§ 3.19 p.m
§ The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Young) rose to move, That this I-louse 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. I hope the House will agree that it was right that we should hold this debate at short notice today. It is three weeks since the last debate in your Lordships' House on this particularly important matter.
§ Seven weeks ago today, the Argentine Foreign Minister summoned the British ambassador in Buenos Aires, and informed him that the diplomatic channel was now closed. Later on that same day, President Reagan appealed to President Galtieri not to invade the Falkland Islands. That appeal was rejected.
§ Ever since 2nd April, Argentina has continued to defy the mandatory resolution of the Security Council. During the past 24 hours, the crisis over the Falkland Islands has moved into a new and even more serious phase.
§ On Monday of this week our ambassador to the United Nations handed to the Secretary-General our proposals for a peaceful settlement of the dispute. These proposals represented the limit to which the Government believed it was right to go. We made it clear to Senor Perez de Cuellar that we expected the Argentine Government to give us a very rapid response to them. By yesterday morning we had had a first indication of the Argentinian reaction. It was not encouraging. By the evening we received their full response in writing. It was, in effect, a total rejection of the British proposals. Indeed, in many respects the Argentinian reply went back to their position when they rejected Mr. Haig's second set of proposals on 29th April. It retracted virtually all the movement their representative had shown during the Secretary-General's efforts to find a negotiated settlement. I shall have more to say about his efforts later.
§ The implications of the Argentinian response are of the utmost gravity. This is why the Government decided to publish immediately the proposals we had put to the Secretary-General and to give Parliament the earliest opportunity to consider them. These proposals were placed in the Printed Paper Office 804 earlier today. The Government believe that they represented a truly responsible effort to find a peaceful solution which both preserved the fundamental principles of our position and offered the opportunity to stop further loss of life in the South Atlantic. We have reached this very serious situation because the Argentines clearly decided at the outset of the negotiations that they would cling to the spoils of invasion and occupation by thwarting at every turn all the attempts that have been made to solve the conflict by peaceful means.
§ We have now been negotiating for six weeks. The House will recall the strenuous efforts made over an extended period by Secretary of State Haig. During that period the Government considered no fewer than four sets of proposals. Although these presented substantial difficulties, we did our best to help Mr. Haig continue his mission until Argentine rejection of his last proposals left him no alternative but to abandon his efforts.
§ The next stage of negotiations was based on proposals originally advanced by President Belaunde of Peru and modified in consultations between him and Mr. Haig. Britain was willing to accept these, the fifth set of proposals for an interim settlement. They could have led to an almost immediate ceasefire. But again it was Argentina who rejected them.
§ Since 6th May, when it became clear that the United States/Peruvian proposals were not acceptable to Argentina, the United Nations Secretary-General, Senor Perez de Cuellar, has been conducting negotiations with Britain and Argentina. Following several rounds of discussions the United Kingdom representative at the United Nations was summoned to London for consultation last Sunday. On Monday Sir Anthony Parsons returned to New York and presented to the Secretary-General a draft interim agreement between Britain and Argentina which set out the British position in full. He made clear that the text represented the furthest that Britain could go in the negotiations. He requested that the draft should be transmitted to the Argentine representative and that he should be asked to convey his Government's response within two days.
§ Yesterday we received the Argentine Government's reply. It amounted to a rejection of our own proposals, and we have so informed the Secretary-General. This morning we have received proposals from the Secretary-General himself.
§ It will help the House to understand the present position if I now describe briefly these three sets of proposals. I deal first with our own proposals. These preserve the fundamental principles which are the basis of the Government's position: Aggression must not be allowed to succeed; international law must he upheld; sovereignty cannot he changed by invasion. The liberty of the Falkland islanders must be restored. For years they have been free to express their own wishes about how they want to be governed. They have had institutions of their own choosing. They have enjoyed self-determination. Why should they lose that freedom and exchange it for dictatorship?
§ Our proposals are contained in the paper which has been made available to noble Lords in the Printed Paper Office. It comprises two documents. First and mainly, there is a draft interim agreement between ourselves and Argentina. Second, a letter to the 805 Secretary-General which makes it clear that the British Government do not regard the draft interim agreement as covering the dependencies of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. I deal with the dependencies first.
§ South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands are geographically distant from the Falkland Islands themselves. They have no settled population. British title to them does not derive from the Falkland Islands but is separate. These territories have been treated as dependencies of the Falkland Islands only for reasons of administrative convenience. For these reasons they are outside the draft agreement.
§ I turn now to the draft agreement itself. Article 2 provides for the cessation of hostilities and the withdrawal of Argentine and British forces from the islands and their surrounding waters within 14 days. At the end of the withdrawal British ships would be at least 150 nautical miles from the islands. Withdrawal much beyond this would not have been reasonable because the proximity of the Argentinian mainland would have given their forces undue advantage. Withdrawal of the Argentinian forces would be the most immediate and explicit sign that their Government's aggression had failed and that they were being made to give up what they had gained by force. It is the essential beginning of a peaceful settlement and the imperative of Resolution 502.
§ Article 6 sets out the interim arrangements under which the islands would be administered in the period between the cessation of hostilities and the conclusion of negotiations on the long-term future of the islands. In this interim period there would be a United Nations administrator, appointed by the Secretary-General and acceptable to Britain and the Argentine. He would be the officer administering the government.
§ Under Clause 3 of this article he would exercise his powers in conformity with the laws and the practices traditionally obtaining in the islands. He would consult the islands' representative institutions—that is, the Legislative and Executive Councils through which the islanders were governed until 2nd April. There would be an addition to each of the two councils of one representative of the 20 or 30 Argentines normally resident in the islands. These representatives would be nominated by the administrator. This clause has been carefully drawn so that the interim administration cannot make changes in the law and customs of the islands that would prejudge the outcome of the negotiations on a long-term settlement.
§ This provision would not only go a long way to giving back to the Falklanders the way of life they have always enjoyed, but would prevent an influx of Argentine settlers in the interim period whose residence would change the nature of society there and radically affect the future of the islands. That would not have been a true interim administration. It would have been an instrument of change.
§ Clause 3 of this article thus fully safeguards the future of the islands. Nothing in this interim administration would compromise the eventual status of the Falklands or the freedom which they have enjoyed for so long.
§ Clause 4 of Article 6 would require the administrator to verify the withdrawal of all forces from the islands and to prevent their reintroduction. We think it 806 likely that he would need to call upon the help of three or four countries other than ourselves and the Argentine to provide him with the necessary equipment and a small but effective force.
Articles 8 and 9 deal with negotiations between Britain and Argentina on the long-term future of the islands. The key sentence is the one which reads:
These negotiations shall be initiated without prejudice to the rights, claims and positions of the parties and without prejudgment of the outcome".
We should thus be free to take fully into account the wishes of the islanders themselves. And Argentina would not be able to claim that the negotiations had to end with a conclusion that suited her. But we have to recognise that these negotiations might be lengthy. That is why Article 9 provides that until the final agreement has been reached and implemented, the interim agreement would remain in force.
§ Although this interim agreement does not restore things fully to what they were before the Argentinian invasion, it is faithful to the fundamental principles outlined earlier. Had the Argentines accepted our proposals, we should have achieved the great prize of preventing further loss of life. It was with this in mind we were prepared to make practical changes that were reasonable. But we were not prepared to compromise on principle.
§ I turn now to the Argentinian response. This revived once again all the points which had been obstacles in earlier negotiations. Their draft interim agreement applied not only to the Falklands but included South Georgia and the Sandwich Islands as well. They demanded that all forces should be withdrawn, including our forces on South Georgia, and return to their normal bases and areas of operation. This was plainly calculated to put us at an enormous disadvantage.
§ They required that the interim administration should be the exclusive responsibility of the United Nations which should take over all executive, legislative, judicial and security functions in the islands. They rejected any role for the islands' democratic institutions. They envisaged that the interim administration would appoint as advisers equal numbers of British and Argentine residents of the islands, despite their huge disparity in numbers. They required freedom of movement and equality of access with regard to residence, work and property for the Argentine nationals on an equal basis with the Falkland islanders. The junta's clear aim was to flood the islands with their own nationals during the interim period, and thereby change the nature of Falklands society and so prejudge the future of the islands.
§ With regard to negotiations for a long-term settlement, the Argentines pretended not to prejudice the outcome. However, they stipulated that the object was to comply not only with the Charter of the United Nations, but with various resolutions of the General Assembly. As is well known, the United Kingdom dissented from some of these on the grounds that they favoured Argentine sovereignty. And if the period provided for the completion of the negotiation expired, they demanded that the General Assembly should determine the lines to which the final agreement should conform.807
§ It was manifestly impossible for Britain to accept such demands.
§ Baroness Young
My Lords, I think it might be better for the House if I continued my speech because it has a thread of argument running through it. I hope that the noble Lord will put his question later so that he may receive an answer to it.
Argentina began this crisis. Argentina has rejected proposal after proposal. One is bound to ask whether the junta have ever intended to seek a peaceful settlement or whether they have sought merely to confuse and prolong the negotiations while remaining in illegal possession of the islands. I believe that if we had a dozen more negotiations the tactics and results would be the same. From the course of these negotiations and Argentina's persistent refusal to accept Resolution 502 we are bound to conclude that her objective is procrastination and continuing occupation leading eventually to sovereignty.
As I said earlier, the Secretary-General has this morning put to us and to Argentina an aide-memoire describing those issues where, in his opinion, agreement seems to exist and those on which differences remain. The first group of issues—those where he believes there is a measure of agreement—will require further clarification in New York for on some points our interpretation would be different. The aide-memoire states, for example, that Argentina would accept long-term negotiations without prejudgment of the outcome. This important phrase was, however, omitted from the Argentine response to our own proposals and is belied by a succession of statements from Buenos Aires.
Those points where, in the Secretary-General's judgment, differences remain include: first, aspects of the interim administration; secondly, the timetable for completion of negotiations and the related duration of the interim administration; thirdly, aspects of the mutual withdrawal of forces; and, fourthly, the geographic area to be covered. Senor Perez de Cuellar has proposed formulations to cover some of these points.
The Secretary-General, to whose efforts I and, I am sure, the whole House, pay tribute, has a duty to continue to seek agreement. But as our representative is telling him in New York, his paper differs in certain important respects from our position as presented to him on 17th May and which we then described as the furthest we could go. Moreover, it differs fundamentally from the present Argentine position as communicated to us yesterday.
It is not a draft agreement but, as the Secretary-General himself puts it, a number of formulations and suggestions. Some of his suggestions are the very ones which have already been rejected by the Argentine response to our own proposals. Even if it were acceptable to both parties as a basis for negotiation, that negotiation would take many days if not weeks to reach either success or failure. We have been through this often before and each time we have been met with Argentine obduracy and procrastination.
808 Argentina rejected our proposals. It is inconceivable that they would now come genuinely to accept those of the Secretary-General's ideas which closely resemble our own. Even if we were prepared to negotiate on the basis of his paper, we should first wish to see substantive Argentine comments on it, going beyond mere acceptance of it as a basis for negotiation. These are the points we are making in our reply to the Secretary-General. At the same time we are reminding him that the negotiations do not close any military options.
The gravity of the situation will be apparent to the House and the nation. Difficult days lie ahead, but Britain will face them in the conviction that our cause is just, and in the knowledge that we have been doing everything reasonable to secure a negotiated settlement. The principles we are defending are fundamental to everything that this Parliament and this country stand for. They are the principles of democracy and the rule of law.
Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands in violation of the rights of peoples to determine by whom and in what way they are governed. Its aggression was committed against a people who are used to enjoying full human rights and freedom. It was executed by a Government with a notorious record in suspending and violating those same rights. Britain has the responsibility towards the islanders to restore their democratic way of life. She has a duty to the whole world to show that aggression will not succeed and to uphold the cause of freedom. My Lords, I beg to move.
§ Moved, That this House takes note of the situation in the Falkland Islands—(Baroness Young.)
§ 3.39 p.m.
§ Lord Shackleton
My Lords, I am sure that your Lordships will share the gratitude that I feel personally and indeed on behalf of my party for the very clear exposition from the Lord Privy Seal. I think it would be agreed that it clearly gives the lie to the suggestions that have recently emanated that the Prime Minister, however intemperate some of her earlier words were, has in fact been intransigent. Indeed, it is striking how far the Government have moved from their original position. It is quite clear now that we have the whole story that it is almost impossible at the present moment to arrive at any agreement with the Argentine Government.
Not for the first time in your Lordships' House I shall have to discard the speech I had prepared, because the noble Baroness has answered practically all the questions I had intended to ask. It seems to me that the Government have now moved from a position which they may say they were never entirely stuck on; namely, that the future sovereignty of the Falklands will, in the long run, be negotiable, and it is the Argentinians, either by weasel-words or otherwise, who are refusing to accept that fundamental point. Nor have the Argentines shown any willingness, that I can see from the latest Statement, to recognise the undoubted rights of the Falkland islanders.
I do not propose to get into arguments about paramountcy, but there is no doubt that in international law they have rights, and we are hound to seek to uphold them. Anybody who suggests we should not is proposing something which may be expedient but 809 which I doubt is honourable, unless they adopt the clear and understandable position of those like some of my noble friends such as Lord Soper and Lord Brockway, who adopt what is basically a pacificist position. Anything between that seems to me to smack of dissemblance.
I wish at this point to dissociate, I am sure, the majority of my colleagues in the Labour Party from the position taken up by Mr. Benn, Mrs. Hart and others on this subject. It is important at this time, possibly at the eleventh hour, that we should seek, while still retaining the undoubted right to criticise the Government—and I have some quite serious criticisms to make of them—that there should be a degree of national unity, bearing in mind all the time that our people are down there and will wish to have the backing of the British people.
That is not to suggest that we should move into a jingoistic mood. Nor am I suggesting that we should move into the mood of those of us who remember 1940, when we were all really rather glad that we were alone in the world, with the possibility of some help from the United States. I regret that there is a certain uncertainty among some of our European allies in this matter. Of course, the Government are right to go on showing as much patience as I believe they have been showing in the face of a great deal of provocation. I say straight away that I agree with the noble Baroness that it is right entirely to separate South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands from the area for negotiation, for reasons which are clearly explained and which have been explained, at last and belatedly—that brings me to my criticism—in a document produced by the Foreign Office seven weeks after the invasion, The Falkland Islands, the Facts.
I wish to make clear—the noble Baroness knows I hold this view, because I have talked to her; I speak more in sorrow than in anger, but perhaps with a bit of anger too—the failure of the Government to get across the general case on the whole of the Falkland Islands issue. I say that not to score any party point. Somehow—whether it is because we have lost the experience we had in earlier days I know not—there has been a failure to co-ordinate in the area. No Minister, so far as I know, has been appointed to carry out responsibility and bring together the various information sources—even to organise a rather better presentation of the various communiqués which so embarrass us all—and to bring a more positive view to bear; it was six weeks before they got the broadcasting system to the Argentinian forces.
I would remind your Lordships that in earlier times—and even at this late hour I urge the Government to do it—we sought to mobilise national resources in all parties. I remember just after the war, when Britain was in quite severe economic straits, the Government of the day invited a large number of people—Labour and Conservative MPs—to go abroad and talk and lecture so as to put the British case. As someone who has been called on several times to broadcast to Canada and the United States, and indeed within Britain, I am amazed at the ignorance of the British case. I suggested that, if necessary, I would write a pamphlet for the Government. Luckily they have now done it, and they have nearly got it right; 810 there are a few mistakes, even so, but nevertheless it is an improvement.
Even in that exceptionally deplorable "Panorama" programme the other day, one of the interrogators referred to the fact that the British had taken the Falklands from the Argentines. That was quite untrue. I am sure there is an Argentine case and I am sure every Argentine believes the Falklands belong to them, but the simple historic facts show that that is not true, and, if any of your Lordships wished me to give another lecture on the subject, I could; I have given one or two already. I hope we shall not hear people anywhere say that we have taken them from the Argentine. I believe that on the whole most of the British people understand that.
I claim that the Government have failed to get across the much wider significance of the matter. I will not again bore the House; I said all this in my very first speech when we started debating the Falklands. If you look at the map of the South Atlantic and at the meridian of the Sandwich Islands, and then you look at the meridian of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, and you draw the sector which the Argentines claim is their land up to the South Pole, you find that it exactly meets those meridians. The Argentines have been pursuing that consistently. We have mentioned the example of children being born in the Antarctic. How many people are aware that, contrary to the treaty—that admirable treaty—they made one of their bases, Marambio, capital of the Argentine, although it was in the Antarctic? They even flew their whole Cabinet down there for a meeting. I am sure the British Cabinet would love to be flown to South Georgia at a suitable moment, and they too might then learn a little geography.
What I am describing is quite fundamental, and indeed Mr. Costa Mendes understands it, because he in fact said that it was not only the islands; it established their power and influence in an area both economically and politically. We should get those facts across to the rest of the world. We are arguing this question now not because we seek war but because we wish to preserve the rule of law and peace in a part of the world where peace could be put at risk if we failed to stand up to the threat.
As for the present situation from a military point of view, none of us has the facts at our disposal, although there are plenty of commentators who claim to be military journalists and who continue to make really nonsensical statements. Indeed, the Government have contributed to that—although they have changed their tune a little—and they have got somebody (I am sorry to say that this applies to all of us) actually to look up the weather. The weather will be no worse in the next three months than it has been in the last three months. Anybody can look at the statistics. The weather is a great deal less unpleasant than it was on the Russian convoys. There are only two, three, or maybe four days in the month—I am not talking about the other side of the Antarctic convergence, which is sub-Antarctic—when there are full gales in the Falklands Islands area. In August it goes up to about five. It is not very cold. People still think that it is much colder. I must repeat again that it is not as cold as it was in Bournemouth. It never has been as cold as it was in Bournemouth last 811 winter. I may say that I happen to live about 20 miles away. It is not a very nice place to go camping. Anyone would hesitate to go camping, though some hardy spirits do it in the Outer Hebrides in winter. It is a chilly place, it is neither hot, nor cold, with the smallest annual temperature variation to be found anywhere in the world.
I mention that because I believe that the Government have still not given up the hope of reducing the Argentine occupation by the kind of tactics that they are following. I was very surprised—I think it was very daring—that the raid took place on Pebble Island, which is one of the parts nearer to the Argentine, and was even more amazed that we were able to send a frigate into the Falkland Strait. But it shows that there is a degree of freedom if the tactics that have been used are followed.
It is not just a question of assaulting the islands. There are many places—not only in the west island—which 100,000 men could not properly patrol and defend. Clearly, we have to leave it to the commander-in-chief to decide what tactics he is to use, but at this last moment I still hope that it might be possible to avoid an all-out assault. However, it is not for me and it is not for your Lordships' House to dictate what course the commander should now follow.
I have now successfully thrown away my prepared speech, so I may as well conclude my remarks rather quickly. I should like to leave one thought with your Lordships. I was very interested in what the Lord Privy Seal had to say about the proposal with regard to the United Nations administrator. I am bound to say that the interesting paper which the Lord Privy Seal said was made available earlier actually got to us at only about one o'clock. I found her shortened version more intelligible than the paper, and I am very grateful for that. A long-term solution will be extraordinarily difficult to achieve. I think it unlikely that the Falkland Islands will ever really be able to settle into the kind of life that they have had in the past.
I do not know to what extent the British Government—any British Government—will make up for the neglect in the past, but I should like to put this—perhaps too optimistic—solution. It is a solution that would have commended itself to many people immediately after the war; and certainly it would commend itself to my noble friend Lord Noel-Baker. It is that ultimately it should be possible for the Antarctic Treaty area to be extended further north. That might not be possible at the moment, but in the long run a permanent United Nations administration of a kind which properly provided for the representation, consultation with, and indeed legislative abilities of, the islanders might be a solution. The difficulty always is to get the right kind of United Nations administration—and I have had unfortunate experience of that in the past. There are certain people. If their names were mentioned in such a connection, I would say it would not work; but there are others.
