp a suggestion to make. It is perhaps a pity that the noble Lord—with his greater experience in foreign affairs and with his and his junior colleagues' particular experience of negotiations which have been carried out with Argentina over this problem—is not there to point out that for years we have been discussing with Argentina the very issue of sovereignty which the Prime Minister has indicated from time to time is really something which cannot be talked about at all.
So we have been talking about it, and whatever happens as a result of the present display of force, whether there is an actual outbreak of hostilities in which lives are lost or not, when it is over there will still be discussions on the question of sovereignty. So the real question is not whether we discuss sovereignty, because the geographical facts are against us. The real question is do we discuss sovereignty without loss of life or after loss of life. That is the real question which is before this House. After the battle is over we shall all still be here, I hope, unless things go much worse than even the most pessimistic of us hope. We shall still be here, and we shall still have to face the geographical consequences of the relative propinquity of the Falkland Islands to Argentina.
This, of course, is basically the position. We are trying to uphold an outdated position which was tenable in the old days of our imperial greatness but which is totally irrelevant to our present situation in the world. The parrot cry, therefore, that the wishes of the islanders must be paramount denies the junta, denies the military dictatorship in Argentina, the possibility of a climb down. They must be presented with the possibility of climbing down with something that they can sustain. Noble Lords will say this presents the attacker with a reward. I think it is a very grave error to look at it in that way. On both sides I think this has become a matter of pride, a matter of prestige, of standing, but of course in Argentina it may not be only the political life of the leadership which is at stake.
§ Lord Gridley
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord this question. He talks about this being a matter of pride and feelings for the Falkland islanders. Is it not a moral duty that we have towards them over this issue, and not a question of pride? Is it not a question of respect for international law and therefore peace in various parts of the world?
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
My Lords, I agree that we have responsibilities and we have duties, but I rather agree with my noble friend Lord Noel-Baker that the notion that these duties can only be performed, can only be fulfilled, by a display of military might, and by the killing of people and the sustaining of casualties on our own side, is simplistic thinking, suitable to an earlier age, perhaps, but unrealistic in the world in which we are living at the present time.
To say the least of it, it is arguable that we are in breach of Resolution 502 in mounting the task force on our own, as it were, without seeking to place the force not merely in pursuance of the resolution but actually under the aegis of the United Nations, as was suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Baker.
§ Lord Belstead
My Lords, I hope that the noble Lord will forgive me for interrupting. I was so discourteous as to interrupt the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, and I do the same to the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney. The noble Lord must not take silence from the Government Front Bench as being agreement with what the noble Lord is saying. I shall seek to contradict what the noble Lord is saying when I wind up for the Government.
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
My Lords, if I really thought that the silence of the Government was agreement with what I was saying I should be, expecting them to be popping up like jacks-in-the box all the time. Much of what I say must necessarily be unacceptable to the Government; I accept that. That is what we are about here. We disagree with each other. We express our views and we must necessarily know that sometimes those views are unacceptable. But the noble Lord will, I am sure, know that, whether my views are acceptable to the Government or not, I shall certainly go on saying them and whether he believes them to be correct or not, I personally believe that there is in the statement which I am presenting to the House an aspect of the truth which I hope he will believe is at least worthy of consideration. I ask no more than that.
I also think that our argument that this is an action taken in self-defence under Article 51, is also a bit debatable. I wonder where self-defence really ends—8,000 miles away? At one stage the United States really believed that its self-defence against communist aggression had to be fought out in Vietnam. A great deal of loss of life on all sides occurred because the domino theory made the United States Government at that time believe that it was necessary to fight wars at the other end of the world in self-defence. The Government take the view that we have to defend ourselves 8,000 miles away off the Falkland Islands.
§ Lord Monson
My Lords, will the noble Lord not agree that the South Vietnamese were not American citizens?
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
Precisely, my Lords, I was coming to that point. Of course the Government have denied full British citizenship to the Falklanders. There were those of us who in this Chamber tried to suggest to the Government that just as they had been forced to give full British status to the Gibraltarians they should do that to the Falklanders. But they would not have it. They gave them a second-class status at that time, and now they say, of course that, they are full British people—they were not a few weeks ago, but they are now. This is not a very satisfactory situation and I think that the Falklanders must be wondering precisely where they are. I have heard one or two people in the Falklands who have come back to these islands who have not been particularly grateful or thankful for the Government's attitude. One or two of them have taken the view that the consequence of the Government rescuing them will be to create a situation in which it will be utterly impossible for them ever to return to their islands. The power of modern arms is so great.
None of this is to excuse the indefensible aggression which has taken place. But it is to argue that the way to deny the fruits of a bloodless victory is not by insisting upon a bloody one. War has a momentum of its own. It takes over and it leads nations into terrible actions which they never contemplated at the start. Already the necessities of the task force itself, the conditions of the weather and the morale of the men are beginning to influence, perhaps even to determine, the very decision-making process. One of the things that possibly the Government have forgotten is that in war the military tail tends to wag the political dog. I think that they may, therefore, find themselves facing, in perhaps a few days if they are not very careful, a situation which was not, they would feel, of their own choosing. I am supported in this view by the commander of the task force itself, Admiral Woodward who said yesterday, and it was reported this morning in the Guardian:Even at this late stage I do think there is time for a diplomatic solution. I would be very depressed if I did not think that".It is, therefore, not merely left-wing people given to pacifism—although I, myself, have never been that way inclined—who are taking the view that the Government must exert every effort to avoid bloodshed; it is the very commander of the task force which the Government have sent out there. I am very glad to have that reinforcement because it seems to me to carry weight.
I think that this may be the Government's last chance to take a decision which is not forced upon them by events outside their own control. At the moment they are free agents or relatively free agents because, as I said just now, they are not altogether free agents because the necessities of the task force are already beginning to impose themselves upon the Government's freedom of choice. But now they could, if they wished, say "halt". I believe that now is the time to say "halt". I say to the Government: do not unleash the dogs of war; bring in the United Nations; reply to the Secretary General, and send the Foreign Secretary to the United Nations. As Winston Churchill put it, "'Jaw, jaw' is better than 'war, war'"; and to attempt to enforce the rule of law by "war, 1013 war" is an old-fashioned, unreasonable and unprofirable thing to do.
The Organisation of American States has called upon Britain to cease what it calls hostile actions—a vote carried by 17 to nil. Therefore, as regards the notion which was put forward by the noble Baroness when she opened the debate that they are all our friends, I point out that friends are already beginning to evaporate, and they will evaporate still further if we proceed on our present course. I think that we should send the Foreign Secretary to the United Nations and if I had my way he would be sent tomorrow.
Finally, in the nuclear age the greatest enemy is not a tyrant and is not even aggression; the greatest enemy is war itself. We must learn to prevail by other means if our civilisation is to survive.
§ 7.28 p.m.
§ Lord Gridley
My Lords, your Lordships would not expect me to follow the speech of the noble Lord who has just sat down in any great detail. I could not agree with a single statement which he made during the whole of his speech especially when he sought fit to attack my right honourable friend the Prime Minister in another place. I shall, in the course of my comments, speak from my own experience in matters of this nature. I am quite convinced that my noble friend Lord Belstead when he winds up for the Government will make certain comments on what the noble Lord has said.
It has often been stated in your Lordships' House that one of its great values is that many of its Members can speak from personal experience. In many of the comments which I shall make this evening on this issue I hope to bring in my own reactions to certain experiences which I have suffered. But, first, I should like to think at this moment of the Falkland Islanders—those who have remained on their island, an island which at any moment may be under attack, if an attack has not already started, and an attack in which British guns may be fired at the island. There will be a deafening noise similar to the experience which I suffered when the Japanese attacked the island of Singapore.
