HL Deb 25 January 1983 vol 438 cc136-247

3.25 p.m.

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Young)rose to move that this House takes note of the Falkland Islands Review (Cmnd. 8787.).

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I wish at the outset to express, in rather more specific terms than was possible in last week's Statement, my gratitude, and, I am sure that of the many speakers in today's debate, to the noble Lord, Lord Franks, and his colleagues, particularly the noble Viscount, Lord Watkinson, and the noble Lords, Lord Barber and Lord Lever of Manchester, for all the time and effort they put into producing their formidable report within such a very tight schedule. Indeed, the fact that a majority of the committee were Members of your Lordships' House only underlines the point I made in the debate on the humble Address last November; that this House has played a responsible and not inconsiderable role in the momentous events surrounding the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands last April.

We all, of course, await with great interest the speech of my noble friend Lord Carrington. I would simply say at this stage that the House has not seemed the same place without him over the last 10 months. I hope we shall hear from him often in the near future. There are others, too, on today's list who played important roles both before and after the invasion. I am thinking particularly of the noble Lords, Lord Stewart of Fulham, Lord Chalfont and my noble friend Lord Buxton of Alsa. But, more generally, the list reflects, as has been the case with all our debates on the Falklands. an impressive wealth of expertise and experience. It will, I know, be an extremely important debate. If, as I fear may be the case, I am unable to answer all the points made when I come to reply to the debate later tonight, I certainly undertake to read the debate in Hansard, to draw the attention of my right honourable friend the Prime Minister to specific points and, where appropriate, to write to noble Lords.

I wish briefly to refer to the way in which the committee under the noble Lord, Lord Franks, went about their work. First, their terms of reference were agreed on an all-party basis. The membership represented a wide range of backgrounds. The committee had access to all relevant Cabinet and Cabinet Committee papers and to a comprehensive collection of reports from intelligence agencies. They saw not only the papers of the present Administration but those of previous Administrations as well. The committee invited all those with relevant information to submit it, and they took a wide range of oral evidence. They saw, among others, all Prime Ministers since 1965. These arrangements demonstrate that the committee were in a unique position of authority to comment on the matters covered by their terms of reference.

I shall now follow the structure of the report, dealing in turn, first, with the fundamental nature of the dispute and the way successive Governments tried to deal with it; secondly, the period preceding the invasion and some points which have been made about the Government's actions during that time; and thirdly, the main conclusions of the report and the Government's reactions to them. Throughout, I shall try to follow the advice of the noble Lord. Lord Franks. that his report should be read as a whole, and to remember his warning against the dangers of hindsight.

The fundamental dilemma is plain from the report. Argentina was interested in only one thing —sovereignty over the Falkland Islands and, if they could get it, over the dependencies as well. Successive British Governments recognised that any solution had to be acceptable to the islanders and sought to achieve that solution by negotiation. The inherent contradiction was evident. No solution which satisfied the Argentinian demand for sovereignty could possibly be reconciled with the wishes of the islanders or of this Parliament.

Chapter 1 of the report—a valuable historical analysis of the period from 1965 to 1979—illustrates clearly the recurrence of certain features in the policies pursued by successive British Governments, in the intelligence assessments they received and the military assessments prepared by the chiefs of staff.

1967 was a landmark, in that the then Labour Government was the first British Government to state formally to Argentina that they would be prepared to cede sovereignty over the islands under certain conditions, provided that the wishes of the islanders were respected. Following agreement at official level with Argentina on a Memorandum of Understanding, the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, visited the islands to explain the policy which the Government had been pursuing. But, in the light of the reaction both in the islands and in this country, the Government decided not to continue to attempt to reach a settlement on the basis of the memorandum. Nevertheless, it was recognised that, failure to reach an understanding with Argentina carried the risks of increased harassment of the islanders and the possibility of an attack".

The Government therefore decided to continue negotiations, while making clear the British attitude on sovereignty and that the islanders' wishes were paramount. Talks were resumed in 1969.

Following the change of Government in June 1970 a Communications Agreement was signed, but Argentina pressed for talks on sovereignty and in 1974 attention turned to the possibility of a condominium, which was explored with the islanders and then dropped. Towards the end of 1973 the Joint Intelligence Committee assessed that Argentine attitudes were hardening and for the first time there were indications that Argentina might be preparing contingency plans for an occupation of the islands. In 1974 official military action was considered unlikely as long as Argentina believed that the British Government were prepared to negotiate on sovereignty, but the JIC did not rule it out. And in December 1974 an Argentine newspaper mounted a press campaign advocating invasion of the islands.

This pattern of hardening Argentine attitudes, the possibility of military action and a press campaign advocating it, would be seen again. This historical background is important because a good deal of recent comment has suggested that there was a new situation in early 1982. I shall come to that later.

In 1975 leaseback was proposed for the first time. It was an Argentine suggestion in response to a British proposal for joint development of economic resources of the South-West Atlantic. The Argentine Foreign Minister also proposed that Argentina should occupy South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. That proposal was unacceptable to Britain and the absence of talks on sovereignty unacceptable to the Argentines. For some time following that there were no negotiations.

The economic survey by Lord Shackleton in 1975–76 provoked a hostile Argentine reaction and relations deteriorated sharply in 1976. Our Ambassador was told by the Argentine Foreign Minister that if the British Government refused to resume negotiations, We were rapidly moving towards a head-on collision … in the end he could only see one course open to Argentina irrespective of what Government might be in power".

Fortified by the support of the entire Argentine nation, as well as the other nations of the world assembled in New York, his Government could accept no responsibility for such a disastrous outcome. No stronger threat was issued by an Argentine Foreign Minister throughout the period covered by the report. Ambassadors were withdrawn and newspapers in Buenos Aires advocated invasion. though in veiled terms.

In January 1976 the JIC assessed that a sudden invasion was unlikely, but that there was an increased likelihood of Argentine political and economic action against British interests and that, as the sequence of Argentine measures proceeded, the possibility of military operations must be regarded as that much nearer. The pattern was similar to 1974 and was to be seen again. On 4th February 1976 shots were fired at the unarmed research ship, "Shackleton", 78 miles south of Port Stanley, and an unsuccessful attempt was made to arrest her. A week later the then Minister of State at the Foreign Office went to New York for talks with the new Argentine Foreign Minister, at which, according to the report, he was instructed by the then Foreign Secretary to ask what proposals the Argentines had about discussions and sovereignty. Again, this is worth noting, for the Argentines were to be asked a similar question in September 1981, to which the report also refers.

In February 1976 the chiefs of staff produced a paper on military options. It was the first of four such papers. According to the report all were similar in scope and the language used was substantially the same. Having noted the limitations of the airstrip at Port Stanley and other difficulties, the 1976 paper continued, It would not be practicable to provide, transport and support the force necessary in the Islands to ensure that a determined Argentine attempt to eject the British garrison was unsuccessful".

In December of the same year, an Argentine military presence was discovered in the British territory of Southern Thule. The Labour Government took no steps to make that fact public and it did not become known to Parliament until May 1978—some 16 months later. Formal protests were made to Argentina at the time, but the report states that the Argentine expectation had been that the British reaction would have been much stronger.

A JIC assessment in January 1977 concluded that the Argentine Government were unlikely to order withdrawal until it suited them to do so and, depending on the British Government's actions in the situation, could be encouraged to attempt further military measures against British interests in the area.

There was evidence at this time of an Argentine contingency plan for a joint airforce and navy invasion of the Falkland Islands but later intelligence indicated that this plan had been shelved, not because of any action by the then British Government but because Argentina could not count on the support of the Third World or the Communist bloc.

In February 1977, some two months after the discovery of the occupation of Southern Thule, but without referring to it, Mr. Crosland said in another place that the time had come to consider with the islanders and the Argentine Government whether a climate existed for further talks. At the same time he announced that the Government did not accept the more costly recommendations in the Shackleton Report, notably the enlargement of the airport and the lengthening of the runway. At a time when Argentina had just occupied British territory, what sort of a signal was that?

In July 1977 the then Labour Foreign Secretary, Dr. David Owen, presented a paper to the Overseas and Defence Policy Committee which—and I quote from the report: argued that serious and substantive negotiations were necessary to keep the Argentines in play, since the Islands were militarily indefensible except by a major, costly and unacceptable diversion of current resources".

The Committee decided that the aim should be to keep the negotiations going. The report continues: Broadly speaking it was the Government's strategy to retain sovereignty as long as possible, if necessary making concessions in respect of the dependencies and the maritime resources in the area, while recognising that ultimately only some form of leaseback arrangement was likely to satisfy Argentina.

In view of this, it was surprising that in December 1980 the then shadow Foreign Secretary, Mr. Peter Shore, opposed the leaseback proposal when it was put to another place by my right honourable friend the Financial Secretary.

We are told that in the talks the British side put forward the idea that the sovereignty of the uninhabited dependencies might be "looked at separately" from the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands themselves. The Argentine reaction to that further signal is not recorded.

The noble Lord, Lord Franks, uses a similar phrase to that used to describe the position at the end of 1973. He said, "The Argentine position was hardening". Indeed it was. Argentine naval units arrested seven Soviet and two Bulgarian fishing vessels in Falkland waters. Shots were fired at one of the Bulgarian ships and there were orders to sink the vessel if necessary. The British Government were officially informed that there would be a similar riposte to intrusions by any other flag carrier, and at any other place.

The JIC concluded that[...] if negotiations broke down or if Argentina concluded that there was no real prospect of their resulting in a transfer of sovereignty, there would be, A high risk of its then resorting to more forceful measures, including direct military action".

Invasion of the Falklands was, in the JIC's view, unlikely but "could not be discounted". This was a situation of unparalleled tension in the history of the dispute. Nothing comparable existed in early 1982, as the report itself points out.

But first a word about the dispatch of one nuclear submarine and two frigates to the South Atlantic by the Labour Government in November 1977. According to the report, Ministers accepted that, such a force would not be able to deal with a determined Argentine attack".

What, one must ask, would that force have done if, totally without air cover, it had met such an attack? Further, the report found no evidence that Argentina ever came to know of its existence. There were further negotiations with Argentina in February 1978 in Lima, in December 1978 in Geneva, and in March 1979 in New York. On no occasion was a force deployed.

Chapters 2 and 3 of the report cover the period of the present Government. As with each previous Government, the full range of policy options was put to the Government at the outset. The second half of 1979 saw a visit to the islands by my right honourable friend the present Financial Secretary, two exploratory meetings with Argentine representatives, the restoration of Ambassadors, and the formulation of proposals to the Overseas and Defence Policy Committee, including both political and military assessments.

In recent days there have been references to what has been called "collapse of effective Cabinet Government". The fact is that in 1980, when the policy was being decided, there were no less than seven collective, and often lengthy, discussions of our policy towards the Falkland Islands, four in the Overseas and Defence Policy Committee, and three in Cabinet.

In January 1981 a further meeting of that committee—the eighth collective discussion—was held to review the situation in the light of the islanders' reactions to the leaseback proposal and the comments in both Houses on the Statement of December 1980. The committee endorsed the noble Lord, Lord Carrington's, proposal that the aim should be to keep the negotiations going with a view to finding an acceptable basis for a negotiated settlement. They agreed to early talks for which Argentina was pressing, and at which the islanders were to be represented. Those talks took place in New York in February 1981. Thereafter, the policy having been decided in those eight collective meetings, my noble friend kept his colleagues informed in detail through minutes circulated to all members of the Overseas and Defence Policy Committee.

In 1982, following the New York talks, a meeting of the Overseas and Defence Policy Committee was planned for 16th March. It did not take place because my noble friend wanted to consult the islanders on the response that he was proposing to send to Mr. Costa Mendez about the unilateral Argentine communiqué following the New York talks; and the Island Council was meeting on that very day to discuss this matter. The South Georgia incident, which changed the whole situation, began on Friday, 19th March, and the Cabinet discussed that incident at its next meeting on 25th March.

I turn now to say something of HMS "Endurance". It was a collective Cabinet decision, resulting from the 1981 Defence Review, to withdraw "Endurance" at the end of her 1982 deployment. As the Argentines well knew, "Endurance" has a limited defence capability and was on station only during the Antarctic summer months each year. Her presence in the South Atlantic at the time did not stop Argentina launching its invasion, any more than her presence in the area deterred the Argentines from attacking RRS "Shackleton" in 1976. Nevertheless my right honourable friend the then Secretary of State for Defence said on 7th April 1982—and the report now states—that the decision to withdraw "Endurance" could have provided the wrong signal to the Argentines. As Parliament knows, HMS "Endurance" will continue in service.

It has been suggested that a large task force, or a smaller force of ships, should have been sent earlier than they were. Assessments by the chiefs of staff of possible military responses to the Argentine threat were received throughout the period under review, and were similar in scope and content. When the present Government first considered the position in 1980 we had a military assessment before us. The latest one reached my right honourable friend the Prime Minister on 26th March 1982, in response to a request for contingency plans. It was virtually identical to the assessment made in September 1981. That was similar to the one prepared in 1977 which, in its turn, was similar to that of February 1976.

The report itself points out that, although from 1975 the Argentine threat of military action increased, no Government were prepared to establish on the Falkland Islands a garrison large enough to repel a full-scale Argentine invasion, or to provide an extended runway for the airport, with supporting facilities. The 1981 Chiefs of Staff" Paper, having recognised the strength of the Argentine airforce, concluded that, [...]o deter a full-scale invasion, a large balanced force would be required, comprising an Invincible-class carrier, with four destroyers or frigates, plus possibly a nuclear-powered submarine, supply ships in attendance, and additional manpower up to brigade strength, to reinforce the garrison".

Such a deployment would be very expensive and would engage a significant portion of the country's naval resources. There was a danger that its despatch could precipitate the very action that it was intended to deter. If then faced with Argentine occupation of the Falkland Islands on arrival, there could be no certainty that such a force could retake them. The paper concluded that to deal with a full-scale invasion would require naval and land forces with organic air support on a very substantial scale, and that the logistical problem of such an operation would be formidable.

The report concludes that it would not have been appropriate to prepare a large task force with the capacity to retake the Falkland Islands before there was clear evidence of an invasion. As soon as the evidence was available, on 31st March, that action was taken. Some argue that a small force should have been deployed earlier, as had been the case in 1977. The report states clearly that the situation at the time of the New York talks in February 1982 was different from the situation in November 1977, the time of the deployment of a submarine and two frigates. I have already described the differences. In November 1977 there had already been bellicose military action by Argentina in Falklands waters and an explicit threat to any of our ships which might enter those waters. The report also concludes that the situation in February 1982 did not justify a similar naval deployment.

However, I should like to put another argument. To have sent at that time two or three frigates, without air cover, knowing, as we did, the strength and efficiency of the Argentine Air Force, would have put men and ships in great danger. To have stood them off several hundred miles away would not have helped against a full-scale invasion.

Then it is said that one or more nuclear submarines might have been sent on 5th March. It has been stated in another place that by then the Argentines had given up hope of a negotiated settlement. In fact, at the talks in New York Argentina had proposed a programme for stepping up the tempo of meetings, and that programme was specifically endorsed, even in the unilateral communiqué issued in Buenos Aires on 1st March.

The prospect was of continuing negotiations for several months ahead—not of an imminent military threat. On this point the committee questioned my noble friend Lord Carrington, whose concern was that if a submarine was sent, and the fact became known, that would have jeopardised his objective of continuing negotiation. The committee found that that was not an unreasonable view to take at the time.

As the House knows, the decision to sail the first nuclear-powered submarine was taken on 29th March. The committee considers that there was a case for taking that action at the end of the previous week. This is a fairly fine judgment, and it depends on the interpretation of the developing situation in South Georgia, which the Government had been trying to solve by negotiation. But, of course, the covert presence of a nuclear submarine would not have deterred the eventual Argentine invasion. Had the junta known that we had despatched a submarine, their response could well have been to launch an airborne invasion, supported by ground attack aircraft—a method, as the chiefs of staff had advised, well within their capability.

Moreover, I remember that there was criticism in some quarters of the sinking of the "Belgrano" by submarine after several weeks of actual hostilities. What, then, would have been the attitude of the critics if Britain had fired the first shot, if Britain had attacked a ship on the high seas? There would certainly have been a demand for an inquiry, we should have lost support from our allies and the international community and we should not have secured the passage of the famous Security Council Resolution 502, which dominated international opinion for so long.

Throughout this account I have referred to intelligence assessment. In November 1979 there was a reassessment of the Argentine threat in language similar to that which had occurred several times previously. A further assessment was made in July 1981. That assessment reviewed the options open to the Argentine Government if they decided to resort to direct measures in the dispute. It took the view that it was likely that, in the first instance, Argentina would adopt diplomatic and economic measures, including the disruption of air communications and of food and oil supplies; then, Argentina might occupy one of the uninhabited dependencies following its action in 1976 in establishing a presence on Southern Thule; and then a risk that it might establish a military presence in the Falkland Islands themselves, remote from Port Stanley. In the committee's view harassment or arrest of British shipping would not be a likely option unless the Argentine Government felt themselves severely provoked.

As in 1979, the assessment noted that there was no sign of diminution in Argentina's determination eventually to extend its sovereignty over the Falkland Islands area, but that it would prefer to achieve this objective by peaceful means and would turn to forcible action only as a last resort. The final paragraph of the assessment stated that if Argentina concluded that there was no hope of a peaceful transfer of sovereignty there would be a high risk of its resorting to more forcible measures against British interests, and that it might act swiftly and without warning. In such circumstances military action against British shipping or a full-scale invasion of the Falkland Islands could not be discounted.

My Lords, I turn now to the principal suggestion made by the noble Lord, Lord Franks, for the future; namely, that the machinery within Government for intelligence assessment should be reviewed. The committee expressed the view that during the period leading up to the invasion the JIC organisation might not have given sufficient weight to the diplomatic and other indications that the Argentine Government's positions was hardening in the early months of 1982, as compared with intelligence reports. They suggested that the independence of the JIC should be emphasised by having its chairman appointed by the Prime Minister as a full-time member of the Cabinet Office, with a more critical and independent role.

These are matters which it is our custom not to discuss in public, for obvious reasons. We have to remember that anything which we say on this subject is certain to be studied very closely by foreign governments, and we must be sure to say nothing that makes the tasks of our own security and intelligence people harder, or those of our adversaries easier. We must therefore avoid any reference to our own operations and techniques, or to those of our allies. But I may on this occasion comment on the committee's observations.

The Government think it right to accept the proposal that the chairmanship of the Joint Intelligence Committee be held by a member of the Cabinet Office who is able to give more time to supervising the work of the assessments machinery. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister therefore intends to appoint as chairman of the JIC an official of the Cabinet Office who will be engaged full-time on intelligence matters. He will have direct access to the Prime Minister in the same was as the heads of the security and intelligence agencies.

I have dealt at length with the comments made in the report of the noble Lord, Lord Franks, and by others outside. The report sets these comments in perspective, and it sets out their unanimous conclusion taking into account all the considerations and all the evidence. The question which the opposition must answer is this. Do they accept or repudiate that conclusion?

My Lords, as a result of the events of last year and of the Franks Report, the performance of Government machinery, of Ministers and of officials has been subjected to the closest scrutiny. We should all like, I am sure, to pay again our tribute to the outstanding service that my noble friend Lord Carrington has given to this country, our tribute, also, to the work of my right honourable friend Mr Atkins and my honourable friend Mr Luce, whose skill in handling the New York talks in February 1982 is specifically acknowledged in the report.

Officials in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and in the Ministry of Defence and the intelligence organisations have also been subjected to much criticism. The report attaches no blame to the individuals, and makes it equally clear that the mass of allegations made against the Foreign and Commonwealth Office were quite unjustified. I would add that the department which has been subjected to that criticism was the same department which so brilliantly mobilised opinion and so skilfully promoted our cause at the United Nations. In the United States, with our other partners and allies and across the world. That needs saying, and I am glad to say it. I pay tribute, too, to the work of the Ministry of Defence, which played such a notable part in the mobilisation and servicing of the task force.