It could be that in the end we shall see a lengthy occupation of the islands. Therefore I hope that the Government, even if they retake the islands, if they are compelled to do so, will not necessarily say that all bets are off and we will return precisely to the status quo. In the long run we must find a solution. In the long run 812 the people of the Falklands have to live in friendship with the Argentinians. If only the Argentinians had pursued the policy which spasmodically they have done in the past, and had not endangered for many years their possible relations with the Falkland islanders! There could be a coming together; it will not be quick, but it is amazing how over many years old enmities can be forgotten.
I welcome the noble Baroness's speech. I wish that the Government had done more to get across their case, and even at this time I would ask them to make a very determined effort, use the resources, and, if necessary, hire professionals. I am sure that Members of your Lordships' House would all volunteer to do this, and some of us would even go to the Falkland Islands, as in fact many people have already volunteered to do. We have now really for the first time been given a clear exposition of the Government's case. We shall want to give further thought to it, and when my noble friend winds up perhaps he will find points of criticism, but as of now I welcome what has been said.
§ 3.56 p.m.
§ Lord Byers
My Lords, too, should like to thank the noble Baroness for the way in which she has opened the debate; the House is very grateful to her. On the 3rd April in this House I stated our position on these Benches as being that of hoping for a peaceful solution to the appalling situation created by the invasion of the Falkland Islands and as supporting the Government in backing their diplomatic stance with a substantial military force. I see no reason to change that view. I believe that the principle that we must constantly reiterate—as the noble Baroness did—if we are to maintain world opinion on our side, is that unprovoked aggression must not be permitted as a means of settling any dispute, and that wherever possible the aggressor must not be allowed to benefit from his aggressive act.
Although we may not know all the details of the long-drawn-out negotiations, two clear impressions remain with me, and these have been confirmed by the Statement which has been placed in the Printed Paper Office and by the noble Baroness's speech. The first is that the intransigence has been entirely on the side of the junta, that they have deliberately drawn out the diplomatic processes in the hope that we will begin to lose world support—and to some extent unfortunately in that they have succeeded. The second impression is that there has been a shift in the original bargaining position of our own Government towards greater flexibility on a number of the issues, but this welcome change has not been reciprocated by General Galtieri and his colleagues. In those circumstances, it is difficult to see how much longer the so-called diplomatic process can be continued.
Without knowing all the details, I would hazard a guess that Her Majesty's Government have done everything possible to seek a peaceful conclusion, only to come up against the traditional impossibility of negotiating rationally with irrational dictators. It may be that when history is written we shall have to change our minds, but at present I want to say that we fully support the Government and the task force which may have to carry out the Government's decisions.
In the meantime, I express concern at the plethora 813 of speculation in the press and the rest of the media on military tactics and options available and in discussion of the minutest detail of the men and units of the task force, its equipment, and its potential performance. I know that there is held a view that all this information is already in the hands of the Argentines. It may be, but I doubt it; even so, why should we contribute anything to dispelling any part of their ignorance when our own troops are in a potential battle zone?
I have been involved in three invasions. Any combined operation has its attendant risks, but I think that our commentators would be wise to remind themselves of the Second World War slogan, "Careless talk costs lives". As many of your Lordships will know, an integral part of our successful landing in Normandy and our managing the difficult task of establishing the beach-head was our ability to maintain, largely through the Canadian Army in Kent, the deception that in reality the main invasion was to take place in the Pas de Calais. If our newspapers and radio at that time had embarked on the sort of speculation we have read and heard in the last few weeks, we should never have kept Hitler, the German High Command and Rommel guessing for those precious few days when they did not know where to commit their reserves. Of course we must have a free press and a free media, but there is a strong case for our so-called commentators and experts who are airing ideas to count 10 before they do so.
As to the issues themselves, or such of them as remain, I am quite sure the whole House concedes we are the aggrieved party. Unlike the junta, we are prepared to abide by Resolution 502 and we are protected by Article 51 of the Charter. If sovereignty is really one of the major sticking points, the junta, I think, should remind itself that negotiations on sovereignty were broken by the unprovoked invasion of the islands by the Argentines. But once Resolution 502 is activated those negotiations could be resumed, although I must say that the experience of the islanders under Argentinian administration must I think point to the need for some form of international administration rather than to leave it to the Argentines themselves.
We are defending a principle on behalf of all lawabiding nations—a defence which could be of vital importance to any one of those nations in the future. We are trying to uphold international law and the Charter of the United Nations itself. This must surely be of vital concern to everyone who believes in the rule of law. I must say that now I have had a look at the draft interim agreement submitted to the United Nations Secretary-General by Sir Anthony Parsons on behalf of the British Government on 17th May and compared it with the final position adopted by the junta, I can well understand and support the decision of Her Majesty's Government that this attitude was totally unacceptable.
I have not had time to take in what the United Nations Secretary-General has put in his proposals. We will study them with great care and with interest. But I must say that, on the face of it, they do not appear to give much hope as a means of progress to peace—a peace which we all wish to see.
§ 4.3 p.m.
§ The Lord Archbishop of Canterbury
My Lords, when I last spoke in this House, five weeks ago, I stressed that there were two important principles at stake in this unhappy dispute: the need to ensure that nations act within international law, which is the bulwark on which the future peace of the world depends; and the need to stand by the interests of the Falkland islanders, to ensure that they and other similarly exposed groups of people do not have to live in continual fear of aggression by more powerful neighbours. I said that our first aim must be to seek a diplomatic solution, but that this must not be a solution which fudges these principles.
Now, five weeks later, despite the unremitting efforts of the American Secretary-of-State, the Peruvian President and, latterly, the Secretary-General of the United Nations—and let us not forget the efforts of our own Foreign Secretary and Sir Anthony Parsons, who have borne such enormous burdens during this time—and despite the blood already shed, we still find ourselves in a situation where the Argentinian troops are still in possession and have not complied with the Security Council's resolution. These are the realities on which moral judgments have to be based. I am glad that the Government have decided to publish a White Paper setting out the differences between ourselves and the Argentine Government as these have emerged during these discussions, so that the people of this country and the world may know the facts and may make an informed judgment about them; and I share the gratitude already expressed for the clear statement put before us this afternoon by the noble Baroness.
My Lords, if a greater degree of force now has to be used—and this seems likely—let us remember that its purpose must always be to achieve a just political settlement and not a military victory. We need to be very clear that our objective is not to punish or to avenge hurt pride. It must be to achieve a settlement which is based on justice and which upholds the two principles which I have mentioned—and, ultimately, that can be achieved only by negotiation.
As events unfold during the next few days there are certain points which I think we must keep in the forefront of our minds. First, if more force has now to be used it should be the minimum which is necessary to obtain our objective. The most that force can ever achieve is to remove evil: it cannot of itself create good. The American Admiral Mahan said at the end of the 1914–18 war:The only purpose of force in international affairs is to provide breathing space for moral ideas to take root".We shall have to live with the consequences of what we do, and it is all the more important that we are clear about our ultimate goals. There are principles, not just one principle; and principles have to be balanced. But, of course, meanwhile hard choices have to be made. I believe the British people have found a unity in wishing to combat injustice, and we have to live with the consequences of that stand. At the end of the day there has to be reconciliation. It has often been said that we have no quarrel with the people of Argentina. It is necessary for us to maintain some expression of that assertion.
815 As your Lordships know, the Pope has arranged a Mass for Peace to take place in Rome at which Roman Catholic leaders of both countries will take part. Next week I will send my representative to a meeting in Paraguay of the Anglican bishops in South America, so that he can share in worship and can listen and consult with them. We hope also that the Pope's visit to this country may be yet another of those symbols and pictures which we need to stimulate our hopes and prayers in what we must acknowledge is not only a quarrel within the human family but is, alas!, a quarrel within the Christian family as well.
As we pray for all those caught up in these events and pray for the Falkland islanders, the innocent victims at the centre of it all, we must never allow the military option simply to replace the diplomatic efforts, or despair of the machinery which we have brought into being and to which we appeal in the United Nations. A member of that much maligned species, a BBC correspondent, said the other day that the Christian message behind all this is that politicians, journalists, soldiers and relatives everywhere are level under the fatherhood of God. None should yield to the temptation to regard the other as sub-human or themselves as superhuman. When this rumpus has been tidied up and everyone has had the grace to admit their mistakes, there will be a great deal of forgiving to do, and it will come harder if we lose our tempers now.
In the coming days we shall need to keep our moral nerve as well as our courage. That is why I feel a duty to be here for, alas! only a short time this afternoon, and that is why I venture to speak to your Lordships again from these Benches.
§ 4.10 p.m.
§ Lord Aylestone
My Lords, having listened to the noble Baroness the Leader of the House, the House cannot be unaware of the extreme gravity of the situation in the South West Atlantic, a situation which could easily lead to greater conflagration in that area. I only wish it were possible for every home in the country to have heard the speech of the noble Baroness, or perhaps the speech of her right honourable friend the Prime Minister, who undoubtedly spoke in the same vein; because I sometimes feel that the position is not fully going home into the hearts and minds of our own people. The first thing that we must emphasise, whether individually or collectively, is that the cause of all this trouble at the moment is not a question of to whom the Falkland Islands belong now or will belong at some future date, but the aggression of the Argentine Government in trying to solve the difficult problem in that way.
I believe that the country understands that the Argentinians were the aggressors, but until today they may not have understood fully how hard our Government have been trying in the negotiations which have been going on to reach a settlement. In this respect, I would re-emphasise with other noble Lords our gratitude to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, to Secretary Haig of the United States, and not forgetting the President of Peru who also tried in this respect. Regretfully at the moment most of these efforts have been unsuccessful. These efforts so far have not brought peace; nevertheless, we thank them. 816 It has been quite clear from the beginning, from when the Falkland Islands were first invaded and when the United Nations condemned their attitude, that as a first stage the islands must be vacated by the Argentine troops.
That has been clear; but it was not clear until today how hard the British Government have tried to reach that end. The information we received is so important that, in addition to it going home to those in this country, I wish it were going home on radio and television in Argentina at the same time; because when one listens to what is transmitted from their radio and television, one realises how one-sided and completely unbalanced is the presentation. This does happen perhaps in times of war. It has been said so many times that the first victim of war is truth. But that is not so in the case of the British Government whom we fully support in their action.
In looking at some of the proposals we learned of today for the first time, it is interesting to note that at one point the Argentine Government were prepared to put aside the question of sovereignty but then, almost within hours, statements are broadcast on their radio and television to the effect that the future of the Falkland Islands is not negotiable. We learn with interest of the proposal for the withdrawal of the Argentine troops—again some information that we have had today for the first time—with a proposal that at the same time the task force should withdraw to 150 nautical miles of the Falkland Islands. It is interesting to note the Argentine Government reply to this, a reply which on the face of it seemed fairly reasonable: that all forces should withdraw to their bases. It so happens, however, that our bases are 8,000 miles away and their bases are 250 miles.
This is the sort of argument which has obviously been going on, with the Argentinians hardening their attitude on every point that is put to them. However, it is gratifying to know that, before anything worse happens than has already happened—and everyone regrets the loss of life so far—the Secretary-General of the United Nations is continuing to try. It may be that we shall have to have a United Nations administrator on the islands for some time. This is not a step to which reasonable people would object.
The negotiators were themselves in an impossible position almost from the beginning because a self-appointed junta who themselves were never elected, who themselves were quite unrepresentative of their people, are the people with whom we are trying to negotiate as a democratic Government. It is almost an impossible task for the negotiators. It is not unusual for dictators to start some external adventure to draw the attention of their countrymen away from the issues at large. The invasion of the Falkland Islands by the Argentinians may be a way of withholding from the people of Argentina the fears and the horrors that they have experienced over the years under various forms of government. Having taken the step of invading the islands, the junta may find it impossible to climb down because it is very likely that their own heads would be at stake if such a thing happened.
Those of us in this country who saw in the early 1940s something of warfare at close quarters—and many of us, if not all of us, in this House did so—would never wish to see another shot fired in anger. 817 But however much we wish that it may never happen, there may be no alternative. To my mind it is rather more than a question of driving the Argentine forces off the Falkland Islands; it is to indicate to the world that aggression of this kind cannot pay and must never happen. It is well to remember that there are small countries with similar problems who live in fear of aggression of this sort. Our action in the South Atlantic makes it clear that we, at least, stand up for what is right.
I should like it to be understood, as I have said before, that this small political party supports the Government and we ask for a continuation of what has happened today. Changes in the negotiation situation that can be explained to the country should be explained, with as much information as possible. Never would we ask for military information; neither do we ask for a debate on the Falkland Islands every other day. There is no need for that; but the occasional Statement as things develop would be helpful.
My colleagues on this Bench hope and pray for a speedy and successful conclusion, with as little loss of life and as few casualties on both sides as possible. We know that Her Majesty's Government are doing everything possible to resolve the problem and we are with them; but we must remember in the days to come that, however bad it may become, it was not of our choosing; we were not the aggressors.
§ 4.20 p.m.
§ Lord Chalfont
My Lords, I should like to join other noble Lords in thanking the noble Baroness for her impressive statement of the Government's case this afternoon. It is part of a remarkable manifestation of the working of a parliamentary democracy in which the details of a negotiation and the views of a Government can be made clear in the Houses of Parliament while the crisis is still at its height. It is a most heartening demonstration of what this House and the other place are all about.
From what the Minister has said, it seems that the Government have already made or are prepared to make some very great concessions. Indeed, I think that there are some of us who might believe that those concessions are already in danger of being too great. I make no point about that today because it seems to me that what the Government have done in the field of negotiation reflects a great patience and a great sense of pragmatism. There has clearly been a determination on the part of the Government to leave no stone of negotiation and discussion unturned before resorting to military sanctions.
I should also like to make my own view clear: in the handling of the whole of this crisis, after the first unfortunate—and perhaps one might say "tragic"—mistake which led to the invasion of the Falkland Islands by the Argentine forces, the Government have conducted this exercise in crisis management with enormous and impressive skill and determination.
The delicate interaction in a crisis like this between diplomatic levers, military levers and economic levers has been handled with a very sure touch. It would be right that at least those in your Lordships' House who agree with me should convey their congratulations to the Ministers and their advisers who have handled this crisis with great and impressive skill so far.
818 I must make my own personal point of view clear: it is of course, as I speak from these Benches, only a personal one. I have never believed from the moment that the Argentine forces invaded the islands that a negotiated settlement was possible. It has seemed to me always since that moment that anything that would be acceptable to General Galtieri and his Government, and anything that would have allowed him to survive, was bound almost by definition to be unacceptable to the British Government. I have said that and believed that right from the beginning. Yet I believe that the Government have been right, as I have said, to investigate every single possibility and to act in every single forum of negotiation rather than resort in a precipitate way to the military sanction.
However, I believe that since this crisis has begun the whole situation has gradually, perceptibly and irreversibly changed. This is no longer a matter of the wishes or even the interests of 1,8000 British subjects in a far away island. It is far more than that. It is a real and serious test of the credibility of this country as a democratic nation which will stand up against aggression from whatever quarter it may come. I make no distinction between aggression from a militaristic fascist junta, as it is sometimes called, or a state of any other kind of any other political persuasion. Aggression is aggression from whichever quarter it comes. We are now facing a test of the credibility of the determination of this country to stand up against that aggression—a credibility which is important not only to our potential enemies, who remain the same enemies whatever happens in the Falkland Islands, but to our allies as well.
I think that probably—perhaps unfortunately, but inexorably—the time has come when the process of negotiation is exhausted and that the Government will have to resort to the military means of restoring the situation in the Falkland Islands. There has been already clear evidence of procrastination and devious manoeuvrings on the part of the Argentine Government.
The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, with his great and profound knowledge of this area, has pointed out that perhaps some of us have made too much of the way in which the weather is deteriorating around the Falkland Islands. I defer to him in his knowledge of the climatic conditions in that area. I would only say that, as someone who, like the noble Lord, has experienced both the Falkland Islands and Bournemouth, if anyone were at this moment to give me a choice of resort in which to spend my holiday, I should unhesitatingly choose Bournemouth. Nevertheless, whether the weather conditions in the South Atlantic are deteriorating or not, the morale of our troops, cooped up on those ships for weeks on end, must soon become a matter of concern.
Any military commander of any distinction or eminence will assure your Lordships' House that there comes a time when troops who have been at sea, even in the most equable climatic conditions, begin to lose their edge and lose their morale. It has been truly said in this House today that there is far too much speculation about the military options open to the Government. I do not propose to perpetuate that speculation, except perhaps to say that it would be foolish to believe that an all-out frontal assault upon 819 the Falkland Islands is the only option open. It most certainly is not.
It seems to me that whatever military option the Government choose, whatever doubts any of us may have expressed from whatever band of the military spectrum, when those operations begin it will be time for this country to close its ranks solidly behind the Government and behind the forces that are carrying out that operation.
It has been said—and I certainly concur with this—that there has been an exhibition of great and admirable professionalism in the putting together of this task force, in the solution of the logistical difficulties that presented themselves when the task force was sent to the Falkland Islands, and in its concentration in its area of operation. At the same time, it has to be said —and I am again repeating only what several other noble Lords have said today—that we may be in danger, while preparing to win the military battle, of losing the propaganda war. I am less than impressed with the way in which our information services have been handled.
In this context, I make no excuse for returning in my last few remarks to the question of the broadcasting media and the BBC in particular. There are those who have said that the recent example of the "Panorama" programme is now forgotten and that the explanations have been good and sufficient. I do not accept that. I listened only this morning to a commentator speaking about the Government's radio station, Radio Atlantic of the South, broadcasting to the Falkland Islands. In it he used the expression "crude propaganda" as a description of the content of those programmes. That is to my mind unforgivable and unacceptable.
The BBC went on at great length to insist that this was a Government operation and that it had no BBC content in it at all. Why do they have to be so much at pains to point out that they are not involved in an operation which is designed to support a military operation on behalf of this country in the South Atlantic? Whatever the public opinion polls may say, it should be made quite clear to the BBC that the people of this country and the Parliament of this country will not lightly forgive them if they try to maintain this attitude of arrogance and magisterial objectivity when this country is faced with a national crisis. I think it was Winston Churchill who once said, "I accept no position of neutrality as between the firemen and the fire." I think the BBC should bear that in mind.
I have already spoken too long and I shall therefore not make any comments about the long term of this, except to say that if we are forced into a war and into an escalation of military activity, then, unlike the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, I hope that all bets will be off. We cannot risk the lives of our soldiers, sailors and airmen simply to go back immediately to the status quo. That is something which I think should be made clear to the Government of Argentina perhaps before—although I think it unlikely—it is too late.
Finally, perhaps I may be the first, though I hope not the last, in your Lordships' House today to say that, if we have to go into war of a very real kind in the Falkland Islands, we in this House wish the Government well in the prosecution of that war; and when we 820 think of the soldiers, sailors and airmen who are taking part in that operation, those of us who have experience of war will know that when they land on those islands they will probably be cold, they will be frightened and they will be confused. Many of them will wonder why they have been sent 8,000 miles away from home to die for a cause that perhaps some of them do not entirely understand. I hope that if they have to do that they will at least have the wholehearted support of the people and the Parliament of this country.
§ 4.32 p.m.
§ Lord Buxton of Alsa
My Lords, I am not going to speak for long because I have said so much on this subject before, but I should like to say, endorsing what the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, has said, that I never believed that there was any chance of a settlement by diplomatic negotiations. I feel that the handling of the diplomacy and the brilliant organisation and the movement of the task force has been absolutely faultless and the Government were right do it and to pursue it with painstaking care and patience. Nevertheless, I never believed there was any hope of a settlement. How could there be? The noble Lord, Lord Aylestone, has already pointed out that any military dictator who surrenders his prime objective is really preparing his own bunker or scaffold.