Of course that was years ago, but my mind goes back to the civilians in that situation when I, and many other civilian administrators in that place at that time, experienced those conditions. What do people do in those circumstances and in those extremities? It was my experience that we congregated for safety in numbers, in one or two large places and areas. I would hazard a guess that the Falkland islanders would do the same. It certainly saved us and I hope that they will be saved. Having said that, it would be my hope this evening that our Navy and Marines know where the islanders are, and I think that they probably do. But I mention that experience in the hope that it may be helpful.
I would also mention that it was my experience in adversity that British people—and the islanders are British people by descent—produce their own leaders in these extremities, leaders who may be very useful when the islands are restored to British sovereignty. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will bear in mind that experience which we had some years ago.
But what about negotiations? Negotiations with whom? Of course, it is right that we should go to the 1014 limits to seek a peaceful solution to the crisis, as we have done for a considerable time. Everybody must be grateful for the efforts that have been made by Secretary of State Haig in our interests and in the interests of peace in this connection. But who are these men in Buenos Aires with whom it has been our fate, or the fate of various people, to negotiate? There does not seem to be anyone clearly in charge, except a bunch of thugs, each trying to outdo the others in toughness. Their minds so far have been closed. They do not understand reason as we understand reason. It seems to me that they operate as the Japanese did under the type of bushido spirit, which we experienced years ago. It was a frightful experience. This junta operates a secret police which has liquidated thousands of Argentinians. Do we want that here or anywhere? Do we want that sort of system eventually to operate in the Falkland Islands and to be perpetrated against people who have no other wish but to preserve their British nationality? Reward aggression, and who would be next? We would be back in the days of September 1939.
Therefore, if negotiations are to continue, and if they are at this moment continuing, the greatest care will have to be exercised that there is no duplicity, especially if the Argentinian reason for the protraction of negotiations is only to place our task force at a serious disadvantage if it is called upon to act. I am sure that the Government realise this, but I mention it because it would be idle for me to pretend, from some of the speeches that I have heard—when there is a plea to go on indefinitely and for an inordinate length of time with negotiations—that that position is not advocated by some.
What are the other situations? So far we have world opinion behind us in our efforts to seek peace. What is also most important is that our Commonwealth is behind us, as was stated by the Secretary General for the Commonwealth. But in any solution for peace in the Falkland Islands I would hope that the wishes of the islanders themselves would not be ignored. I have personal experience of the following facts, and I wish to speak of the facts in this connection. Over the past two or three decades we have granted independence to our colonies, wherever they were, under Article 73 of the Charter, Chapter XI, of the United Nations. Let me quote it briefly to keep the record straight. This is what it says:Article 73:'Members of the United Nations, which have or assume responsibilities for the administration of territories whose people have not yet attained a full measure of self-government, recognise the principles that the interests of the inhabitants of these territories are paramount and accept as a sacred trust the obligation to promise to the utmost, within the system of international peace and security established by the present charter, the wellbeing of the inhabitants of these territories. And to this end to ensure with due respect for the culture of the people concerned their political, economic, social and educational advancement, their just treatment and their protection against abuses, and to develop self-government to take due account of the political aspirations'"—and so on. That is only a part of all that is said.
What is the suggestion? What do the islanders themselves say? Since all reports suggest that the Falkland islanders themselves would wish to be an independent territory under the Crown with, as I understand, the Queen as their Head of State, I cannot see that in any 1015 negotiations which may still be continuing the Argentinians could ever be accepted in such an arrangement; and if they were, under any discussions that are going on at the present time, to become part of the administration, my own personal conviction would be that this would be a betrayal of the islanders themselves.
I believe that if we follow Article 73 of the United Nations Charter, this puts the Falkland Islands into the position they were in before this monstrous aggression of the islands occurred. We should never by default, now or ill the future, reward aggression. Everything that I have said is in accordance with Article 73 of the United Nations Charter. I believe that the United Nations would support the islands in the circumstances that I have described. I repeat that the islands could expect to have independence and protection by the United Nations as a whole, and possibly—I only say "possibly" because I do not know what may be discussed very shortly, and it is only my idea—with a United Kingdom defence agreement; and—who knows?—possibly with the agreement help for development from the United States of America, which has vast and important interests in that area.
Finally, I am fully behind Her Majesty's Government in what they are attempting to do and have done in the present difficult circumstances. I think that the fortitude, expertise and courage of our Prime Minsister has been absolutely outstanding. From my experience, I believe that there is a great deal in what we stand for and in what we are trying to achieve. In the particular circumstances of this issue, it seems to me that we are standing up for the rule of international law, and we have world opinion behind us. I sincerely hope and pray that we come out of this with credit.
§ 7.39 p.m.
Lord Paget of Northampton
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, is not in the Chamber at the moment, but perhaps the noble Baroness the Leader of the House would convey to him my apologies if I cannot be here for his winding-up speech. That speech was expected at nine o'clock, and we have been so expeditious that it looks as though the debate will be over by then.
I just want to make two short points. The first is with regard to the United Nations. We have the right answer there. When I was brought up one of the first rules of advocacy was that when you get the right answer you do not go on until you get the wrong one.
I was a little surprised that the noble Lord, Lord Milford, was such an enthusiastic supporter of the United Nations, when I remember that Russia is the only nation with which the United Nations has been at war. Then I remembered that the United Nations is now a different place from what it was then. The United Nations was not an adventure in idealistic thinking like the old League of Nations had been. It was the creation of some very tough men indeed. The idea was to provide a secretariat for the concert of the great powers. The Security Council was to be the instrument whereby the great powers managed the world, while the General Assembly was a harmless conference hall at which the smaller powers could let off hot air but should have no power.
Unfortunately, the great powers fell apart. There 1016 was not a concert of great powers. The United Nations became the instrument of small power anarchy. The United Nations is the school where the Argentine learnt the doctrine that a small power can get away with anything. It is precisely in this that she must be corrected. We will not find the United Nations doing that.
Now I come to my second point. I entirely agree that if you consent to sending a fleet you can hardly then cease to consent to its doing its job. If you do, what is the fleet to do? Is it just to wander around until somebody gets around to sinking it? Sending a fleet is a very serious thing indeed. People do not just seem to have realised that. This is not the first fleet to go out of range of its bases to initiate, or to support, a land operation.
Going through history I have found some 12 cases, beginning with Xerxes the Persian, Alcibiades the Athenian, and coming on to the Russians in the Bay of Tokyo, and the unfortunate "Prince of Wales" on the shores of Malaya. All of these 12 fleets have one thing in common: not one of them came home. I cannot find one that did. I pray that we shall get away with it, but we shall be lucky.
I really am shocked at the frivolous way in which this thing was launched. Just look at what happened. We were taken by surprise. We had made no preparations. We had no plans. That is why Lord Carrington resigned. That is why Mr. Nott wished to resign. I believe that this is a very proper reason for resigning, because when you have made that sort of a mess of things you are not really free to take an independent decision. You have either got to go, or play double or quits. The Prime Minister was prepared to play double or quits.
Something dramatic had to be done, and it was done. Within 24 hours a decision to send a fleet. No plan. The flagship had been sold—fortunately not to the Argentine. A scratch fleet had to be collected, and it had gone three days before anybody thought of minesweepers. On that Saturday morning, within 24 hours of having been completely taken by surprise and planless, I do not believe that anybody on the Government Front Bench in the Commons that morning had even thought about what the weather was like on the Horn, or had even considered the danger to a fleet within reach of a land-based air force— and it is within range of that land-based air force.