It is not surprising that a thorough inquiry over six months by a committee of the distinction and calibre which has produced this report should have observations to make on the handling of this or that particular aspect of events. That would have been the case whatever the subject of the inquiry. I believe, however, that the Government can legitimately take pride in the final verdict of the review.

Moved, That this House takes note of the Falkland Islands Review (Cmnd. 8787.)—{Baroness Young.)

3.57 p.m.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, first I warmly endorse the thanks expressed by the noble Baroness to the noble Lord, Lord Franks, and his colleagues for giving their time and the benefit of their great experience in producing what is, without doubt, an historic report.

The noble Baroness the Leader of the House has made a carefully constructed speech in which she has sought to exonerate the Government from blame for the events of last April. What she did was to enlarge on the statement made by her right honourable friend the Prime Minister on 18th January when she rested her case on the conclusions of the Franks Report. The noble Baroness in her speech did not deal with the criticisms which are implicit in the report before us. It seemed to me that the only criticism she could make was against my right honourable friend Mr. Peter Shore. We all understand this perfectly well. The conclusions, taken in isolation, appear favourable to the Government but the substance of the report, if carefully analysed, raises questions of the utmost gravity which the noble Baroness has not answered. These must be asked in this debate if it is to be an effective one.

Before I proceed to the report I should like to make one thing quite clear; namely, that nothing that I or any of my noble friends may say in this debate excuses in any way or condones the act of unprovoked aggression committed by the Argentine régime on 2nd April 1982–the act which led to war, the act which was rightly condemned by a resolution of the United Nations, an act committed by men who were not fitted to lead a civilised nation. We have no quarrel with the Argentine people and we wish for nothing but friendly relations with them. The links between the Welsh community in Patagonia (where I have many friends) and, indeed, with Wales are strong, and as strong as ever they were. We are anxious to be friends with the people of the Argentine and with other South American countries.

As I have said, the Government have relied upon the conclusion of paragraph 339 of the report, which attaches no blame or criticism to the Government for the junta's decision to invade the Falklands, but there is an ambivalence in the paragraph itself, for it also says: we have pointed out … where different decisions might have been taken, where fuller consideration of alternative courses of action might, in our opinion, have been advantageous, and where the machinery of Government could have been better used. The report goes on to say: if the British Government had acted differently … it is impossible to judge what the impact on the Argentine Government… might have been". That, of course, is true; but one thing is certain. It could not have been worse than what actually happened. As I read the report, the main charge against the Government relates not so much to the actions they took as to their failure to take positive action, especially during the crucial first three months of last year, after the change of Government in Buenos Aires, the activity in South Georgia, the reports of increasing tension in the Argentine itself and the reaction of the junta to the conclusions of the talks between Mr. Luce and Senor Ros, to which I shall return later and to which the noble Baroness has just referred in her speech.

The report makes plain that the possibility of the use of force by the Argentine had existed for several years, and that the present Government acknowledged this as far back as October 1979. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, circulated a memorandum on 12th October 1979. May I say I am delighted, and so are my noble friends, to see him in his place. We much look forward to hearing his speech. I should also like to endorse the tribute paid by the noble Baroness to him for his services to this country. This is what the report said in paragraph 75: … if Argentina concluded that there was no prospect of real progress towards a negotiated transfer of sovereignty, there would be a high risk of its resorting to more forceful measures including direct military action. It pointed out that Argentina had the capability to capture the islands. This was not the only warning issued by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington. The more I ponder over the report, the less reason do I find for his resignation. The noble Lord sent the Defence Committee nine minutes on the Falklands between May 1979 and February 1982. Notwithstanding this—and the noble Baroness referred to the minutes—the situation was allowed by the Government to drift. If one brings all the factors together, we saw a growing impatience in the statements emanating from the Argentine Government; we saw the increasing domestic instability of that Government; we saw the riots which were taking place in the streets of Buenos Aires, and the attractions of a diversionary adventure with an appeal to nationalism. All those things were there plainly to be seen. I see no evidence that this Government took positive action to reduce the risk of invasion in the crucial months of late 1981 and early 1982.

Let me repeat that I do not overlook or dismiss the Government's diplomatic activity. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, together with Mr. Ridley, Mr. Luce and Foreign Office officials—notably Mr. J. B. Ure, whose brilliant analysis impressed me enormously—tried hard to find solutions in extremely difficult circumstances. Their activities are clearly described in the report in paragraphs 71 to 137. Their task was not an easy one; it was extremely difficult for reasons of which the House is aware, as Mr. Callaghan and other Labour Ministers, including Mr. Edward Rowlands, in the previous Administration, confirm. The questions of sovereignty and the paramountcy of the Falklanders' wishes were the substantial obstacles.

Furthermore, the developing gulf between the military junta of General Galtieri and their foreign affairs spokesmen made negotiation an uncertain business at that time. That in itself was a straw in the wind. When military Governments move away from their civilian and professional advisers, it is time to sit up and take notice. One feels that when "leaseback" ceased to be a serious negotiating position, the diplomatic ship drifted thereafter without a rudder. Our ambassador in Buenos Aires, who also performed outstanding service, used very strong language when he said that the decision not to have an education campaign was, to have no strategy at all beyond a general Micawberism". That was his comment. That was the considered view of our most experienced diplomat on the spot. It seems to me that the Franks Committee did not pay sufficient regard to his observations.

From then on, negotiations on a possible settlement became increasingly aimless until, to all intents and purposes, they broke down after the New York talks on 26th and 27th February 1982. This seems to me to be the conclusion that one can draw from paragraph 133 and the paragraphs which follow. The joint communiqué of 1st March was rebuffed by the unilateral communiqué of the Argentine Foreign Ministry. This was interpreted by the Argentine press as a serious worsening of the position. This interpretation was correct, and the month of March was a crucial period, and I fear one in which a huge mistake was made.

While this unhappy diplomatic sequence was developing, other things were happening which had a profound effect upon the ultimate tragedy. These were, in my view and in that of many noble Lords throughout the House, the events which conditioned the minds of the leaders of the junta to the idea that Britain was not really in earnest about the Falklands. I want, if I may, to deal with these because they are extremely important in this debate. I want to deal with them one by one. Each of these events, which are well known, might not in isolation have created a belief that we were lukewarm about asserting sovereignty and self-determination. But taken together, they make a strong case for believing that we would not fight in the last ditch to defend these islands. It was a mistake on our part and it was a mistake on their part.

Let me enumerate the events briefly: first, there was our tepid reaction to the recommendations of the survey made by my noble friend Lord Shackleton in 1975, and the then Government must take responsibility for that. Secondly, when, during the passage of the British Nationality Bill, an attempt was made in this House to secure full nationality for the Falklanders, this Government resisted it.

Thirdly, there were a number of defence decisions to make economies, to sell HMS "Invincible", and—perhaps most significantly notwithstanding what the noble Baroness said—there was the Government's decision to withdraw HMS "Endurance". There are a number of references to this in the report, as noble Lords will have noted. Paragraph 114 sets the scene very clearly. In view of what the noble Baroness has said, I feel that I must read it out: One consequence of the 1981 Defence Review was the decision to withdraw HMS "Endurance" at the end of her 1981–82 deployment. Lord Carrington wrote to the Secretary of State for Defence, Mr. Nott, on 5th June 1981 on several aspects of the defence programme, including the withdrawal of HMS "Endurance". He pressed for her retention on the ground that, until the dispute with Argentina was settled, it was important to maintain the British Government's normal presence in the area at the current level; any reduction would be interpreted by both the islanders and Argentina as a reduction in Britain's commitment to the islands and in its willingness to defend them. Lord Carrington also pointed out that the hydrographic survey tasks HMS "Endurance" undertook and the operation of her helicopters over a wide area of the British Antarctic territory were an important aspect of the maintenance of the British claim to sovereignty. Although HMS "Endurance" was nearing the end of her normal working life, it was essential that she should be replaced by a vessel of similar type for Antarctic work. This approach was followed up by a meeting of officials on 10th June 1981, following which Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials judged that there was no prospect of the decision being reversed, and so reported to Mr. Ridley. The decision to withdraw HMS "Endurance" was confirmed in Parliament on 30th June 1981". The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, deserves full credit for his warnings on 5th June 1981, 22nd January 1982 and 17th February 1982 that: Any reduction… would be interpreted by both the islanders and the Argentine as a reduction in Britain's commitment to the islands and in its willingness to defend them. It was, in the noble Lord's view and that of his colleagues in the Foreign Office, as serious as that. But he might as well have been speaking to a brick wall. Mr. Nott obstinately refused to budge and he was supported by the Prime Minister, and he must have been supported by the majority of his colleagues in the Cabinet right up until the last moment. I have not heard this rebutted at any time. If a rebuttal is to be made, let it be made by the noble Baroness when she winds up this debate later.

This was a major error of judgment by the Government at a crucial moment in the developing crisis. If only the Government had had the sense to keep quiet about it at this key period it would have been something, but the reaction in the Argentine was reported in a letter from our embassy in July 1981, which said that several newspaper articles highlighted the theme that Britain was—and I quote—"abandoning the protection of the Falkland Islands". That, unmistakably, was the view of the Argentine Government at that time.

The Franks Committee concede that this and other mistakes were committed by the Government, but they appear to argue that they come within the range of pardonable error—everyone makes mistakes and hindsight is all very well, and so on. Then the Government say that if none of the mistakes had been made no one can be certain that that would have prevented the invasion. That is just what the noble Baroness has said in her speech. I believe that is the essential weakness about the report's conclusions. There is an equally good case, and I believe a stronger one, for saying that if none of the mistakes which the report criticises had been committed, then the invasion would not have taken place.

Once the warning lights began to show, a more determined policy could have deterred the Argentine Government. They should have been warned far more clearly against the use of force and told that any such efforts would have been resisted. A military capability should have been prepared and a nuclear submarine sent to the South Atlantic at the beginning of March. The intelligence effort should have been intensified and early diplomatic support should have been secured from the United States and from our partners in the Community. There was a lack of purpose, a lack of co-ordination and a lack of urgency on the part of the Government at this time which is frightening to contemplate. The grave warning of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, to the Prime Minister on 14th September 1981 was not heeded at all. From that time onwards until the crisis was upon us, the Foreign Office seems to have lost heart, probably due to the Prime Minister's clear lack of attention to the problem and to the Defence Secretary's preoccupation with economies.

One of the most damning indictments of this Government is their failure to convene a meeting of the Overseas and Defence Committee of the Cabinet in the months leading to the crisis. The noble Baroness tried to patch this up with references to meetings. If she reads the report again she will see that there was no meeting of the essential Cabinet committee, namely, the Defence Committee itself. Given the growing weight of evidence that the Argentine was becoming more intransigent, and especially after the South Georgia incident, it is inconceivable that the Government could be so inept. The Prime Minister had a momentary spasm of interest on 3rd March (paragraph 152) when she wrote on the telegram from the ambassador: "We must make contingency plans". But nothing transpired and there was little response from the Foreign Office or the Defence Ministry. What is surprising is that the Prime Minister herself did not follow it up. If the contingency plans were needed it was for her to follow them up. This was four weeks before the invasion and action then might have saved the situation and avoided war.

Of course, the Prime Minister should have called a meeting of the Defence Committee immediately she concluded that contingency plans were needed. The chiefs of staff, as we are told, had had a paper prepared on the military options since September 1981. There is no evidence that they had the opportunity to put this to the appropriate Cabinet committee presided over by the Prime Minister. There is clear evidence in the report of the Prime Minister's complete failure to coordinate the actions of the departments concerned. The Defence Committee is a Cabinet committee for which she is responsible. It was her duty to call a meeting and to receive advice from Ministers, from the JIC and from the chiefs of staff, and to make a considered assessment of the position. This was not an error of judgment. It was more than that: it was a failure to conduct the affairs of the Government and the country in a competent way.

The joint intelligence organisation of the Cabinet has come in for the brunt of the criticism. The noble Baroness referred to this and so I will pay some attention to it now. Perhaps some of the criticism is justified; I cannot say. Their assessment staff is charged with failing to read Argentine newspaper reports and public comments which predicted what would happen and which were couched in aggressive and warlike terms. It is, of course, necessary to pay attention to what newspapers say, especially in totalitarian countries where newspapers tend to be controlled. One of the many advantages of living in a free country is that you do not have to believe everything you read in the newspapers, but in these countries the situation is different. What was printed in Buenos Aires was important because the press there was controlled. Air-Commodore Brian Frow, until recently a member of the Joint Intelligence Staff, has said that:— it is ridiculous to say that the indicators were not there". We are now informed that the JIS is to be reorganised, and I am sure that is right and proper, but they should not be made scapegoats for the errors and omissions of senior politicians. Many commentators have tended to blame the inadequancy of the intelligence services. This is grossly unfair. What is Government in this country about? It is about ministerial responsibility. Although one sympathises with hard-worked and hard-pressed Ministers, this principle cannot be evaded. It is also about the "buck-stopping" in the Cabinet Room at No. 10 Downing Street. That is what Government in a parliamentary democracy is about. If, as The Times wrote in its leader on 19th January, the nerve centre of British Government has been over-tranquillised by the soft embrace of so long a peace". who is to blame? The Times then goes on to point out that the Defence Committee did not meet until the day before the invasion and that the question of Argentina and the Falklands was not discussed outside the Foreign Office after January 1981, as if that was the fault of the JIS. As I have said, this was the plain fault of Ministers and of the Prime Minister most of all. The Prime Minister—and I am glad to be able to say this—certainly does not lack courage or resolution, but she lacked the ability and the foresight to orchestrate her team effectively at a time of growing national emergency. Had the Prime Minister shown the same energy and drive during the months up to 2nd April that she demonstrated in the weeks which followed, I doubt very much if there would have been an invasion.

The report is splendidly written and constructed, and there are many points to which I should have liked to refer if time was available. But there are some weak points in it, too. Paragraph 263 says that—and I quote. the actual order to invade was probably not given until at least 31 st March and possibly as late as 1st April". How can they say that and how do they know? You cannot base the certainties of the conclusion on possibilities and probabilities of that kind. But that is not the central point. It is not whether the order to invade was given on either of those dates; it is the fact that an invasion force was ready with men, armaments and all the mateŕiel of war. They had been prepared by the Argentines and they were there to do the job of aggression. This kind of operation is not launched without a long period of planning and preparation; and this kind of preparation is not done during a few days of March. They had planned and prepared for it when the New York talks on the negotiating position were being held. This explains the sharp unilateral response which followed, to which I have referred. Britain was not then dealing with a Government which could be trusted to negotiate in good faith.

Sir Nicholas Henderson, who was our Ambassador in Washington throughout the crisis, had this to say in his important article in the Sunday Times on 23rd January 1983. He said—and I really think it should be quoted—that Mr. Haig said, that from the talks he had had with Galtieri, he realised that the junta had been bent for some time on the invasion, confident that the British would not react with force—a conviction based on their view as military dictators that, in Haig's words, 'no democracy could or would respond in that way'. From the talks he had had with the junta in Buenos Aires during the shuttle, Haig had deduced, so he tells me, that they had decided upon attack some time in advance"— of course, they had decided some time in advance— and that the scrap merchants were disguised service personnel deliberately sent to South Georgia as agents provocateurs." This does not tally with the Franks view that the decision to invade was a last-minute one and that the incident of the scrap merchants was seized on to escalate the situation rather than the first stage of a scenario leading to the invasion of the Falklands". That is the assessment of our ambassador in Washington—an assessment, one has the right to assume, which was conveyed to our Government in this country.

The report also refers to the Foreign Office meeting of 5th March and the official advice against a naval deployment on the lines of the response of the Labour Government in 1977. This was not good advice in the climate that had been built up; the storm warnings were up by then and, as the report itself argues, the dispatch of such a force, at the same time as a warning to Buenos Aires that an attack on the Falklands would be resisted in strength, could have prevented all the subsequent trouble.

Comparisons have been made between the actions of this Government and of previous Governments. That is fair and it should be done. But the incontrovertible evidence of the report is that, under the present Government, Ministers, with their officials, have met less frequently and regularly than under previous Labour or Conservative Administrations. There is no other way to explain the inexcusable gap of 15 months during which the key committee, the Defence Committee, was not convened to discuss the Falklands. It is an omission which must be condemned in the severest terms by this House.

I fear that the report is a sad and sorry narrative, and today we are left with, no alternative to the policy of 'Fortress Falklands'", for the foreseeable future, as the Prime Minister herself has said—the very policy which successive Governments strove to avoid. They wished to avoid it because it is expensive—more than we can afford—and because we all know that the existence of the Falklands community in the longer term as a happy and secure one must depend on a measure of understanding and co-operation with the mainland, and that includes the Argentine.

I am glad that the Argentine Government repeated yesterday that there is no truth in reports that they are taking further military action against the islands. If they were to do so, it would certainly turn the clock back much further again. The hope must be that, when the dust has settled on the recent unhappy events, some new understanding based on mutual trust can enable a permanent solution to be achieved. The sacrifice which was made demands a decent pause and the moment is not now. But the time will come when statesmanship and clear leadership will be essential to resolve this tragic and difficult problem, once and for all.

4.22 p.m.

Lord Gladwyn

My Lords, I believe that most of your Lordships will hold that, given its rather narrow premises, or terms of reference, the conclusions of the excellent and, as I think the noble Baroness, Lady Young, described it, formidable report of my noble friend, whom we are so glad to have with us today on these Benches, are probably about right.

But what the report clearly also shows—and at this point I may say that I would go along with some of the criticisms, not of the report but of the Government, which were made by the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn—is that successive British Governments, and I repeat "successive British Governments", since 1965, at any rate, have been struggling with a situation which, except on one assumption, and I repeat "except on one assumption", to which I shall come in a moment, was bound to get worse and, indeed, to end in confrontation, leaving us with the sole option of suffering national humiliation or of maintaining our position in the South Atlantic by preparing for the possibility of war and, if necessary, of waging it.

In the event, of course, we did not—and I think that the noble Baroness made the reasons pretty clear—so maintain our position; and when I say "we" I mean successive British Governments. Nobody realised this dilemma better than the much abused Foreign Office officials, and the advice which they gave one Government after another was throughout impeccable. But such advice had to conform to general policy directives laid down by the Government and it was these, as I personally see it—and I repeat "as I personally see it"—which have landed us in the present mess.

Let me illustrate this important point as shortly as possible. Whatever the advantages gained as a result of the brilliant Falklands campaign—and among them must certainly be reckoned the defeat of what was clearly an act of aggression, the demonstration of what this country is capable of doing in an emergency and a steep, if possibly temporary, increase in national self-confidence and morale—there is no doubt that, on balance, the whole affair, with the exception, perhaps, of Suez, was the chief misfortune that we have suffered since the last world war.

Some £2 billion, which we could ill afford, already expended; some £500 million to be allocated annually for what seems years ahead to the defence of those islands against the Argentine, rather than to the defence of these islands against Russia; no negotiated settlement in sight or, indeed, so far as we understand at present, ever contemplated; the possibility, therefore, of another war with a re armed Argentine always in the offing; the position of the Falklanders no better, certainly, and possibly worse, than it was before the war—well, my Lords, if anybody thinks that all that represents, on balance, an advantage to this country and to our allies, he is incapable of serious thought. Fortress Falklands, in other words—and here I disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn—is a rather crazy conception.

This brings me back to the factor, not reflected in my noble friend's conclusions, which, as I see it, was really responsible for the conception of a Fortress Falklands ever appearing on the map. All through the Franks Report there are references to what—as was said by the noble Baroness, Lady Young—was originally an Argentine proposal; namely, that we, for our part should concede Argentine sovereignty in principle and that the islands should be, as it were, leased back to us for a number of years, not usually specified but thought to be somewhere between 15 and 20, during which period economic links with the mainland would be fostered, provision made for some kind of joint exploitation of the surrounding waters and, no doubt, some kind of special régime for the islanders, when eventually the islands were incorporated in the Argentine, worked out.