Apart from that, we have a unique situation where Argentina and the Malvinas is concerned. We must understand this, because it is going to be very important in the anxious days and weeks ahead. The generals are not unrepresentative of the people. This subject is the one subject which unites them all, and they are not going to be divided by being defeated. When they are humiliated and defeated, as one believes will be the case, the situation will remain exactly as it was before and it is no good thinking that we can give the Argentines a lesson about the Falkland Islands. The only lesson they will learn is that it may take 300 years and not 150 years to get back sovereignty. Therefore, in my view, any solution when it comes should first restore the status quo of British administration. I do not believe in third parties in this case.
Secondly, I believe it is possible at some stage in the anxious weeks or months ahead to get Argentina off the hook, spare the Argentine nation humiliation and possibly find a solution that will last for a century or more. But there is one thing we must be quite clear about: we must never ever again contemplate Argentine administration, or even their involvement in administration, of any territory of ours and certainly not of the Falklands.
I am sure your Lordships will remember that for the last two years or more the Argentines have been saying over and over again that the one thing they would guarantee was the maintenance of the British way of life in the Falklands and the way of life the inhabitants were accustomed to; nobody would interfere with that. They would be allowed this and that—their own education and everything they wanted—nothing was too much trouble. It was said by the Minister, Enrique Ros, during the negotiations in New York last February and it was said to me by Costa Mendez in Buenos Aires on 22nd February; it was said in a film which my company made about the Falkland Islands called, "More British than the British"; and an Argen- 821 tine Government spelt out in the clearest terms what they would retain. And what happened? Within two days that idiot, General Menendez, makes everybody drive on the right of the road. He then insists on the schools teaching Spanish and he tells people to remain indoors because there is a curfew—and there are absolutely no hostilities going on anywhere at all. He then starts picking people up.
All these are very curious situations which will have to be looked into when the dust has settled and an inquiry takes place about the whole thing. We ought to know why Mr. Luxton, who is here in London—a large shareholder in one of the big estates and its manager—was with his family suddenly picked up by helicopter and removed when he had had no involvement and no contact whatever with Stanley. All that can wait for another day; but if they can be as stupid and as hopeless as that, I hope that we are in no uncertainty that what has to remain is British administration.
Nevertheless, I believe that settlement may be possible at a particular point and I would hope it would be after the military action had virtually succeeded and achieved what we are aiming at; in other words we should have recovered the initiative, and, even if it is controlled stalemate, that may be the moment. I hope that a settlement of some kind can be found, and I have my own views about the best lines, before the Argentine troops are sent home in humiliation. It may be that it is worth it for a century to find a solution at that particular point. The ideas and options on this are best left to the Government at this stage, of course.
The only other point on which I should want to insist is that British administration should be restored, because I have the feeling that when the dust has settled and all this is over the United Nations could do something much more useful than simply getting involved in a specific matter such as the Falkland Islands. Of course they had to, but they could do something much bigger and much broader. There are islands occupied in this way by European nations, by the United States and by others all over the world and especially in the southern hemisphere. The United States are involved, as are France, Norway and Holland—everybody has these little rocks and pimples dotted round the world.
Apart from that, the Antarctic Treaty is due to be renegotiated before 1991. It seems to me it would be a very useful exercise for the United Nations to give long-term consideration as to what the ultimate status should be of these distant rocks, pimples, islands and archipelagos, because this problem will not go away, and indeed the problems will increase as interest in the future development of the Antarctic stirs over the next few years, as it must. I need only say in that connection that I trust that will not be forgotten by this country. We should not primarily be taking action about 1,800 people. Of course they are just as important as 1,800 people here, but what is at stake is the security of the seaways in the South Atlantic and the security of our bases and our interests in the Antarctic. That is the concern of the whole of the free world, while Russia, as we have seen, is only too eager to disrupt the situation and get involved.
§ 4.39 p.m.
§ Lord Brockway
My Lords, I had intended to deliver 822 a controversial speech in the usual habit of debate, making points and answering points. I cannot do so. I am so overwhelmed by what may happen as a result of today's debate in another place and here, not only in the Falkland Islands area but in the world. I was present in the House of Commons during the debate on the eve of the First World War; I was there for the similar debate before the Second World War, and what we have heard today is terribly like the speeches which were delivered before those world tragedies.
I would sum up the speech of the Leader of the House, and the speech which the Prime Minister has made in another place, as, in effect, this. We have sought a solution by negotiation. We have done our best. We have failed and now there is no alternative, except military escalation; the conversion of military hostilities into actual war. Though my voice may be lonely tonight, I am still going to urge with all my being that an effort should still be found for a peaceful solution.
That was the view of the Secretary-General of the United Nations only yesterday. He used these words:At this decisive moment, a last urgent effort is needed to reach the accommodation necessary for a reasonable settlement. I am persuaded that that can be done without prejudice to the rights, the claims or positions of either party. We must continue to work for peace without jeopardy to principles".I found it a little difficult to follow what the Leader of the House said in regard to the communication which has been received today from the Secretary-General of the United Nations. Apparently, he has still made, both to the British and to the Argentine Governments, proposals which might lead to peace. I hope that I am not misunderstanding what the noble Baroness said, but my impression was that, having considered that document, our Government had, in effect, replied expressing appreciation of the action, but holding out no promise that this new approach could bring results. The effect of that would be that military escalation must now take place in the Falklands, with, perhaps, an attempt to occupy the islands tomorrow.
I just want to submit to the House that, if that is the kind of reply which we have made to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, it will have a disastrous effect on world opinion. It will bring prejudice in the Security Council of the United Nations. That council adopted Resolution 502, but only because it contained other clauses than the request to Argentina to withdraw—the first demand, cease fire; the last demand, negotiations.
I think it very doubtful indeed if the British Government have repulsed this approach from the Secretary-General, whether continued support in the Security Council of the United Nations can be maintained. The votes of unaligned nations on the last occasion were doubtful. I do not believe that we could depend upon them now. But it is not merely a question of the Security Council. If we now take military action of an increased kind, and do not still seek for a peaceful solution of this problem, even countries in Latin America which have tended to be sympathetic will turn against us. I just give a warning that, by turning against us and turning against the United States of America for supporting us, they will lean towards the Soviet Union, and it is repercussions of that kind oil existing policy which we must keep in mind.
As regards Europe, there are already division and 823 doubts in the European Community, with extension of sanctions for only seven days and two of the Governments declining to apply them. I do not think there is any doubt that, if we now expand military activities without still seeking diplomatic negotiation, we shall lose the support of the majority of countries, even in Europe. The Commonwealth Secretary was able to say three weeks ago that African and Asian nations in the Commonwealth supported us. I say with some knowledge of them that, if we proceed with military action without continuing to seek a diplomatic solution, we shall lose the support of members of the Commonwealth in Africa and Asia. Lastly, the support of the unaligned nations of the world will be lost as well, and we shall find ourselves in a world where the majority opinion of nations and peoples is against us in the action which we are taking.
As your Lordships know, I have been prepared to defend the rights of the Falkland islanders to have the citizenship which they desire. But what will happen to them?—military invasion of the Falklands, the destruction of their farmlands, the loss of their thousands of sheep, their whole situation destroyed and, at the end, their position will be worse than it was before this situation began. Therefore, I conclude by urging that we should still seek the support of the United Nations to bring a fair and just solution to these problems. Today, there is support for the Government for their attitude; but wait a few weeks, my Lords, maybe a few months, and the disastrous outcome in the world of the policy of the Government will mean that the peoples of this country, realising the situation, will regret that the Government have started on this course.
§ 4.50 p.m.
§ Lord Thomas of Swynnerton
My Lords, it is always a privilege to follow the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, whose experience and sincerity are always moving, even though we on this side of the House do not always agree with his prescriptions.
I should like to echo the congratulations of the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, and my noble friend Lord Buxton of Alsa to the Government for the patience, forbearance and imagination with which they have undertaken these negotiations indirectly with Argentina, through the United Nations and other intermediaries, since the beginning of April. Anybody who looks at the document which has been given to us today would say that this Government, this country, have made in this interim agreement a number of important concessions. We have accepted the idea that the status quo of 2nd April is something which can be questioned and we have accepted the presence of Argentinian representatives in two ways: both in relation to their presence on the executive and legislative councils of the Falkland Islands and also in respect of their presence on the islands as observers. I submit to your Lordships that any sensible Government would have seen that this would be a very wise way of escaping the conflict—if indeed they wished to escape from it. Now that Argentina have rejected that document—and, by inference, the whole series of negotiations which led up to that document—it certainly seems as if there is no 824 honourable course open to Her Majesty's Government other than a military one.
Those who say that—and particularly I, who have never worn a uniform, except an academic one—have some obligation to say why we take that view. I say it, first, because it seems perfectly evident that to accept the prolonged, the interminable Argentinian occupation of the Falkland Islands would be a prize for aggression in general and a prize to these aggressors in particular. There are a great many other countries in the neighbourhood of Argentina who would prefer not to give such a prize to these particular aggressors. It would also be a prize or a stimulus to other potential aggressors in Latin America over other potential territorial disputes, of which quite a number are available. We have heard some of the noises which have already been made both in Central America and in the northern part of South America which are extremely menacing.
Furthermore, if we were to do nothing we should not be doing any service whatever to the Argentinian people. We should be suggesting to them that we accept that it is possible for a military Government to do something successfully which other Governments in Argentina, including many democratic Governments, have failed to do. We should also be encouraging the idea of military Governments everywhere in Latin America, just at a time when the idea of democracy has been having quite a good wind in that continent, not only in Peru and Ecuador but also—potentially, anyway—in the biggest country of all, Brazil.
I have two further points, both of which relate to the suggestions about information which were made eloquently by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont. The first relates to the past. The second relates to the present. The matter relating to the past concerns the reason why we were in the Falkland Islands in the first place. It is not sufficiently appreciated in our media, in our newspapers—much less in those of continental Europe or the rest of the world—that our claim to the Falkland Islands does not depend only upon continuous occupation since 1833—overriding though, in international law, that claim actually is. It depends, partly at least, on the fact that we intervened in the Falkland Islands in 1833 in order to sustain a claim which we had had since we first appeared in that archipelago in 1765 and which was recognised as a claim—though not as a claim with which they agreed—by the Spanish Government in 1771. This is more than a matter of mere history, since I have seen on English television and heard on English radio the suggestion that the Argentines in 1982 are simply doing what the British did in 1833. This is a point which could be reflected in our information policy throughout the world.
§ Lord Kennet
My Lords, was it actually the British who did it in 1833? Was it not, rather, the Americans?
§ Lord Thomas of Swynnerton
My Lords, the course of events between 1828 and 1833 was extremely complicated. But the fact of the matter is that after the United States steamship "Lexington" had taken off the Argentinian colony, there was a short period when nobody was there, and HMS "Clio" arrived just at the time when another Argentinian prison colony was 825 about to be estabished. It was certainly HMS "Clio" which established our settlement, subsequently our colony, in the archipelago.
The second point about presentation which I want to make relates to some extent to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Brockway. It is true that this is a crisis in Latin America as well as in the Southern cone, but we have many friends in Latin America. We do not have just enemies or critics. Argentina has always had many critics in Latin America and the present Government of Argentina has many enemies. We must prepare ourselves, bearing in mind that subliminal basis of support for the idea of democracy and the principles which we have very eloquently put forward both in these debates and in debates in another place, for quite a long information or propaganda campaign to sustain our position, a campaign which might very well last longer than the military action which we must all expect, with great regret, to occur in the next few days. We have an excellent case and we must ensure that it is put excellently.
The second point relates more to the future. As I understand it, Her Majesty's Government have withdrawn all the proposals which have been put forward in the negotiations, including the proposed interim agreement which we have had today. I think we need to prepare ourselves for the fact that any long-term settlement which is likely to satisfy us—for example, independence under a United Nations Trusteeship Council, independence itself, or even the restoration of the British colony, as suggested by my noble friend Lord Buxton—will in the end have to gain credibility in the international community.
One consequence of these events may be that we shall see in Argentina a development towards democracy. We have seen some signs that the Argentinian Government is opening its mind to the idea of collaborating with the political parties. If that is the case, one consequence may be that subsequently it will be easier to deal with the Argentinian Government and for us to sustain the idea of some of the solutions which have been put forward. Even if that is not the case, we do need to make clear both in language and tone, in our information services as in our political discussions, that we are in this conflict at issue with the Argentinian Government and not with the Argentinian people—and above all, certainly not with the peoples of Latin America.
§ 5 p.m.
§ Lord Ardwick
My Lords, there was a good deal of wisdom in what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Swynnerton, and also in what was said before by my noble friend Lord Brockway. I could agree with him wholeheartedly with his demand for patience, and so forth, if the task force was still in Britain waiting to set out, and if there were weeks of possible negotiation in front of us—but matters are much more urgent than that. In hours, battle may be joined, and in those hours there must always be apprehension. That apprehension was all the greater this morning because we did not know exactly how wide remained the difference between us and the Argentinians or what future for the Falklands was envisaged by the Government. We are a good deal wiser now, as a result of the Paper that was published this morning. 826 It will relieve many anxieties because it shows that the obduracy and the intransigance was largely on the side of the Argentinians and not on our side. But it has to convince not only us but also our friends, and they are in a very strange state.
Many people abroad believe that the conflict about the material objectives is simply not worth it. There are others who do not see that what is involved is a vital principle and not a mere question of imperialist pride having been affronted. And, we have got so used to the idea that imperialism or colonialism is a matter of refusing self-determination that we do not see that some people are prepared to believe that the great possession of far-flung territory, even if it does not involve the subjugation of another nation, is in itself a form of imperialism. This is very difficult, because it makes Robinson Crusoe into an imperialist even before Man Friday arrived. It is very necessary for us that the British case and the Government's case is put much more strongly and persuasively than it has been so far, because while the Government have sometimes seemed in the past week or two to be offering a wise and generous compromise, sometimes they have also seemed to be showing an heroic but unwise intransigence. The diplomacy was wise, but the rhetoric was damaging. I am a great admirer of the courage of the right honourable lady the Prime Minister, yet I sometimes wonder whether it would not be a good idea to get up a subscription to buy a pair of velvet gloves for the "Iron Lady".
The Falkland Islands is a subject upon which not only political parties but even families are divided. My own party has always contained a large pacifist or semi-pacifist element; it is an honourable and respected minority impelled towards pacifism by the very humanity which made its members into socialists. But one has always to be aware throughout the years of people who have tried to make use of that pacifism for their own political ends. That can happen at this moment. I am not a member of that pacifist minority. It is a creed for individuals, but not one for a party which regards itself as the alternative party of government, with the Government's sacred responsibility for the defence of the Realm. If the previous Labour Governments are to be criticised, it is not for neglect of our defences but for not reducing our commitments to match our resources.
The majority view of my party as expressed from the Front Benches of Parliament since the beginning of the tragic story has been a consistent one of support for the task force in its role of compelling the Argentinians to leave the Falkland Islands, to undo their illegal and aggressive act and, having turned to legality, to take part in diplomatic negotiations about the longterm future of the islands. Many people seemed to regard Resolution 502 as a complete British victory at United Nations—but it was not a complete victory. The Argentines were not told to withdraw and to allow the Falkland Islands to return for all time to their status of the past 150 years. On the contrary, Britain and Argentina were to negotiate. But what about? They were not to negotiate about tariffs, transport, air services or anything like that, but about the very heart of the quarrel—the dispute over sovereignty.
At the beginning, when the task force was setting out, we were in a very strange state of affairs. Argentina, 827 by putting down such a large force, involved national pride so deeply that there was nothing she could contemplate other than total victory. Judging by the Argentines' rather vague efforts at negotiation, they are still in that state. But we were hardliners too, at that moment. We emphasised the strict legality of British sovereignty, and by saying that the wishes of the islanders would be paramount, we were implying that they would be able to go on exercising a veto on change. It looked as though we had a demand for total victory on the one side and unconditional surrender on the other. And so at the moment when Mr. Haig began his diplomatic efforts, both parties were making maximum demands, and it was not surprising that even the massive influence of the US was not very successful.
In the very first debate we had on the subject I was worried by the views of the noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel, whose clear and commonsensical views on external affairs have so often enlightened and sometimes convinced me. But then, the noble Lord was suggesting that our aims should be a return to the status quo ante and I was worried until I realised that the status quo ante just before the invasion was that we were continuing our marathon negotiations with Argentina about the Falkland Islands.
Then Peru came into the negotiations and an agreement was worked out in co-operation with both Peru and the US, which Britain would have accepted and which could have led to an early cease-fire. The agreement involved the complete withdrawal of the Argentinian forces; this was said in another place only a week ago, but it is now confirmed by the Paper we had this morning. The Foreign Secretary provided this information and the Prime Minister added a few details—that our task force would not be withdrawn until the Argentinians had been withdrawn. The Argentines would not enter into negotiations on the understanding that they would have sovereignty at the end. The right honourable lady, the Prime Minister, said:We must have an undertaking from them that sovereignty is not committed, but is negotiable".When the Foreign Secretary spoke about negotiations on the long term future of the islands, he said he hoped that third parties could be involved and that the United Nations might have a role to play, and only in the interim structure would the administrative experience of the islanders be used. There was no mention any more of the paramountcy which would grant the islanders a veto, but a statement that they would want to consider how their prosperity could best be furthered and their security best protected. It is all a very reasonable attitude. The attitude of the Opposition was well put by my right honourable friend Mr. Healey, when he said that there would have been no point in sending the task force unless we were prepared to use it. To withdraw it now would nullify all the efforts of the Secretary-General of the UN to secure a cease-fire.
Nothing has encouraged the attitude of the Opposition more than the belated decision to involve the United Nations in the effort to restore peace. Indeed, many of us on these Benches would not only be happy to see a UN administration, not only in the short term but also in the medium term. I have never thought 828 that UN trusteeship was inappropriate because it has been used in the past to give undeveloped nations time to prepare for the full exercise of self-determination. There is no reason why it should not be used for the medium-term administration of territory over whose sovereignty there is a political dispute. Some people, of course, have been saying that we are as intransigent as the Argentines are. There have even been suspicions printed that when the Argentines had made a conciliatory gesture we stepped up our terms. There is no evidence for this, apart from the psychology of our Government, which seems to be coloured by that of its leader. Indeed, the Common Market countries will, I am afraid, find it all too easy to believe that we have been intransigent over the Argentine, in view of the fact that they themselves have been accusing us only this week of being intransigent about more local matters.
Today The Times, which is a much more friendly newspaper to the Government than it used to be, spoke of the fatigue of the Foreign Secretary on Monday, and one can well believe it; and yet yesterday at the height of two international crises the Prime Minister found it necessary to give luncheon to one Commonwealth Prime Minister and then dinner to another, at both of which the Foreign Secretary was present. Such hospitable gatherings are essential and have an important diplomatic purpose, but they must consume much energy. I wish that our leaders in times of crisis could be relieved of this kind of strain, and I am quite certain it could be done without any danger of offending such friends as Commonwealth Prime Ministers.
What we must all hope for now is that the latest efforts of the Secretary-General to get a settlement will succeed; that, if they do not, then the military action we will take will be as economical of life as is compatible with victory; and that, if the battle is prolonged, the negotiations for a ceasefire and withdrawal will continue. An eminent Conservative said today that he thought all negotiations ought to cease when battle is actually joined. I should have thought that that was the moment for continuing if not for intensifying the negotiations.
The other thing is that the Government must think more seriously about the information it is distributing I wonder whether any body in the Government is really looking after the foreign correspondents in London. Some of them seem to have some remarkably uninformed views about what is going on. My noble friend raised the question about who is responsible for publicity in the Cabinet. Well, it used to be Mr. Angus Maude, who had been editor of the Sydney Morning Herald; after that it was Mr. Pym and then after Mr. Pym—who? I have been round asking Conservatives who it is, but nobody seems to know. Some people think it is Mr. Parkinson and other people think it is Mr. Biffen. At least we ought to have information about who is responsible for information in the Government.