If it were the RAF the orders would be quite simply, "This is an essential target. You have got to sink them. You won't have enough petrol to get home. You will have to step out and ditch the kite at some place of your choice". This is a very real and great danger to a fleet at sea. I hope we get away with it, but I would certainly have waited until October. Let us have six months for blockade or sanctions to work, and let us have a further six months to prepare adequately the air cover of any fleet that we were sending, and indeed the minesweeping capacity.
Politically the one thing the Government, which was at that point so discredited, could not take was time. To save themselves they had to take an urgent decision, and that is what I think the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, realised when he resigned. But at this point after this mistake—and this is why Ministers realise it, and ought to realise it—they are not in a position to 1017 take a free decision; they have to play double or quits. I think that is just what we are seeing happen.
§ The Earl of Cork and Orrery
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord, who has made a number of grave allegations against the Government, against the Ministry of Defence, against various departments.
§ The Earl of Cork and Orrery
My Lords, I think it would be reasonable to ask what is the noble Lord's evidence for these accusations.
Lord Paget of Northampton
My Lords, I must say that I am much more optimistic than I was a week ago. The quite deplorable performance put up by the Argentines in South Georgia is extremely encouraging. I mean, it is Italian plus. I do not think even the Italians ever surrendered without a single casualty. It may be that the admiral is right about his football match, and the Falklands will cave in as dramatically as South Georgia did. They are poor, hungry young conscripts, who probably do not like the Government anyway.
It is one of those strange things that military Governments in modern times—it used not to be so in the old days; Cromwell did not produce a bad army—always seem to produce absolutely lamentable armies. It is difficult to understand why, but it happens. It may be that the Argentines are so much worse than we had any right to expect that we shall get away with what seem to me the quite appalling risks that we have taken.
Supposing we do win the football match. Supposing we have not only the 1,800 inhabitants on the Falklands but the 5,000 to 10,000 Argentines who have surrendered and are desperately hungry and say, "Please feed me", and a fleet in those waters, what in the world do we do next? It seems such a feckless, unorganised way to slide into an unprepared war situation. I am afraid, in disagreement with quite a lot of what my noble friends—and particular my very dear friend Lord Shinwell—have said, I think that the Government's performance has been absolutely deplorable, not because it is warlike or unwarlike, but because they have been so inept.
§ 7.50 p.m.
§ Viscount Montgomery of Alamein
My Lords, I hope the noble Lord, Lord Paget, will forgive me if I do not follow his line of argument. I spoke in the last debate on this subject two weeks ago and tonight I wish to make only two points. The first concerns the question of the submission of the case to the International Court, a subject mentioned in some detail by the noble Lords, Lord Mishcon and Lord Kennet, and, I dare say, by others.
My observations on the question of the submission of the case are based not on any recent information, because I have not had any, but on views formed as a result of some 20 years of argument in a private capacity with Argentines of many walks of life, including, among others, the present Foreign Minister, 1018 Mr. Costa Mendez, before he took that job. I have constantly suggested that it would be catastophic if the Argentines took unilateral action, and events have shown that to be correct.
I have also argued for many years in those discussions that the case should be submitted to arbitration at the International Court of Justice, but the Argentines have always argued that there was no point, since there was no argument, and I shall explain why. All Argentines, including Anglo-Argentines, believe, rightly or wrongly, that sovereignty of the islands belongs to them. It is not for them a question of law; it is a question of belief. It is for them an article of faith, and I have found over those many years of argument on this subject that there is as little purpose in arguing the validity of their sovereignty case with Argentines as there is in arguing the question of resurrection with Christians. It may seem strange, but that is how they view it, and it is useful for the members of the negotiating teams to understand their viewpoint. That is how I have seen their viewpoint.
My experience also indicates that Argentina is not interested in occupation of the islands on a long-term basis, nor in their administration, but only in the question of sovereignty. In that aspiration, unfortunately, they have the support of the Latin American nations, but the Latin American nations, like others, do not endorse the use of force. I also believe that Argentina has no long-term interest in South Georgia or in South Shetland, as they are separate islands, are a long way away and are not part of the continental shelf. I leave those views with your Lordships for consideration.
My second point is a suggestion for the future which I shall leave with Her Majesty's Government. Sooner or later, as several noble Lords have said, we shall return to negotiations, and whatever the outcome of them, British relations with Latin America will, at best, be badly bruised and, more probably, severely damaged. It will be like a valley through which water from a burst dam has passed and we shall need to concern ourselves with the work of the reconstruction of those relations. I hope Her Majesty's Government will agree that it is not too early to start to consider the matter. To that end I suggest the formation of a small committee comprising officials from the Foreign Office and Department of Trade, and calling on the private sector as appropriate, to consider the problem. I do not expect the Minister to comment on that tonight, but he might do so at some later stage, perhaps when we next debate the subject in a few weeks.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
My Lords, I shall not detain the House for long but shall, very briefly, in making my maiden speech in this series of debates on the Falkland Islands, refer to a few points which have occurred to me during the debate, and indeed before it took place. I say that in particular in relation to the interesting speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, some elements of which, he will be surprised to learn, I agreed with, although on the substance of the argument I do not think I did. Certainly I agreed with him that we should act with restraint. That is absolutely right. Secondly, I think it would be foolish 1019 to rule out altogether the possibility of involving the United Nations in some final settlement.
To those who argue that we should go to the United Nations, I would ask them what happens if, after we put the case to the United Nations, we get precisely nowhere. The point we have to face at the moment is that, although we are not aware of the final details of the plan which has been put to the Argentine Government by the United States Secretary of State, there is absolutely no certainty that, if he fails, the United Nations would succeed. Therefore, the point which must be faced by those who argue for going to the United Nations as a serious option, is: what happens then? Do we simply allow the Argentines to get away with it or do we then take military action? It is right that those who argue that proposal, I am sure with a high degree of sincerity, should answer that question.
§ The Earl of Longford
Those are not the only options, my Lords. There are always economic sanctions.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
Indeed, my Lords, but the United Nations argument has been put very firmly both in this House and another place. I agree that the economic option is important and I rejoice that we have received such a high degree of support from our allies in the European Community. It is lucky that we are members of the EEC, and it is unfortunate that there are some in this country who underrate the significance of British membership of the European Community. This is a classic illustration of Europe standing together on a matter of supreme importance to the interests of this country.
Thirdly, a point on which I thought the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, did less than justice to his case was when he referred to the meeting of the Organisation of American States. What he said was factually true; he told us of the resolution which had been passed. However, he did not refer to the proposition which the Argentine Government asked the OAS to agree to. In fact, it was not a triumph for the Argentine but a massive diplomatic failure so far as they were concerned.
I do not believe, as I have indicated, that it is right to rule out the use of force in any circumstances. I am slightly worried, however, about some of the unthinking jingoism which appears from time to time in some of our national newspapers. But that is probably inevitable in the circumstances in which, as the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, observed, this country has undoubtedly been humiliated as a result of the successful Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands.
However, there are—this has been made clear by most of those who have spoken in this House and another place—a number of issues of supreme international importance in the whole affair. First, there is the fact that the Argentine has been involved in a clear act of unprovoked aggression. Apart from the interests of this country and the inhabitants of the Falklands, there are even wider issues involved. If the Argentine gets away with this, we must remember that there are many other countries in the world who have territorial ambitions. In my view if a situation arises where one country gets away with it, the position of many smaller, weaker members of the United Nations would be very seriously affected.