At the end of this period, any islander who did not wish to remain in the Falklands might be well subsidised and thus enabled, with his family, to migrate to any country that he might desire. At this point, I might draw your Lordships' attention to the fact that, even now, there are about 10 times as many British subjects living quite happily in the Argentine as there are living in the Falkland Islands, there being thus no particular reason to suppose that, after some 15 or 20 years, those who chose to remain would be any less well off than their compatriots on the other side of the sea.

Why, therefore, in spite of the fact that Her Majesty's Government agreed formally in, I think, 1967 and again in 1977 that the negotiations should include the question of sovereignty, was the leaseback scheme never advanced or supported by Her Majesty's Government? We all know the answer. It was because it was flatly rejected by the islanders, strongly supported by their friends in Westminster, more especially in what we in this Chamber call "the other place". If you glance at the record of the debate there on 2nd December 1980, given in Annex F to the report, you will see that no less than 12 speakers denounced the leaseback scheme, mostly in rather violent terms. Only one speaker, apparently, gave it any support, and that only indirectly.

In view of this demonstration of popular feeling—because that is what it was—the Foreign Office, though clearly reluctantly, abandoned its plan to persuade or, as it was then termed, "educate" the islanders that leaseback was nevertheless in their own long-term interests: which, of course, it was. Therefore, the one chance of ever arriving at an agreed, peaceful solution of the dispute unhappily vanished into thin air.

The real, underlying reason for this was the constantly stated resolve of the Government—backed, admittedly, by public opinion in this country—not to put forward or accept any solution which was unacceptable by or, as was usually said, not in accordance with the wishes of, the islanders. The other proviso which was occasionally used—but less frequently, I think—concerned the interests of the islanders, which was clearly capable of a rather different interpretation. But eventually the wishes of the islanders prevailed.

I suggest that when and if negotiations are resumed, presumably with a new and democratic Argentine Government and, as we on these Benches would see it, with a new Government at Westminster, the negotiations should be on the assumption that it is the interests rather than the wishes of the islanders which we must be prepared to defend, and that these interests simply must be considered in relation to what are the interests of this country, the European Community, the North Atlantic Alliance, the USA and, indeed, the entire Western world. In other words, we must take the responsibility of being the interpreter of all these interests. True, no British Government, we can be quite sure, would agree to any solution which simply handed over the 1,700 islanders to a rather odious military dictatorship straight away—or, indeed, ever. We have very properly just rescued them from such an unpleasant fate. But a gradual transition to Argentine rule at the end of, say, a 20-year period, when the situation may well be entirely different and when, in any case, any islander who did not want to remain should have every inducement to settle elsewhere, is quite a different matter.

To conclude, I would simply ask your Lordships not to reject such ideas out of hand as an attempt to sell worthy British subjects down the river—as they will, no doubt, be represented in certain organs of the press—or to abandon the fruits of victory over an aggressor which, as such, were rightly popular in this country and indeed with all the friends of democracy all over the world. After all, our main concern, surely, must always be to strengthen, not weaken, the North Atlantic Alliance, upon which our whole future, and therefore the future, presumably, of the Falkland Islanders themselves, depends. To maintain that a Fortress Falklands would do anything to strengthen this alliance is a sad illusion. The passage round the Horn is not the most important of the sea lanes which would have to be safeguarded in the terrible event of World War III, and it is for the Americans rather than for us to safeguard these lanes, other than those across the North Atlantic, where our forces would be at full stretch and quite incapable of additional deployment in the South Atlantic.

My time is now up, but let me say a final word. I hope that the Falklands will not become an issue in the coming electoral campaign, for things could then be said on both sides which may be regretted and may make more difficult a negotiated settlement which, despite the recent utterances of the Foreign Secretary, is both inevitable and essential. The best hope, perhaps, would be to allow the Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials, who have been so unjustly attacked in recent months and who have been so clearly justified in this report, to prepare, behind the scenes, the grounds for action by what even by this autumn may well be new Governments both here and in the Argentine. In foreign affairs one must always work for the best while preparing for the worst, but the Falklands case is one in which reason can and must prevail.

4.36 p.m.

Lord Carrington

My Lords, in common with others of your Lordships who have spoken, I also welcome the Franks Committee report and am grateful for the care, the speed and the thoroughness with which they have tackled a difficult and complicated subject. I am sure that the Prime Minister was right to set up the inquiry, for the invasion of the Falklands Islands came as a great shock to the British people and it is proper that there should have been an investigation into its origins.

I have been so personally concerned with all this that it is difficult to be objective. But in the remarks that I make—and I fear they may be rather longer than I usually make when I address your Lordships—I shall certainly try to be objective, for surely the object of this inquiry has been not so much to apportion blame but to learn what lessons there may be in the conduct of government over the years so that, in the future, confrontations of this kind can be avoided. Nevertheless, I think I would be less than human if I did not feel it right that the welter of accusation and innuendo, spoken and printed, at the beginning of April last year should be examined and the truth be told.

At the time it was said that the Foreign Office and I had been guilty of culpable negligence: that we had been seeking to dispose of the Falkland Islands, regardless of the wishes of the islanders or Parliament, and that I had deliberately ignored firm evidence of an Argentine invasion. All this, and much more, was reported as fact and not as speculation. These reports make ugly reading and, if not forgotten, they are at least better buried. Annex A to the report disposes of them, and such comments as Lord Franks makes about possible alternative courses which the Government could have pursued are far removed from the tone and content of the accusations of last April.

The conclusions of the Franks Committee are that the Government did not and could not have foreseen the invasion, and that the Government could not be blamed for the unprovoked aggression of the Argentine Government. But the Franks Committee does say that some issues could have been handled differently, though they go on to say very fairly that even if they had been handled differently it is purely hypothetical to suggest that it would have made any difference. In the course of my remarks I wish to suggest that in three of the instances in which the Franks Committee suggests that another course should have been taken it could very well have made matters worse if we had done so, rather than better, and have had the opposite effect to that which was intended. But of course I am in exactly the same position as the Franks Committee, and what I say must necessarily be hypothetical.

I think it right to explain to your Lordships that the decisions which we took were not taken lightly. It was becoming clear in 1979, when the Conservative Government were elected, that the Argentine was going to press strongly for a resumption of negotiations, and I pointed out to my colleagues that there were three possible courses of action. I might, in passing, say that I believe we were the first Government ever to take this matter as seriously as it deserved, and certainly the first Government to have leaseback discussed openly in Parliament.

First of all, there was the Fortress Falklands solution—that is to say, the permanent stationing of a large deterrent force on the islands in perpetuity or, at any rate, until such time as a solution to the problem could be found. Secondly, there was the possibility of negotiation, but negotiation without raising the only matter which was of any interest to the Argentine Government—that is to say, sovereignty. Thirdly, there was the option to negotiate on matters of substance, including sovereignty, and the possibility of floating proposals such as leaseback.

The Government discussed these options at considerable length throughout a series of meetings in 1980 and came to the firm conclusion that the first option, that of a Fortress Falklands, was to be avoided if at all possible. The expense, the distortion of our defence effort which would inevitably follow, and the prospect of a confrontation, not just with the Argentines but with the whole of Latin America and most of the rest of the world—because your Lordships must remember that in the United Nations we were in a minority of one on this problem—all this meant that it was against our political and economic interest to accept such a proposal and not something we should accept if it could be avoided.

Of the other two options, we decided that the third was the one most likely to lead to a permanent solution. But we did not feel that we should go ahead on a firm negotiating basis until such time as we had consulted both the islanders and Parliament. So Mr. Ridley consulted the islanders, and, though his reception was nothing like as hostile as that which he got in the House of Commons, it was clear that the proposal did not greatly commend itself to the islanders. As to his reception in another place, it is only necessary to glance at the annex to the Franks Committee Report to appreciate the weight of hostility on all sides of the House.

The Franks Committee says, perfectly accurately, that it was recommended to me that, as a result of that, there should be a national education campaign at home and in the islands to promote the option of leaseback, and that I rejected it. So I did, my Lords, and I would do so again. I took the decision not to promote such a campaign for two reasons. First, if the Franks Committee criticised, as they do, the decision to scrap "Endurance" on the grounds that it sent the wrong signal to the Argentine, how much more powerfully wrong a signal would have been sent if this Government had been seen to be trying to promote the transfer of sovereignty and a negotiation of leaseback in the teeth of opposition from the islanders and from Parliament. How much weaker surely would have been the position of our negotiators at the next round of talks.

Secondly, I believe that such a campaign would have had precisely the opposite effect to that intended. It was clear from the exchanges in the House of Commons that on right and left there was a suspicion of the Government's intentions. Such a campaign would only have served to reinforce those suspicions and would be seen to put pressure upon the islanders to coerce them into a course to which they were not prepared to agree, something which all Governments had resolutely refused to do. If leaseback were ever to be a solution, a Government campaign to promote it would probably have been the worst way of achieving it.

If I may be allowed to say so, it does not lie in the mouth of anybody in the Labour Party, not even the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, or the Liberal Party, or the Social Democratic Party, or the Back Bench of the Conservative Party in another place, to criticise me for that decision, for at that time no voice was raised on any side of the House in support of Mr. Ridley. He was left isolated and alone as the opponents made abundantly clear their profound objection to the proposal. Nor, if I may say so, was there a breath of support among political commentators and leader writers for the idea of leaseback—not that you would have thought so reading the press in the last three or four days. The sort of articles that we have seen in the Observer, the Sunday Times and the Guardian would, in my judgment, have been a good deal more useful and more percipient if they had been written at that time rather than with the hindsight of the Franks Committee Report.

We were thus faced with the prospect of seeking to continue negotiations but with no constructive suggestions to put forward, and I have heard no one make a constructive proposal then or since about what we should have done. Leaseback was unacceptable to domestic and island opinion. The Argentine had rejected a freeze. The Franks Committee go on to say that the Government was in a position of weakness, and that to ask Dr. Camilion, who was then the Foreign Minister of the Argentine, to make proposals passed the initiative to the Argentine Government. Here again, I would suggest that not to have done so, not to have asked Dr. Camilion for his proposals, might very well have meant that negotiations would have foundered straight away and we should have been faced with confrontation. It is important to note, my Lords, that the negotiations did not founder.

To negotiate with no proposals of any kind is extremely difficult. And there had been, too, some signs, as a result of a visit by Mr. Ure to the Argentine, that their Government were thinking of that time on the lines of a much wider agreement which would include economic co-operation over a wide field. It seemed to me, therefore, sensible to ask the Argentines, within, of course, the constraints which they knew the British Government have and which I repeated to them—that is to say, the essential need for parliamentary and island approval—to make some proposals.

I do not believe that that gave the initiative to the Argentines in any sense which added to our difficulties, for the initiative always was with the Argentine Government. It is they who wished to change the status quo, not us. It is they who live 400 miles away and who had the capacity at any time militarily to intervene. It is they who had the power and they who had the capacity to make or break any policy which we pursued, save that of Fortress Falklands. To have sought to negotiate on the basis of no concessions of any kind would surely have risked moving to confrontation immediately. In the event we did go on negotiating, and Mr. Luce, to whose skill the Franks Committee paid tribute, negotiated a set of proposals on which it would have been possible for us to continue talking.

That brings me to the events of the beginning of March. It is felt by some, including, I think, some members of the Franks Committee, and certainly by the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, that at the beginning of March there was, so to speak, a sea change in the attitude of the Argentine Government. I really do not believe that that was so. It is perfectly true that, when Mr. Ros returned from New York to Buenos Aires, a communiqué was issued which was in effect sharply critical of what he had done, but this, in my judgment, was more because of domestic opinion in the Argentine and the need to demonstrate a sense of urgency over the negotiations than for any other reason. For, when we remonstrated with Mr. Costa Mendez, I received an assurance from him that he wished negotiations to continue and that the communiqué from Buenos Aires was not designed to put an end to them. At that time there were no intelligence reports of any kind of Argentine preparations or indications that negotiations had been abandoned. It was explained to the embassy on a number of occasions that the press campaign was for the purpose of creating in the British Government a sense of urgency.

Here, perhaps I might just comment on one thing that the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, said. I think that the noble Lord, in quoting Sir Nicholas Henderson, was in fact quoting Mr. Haig, and not Sir Nicholas Henderson. If he looks again very carefully at what he said, he will see that it is what Mr. Nicholas Henderson said Mr. Haig believed. All I can say is that, having talked to Mr. Haig at that time, and subsequently, he was even more surprised than I was at what the Argentines were doing.

I believe that the Franks Committee itself addresses attention to the differences between the situation in 1977 and early March 1982. In 1977 ambassadors had been withdrawn, Southern Thule had been occupied and shots had been fired at foreign warships. The situation was quite different in 1982. Indeed, the Franks Report also says that not to send warships at that time was a reasonable decision to take. If, of course, we had known what was going to happen in April, that is precisely what we would have done. But the conduct of foreign policy or, at any rate, the criticism of the conduct of foreign policy is always easier with hindsight. I believe that if on 5th March we had sent ships or even submarines to the Falkland Islands it would rapidly have become known, as indeed it did later on when we did send submarines, and the result would have been an end to any possibility of negotiation, and very likely the effect would have been to precipitate the situation which we wished to avoid.

There has been a great deal of talk about the lack of Overseas and Defence Committee meetings. I should like to say this. During the course of 1980 we had, as my noble friend the Leader of the House said, a very large number of meetings about the future of the Falkland Islands. We then made our decision, and that decision was to negotiate, if possible, with leaseback in mind. In the course of 1981 nothing whatever occurred to change that decision about negotiation. When leaseback seemed to be a dead letter, all my colleagues on the Defence Committee were informed, and informed of the proposal to seek to prolong negotiations by the means which I have described earlier in my speech.

During the course of 1981 and the beginning of 1982 I sent a number of minutes to my colleagues on the Overseas and Defence Policy Committee, keeping them abreast of what was happening. If any of them felt more discussion was necessary a telephone call to the Cabinet Office could have arranged a Defence Committee meeting. But my colleagues shared my view that nothing had happened during those months to alter our original decisions.

At the beginning of March, when things were beginning to be different, it seemed to be necessary to get the views of the islanders, and the response to the message I intended to send Mr Costa Mendes, before a meeting, otherwise my colleagues would not readily have been able to discuss and assess the Argentine position. Then, of course, the South Georgia incident intervened and we were obviously in a different situation. I believe that Overseas and Defence Policy Committee meetings are essential on occasions, but I think it is a mistake to assume that Government is best carried on in a perpetual committee meeting.

The rest of the story is well known and very fairly dealt with by the Franks Committee. Over a long period of years there are always things that might have been done better or differently. I dare say, for example, that noble Lords opposite, as they reflect upon their handling of the occupation of Southern Thule, might feel that they should have done things differently. If a committee of six distinguished Privy Councillors inquire minutely into the conduct of a Government department on a particular issue over a period of years, it would be very strange if they did not think that some things could be done differently. Indeed, I can think of no problems with which, in Government, I have been connected, whether in Africa, the European Community, the Budget or the Middle East, on which this committee, if it reported, would not have found some ways in which there might have been improvement. But I do not think that the Government or the Foreign Office came out of this with discredit.

I have only three other very short things to say. One or two noble Lords have queried my resignation. Those of your Lordships who have longish memories may perhaps recollect an interview which I gave on the night I resigned. In the course of that interview I said that, given the information that we had at that time, I did not believe that the Government or I had mishandled the sitution, or that we should have done differently. Nine months later, and with the benefit of the Franks Committee, I do not really honestly think that I can say that I would have done anything of substance differently. But there was an indeniable feeling in this country that Britain's honour and dignity had been affronted. The governor of a British territory had been forcibly removed. An alien flag had been raised over an occupied population. The wide sense of outrage and impotence was understandable, and I was at the head of the Foreign Office. It did not seem to me a time for self-justification and certainly not to cling to office. I think that the country is more important than oneself.

The second reason is linked to the first. Argentine actions had made war a strong possibility. One does not enter a war amid a welter of recrimination about who was responsible. As I said at the time, I did not accept the criticism levelled at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and myself, but I did accept the responsibility of my position at the centre of a controversy which could have been damaging to this country at a time of national emergency.

There had been a highly charged debate in the House of Commons. The press was all but unanimous in calling for my resignation. Perhaps it would not be putting it too strongly to say that it was baying for blood. I make no complaint about that. When something of this nature happens it is human nature to turn round and blame the man in charge, although perhaps I might be allowed to say that the reputations of some of those instant critics would not have been significantly damaged if they had suspended sentence until they had learned the facts.

I believed then, as I believe now, that my resignation would put an end to those recriminations and that we could go forward united in our task. That was not a particularly easy decision for Mr. Atkins, Mr. Luce or myself, but I believe that our resignations did precisely have the effect we hoped for. Unfortunately, it did not stem the tidal wave of unjustified criticism directed at the Foreign Office. My Lords, if you were to ask me what I found most unpleasant about the whole of this affair, I would say it has been the way in which some Members of Parliament and some journalists have never ceased to vilify the Foreign Office. One allegation is that the Foreign Office is always seeking to act contrary to the wishes of the people of this country and to promote some sinister policy of its own. The Franks Committee disposes of that with regard to the Falkland Islands. I should like to put on record that in all the dealings I have had with officials on the two occasions that I have been in the Foreign Office, the issues, the alternatives and the options have always been presented to me with scrupulous fairness and objectivity. When decisions are taken they are the responsibility of Ministers, and it is Ministers who should be blamed, not those who are carrying out their decisions.

If I may say so, it seems to me that there are some in Parliament and in the press who actually seem to believe that there is something disreputable or even treacherous in trying to seek agreement with foreign Governments. It is their view that to negotiate is a sign of weakness—even when the settlement of a problem is in the interests of both sides and designed to prevent a situation arising which is detrimental to the political and economic interests of this country. They carry chauvinism and insularity to such a degree that one almost feels they disapprove of anyone in the Foreign Office talking to a foreigner. Negotiation, it seems, is feebleness and unpatriotic. But the alternative to negotiation is confrontation. In general, confrontation is not in the interests of this country, is extremely expensive and very often in the long run leads to war.

I must say, frankly, that I believe those who have spent the last nine months abusing the Foreign Office do little credit to themselves and much damage to the national interest. For those who travel abroad know that foreign Governments are envious of the professionalism, skill and expertise of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Those of us politicians who have worked with them know that there is no more dedicated or patriotic or skilful body of men in England; and I am overwhelmingly resentful of these unjustified criticisms, which are more revealing about the critic than they are about the criticised.

Lastly, I would like to say just one word about where all this leads us. The Falklands crisis has been both good and bad. It is bad because we have got ourselves—through no fault of our own—into the position which successive Governments have sought to avoid. We are committed, and unavoidably and rightly committed, to spending large sums of money and to accepting a distortion of our defence policy. It is inevitable, and we have to accept that for the foreseeable future. Numbers of our fellow countrymen have been killed or severely wounded—and that is a sadness which even victory cannot eliminate.

But, my Lords, there has been good. I wonder whether a year ago our fellow countrymen knew to what standard of excellence the defence services of this country had been trained and had reached. Surely no praise can be too high for the skill and bravery and efficiency of our armed forces. And let it not be forgotten that, without the formidable administrative capacity of the services, no task force would have put to sea at such short notice, and the incredible difficulties of the logistics of fighting a war 8,000 miles away might well have caused disaster. I believe that their success has been because they are professionals and volunteers, and not conscripts.

With the success of the British forces has come a national pride and a belief that, when called upon to do so in what we believe to be not only our interest, but in the interests of the defence of civilised conduct, we can react with courage and resolution and efficiency. There has been a resurgence of belief in ourselves and a respect abroad, even from those who find our conduct puzzling or are opposed to our way of life. There is a lesson to be learned from that. We should not retreat into our island home believing that we can, as a result of the Falklands, ignore the rest of the world. We should not be tempted into believing that we in this country are not part of Europe and the Western world with an obligation and a duty to play our part in settling the many problems on the international scene; of trying to impose rationality on chaos and discord. There is much to do, and our aim should be to continue to resolve differences by genuine negotiation.