This is a very important point. It has got to be done at all levels, at the level of the correspondents in London, at the diplomatic level and at the broadcasting level. This is going to be of crucial importance, especially if we are engaged in a terrible conflict during 829 the next few weeks and months. I do hope the Government will give very deep consideration to it.
§ 5.13 p.m.
§ Lord Gridley
My Lords, I must say that I am grateful to the Government for allowing this debate this afternoon and for placing in the possession of all of us a full statement of the Government's negotiations as they have developed between themselves and the Argentine junta. My noble friend the Leader of the House described in her speech in the most moving terms the efforts of the Government in seeking an honourable agreement. When I read the document this afternoon, prior to coming into your Lordships' House, there was a suggestion in one part of it which I felt some of us might have found it difficult to accept.
I refer to a certain situation where it seemed to me that the Argentinians were certainly getting more than they were entitled to, under the circumstances of the case against them of aggression. In that, I refer particularly to the fact that we have to bear in mind that, in that aggression, a Governor, a representative of the Crown, was kicked out of his position by an armed force. In my opinion once order is restored and the islands are cleared, the proper position should be, anyway for a short period of time, that the Governor should go back there and administer the territory, and then negotiations should start up from there for the future of the country.
There were other proposals which, I believe, the Government might have found rather difficult, too, but, as I say, in spite of all that, this is an indication of the great lengths to which the Government would go to secure agreement with the Argentinians. There was a further example that we know of, the fact that certain proposals were put to the Argentinians by Mr. Haig, and then submitted to our own Government, which they would probably have found it exceedingly difficult to accept or might have found it difficult to get accepted in the Houses of Parliament. Nevertheless, the Government went along with that. But here again the junta in Argentina, so I understand, refused to countenance these proposals.
These neogtiations have been going on for over six weeks, and the Government's efforts in those directions in my opinion deserve the highest praise. Noble Lords who have spoken from all quarters of the House have warmly supported the Government in their efforts to secure peace. Their concern has been to save lives, their action to defend the rule of international law; they are concerned to abide by certain principles. So, whatever may face the Government in the days ahead, let them be fortified by what they have achieved so far and go on with courage into the future.
I spoke in the debate on the Falkland Islands on 29th April, and I expressed then my fears that our Government would never be able to enter into any meaningful negotiations on the future of the Falkland Islands and the islanders themselves. And I stress the islanders themselves for whom we have the most sacred responsibilities. For we are involved with men on the Argentine side who do not recognise the right of self-determination of their own people, who do not recognise even the freedom of free speech, who govern by suppression, and who to gain their ends have in the 830 recent past liquidated 9,000 of their own countrymen. To hand over the islanders for whom we have responsibility to the operations of those who perpetrate torture by the secret police is not a matter which I consider we can accept for a single moment.
I could speak at length about this for the simple reason that I know something about it. I could describe the process, but I will not do so. Your Lordships can read about it if you want to. It is all in a book in the Commonwealth Library in an account of the war criminal trials in Singapore. If we were ever to hand over the islanders to Argentina in that situation it would be a betrayal; it would be worse than that, it would be an act of dishonour.
Argentina, so it is reported in the press, and in some of the communications that have passed between the British Government and Argentina in recent days, has said, "We cannot accept colonialism". My Lords, what a nerve! In the past 40 years Britain has brought 40 colonial countries to independence or self-government in accordance with the principles of the freely expressed wishes of the peoples concerned. What has been the reaction of those countries to the present Argentinian aggression? The Secretary-General of the Commonwealth has pledged that the Commonwealth countries are fully behind Britain in the activities which she has seen fit to carry on and which occupy her time at present against Argentinian aggression. So when the Argentinian junta say, "We cannot accept colonialism", I say to the junta in Argentina that we have an honourable record in the manner in which we have divested ourselves of our colonies.
Returning to certain reactions in this country to our present stance against Argentina, when ASLEF votes for the recall of our task force, which as reported in The Times today it has done, and when certain demonstrators burn the Union Jack and label our soldiers as murderers, I would say to them that that freedom which they enjoy would land them in prison under torture if ever a system of dictatorship and secret police were to gain an ascendancy in this country or other free countries of the world. As I have said, such a system is in operation in Argentina. People who act in that manner in Britain prostitute the freedom which they enjoy in this country as well as bringing encouragement to those who commit this evil aggression. It is not a pretty picture.
As I said in my speech on 29th April, I think that the courage, expertise, and I would now add tolerance, of my right honourable friend the Prime Minister and the Government in these days, has been outstanding. I hope and pray that we shall come out of this and succeed with credit. I believe that this House—I cannot speak for the other place—is behind us and behind the Government in everything that has been said up to this moment in endeavouring to achieve what they have set their hand to do. I wish them well and I believe that the country are behind the Government.
§ 5.23 p.m.
§ Lord Noel-Baker
My Lords, incomparably the most important issue which we are debating is the aggression by the Argentinian invaders of the Falkland Islands. It is essential that that invasion is brought to an end, and I would even say that until the invaders are out 831 there can be no rational negotiation for a peaceful settlement. Neither we nor the United Nations can negotiate under duress. Last week, to a Scottish audience, the Prime Minister said that if the present efforts of the Secretary-General of the United Nations to secure a peaceful settlement were to fail, there would be only one course open to us, and she implied that that was war. With respect, I venture to disagree.
War is not a good way of settling any dispute. As my noble friend Lord Brockway has so powerfully argued this afternoon, war in the Falkland Islands by invasion would have very grave disadvantages indeed. It would put the Falkland islanders in extreme peril and no doubt cause them very grievous losses. It would put the numerous people in the Argentine, the British citizens who live there—are there 100,000?— in grave difficulty. If we won the war, what would we do with the Falkland Islands? There must be a better way than war, and I venture to think that there is.
The first thing that the Government did when the invasion took place was, rightly as I think, to lay the matter before the Security Council of the United Nations. They had a singular triumph. Resolution 502 was adopted by 10 votes to one—only little Panama ventured to vote against. The 10 included the five non-aligned members of the council. There were four abstentions: Russia, China, Spain and one other. But the abstentions were a refusal—a considered, deliberate refusal—to condone the aggression. They were, in fact, an endorsement of the condemnation which the resolution conveyed.
After that resolution our position in the council was extremely strong—strong in law, strong in moral standing. Supposing we had sent our Foreign Secretary to the Security Council, and he had taken with him the American Secretary of State, Mr. Alexander Haig and they had said, "You have adopted a resolution condemning what the Argentines have done". But the United Nations was not created just to pass resolutions. Article 1 of the Charter says, and I quote it merely textually:The purposes of the United Nations are to maintain the peace of the world and by collective measures to bring to an end threats or breaches of the peace and to suppress acts of aggression".I repeat that one of its purposes is to suppress acts of aggression. Article 41 of the Charter says:The Security Council may call upon members of the United Nations to adopt the following collective measures which do not include the use of armed force—partial or total economic sanctions; the rupture of all communications: rail, sea, air, telegraph, radio and other; and the severence of diplomatic relations".Suppose our Foreign Secretary, with the help of Mr. Alexander Haig, had said, "We want collective action by the United Nations to end this aggression. Let us begin with the rupture of diplomatic relations. Let us call on all members of the United Nations to withdraw their ambassadors from Buenos Aires". It is possible, of course, that some Latin Americans might have left their ambassadors there, but I believe it to be a matter of absolute certainty that, within days, we would have had the closure of more than 100 embassies in Buenos Aires. That would have brought home, with a vivid shock to the noble and civilised people of the Argentine, the crime that their fascist junta had committed. I 832 think it not impossible that it might in itself have brought the junta tumbling from power.
But suppose it was not enough? Supposing we had also had to ask for collective economic sanctions—the breaking of all trade and financial relations of every kind—by the generality of the states belonging to the United Nations. That would have brought enormous pressure to bear on the Argentine junta whose export trade is to them of extreme importance. Let us suppose that that was not enough. Let us suppose that we had had to cut off all communication—rail, sea, air, telegraph, radio and other—can you imagine what that ostracism, that total silence from the outside world, would have meant to the Argentine people? I do not think that we envisage the enormous power which these collective measures, which do not involve the use of force, have to influence the action of a Government which has made a mistake. I believe that if we had done that we should have had the Argentine troops out of the Falkland Islands long ago.
But it is not yet too late. The Government say they are acting under Article 51, but Article 51 says that the Government must report to the Security Council all the military action which they take and that they must do so immediately, without delay. It says that nothing done by any member state taking such military action shall remove from the Security Council the full responsibility for taking all the measures that shall bring the aggression to an end and restore the peace of the world. I believe that our Government would do well now not to take the matter out of the hands of the Security Council as, if they proceed to invade the islands, they will be doing. But I believe that they should go to the Security Council and say: "Under Article 51, the responsibility is yours. We ask you now to take these collective measures not involving the use of armed force. We ask you to take them at once and to proceed from diplomatic sanctions to economic actions, to the rupture of communications that is required". I believe that by that course we might much more swiftly than by invasion secure the result that we want. Then the way will be open to negotiate the United Nations trusteeship, by which I believe in the end this problem will be solved.
§ 5.32 p.m.
§ Lord Beloff
My Lords, I think that all your Lordships will agree that this is a very unjoyous occasion. None of us can face with equanimity the possibility that, within hours or days, we may be engaged in hostilities on a much wider scale than hitherto. All of us, therefore, must have come here this afternoon hoping to find some alternative by which we could achieve what the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Baker, said must be the primary and the immediate objective, the removal of the Argentinian forces of invasion.
Only two noble Lords who have spoken this afternoon have dissented from the Government's handling of the dispute—the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Baker, and before him the noble Lord, Lord Brockway. It is to me a source, not of pleasure, but of disquiet that neither of them has been able to produce an alternative procedure which gives the slightest hope of success. The noble Lord, Lord Brockway, suggested that the Government should negotiate further along the lines of the document—the set of points—which has been 833 made available by the Secretary-General of the United Nations and which my noble friend the Leader of the House outlined to us at the beginning of this afternoon's proceedings.
However, it seems perfectly clear—at least it seemed so to me as I followed my noble friend the Leader of the House in her exposition—that this is not an alternative interim agreement which might bridge the gap between the two sides, but merely the setting out of the vast points of disagreement which exist and which have existed since the beginning of this unhappy affair. There may be later and better news, but, on the basis of what we were given, it is difficult to see how the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, could do more than prolong, for another few days or another few weeks, the movement which we have had—the constant attempt to find something which goes not all the way to meet Argentina's original claims. Therefore, it seems to me that that point has been ruled out.
The noble Lord, Lord Noel-Baker, suggested—as I think he suggested in almost the same words in our last debate—that we should have recourse not to military force but to what are generally known as sanctions—diplomatic, economic and sanctions in the field of communication. It seems to have escaped the attention of the noble Lord that we have made very considerable efforts in that direction; that, in fact, many of our friends in different parts of the world have adopted some of these measures. We have —I think for understandable reasons—found it difficult to keep all of them up to scratch even so, and we are talking about countries which have basically expressed an understanding for our position. Is it seriously to be believed that we would get a better response from a large number of other countries, which have not expressed similar understanding for our position, or that the blows to the Argentinian economy, which have already been delivered by the measures taken, look like, within any measurable distance of time, affecting the issue? If it is only sanctions or only the Secretary-General's document that offers an alternative, it is my regretful conclusion that this afternoon we have been offered no alternative.
What we have had this afternoon is a very important statement from my noble friend the Leader of the House which began our proceedings, which I think must make it abundantly clear that, so far from being intransigent, this Government have made every possible effort to reach an honourable agreement, which a Government not desirous—as is the Argentinian Government—of pushing its luck to the uttermost would by now have accepted.
In various quarters in this House we have in the past asked to be entrusted with more information, not on the military side but on the diplomatic side. I think that many of us believed that this was in fact the case, that the concessions that were being made were being made on our side; that the flexibility was on our side and that the attempt to make peace was on our side. I am glad that it has now been done.
The media has been referred to in the House today, and it is somewhat discouraging to find The Guardian—once a great Liberal newspaper—headlining the Government's decision to publish these documents with:Britain—the Government attempts to shrug off the blame".834 There is no blame to be shrugged off. Britain has been the object of aggression. It has made proposals which I am sure will commend themselves not merely to this House and to the country, but to our friends in the Commonwealth, in Europe and in the United States. Alas! those proposals have been rejected.
Therefore, it looks as though we are faced with a war which we certainly did not, and do not, seek and which I suspect the Argentinian Government did not seek. I do not believe—and I know of no evidence to convince me otherwise—that the Argentinian Government launched their invasion forces in the expectation of being involved in major military hostilities. It seems to me that General Galtieri sports enough medals without needing some campaign medals to add to them. I think they were misled.
One of the things we shall face when all this is over, and I hope satisfactorily over, will be, as the Government have said, an inquiry. I hope it will not be a judicial inquiry. I hope it will be entrusted to historians, because I think that the mistake was not one made about the attitudes of the British Foreign Office, British diplomats, or British Foreign Secretaries; it was I think a major miscalculation about the kind of country this is, or the kind of country this has become.
It may well be that the Argentinian Government, looking at the appeal which the notion of peace in itself has so widely among our young people, looking at other aspects of our society, and looking at some expressions of the public mind, has said, "These people are very unlikely to react in any strong way. They will make a fuss. They will go to the United Nations. They will get their resolution, and we shall still be there". When this is looked at historically I think it is going to throw a good deal of light on our own society and the way it has come to be looked at. It is going to throw new light on the whole international scene. We have already somewhat altered our perceptions as to who our friends in the world are, and which of them are stauncher than others.
It has certainly—and I say this with all respect to the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Baker, who regards the United Nations as though it were a favourite child—thrown new light upon the limitations of the United Nations as well as its potential, because the fact remains that a resolution, even a mandatory resolution of the United Nations, cannot be followed up in the world that we have today. The United Nations at best—I do not wish to detract from the services of the SecretaryGeneral—is a forum which can help men of goodwill to come together, but, where goodwill is lacking, has to allow the ordinary operations of diplomacy, of economics, and alas, I fear, of war.
§ 5.43 p.m.
§ Lord Molloy
My Lords, I should like to begin the few things I have to say by sincerely thanking the noble Baroness the Lord Privy Seal for the measured and easy way she made the statement, which allowed us all to understand precisely the current situation. I have had some experience both in this House and in another place and have listened to statements, and it has been difficult to understand precisely what has been said. That certainly was not the case this afternoon and at least, I, for one, am most grateful to the noble Baroness.
835 I should like to say immediately to the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, that he has an absolutely cockeyed view of what the United Nations is really about. When you travel about other parts of the world and see the efforts of UNESCO, the World Health Organisations, and all these organisations built by the United Nations to which we contributed, you can see something of its real worth. Where the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, is absolutely right is in this respect. At the top level, at the level of war and peace, of maintaining peace, I deeply regret that it has not been anywhere as near successful as it has been in many of its other massive undertakings throughout the world. It has done many wonderful things which I believe would receive the applause of the wise and indeed the encouragement of the good. That is something that we must always remember about the United Nations.
When the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, made criticisms of the noble Lords, Lord Noel-Baker and Lord Brockway, I can understand the reason. The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, was not tempted, and I will not be tempted to go into the inquiry now as to why we are in this situation. This is the wrong time. But it will have to come at some time. I believe that this would be a much saner and better world if we could hear the voices of a Lord Brockway and a Lord Soper in the Argentine and in other places—where, alas, they would not be allowed to utter a word. But I do not believe that that is any reason why they should not keep on indicating and guiding us with their idealism, if not for this generation then perhaps for the next.
It is also right and proper to refer to some of the vicious, mean Argentine propaganda of harking back to the British colonial days. I have done it in my time long before the last world war. But I am so proud of this country, so proud of this nation, which I believe is the only nation that translated an empire into a commonwealth. I am most proud above all that I belonged to the Labour Party which started that massive transformation. It is also right and proper to put on record—and it has been done, and I am going to do so again —appreciation of someone and of a nation I have criticised in the past. My appreciation is for the endeavours of Secretary of State Haig and the American people. I listened the other day—it could not have been vetoed by the BBC—to a wonderful speech made by the chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, in which he was submitting that the case of the British was absolutely beyond question. We should be grateful to him, too.
We should be grateful for the endeavours of Peru; the endeavours of the Secretary-General; and that the Commonwealth have stood by us so long. It was right and proper—and this is perhaps what other countries cannot understand—for Her Majesty's Opposition to pressurise Her Majesty's Government into taking every possible step to achieve a diplomatic solution before we embarked on military force, because in the end we are bound to stop the fighting. I support absolutely the need for the return of the Falkland Islands to the Falkland islanders, but talks will have to come at some stage, and therefore we have to look at that as well.
If there is anything I am going to criticise the Government about, it is this. They have a first-class case, but 836 they have failed to explain it thoroughly. There were the little documents you could get in the Printed Paper Office and the Vote Office. That was not the place for them. They should in addition have been on the bookstalls. They should have been tested for absolute accuracy. As my noble friend Lord Shackleton has said, I think he could have made it an even better one. But it is not so much for our consumption but for the consumption of our people and others who are bound to be interested in this serious situation, because our country has an extraordinarily good case.
There has also been some criticism—and I am going to make some too—of the BBC. I am bound to say right at the beginning that we in this great democracy are having a hard fight and hard tussle with a fascist junta. I sometimes find it nauseating to have to listen to people who did not mind selling arms to those fascists on the understanding that they would not kill British with them. This is what is happening in Africa now. There have been more human beings slain by arms made in this country by British mercenaries than will probably be suffered during even this crisis. For the sake of the honour of our country we have to look at that situation as well. If we do not, we shall rightly be entitled to the label of "hypocrites".
May I also refer to the BBC. They have this absolute right of freedom, but in addition they have the requirement to be accurate and to present the facts and the truth as they understand it, and not in the banal and unjust way in which they made that presentation in that repulsive "Panorama" programme. If any Argentine equivalent of the BBC had dared present a programme against the Argentine in favour of Britain in that way—if they were Russian they would have had a long acquaintance with the salt mines—they would probably have been gagged for the rest of their lives. That is what some of the people in the BBC must understand. At the same time, I deplore some of the jingoistic fury displayed by some of our cheap national newspapers. When I read some of their headlines I am reminded strongly of the saying that war has no fury like a non-combatant.
United States and United Nations forces should, I believe, be garnered because it is imperative that we be associated in our endeavours, although I accept that there could be a trap. I proposed in your Lordships' House that if the Argentinians withdraw from or got out of the islands, which they have militarily invaded, we should not rush in but that a United Nations force should take over with United Nations administrators. However, as I say, there could be a trap even then because I do not trust the junta in any way whatever. If they were then to pile scores of Argentinians into the islands, like the couple of scrap merchants who started it, then one could be outvoted. Therefore, I would want to see a plebiscite taken of those Argentinians who were there before the crisis occurred; it would be their right to indulge in any form of plebiscite.
The proposition which the Government made, as first enunciated by Mr. Pym on 7th May, was basically right. It had the support of the Secretary-General and the Peruvian Government, but it was totally rejected by the Argentinian Government. While I never lose an opportunity to attack this Conservative Administration, I am bound to say there was not much more they could have done because something gravely serious was, and 837 is, at stake, not only because the Falkland islanders are our countrymen but because if we say, "You can invade and occupy by force and we will bow down and acknowledge defeat", there is no hope for mankind in the dangerous world in which we live. I am amazed that those who have a genuine concern for peace seem to be more annoyed at the British response than they—these peace-lovers—are annoyed at the Argentinian fascist junta who actually carried out the invasion. I find that most perplexing.