1020 Finally, I should like to raise three points. First, there is the question which was raised by my noble friend Lord Kennet at an earlier stage, and touched on by other noble Lords; namely, the position of the International Red Cross. There has been the very unfortunate episode in South Georgia, and we should all be most reasured to know, in some detail if possible, what is to be the degree of commitment of the International Red Cross if we become involved in military operations in the Falkland Islands. Of course we all very much hope that that situation will not arise and that Secretary Haig's initiative will be a success. However, I think it very important indeed to have this particular matter clearly defined.
Secondly, there is an even wider issue, and I think that it is important for us to bear it in mind. I know that it is premature because it is based on considering the situation as it will be as, and when, Britain regains sovereignty of the Falklands. I must say that I am slightly alarmed about some of the arguments that have been used in recent days about what would then happen. I am well aware that the Government are not responsible for articles which appear in The Times newspaper, but when one sees seriously being made a suggestion that there is going to be a British garrison of 3,000 men stationed in the Falklands after the reassumption of British sovereignty, one must raise one question; namely, what is going to be the long-term position so far as our relations with the Falkland islanders are concerned?
Clearly it is highly desirable, absolutely essential, that we bear in mind at this time, when most difficult decisions are having to be arrived at by Ministers, what are our long-term foreign policy and defence objectives in regard to this whole issue. I perfectly take the point regarding the crucial importance of the views of the Falkland islanders. I certainly would not use the word "paramountcy" in this regard; nevertheless their interests are highly important. But I do not think it sensible for us to believe that in years to come there will be a major British defence commitment so far as the Falkland Islands are concerned. All of us privately know that that is simply not a serious option, and even though it is uncomfortable to mention a matter of this kind at such a time, I think that in the interests of honesty of argument it should be mentioned.
§ The Earl of Onslow
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I should like to point out that the word, "paramount", appears under Article 73 (declaration regarding non-self-governing territories) which states that the interests of the inhabitants of these territories are paramount.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
My Lords, I am interested in what the noble Earl says. All I would say is that, speaking for myself, I think that the word "paramountcy" is not a particularly suitable word to use. Parliament must decide this matter; I think that Parliament is the right place for it to be determined.
§ 8.3 p.m.
§ Lord Mayhew
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, could have pointed out that in Article 73 it is the interests of the inhabitants which have to be paramount. The language used by the 1021 Government has referred to the "wishes" of the inhabitants being paramount; and I think that that strengthens the point that was being made by the noble Lord, Lord Harris. I felt that the noble Lord, Lord Harris, did well to remind us of the importance of the long-term outlook and to speak of it, even at this difficult time. Even if we were to have a complete military success in the Falkland Islands, one consequence of the success would be bound to be the humilitation of the Argentine—and not only of the junta, but of the Argentine people, too. I say that because it is quite plain that the preposterous claim that they put forward is passionately believed by them to be based on justice. A great success for us in the Falklands would, I fear, be followed by perhaps decades of hatred and a desire for revenge. It would also present administrative and security problems, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Harris, pointed out, which would be very formidable for us.
The latter part of the debate has produced some very original ideas. Ah! I see that the noble Lord, Lord Paget of Northampton, has returned. We were all fascinated by his theories on naval warfare. He began with Xerxes and pointed out that Xerxes failed because he operated without naval bases. The noble Lord seemed unaware of sonic technological changes since Xerxes's day. I do not know what was Xerxes's capacity for a float support—
Lord Paget of Northampton
My Lords, I think that the crew of the "Prince of Wales" might also have felt that there had been some technological changes, but the general principle was still the same.
§ Lord Mayhew
My Lords, I think that Xerxes would have done much better with a nuclear-powered fleet submarine; he would have had far more success. With regard to the question of blockade, I must say seriously that I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Paget, did far from justice to the Royal Navy, in regard to both its achievements and its capacity to sustain the air and sea blockades. However, I think that some of the noble Lord's remarks were made in a scholarly and detached manner and without very serious reference to the important naval problems in the Falklands area.
We had a another original contribution from the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney. He propounded a new theory of international law. He acknowledged that the Argentinians had committed an indefensible act of aggression, but he went on to argue that we still had no right of defence under Article 51 because of the distance of the Falkland Islands from Britain. Well, this is a strange theory indeed—that one's right of self-defence depends on the distance of one's territory from the capital city: a moderate right of defence in Yorkshire, a little right of defence in the Shetlands, and none at all in the Falkland Islands. There could hardly be a better invitation to acts of aggression against isolated islands all over the world, islands which are detached from their mother countries. But again I assume that the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, was not speaking too seriously.
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. I was 1022 speaking entirely seriously. The noble Lord seems to have overlooked the fact that the Falklands are rather near Argentina.
§ Lord Mayhew
Indeed, my Lords, but the fact that a territory is far from its motherland or from the capital city does not measure its right of self-defence under Article 51 of the United Nations charter; it is too obvious. I have yet to see on the tape any announcement that the Argentine Government have rejected Mr. Haig's terms, though this might be due to the quite extraordinarily complicated structure of power within the Argentine Government, to which the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, referred. It also suggests a degree of uncertainty, a degree of division, which I think is encouraging, even if eventually the terms are turned down.
It was encouraging to hear the language used by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, when she described the Government's reactions to the Haig proposals. As a free man I can say that the noble Baroness gave me the impression that in fact Mr. Haig's revised proposals are acceptable to the British Government. I do not want to embarrass the noble Lord who is going to wind up, but if that is in fact so, it is of course profoundly important and has tremendous, and good, implications for Anglo-American relations, for the unity of NATO, for the support that we are receiving from our European allies in NATO. It would also have tremendous implications for the pressure that the United States is willing to bring on the Argentine. It would also be a tremendous encouragement to the servicemen out in the South Atlantic, who will hear about it in due course. I might be striking too optimistic a note, but certainly I found the noble Baroness's words encouraging.
Much of the discussion has been about how in fact we should conduct ourselves in the debate. I think that on one point we were all unanimous—that we should try to avoid saying anything which would discourage our servicemen in the Falkland Islands. I must say that I remember during the war, when I was serving abroad, hearing on the BBC Overseas Service the report of a speech by Richard Stokes, NIP, in which he said that our new tank, the Churchill, was a deathtrap. Judging by its impact on me, his opinion did very little to raise the spirits of the troops. I still think that he should have made that kind of comment to his colleagues and impressed it on Ministers, but privately and not publicly, as he had done.
However, I do not think that this means we should go to the other extreme and take the line which was recommended to us by the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell. He said that we must take this opportunity of declaring our full support for the Government, and, indeed, of having a vote so that we can stand up and be counted on the side of the Government, even though we have not been taken into the confidence of the Government, either about the terms which are on offer or about the military situation—quite rightly; we are not complaining; that is the line they take.
I think this goes too far. I think the idea that we commit ourselves blindly to supporting the Government is asking too much of us. That would be to depreciate the role of this House and of Parliament; to bring it down, rather. I think we can leave that 1023 kind of behaviour better to the Argentine assembly. Speaking again as an ex-serviceman, I know that if that is the way Parliament behaves on these occasions it will create cynicism among servicemen themselves. I know that from experience. So a certain responsible liberty of opinion is surely the right approach.
But, in the same way, I disagree, if I may, with one remark made in an admirable speech by the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, who complained that the editor of The Times had today published an article by Mr. E. P. Thompson. This article was malicious, divisive, irritating, untimely. Yes, I agree with all that. But, of course, it is precisely for that kind of article, published at this kind of time, that the whole principle of freedom of expression should be safeguarded. It is for that precise kind of expression of opinion that our tradition of free speech is necessary.