My Lords, if all of this has given us confidence in ourselves and our traditions, then let us use it to promote sanity and good sense, and a sense of proportion abroad. If we can do that, then lasting good will have come out of these sad events.

Noble Lords

Hear, hear!

5.5 p.m.

Lord Chalfont

My Lords, it is a very great privilege indeed to follow the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, in this debate, and I think that most of your Lordships will agree that his speech today has been yet another example of the dignity and the integrity which have characterised his behaviour throughout the whole of this momentous episode.

As the noble Baroness the Lord Privy Seal has said, I was the first British Minister to visit the Falkland Islands in the 1960s and to see the beginning of the chain of events which led eventually to this tragic war. I am bound to say that I intervene in this debate today, having read the report of the Franks Committee, with a profound sense of sadness, because it seems to me that since the 1960s successive Governments have, for one reason or another, failed to implement policies which they clearly perceived to be both wise and desirable. I wonder why it is that they failed to implement those policies? It is true that sometimes they were faced, as the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, has said, with a small but vociferous lobby, but this cannot have been the only reason.

The report of the Franks Committee is, as one would have expected given the committee's composition, an honest, perceptive and valuable report. I find myself at odds with those who say that the analysis of the Franks Report does not lead to its conclusions, or is at variance with its conclusions. It seems to me that there is nothing inconsistent in the analysis of the Franks Report with the main conclusions which it reaches.

However, I want today, for the brief time that I shall address your Lordships' House, to spend as little time as possible in the past. There are others here with a legitimate political interest in examining the events which led up to the war in the Falkland Islands and in learning the lessons which come from that analysis.

The committee of Lord Franks was not required to look into the future: we are required to look into the future. There is an important starting point, as the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, has just underlined. We have had a war. I believe, as he does, that the Government were right to take the action that they took once the Argentine Government had taken the step of invading the Falkland Islands. Indeed, I do not believe that any Government interested in preserving the credibility of this nation could have done other than they did.

But in that war, as the noble Lord has just mentioned, over 250 of our men gave their lives, and they cannot speak today. If they could speak to us I think that perhaps the message that they would send across the world to your Lordships' House might be in the terms of that famous poem of Housman which many of your Lordships, I am sure, know by heart. It appears in Lord Wavell's anthology, Other Men's Flowers. It says: Here dead we lie, because we did not choose To live and shame the land from which we sprung. Life, to be sure, is nothing much to lose But young men think it is, and we were young". That is the message of young people through the ages who have given their lives in great causes. It is a message that was put another way on the memorial for the Battle of Kohima in North Burmah where many people in your Lordships' House today left, as I did, comrades behind. The inscription carved on that monument simply says: When you go back, tell them of us and say 'For your tomorrow, we gave our today' ". It is tomorrow that I believe is the direction in which we should now be looking, not yesterday. So far as possible let us have no sterile apportionment of blame for this or that mistake, for this or that alleged failure of perception. Above all, let us ensure that the men who did not come back from the Falkland Islands did not die for nothing.

But how are we to do that? It is easy to say that their memory must be honoured, but we now have to face the realities of a foreign policy which, in its problems, is very much the same as the dilemma that faced us before the war. To that extent nothing much has changed. We have heard again today much about the policy of Fortress Falklands, a policy which successive Governments rightly rejected as the preferred solution to the problem, and yet it is the policy which we are now obliged to pursue. I think it right that we should understand what that policy means.

It means spending hundreds of millions of pounds a year on extra defence commitments. Whether you calculate the cost in its total terms or in its incremental terms, we shall have to spend hundreds of millions of pounds more a year out of our gross domestic product than we have spent before. We must add to that the fact that if the islands are to be defended, they must presumably be economically developed as well. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, in his excellent report has told us that in order to do that we shall need to spend something of the order of £35 million to £40 million extra over a period of five years. But over and above all that, as the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, has mentioned—and he mentioned it in the context of rejecting the Fortress Falklands policy—it means a fundamental distortion of our defence effort. It means that forces and equipment and resources that should be deployed elsewhere in order to meet the main threat to our freedom will now have to be devoted almost entirely to the defence of the Falkland Islands. This is what is involved in keeping those islands economically viable and militarily safe.

Now we can do that; we have demonstrated already that we are a nation that can make sacrifices when we are called upon to do so. Indeed, some might think that the Fortress Falklands policy is a small price to pay to repay the sacrifices of those who went to the war. But does it really make sense in the long term? Can we really sustain this policy? The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, in his report said—and I paraphrase it—that it is inconceivable that we should contemplate a long term policy in which 3,000 soldiers continuously defended 1,800 islanders. Of course, we then have to ask ourselves—if we believe, as I do, that Fortress Falklands is not an intelligent policy for the long-term—what are the alternatives? As many noble Lords have said in your Lordships' House before and as I am sure many others will say again today, there can, of course, be no question of immediate negotiations on this issue with Argentine. The bitterness of the war is still too vivid in people's minds; the loss and the bereavement of the families of the men who died there is too much alive to allow any Government of any complexion at this stage to revert to the negotiating table with Argentina.

But, again, I refer to the report of the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, whose experience of these matters was so valuably represented in both the reports which he made. One of his conclusions was—and it is a thread that runs through both his reports—that in the long-term there can be no successful, prosperous and viable future for the Falklands Islands except in the context of understanding and good relations with Argentina. There must, of course, be preconditions to any further talks with anyone about the future of the Falkland Islands. First, there must be the acceptance of a formal end to hostilities, which the present Government of Argentina seem reluctant to concede. It would be a help if in that country there could emerge or re-emerge, as there has been in the past, a democratic Government to replace the somewhat oppressive military régime which exists there at the moment.

However, having said all that, it is essential now, immediately, for the Government to begin to clear their mind and once again to set their long-term aims in the context of this dispute. There are many reasons why we must do this. The first concerns our own foreign policy and the need that we have to maintain good, friendly relations with the countries of Latin America. There is the foreign policy of our allies, not least the foreign policy of the United States of America, which gave us such much-needed and valuable assistance during the war in the South Atlantic. It may not seem easy to us to understand, but to many people in the United States of America, South America is a matter of much greater strategic and political importance than what goes on many thousands of miles away in Western Europe. Nevertheless, there are Americans who are now beginning to believe that, and if we continue to refuse indefinitely—as apparently some people would like to do—to re-enter the field of international diplomacy on this issue, we shall create frictions with our friends in Western Europe and with our allies in North America, which will militate against the one thing of which we must never lose sight, which is the maintenance of our defences against the real threat to our security and our survival.

The threat does not come from Latin America; it does not come from the South Atlantic. It comes from where it has always come: from an expansionist and aggressive Soviet Union. If we allow ourselves to take our eyes off that ball in the interests of maintaining some kind of—and perhaps I may borrow the word from the noble Lord, Lord Carrington— chauvinistic view of the future of this problem, then I think we shall be treading a very dangerous path indeed.

It is not for me here to attempt to specify how the solution will eventually be found. Whether transfer of sovereignty and leaseback is any longer a feasible solution, I do not know. It may be that the events of last year have placed that out of court. It may be that we shall have to look to some form of international solution to this problem. I speak not of a solution under the auspices of the United Nations, but rather of a solution in which those countries most involved in the future of the Falkland Islands should take a part—those who are involved and interested, not only in their economic prosperity and their survivability, but in their strategic importance as well: the United States of America as well as ourselves and Argentina, and perhaps other countries of Latin America also. It may be in that direction that we shall have to look for a solution—for a solution must be found. Those who know Argentina know perfectly well that their defeat in this recent war will not change one whit their belief in the rightness of their claim to the Falkland Islands. We may contest that; we do rightly contest it; but that does not alter the fact that they will continue to press it.

Therefore, whatever solution the Government eventually decide upon I hope, echoing the words of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, that in arriving at that decision they will place great value indeed upon the advice of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. I believe, like the noble Lord who preceded me, that the officials of that organisation have been dealt with in a thoroughly unpleasant and disreputable way when they have, in my own personal experience, never in my view ever had anything in their minds but the good and the future interests of this country. They are, as the noble Lord has said, among the most dedicated, loyal and patriotic people in this country.

Whatever solution the Government decide upon I hope that they will now pursue it openly and courageously. I hope that they will not be forced off course by vociferous minorities either at home or abroad, or on any side of the political spectrum. It was an Israeli Minister who once said, "Politicians may be relied upon to make wise, intelligent and statesmanlike decisions—having first exhausted all other alternatives". All the other alternatives in this case have now been exhausted, including the alternative forced upon us, let us remember, of a wasteful and bitter war.

Therefore, it is for us not to apportion blame. But I should like to say one thing in conclusion and it is this: when I came back from the Falkland Islands and from Buenos Aires in 1968 I reported to my colleagues that in the absence of a negotiated settlement there would, sooner or later, be a war with Argentina. I say that again in your Lordships' House today. That is something else that has not changed.

In conclusion, those who fought in this war—and they, after all, are the most important actors in this drama—and especially those who did not return, will have been cruelly betrayed if any Government of this country of any political complexion in the future, either through lack of resolution, lack of courage, or lack of foresight, allow anythig like this to happen again.

5.23 p.m.

Lord Home of the Hirsel

My Lords, I must ask the forgiveness of the Leader of the House and, in particular, the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham. Months ago I made an arrangement to be outside this House this evening, and I am afraid I cannot break it, and I must ask for their understanding. I do not think I have ever been guilty before in this connection; I hope I shall not be guilty again.

I think the truest words in the report of Lord Franks were that there is nothing simple about the Falkland Islands affair. Those words would be fervently echoed by any Foreign Secretary, or any Foreign Office official, who carried any responsibility for the matter over all these years. No one—and this has been plain from what every speaker has said—can feel any satisfaction about the whole business as it has run its course, for the reason of course that we were dealing with an apparently irreconcilable difference: the Argentines' determination to acquire sovereignty of the islands, and the islanders' refusal to concede it. In the circumstances of a clash of opposites what should the Foreign Office, the department of state most concerned, be expected to do? To accept the deadlock and, by implication, the inevitability of confrontation—a word which my noble friend Lord Carrington has properly used—or to use all the arts of diplomacy and honourable conciliation to prevent a dispute degenerating into war?

I recall a memorandum written for the Cabinet in 1937 by Sir Orms Sergent, a highly placed official of the Foreign Office, when the officials in the Foreign Office were supposed to be hostile to the Government of the day's attempts to conciliate so far as Germany was concerned. He wrote: The fundamental idea is that the ex-Allied powers should come to terms with Germany in order to remove grievances by friendly arrangement and the process of give and take, before Germany takes the law into her own hands". In those few lines is expressed the essence of diplomacy. In any dispute it is obligatory, and particularly in a democracy, to explore every means to find a modus vivendi, steering a course between precipitate action which will prematurely and unreasonably rupture conciliation, and appeasement which could be interpreted by a potential enemy as weakness amounting to an invitation to aggression. When dealing with dictators that is not an easy equation to strike.

What were the interests of the islanders for whom Britain was, and is, a trustee? Quite clearly we had to try to secure for them a relationship with Argentina which respected their freedoms. When I held some responsibility in this matter now 10 years ago it looked as though the Argentine Government might be willing to act within the rules of international behaviour and woo the islanders to their point of view. There were distinct advantages for the islanders to be gained, and the programme began. Investment in better communications; increased trade; the children of the islanders were given facilities for education on the mainland; travel documents were simplified and reduced to a minimum.

I do not believe that the Foreign Office can be blamed for seeking to extend those contacts when the alternative was hostility and boycott which could have made life for those on the islands intolerable, if not untenable. That was the basic dilemma which was faced by Governments of which I was a member, and inherited by one Government after another. The question which every Government had to ask was, where did the real interests of the islanders lie?

Placing the interests of the islanders first, the answer, on balance, always was in a negotiated settlement with the Argentine, provided the islanders' wishes on sovereignty were respected. When the options narrowed for the Government of which the noble Lord, Lord Stewart, was a member, and others on that side of the House, and for the Conservative Government which followed, were the Secretary of State of the day and the Foreign Office justified in continuing negotiation and discussion despite the narrowing of the options? I think so, my Lords. Condominium was a possibility. Leaseback was certainly a possibility. It may be a handicap but in a democracy if a people are to be asked to go to war all the cards of conciliation and compromise must be seen to have been played, and one of these was leaseback. My noble friend explained the reason why he could not pursue that issue. In the circumstances, I think he was right. But for better or for worse, it was Parliament who took the decision in effect that leaseback should be dropped out of the programme of negotiation.

It is useless now—the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, said this and it has been endorsed by everybody—to try to pursue any specific proposals for settlement and agreement. My noble friend Lord Chalfont said the climate had to change, but he also said there would be a tomorrow. That is true, and in that tomorrow, at some time—although I do not agree that the Government should define the policy now; it is too early for that—a political solution to this problem will have to be found. If it is not, there will, as he said, be another war.

There are, no doubt, some things that could have been done differently. If mistakes were made, I think they were concentrated in the final months in the rather twilight area between the Department of Defence, the Foreign Office and Intelligence, about which I shall say a brief word in a moment. But I cannot share the view of some of the critics that the Franks Committee were mealy-mouthed or weasel-worded about the Government's action and the conduct of diplomacy. I found the report fair and well-balanced.

I echo what my noble friend Lord Carrington said about the Foreign Office and the service it has given to the nation. The diplomatic performances of Sir Nicholas Henderson and Sir Anthony Parsons were beyond praise, and it is perhaps worth noting that those two gentlemen came from the same stable as Mr. Ure and the others who were handling the negotiations before the crisis broke. There has been some criticism, too, of a lack of contingency plans. I should be very surprised if contingency plans were not there, considering the miracle of what was achieved by the Quarter-master's Department of the services when they sent, in 21 days, a force of that magnitude out that distance and were completely successful in that.

Before I resume my seat perhaps the House will allow me one reflection about the security service. When I went to No. 10 Downing Street in 1937 with Mr. Neville Chamberlain, I noticed that there was virtually no coherence in the form in which intelligence was brought to the notice of the Prime Minister. It came in fits and starts and it was almost impossible to construct from the pieces a convincing picture of the relevant scene. Changes were made, and of course by the end of the war the service was a highly efficient machine; anyone who has read Sir John Masterson's book The Double Cross will remember how at the end of the war the German secret service was mostly working for us.

When, therefore, I went to the Foreign Office later on I took a particularly close look at how the organisation of intelligence had developed. I watched the operations of intelligence through a series of crises—Berlin, Suez, Cuba, Rhodesia, Belize and so on—and I concluded that the Government of the day were well served by the Joint Intelligence Committee, though I had one doubt. That was whether intelligence arriving at the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence was sufficiently interpreted and co-ordinated on its way to the Prime Minister. Obviously the Franks Committee share that doubt.

However, I am glad to see—and I think that, on the whole, there will be an improvement—it says it is necessary to be cautious in reforms of so sensitive a service. The Americans inflicted a near mortal blow to their Central Intelligence Agency in the name of open government and we do not want to fall into that kind of error. I think that, on the whole, the case is proved for the chairman of the JIC not to be distracted by the business of a large department but to devote his mind entirely to acquainting Ministers, and the Prime Minister in particular, with the particular situation that he has found to exist at a particular time.

We have not reached the end of the Falkland Islands saga and we shall not do so until some sort of democracy returns to the Argentine. However, at this time I join with those who have welcomed the care with which Lord Franks has dealt with the main issues of Government responsibility in relation to the war and the sensitivity with which he and his colleagues have approached the role of departments of state which, make no mistake, are very valuable to the efficient and proper conduct of the affairs of our country.

5.36 p.m.

Lord Shinwell

My Lords, we have enjoyed, if that is the appropriate word, a wonderful spate of oratory, with contributions from some of our most distinguished parliamentarians. The question that occurs to us would seem to be: what is the purpose of this debate? I suppose it is to consider the Franks Report. Inevitably, we expected the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, to return to the House. I hope it does not cause him any embarrassment, coming from me, when I say that he is the one person who comes with complete and 100 per cent, credit out of this affair. There were some reservations in regard to his speech; for example, his praise of the Foreign Office. My experience of the Foreign Office, when certain Foreign Secretaries were in charge, was that they were inclined to be dictatorial and argumentative—extremely so—and (to use a term that seems appropriate) excellent goal-keepers; one could never get the ball past them. Although Lord Carrington was not on trial—let that be clearly understood—he leaves the court without a stain on his character. So having asked the question as to the purpose of the debate, clearly it is to inquire into the Franks Report, with all its details.

The noble Baroness the Leader of the House tried to conceal the obvious paradox, and it is one which often occurs. She tried to convey to noble Lords that the Government were in no way to blame for the Argentine invasion and that they never anticipated the affair occurring. In that case, the realistic question which must be asked is this: why come to the House and ask us to note the Franks Report? If the Government really believe that the report is frank and realistic—with some reservations that are obvious in almost every report that is submitted to both Houses of Parliament—they should have asked us to approve it, 100 per cent. of it; but they have failed to do so, and that is the paradox. They want to defend the Government and at the same time are afraid to put the question to the House and to the country, probably because they were aware that had the country asked the question—had we asked the question and expected an answer and the Government expected an answer—we would refer to all the reservations that are included in the small print—I repeat, the small print—in the Franks Report.

I do not want to criticise the Franks Report, beyond what I have said about reservations in the small print, because it was impossible for the Franks Committee to do anything other than they did. But that is not the question that we should be considering, which is: did nobody in the Government know anything about the intentions of the Argentine junta? We had an ambassador in Buenos Aires, a military attaché and we had the intelligence staff available, We could have had spies—I suppose there were some in the South Atlantic, as there are in Russia. With all the intelligence at our disposal, all the staffs available, the Foreign Office included, and members of the Government also, we were unable to anticipate the intentions of the Argentine junta. It just happened. I do not accept it at all. I am certain that they were aware that something of the kind was going to happen. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, referred in the course of his activities—not here this afternoon —to when he was Foreign Secretary and referred to HMS "Endurance" and his intentions in that regard and what was likely to happen; that obviously indicated that there was some awareness, some suspicion, that something of the sort would happen.

I repeat: What did the ambassador do? What do we expect from our ambassadors? We pay them well, they are well looked after. I have attended some of their functions in other countries. We have those military attachés. What are they expected to do? Are they not expected to find out what is happening, what is going on? But they did nothing, nothing at all. I noticed that the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, did not attempt to defend them, just saying that the Foreign Office was 100 per cent, perfect. That I do not accept.

The question is: What are we going to do? Let us forget about the past. So far as our military achievement was concerned it was a wonderful affair. There were bravery, fortitude, courage, heroism, all the qualities we expect from our forces. That can be repeated over and over again. The Labour Party, with few exceptions, praises what our forces have accomplished. So much for that.

What about the future? That is the question. In the debate we had last week on this subject I ventured to suggest that we have come to no conclusion, just a temporary conclusion; in other words, we have a long way to go before we come to the end of the story. We have not reached the end of the story today in discussing the Franks Report. Far from it. It would be for the Government to act, but not to act in the way the Prime Minister has acted by going to kiss the babies in the Falkland Islands. It is all very fine and large but it does not take us very far when it comes to achieving some conclusions. If there is a conclusion in the mind of the Government, what do they intend? Do they intend to spend millions, even billions, in building up a garrison 8,000 miles away? In my opinion that is complete nonsense.

I say that with great regard and respect for the Falkland islanders. We do our best for them. I invite them to come to the Highlands of Scotland. They will get a better living there and be of more value to us and cost us less than it will cost if we try to promote a garrison with all the military strength that might be available at a huge cost that we cannot afford. This must be reckoned with. It is not altogether a matter of cost. I have said many times in your Lordships' House: never mind about the expense; if we have to fight we have to fight, but we will have the people to fight for us.

That is the situation. What is to be done about it? I do not trust the United Nations to solve the problem. Not at all. I do not trust the United States of America to solve the problem. They have plenty of problems of their own to solve, but I am quite satisfied that they were ambiguous about their intentions as regards the United Kingdom's attentions to the South Atlantic and the Falkland Islands. I would not trust them very far, either.