However, I believe we must also look to the future and we should start thinking now. I recall what happened towards the end of the last war, before the actual total surrender. One might call it the quiet confidence of the British, but in 1943, when we had not yet quite won, we were already making plans to rebuild our island, to have a new education system and to create a new economic liaison with other countries. Although we had not quite won, and therefore that might be looked on as arrogance, it was something we felt because we believed our cause was just and we would win in the end. We should start that sort of thinking now. There will he a need for international machinery to render unnecessary the attitude we have been compelled to adopt. I hope this will be the last time any nation will have to adopt such an attitude and indulge in what we are doing now. The only way to achieve that is to examine all the ramifications of this crisis to see if we can get an international force through the United Nations so that this sort of thing can be prevented.
I suggest it would also be wise for us to say that at some stage in the future we shall have to start some form of economic co-operation with the Argentine; yes, let us say it now, with the Argentine. We did not say so openly in 1944–45, but by 1947 we were co-operating with the Italians, Germans and all those who had taken up arms against us, and it was wise and sensible for us to do that. In any event, I do not accept that every Argentinian at all times is 100 per cent. behind their Government. Indeed, it is not unfair to surmise that the invasion of the Falkland Islands was a ploy to get some form of national unity to prevent the massive demonstration which was going to take place in the Argentine four or five days before the junta ordered the invasion. Therefore, let us say to those who may be listening in the Argentine, "We hope that when this is over we can co-operate with you. We hope to help our countrymen in the Falkland Islands to increase their standard of life by sensible trading with you when this is all over".
We might even suggest that we could perhaps help them some day to enjoy the massive privilege we have of living in a democratic society, so that they—yes, the Argentinians—may join with us, the Americans, Indians, South Africans and others in creating a world in which harmony and justice march side by side. Then perhaps we shall find the means whereby, when situations like this are threatened, whoever is starting it will be taking on the whole of mankind. When that is realised, they will not be able to do it. So perhaps out of the present crisis may emerge the massive paradox that those who are against us now and those who are supporting us, like our Commonwealth partners, will build a system which will prevent a situation such as this ever happening again.
§ 5.57 p.m.
§ Lord Hooson
My Lords, it is with the greatest regret that I must dissociate myself from the support for the Government expressed by my noble Leader and friend Lord Byers. I find it impossible to support him. I am totally against any military escalation in the present situation, and I speak not as a pacifist but as one expressing quite the opposite viewpoint. I have for years been a defence spokesman for my party. I have been a great supporter of NATO and I was for years the vice-chairman of the political committee of NATO parliamentarians, so I have not taken lightly the step I am taking.
I believe we are, as a country, embarking on a route which could take us into the kind of extremism which the United States found in Vietnam. We tend to forget why America fought in Vietnam; it was for the rule of law, international law, the right of self-determination and to ensure that sovereignty was not undermined by insurgency supported from outside. I was one of the very early critics of the United States when Vietnam started. I never doubted their motives. I believe to this day that America went into Vietnam from the highest of motives. I thought she would be militarily and diplomatically humiliated in Vietnam, and I said so in another place when I was a Member. I was rather howled down for saying it. In the event—it is no pleasure for me to say so—I was proved right.
I am against the military escalation of the present situation because, first, I do not think it is in this country's interests; secondly, I do not believe it is in the interests of the Falkland islanders; and thirdly, I do not think it is in the interests of the free world. The Soviet Union cannot in their wildest dreams ever have thought that the West would so involve itself in the South Atlantic in the way that is happening now as to open up to their influence, without any effort on Russia's part, the South American continent. If there is already one victor in this situation that it is obvious for all who have eyes to see, it is the Soviet Union.
I am bound to say that I have been dismayed by the wave of emotionalism that has gone through this House this afternoon. There is nothing that I disagree with in any speech regarding the condemnation of the Argentinian leaders. They have behaved very badly. It was quite understandable that we should all be greatly angered by what they did, and I give way to nobody in my condemnation of them. In another place and here I have always objected to this country selling arms to any dictatorship, and it ill becomes people who have suddenly discovered the evil of such leaders as the Argentinians have to read moral lessons. They should have found that out a long time ago.
I want to return to the present situation and refer to the observations made by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, and echoed by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont—that this is a time for this country to close ranks; that except for the pacifist viewpoint, those who have dissension or feel dissension otherwise should not express it, and should close ranks. I profoundly disagree with that view. I am expressing a view that is very widely held in this country—and not only by a considerable segment (it might even be the majority) in my own party perhaps outside this Chamber. I have also been reinforced in my view by what has been said to 839 me by a number of individuals in all parties, and by many people in very high positions and who are not politicians at all. There have been expressed the greatest misgivings about the attitude that we have taken up in the present situation.
No one pretends that it is an easy situation for any Government to deal with. But I was against sending the task force at all for very much the same kind of reason, though I think I felt not in exactly the same way as the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, felt it. I never believed that there could be a diplomatic solution to this problem backed by force. The very essence of a military dictatorship is that they cannot give way in the face of force. Whoever has heard in history of military dictators suddenly giving up in the face of force? Their very being depends upon their being able, as it were, to mobilise opinion to support them when they are threatened or when their national honour is threatened. It is true of jingoism in any country that when national pride and national honour are involved it unites the people, and of course the people of Argentina have been more united in favour of their junta than they have ever been before.
I also disagreed with the uncompromising diplomatic attitude taken by this country early on. We really did not allow ourselves much room to get out of the corner; nor did we allow Argentina, either, much room to get out of the corner. As has been said, this is not the occasion on which to inquire how, or why, we got ourselves into the lamentable—and I repeat, lamentable—situation in which we found ourselves seven or eight weeks ago. It is an extraordinary thing that a country that was not prepared to spend the money on extending the runway of the Falkland Islands, that was not prepared to have a single frigate or a submarine down there, could suddenly find that the thing was so vastly important that we are really embarking on a path which could lead to the third world war.
It is time that this country got this crisis into perspective. The crisis has steadily escalated in both seriousness and danger. Why? Because there has been miscalculation on all sides. If they are honest with themselves, how many noble Lords believed five or six weeks ago that the diplomatic activity, backed by the great display of sending a task force, would not have resulted—as I think the vast majority of people in this country thought—in the Argentine climbing down? How many noble Lords actually contemplated that there might be a bloody exchange far worse than anything that we have seen so far in the South Atlantic? Very few, I think. Possibly the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, was an exception. I disagreed with sending the task force because I was not prepared to follow up the logic of sending it; namely, that if you send it and you do not achieve a diplomatic solution, what do you do? I remember Nye Bevan after the Suez Crisis once saying, "It is very easy, and every politician finds a situation where he wants to put his foot down. It's to get it up again that's the problem"—
§ Lord Hooson
The noble Lord has much greater historical information than I have. I want to say 840 that we have miscalculated and the Argentines have miscalculated. What will it lead to? The noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Swynnerton, said that there was no honourable course left for this country but to go to war. I thought that that was a fantastic statement to make. It had shades, as it were, of the negotiations which led to the First World War, and everybody looking back historically at that situation is absolutely astonished that such a relatively small event could have resulted in such a war.
So we must take the situation as it is today. The task force is down there. I have no doubt whatsoever of the high professionalism, the fine morale, and the excellent leadership of our troops in all aspects; but I remember hearing the Chief of Staff on television when the crisis began. He was asked this question: "How do you think we can achieve the objectives we have in mind, and how do you think we shall acquit ourselves there?" He used these words: "I am sure that our forces will be excellent and can do anything that is asked of them within their capability". It is those words—"within their capability"—that have impressed themselves on my mind.
I do not think that we should escalate military the crisis. We are in a difficult solution, with the task force there. I would send it to South Georgia. I would maintain the blockade for the time being. I shall tell the House why I do not think that we should allow the situation to escalate further militarily. After all, the negotiations have been taking place for only six weeks, and that is a very short time in the history of the Falkland islanders. When one considers the implications of this matter for the free world, I think that we should be very careful.
There is an unacceptable degree of risk, first, of a heavy loss of life on both sides. The noble Lord, Lord Aylestone, ended his speech with words to the effect that one hopes that very little blood will be shed in the achievement of the objects in mind. I regret to say that I think that a great deal of blood will be shed, and I think that this House is escaping its responsibilities in not facing up to that. I respect people who do face up to it, who say, "I am prepared to accept this". I am not; yet I can understand people who do say that. But at least this House should not allow itself to be carried away on a wave of emotionalism and talk about losses as though we are thinking only of tens of people, or numbers of that kind. Let us face the reality that there will probably be heavy losses on both sides.
Secondly, the situation could cruelly expose us militarily. Our military limitations will become obvious, as the American military limitations became obvious in Vietnam. Thirdly, I believe that our diplomatic isolation will grow. Already there are obvious signs among some of our best friends that they simply cannot understand our attitude towards this problem. Fourthly, I think, too, that the position and attitude in Argentina will match the attitude that is developing here; it will become harder and harder to achieve any kind of settlement.
Fifthly, even if there were a huge military success, it would not solve the future of the Falkland Islands at all. It might solve the future of the Government of this country. It might solve the future of the Government of Argentina, but not for one moment would it solve 841 the future of the Falkland Islands. If in fact we are hugely successful militarily, Argentina will smart under defeat for years to come; and what about the prospects for the Falkland islanders? What about them? What will happen to them in years to come? Or are we as a country prepared to support a big military force down there for a decade or two? Because that is what it might well amount to.
Therefore, I think that, diplomatic effort backed by military means so far not having achieved the breakthrough that we all very much hoped that it would, this country ought to take stock of its situation; because I can well see that if we invade the Falklands, however it is done, and we have losses because of insufficient air cover on our part and very considerable (as it were) air activity by the Argentinians, there will inevitably be a demand for the bombing or otherwise disabling of the Argentine land bases. It will be the first time that a European power will have attacked the South American mainland, and it could bring the whole of the South American continent, in one way or another—the Brazilians, and so on—into the war.
I can quite see how the whole situation could escalate, because the military argument is going to be obvious: "We cannot let our boys suffer this enormous military disadvantage of being bombed from the Argentinian mainland; the only thing to do is to attack their bases there", and in this kind of way the escalation will grow. We have got into this situation now because, I think, of enormous miscalculations, and I regret to say that the miscalculations continue.
I believe there is such a thing as a just war, but I agree with the Dean of King's College, who today wrote a letter to The Times, I believe it was, or to the Guardian, saying that the invasion couldunleash ills that outweigh any attainable good".There is a doctrine in the just war: the doctrine, I think, of balance, or proportionality. The whole thing has to be proportionate. The military response and the military risks taken have to be proportionate to what is involved.
The armed conflict will in itself answer no questions; and, in the end, the real problem will need a real solution. This House may as well face the reality that we ought to have faced years ago. In the aftermath of empire we are left with islands 8,000 miles away from us. We have been gearing our defence effort to defend Europe and taking part in NATO, and, therefore, the defence capability which was appropriate to a far-flung empire is no longer appropriate to us.
Are we prepared, in the future, to allow the Falkland Islands to determine our defence posture, so that we should gear our defence effort to a long-term defence of the Falkland Islands, and make the necessary sacrifices in NATO that will be necessary to justify that? Are we prepared to ensure that over not a few weeks, not a few months, but years we shall sustain the economic and financial effort, as well as the defence effort, that will be necessary? I think it is overwhelmingly in the interests of this country, overwhelmingly in the interests of the Falkland Islands and certainly overwhelmingly in the interests of NATO and the free world, that we should not escalate this matter any 842 further, and should continue with our efforts to obtain a diplomatic solution.
§ 6.14 p.m.
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
My Lords, your Lordships have just listened to what was to me perhaps the most remarkable speech that I have listened to since I had the privilege of joining your Lordships' House just a year ago. I think it only remains for me to underline some of the points which the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, made.
After listening to the opening speeches here this afternoon I spent a little time in another place listening to the Leader of the Opposition. I found it refreshing. Mr. Foot's speech was much more in line with that delivered later here by my noble friend Lord Brockway than it was with that delivered from our Front Bench by my noble friend Lord Shackleton; and, if I may say so, I think that the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, did himself and his party more credit than was done from our Front Bench by our opening speaker here this afternoon. I hope that we shall hear something less adulatory of the Government from my noble friend Lord Stewart when he speaks later. Perhaps he will take a line from the noble Lord, Lord Hooson.
While I am on my feet, may I say that the BBC has been attacked for that "Panorama" programme. I may be alone in this, but I took the trouble to listen to and measure the tape afterwards, and it seemed to me to be a programme which was well balanced, slightly in the Government's favour. This is an individual view, and I claim no mathematical certainty for it. I will agree that the tone of this programme was the tone of a programme which was put forward from the point of view of showing that the Government's policy could be dissented from; but, surely, that is what we are about in this country. That is what we are supposed to be condemning in the Argentinian junta. It is precisely because they do not enjoy the freedoms which we enjoy in this country that the notion (and I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, on this) that on an occasion like this all of us must shut up and keep quiet if we disagree with the Government, is not one which I believe many of your Lordships, on reflection, would wish to support.
Whatever happens, whether or not hundreds more lives are lost, in a few years' time there will be no difference of any sort. These lives will have been sacrificed in vain, for no useful purpose; and that is the real tragedy of the Government's policy. I am sure I am not alone in having come across, in distant parts, the graves of men who died in the acquisition of the British Empire. It is a melancholy experience, but not so sad as to see the more recent graves of those who died because we hung on too long—the graves near Aden; those who died at Suez; and now those who have died (and, unless we can stop it, will die) in the South Atlantic.
Such a waste of human life is especially appalling when alternative means of settling the dispute are in fact available: not only economic sanctions but diplomatice pressure; diplomatic isolation, perhaps, as my noble friend Lord Noel-Baker has suggested. Financial strangulation has not been attempted, and that could be very effective and very quick if we had the guts to apply that particular remedy. To reject all these 843 possible alternatives in favour of killing is really criminal.
The Government's claim to be acting as the enforcement agency of the United Nations is in my view untenable. They are rather like a householder who, having been burgled, not only shoots the burglar but kills his family as well, and then claims to be upholding the law and the right of self-defence. The means deployed in this matter are grossly excessive having regard to the ends to be sought. They are grossly excessive from our own point of view, from the point of view of our own deployment our forces in the world, apart from any other consideration. My Lords, if the Government go ahead and launch an invasion, they will bitterly regret it. I want to add my small minority voice to those who are pleading for second thoughts, even at this late stage, perhaps along the lines proposed by my noble friend Lord Noel-Baker.
It has been suggested that the Government have had no effective criticism, and that they have done all that reasonably could be expected. This view has been expressed not only on the Government side of the House but elsewhere as well. But I should like to point to the fact that there are other voices, and the fact that they are Latin American voices would not, I hope, exclude them from consideration—because, after all, the war is going to be fought, is being fought, in the Latin American area. The President of Peru, for example, has accused Britain, so the Guardian says, of direct responsibility for the collapse of his mediation effort by the sinking of the "General Belgrano". I daresay that some noble Lords will have read the very remarkable article in The Times by Adolfo Esquivel, the Argentinian winner of the 1980 Nobel Peace Prize—not by any stretch of the imagination a supporter of the Argentine military junta.
My Lords, to use military force in the nuclear age really is madness. If we do not learn to check aggression without counter aggession—because this is the secret that we must learn in the nuclear age if we want to survive—then mankind has no future. That is why this tragic and outdated operation should be called off at once. I beg the Government to step back from the brink. They will have to return to the negotiating table after the killing and maiming. Why not go to the negotiating table now, before the escalation with its inevitable human tragic consequences takes place? Let the Government give a positive response to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, whose démarche and latest attempt in this matter was I thought, rather cavalierly dismissed as no more than an aide memoire. It demanded a more satisfactory response than that. I hope that when the noble Lord comes to wind up, we shall hear of the Government's intention to take this last opportunity to settle the dispute by peaceful means. I urge that the Government will give that positive response and will save the day, even at this eleventh hour.
§ 6.23 p.m.
§ Lord Monson
My Lords, we do not know how things are evolving at this moment either in New York or in the South Atlantic, and nor is it right that we should. The matter is rightly in the hands of the inner 844 Cabinet. I doubt if at this stage the Government will be swayed by anything said in this House, certainly not from these Benches, in any difficult and crucial decision that they will have to make within the next few hours; so this part of my speech is addressed to those who seem inclined towards appeasement. I contend that when one has such a difficult decision to make one should do what one knows in one's heart to be right, and if what is right conflicts with so-called world opinion then that is too bad.
I have to disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, in his contention that if we proceed in the way in which we appear to be proceeding, then all of Asia and Africa will be turned against us. We have had much support from Asian and African countries and I forecast that that support will largely continue. What is misnamed world opinion is actually no more than the opinion of a tiny élite, representing well under 1 per cent. of the world population, and it is unwise to attach too much importance to this opinion, fickle and volatile as it is.
Russia, of course, does not care a fig for world opinion; but nor do many of our friends and allies, notably France, Israel, Turkey and, until the mid-1970s, when they got cold feet, the United States. All or most of these countries take the sensible view, as we used to in our time, that, if one has to make the difficult choice, then it is better to be respected than liked. But we are in a much more favourable position than they are because of the total soundness of our moral case. Even the staunchest friend of Israel must have some doubts about that country's present West Bank policy, and the friends of Turkey—among whom I number myself—must surely have some misgivings about that country's occupation of such a disproportionate share of the territory of Cyprus in order to protect the Turkish Cypriots. In contrast, our present enterprise can evoke no moral qualms at all. Practical qualms, yes; but moral ones, no. There can be no comparison with the Suez operation, where even the most ardent advocates of that adventure cannot seriously have believed that we were entirely and wholly in the right, while many of us think that on balance (it was not a black and white issue) we were definitely not in the right.
Our present intention to restore British sovereignty in accordance with the democratically expressed wishes of the people of a territory illegally seized by a foreign invader means that right is not 51 per cent. or 66⅔ per cent. or 75 per cent., on our side. It is 100 per cent. on our side, by any moral criteria as well as in international law.
When we debated the Falklands crisis about five weeks ago I spoke of certain red herrings which were littering the path of resolution. Since then, a few more have come to light. The first is the "Red scare", the Soviet bogey. After Poland and Afghanistan, the moral bankruptcy of the Soviet system and the imperialistic nature of the Soviet Union must be evident to even the most blinkered intellectual. An Argentinian defeat might conceivably result in that country, and possibly a few others, going Marxist, for a time. But it is highly unlikely to result in their going Russian.
Secondly, the claim that we will soon have to make things up with the Argentinians come what may, since 845 the islanders are totally dependent upon Argentina for their trade, for hospital treatment and so on simply is not true, as any Falkland islander will confirm. To the extent that communications with the South American mainland are thought necessary, they can be re-introduced in the first instance with Chile, which is a dictatorship like Argentina, but is not an imperialist or expansionist one. They have never threatened or bullied the Falklanders, nor do they look likely to do so. After the runway is lengthened, as I hope it will be, communications can be established with Uruguay and possibly with Brazil. A famous Trinidadian novelist who knows Argentina well has made the point that, however charming individual Argentinians may be and however talented—and there are a great many talented ones—collectively they are a neurotic and a somewhat flawed people. One cannot forget that 50 years ago Argentina was one of the most prosperous countries in the world. Since then, they have declined almost to the status of a third world country, whose name is a byword for hyper-inflation, corruption, economic decline, torture and murder. It will be a long time before the Falklands will wish to do business with them again.
The third red herring is the oft-repeated statement: "We were planning to give the place away, anyway; so what is the point of making such a fuss?" It is possible—I do not know—that a few politicians and a few officials were planning to "give the place away" but neither the British Parliament nor the British people were planning to do so, and they would never have acquiesced in a sell-out, whatever Machiavellian plots might have been hatched up behind closed doors. If by some extremely remote chance, a last-minute compromise seems possible, on what grounds could it honourably be accepted? I agree wholeheartedly with the Government and with the noble Baroness the Leader of the House that there can be absolutely no question of our fellow British subjects, an educated and civilised people, being treated like primitive stone-age tribesmen of New Guinea. There is no question of their elected assembly being dissolved, rendered impotent or in any way being overridden. The people of the islands must retain their legislative and, for the most part, their executive power. As the Government document states, there can be no question of Argentinian immigration during the period of any interim administrations, whether that immigration be legal or illegal.