When the noble Lord writes an article—statesmanlike, well-informed, timely, patriotic—he does not need protection against censorship, only against editorial rejection slips. But I maintain the right of the editor of The Times to publish an article which profoundly irritated, I suppose, most of us, but actually was talented and well-written, and in my view in the traditions of British freedom of expression at awkward moments. Again I would say, for heaven's sake do not let the fact that the Argentines are temporarily occupying the Falklands tempt us to lower the standards, either of our Parliament or of our press, towards the standards of the Parliament and press of the Argentine.
I was therefore glad to hear Lord Greenhill of Harrow and others responsibly expressing anxieties and making suggestions. Lord Greenhill, like Lord Harris, objected to the word "paramount". In the last debate my noble friends and myself also gave our case for objecting to that. I was glad he spoke about not making promises to the Falkland islanders which cannot be fulfilled.
Finally, we had some criticisms of the Labour Party, mostly from Members of the Labour Party. This is not unknown in this House. I was sorry and thought it very unfair of the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, to criticise the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, for not giving us the true version of Labour policy on the Falklands, because the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, was just as guilty of this crime as the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton. From neither of the noble Lords did we get any vestige whatever of the horrors of real Labour policy in this field. They were a kind of collective noble figleaf standing between us and the real horrors of Labour policy in this field.
§ Baroness Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe
My Lords, will the noble Lord give way for a moment? There has been very little political abuse in this debate; it has been kept on a very serious level. I am rather sorry that the noble Lord is having fun. Everybody knows that it is only the members of the Labour Party who criticise the Labour Party—everybody else loves it.
§ Lord Mayhew
My Lords, I am sorry to say that the noble Baroness was absent during the speeches of some of her noble friends, because some of her noble friends spoke about this subject in the same rather 1024 light-hearted spirit as I am speaking about it myself. But it is true—I say this admitting that I am new to this House, but I see no reason why I should not say it—that in my view recent events in another place have shown once again that on major matters of defence the Labour Party is not to be trusted. This is my opinion, and I feel I am entitled to express it.
Finally, may I say how much I welcome the news that, in the light of the experience of the Falkland Islands, the Government are proposing to have another look at their Defence White Paper. I think this is a very good idea. I hope the changes will not be just cosmetic; I hope the Government will have a real revision of their defence policy. But that is for the future. For the present, my noble friends and I myself wish to do nothing, I am sure, but to congratulate the Navy on the magnificent way it has handled the crisis so far, and to wish every success to it in the task ahead.
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I utter one word of complaint? Since he spoke about Labour Party defence policy, may I say that neither from him nor from his noble friend Lord Gladwyn have we heard a word about Liberal policy at all.
§ Lord Mayhew
My Lords, we have now had three debates on this subject; I have made three speeches and Lord Gladwyn has made three speeches. I wonder whether I could refer the noble Lord to these long expositions of Liberal Party policy on this subject which we have already given to the House.
§ Lord MacLeod of Fuinary
My Lords, I think this House will have grasped that I endeavoured to speak in a more proper place, before Lord Mayhew—
§ Baroness Young
My Lords, we have a list of speakers. It is now the turn of the noble Lord, Lord Stewart, to speak, and I think it is the wish of the House that we should hear him.
§ Lord MacLeod of Fuinary
My Lords, on a point of order, is it not in order to make a speech without being on the list provided it is made before the main speakers, of which Lord Mayhew was the first speaker? Is it not possible for somebody to speak then, more particularly when they are going to speak for only two minutes?
§ Baroness Young
My Lords, it is of course open to any Member of your Lordships' House to put his name down to speak, and he will be included on the list of speakers. It is also possible to speak at the end of the list of speakers, in the gap. But we have now passed that point, and it is indeed the time for the noble Lord, Lord Stewart, to speak. It would be breaking with all conventions of the House not to apply the accepted practice of the House on this particular occasion.
§ The Earl of Longford
I really must raise a point in defence of the rights of Back-Benchers generally. I understood that the noble Lord was trying to speak before Lord Mayhew, and Lord Mayhew got up first. That was the situation, and it was just a misunderstanding. I must just place that before the House.
§ Baroness Young
My Lords, I much regret it if there has been any misunderstanding, but we really are at this particular point of today's proceedings, and I think it is the wish of the House that we hear the noble Lord, Lord Stewart.
§ 8.20 p.m.
§ Lord Stewart of Fulham
My Lords, this debate, one of several we have had on this subject, was opened by the noble Baroness with a speech of very great interest, both as to the present situation and (what is more fascinating to discuss, and more hopeful) as to future developments. In her reference to the present situation she gave us an exposition of the Government's attitude towards the United Nations and the recent statement of the Secretary-General that could with great advantage have been given by the Government in another place a little earlier. If it had been given it would have avoided many misunderstandings. We are grateful to her for setting the record straight in that respect. Also, she spoke of the need—and I noted her words—for a long-term solution to this whole problem. It is to that that I want to devote the latter part of my speech. Let us look for the moment—
§ Lord Stewart of Fulham
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord MacLeod of Fuinary, is speaking to a Member of the Front Bench opposite. I hope that he will allow me to get on with my speech. I have been here throughout the debate.
My Lords, the present situation is the fruit of a series of events with which all of us are familiar: first, an act of invasion. Even those, either here or in the press and elsewhere, who have been striving to put the actions of this country in an unfavourable light, have not been able to produce any conceivable excuse for the invasion by Argentina. The argument has been used in some quarters that because the behaviour of this country can be criticised on other grounds—for example, the sale of arms to Argentina in the past—we are for that reason debarred from defending our own territory when under attack by an aggressor. If that argument is going to be used, then no nation in the world will ever be considered morally fit to take any action at all. That is no reason why we should be inhibited even if the criticisms made of our previous actions in some cases were fully valid.
1026 This invasion was indisputably an inexcusable act of aggression and it was followed, quite properly, by Resolution 502 in the Security Council. The chief burden of Security Council Resolution 502 falls on the Argentines. It requires them immediately to leave the territory that they have invaded. I think it is worth while stressing that under the whole nature of the Charter of the United Nations, nothing in Resolution 502 deprives this country of its right of self-defence. The argument that there is a sort of equal bilateral obligation on us and on the Argentine will not stand up. We are doing something which is valid in any case; the Argentine is doing something which was not valid in the first place and which is expressly forbidden by Resolution 502 in the other. I am sorry to have repeated facts which are familiar to us all, but I think it is as well to get it straight as there has been an amount of obfuscation of the issue.
The chief burden of fulfilling this resolution, as I have said, falls on the Argentine. Regrettably, we must say that so far they have shown no sign at all of complying. They have reinforced their troops there and their Foreign Secretary, at any rate, loses no opportunity of saying that the one thing on which they will not compromise at all is the question of sovereignty. That is not the language of somebody who wants to reach an agreement. That is why we ought not to start by pitching hopes of agreement too high. Certainly, it is a reason why, whenever any criticisms are made of how this country has handled the matter, the unrelenting hostility of the Argentine Government and their Foreign Secretary to any kind of settlement must be borne in mind.
Having said that, I would agree that we must, rightly, put our hopes in the negotiations being carried out by Secretary Haig. I am not sure that I would go as far as the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, as to hazard the guess that the British Government are in sympathy with or even support the proposals which he put. We do not know. But, certainly, we shall all be glad if these proposals or subsequent proposals can give us a peaceful end to the present dispute.