What are we going to do about it? I would suggest caution, prudence, hesitation. Do not let us rush our fences. Do not let us come to a conclusion too readily, too hastily, about what should happen in the Falkland Islands. We should spend a little money to make it more comfortable for those who are there. Many members of our forces are far from comfortable, and I know that the men of the Merchant Navy who have been assisting them, either on Ascension or the islands themselves, are far from adequately accommodated and looked after. There have been complaints about their situation, but these are the incidental matters. The question before us is, what are we going to do about the situation there?

We have been discussing this problem for a long time, 150 years or more. I have been asked the question recently, outside your Lordships' House, what did the Attlee Labour Government do about the Falkland Islands? The answer is, practically nothing, but for a very good reason —because we had other fish to fry. We had just emerged from a great war fought at great cost and we were bankrupt. We were not bothered very much about the Falkland Islands. We had South Korea to deal with. Incidentally, the situation in Korea is comparable to what is happening about the Falklands. Let me explain in a few words. I will not be long. When the United States was involved in North Korea and the United Nations was hesitant in coming to a decision about whether they would endorse the United States decision to fight—General MacArthur was involved up to the point where President Truman dismissed him—the Attlee Government did not consider them. But we at the Ministry of Defence were forced to do so. What was done? We could not alert the forces, either naval or military, without a decision and endorsement of the United Nations. But what we did—I remember it quite well—was to have a meeting of the chiefs of staff. I met with them and we considered the situation and anticipated that the United Nations would eventually endorse the decision of the United States of America. And so we alerted, with even the consent of the Cabinet, a brigade in the department itself. We did more than that. We decided to send the cruiser "Theseus" offshore the island in order to assist our forces. That was done.

Eventually the United Nations endorsed the United States decision to involve itself in military activities. That is what happened. It is comparable with what has happened recently. We suspected something would happen. So we acted, perhaps prematurely. Sometimes one has to act following one's suspicions and not because all the facts are available. That is all I think I need say because we have had a spate of oratory. Whether we shall come to any conclusion at the end of the debate, I do not know. Indeed, we cannot formally reach any conclusion, because we are only "noting" the Franks Report. And after we have noted it, what is going to happen? Is it going to be put into the wastepaper basket? What is going to happen to it? Is there going to be anything further done about the Foreign Office, about the intelligence staff, about espionage? Are all those matters going to be considered in order to secure us against a similar affair occurring in the future? I think that we are entitled to ask that question.

I should like to end on the following note. I have spoken very realistically, and perhaps almost offensively, to some Members of your Lordships' House on this matter. But I think that the time has come when we have to speak out, to say what we think about these matters. If it is to the Foreign Office, if it is to a member of the Government, if it is to Mrs. Thatcher, if it is to members of the Labour Party—whoever it is, it is about time that politicians on both sides of the House were a little realistic and were not afraid to talk. The time has come. Incidentally, if we want to make the House of Lords more popular than it is, it is desirable that we should talk in that strain. Having said that, I leave it to the rest of the orators to try to come to some conclusion about this matter, and if they do, I shall be very glad to hear it.

5.51 p.m.

Lord Kennet

My Lords, first, I wish to join with those noble Lords who have already congratulated the noble Lord, Lord Franks, and his colleagues on an extremely clear and well-organised report, and to say that I, too, am delighted to see the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, back among us—at least I was until he started to leave the Chamber—and to say how much I share his pleasure in the fact that the Franks Report has, in its appendix, conclusively nailed some of the more unpleasant rumours that were going around. I am sorry to have to tell the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, that I shall have more to say about his speech in a minute—but it will be in Hansard. Ah, I see he is returning.

Now that the initial surprise and euphoria have passed, everybody, and I suppose the Government, too, recognise that the Franks Report conclusions do not exonerate the Government. It concludes that the Government had no reason to believe that the invasion would take place at the beginning of April". Very well; but the Government had plenty of reason to suppose that it would take place some time soon. The air was thick with warnings that we could not go on negotiating about nothing much longer before there was an aggression. But nothing was done, and "Endurance" was ordered to be recalled.

The report asks, how did the situation become critical? That is its question—not in its terms of reference. Then it runs through how it became critical, and in that run-through there is much blame. Then it asks—once again its own formulation—how did the Government handle the dispute? Once again it runs through the history that it has already told, and in that run-through, too, there is a good deal of blame. Lastly it asks, Could the Government have prevented the invasion? It answers that with two striking formulations: first, that in effect there is no reason to think that if the Government had acted as the Franks Committee thinks they ought to have acted, the invasion would have been prevented; and, secondly, that no blame attaches to the Government for the Argentine junta's decision to commit its act of unprovoked aggression in the invasion of the Falkland Islands". Well, I do not think that we need a distinguished committee to tell us that. And as to not knowing whether wiser action would have prevented the aggression, of course not—one never can tell. But we should still have liked the wiser action.

The report gives a full account of the unwise actions. It blames the "Endurance" decision. It blames the way that the Government allowed the initiative in the negotiations to pass to Argentina, the way that the Defence Committee of the Cabinet did not discuss the Falkland Islands for 15 months, the way that the Foreign Office misjudged, and did not effectively brief Ministers—I am wherever possible quoting the words of the report—and the way that both the Foreign Office and the Defence Department did not respond promptly to the Prime Minister's inquiry. It blames the way that the Latin American Current Intelligence Group of officials met 18 times in eight months and never once discussed the Falklands. There is also some blame attached to the way in which during all that time the intelligence assessment itself was not updated. We are also told how military action should have been taken a week earlier; and so on.

The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, has based a characteristically brilliant and thorough speech on those criticisms, and others like them, though in the end it was perhaps not very constructive. Nobody could call the Franks Report a whitewash, and behind all that the committee itself seems to have harboured some questionable values of its own. In one place it speaks, on the same page, of the deep roots to Argentina's attitude towards the Malvinas and then, simply, of the "constraints" imposed upon the British Government by the wishes of the Falkland islanders". Fascist roots are not deep; they are air-roots. In a lean year they can be nourished only with bombast—and we know it. The wishes of the islanders were, and are, important; but even more important is the fact that what they wished for were the rights of free people.

I should like to turn to the future. The report can help us here because it shows, with such sad clarity, how the Government allowed their options to become narrower and narrower. Once it was clear that the Argentines were seriously pressing their claim to sovereignty, the Government wrongly accepted that there were only three things to do: Fortress Falklands; leaseback; or string along the Argentines by negotiating about nothing. The islanders, and the House of Commons, very properly in my view, rejected leaseback, and the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, very properly rejected Mr. Ridley's proposal for a great education campaign to get the islanders and the Commons to change their minds.

So since we, as has often been said, "couldn't afford" to keep "Endurance" there, the Government looked the dilemma in the face and decided to do nothing. They fell glumly back on stringing along the Argentines. But unfortunately the Argentines were better stringers-along than we were. We pretended that there was something to talk about. They pretended that they were not going to invade on 2nd April 1982. That is bound to raise the question of why our intelligence was so feeble at that time when, as the Franks Committee appears to show, it was so good a year or two before. So now we are left with Fortress Falklands for a while, willy-nilly.

But there was a fourth possibility all along, and it is still there. That is the possibility of an international solution. This indeed would need a great programme of public education before it could be launched, and that is where I shall start. The islanders and the House of Commons have not needed instruction in the history of the Falklands dispute, nor in their own duty. It is a section of world opinion that needs that, including of course Argentina and, regrettably, some other Latin American countries, too.

The Argentinian claim on the Falklands may indeed be deeply felt by many in that sad, nationalistic country, and some international lawyers may also be unable to put their hands on their hearts and say that there is nothing in it at all. But historically it is sheer antiquarian rubbish. The United Nations Charter has ruled out all such claims.

The Argentinian claim stems from two bulls issued by the Spanish Borgia Pope, Alexander VI, in the 1490s, and from declarations made by the Kings of Spain and Portugal based thereon. Those declarations were duly rejected by the Kings of England, and in the 1670s Spain recognised the British claim to everything that Britain then held in the Americas, though that did not of course at that time include the Falklands, which were uninhabited.

The only time that Argentina, or rather its precursor as an independent country, the United Provinces of the River Plate, has settled the Falklands was from 1826 to 1831, when they used it as a prison camp, reputedly for rebellious Patagonian Indians. In 1833 they were thrown off the islands, not by Britain but by the United States, and, as we all know, since then people of British descent have lived there peaceably and under increasing democracy, until they were attacked by the cruel and tyrannical Government of their great neighbour last year. The claim of Spain to South America was dynastic nonsense dignified by a Spanish ruffian on the throne of St. Peter, and the claim of Argentina to the Falklands is colonialist racist nonsense dignified by nothing whatever. It is colonialist because it would subject a free people living according to their choice to domination by an alien and unwelcome political system, and it is racist because behind it lies the claim that only successor states to the Spanish or Portuguese empires are legitimate while successor states to the British, French and Dutch empires are not.

We see this false claim being made in the Caribbean, too. We, and the black and brown people there, have been warned: at length. The Argentinian claim is also against the principles of the UN charter and the decolonisation procedures which flow from it. During the Falklands war I argued from this Bench that the whole apparatus of decolonisation, including the famous Resolution 1514, had, with the unnecessary agreement of the British Government, been turned on its head; and that we should have welcomed it with open arms and pointed out that, if anybody suffered from colonialism down there, it was the mainland Amerindians and not the Falklanders.

Now to get a Falklands solution we need international action, and to get international action we need to gain wider understanding among the nations of the world that the Argentinian claim is a false and romantic one, that nationalistic expansionism cannot now survive—either as "Greater Bulgaria", "Greater Guatemala" or "Greater Vietnam". We also need understanding that the resolutions of the United Nations must be observed in their obvious sense and no longer turned upside down. That is the great public education campaign that we need and, surely, we should look to the Government to begin it now in every international organisation, in the world's media, in negotiation with every country on every relevant topic and, above all, in the United Nations itself, before Argentina gets its breath back. I do not know why the Prime Minister rejected the General Assembly Resolution 37/9 at the end of the war with such contumely. The advantage of her rejection, however, is that Argentina is now standing by that resolution which in no way endorses Argentinian claims.

My Lords, I come now to the question of the solution itself that we might seek. What could it be? Many arrangements might be considered and I hope that they are. The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, proposed an American—not a Latin American or a South American, but a Pan American—arrangement. This is a possibility; but the one that looks most attractive to me would be to use the Antarctic Treaty in some way. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, said that no one till now has made any constructive proposal beyond the ones that the Government have tried and have failed.

The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, proposed in this House on April 29th last year—indeed, as he said, he has been proposing it for about 30 years—that the Antarctic Treaty should be extended to include South Georgia. I supported that proposal from this Bench. Though mine is a small voice, yet I did at that time make a constructive proposal; since, on May 20th, I went further and proposed that the Antarctic Treaty might be extended to include the Falklands Islands themselves. The idea has recently gained enormously in plausibility from the reported utterances of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, that it might be worth examining; and I am glad to see that it is running well in the press in general. I had hoped that the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, might endorse it again in this House today; but it is good to know that, even if fleetingly, a person of his unique knowledge, experience and authority should think it might be worth looking at.

Today, I should like to give the idea a little more flesh on its bones. The great merit of the Antarctic Treaty is that it would completely demilitarise the islands as it demilitarises Antarctica, and would freeze the claims to sovereignty over them, as it freezes all the conflicting claims to sovereignty on the Antarctic continent. The treaty can be modified at any time by unanimous agreement of all the signatories, which include, of course, both Britain and Argentina. There seems a fair chance that in time all the signatories, including the United States and Russia, may come to see it as an acceptable way of ending a dangerous conflict. Again, the treaty may, but need not, be the subject of a review and revision on the demand of any one signatory in 1991. But if the notion comes off, action should come under the unanimity clause far earlier.

There is one respect in which that treaty may not suit and which might point to an early amendment. That is, that where it is in force people are within the jurisdiction of the country of their own nationality. It may be that appeal to higher courts in London would be a difficulty. If so, perhaps the Falklands court itself could be given final jurisdiction despite the Falklands Nationality Bill we are at present taking through this House. Then, again, perhaps this will not be a difficulty at all. The Antarctic Treaty alone would probably not be protection enough for the islanders in their exposed situation. Where should we look for reinforcement but to the Charter of the United Nations itself and, in particular, to its trusteeship system?

Here, my Lords, I come to another positive proposal—which has been advanced before this time, for all Lord Carrington's negative impression. This idea was first proposed by my right honourable friend Dr. Owen in the House of Commons during the Falklands war itself last summer. Any territory can be voluntarily placed in UN trusteeship. That means that the actual proposal could come from Britain alone, although we should want to be confident of a majority in the General Assembly before proceeding. Sovereignty claims would be frozen under Article 80 of the Charter, just as they would be frozen under the Antarctic Treaty. Lawyers think that sovereignty probably gets altogether suspended when this happens, or perhaps it vests in the people themselves for as long as the trusteeship lasts. All the relevant international instruments would be frozen for the duration of the trusteeship. That is a belt-and-braces way of putting the sovereignty dispute into commission, where it can very well spend quite a few years.

Let me now quote from the article of the UN Charter which spells out the purposes for which a trusteeship may be set up. The first is, to further international peace and security". Right on the mark! Second is, to promote the political, economic, social and educational advancement of the inhabitants and their development towards self-government or independence, as may be appropriate to the particular circumstances of each territory and its peoples and to the freely-expressed wish of the peoples concerned". Thirdly, to encourage respect for human rights"; and, last, to ensure equal treatment in all social, economic and commercial matters for all members of the United Nations and their nationals". My Lords, it seems almost tailormade for our case. It even has self-government as well as independence. Could one do better? Moreover, each trusteeship has to have its own one-off agreement which can make any member state or member states of the UN the administrator, or it can be the United Nations Organisation itself. The General Assembly exerts remote but real control of everything.

Difficulties there would be. Some we can think of today and others, no doubt, would appear. It may well be that Argentina would not agree to anything like this, but if they reject it and maintain their objection it is unlikely that they will get much support from other members of the UN; and the less support they get, the safer the islanders will be—even if the arrangement does not come to fruition.

My Lords, the Prime Minister carried through the campaign with great courage and vigour. We on this Bench told the Government at the time that they had our support for the campaign. We also said that that did not mean that we were satisfied about how we got into the campaign. Well, the Franks Report has told us what we all expected—one big sin of commission, the "Endurance", and many smaller ones of omission. The war has not changed the sovereignty dispute. Indeed, the Prime Minister has come up once more with our old friend: "There is no alternative"—this time to Fortress Falklands; the South Atlantic TINA. But there is an alternative; there always was. The Government have glumly and myopically painted themselves into a corner. What the country needs now is some imagination and an eye for new solutions. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, ended his speech by praising negotiation as the only way to proceed in the international community. Perhaps trusteeship within the framework of the Antarctic Treaty could be something to negotiate towards.

6.10 p.m.

Lord Carver

My Lords, may I first make an apology to the Leader of the House and to the noble Lord, Lord Stewart, that, owing to a long-standing engagement some way out of London, I shall not be able to be here in the early hours of the morning when the debate comes to an end. I find myself very much in agreement with my noble friend Lord Chalfont on this issue. I had hoped that this debate would not be an occasion on which we would rake over the ashes; that we could avoid recrimination, not make party political points, and, above all, look to the future. It is a tragedy of the Falkland Islands issue that party politics have not done it much good. It has been the case—and I have seen it—in both Labour and Conservative Administrations, which have attempted to follow through all these years exactly the same policy, that when they reached the point at which they thought they had found a possible solution to this very difficult problem which could be acceptable to the islanders themselves, they then had to face the political reality that it would be exploited against them by the Opposition—and this was true in both cases—and they could not be certain of the support of their own party, certainly not a majority of it. Annex F to the report makes this point horrifyingly clear.

The campaign—brilliantly conducted, as has been said—very successfully achieved its aim of removing the Argentine armed forces from the Falkland Islands. Our armed forces are justifiably proud of what they did and they are very grateful for the national, and indeed international, recognition that they have received. But we have to face the awkward fact that it has not actually solved the problem. We are still faced with the three options of policy which were pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, in September 1979 to his colleagues (which is related in paragraph 73 of the report): first, a Fortress Falklands policy; secondly, a policy of negotiating, but not seriously, on sovereignty; and, thirdly, substantive negotiations on sovereignty. The second policy of negotiating but not on sovereignty was a policy of Mr. Micawber's, and what turned up was rather nasty. So, willy-nilly, we are at the moment pursuing the policy of Fortress Falklands.

Can we contemplate that as a permanent policy? Prudent chiefs of staff, including myself in the past, have always been reluctant to send forces somewhere in response to a Foreign Office request to meet what appeared to be a temporary threat. They were reluctant because they knew very well that if they sent forces it would be very difficult to take them away or reduce them, because any reduction or removal of those forces would be justifiably said to be a signal to the other side that they could now do what those forces were sent there to prevent them doing. That perhaps was what lay behind the reluctance of the Ministry of Defence to face this fact very quickly, as is expressed in a paragraph in the report which says that the Ministry of Defence did not react as quickly on 25th March as the Franks Report would have expected.

I was Chief of the Defence Staff in February 1976 when the first report, which was referred to by the Leader of the House and is referred to in paragraph 47 of the Franks Report, was presented to the Defence Committee on what would be required as a permanent garrison, what would be involved, and the problems of sending forces there and dealing with an invasion. One of the important points which must have been very much in the mind of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, at the time was that the moment you decide to send any force, the other side could always get there first and could represent to the world that he was merely reacting to what you were doing. That is very important to bear in mind.

It is perhaps appropriate at this moment to comment on HMS "Endurance". I am afraid that the whole issue of "Endurance" is a casualty of the infighting and tactics of reductions in public expenditure in Whitehall and, specifically, in the Ministry of Defence. "Endurance" was offered up in 1974, I know; "Endurance" was offered up by the Navy, and a few other things too which perhaps it would not be tactful to mention, because it was seen —rightly— as not being a high priority so far as defence was concerned. If it was then met with comments from the Foreign Office that it was thought to have a great political importance—and I expect it came from my noble friend Lord Greenhill, who was sitting in front of me at the time—the Ministry of Defence answer would be, "Well, if the Foreign Office think it is so important, they should pay for it". I am afraid that "Endurance" was a casualty of that in-fighting. In retrospect, one should recognise that it probably would have been right at that time for the Foreign Office to have suggested that the Prime Minister insist that whatever the Ministry of Defence might think—and even though "Endurance" appeared to have no real defence capability—it should have been retained. Let us remember that "Endurance" was not withdrawn. "Endurance" was there and had not the slightest effect upon the invasion.

Now we are in the position that prudent chiefs of staff always try to avoid. We are in a Fortress Falklands situation. Surely, we cannot contemplate as permanent such an absurd disproportion between the defence effort and the actual United Kingdom interests involved. To defence effort you have to add economic subsidy that a Fortress Falklands policy involves. No other citizens of this country or of its dependencies have in the past or do now receive that kind of support on anything like that scale.

An important point which has not yet been mentioned is that the longer that goes on and the more we put into it, both for defence and for subsidy, the more the population will become dependent on both, and the more difficult it will then become ever to withdraw any element of support. As the Shackleton Report made abundantly clear, a civil air link is essential for both social and economic reasons. I shall quote what it said: Without a regular air service, many of the proposed future changes to and possible development of the economy will be impossible to realise. It is probable that such a situation would also be unacceptable to many of the existing population. It is surely very unlikely that one would be able to establish a satisfactory civil air service without Argentine co-operation. However distasteful it is to consider it, there is no alternative to consideration of some solution to the sovereignty issue which will satisfy Argentine amour-propre. The report relates very clearly how difficult that has been. It is much more difficult now from the point of view of both sides. It is clearly not possible even to begin to consider it until after the next general election. But my plea to the Government is that they should not do or say anything which will make the issue even more difficult than it already is.