This means substantial—and, above all, trustworthy—armed forces garrisoning the island, which may be a little more difficult than is supposed. In islands with the lowest crime rate in the Southern hemisphere, which are used to being policed by two unarmed policemen, there surely can be no question of armed men in uniform—other than of course British servicemen—roaming the streets, particularly so if their cultural background is markedly different to that of the islanders. The gentle and peace-loving way of the islanders must be preserved. This is probably all hypothetical, because, clearly, if the Argentinians do have to be removed by force—as looks increasingly likely—the extremely generous—indeed excessively generous, as my noble friend Lord Chalfont has suggested—compromise that we have offered must obviously be withdrawn.
Lastly, I come to the question of how our impreg- 846 noble case is being put forward by the Government, so as to dispel the misconceptions that unfortunately are all too widely held, at home as well as abroad. In contrast to the magnificent efforts of our Ambassador in Washington and our Ambassador in the United Nations in convincing American opinion and such other opinion as is formed in New York, the Government's own efforts here seem feeble. Here I thoroughly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton.
Apart from a few omissions, which I shall come to in a second, this booklet, The Falkland Islands: The Facts, is a first-class document. But why on earth has it taken six weeks for it to come out? The booklet makes the excellent point that the great majority of the population of Argentina descend from immigrants who came to the country after 1870. I wish that it had gone on from there to make the deduction that the average kelper family has probably lived on the Falkland Islands longer than the average Argentinian family has lived in Argentina. If that is indeed correct, that should give world opinion, such as it is, something to think about. I wish, too, that it had knocked the "right of possession by geography" argument on the head, even supposing that that argument had any moral validity, which of course it does not.
Too many educated people who ought to know better have made half-baked comparisons of the Falklands with the Isle of Wight or the outer Hebrides, asking how we would like it if Argentina occupied these islands. The Isle of Wight is two or three miles off the South Coast: the Outer Hebrides are 35 miles, on average, off the Scottish coast. Everyone should surely know by now that the Falkland Islands are 300 miles from Argentina. The Falklands are as far from the Argentinian coast as La Rochelle, Dijon, Bremen and Stavanger are from the British coast; while Buenos Aires is as far from Port Stanley as Helsinki, Minsk, Tunis and Tangier are from London.
The booklet makes no mention of the fact that neither Argentina nor Spain ever occupied the West Falklands at all, to the best of my knowledge. They occupied the East Falklands, intermittently, but never the West Falklands. Again, this greatly strengthens our moral case. Perhaps later editions of this booklet—if they are planned—might stress that point.
I would ask the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, to indicate how widely this booklet is being distributed. Is it going to schools, universities, public libraries, board rooms, to bishops' palaces and all the other places where people appear—such a high proportion of them—to be ill-informed? On the propaganda front, I urge all newspaper editors and editors of radio and television news and current affairs programmes—excluding the Editor of the Guardian, who, as the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, pointed out, has accused Britain of being at fault and is obviously therefore incorrigible—not to talk about an imminent British "invasion" of the Falklands, nor of "military action against" the Falklands, as the presenter of the "World at One" did today. To talk about "invasion" or "taking action" against the territory suggests to the naive and uninformed—and unfortunately there are all too many naive and uninformed people about—that we are aggressively using force against some innocent foreign country. What we are in fact about to do is to liberate our own territory. 847 Let us, instead of speaking of "invasion", speak of "liberation", and pray to God that it goes well.
§ 6.36 p.m.
§ Lord Soper
My Lords, I rise to appeal to the Government, even at this late hour, to resist what seems to them to be the inevitable consequence of their purposes and to continue to give heed to the Secretary-General of the United Nations in his plea that there should be a continuation, however unpromising it may appear, of the negotiations short of the mass violence which is war. I do this because I am convinced that on utilitarian grounds it is possible now to raise the argument against the use of war in the terms which the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, has already adumbrated, and in which he has set forth the position so clearly and unmistakably. It is the nature of war which from the utilitarian standpoint is indefensible in terms of what it does, what it can be calculated to do and what its inevitable effects are going to be.
The moment war is invoked, it makes up its own laws, it takes on a totalitarian view and nothing is prohibited if it inflicts upon those who are going to war the prospects of being defeated. This unfortunately is true. It has great relevance to the doctrine of original sin. But it is the experience of a historian and the experience of those who take the trouble to look at the wars in which they have suffered or in which they have been alive in their own lifetimes.
The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, is not a pacifist as I am. However, I much admire the realism with which he speaks of the qualities that belong to an effective process of war-making; and in a previous speech I remember him saying with considerable contempt how impossible it is to talk about limited violence. You cannot he rather violent in modern times any more than you can be rather dead. The process of violence takes on its own nature and proceeds according to its own laws. Those laws are manifest for all who care to look at them. It is the fact that, once you embark upon the process of violence, you become very largely the servant of the demands that violence itself imposes. Let it in at the back door and, sooner or later, it will occupy every room in the house. This is the utilitarian concept.
It is further true that, the moment that the prospects of war appear upon the horizon, ordinary language is prostituted. Instead of the realities that can belong to a linguistic precision, you embark upon all kinds of words which cloak and mask the issue rather than describe it, let alone define it. I notice with regret—and I say this with considerable difficulty—that the most reverend Primate in his speech was talking about force when he really should have been talking about violence. There is a world of difference. I noticed some time ago in an article which he wrote that he said that there are some circumstances in which it is permissible to shed blood. That is another evasive phrase. A surgeon sheds blood but in a very proper operation.
The process of war denigrates the language in which we describe it and therefore we are less and less able to see the realities that belong to it, until we face it as starkly as the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, compelled us to do. Whatever may have been the arguments in 848 the days of chivalry—when apparently you "knocked off" on Sundays and did not fight in the winter, and if you happened to be a knight you behaved very courteously to your enemies—war is a dirty, filthy business from beginning to end today, and the very measure of its comprehensive power is a measure of its total inability to be reconciled with what I believe, and what I am sure many of your Lordships—if not all your Lordships—believe, to be a moral universe.
So I come to that which for me is the prime reason for pleading that we should not discontinue the processes of argument but that we should turn our faces absolutely resolutely to the processes of war. It is no accident for me that when the word "ascension" is mentioned today it is usually associated with an island from which warlike propaganda is issued. Today is Ascension Day, and it is for a Christian the proclamation of the victory of the Prince of Peace. I find it utterly irreconcilable with the teaching and spirit of Jesus to embark upon the processes of war. I would not worry your Lordships, and you will understand that I speak, I hope, with due humility, recognising the problems that are envisaged when the moment comes to take an absolute stand against the armed violence of war. Nevertheless, it is my business to testify to it—and how ardently I could wish that His Holiness of Rome, the most right reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury and a lot of others would take that step which I believe is the only one which can ultimately be set in line with the spirit and teaching of the founder of the Christian faith. How anybody can read the Sermon on the Mount, and then believe that you can translate that into the terms of modern war, completely escapes me.
I realise how difficult it is to meet the demands of a world so full of problems. Nevertheless, I fear for the future of the Christian faith unless it expresses that to which it is uniquely committed. There is no other world faith which takes the same attitude to the repudiation of violence by the substitution of positive, suffering love. If you argue that the Buddhist is against violence, his faith essentially is a world-renouncing faith. For the Christian, I believe that the pacifist case is a world-embracing faith.
That leads me to the question which was asked by the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, to which I will offer, if I can, some kind of practical answer. He wanted to know what the alternative programme is. I would support diplomatic sanctions with all my heart and mind. I believe the psychological isolation of those who do wrong is a most powerful directive towards penitence. I would support economic sanctions in many respects, so long as they attempt to bring the enemy or the miscreant to his senses rather than to his knees.
I am afraid the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, made one slip, if I may respectfully suggest it to him. You have to have nothing to do whatsoever with armed violence. You cannot let it in, as he says, by a continuation of the blockade, for the blockade itself is an act of violence. It is in that regard that I believe the answer to the problem of what you do as an alternative lies in the heart of the Christian faith; and you will allow me to present that as best I can, very briefly.
I believe that God can do much better with our obedience than he can with our expertise, and I 849 utterly reject the concept that the Christian faith is only operative in favourable circumstances and that in some cases we have to help God out of an awkward jam when there is no possibility of following the plain commands of his Gospel. This I utterly reject. I do not know what the future holds and I cannot presage the effects of that obedience. All I can ask people to see is, as I see it, that we live in a world in which, over and over again, we have endeavoured to mutilate or at least to modify the Christian faith in the belief that it becomes more practical as it becomes less dogmatically associated with a teaching and a spirit represented by its founder. These are alternatives.
I would end with one commitment which comes again from that Christian faith, and it is this. People who peer into the future and ask what will happen if you do what is right may well be asking a question to which there is no immediate answer. What I happen to believe is that the gateway into more practical dealing with the evils of this complex and difficult world releases into tomorrow issues and possibilities which are never there until there is obedience today. Therefore I cannot, and would not, presume to offer, even if I could, to such a House as this any detailed presentation of what will happen if we do not go to war with Argentina. What I do know is that to clear away this completely false method of trying to deal with evil is the open door to some success, at least for us poor mortals, in the discovery of ways which are non-violent and which, because they are in obedience to the law of God, will prevail.
§ 6.45 p.m.
My Lords, there is hardly anything further to be said on this subject at this particular time. I have slight doubts as to the wisdom or otherwise of holding such a debate in your Lordships' House at this time. If there were anything further to say, it certainly has been said today by Her Majesty's Government and also, not for the first time, so eloquently by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, and indeed by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, whose recent writings, if I may say so, have been a tremendous help to the understanding by so many of this subject, and not least by that instant pundit, that Olympian neutral, the media. I must say, however, that I cannot entirely agree with the long-term prescription of the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton. This hurts me, for he has no more loyal or devoted admirer than I, and it is very much the admiration of the pupil for his master. But this is neither the time nor the place to debate this difference of view.
I would put forward for consideration only two points. The most reverend Primate of England referred to (I quote from memory) "the machinery set in motion by us". I can only assume that he was referring to the military machinery. I despair of those who give comfort to those who insist, even today, in believing and in stating that it is Her Majesty's Government, or, worse still, Her Majesty's loyal forces who are in any way responsible for setting in motion, or indeed escalating, military confrontation.
The morality of self-defence, the morality of a mother protecting her young, the morality of the strong protecting the weak and the morality of right and not might prevailing, I would humbly suggest, is more the Christian position than seeking and stating moral 850 reasons for avoiding arduous and sometimes cruel responsibilities. I would further suggest that a genius for seeing difficulties is more the prerogative of the lawyer than of the Christian statesman, as in my view my right honourable friend the Prime Minister undoubtedly is.
Finally, to raise a comparatively minor matter, may I ask my noble friend the Minister to confirm that the illegal occupation of Southern Thule Island in the South Sandwich Islands is not forgotten? Other than that, I beseech Her Majesty's Government to remain steadfast; to earn further the respect and admiration not only of our own countrymen but of so many throughout the world; to continue to give hope to the oppressed and to make the oppressor hesitate; and, above all, to silence the appeasers who pay for so many more lives in the long run by mouthing the wrong words at the wrong time.
§ 6.48 p.m.
Lord Paget of Northampton
My Lords, I do not think that we find ourselves in a situation which we can enjoy or in one on which we should be congratulating each other. After all, we are in a jam because Her Majesty's Government put us there. In spite of warnings, they were taken completely by surprise. They were unprepared and they had not even made clear to the Argentinians the kind of strong reaction we should make. We had no preparations and no plan. We only had an instinct and an emotional reaction. Two things would happen—and this was in 24 hours, without a plan and with nothing prepared—the first of which was that the wishes of the inhabitants would be made paramount, and that a fleet would be sent within 48 hours to give that effect. That fleet did not serve the islanders. They were in no immediate danger. We did not serve them by denying ourselves six months, within which sanctions could work, within which financial measures could press upon an economy that was already in difficulty and within which, above all else, we could have prepared a proper air cover for the fleet which we would send when the summer came.
No, my Lords, the people who were in immediate difficulties were not the Falklanders; they were Mrs. Thatcher's Government. They were in difficulties. They were extremely unpopular. They were faced with the resignations of the two Ministers who were concerned and they were in real trouble. It was then that the Prime Minister came to the rescue, and her instinct was absolutely right from a political point of view. She restored the popularity of a most unpopular Government, a Government which had given us 3 million unemployed and many other things. She restored popularity by giving people what they wanted, and that was war. I have no doubt at all about that. If somebody were at this stage able to stop this war, the great majority of the British people would be bitterly disappointed. That is one of the rather alarming things that we are up against.
I was a little shocked to discover how popular war still is; but then I come from the 1914 generation, and that was a war that gave war a very bad name. Nobody really enjoyed the trenches. In the 1920s—I think, perhaps, for the only time in human history—the really ordinary man in the street was genuinely against war. The feeling started wearing off in the 851 1930s, but even in 1939 we went to war grimly, not joyously. But as the war worked on, I think we rather enjoyed it. I find so many people who tell me that the wars were the best years of their lives. There was the phoney war and then came the blitz. Again, I remember people telling me that there was a special quality to love-making in the blitz which they never found repeated. That was the kind of attitude we had. It was not, as the liberals told us, that we were all against war. That is how we were really feeling. Then people found that the country had done very well out of the war. Indeed, Mr. Macmillan was wholly right when he told us that we had never had it so good.
But the kind of war enthusiasm which we are seeing around us today is still alarming. Traditionally, I suppose that war has always been man's most honoured occupation; it is now becoming woman's, too. There have been several women Prime Ministers and every one of them has had a war. So far as I know, I was alone in opposing, for other than pacifist reasons, sending in this fleet. During the last war, I served in Combined Operations, and I was far too well aware of the dangers run by a fleet in a combined operation, if there was not near absolute air superiority.
Just look, my Lords, at what we have run into now. First, we have lost the "Sheffield". I am not unduly alarmed by that particular Exocet incident. I think that the Argentines have, at most, only two more and, anyhow, the fact that the attack was successful was, I think, due to a technical slip-up in the defence. Far more serious was the attack on the second ship, which I do not think has been named, when a bomb went straight through. I received an extremely interesting letter from a Mosquito pilot of the last war, who was engaged in precisely this sort of operation, attacking selected ships. He said this:The Exocet incident was bad enough, but for the second wave of obsolete fighter bombers to have pressed home a last war attack at low level on modern warships with impunity can leave us in no doubt about the probable fate of our invasion fleet. I also want to know how the four planes penetrated the usual curtain of machine and multiple gunfire from the deck and why their fighter escort was not successfully engaged".It would be very interesting if we could have some answers on that, because I do not think people realise how dangerous the situation is.
The other point that has worried me enormously—and I do not know whether this has official backing or comes from a handout—is the fact that the existence of thick cloud and some fog in this area is being welcomed as the best conditions for an invasion. I think it is a fairly terrifying situation, if your hold of the air is so poor that you do not wish to see them coming, and you prefer being concealed by fog from aeroplanes which are certainly armed with penetration guidance to ships which they pick up on their instruments. You prefer the tremendous risks run by a fleet, which is being attacked in that sort of way by an invisible enemy, to being able to see the enemy and fight them off. It also seems to indicate a terrible lack of confidence, because at that point your fighters cannot operate in the fog.
I certainly do not feel that we should in any way blame them if the force stands off. Whatever they are saying, the risks from going in may very well be far 852 too appalling to be taken by the people down there. But if they do not go in, for how long can they not go in? Here, again, you come to the difficulties of people's wars. People's wars are wars which you cannot stop. Once people have got into a war, they will never let go. The people would not stand for it if this fleet was brought home. That is the kind of position that one is in. The other point—and I am sure that your Lordships will support me in this, as a student of military history—is that people's Governments are vastly more reckless in incurring heavy casualties than ever the kings were in the old days. It is popular Governments that go in for the mass killing of war.
But if we do go in, let us realise the tremendous risk that we are running and do not let us force the fleet to go in with its hands tied. The question of bombing the enemy airfields—and we really require an assurance on this—must be a matter for the commander who is sending in that force, without any attention being paid to outside political effects. You cannot ask a force to go in, in these circumstances, if you deny it the right to take the maximum steps—any steps it can—to protect itself from so dangerous an attack.
Secondly, can we justify the storming of these islands, without accepting the responsibility of defending them? And how do we defend them? If they blockade the islands, which contain an occupation force and inhabitants, we can hardly supply them by air from Ascension Island.
What about nuclear weapons? There is a great deal of published material about this question. May I quote from the New Scientist of 3rd December 1981:Argentina will win the race to produce South America's first atomic bomb by the end of 1982, say intelligence experts in the US".The article continues:Argentina's foreign ministry has admitted that the country could build a nuclear device but denies that it is doing so. Admiral Carlos Castro Madero, the head of the National Atomic Energy Commission, has said that Argentina has the know-how to build the bomb".Admiral Madero recently took journalists to see it being done. If at the end of this year the Argentines have a nuclear bomb, could we possibly send the fleet back? Could we do anything at all then about a re-invasion?
§ Lord Thomas of Swynnerton
My Lords, I must thank the noble Lord for giving way, but if I am following him accurately, would that not be a good reason, if it be true, for taking military action soon?
Lord Paget of Northampton
My Lords, this is part of what I was going to say: not merely taking military action soon, but taking it extensively enough to make us secure afterwards. If we are going to storm the Falklands, I think we must accept that it will involve the next steps, for it is only the further steps than can possibly justify the first. And the first step is that we must not leave until we have knocked out the Argentine fleet and imposed naval disarmament upon them—until we have removed from them the capacity to make the nuclear bomb by the same methods as those used by Israel in Iraq. We cannot stay in the Falkland Islands unless we are prepared to take out their nuclear bomb. Unless we do these things and are prepared to face up to the fact that these things will have to be done, I do 853 not see any surviving object in taking the islands or landing oneself in a position which one can neither defend nor extricate oneself from. I think that this war, which has been slipped into without plan or thought, should be thought out a little before it is pushed too far.
§ 7.3 p.m.
§ Lord Hankey
My Lords, I do not want to add to the length of this debate, but I do want to start by saying how much I agree with the very interesting speech of my noble friend Lord Chalfont, to which I draw your Lordships' attention.
Personally, I am deeply impressed by the way the Government have handled the Falklands crisis. I am very greatly struck by the remarkable speed and efficiency of the Royal Navy, especially in recapturing South Georgia, and I am greatly impressed by the efficiency of our seaborne aircraft, of all sorts, and their missiles. It is true that there have been losses of ships on both sides, one of them a very painful loss on our side and an even more painful loss for the Argentines. But to me it is very interesting to see how incredibly powerful these new missiles are, and I think the Navy have shown very well how to use them.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office have issued an excellent paper on the facts. It is very clear and well produced. It is a pity that we did not have it some weeks ago, but I know how hard it is to produce a really accurate paper of this kind when Ministers are so very busy. The other paper, summarising the negotiations up to this morning and so ably described by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, makes it clear beyond any peradventure that we have gone at least as far as we ought to in order to make some sort of compromise.
It is quite clear that the Argentine Government have no intention of giving way. I do not know myself why anybody ever supposed that they would give way. But before using force to restore the situation I think we have been right to negotiate, to probe the Argentine position and finally to expose its true nature, which is obviously to hold on to the Falkland Islands by hook or by crook and to get South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands also. We shall let this situation continue at our peril.
It seems to me to be obvious now that we have to retake the Falklands by force, as we have already retaken South Georgia. I am very sorry about this because I have had many Argentine friends and the Argentine is, or at least should be, our ally in the South Atlantic. But the junta have behaved disgracefully in committing aggression against a British territory and in flouting the United Nations Security Council Resolution, which was absolutely clear. We most certainly and definitely must now restore the situation. If we do not do so, I can assure noble Lords, as a diplomat of many years' standing, that it will be almost impossible to foresee all the dangerous consequences elsewhere in the world. And, when I say that, I include Europe.