But the question that we have got to ask and which it seems to me some noble Lords would not face is this. If this does not happen, if, despite the praiseworthy labours of Secretary Haig, the Argentine Government still says, No, still refuses to move out, still refuses to comply with Resolution 502, what do you do then? There is no escaping that question. If the answer is that we leave the matter as it stands, then we must realise what we are saying. We are admitting that aggression is successful. We are inviting anyone with nerve and ill intention enough to commit it anywhere. We must be clear about that.
It might be said that we will deal with it by economic sanctions. Unfortunately, I missed the speech of my noble friend Lord Noel-Baker. I have been told by many noble Lords what an impressive and important speech it was. He argued that we should have pursued, through Article 41 and other sections of the UN charter, methods of getting the Argentines to comply with Resolution 502 that fell short of the military action that we have taken. It seems very difficult to believe that if we ourselves had not been prepared to take part in the defence of our own territory, we should have got 1027 support from other countries to help us bring about a solution of the dispute. I think that the argument advanced in some quarters that by acting for ourselves we are in danger of forfeiting world opinion has got it the wrong way round. It is not only our right but our duty to defend this territory. We also have had the unhappy experience of what a lengthy business economic sanctions can be.
We have also had the grim object lesson from the Falkland Islands of how speedily a dictatorship can act to make its aggression irreversible. The people of the Falkland Islands have already been told that they can be sent to prison if they speak disrespectfully of Argentina or of its flag and that their children must be educated as the Argentinian authorities require. It does not require a great deal of that before, as I say, the aggression could become irreversible. I do not think that we could have accepted that. I do not feel, therefore, that those noble Lords who have argued that we must all hope and work for peace but who left the argument there and did not answer the question of what one should do if all the efforts failed, are in touch with the situation as it is.
I believe, too, that while nobody on this side of the House or on the Government Benches can give the Government a blank cheque—we cannot say to them in advance that whatever they do they will get support—neither can we start tying the Government's hands about the use that they should make of the power that is now assembled in the South Atlantic. That, of all ways, is the way that could lead most certainly to disaster—to have the power there and to have arguments at home at each stage over exactly where it should be used. It was once part of the constitution of this country that the executive had the power to declare war and the legislature had the power to vote the money presumed necessary for it. As a result of that, a Dutch admiral sailed his fleet up the Medway.
With our usual constitutional skill, we have long since got out of that difficulty. Therefore, as I say, we cannot tie the Government's hands as to how precisely they should act. They know their responsibility not only to us but to the men in the forces and to humanity to try to secure our objective as speedily and with as little loss of life as possible. It may be a difficult job; but they knew and we knew the difficulties of that job when the fleet sailed. It seemed to me that some of the noble Lords who criticised impending particular action by the Government were really, to be logical, objecting to having the fleet sent at all. That would be an understandable position; but they are then driven back on the problem of what one does when the aggressor walks away triumphantly. Beyond saying that about the fleet and expressing—as we must all express—admiration for the splendid performance of the men in the fleet, I should not attempt to give the Government any strategic advice. I listened fascinated—as I always do—to my noble friend Lord Paget when he expounds with historical examples what is almost bound to happen. But allow me to say with great respect that I notice on quite a number of occasions it never actually works out quite as he had foreseen. I shall not attempt to do that.
It may be, as the admiral in charge has suggested, a long and terrible business; or it may be, as suggested 1028 earlier, a cheerful and easy business. Who is to decide that, save events themselves? I would only add this comment. We are full of admiration for the work of the men in the force; but are we not entitled to be slightly critical of the loquacity of the admiral? I was brought up to believe that the Navy was the silent service and that historians tell us that when Nelson set forth his famous signal before Trafalgar, some of his captains were grumbling about what they considered to be his garrulity. One always understood that after some event like the Battle of Trafalgar or the defeat of the Spanish Armada, their Lordships at the Admiralty could possibly be heard mumbling that the conduct of all ranks had been reasonably satisfactory, and they left it there.
I hope that this tradition of the silent service will be re-established. I mean that. Although I have expressed it lightheartedly, I mean it very seriously. It is not desirable that this kind of remark should be made, and there are a great many criticisms of the press. We have been bombarded with information about the dispositions of the fleet which if true ought never to have been published. We have been kept extremely short of what is happening in diplomacy which we should like to know. However, presumably one day we shall.
I turn now to the future. I believe that whether it takes a long time or a short time, whether we are very fortunate or tragically unfortunate, what we are doing will end in victory and the deliverance of the islands from the Argentine occupation. What do we do then? When thinking over this, it occurred to me that our natural feeling is that there is not the slightest reason why we should enter into any undertaking to the Argentines at all as to what we shall do after they are defeated, bearing in mind the way that they have behaved.
Then I remember that towards the end of the war there were discussions as to whether the British Government should announce something in the way of possible terms of surrender instead of pressing that it should be unconditional. People talked of the world after the war and the need for us to do this, and avoid that. Winston Churchill summed it up very well. He said: "We are bound by our consciences to humanity. We will not be bound to the Germans by virtue of any bargain." That is our position with the Argentines today.
We are under no obligation to make any promises to them. We are under a duty to humanity to see that the opportunity that will arise when victory comes is wisely used in the interests of the islanders, ourselves and all those concerned. That means we shall have to take into account the rights—I say deliberately "the rights" rather than the wishes; I am not sure that in a case like this the difference is all that great—of the islanders. We shall also have to take into account the status and dignity of the United Nations. Certainly we must see that they play—and we encourage them—a substantial part in reaching any settlement. We shall also have to consider, as my noble friend Lord Shackleton, pointed out, the development problems of the South-West Atlantic and Antarctica.
The noble Earl, Lord Perth, dealt with this aspect of the matter. He said that we should say what we would do. With that I cannot quite agree with him. I do not think one ought to start pronouncing now what we will do when the conflict is over one way 1029 or another. However, we ought to make it clear that we do not bar any possibilities of ideas but that we do not go into discussions afterwards rigidly tied by ideas that have been formed before this conflict began.
For example, after the Argentine troops have left, it seems to me very reasonable—as several noble Lords have suggested—that there should be a period when the islands are under a United Nations administrator. A few weeks ago the idea of putting a United Nations adminstrator in charge of the Falkland Islands would have scandalised large numbers of people. We should be very ill-advised to rule it out now because we shall want the wishes of the islanders to be very fully consulted. That does not mean just holding a referendum, because it will not be a question of "choose A or B". Careful, informed discussion will be required when considering the situation as it will be after this conflict is over. There might be greater faith in the validity of any such discussions if they were conducted when there was a United Nations administrator in charge of the islands.
§ Lord Gladwyn
My Lords, will the noble Lord tell us exactly how the United Nations administrator will be appointed, to whom he will be responsible and what chance there will be of the Russians and Chinese agreeing on this particular appointment?
§ Lord Stewart of Fulham
My Lords, I agree it will be extremely difficult. But if we rule out every idea on the grounds that it is going to be difficult, we shall never get anywhere. He would probably be responsible to the Security Council. The noble Lord is afraid of a Russian veto. The Soviet Government themselves may want to reconsider their position in the light of possibly the military events that might occur in the next week or two. We ought not to start at this stage by saying that we rule it out because it is impossible before we have even tried.