6.20 p.m.

Lord Soames

My Lords, I should like, if I may, first to say what a pleasure it was to me, and I know it would have been to so many of your Lordships, to hear the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, again. It must be a great relief to him that this report is out and he can speak his mind again, which he did this afternoon to such good effect.

The Falklands war was described in another place as an unnecessary war. The Franks Committee was not asked to pass an opinion on that. They were asked to pass an opinion on the limited aspect of whether the Government had fulfilled their responsibilities in the events leading up to the war, but not on whether it was avoidable. Nevertheless, certain themes which recur again and again in the report concerning the years 1965 to 1982 bear upon this aspect and should, I believe, give cause for thought.

The first theme is that from the early days of the dispute successive British Governments, Labour and Conservative, came to decide that it was in this country's interests to resolve the dispute with the Argentine over the Falklands. Accordingly, each successive Government took the view (a) that it was necessary to negotiate with the Argentine Government on the future of the Falklands; (b) that they would seek a sovereignty freeze for 30 years or more; but (c) should this option prove unattainable (which, incidentally, it did consistently over the years), then other ways should be sought for reaching agreement on the key question of the transfer of sovereignty.

Evidence of this can be found in the deliberations and actions of Governments. First, in 1968 there was a visit to the Falklands by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont; and, again, in 1973 there was the Heath Government's proposal for a condominium, which was espoused afresh by the Wilson Government in 1974. Then there was the recognition by the Callaghan Government in 1977 that the only possible conclusion ultimately would be some form of leaseback arrangement—a conclusion which was equally arrived at by the present Government, and which led to the visit of Mr. Ridley to the Falklands in the hope of convincing the islanders that leaseback was in fact in their long-term interests.

So the report makes it abundantly clear that Governments of both colours under four different Prime Ministers between 1965 and 1982 all independently concluded, after careful examination of all the facts available to them, that it was in the national interest to arrive at an agreement with Argentina on the future of the islands, including the question of sovereignty. One is left with the impression that had any of those Governments felt able to negotiate freely along these lines they might have been successful. One can say no more than that, because they never did. But it is worth while asking oneself why they never did—a question to which the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont addressed himself—

Lord Gladwyn

I did.

Lord Soames

My Lords, and Lord Gladwyn, yes. But as the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, has said "I did", may I say that I was looking up all the relevant Hansards in years gone by, and perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, might refresh his memory of what he said from time to time on those occasions. I think it is a good and necessary exercise to consider why successive Governments did not feel able to proceed with substantive negotiations. Indeed, it seems to me to be infinitely more relevant to the debate in front of us rather than to the detailed matters like the timings of ministerial meetings or the dates of despatch of Her Majesty's ships. Indeed, my hunch is that the Franks Committee came to feel like-wise— that this was really the key to the matter. Why, then, did Governments not proceed with their intentions?

The second theme running through the report is the extent to which Governments have been inhibited from pressing forward with the purposeful negotiations. It comes out quite clearly in the report, the fact of repeated refusals by the islanders themselves to co-operate and by Parliament to support Governments. For instance, in paragraph 22 of the report we read this: and in March 1967"— it goes back as far as that— the British Government for the first time said formally to Argentina that they would be prepared to cede sovereignty over the Islands under certain conditions, …On 27 February 1968 the unofficial members of the Council of the Falkland Islands sent an open letter to all Members of Parliament stating that negotiations were proceeding between the British and Argentine Governments 'which may result at any moment in the handing over of the Falkland Islands to the Argentines'. There were strong protests in Parliament and in the press, and the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, Mr. Stewart, and other Foreign Office Ministers made clear on several occasions that there would be no cession of sovereignty against the wishes of the Islanders. That is how it started—"against the wishes of the Islanders"—and very soon it became the position that the wishes of the islanders must be paramount. Then in November 1968 the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, paid a visit to the islands and on his return Statements were made to Parliament, in the other place and by the noble Lord in this House. These again got such a critical reception that the Cabinet decided at the time that they could not continue with negotiations on the lines that they wished to follow.

Then the Heath Government produced the idea of seeking agreement on a condominium, and after the 1974 election the Wilson Government, on the advice of the ambassador in Buenos Aires, decided to pursue this idea. So once again the islanders were consulted and once again they declined to co-operate. I would now direct your Lordships' attention to paragraph 30, which says: The subject of condominium was broached with the Argentine Government; but, in the face of the islanders' continuing refusal to participate, it was decided there would be no purpose in proceeding without them …". The next chapter of this aspect of the saga was a paper for the Defence Committee in July 1977 by the then Foreign Secretary, Dr. Owen. Paragraph 61 of the report tells us that it argued in advance of what was hopefully going to be a further round of talks on the same subject; and again I quote briefly: Broadly speaking, the Government's strategy was to retain sovereignty as long as possible, if necessary making concessions in respect of the Dependencies and the maritime resources in the area, while recognising that ultimately only some form of leaseback arrangement was likely to satisfy Argentina. It seems that in the event no substantive talks on sovereignty took place with the Argentine before the election in 1979. Why?—one asks oneself. This is not explained in the report. But we read that in September of 1979 my noble friend Lord Carrington, who by then had become Foreign Secretary, wrote a highly prescient minute suggesting the opening of substantive negotiations on sovereignty.

The next statement of importance to Parliament was made on 2nd December 1980. That was when Mr. Ridley, the Minister of State in the Foreign Office, reported on his visit to the islands, and the reception that he got—notably, by the official Opposition who, when they were in power a few years before, had been proceeding with exactly the same policy, but also by a number of members of the Conservative Party—was almost universally hostile. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Franks, thought it worthwhile publishing in full the exchange which took place in the House of Commons on that day. One lone voice was raised to question whether, perhaps, Her Majesty's Government were putting too much emphasis on the interests of 1,800 Falkland islanders as perceived by themselves, at the expense of the interests of 55 million people in these islands. Fifteen months later the Falkland Islands were invaded.

As your Lordships know well, the report is about the responsibilities of Government. It concludes that no blame can be attached and in vain, I think, will the Opposition in either House try to dredge up anything worthwhile to run counter to that, try as they will and, evidently, are doing. I would go further than that. I think history will show that no blame attaches to any Government between 1965 and 1982 about what they were trying to do in and about the Falkland Islands. I very much agree with the point which the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, made on this matter.

I do not think the responsibility will be judged to have rested with Governments. What about the responsibilities of opposition and what about the public attitudes of those who set themselves up as a parliamentary pressure group, in support of what the Falkland islanders perceived their interests to be? For this sad story shows that four successive Governments in turn, from 1965 to 1982—Labour, Conservative, Labour, Conservative—reached the same conclusion, that it was in both the British and the islanders' interests for the United Kingdom to reach an agreement with Argentina, including the issue of sovereignty. Yet, whenever they reported such intentions to Parliament, they were mauled by the party in opposition and others besides, who reacted with fury and apparent passion, despite the fact that when they had been in power they had espoused that very self-same cause and when they got into power later they returned to it.

I have read the relevant paragraphs of the Hansards which are referred to in the Franks Report and it seems to me that both parties, when in Government, desired the same thing. There is plenty of evidence about how successive Oppositions behaved, for each one complained of the Government of the day when different Governments said, "Let's go and talk to the islanders. Let's try to persuade them and convince them of what we think is in their interests. Let's try". When they did that, they were accused in Parliament of bringing pressure to bear upon the islanders and, as a result, found themselves under pressure to give what was, in effect, a veto to the Falkland islanders over this matter. They then, for 15 years, consistently declined to co-operate with any negotiating position which either Government, either Labour or Conservative, thought up. They would only agree to a freeze on sovereignty, which was never a runner.

Among the lessons that we should draw from this story are the advantages that flowed to the United Kingdom from the long tradition of a bipartisan foreign policy, which, in this matter of the Falklands, went by the board. But no party in this House—and if noble Lords were to read the Hansards referred to they would see that I am not referring to any one party, in particular, that was then in existence; obviously, I am not referring to anything that has come up since—will be able to say, "We were not guilty of this".

Before concluding, I must join my noble friends Lord Carrington and Lord Home in praise of the Foreign Office, which has been much castigated in recent times, both in Parliament and in the press, to the point where it seems to have become something of a fashion. I wish to say that, though I have never had the honour to serve in the Foreign Office as a Minister, all the jobs that I have had as a Minister in five departments of Government, and in three other jobs that I have held abroad, have all brought me into close and constant contact with the Foreign Office during the period stretching from 1951 to 1981, and I like to think that I know them well. It is my considered view that these people are of the highest possible standards, and that the Foreign Office are the finest department in the whole of Whitehall. I had experience of the Foreign Office and their activities when serving in the Commission in Brussels, and when I compare them with the Foreign Offices of many other countries they are, to say the least, second to none. This is made abundantly clear in the report that we are discussing today.

I noticed in the Hansard reporting Mr. Ridley's statement to the House, which is set out in the report, that one honourable Member said that for years the Foreign Office have wanted to "get rid of the Falkland Islands". In fact, this report shows that the Foreign Office did their job from beginning to end with great distinction, and that there was not a Government that came into power during that period that was not presented with a report setting out all the options which were open to them. The report equally shows that it was Ministers who took the policy decisions. The Foreign Office must have felt, from time to time, what a pity it was that Ministers, having conceived the policies, could not proceed with them. But they, of course, loyally and naturally, supported the Government all through and tried to find other means of achieving the same objective.

So, in my view, our national interest is in no way served by castigating the Foreign Office, and those who do so tend to do so because the Foreign Office recommend what they themselves do not happen to like or agree with. But that does not mean that the Foreign Office's opinion and advice was not both wise and right.

6.40 p.m.

Lord Greenhill of Harrow

My Lords, I share, with the majority of the House, the great admiration that there is for this lucid and comprehensive report. Having served on Lord Franks' staff in Washington and having known him for over 30 years, it came as no surprise to me. But I hope your Lordships will not consider me flippant when I say that the whole episode of the committee and the report reminds me irresistibly of the late Stanley Holloway's famous monologue, "Albert and the Lion".

Your Lordships will recall that Albert, the son of a certain Mr. and Mrs. Ramsbottom, was eaten by a lion when visiting Blackpool Zoo. Mrs. Ramsbottom was understandably indignant, refused an immediate financial settlement and insisted, in her words, that

"Someone has got to be summoned". The matter was therefore referred to a magistrate to examine all the relevant facts. Finally, after a full examination, the monologue concludes: "The magistrate gave his opinion that no-one was really to blame". The reaction of the House of Commons in the first week of April was the same as Mrs. Ramsbottom's: Someone had got to be summoned. And the conclusion of the Franks Committee is very much the same as the Blackpool magistrate's: No-one was really to blame. It will, I suppose, be considered a rather typically British outcome, but it is probably as nearly right as it is possible to be when almost 20 years of history and four successive Governments are under scrutiny.

There are one or two aspects of the report upon which I should like to comment, primarily on the basis of my experience in the Foreign Office from 1964 to 1973, under both Labour and Conservative Governments, and also from my service for some years as chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee. When I spoke in the debate here on 14th April last I said: … the present problems have in part been caused by lack of frankness by Governments of both parties in dealing with Parliament and with the islanders".—[Official Report; 14/4/82; col. 303.] I do not think the report in any way invalidates that view. Indeed, it confirms it.

May I perhaps be a little more explicit. When the cost of World War II came home to roost, and as our imperial status was reduced, a considerable number of small territories, mostly islands, were left still under our protection and responsibility—widely scattered in the Caribbean and in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. These territories were in reality no longer defensible with the resources available, and could have been taken over had any major or even medium power had the wish or the will to do so. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, will remember, as I do, that one territory, Anguilla, was nearly taken over by an independent adventurer.

The fact that we could no longer realistically contemplate the defence of these territories was not a conclusion it was pleasant to face. It was a matter for continued anxiety, and the realisation of the position may never, in my view, have been fully grasped by the public or by some Members of Parliament. In some cases—in fact, more often than not—the way out of the dilemma was eventually to grant independence to territories whose size and resources hardly justified it, and sometimes this independence by no means coincided with the wishes of a significant proportion of the inhabitants. As a result, these territories moved out of our responsibility and came under the umbrella, for what it was worth, of the United Nations.

But the Falklands were a special case, for several reasons. First, there was a foreign power which had long claimed sovereignty and which had significant military resources. Second, the geographical situation of the islands made them hard and, indeed, prohibitively expensive to defend. The report reveals how often the defence chiefs reiterated this over the years. Thirdly, and perhaps most significantly, the inhabitants were British, albeit the numbers of long-established residents were less than the inhabitants of a Cornish fishing village, or even a large comprehen-sive school. Nevertheless, although a most important principle was involved, their small numbers certainly raised the question whether their claim on our defence resources could be justified when we were being compelled to withdraw from the Far East and the Persian Gulf, areas of outstanding importance to us. Did a thousand people living overseas or, indeed, within this country have a right to such a share of our national defence resources? Fourthly, and lastly, the case of the Falklands was in the hands of an active and totally uncompromising lobby.

It is surely true that since 1964 the dilemma inherent in all this was never put effectively or with sufficient urgency by either party to Parliament or to the islanders. A recognition of this is revealed in the report, in which Ministers in the Foreign Office in particular referred to the need for public education when, I suspect, it was far too late. But the situation was not tackled by any Government, Labour or Conservative: and, sadly, in international affairs time is seldom a healer. Problems usually get worse rather than better if they are not squarely faced. The Falklands is a good example of that.

Politicians were, of course, not solely at fault, but I think your Lordships will recognise how inhibiting were the parliamentary constraints and how much they impeded a diplomatic solution. Successive Governments found themselves continually contem-plating or trying to negotiate solutions which had little chance of parliamentary acceptance, and they were reluctant to consider and explain the logical consequence of that fact.

It is perhaps legitimate to speculate whether, had the House of Commons Select Committee on Foreign Affairs existed in the 1960s and the early 1970s, the Falklands problem could have been better understood by Parliament, the public and the islanders. It is of course debatable whether a better parliamentary understanding would have permitted a diplomatic solution, given the character of the Argentine régimes. However, it cannot be doubted that it would have increased the number of diplomatic options available. For example, it would have enabled a leaseback to have been considered much earlier, when its acceptance might have been satisfactory to all parties.

On the question of what is called "crisis management" in the last months leading up to the invasion, I found it difficult to make up my mind, reading the report, but I was entirely convinced by the defence of his actions which Lord Carrington so eloquently made. No doubt there will be argument and dispute about this matter for years to come, but the case that he made seemed to me to be extremely convincing.

I am bound to say that the picture of ministerial and departmental relationships revealed in the report was not an entirely familiar one to me. I suspect that there was more informal, inter-departmental discussion of the problem than the report suggests; and I believe that there should have been greater reference to the distractions of the other important problems which the Foreign Secretary and the Cabinet had to consider.

Now may I turn to the report's observations on the Joint Intelligence Committee and the assessment staffs, which the Foreign Secretary has characterised as "a bit thin". I agree with him, although my first-hand knowledge stopped in November 1973. The JIC, as has been pointed out, is a Cabinet committee. It never has been a Foreign Office preserve, and the members of the assessment staff—which was an innovation brought in under the Foreign Secretaryship of the noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel—are seconded from different departments.

A suggestion is made about the desirability for a full-time chairman. This has been a topic of discussion for years, and the Government have now accepted it. I personally do not believe that it will affect matters too much one way or the other. The present so-called part-time chairman is engaged full-time in the assessment of intelligence from all sources, covert and overt, in his day-to-day work, and certainly used to be a member of defence department committees. The important point is that whoever is appointed should have more than a passing acquaintance with the whole scope of foreign affairs. He must have access, as he now does, not only to the product of the intelligence agencies but also to the whole flow of reports coming from overseas, both overt and covert. This includes the reports on the foreign press. All this is the daily bread of any senior Foreign Office official, and I was rather mystified by the references in the report to the fact that the committee did not seem to have considered overt reports.

The assessment of intelligence, in its widest sense, cannot be made from an ivory tower. It can come only from experience gained, so to speak, "on the shop floor"; from personal knowledge of foreign personalities and of the history and historical ambitions of foreign powers. It is not a detached academic exercise. The report also implies that the chairman should be independent and free from bias. In theory this seems sensible, but is it possible or necessary? It is as well to remember that it was in search of this theoretical impartiality and independence from established departments that the assessment branch of the CIA was originally set up. In practice it very quickly developed a strong, almost overwhelming departmental view of its own. I believe that it does not matter too much where the chairman of the JIC comes from provided he has practical experience and extensive knowledge, and understands that his parent department does not have a monopoly of wisdom. All in all, logic would point to a Foreign Office official.

Lastly, I am extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, and other noble Lords who have made flattering references to the Foreign Office. If the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, admires the Foreign Office, all I can say is that the admiration is strongly mutual. I am extremely glad, however, that the Franks Committee took action to kill the variety of stories and allegations which have been so widely canvassed during the period of waiting before the publication of the report. Obviously, in a matter of this importance the media were impatient for the truth; but in their impatience they played fast and loose with the reputations of persons and institutions. I hope that in time the detractors will try to make amends. There is a widespread tendency among what I call the "heads must roll" school of journalism to initiate clamour for official inquiries and then to reject the findings.

Finally, what will be the effect of the report on Whitehall as a whole? There will no doubt be changes and perhaps procedural improvements in the dealings between Ministers and civil servants and among civil servants themselves. There may also be a damaging loss of informality between departments and the growth of a bureaucratic recording of views and conversations. I hope that the people in the departments will have the strength of mind to resist this. In total, perhaps, the report will bring a little more discipline into public life and into the press, and for this it must be welcome.

6.56 p.m.

Lord Buxton of Alsa

My Lords, I wish to apologise to my noble friend the Leader of the House, to the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, and to your Lordships that unfortunately I have to leave soon owing to an inescapable longstanding engagement for which I am now already overdue. I will therefore cut what I had to say to absolute ribbons and will make only one or two points.

The Franks Committee did a superb job, and having been "grilled" by them I can only say that I was glad that I was not trying to pass an exam; I was given a keen impression of the way in which they got down to work and that they really understood this whole subject. In saying that, I believe that the committee was absolutely right not to attach any special blame to any quarter, because in my view the only alternative would have been to blame everybody. One must ask oneself: how was it that there was no trouble in the Falkland Islands for 132 years? This point was overlooked and never mentioned. For 132 years, there was no problem whatsoever. The answer is quite simple. In the first place, for 132 years we were resolute and firm and Argentina—which is a very strange place and a very strange country with a developing community—had not yet assumed an aggressive and oppressive spirit under its new-dictatorial leaders.

It was only when we became ambivalent for the first time, following the reference by Argentina to the United Nations in 1964 about bringing an end to the so-called colonialism in the Malvinas, that the rot set in. Had we dismissed that matter then and there, and taking into account that Buenos Aires Governments themselves have been the most callous colonialists in history, I sincerely believe that it could have been the end of the matter. But that was not so and it is no use dropping backwards. In my view, it is impossible to blame anyone since 1965, and no Government since have been able to retrieve the situation, phase or era of difficulties and impossible negotiations in which we find ourselves.

I want to say a word about leaseback. Before the invasion I supported the leaseback proposal, provided it was for 99 years. I had arguments with my friend the Argentinian ambassador in London and with Costa Mendez about the terms, and the bracket was roughly between 15 years and 99 years. I said so to Mr. Ridley before I went on my last two visits to the Falkland Islands and actually lobbied for leaseback on those terms. Although opinion in the Falkland Islands as reported in the Franks Report hardened against trusting the Argentine dictatorship—and who can blame the islanders?—I must make it clear now that there was a strong minority in the islands, including substantial citizens and one leader of opinion, who accepted that this had to be an option for consideration. I could not go any further than that, but it is not true to say that everyone was against it, and I spoke to many people.