If the Government now send in the troops and the Navy, they will have my wholehearted support. In this connection, I want to make a very important point. Do not, I say, use minimum force for this job. Go for it with the maximum available force so as to settle the matter as soon as possible. The noble 854 Lord, Lord Paget of Northampton, made some extremely pointed remarks in this connection, but I was a little frightened by all the consequences which he drew in the nuclear field. I hope that this is still years away.
There is always a danger that warlike measures may escalate unexpectedly. I suspect that our allies are already beginning to doubt our real ability after these weeks of waiting, vitally necessary though the delay has been. You do not mess about with a scorpion when you find it in the bathroom. You take your heaviest shoe and you give it a hard and fast smack on the top. I totally disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, and the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, in this connection. The dangers of doing nothing are incomparably greater. Please do not be in any doubt about this.
I have one other very important point. It is really dangerous for Britain to appear to be too weak in the world in which we live. Personally, I think that neither the First World War nor the Second World War would have happened just when they did if Kaiser Wilhelm and later Hitler had fully realised Britain's real potential. They thought we were weak. They thought we were not determined. They thought they could get away with it. How wrong they were. They landed us, each of them, in a world war of incomparable destruction. I think that General Galtieri foolishly fell into a similar trap. After all, we had—scandalously, to my mind—some years before given up the use of the Simonstown base and our ships seldom appeared in the South Atlantic. Recently we announced the withdrawal of HMS "Endurance" which serviced our Antarctic bases. For years we have negotiated about the future of the Falklands themselves. It is true that we gave nothing away, but we did try very hard to appear reasonable. The Foreign Office have really been under criticism for this, and I have always told my friends there that it would be impossible to pass in either House of Parliament a measure which involved removing our sovereignty from the Falkland Islands against the wishes of the inhabitants. I do not think there is any doubt that neither House would go along with that. I believe that General Galtieri rather comprehensively construed all these signs as weakness, though.
So now it is high time to set the record straight, and to do so strongly and quickly before this dispute escalates and endangers world peace, as I think it might do if it went on too long. The dangers of delay, in my opinion, are now quite unacceptable and the Government will have my full support in anything they do to settle this business quickly and effectively.
§ 7.10 p.m.
§ Lord Kennet
My Lords, we have heard many eloquent speeches about not going forward but giving up and coming back. Some of them were expressed in terms of noble and lofty ideals, including the central Christian ideal itself, and others consisted more of dark forebodings. But at the end of all that, I for one am left with the question: what in terms of ordinary, everyday politics are we supposed to do except go forward? There is a dark side to the morality of international affairs which, in a certain sense, leaves the aggressor always in command of the situation. We have been placed in a corner by Argentina. Not 855 in a political or military corner, but in a moral corner. They have morally left us no alternative but to undertake a hateful and dangerous action. That being so, I feel sure that the Government are right to do what they have said they will do today, or do what they have implied they will do, and that the country is right to support that action, and that most noble Lords will be right to support it too.
Obviously the document published this morning put everything in proportion for the first time for many of us. It would be just too easy, under the Argentinian proposals for a settlement, for them to replace their military invasion with a civilian invasion, thereby giving themselves a majority when the time came once more to exercise "democracy" there. There was a claim that we should withdraw our forces from South Georgia, but not only was this never Argentina's and never belonged to the Republic of the Plate, but also it was never even part of the Spanish Empire. So the demand to withdraw our forces from South Georgia is, of course, absurd. We are boxed in by the will of this aggressor. We are boxed in by the necessity of taking military action to redress the aggression.
Having said that, there are one or two things which I hope that the Government will be able to do, and give an answer as to the possibility of doing. This afternoon, the right honourable lady the Prime Minister said that we had withdrawn the interim agreement which was published this morning for the first time. She said that was something we had offered to Argentina and since Argentina had not agreed to it—since their disagreement was so far from the document that it had to be taken as a rejection—we had therefore withdrawn it. Why do we withdraw it? If that is no longer on the table, what is our demand? Is it unconditional surrender? We have examples enough from history, and from modern history, of the dangers of demanding unconditional surrender. If it is not unconditional surrender we are asking for, what is it? If it is something rather like what we proposed only four or five days ago, why have we withdrawn that proposal? Could it not be left there, and could we not draw attention to it all the time?
Again, with regard to the Secretary-General's initiative today, it was not quite clear from the Prime Minister's speech exactly what had happened. She told the House that the Secretary-General sent a list of formulations and suggestions. Then she read out two lists of formulations; the Secretary-General's formulations of issues on which we were in agreement with Argentina, and his formulations of issues on which we were in disagreement with Argentina. However, she did not read out any suggestions. She then proceeded in effect to dismiss the Secretary-General's initiative with the words, "We have been here before."
I have a question for the Government. Were there any suggestions in the Secretary-General's communication? Or was his use of the word "suggestions", in a text which does not in fact contain any, a misapplication of the word? In any case, the Government are going to have a rough ride with world opinion about that demarche by the Secretary-General. We are going to have a rough ride in any case. When the fighting resumes—not begins, as too many noble Lords have loosely said or implied—and is stepped up, the 856 outside world (by which I mean public opinion all round the place) is going to continue being expressed, and it will be as important for us to put the truth of our case across effectively as it will be that the military operation should be effectively conducted.
Not only that, but all other courses of action which can help us to achieve our aim will have to be mobilised. I have in mind particularly the point which has been made, tentatively and without being pressed home, by the Labour Party—to some effect in my view—about the possible financial processes which could be brought to bear. I am not talking about trade sanctions, the freezing of assets or the stopping of new lines of Government credit; I am talking about the role of private banks. Is it the case that United Kingdom banks could, single handed precipitate an early total default of the Argentinian state? It may be hard to know whether that is the case or not. Are the Government closely in touch with the banks about that, and are the Government sufficiently informed? Would action tending in that direction by British private banks—that is to say, the declaration of default on individual loans where interest is quite simply not being paid—stimulate, or would it not, cross-default clauses, the execution of which lies in the power of banks in friendly countries?
We know, I think, that all the banks in the West are pretty well strapped by the Polish affair and that they have had to run down quite a bit for the benefit of other sovereign debtors: Nigeria, Mexico, and so on. Even so, can we he sure that calculations are being made about the effects which can be achieved—at great financial sacrifice, and we are facing that anyway, but without bloodshed—by this particular route? Is it not likely that there is going to be a moratorium of some sort anyhow on financial facilities to Argentina, and some kind of bankruptcy of the state? If that is so, and it is something we think is likely to happen in any case after the fighting is over, should we not be thinking of bringing it on now, or would we judge that the side effects of doing that for other developing third world countries—which is all Argentina is now—would be so grave that it would not be fair to inflict it upon them? Or should we on the other hand judge that it might be a salutary lesson to other less developed countries not to go invading defenceless islands?
I would like to see this area opened up, even during the course of military operations, if it does come to military operations. I believe that the Government should consider having a plan which they could discuss with and eventually lay before the IMF, for the opening of specific financial facilities to rescue the people of Argentina in the event of a total default and consequent civil disorder. These things should be pursued if possible without military action, although I believe we must accept that there will now be military action.
I come now to what one might call the "information war". I am reluctant to call it the propaganda war, because the word "propaganda" suggests that one is not telling the truth, and we are telling the truth. We should be hurling at Argentina throughout the world on every channel we can all the charges against them about the conventions which they have broken. They have quite a good signing record in regard to the Geneva Conventions, and we have an excellent one. I mean the old series of Conventions going back to 857 1899 and 1907. Will we ventilate these issues? Will we seek solutions through those courses as well as through the United Nations? Why not? The machinery is rusty, but it has never been dismantled.
Will we—and I beg the Government to pay attention to this—please clothe our case at the bar of world opinion in United Nations language? Let me start with the most glaring example; the word "paramountcy" itself. The Government have taken a lot of stick for declaring that the wishes or the interests of the islanders should be paramount. "Paramount" is not the invention of the present British Government. The word is in the United Nations Charter. This is United Nations language, that the people of a given country have the right to self-determination, to live in freedom, and that those rights are and should be paramount. That is not a British word against Argentina.
§ Lord Gladwyn
My Lords, if I may intervene, I think the Charter says the "interests" of the inhabitants should be paramount.
§ Lord Kennet
My Lords, I accept the correction of the noble Lord on the verbal point; but I am seeking to make a political point, that in using the word "paramountcy" correctly the British Government are using a United Nations word. Moreover, everything that we have done, our case throughout, and every action we have taken, has been strictly in accordance with United Nations decolonisation procedures.
The whole thrust of Resolution 1514 of the General Assembly, which is the governing text of the Decolonisation Committee and all its works, is towards the proposition that a people in a given territory have the right to freedom and are not to be occupied, subjugated or subjected to violence of any sort or to pressure of any sort by any other people in any other territory. In invading the Falkland Islands the Argentines have, therefore, gone straight against the decolonisation wording of the United Nations resolution, this very resolution which they sometimes call in aid. This, too, should be known in every country of the world.
We can safely trust to UN decolonisation procedure, if we read the texts carefully and exploit them carefully in the interests of common sense, where we now stand. The United Nations cannot by its nature approve the suppression of freedom, of political freedom, in any country by another, nor can it approve the invasion of any country by another, nor can it assist in the assimilation of any country or people by another. We have nothing to fear from the United Nations. It is, by its foundation document and all subsequent documents, on our side in this struggle. Let us have faith in it and let us try every move in it as we go forward.
My Lords, I would like to think that any time now—I think it was Lord Molloy who raised the point earlier—we shall start thinking about what to do after it is all over. We should bear in mind that there will be two things to do. One will be what I fear will be a great British political upheaval, and that will be the post mortem on how we ever got into this mess, which is agreed by all parties. The other, I hope, will be a new régime for the South Atlantic, in which régime all the existing elements of internationality, the Antarctic Treaty, the Seabed Treaty and all other such will be drawn upon, for a new period of hope and peace down 858 there. This can be the answer to many of the forebodings that have been expressed in the House this afternoon.
§ 7.26 p.m.
§ Lord Gladwyn
My Lords, I suggest that there have been two rather overriding points which have emerged during the welter of discussion on this subject in the last six weeks or so. The junta in Buenos Aires seriously miscalculated the effect of their military occupation of the islands on this country, which was doubtless the result of their need for some popular external adventure to distract attention from their disastrous internal economic situation. They probably now recognise their error, but having aroused public emotion to the extent that they have, there is a point in the process of climbing down beyond which they cannot go without being, I should have thought, in some danger either of assassination or of their being replaced by some perhaps even more regrettable régime of a semi-communist nature, which would probably try to form some connection with the Soviet Union and Cuba. This, no doubt, accounts for the junta's intransigent and prevaricating attitude in general.
We for our part, and in spite of such sinister possibilities, nevertheless have to demonstrate, in the first place, that aggression does not pay, and in the second place, that the interests of the islanders—and I repeat the interests of the islanders—must be protected. I think that most of us, in this House at any rate, agree that this should be our general objective. The essential question, therefore, which I think this nation must now answer is, would it or would it not have been possible, in the negotiations which we have quite rightly been conducting along with simultaneous application of the necessary force, to achieve these general objectives, even on the basis of some compromise, without going to the admittedly dangerous extremity of actually evicting the invaders by all possible military means?
I am indeed glad—I was rather apprehensive that this would not happen, until now—that Parliament is now having the opportunity of expressing its view on this rather crucial point before any landing in the islands takes place. We are now, happily, in possession of our last proposals, our final proposals, and what on the face of it seems to be their virtual rejection, almost total rejection by the Argentine junta. If indeed this really is the junta's last word, then I would agree with what I feel is a majority of noble Lords here, that the greater part of what they propose would be unacceptable to any British Government. It would, I suggest, have been preferable—I think this is perhaps the view of some of us here—if we had been given the opportunity for studying the actual text of the Argentine's reply, instead of a kind of summary with, as it were, marginal comments by Her Majesty's Government. I would suggest to the noble Lord who is to reply that perhaps we could have the full text in our hands before very long; I hope so.
But certainly if the summary is at all accurate—and I imagine it is—then, it would appear to be of small use in continuing the negotiations. On the other hand, I certainly agree with my noble friend Lord Kennet on the SDP Benches that on the face of it there does not seem any reason why we should now publicly withdraw the last proposals which we made to the Argentine Govern- 859 ment, which seem to be, though they may have embodied some concessions on our part, inherently reasonable and might even at this last moment have formed the basis for some other proposals which could be generally acceptable to the United Nations.
Again, we have been told—at least I think we have been told—that the Secretary-General now has some proposals of his own. I am not exactly clear what they are, but I rather understand that, in the very near future, proposals are going to be put forward by him to the Security Council as his own ideas for a settlement. If that is so, and if they differ materially from the latest Argentine proposals and seem to be generally acceptable to the Security Council of the United Nations, should we not, in those circumstances, stay our hand until we have at least seriously considered the resulting situation?
If the Security Council definitely comes out by a majority in favour of some plan put up by the Secretary-General, are we—to put it frankly—going to veto that? What happens if the Americans accepted it and we rejected it? A very difficult situation would probably arise. I hope that it will not do so, but it may do so. Of course, if such proposals of the American General, or even of the Security Council, are immediately turned down or rejected by the Argentine Government, then clearly, there is nothing to be done. But supposing the Argentine Government accept? What then?
I realise that these are awkward, hypothetical questions, but I feel that the Government might at least consider them because they are possibilities. I repeat, speaking personally at any rate, that if the Argentine proposals, as recorded in the papers are really the last word, then I can see little hope of a peaceful settlement and would imagine that, if that really is so, then the only thing we can do is let nature take its course. But if there is a last hope of some reasonable compromise advanced by the Secretary-General or by the Security Council, then the Government should hold their hand until Parliament has also had at least the opportunity of expressing some kind of view on these proposals if they emerge. It may be that that would not be possible for military reasons—I do not know, and I am certainy not competent to express a view on that. But otherwise the situation is so grave, and the long-term results of military action are so unpredictable, that possibly a further delay of a day or two before the final decision is taken, might well be thought—and I think by most of us—to be desirable.
After all, although we must all hope with some confidence that military action, if taken, will be completely successful, the resulting situation will hardly be anything but rather grim. For we must assume, I imagine, that the Argentine Government would not sue for peace but would continue with war; that that would, I suppose, necessitate our maintaining, throughout the winter at least, a considerable garrison on the islands, backed up, one must imagine, by some kind of naval and air force contingents; and that the condition of the remaining islanders in the islands would be, to say the least, the reverse of pleasant.
No doubt the Government have contingency plans to cope with all these developments—at least I should sincerely hope so. We can all, except for my noble friend Lord Hooson—who has objected to the dispatch 860 of the task force from the very start—and except for noble Lords of his persuasion, unite in saying that, had it not been for the task force, the Argentine Government would now certainly have been happily organising the complete absorption of the islanders, quite irrespective of their wishes, into the Argentine Republic. We can also—with the exception of the noble Lords to whom I have referred—surely congratulate all responsible for organising, at such short notice, the really remarkable display of strength, and appreciate the spirit of all those actually taking part in the expedition who are undoubtedly animated, and rightly animated, by a desire to liberate their countrymen and to show them that at least we have the will in this modern world to prove that it is both dangerous and unprofitable to fall, in violation of all your obligations, on innocent neighbours or at least on those who have friends capable of protecting them against attack.
Whatever battles they may now engage in—and we must still hope that these will be avoided—there is no doubt that they will acquit themselves in accordance with our great national traditions. But it would be far, far better if all this efficiency and enthusiasm were to result in some last-minute acceptable compromise on the interim arrangements following on any withdrawal of forces which would be acceptable, in the last resort, on both sides of the Atlantic. For then the task force would really have shown itself to be a peace force, successful in its primary mission and deserving the congratulations of all those interested in preserving both the authority of the United Nations and the rule of law throughout the world.
§ 7.36 p.m.
§ Lord Stewart of Fulham
My Lords, what has given this debate its gravity is that we know that we meet at a time when the Government may be about to use military force on a greater scale than they have done so far. I do not attempt to prophesy in what form; those are matters the Government have the responsibility of deciding. But I think I would say that I do not take the view which seemed to come out from some speeches, that the Government are going to make a complete switch and abandon diplomacy altogether and concern themselves solely with invasion. I think that some speeches have been based upon that assumption. I do not think—and I hope that the Government can confirm this—that that is so. All we can say for certain, or nearly for certain, is that at present negotiations have run into a difficult passage, and that it seems to be probable that there will be an increase of military action.
We have, therefore, to consider the fearful responsibility that lies on us. What is this for? Is there a justifiable reason for taking the increased military action that is bound to result in loss of life? It is perhaps as well to remind ourselves how all this began. I stress that because a great many commentators now tend to discuss the matter as if the Falkland Islands had been a type of neutral territory in dispute between the two from the start. This was, and had been for a long time, our territory. What happened was that the Argentine Government committed something that was in law an aggression, in form a military invasion, with the immediate result of the suppression of the liberty of the islanders. I believe that that is a fact which the man 861 and the woman in the street in this country have grasped. I think that that is the reason why the Government have a wide measure of support for the actions they are taking.
It is a very straightforward common sense proposition that if aggression occurs against your own territory, it is extremely desirable for you to repel it not only through your duty to your own subjects, but because of the peril to the whole world of allowing successful aggressions to take place. That is a simple and almost platitudinous statement, but it is one which the man in the street has always understood. He understood it when Mussolini was blustering about Abyssinia. In the often maligned League of Nations Union Ballot, which was of quite a different nature from general public beliefs at the present time, of the 10 million people who signed it more than 70 per cent. expressed themselves explicitly in favour of military sanctions against an aggressor, if necessary. This was the generation that had been through the First World War. The one thing that they thought they had learned there was, if you want to have a peaceful world, stop aggressors in their tracks. We have paid a fearful price for the neglect by governments of that advice. The responsibility has lain on governments and not on the man in the street.
What did we do in that situation? The British Government took the quite proper step of taking the matter to the Security Council, and they secured Resolution 502. At the same time they set to work preparing the task force. Several speeches raised the question whether the task force was necessary, prudent or desirable. I would ask the Government to give attention to the speeches of the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, and my noble friend Lord Noel-Baker, who put forward projects of economic, diplomatic and financial sanctions. It would be useful to have the Government's opinion on how far we might be able to get on those lines and whether, indeed, they are even now thinking of trying to get joint action on those lines.
However, I am bound to add that it seems to me, from experience, that to make economic, financial and diplomatic sanctions effective you must have the military power and the other side must know that you are prepared to use it. At one stage, Mussolini announced that he did not care about other sanctions, but if people tried to stop the oil getting to him, he would bash their ships. The British Government then put themselves in the astounding position of saying that they would pursue all sanctions that were not likely to result in military conflict. This, of course, enables the aggressor to say what sanctions you may use against him. On the other hand, it is not a reason for ruling out economic and financial sanctions, so I shall be interested to hear the Government's thinking on this.
However, I am left with the conclusion that if we had not sent a task force, the general belief—not only of the Argentines, but of our friends, our critics and those who are indifferent to us in the world—would have been that we are not serious about rescuing the Falkland Islands. Therefore, I think that it was a necessary step.
At this point, I should like to comment on the speeches that have been made by those noble Lords—particularly my noble friends Lord Soper and Lord Noel-Baker—who have put forward what is generally called the pacifist position; that is to say, the position that it is entirely wrong in principle and in all circum- 862 stances to use military force, particularly military force of the kind with which modern technology has supplied us. To my mind, the objection to that position—that it is always wrong to use military force—comes to this. It is a recipe for putting the government of the world into the hands of the most unscrupulous people in it. By all means, when a dispute exists, seek peaceful means of solution as long as there is any chance, but, if you take the position that you are never prepared to resort to force, the most unscrupulous will realise that and will take advantage of it.