Also, we ought to take the opportunity of raising again in the United Nations the idea of an effective United Nations force. One of the reasons why I could not agree with the analysis of my noble friend Lord Noel-Baker is unhappily the United Nations at present does not have an effective force at its disposition. It is a matter which has often been discussed in the UN before. We may find after these episodes that there is a greater willingness in the UN to discuss the possibility of a UN force. Again, it is something to which we ought not to shut our minds. We might even consider the next question of reference to the international court. That might prove to be at some stage of the negotiations a useful step to take. In our own backyard we ought to take the step which has been suggested of making the Falkland Islanders No. 1 British subjects.
My noble friend Lord Jenkins of Putney made fun of the Government opposite in that they were zealous to defend people whom they were only prepared to make second-class citizens. It worried me a little that he seems to want to make them first-class citizens without being prepared to defend them. Neither attitude seems to me entirely satisfactory.
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
My Lords, will my noble friend give way? Would he agree that there is more than one way of defending people? My noble friend 1030 seems to be eager to defend the Falkland Islands by force. If he reads the Commons Hansard tomorrow, he will find that the Front Bench there expresses a different view; and, for the information of the noble Lord on the Liberal Benches, that is Labour Party policy.
§ Lord Stewart of Fulham
My Lords, I am genuinely sorry if I have given the impression that I am anxious to see this issue settled by force. What I have said, however, is that this has to be settled. It cannot be left to drag on. Nobody does a kindness to anybody by pretending that if you cannot settle it without force, you must just let it run away. I share what I should have thought all noble Lords share—the earnest anxiety that it should be settled without force; but we cannot shirk the possibility that force may have to be used—and that I understood to be the party's policy also. In sum, then, I would say that our watchwords must be; for events in the present, resolution; and for the future, imagination and understanding.
§ Lord Noel-Baker
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I ask him whether he will be good enough tomorrow morning to read what I said in Hansard and to see that, if the Security Council and the charter were to be used as they were intended to be used, there might be a real hope of bringing the Argentinian aggression to an end?
§ Lord Stewart of Fulham
My Lords, I do indeed assure my noble friend that I will read what he said. I shall look forward to doing so, but I think he, in turn, will agree that I was not wholly rejecting his ideas. I found them difficult to apply fully in the present circumstances.
§ 8.41 p.m.
§ Lord Belstead
My Lords, it is now very nearly one month since the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 502, and during that time every action of the Argentines has been in direct contradiction of that resolution. In this difficult and dangerous situation I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, for the speech he has given this evening. The noble Lord's advice, if I may say so, was wise and his words encouraging to the men of the fleet who tonight are in the South Atlantic. I was particularly grateful also to the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, for confirming what was essentially the primary message of the speech of my noble friend the Lord Privy Seal: namely, that we are operating strictly within the rules of international law and strictly within the Charter of the United Nations.
The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, asked whether the United Kingdom could show that this country had really tried throughout this matter to reach a reasonable solution. I feel I should reply to this point at the very beginning, and I should like to do so by repeating the words of my noble friend the Leader of the House at the beginning of the debate. My noble friend Lady Young said that since she last reported to the House, which was on Monday, Mr. Haig had put formal American proposals to the Argentine Government and had requested an early response. Mr. Haig had seen Mr. Costa Mendez last evening, but no con- 1031 clusion was reached. Mr. Haig had judged it right to ask Argentina, as the country to whom Resolution 502 is principally addressed, to give her decision first. My noble friend went on to say:Mr. Haig has also communicated to us the text of his proposals. They are the result of Mr. Haig's talks in London and Buenos Aires and of his discussions in Washington with my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary last week".I am repeating my noble friend's words on this—The proposals are complex and difficult and inevitably bear the hallmarks of compromise in both their substance and their language. We are studying them very carefully indeed in the light of principles and objectives enunciated in past debates in both Houses and my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary remains in close touch with Mr. Haig".Meanwhile, my Lords, my latest information is that no word has come from Buenos Aires.
Throughout the past month we have made clear our desire for a diplomatic solution; and in order to confirm to Security Council Resolution 502, a solution really has to be in three stages. The first is Argentine withdrawal. Argentine aggression must be replaced by Argentine withdrawal. Secondly, arrangements are needed for the administration of the islands pending a definitive solution; and the third stage is the negotiations for that definitive solution.
Many of the suggestions and solutions offered in your Lordships' speeches today really concern the second and third stages. I have particularly in mind the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Perth, about the question of trusteeship, and indeed the speech which had aspects in it which I felt referred to the second and third stages of negotiations put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Kennet. But the immediate problem facing the Government remains the same: how to remedy the act of aggression and how to achieve Argentine withdrawal from the islands. Until we can achieve that, there can be no negotiations about the future of the islands. Argentina will remain in open breach of the United Nations resolution and the people of the Falkland Isalnds will not be free.
My noble friend the Leader of the House explained to your Lordships the critical junction at which we now stand. The Argentines, as I have said, have not yet replied to Mr. Haig's proposal and within a few hours the Total Exculsion Zone will come into effect, marking a further turn of the screw and a further tightening of the military pressure.
My noble friend Lord Selkirk referred to the threat to the proper processes of international relations from this Argentine aggression, and I should like to pick up that point by recognising the intense diplomatic work which has been carried on from London, at the United Nations and in our posts overseas in order to marshal world opinion in support of the United Nations Resolution 502 and in order to persuade countries to take trade measures against Argentina—measures which we are deeply grateful to other countries for taking.
From the beginning of this matter, the Government have made clear that the diplomatic pressure would be supported by the naval task force and that this pressure exerted by the force depends directly on our determination to be prepared for action. It would have been totally pointless to have despatched such a 1032 force if there had been any doubt of our readiness to use it should it prove necessary. By every move following the passing of the United Nation's resolution, Argentina has shown that diplomacy, if it is not backed by force, would be ineffective. So, with the general endorsement of both Houses, we despatched the task force and it has shown professionalism and skill in retaking South Georgia. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, referred to the perilous conditions which are to be found in the South Atlantic, and I realise that the perils are great at this time of the year and the conditions can be terrible; but we have confidence in the men of the task force and in the professional skill of the commander.
I was grateful also to the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, for speaking about the right to self-defence; and I would say to the noble Lords, Lord Brockway and Lord Jenkins of Putney, that this is a right which is recognised in the United Nations Charter. Just as British common law entitles a citizen to use minimal reasonable force to remove a trespasser if he refuses to go, so international law permits us to use force to eject an intruder from our territory. The right of self-defence really is a fundamental protection against aggression, and it is not just permissible for us to exercise that right: if diplomatic means of achieving a solution prove inadequate, it would be irresponsible of us not to exercise it.
A number of suggestions have been made—
§ Lord Brockway
My Lord, I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. Does not that article which gives the right to self-defence also have a clause giving the United Nations itself the right to take subsequent action to bring about peace? Is that not what we are pleading for?
§ Lord Belstead
My Lords, I will in a moment say a little more about the United Nations and, if the noble Lord, Lord Brockway will forgive me, I shall wait to pick up his point about the United Nations. But may I, before I come to that, simply say this. The speech of my noble friend the Lord Privy Seal made very clear that we have been in constant touch with the United Nations since this matter began, to see in what way the United Nations could best play a part in this matter. Meanwhile, I have to repeat, at the risk of being tedious, that it was the belief of the Government, and it remains our belief, that diplomacy without any force in order to back it up would have been, in this case, diplomacy which would come to naught.
A number of suggestions have been made for alternative diplomatic approaches. If the Argentinians reject Mr. Haig's proposals, that can only mean that they are not disposed to accept any negotiated solution on the basis of Resolution 502. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, will not mind my saying that he did not seem to realise that yesterday's resolution of the Organisation of American States, among other things, demands full implementation of Resolution 502. Only if circumstances change, and the pressures on them increase, may the Argentinians subsequently agree to negotiate. They may then find that the terms which they finally obtain are not as favourable as—those which they earlier refused. Meanwhile—
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
My Lords, since the noble Lord mentioned a point that I made, I would point this out to him. Like all of us, I, too, want Resolution 502 implemented. Where we differ is in the methodology of implementation, not in our desire that it should be implemented.