The problem now is that, like everyone else, I have changed my mind about leaseback after the invasion because the real fears of the inhabitants were proved. One simply cannot have an understanding with a volatile and perfidious régime that stabs one in the back in the midst of honourable negotiations in New York. You could never have a respectable relationship with a régime whose troops lock up 100 British citizens as prisoners in a village hut for more than a month, apart from much other uncivilised conduct. I fear, therefore, that the junta themselves have now "blown it" as far as leaseback is concerned, or concerning any compromise with a military regime. I think now we have to wait, as some noble Lords have said, be patient and look for some other options, perhaps within the context of the Antarctic Treaty.

Finally, my Lords, I would like to say one word in response to my noble friend Lord Carrington and to what is confirmed in the report, and also what was said by the noble Lords, Lord Home and Lord Soames. On this question of castigating the Foreign Office, I confess freely to having been suspicious at different times over the past five years. I would only like to suggest to the Leader of the House, and perhaps to the Opposition, that this may need looking at, because the question was not one of vicious, castigating, malevolent people in either House or in the country; the fact remains that it was deeply ingrained and embedded in the minds of all the Falkland islanders, of the Falklands lobby at home, certainly of people in Buenos Aires and a great many people everywhere. I would only suggest that my noble friend the Leader of the House might like to take this on board, and suggest that we wonder, why? I absolutely accept the assurance, naturally, of my noble friend Lord Carrington, and I accept the verdict as presented in the Franks Report, but it would be unwise, in my view, to just pass it by and not ask ourselves, why?

7.2 p.m.

Lord Sherfield

My Lords, my initial reason for wanting to take part in this debate was perhaps a frivolous one. When I entered the Foreign Office in September 1928 the first serious piece of work which I was instructed to undertake was to write a memorandum on the Argentine claim to the Falkland Islands. In the light of recent events, I thought it might be interesting to see what I then wrote and perhaps share some of the conclusions with your Lordships. So I approached the Foreign Office for permission to see the memorandum, if indeed it still survived. To my great astonishment, I was informed that the memorandum was an active ingredient of the current file; that it is still regarded as a key sensitive document; and that it must stay in the public domain. So your Lordships are fortunately spared quotations.

But this small episode leads to a couple of serious reflections; first, that this affair has been around for a very long time; it is not something that started, though it was certainly revivified, in 1965. Secondly, it shows how little progress has been made in dealing with this matter during more than half a century. In this sort of historical perspective too much can be made of individual actions and incidents, such, for example, as the decision to withdraw HMS "Endurance" from the islands. Indeed, as the noble Lord, Lord Carver, has pointed out, "Endurance" was in fact on station throughout the period under review.

However, the main reason for my wish to intervene was to call attention to the performance of our foreign service in the run-up to the Argentine invasion. Well, my Lords, this has been done already in full measure by previous speakers, but for a reason to which I will come later perhaps a variation on the theme from a former Foreign Office servant may not be amiss, though I can be very brief. There is a propensity, especially among some sections of the media and the intelligentsia, to belittle, to run down and indeed abuse the work and achievement of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. This propensity tends to build up over a period, and boils over about once every seven years. It is a kind of seven-year itch. I need only point to the controversial report of the Central Policy Review Staff in the time of Sir Keith Berrill and, seven years earlier, to the criticism that led to the report on the foreign service by Sir Val Duncan. It is a cyclical affair, and 1982 was about the top of the cycle.

I will not weary your Lordships with my views on the psychology, or perhaps I should say the pathology, of this hostile attitude to the foreign service. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, has made some trenchant comments on this. The foreign service officer is depicted as being good for nothing except mixing martinis, as knowing nothing about business, and indeed in a very recent leading article is described as an unnecessary burden on the Exchequer from a department which could easily be abolished. But as so many noble Lords have said, the report of the noble Lord, Lord Franks, shows that the performance of the foreign service was throughout of a very high order.

I was impressed, for example, by the account of the activities of the British Embassy in Buenos Aires, whose reports seem to have been clear, accurate, indeed prophetic, and infused with a refreshing sense of humour. This not only applies to the professionals. It is clear from the report that the junior Ministers who were allotted the thankless task of negotiating on a very arid brief also did well: Mr. Rowlands under the previous Government, Mr. Ridley and Mr. Luce, supported by their professional advisers, evidently not only retained the confidence of the Argentine negotiators but kept their end up with considerable success.

On top of this your Lordships hardly need to be reminded of the performance of our diplomatic representation when the crisis broke: Sir Anthony Parsons in securing an unopposed condemnation of Argentine aggression in the Security Council, Sir Nicholas Henderson in negotiating with the United States Government and talking to the American public on television, our ambassadors in Brussels in rallying our European partners in the Community and in NATO. All of them carried out their duties with great efficiency and skill and made their supporting contribution to the success of the campaign.

The noble Baroness, in introducing the debate, has already explicitly rejected the criticism made of the Foreign Office, and other noble Lords have echoed that. But I do not make any apology to the House for emphasising this point. The critics of the foreign service, who are already showing resentment at the fact that Franks has shot their fox, will not desist in the future from criticising and attacking the foreign service. The foreign service itself has so far survived these criticisms, but it still must have a depressing effect inside the office on morale, and also on those who may be thinking of entering the service.

In conclusion, I have just a word to say on the general aspect of this matter. Although bickering, argument and discussion will no doubt continue for a time, I believe that the Franks Report has effectively dealt with the past. But what of the future? No doubt, as the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, said, for the time being we are boxed in to something like Fortress Falklands. But sooner or later we have to get out of the box.

I can briefly state my own view because I have been thinking very much along the lines of the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Kennet. I have thought for some time that this problem can only be resolved peacefully by widening the scope of the negotiations to include an international régime for the whole of the South Atlantic, including, of course, the area of the Antarctic Treaty. Whether the latter treaty can be adapted to a wider area, or whether a different international régime would need to be devised, is a matter, as the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, said, for study. However, I believe that the sensitive issue of sovereignty over the Falklands Islands could perhaps be subsumed in a wider international arrangement. Further, if such a régime could be established development funds might be available from international agencies.

I have only one other suggestion to make. To mark the adoption of a new policy, when the time comes, it might be advisable to appoint a high commissioner, or special representative, at a higher level than the Governor of the Falkland Islands, with a mandate to work towards a broad international solution for the South Atlantic and its Antarctic sectors. I do not expect the noble Baroness to make any observations on these matters tonight, but I hope that serious study will be given to them.

Lord Gladwyn

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I ask him whether he can possibly tell us the broad conclusion of his paper of 1928, which I am sure he will recall?

Lord Sherfield

My Lords, I am not going to trust my memory after 55 years.

7.13 p.m.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, as other noble Lords have suggested, the Falklands story is the supreme example of the tail wagging the dog. I do not know of any creature that keeps its brains in its tail. I have never been an uncritical admirer of the Foreign Office. We must take great care this afternoon to see that we do not convert the béte noire into an angel of light. Nevertheless, I believe that in the matter of the Falklands the Foreign Office and the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, were right and that the Prime Minister, Mr. Nott and, apparently, the rest of the Government were wrong.

I find myself in a surprising degree of agreement with what other noble Lords have said in this debate, and since I have on another occasion suggested that your Lordships were guilty of a certain amount of unnecessary self-praise, I should like to say that in this debate up to now, at any rate, that self-praise was not entirely unjustified.

What invalidates the Franks Report seems to be its failure to place the Falklands within a wider historical context. If the post-war period had been one of imperial expansion, so far from trying to dispose of the islands we should have been seeing them as a stepping stone towards the invasion and conquest of the South American mainland, as we did in so many parts of the world in our expansionist years, which continued, one must remember, right up to the end of the last century, and indeed even into the early years of the present century. When I was at school, even after the First World War, we still sang: Wider still and wider shall thy bounds be set"— and we meant it. As late as 1924 there was a British Empire exhibition at Wembley. There was no thought that within a generation there would have been such a transformation that the British Empire would remain only a word. After the Second World War even the word had disappeared.

The significance of this is the same significance as that of the film "Gandhi", which celebrates a man who helped to give the avalanche of imperial decline a tremendous shove. The process has continued inexorably ever since and all sensible British Governments have co-operated in it or, as has already been said in the Chamber, have tried to co-operate in it. The great British counterpart of Gandhi, as I see it, was Clement Attlee, who made the dismantlement of the empire something in which to take pride and not to be ashamed of. In that he was wiser than Winston Churchill who was unable to see that the empire was dead and that only rapid transformation could save the Commonwealth. Macmillan saw it with his "wind of change" in Africa. How much wiser he was than his predecessor, Anthony Eden, who I like to think was not at his best when he seemed, towards the end of his period of effective office, to be wishing to show that Britain was still a great power and all of which ended in the débâcle of Suez.

That was the end of the empire, but there was Aden, and so on. The list of withdrawals continues until today, when we find ourselves left with a small number of direct responsibilities. It is no use pretending that on the whole they are not rather unwelcome responsibilities. Of course—and this is most welcome—we have a large number of associated and virtually independent states in the Commonwealth. Among the embarrassing direct responsibilities the least important, perhaps, but certainly not the least embarrassing, was the Falkland Islands. If the Franks Report had begun with a more adequate coverage of that ground, I believe it would have reached a different conclusion. But even starting, as it does, in 1965 the report is rather like a jury which, having received a damning summing up indicating that the Government are undoubtedly guilty of a lack of understanding and perhaps even of incompetence, nonetheless comes up with a verdict of not guilty, against all the evidence it has just digested.

Interestingly, the only extract from the parliamentary proceedings quoted in the report is an extract from the debate in the House of Commons of 2nd December 1980, which has already been referred to. I referred to this last week, before the publication of the Franks Report, when speaking on the Government's own Paper The Falklands Campaign. That 1980 debate, when Mr. Ridley returned from the Argentine and proposed a leaseback agreement, is correctly identified in the report as the point at which the lamentable* process, which led to the death and injury of so many men and the waste of so much money, was, as I see it, unnecessarily and wrongly embarked upon. There was a failure on all sides of the House of Commons—as the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, suggested—not only on Government Front Benches and Back Benches, but on Opposition Benches as well. As the noble Lord, Lord Soames, has suggested, this has characterised dealings with the Falklands on both sides of the House.

Mr. Peter Shore, now happily translated to more congenial duties, led the way. He immediately declared the proposition of the paramountcy of the wishes of the islanders, quite overlooking the fact that that proposition had not been accepted by the Labour Party when in office. Mr. Ridley, lacking any support from his Front Bench, forthwith retreated and the competition in jingoism masquerading as principle, which led the Opposition mistakenly but inevitably to support the launch of the task force, was started on its way with all that inevitably followed. From that debate only Mr. Frank Hooley emerges with credit—contrary to what the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, said—because he was the one man who asked the crucial question: were the interests of 1,800 Falklanders to be allowed to command those of the 55 millions of people of this country?—for that is what has happened.

For lack of a little flexibility, for lack of a willingness to compromise, from the desire to appear as intransigent as a belligerent Prime Minister, for lack of a sane voice in the press and on radio and television, more people have been sacrificed on both sides than the entire population of the Falklands; millions of pounds have been poured out and we are now stuck up a blind alley with our backs to the area of our real interest, as the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, said.

There is no glory in all this save only for the men who had to carry the military can, and their glory is the same as that of those who took part in the Charge of the Light Brigade— Theirs not to reason why, Theirs but to do or die". But it is ours to reason why. That is our duty to them. And when the reasoning is done we shall find that the answers reflect no credit on the Government, and precious little on the Opposition.

Indeed, Parliament itself emerges from this debacle as a place in which the blind passions of the mob, fanned by a prostitute press, were allowed to hold sway. Of course, the excuse for this is the bestial nature of the Argentinian dictatorship. I do not believe that the failure of the Opposition to support the unfortunate Mr. Ridley and his leaseback was solely due to a desire to out-Thatcher Mrs. Thatcher. It was partly due to a proper distaste for the Galtieri régime, and partly to the parliamentary tradition of automatic opposition to a Government statement. But whatever the reason, the whole episode was a mistake which ought not to have happened. It will increasingly be recognised as a mistake, and the sooner that occurs the sooner we shall be able to extricate ourselves from the nonsense of Fortress Falklands.

In 1983 the islands which we ought to be concerning ourselves about are those in which we live—it is to the defence of these islands and to the welfare of our people here that both Government and Opposition should turn their attention. Abroad, our role should not be that of military adventurers, but as leaders in the search for peace and disarmament.

In the annex to their report the Franks Committee quote a number of assertions against the Government's conduct which they find not proved. They do not quote the most important assertion of all. perhaps because there is no answer to it; namely, that there is now no point in hanging on to pieces of territory in Latin America. It is a fruitless exercise, which is bound sooner or later to end in disaster. The Government lacked the moral courage to tell our people this unwelcome truth, and the losses which have been suffered and the further losses to come all stem from allowing the tone of Britain in the "eighties to be set by irresponsible rags like the Sun instead of by a Government prepared to face reality.

There are many reasons why we need a change of Government. Not least of them is that only a Labour Government can get us out of the Fortress Falklands mess. Mr. Healey has aleady begun to show the way, and I believe that between now and the next general election there will be a massive swing of public opinion which will bring Labour back to office. This report could well form an obituary of Thatcherism. It is a tale of mess and muddle, of Ministers like the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, who knew what had to be done but who lacked the power or the will to carry their views in Cabinet; of other Ministers, like the Prime Minister and Mr. Nott, who were hopelessly wrong, and coupled with their ignorance an obstinacy, a determination, to persist in error at the expense of the nation and of brave sailors like David Tinker, who knew full well that once again men were being placed in jeopardy by the incompetence of politicians. The wrong people resigned—it should have been the Prime Minister and Mr. Nott, for they above all others are responsible for what will be seen, more and more clearly in coming weeks and months, to be a hopeless entanglement from which we have no alternative but to extricate ourselves before it brings us into even more serious trouble.

7.27 p.m.

Baroness Vickers

My Lords, it seems to be my habit now to speak after the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, and as usual I cannot agree with all that he says. In particular, I cannot agree that any man wasted his life if he was serving his country in the Army, Navy or Air Force. It is very unfortunate that he made that remark, particularly for those who have been made widows. They do not think that their husbands wasted their lives and I hope that the noble Lord will never say that again.

I have tried to understand the report. I have read it and taken a great interest in it. But I cannot understand the continual criticism of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is not the president of this country; she has other Ministers who take collective responsibility with her. Therefore, I hope that the chivvying against her all the time will soon cease. On 20th June 1982 the Prime Minister stated: This is British sovereign territory and they are British people. We need the friendliness of neighbouring states. We do not negotiate sovereignty with them". We should remember—and this is a matter which has not been mentioned before—that people who are dictators are very unpredictable. Neville Chamberlain found that to be the case in the last war and we, too, can remember the unfortunate mistakes that led to the fall of Singapore. The headline in the Sunday Times last Sunday stated: A verdict that is at odds with the evidence". But that was again, as so many people have stated, a hindsight thought. I met several of the Falkland Island representatives when they came to this country and I had discussions with them in the Commonwealth parliamentary offices. I found that they were not even willing to accept boat-people who were then trying to find a refuge. They wanted to remain entirely British.

I personally was against the scheme for leaseback because it could only lead to difficulties in future. This is particularly so when one thinks of Hong Kong. I would not mind suggesting that we might have a condominium in later years with the Argentine, if that were possible. Fortunately, when Belize became independent—and I am glad to see the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, here because he was so helpful in that debate—we realised that they were in danger of Guatemala, and we ought to have realised that the Falklands were in danger of the Argentine. Although we did not get it included in the Bill we managed to persuade the Government—and for this I was particularly grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham—to ensure that there were some services of the Army and the Air Force in Belize in case Guatemala attacked. We also know that there is danger from Venezuela in regard to Guatemala. Therefore, we must be on our guard as regards these various territories in South America which are still under dictatorships.

When the Prime Minister of Singapore, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, came here to receive the freedom of the City of London, he said: Britain's expulsion of the Argentines from the Falklands was a great feat of arms". The headlines in the press were: Lee sees hope in the Falklands spirit". From listening to the radio and reading the weeklies one cannot but help agree with the headline in The Spectator which refers to "The Blame for Victory". Of course, the blame for victory falls on the Prime Minister.

I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Franks, has made an excellent factual report and, to quote from The Spectator again, he said that nearly every stone that is thrown at Mrs. Thatcher will come from a glasshouse. Mr. Callaghan is stated to have deterred the Argentinians from a previous attack. However, there seems to be no proof in this at all, neither in the report nor in the press.

In the Observer of 2nd May 1982 they published a copy of a diary kept by Captain George Grey, R.N., who was later made an admiral and who commanded the 26-gun "Cleopatra". In 1836 he made a survey of the islands and reported their position. Even at that time sovereignty was disputed. In January 1837 he was ordered to see about the rest of the country. He reported that although there were no doubt many drawbacks to a settlement, it was a tempestuous region and it possessed advantages, none of which was found in the new settlement in Australia. He went on: When I return from a short survey of the country I find all in due order, the Union Jack flying at the top of the tent". He must have been very glad that he had no interference from Whitehall and there was no radio and no television, so he was able to do his job quietly and peacefully. In 1836, having warned the Americans that the islands belonged to England, he continued his exploring.

For the sake of the future I hope that we can all co-operate in this debate on the Falkland Islands in leaving the past year to history and return to the need to keep peace in the future. We shall not do this if we are continually arguing, and I regret to say that if a Minister in the other place refers to the fact that the Argentines will be threatened with a "bloody nose" that will be no way to keep peace. We have reached an understanding with our old enemies, Japan and Germany, and we must try to obtain co-operation with the Argentine in the future. I do not think that a Labour Government need worry about the influence of the Falklands spirit, or whatever they like to call it, on the next general election because we can remember 1945, when "Churchill" was still a name to be conjured with. I thought that election was certainly very well won, but the Labour Party was returned with a large majority. So I think that they are making a great deal of trouble by repeating this.

Some Members, including perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Stewart, may remember that on 5th February 1960 Mrs. Thatcher made her excellent maiden speech on her Private Bill, which was called Public Bodies and concerned the admission of the press to meetings. She has always wanted to have open government, and I think that she will continue to do so.

If we are to co-operate with Argentina, I think we might consider the following. I should like to suggest that, with them, we make use of the Falkland Islands. It is reported that they are of strategic importance in case of the closure of the Panama or Suez Canals. The same is true of Drake Passage. Masses of ships pass through it carrying oil from the Far East to the United States of America and Europe. They also provide for the installation of sea and air bases; a station for tracking satellites and for the arrival and departure of space craft, taking advantage of the thinness in this area of the dangerous Van Allen Belt, a radiation-producing zone which can kill astronauts. Very good experiments in tracking could be carried out here.

I hope that in the future we shall try to obtain cooperation, because otherwise I do not think that peace will prevail. I shall be visiting the Falklands shortly and will have an opportunity to talk to the Falkland islanders and to see how we might get better cooperation. Finally, as in the last war and in the first world war, the Falkland Islands were helpful to us. If it had not been for these islands HMS "Exeter" and HMS "Ajax" would never have reached England again.

Reference has already been made to the standard of excellence of Her Majesty's Forces; indeed, one noble Lord has already mentioned that they are so professional. I should also like to mention the civilians who co-operated so magnificently. The wives of servicemen, many of whom I have had an opportunity to meet in recent months, have said that their husbands were disappointed not to go to the Falklands. These were both young and older wives. The wives were of tremendous support in the campaign.

I think that Britain still has a great deal to do in this world protecting human rights, and, therefore, I hope that we shall stick by this idea and that we will do our best to help keep the peace in the world. Whatever the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, decides to do in the future, I wish him every success.

7.37 p.m.

Lord Walston

My Lords, at lunchtime I had the privilege of listening to the most reverend Primate speaking at Chatham House, and in the course of his fine and thought-provoking remarks he said, "War is always a failure". We have just had a war. It was a short one and a successful one, but, nonetheless, it was a war, and it marked a failure. It is the causes of that failure to which we must now direct our minds. That is what the Franks Report sets out to do, and to a very large extent, but not to my mind completely, it does it in the admirable, iucid and objective way which one would expect of the noble Lord, Lord Franks, and his colleagues.