I want to add this. We all respect the views held by those who are pacifists, but the showing of respect must be a mutual process. Our pacifist friends must understand that those of us who find it impossible to take that view, those of us who believe that there can be circumstances in which it is right to use force, reach that conclusion as a matter of morality and conscience just as the pacifist reaches his conclusion. This is not an argument between people who pursue strict morality on one side and those who are making concessions to expediency on the other. It is a genuine conflict of belief as to what is right and what is wrong.
We know the terrible results that can come from using military force, but we also saw during the last war half Europe groaning in servitude under Hitler and no prospect whatever of delivering those people from that tyranny except the ultimate armed victory of the Allies. It is that that some of us have in mind when we find that we cannot accept the pacifist view. But very clearly, if you do reject the pacifist view, you are under a heavy obligation to seek peace wherever it can be sought. The person who always assumes that you can get out of any difficulty without the use of armed force is, in my judgment, mistaken. The person who cheerfully barges in and assumes that the use of armed force is the first thing to go for is a dangerous fool in the modern world. If we reject pacifism, we must be prepared to work as hard as we can for conciliation and peaceful settlement.
My noble friend Lord Jenkins urged me not to be adulatory to the Government. I hope that I shall not be that, but the words are simply dragged out of me that when we consider, from the Government's Statement here, the record of what they have done to get a peaceful settlement, I think that we are bound to conclude that this is a good record. It is not a perfect record; no human endeavour is. But when we notice the willingness to accept what is sometimes called the Peruvian plan, and their own plan put forward in the annex at the end of the pamphlet, quite clearly those proposals do not spring from the mind and the heart of warmongers. They are the product of people who genuinely seek a peaceful solution.
This document has also had one interesting result. A little while ago the right honourable Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition in another place urged the Government to arm us with information about what proposals the Government had put forward and what they had refused, so that Parliament could judge whether the Government were handling the diplomacy rightly. The first answer of the Prime Minister was that that would not do at all, that it would be quite unconstitutional; it was the Government's job to make the choices and for Parliament to judge them afterwards.
863 I have thought a good deal about this and it seems to me that on the constitutional argument the Prime Minister was probably right, but on common sense grounds the Leader of the Opposition had got it right. The interesting thing is that this, in fact, is what the Government have done or gone quite a long way to doing—informing both Houses of Parliament more fully of what was in their minds and how we had arrived at a position where negotiations apparently are, for the present, stopped. It was right, therefore, for the Government to put forward this document and I think it shows their degree of flexibility.
I should like to take up again a point that I made earlier. I take it that the Government will continue to negotiate whatever the military situation may bring. As I understand it, the Government have said that we cannot allow the process of negotiation to hamper our military judgments as to what to do with the force. To put it crudely, we shall not be put into the position where we are strung along by prevarications and delays for so long that the task force no longer becomes an effective instrument. That I perfectly well understand.
The Government believe then that the military and the diplomatic procedures go on side by side; that one does not necessarily take the place of the other. For example, if the Secretary-General or anybody comes forward with a new set of proposals, I presume that the Government will consider them. If a meeting of the Security Council is convened, I presume that the Government will attend. I presume that our ambassadors to the United States and to other relevant capitals will be on the lookout—that they will have quick eyes and ears—for any suggestions for a peaceable settlement; that, whatever the military situation, we shall have a continuation of diplomacy.
I agree that it may be a little while before any profitable or hopeful suggestion is put forward. The situation looks a bit bleak at present, but I do not believe that will be permanent. In my judgment, the more resolute we show ourselves militarily, the more likely we are to find reasonable proposals coming along from one quarter or another.
I am not going to attempt to give the Government military advice. This really is a field where the Prime Minister's doctrine of the responsibility of Government does hold good. Parliament cannot be asked to weigh up and judge in advance what is the right military strategy. The Government face then this rather harsh position. They must make the decision. The Opposition cannot give them any help on that, because it cannot have the information necessary to form a good opinion. And yet it must be known that if the Government get it wrong, the Opposition are fully entitled to attack the Government for so doing, as Mr. Neville Chamberlain's Government was attacked for its mishandling of the Norwegian campaign.
The Opposition cannot have foresight. It cannot be provided in advance with all the military facts for foresight, but it remains perfectly entitled to use hindsight, and if things go wrong to blame the Government for it. Governments therefore that engage in military operations do so—if this is not too unkind a phrase—with a rope around their neck. Perhaps it is just as well that that should be so, so that no Governments put themselves in that position frivolously or 864 wantonly. I think we should take into account when we weigh up the Government's handling of the matter that all the evidence shows that the Argentine Government has at no time shown any serious intention at all of making peace. They have been swaying this way and that, but every time you came to examine what they said you were driven to that conclusion.
There have been several mentions of overseas opinion on our actions. I am inclined to think that some of the speeches we have heard have painted too black a picture of what overseas opinion towards us is. I must say that I, for my part, was astounded at the first reaction of the Common Market countries to agree immediately to the month's sanctions. I think we were jolly lucky to get that. Let us ask this question for the moment: suppose the French—and they have quite a lot of islands here and there—had had a couple of their islands pinched from them by an aggressor. How indignant would the ordinary Englishman, or Englishwoman, in the street feel about that? What demands would he make on his Government to go to the assistance of France?
The same is true, I am afraid, of nearly every country. I thought, therefore, that the EEC countries showed a remarkable measure of goodwill, and it was not altogether difficult to understand why some of them could not keep it up as much as we should have liked. It is possible, of course, that if the Government were a little more tactful in their handling of EEC matters generally, we might have got a better result on that issue, but I had better not pursue that line of argument in this particular context.
I do know this: what would be the reaction of overseas opinion if we were simply to give up, bring the task force back, and agree to some form of words that would leave the islands effectively under Argentine control, which is the real test? If we did that, many nations might sympathise with us; none of them would respect us any more or consider that what we had said or done mattered in any serious sense. I do not think I am exaggerating. I believe that that would be the result.
I want to turn finally to what we do in the future. I would say myself, as I did in the first debate we had on this, that this might be a long and expensive business. We still do not know yet how long, and how expensive in blood or treasure. But it will certainly end in victory on the main issue, the liberty of the islanders, for us. What follows from that, that we have to do? It is agreed that we have to have an inquiry as to why the islands were ever overrun in the first place. It is I think increasingly agreed that the country has to take an entirely fresh look at its defence policy, and particularly its naval forces. We have then to consider the future of the Antarctic. I commend to the Government the suggestion made by my noble friend Lord Shackleton that we should, in effect, consider together the Antarctic, the Falklands, South Georgia and the other islands, and see what arrangement we could make that would have sufficient international approval to make the islands secure in the future. I am propounding, I know, a number of problems which are much easier to formulate than to answer, but we had better have them in mind as things we must tackle when the immediate emergency is over.
865 Another thing we ought to take a look at is the working of the United Nations. There ought to be some way in which it is made easier after you have got an explicit verdict in your favour to get that verdict enforced. Can we look again at the possibility of a permanent, standing United Nations force? I see enormous difficulties about that, but I think that if the world wants to keep the peace it has to get there some day. Another lesson we have learned is to ask what we can do about the selling of arms right across the world, between so many countries. The noble Lord, Lord Belstead, who is to reply, was questioned on this the other day. He will forgive me if I say that he seemed to be giving a rather stalling reply. He told us repeatedly that these things were kept under review. I know perfectly well that, in his position as a middle ranking Minister in the Government, he could not, in answering those questions, have said any more. We know that he is always very willing to be as helpful and responsive to the House as he can.
It clearly is an appalling situation that we should be now engaged in this tangle with the Argentine and both sides are using weapons made in the same countries; some of our own, some of our allies'. It is not at all easy to see the answer to that, but it is one of those problems mankind has to find the answer to. My noble friend Lord Noel-Baker won great fame, deservedly, for his book many years ago on the private manufacture of armaments. But today of course the villain of the piece is not so much the greedy and unscrupulous private manufacturer of armaments as the behaviour of governments generally which have never really tackled the question of what principles we ought to observe about those to whom we shall sell armaments and those to whom we shall refuse them.
Those are things that we have to tackle. We have to consider the necessity for resolution, in military matters if necessary, and the task of making peace in the future. It has always seemed to me that what we call civilisation rests on a blend of two kinds of virtue—the tough virtues such as courage, self-discipline and loyalty, and the gentler virtues of a sense of fairness, appreciation of beauty, kindness, and so on. Get a community that has the gentler virtues without the tougher ones, and it will he overrun by some more unscrupulous opponent. Get a community that has the tough virtues without the gentle ones and you will get monstrous horrors like Nazism. You have to preserve the two together.
In my judgment, the greatest practitioners of the art of politics have been men like Abraham Lincoln, who were prepared to use military force when, and for as long as, it was necessary, but never loved it for its own sake and were concerned with the task of reconstruction when the conflict was over. So I may venture to conclude by reminding noble Lords, if they will forgive me, of some of the words of his second inaugural address: "With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in".
§ 8 p.m.
§ Lord Belstead
My Lords, as with each day this crisis has deepened, the broad measure of support which the Government have received from your 866 Lordships' House has been a source of great encouragement and strength, and speeches from most parts of the House today, and the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Stewart, most particularly, have shown that together we have stood by the principles which have been strengthened, together we face the grave consequences of our stand for freedom, democracy and the rule of law.
Though the details of the diplomatic initiatives have of necessity to remain unexplained as the weeks have gone by—and of course upon military secrecy the lives of servicemen depends—nonetheless in our debates over the weeks your Lordships have been able to make many suggestions and proposals which the Government have been able to follow up and put to some use in our negotiations.
From the beginning seven weeks ago the Government were faced with a choice of three courses of action. The first was simply to acquiesce in an act of aggression. Undoubtedly the Argentines expected that and calculated that occupation of the islands would gradually have become a fact of history. The second course of action was to take steps to eject them from the islands by force. Article 51 of the United Nations Charter entitles us to take such steps. But we are a member of the United Nations Security Council and we have special responsibilities for promoting the peaceful solution of disputes, and we have kept those responsibilities very much in mind.
The third course was the one which the Government, with the general support of your Lordships' House, have been pursuing. It was to make clear our readiness to repel aggression and our ability to reclaim our own possessions; but at the same time we would take advantage of the time needed to bring military pressure to bear to put in train a whole process of diplomatic endeavours designed to achieve a peaceful solution. The British Government's first action, after securing the United Nations condemnation of Argentine aggression, was to despatch a task force.
Many voices at that time were already urging diplomatic mediation. Attempts at diplomatic mediation followed immediately. Mr. Haig, in a succession of exhausting journeys, spared no effort to find some basis on which the Security Council resolution could be implemented. He produced final proposals which the British Government were ready to consider. But the Argentinians rejected Mr. Haig's proposals. From the start, it had seemed to us that Mr. Haig was the mediator most likely to succeed. But after the rejection by the Argentine of Mr. Haig's proposals, a Latin American leader, President Belaunde of Peru, came forward with his own ideas. A set of proposals was put forward which could have led to a cease-fire. The British Government were willing—and were said by my right honourable friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary in the House of Commons to be willing—to accept the final version of those proposals for an interim agreement. But Argentina rejected the proposals of the President of Peru. Despite her protestations to the contrary, Argentina has throughout shown her lack of interest in any peaceful settlement.
On 1st April the President of the United Nations Security Council had formally appealed to Argentina not to invade the Falkland Islands, yet it was on the following day that Argentina invaded. On 3rd April 867 the United Nations Security Council passed the mandatory Resolution No. 502 demanding a cessation of hostilities and an immediate withdrawal of all Argentine forces from the islands. It was the same day that Argentina took South Georgia. Mr. Haig's efforts were thwarted by Argentina. It was Argentina who rejected the proposals springing from the initiative of the President of Peru.
Senor Perez de Cuellar then began his own series of consultations. The United Nations Secretary-General has worked valiantly to bring the two sides together. His latest suggestions—and they are suggestions (that is how he describes them) not a draft agreement—show recognition of the reasonableness of our proposals. But, as my noble friend the Lord Privy Seal made clear, the suggestions of the United Nations Secretary-General differ from our proposals in certain important respects. The point to which I would draw particular attention, however, is that they are also at total variance with what Argentina has shown she is prepared to accept. That is the reason why we have instructed our representative at the United Nations to tell the Secretary-General that before we could consider negotiating on the basis of his paper, we would need to see substantive Argentine comments on it.
The noble Lord, Lord Brockway, attributed the pass which we have reached today to the United Nations breaking off negotiations. With respect to the noble Lord, that is not the case. The fact is that the position taken up by Argentina on the four crucial issues—of the role of the islanders during an interim administration, the rules for a withdrawal, the position of the d ependencies and the pre-judgment of negotiations—is wholly at variance with the Secretary-General's latest suggestions.
The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, asked, in effect: Why could the United Kingdom proposals nonetheless not simply be left lying on the table?—proposals which, I would say in passing to the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, are printed as an annex to the Paper which was placed in the Printed Paper Office earlier today. We are prepared, even having reached the pass we have reached, to try equally hard again in the future. I give that assurance to the noble Lord, Lord Stewart. I would say, however, to the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, that a carefully balanced offer has been made at a particular stage in a complex negotiation, and it cannot just be left lying on the table.
The Argentines, having rejected our offer, cannot be allowed to think that they can now continue their unlawful occupation of the Falkland Islands—continue, for instance, their attacks on the task force. Our soldiers, sailors and airmen in the South Atlantic have done a wonderful job, and it is our duty at all times to ensure that their safety and operational effectiveness is a first priority. The Argentines cannot simply continue their diplomatic prevarication and their public misrepresentation of our position and then hope, with our proposals still lying on the table, to come back a few days or weeks later and casually pick up a position which we had put to them previously.
The debate has demonstrated that your Lordships' House deeply regrets that we may now stand on the brink of further conflict. But we must stand by our principles. We cannot betray them. Anyone who 868 feels that Britain should have gone further to meet Argentinian demands should consider for a moment what acceptance of Argentine demands would mean in practice. Their aggression would be rewarded and, as was made clear by my noble friend Lord Buxton in his speech, the islanders' future would be gravely compromised.
What would have been the consequences of accepting the Argentine proposals? First, I ask your Lordships to consider the military consequences. Argentina wanted the armed forces of both countries withdrawn to their normal area of operations. For Argentina, that would have meant a withdrawal of 300 to 400 miles. For Britain, it would have meant redeployment to the North Atlantic. How could anyone feel confident that Argentina would not exploit that disparity again in due course? How could the Falkland islanders live in confidence with such a threat hanging over them?
Secondly, the Argentinian proposals would have transformed the islanders' way of life. Their executive and legislative councils would have been abolished. Their only influence—the only influence of the islanders—would have lain in the possibility of providing advisers, a possibility which was apparently to be enjoyed in equal numbers with the handful of Argentines who lived on the Falklands before the crisis.
I always listen to the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, with attention, as indeed, the House always does, but I must say that I disagreed deeply with his speech. The noble Lord is a kindly and humane man, and if he will not mind my saying so, I was surprised that never once, I think, did he mention the interests of the islanders—
§ Lord Hooson
My Lords, will the noble Lord give way? That is not correct. I said that I did not think the action was in the interests of the islanders. It was one of the very first points that I made.
§ Lord Belstead
My Lords, I apologise to the noble Lord. I absolutely withdraw my remark as being inaccurate and unfair to the noble Lord. However, perhaps the noble Lord will answer the question how, if nothing is done, free people are to continue to live under the heel of an aggressor?
Thirdly, in terms of the consequences of accepting the Argentine proposals, the negotiations would have taken place in conditions which would have meant that in the event of a solution not having been reached—and this was the Argentine proposal—by an arbitrary deadline, there would have arisen a dangerous situation which Argentina would only too well have been able to exploit.
I think that I have said enough about the Argentine proposals to compare the consequences of them with what the British Government themselves have put forward and have published in the paper that has been before your Lordships' House, to show that the Argentines have taken up a wholly intransigent position.
The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, and indeed many other noble Lords, have spoken this afternoon about the need for us to get our case across to domestic and world opinion. Since the very beginning of the crisis we really have done our best to mount an intense information campaign covering the aspects—historical, legal, and in relation to current events. All the important Government statements have gone immediately 869 to our British posts abroad, for them to disseminate them in the countries which they serve. Our ambassadors and their staffs have spoken frequently to the media and to opinion-formers in numerous countries. I am sure that the noble Lord would agree that no one has done that more remarkably than our Ambassador in Washington, Sir Nicholas Henderson, and our permanent representative at the United Nations, Sir Anthony Parsons.
The Central Office of Information has produced a film, and a pamphlet, to which the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, very fairly referred. The pamphlet, entitled, The Falkland Islands—The Facts, has had a print run of 60,000 in six different languages. The noble Lord wondered whether it is on the bookstalls. I understand that it is. Broadcasts by the BBC External Services in Spanish to Latin America have been increased from four hours per day before the crisis to five and a half hours now, and of course the BBC broadcasts to the Falklands are increased.
In saying that I am not crossing swords with the noble Lord and other noble Lords over this point. I know that there has been concern about it in your Lordships' House. It is a matter which has come very much from your Lordships' House and the Government have listened to it and tried to act upon it. I give an undertaking this evening that, in addition to what I have just said, we shall try to continue to do better.
Finally, I should like to turn to a general question that was asked by both the noble Lords, Lord Stewart of Fulham and Lord Kennet. The noble Lord, Lord Stewart, asked, What about economic sanctions, what about extra pressure from economic sanctions? The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, asked about the pressure which could be applied by the banks upon the financial life of Argentina. We believe that sanctions are placing considerable strains upon the Argentine economy and undermining her ability to prosecute the military campaign. But there must be doubt as to whether economic sanctions alone would be sufficient to force Argentina to capitulate, at least in the short-term. Let us remember that we are not talking of a democracy; we are talking of a dictatorship. Now—
§ Lord Belstead
That is a fair point. As well as military operations, the economic sanctions, as I say, are having an effect, but we do not believe that in the short-term they would necessarily bring about capitulation. The noble Lord asked me direct whether we could not declare Argentina in default on bank loans. As I understood him, that was a question put to me. That would be a matter for the banks involved. But to declare Argentina in default would absolve her only from paying her debts, totalling £35 billion—£5.8 billion to United Kingdom banks. The immediate effect of that would probably be, paradoxically, to help Argentina and to harm the international banking system and British interests.
My Lords, I should like to raise a point with the noble Lord before he concludes. I am sure that he is, quite rightly, of the opinion that he missed 870 very little by not being in the Chamber when I was speaking, but I asked one specific question and it would be very helpful if he would give me an answer to it. It is simply whether Her Majesty's Government will bear in mind the legal occupation of Southern Thule and the South Sandwich Islands?
§ Lord Belstead
If I may turn to my noble friend Lord Morris, I would say that certainly we shall bear that point very closely in mind. This is one of the sticking points between the Argentine proposals and the other proposals, in that the Argentine proposals would wish to treat the dependencies along with the Falkland Islands.
The pass to which the diplomatic negotiations have now come is cause for the deepest concern, and though the negotiations may not succeed, I again confirm (in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Stewart) that it does not necessarily mean that diplomacy is at an end. Any military measures that we are forced to adopt will be undertaken with maximum restraint consonant with achieving our objectives and with a proper regard for the safety of our forces. Argentinian withdrawal can still take place by peaceful means, but the proposals that we have put forward have been rejected, and any fresh negotiations would have to be on a new basis.
The Government's original decision to combine military, economic and diplomatic pressure in the hope of a peaceful settlement has at every turn been met by Argentine intransigence. But that does not mean that we were wrong to pursue that course. The Argentine invasion was a criminal act of folly, which our responsibility to the islanders and our duty to the rule of law requires us to put right. We face a very critical situation, but we face it with determination.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.