§ Lord Belstead
My Lords, I agree that the noble Lord is right and that we differ in the methods. I hope the noble Lord will not think that I am suffering from a long day when I say that I think the noble Lord's methods would not lead to the right conclusion. I hope, and believe, that the methods which Parliament is supporting at the moment, difficult and dangerous though they are, may lead us to a just solution. Meanwhile, as my noble friend the Lord Privy Seal has made clear, our representative at the United Nations has been in touch with the Secretary-General since the crisis began, to try to explore ways in which the United Nations can secure the implementation of Security Council Resolution 502.
However, this is not a straightforward matter so far as the United Nations is concerned, as many of your Lordships with long experience of international matters will know. Perhaps I may just explain that by picking up a point which was made by the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Baker, who suggested that we should have gone to the United Nations to get the Security Council to impose economic and other sanctions on Argentina, as a means of enforcing Argentine compliance with Resolution 502. I can assure the noble Lord that we certainly considered that possibility, but we saw at once that the Soviet Union, in its search for ways of strengthening its influence in Argentina, would certainly veto any such resolution and we would not, therefore, have succeeded in our aim of increasing pressure on Argentina to fulfil its legal obligations.
We face a very serious crisis, but there is a United Nations resolution which defines the scope of a peaceful settlement, there is a mediator who has been uniquely well placed to act as a go-between and there is a set of proposals which, in the mediator's view, could represent a possible way of implementing the resolution. We must hope that, at this 11th hour, the Argentine leaders see reason. The time for a diplomatic solution is, indeed, running out, but as it runs out so the pressure on Argentina to agree to a peaceful solution increases. Faced with her legal obligations to comply with the United Nations resolution on one side, and with prospects of further hostilities on the other, there is no doubt in our mind which is the choice which any Government with the interests of its people at heart, and with any respect for the United Nations, would be bound to adopt.
The noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, raised the question of the International Court of Justice, about which I have corresponded with the noble Lord. I am bound to say that I think my noble friend Lord Beloff answered this point with great effect—a point which I absolutely agree is important, and a matter for concern and sensible, and not political, argument. But it would, if I may pick up the argument of my noble friend Lord Beloff, be strange, and no support to our commitment to the Falkland islanders, for Great Britain which has sovereignty and is claiming nothing to resort first to the International Court of Justice. Further, if we were 1034 to do so, we have the example of only five years ago when Argentina, having accepted the jurisdiction of a court of arbitration on the Beagle Channel dispute with Chile, then simply refused to accept the result of the arbitration—
§ Lord Mishcon
My Lords, the noble Lord was so generous in giving way, I promise him that I shall ask him to do it only once. But did he note that I was trying to say not that we should ourselves apply to the International Court, but that a statement should be made that, if the Argentine Government cared to apply, we certainly would not resist the jurisdiction. That is what I asked for.
§ Lord Belstead
My Lords, I take that point, but there are two problems about that. One is the effect which a statement of that kind would have for the people for whom we have a responsibility on the other side of the world. The other is the final point which I made, that if we made a statement of that kind we would be making it to people who have shown within the last five years that, apparently, they do not care about the outcome of arbitration. Nonetheless, I repeat that I know it is a serious point, and a point which is very much in your Lordships' minds, and certainly we will look again at what has been said. The important thing is that the negotiations, which must be part of Security Council Resolution 502, should not be preudged and that, in any negotiations, we must be guided by the wishes of the islanders.
My noble friend Lord Balfour of Inchrye asked me about the weight to be placed upon the wishes of the islanders, in the context of the rights of Parliament and the interests of the United Kingdom as a whole. The principle of self-determination is one to which, over the years, Britain has been persistently devoted. The astonishing success of British decolonisation has been almost entirely due to our unswerving application of the principle of self-determination, and we must surely do everything in our power to apply that principle here.
I should like, therefore, just to say a little more, before I finish, about the three main elements of a settlement which have evolved during Mr. Haig's mission. First, on the stage of withdrawal, it goes without saying that there must be an immediate withdrawal of all Argentine forces from the Falkland Islands, as required by United Nations Security Council Resolution 502. The necessary time must, of course, be allowed for this. The British Government would be prepared to pull back British forces from the area in parallel, taking account of the geographical and other factors which make precise symmetry impossible. At the same time, we have to ensure that there could he no change of heart or mind on the part of the Argentines during their process of withdrawal, and no attempt at reoccupation of the islands at some future date.
Secondly, on the interim arrangements, the British administration was illegally displaced from the islands by the Argentine invasion and must be restored. That is the first priority. The British Government, however, have to consider the practical arrangements that will follow withdrawal. Provided that the essential principle of British administration is preserved, the Government are prepared to consider reasonable suggestions in this field. As I have already said in reply to your 1035 Lordships, I realise that suggestions for the short term and the longer term have been made in the debate today and in the debate of a week ago. Thirdly, there is the principle of self-determination itself to which, incidentally, the Government, Congress and the people of the United States also attach the highest importance.
Our basic position, therefore, is that Britain is ready to co-operate in any solution which the people of the Falkland Islands could accept and any framework of negotiation which does not predetermine or prejudice the eventual outcome. As my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has, I believe, said today in another place, it is extremely discouraging that the latest statements from the Foreign Minister of Argentina lay even more stress than before on Argentine determination not to yield an inch on the question of sovereignty. He does not depart one iota, apparently, from the position that there must be prior agreement that any negotiations must end in sovereignty being transferred to Argentina, regardless of the views of the people of the Falkland Islands on this point. The Argentines know, of course, and Mr. Haig knows—and has accepted—that this is a sticking point for us.
From the beginning of this crisis the British Government's efforts have been directed towards a just and a peaceful solution. We have consistently made it clear that a solution must be found—as the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, said, it has got to be found—and that it must involve the withdrawal of Argentine forces from the Falkland Islands. That is the effect of the resolution of the Security Council. If Argentina simply turns its back upon the Security Council resolution, if Argentina shows that a solution can be achieved only through the use of force, this will be a terrible blow to international peace and the liberty of the individual, for the position of the Falkland islanders is one which no free people can tolerate. The threat to international security represented by the Argentine action is one which the United Nations Security Council has rightly condemned. That is why we believe in the justice of our cause.
§ Lord Kennet
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I wonder whether he would be so very good as to say something about one point which has been mentioned in the debate but which he did not touch on; namely, the International Red Cross. Is it not the case that Article 14 of the Fourth Geneva Convention would allow the International Red Cross, if invited by the relevant parties, to set up safety zones in a zone of combat, which may or may not be a zone of declared war, and to administer those zones? And is it not the case that yesterday the International Committee of the Red Cross communicated to the British and Argentine Governments—
§ Lord Kennet
I am putting it in the form of a question. Is it not the case that yesterday the International Committee of the Red Cross communicated to the British and Argentine Governments its willingness to do so in the Falklands, if invited?
§ Lord Belstead
My Lords, I will write to the noble 1036 Lord on Article 14, but so far as the general thrust of his question is concerned, the British Government have always made it clear over the past weeks that they wish the International Committee of the Red Cross to have access to the Falkland Islands. The Argentinians have now withdrawn their opposition to an International Committee of the Red Cross Mission.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.