What purpose does this report serve? Is it to enable us to punish those who have erred? So far as I am concerned, that is not so at all. Is it to learn from errors and to remove them? According to the report, there have been no errors but the very minor one of the chairmanship of the Joint Intelligence Committee. Or is it to see that the methods and the individuals who were in positions of responsibility at the time leading up to the Falklands confrontation still remain—or have those people or those methods changed? That is the point to which I should like to direct my remarks this evening.

I am not for a moment suggesting that, had other people of a different Government, a different party, been there at the relevant time in the three years or so leading up to this, there would have been anything different. I do not know. Government have many privileges, but they also have responsibilities and they also have failures. If things go right it is right for the Government to receive praise. If things go wrong, if there are failures, it is right for the Government to take responsibility for those failures. That is why I am looking solely at the period during which the present Government were in office.

I hope I shall not weary your Lordships if I repeat some, but by no means all, of the points other speakers have made. I would refer in the first instance to paragraph 73 of the report, 20th September 1979. There, as you will remember, Lord Carrington sent a memorandum to the Prime Minister and to other members of the Defence and Overseas Policy Committee setting out three options for the Falklands. One—we have heard this already—Fortress Falklands; two, protracted negotiations but with no concessions. Three, substantive negotiations on sovereignty. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs recommended the third. The Prime Minister's response to that was that she did not wish to be rushed.

Paragraph 75 and 76, 12th October 1979, about three weeks after the first memorandum: Lord Carrington circulated a memorandum again— to the Prime Minister and other members of the Defence Committee on similar lines underlining the high risk of direct military action by Argentina and pointing out that they had the capability to capture the islands. In spite of this second approach, in spite of the urgent tone, the Prime Minister decided to postpone discussion until after the Rhodesian problem had been settled.

Paragraph 77. November 1979: the Joint Intelligence Committee, about whom we have read so much to its detriment but about which I am glad to say those who know far more about it than I do have spoken with praise, warned about the high risk of more forceful measures by Argentina if negotiations were not serious. One might have thought that in the light of this the Government would have been alerted and would have discussed the matter with seriousness in the DOPC or in Cabinet.

Paragraph 86, March 1981: another note from Lord Carrington to the Prime Minister, who said that if the islanders wanted to retain the status quo it would be necessary to arrange for supplies of essential goods and services, and perhaps to defend them against physical harassment. There appears to have been no response to that.

Paragraph 90, June 1981: Mr. Ure of the Foreign Office suggested a campaign of education of the islanders to gain their support for leaseback, and also suggested resettlement schemes and land distribution schemes. In the next paragraph we are told that Mr. Ure's suggestions were strongly supported by Her Majesty's Ambassador in Buenos Aires. So far as one can tell from this report no action was taken on either of these suggestions.

Paragraph 96, July 1981: Mr. Ridley warned Lord Carrington of some form of military action if by 1982 Her Majesty's Government were not thought to be serious. Paragraphs 98 and 99, September 1981–quite a pause: there was a reply then to Mr. Ridley's warning because Lord Carrington met with Sir Ian Gilmour and Mr. Ridley and officials of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. There he refused a recommendation from them for a policy of education in the islands and in Parliament on the grounds that his colleagues would not agree.

Paragraph 117, January 1982: Lord Carrington urged the retention of "Endurance", but Mr. Nott, as he then was, and the Prime Minister refused on the grounds that it cost too much. I will not labour that point. We have heard enough about it already. Paragraph 121, January 1982: the Foreign and Commonwealth Office warn that the new Government of Galtieri would adopt a more forceful approach. In the subsequent paragraph this warning was reinforced by Her Majesty's Ambassador.

Paragraph 123, also in January: the Governor of the Falkland Islands warned that the islanders were more suspicious both of the Argentine and of Her Majesty's Government as a result both of "Endurance" and of the legislation proposed by Her Majesty's Government on nationality, the citizen legislation. Paragraph 124, and still in January: Mr. Fearn of the Foreign Office warns, we are left with no alternative way to prevent the dispute moving sooner or later to more open confrontation". This was reinforced in paragraphs 129, 130, and 131 in February by the Argentine press warning of military means to solve the dispute.

In paragraph 133 in February 1982: the Prime Minister told Lord Carrington to tell the Argentines that the wishes of the islanders are paramount. Paragraph 142, still in February: for the first time— and this is a curious thing which has not yet been mentioned —an approach was made to the Americans by Mr. Luce to Mr. Enders, the United States Assistant Secretary of State for Latin American affairs. This was followed up a month later by Lord Carrington approaching Mr. Haig, the Secretary of State, for the first time.

It seems to me curious that, with all these warnings which the Government have had which the Foreign Office were giving through all these years, no approach was made to our closest ally with such influence in the whole of Latin America and with such an interest in the whole of Latin America, and particularly with close relations with the Government of General Galtieri. No approach was made until virtually the eleventh hour. It would be interesting to hear from the Leader of the House why this in fact was so.

Then we turn to paragraph 312, perhaps a minor point but not altogether minor, where it is recorded that the defence attaché in Buenos Aires said that he had neither the remit nor the capacity to obtain detailed information of military movements in Argentina. Again one might have thought, in view of all these warnings, that he would have received instructions to step up his activities. But possibly the need for economy, saving money, made it impossible for that to happen. In paragraph 284, as a form of summary, we are told that Ministers without exception rejected the alternative of fortress Falklands. We are also told, in paragraph 291, that the Government policy towards Argentina and the islands was never formally discussed by Cabinet or the Defence and Overseas Policy Committee between January 1981 and 25th March 1982 when the Cabinet discussed it—a matter of 14, nearly 15 months—and the Defence and Overseas Policy Committee on 1st April 1982; no discussion whatsoever in Cabinet itself or in the appropriate committee which is responsible for these matters. It was dealt with entirely by the Prime Minister reacting to various memoranda which she received from Lord Carrington and to a certain extent from the Secretary of State for Defence. No question at all of discussing our strategy with regard to arms exports to the Argentine, in spite of the threats that were coming along. No question of discussing whether any advice should be given to our banks who had such big dealings with the Argentine with regard to loans, loans used, as we well know, for the purchase of weapons which were so destructive to our own forces. A complete absence of any interest, of any policy discussions or any guidance whatsoever during all that crucial period.

What has been the result of it all? It has been that only one of the three options which the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, presented to Mrs. Thatcher way back in 1969, and which was universally and continuously rejected, is the one with which we are now left—a complete failure. The result also has been that we have had the resignation of Mr. Atkins, who, so far as I can tell from reading the report, had no responsibility whatever for Latin America, for the Argentine or for the Falkland Islands, but he felt he should resign. Mr. Luce receives special praise in the report for his handling of a very difficult remit, but we have had his resignation. And we have had that of Lord Carrington, who made great efforts—perhaps they were not sufficient, but he made great efforts—to persuade the Prime Minister and his colleague, at the Ministry of Defence to take actions which he thought would be helpful. I believe his resignation was right. I regret it. The whole House and the nation regrets it, because he was one of our outstanding Foreign Secretaries, but he was right to do it.

The Minister really responsible, who failed to appreciate the seriousness and urgency of the matter, who overruled the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, on "Endurance", and who failed to have the matter discussed in the Defence and Overseas Policy Committee, of which she, the Prime Minister, was chairman, or the Cabinet, is still there. Honour demands that she, like her Secretary of State, should also resign. So long as she remains pursuing the policies she is still pursuing, in the manner in which she has been pursuing them, there is no likelihood of any solution along the lines wisely adumbrated by my noble friend Lord Kennet and supported by the noble Lord, Lord Sherfield, and others. There will be no possibility of policies along those lines reaching fruition, although they represent the only chance of a solution to this otherwise intractable problem.

7.53 p.m.

Lord Balfour of Inchrye

My Lords, having listened to virtually all the debate, one question has yet to be answered. I listened to the Leader of the House with great admiration for her complete justification of the policies of the Cabinet during the Falklands crisis. I listened to the brave speech of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, and I listened, with less conviction, to the attack on the Government by the Leader of the Opposition. But, then, I am somewhat prejudiced in the matter.

The one question which has not been answered is: Where do we go from here? It is the future which is important, far more so than the past and, in political terms, we seem to have arrived at a situation with the Argentine that reminds me of a schoolboy question we all had put to us when we were young: What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable body?

We are pledged to the British Falklanders—that they remain British citizens under British rule—and rightly so; we cannot think of handing them over to an invading power with laws and customs alien to British citizenship and our way of life. On the other side, though, the Argentines have a different viewpoint. They are convinced that the Falklands are theirs by history and that we have occupied the Falklands illegally since 1833. They demand sovereignty based, they claim, on history and they declare that sooner or later they must obtain it.

The armed fortress—I use that term—will be a costly burden to carry for an indefinite number of years ahead. We cannot indefinitely alienate some parts of South America, including the Argentine, who at present are not on speaking terms. With Argentina only hundreds of miles away and ourselves thousands of miles away, how can we face a timeless future for the armed fortress? I say that because it is at the moment a timeless future.

It is impossible to expect the Government to talk at present, so soon after hostilities, about the transfer of, or concessions on, sovereignty. However, there is nothing to prevent the ordinary private Member doing so, and I have a suggestion to make. Supposing that in 50 years' time we were to concede sovereignty to the Argentine. We should meanwhile have fulfilled our pledges to the full to the present British inhabitants of the Falklands. We should not only have fulfilled our pledges to the adults there today but also to the younger generation. During those 50 years, one hopes that the sores will heal and gradually be forgotten, and that we will get closer in social and economic matters. In the fictitious, if you like, 50 years I postulate, we should neglect no opportunity for social and economic relations to be far different at the end of that period than they are today.

We should have to build a social and commercial relationship based not on the past but on the future. Air and sea communications would have to start again. Commercial relations with the Falklands would have to be developed, as also with the South American countries, including the Argentine. There would need to be established some joint machinery—not immediately, but in a few years of the 50 years I postulate—to try to develop the closer contacts which we all hope will come about one day. From gentle beginnings, those 50 years will gradually bring the Argentines to realise that the social standards to which the Falklanders have become accustomed are British and valuable and should not be interfered with. There might even be some form of federal structure coming about during those 50 years.

It is, of course, easy to knock any ideas off the stage, but it is just possible that something broadly on the lines of bringing the element of time into our relations with the Argentine might succeed. I do not expect the Government to give any sort of positive reply to what I have said in that connection. I merely bring forward that possibility to your Lordships' House.

8 p.m.

The Earl of Cork and Orrery

My Lords, this debate began with one of the more remarkable speeches that I have heard since I came to this House. To begin with, we had the very fine speech from my noble friend the Leader of the House and, in particular, the eagerly looked-forward to and keenly awaited speech, for the first time after his return, of my noble friend Lord Carrington, who made an enormously distinguished speech in its own right as a speech, and also produced not only a complete vindication of his own actions in resigning—though that was not his intention particularly—but a vindication of the Government.

That feat can in no way be undercut by the rather remarkable and, I might almost say, admirable efforts of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, to find and seize sticks wherewith to beat the Government, to replace those sticks which were used by him and his friends during, after and before the actual war with the Argentine, and which had been wrested from his and their hands by the Franks Report. On the other hand, he may have made some dent on the effect, the generally deserved effect, of a rather admirable speech, certainly from his point of view and to some extent from ours, made by the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition. Not that from this side we agree with everything that he said, but it was agreeable to listen to a restrained and statesmanlike speech rather than the kind of ranting which I have no doubt is going on not a hundred miles from here this afternoon, and perhaps even now.

I do not suppose anything has yet emerged with greater clarity from the debate than the absolute unfailing resolution of the Argentines to regain sovereignty over the Falkland Islands. This resolution is matched by an equal resolution on the part of the islanders to have no such thing; and they, in turn, have been supported by successive Governments, who have maintained that their wishes are paramount. This word has been criticised often enough, or perhaps not quite often enough because I shall do it a little more now, or at least mention it.

By this assurance that their wishes are paramount, their wishes have been set above their own interests and above the interests of the British Government and people and of the rest of the Commonwealth. I doubt whether so high a privilege has ever been accorded to a minority of citizens of any nation anywhere in the world, but, for better or worse, it has been done, and here we are now, locked into the Fortress Falkland situation, as certainly as we are locked into the Arab and Northern Ireland one, for as long or possibly longer, though I hope not. Whether the Fortress Falklands turns out to be a permanent reality or not, there can be little doubt that the islanders are on the anvil, and the least that we can do, and are expected to do, is to help them to meet the blow when it descends on their heads, as unquestionably it will.

There are two reasons, if I may venture to remind your Lordships, why the islanders do not wish to come under the sway of the Argentine. The first is that they are, and wish to remain, British. That can be understood by everybody in the world, including the Argentines, because everyone can understand the ties of ethnic nationality and descent. The other reason is different, and that is that they do not want to come under the sway of the Argentine. This is not simply the opposite of the first reason; it is something quite different and separate. It is not to be confused with it. It is not obvious or understandable by the world at large. For example, I doubt whether it is obvious to, or easily understood by, a Nigerian or an Italian, a Korean or a Greek. It is of such vital importance, though, that it should be explained, and particularly to all the members of the United Nations.

What is it? The Franks Report makes only a glancing reference to the origins of this passionately-held feeling of the islanders, in paragraph 273, which says that the military coup, the take-over of government in 1967: introduced a repressive régime, whose appalling human rights record understandably increased the Islanders' reluctance to contemplate any form of closer association with Argentina". "Reluctance" is good. The same point has been made by my noble friend Lord Buxton of Alsa.

I believe that this truth, the reluctance—to use that absurdly mild word again— should be rammed home and explained to everybody as widely, loudly and clearly as possible. For that purpose I propose a book. I suggest that a book should be published by Her Majesty's Government. It should not be very long or very large, but it should be well and expensively published; it should contain no statements of opinion, except perhaps in a foreword or epilogue, but should concern itself entirely with statements of fact: facts about the Argentine operating under their present Government.

This would fall into two parts. First would be the record of the Government at home in their own country—their record in what even they themselves have referred to as "the dirty war", in the course of which and afterwards a number, variously estimated as between 9,000 and 15,000, of Argentine citizens have just, as the word is, "disappeared". This is the way this régime in the Argentine treats its own people. These are the people who are proposing to take over the Falkland Islands, which are inhabited by people who have nothing whatever to do with their own people. They are totally alien, they are British with no Spanish or Argentine blood in them at all. What can they look forward to under such a régime?

The Argentines were in occupation of those islands for two months. That was an opportunity, of a sort, to make some small effort to win over the hearts and minds of the people whom they proposed to take over. Did they do that? They did not. What they did should be recorded in this book that I propose. I am not thinking of anything that they did under the stress of war, but what they did quite needlessly; for example, on the milder plane, what my noble friend Lord Buxton of Alsa referred to, the locking up of 150 villagers for a month in a school hall. There was no reason for them to do that. They treated the people with brutality; they insulted their houses, and desecrated their buildings and everything. They made the whole place into more or less a shambles.

When they went away they left behind an estimated number of 11,000 unexploded objects within 20 miles of Port Stanley. There were unexploded mines all over the place, with the minefields not even marked. It was total incompetence from the military point of view. It was also totally careless and unfeeling for the people on whose country those mines were left. They are there forever; they are a danger to children and people of all ages. In some cases they will be there for very many years to come. This is the sort of legacy they have left behind on the land of the people they wish to govern.

They left behind a very large number of rotting corpses. That again is an example of what they do to their own people. They take young men, they conscript them into the army. If they are wounded, they look after them, presumably so that they can fight again. If they are taken prison they will not even accept them back for a few months, until they are forced to do so; then they take them home by the back door so that their relations and fellow countrymen do not see them. If they die, they just leave them there. They will not even bury them. They are refusing to return to bury them now.

That is the kind of fact that I want put in this book; and I want the book to be published by the Government and all the things that are in it to be written by the Falkland islanders themselves or reporters. They ought to be eye-witness accounts; and they all ought to be, as I see it, vouched for and supported as to their authenticity by affidavits sworn by persons operating under the authority of the Secretary-General of the United Nations or the International Committee of the Red Cross.

This book is then to be circulated to all embassies in London, to all Foreign Offices abroad and, above all, to all nations and all libraries in the United Nations in New York; so that when the time comes, as it will, when the Falkland islanders are required again to say: "No, we will not have anything to do with these people"; when they are asked "Why not? We are fed up with the arguments of yours", they will say: "It is because of what is written in this book". The book will be there—the black book. It will not be a book about, or directed against, the people of the Argentine. As has been said several times today, we have to live again in terms of friendship with these people, and I have no doubt that we shall. The book has to be confined to the people of the Galtieri junta, and the generals who, like other such Governments, will eventually disappear into the dust while the nation goes on. Therefore it is against them only that the book should be aimed.

An admirable account of the whole campaign was written and published by the Sunday Timesby the Insight team. It ends with these words: The threat from Argentina, 400 miles away"— that is from the Falklands— will continue to be very real, but sooner or later negotiations will have to start again. Neighbouring states must learn to live together somehow. At least the war has guaranteed one thing for the Falklanders on their remote rocks in the South Atlantic—no one will ever again underestimate the dangers they face. My Lords, they will underestimate them, bearing in mind human nature. It is not the whole world that now knows what dangers they face, and what is known will in many cases be forgotten. It is the purpose of the book to see that people do not forget.

8.11 p.m.

Lord Benson

My Lords, in this country we have a genius for setting in hand commissions, reports, investigations and inquiries to find out why things went wrong. The inquiries are usually conducted with great care and integrity, and when the findings are published we flay ourselves all over again, either by trying to find some grounds for criticising the report or by using the report to criticise others, without much elevation of the discussion. I do not want to go down that road at all.

What I found most satisfying about the Franks Report is that to me it seemed to explain beyond peradventure why the Falklands war took place. It was due to two reasons. The first was an irresponsible and unstable Argentine Government. There is nothing new in that. It has been an unstable Government for many years, and will continue to be an unstable Government for many years to come. The second reason was the obduracy of the islanders. If one reads the report, one sees that it is clear beyond doubt that year after year successive British Governments were unable to make any progress in negotiations because the islanders would not give ground on any single substantial point.

For myself. I was totally in support of the Government's action in the spring of last year. I have every sympathy with the islanders. Nobody could wish to live under the heel of Argentine domination when they have the alternative of British rule: and it is obvious that negotiation is impossible at least until the Argentines have declared an end to hostilities and have ceased to rattle the sabre.

But the circumstances have now changed. I suggest that it is impossible to contemplate that, for an indefinite period of time, we should live under a continuous threat of war—a war which at any time could escalate to gigantic proportions. We cannot contemplate pouring in large quantities of equipment, men and resources to sustain 1,800 islanders, of whom perhaps no more than 900 are adult. I suggest that the situation must be brought to an end, and a solution must now be found.

What the solution is to be is a matter for experts. I do not know whether the Falklands are important from a major strategic, military point of view. If that is so, possibly some form of trusteeship in which other nations are involved is the right solution. But if that is not so, a solution on more traditional grounds would be necessary. It may be condominium. It may be leaseback. It may be that we have to give an option to the islanders to withdraw within a reasonable period of years, under proper terms of compensation and a basis of resettlement. If they will not accept the option, they must realise that they will have to live under a form of government different from the one that now prevails.

In finding that solution we must of course take into account the views and wishes of the islanders. But I suggest that we can do that only so long as those wishes and views are reasonable and realistic. I suggest that if the islanders continue to be unrealistic and unreasonable, we have no alternative but to make it clear to them that a solution will be imposed upon them.

8.15 p.m.

Lord Granville of Eye

My Lords, I very much hope that the noble Earl finishes his book and gets it published, because I think that even this debate has illustrated how short can be our memory about some of the events that took place before the Falklands invasion. I agree with other noble Lords that we were all very glad to hear the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, because undoubtedly he holds a very real place in your Lordships' House. But I must confess that, listening to some parts of the debate, I began to wonder, perhaps wrongly, if, after all the lessons of the past months, we are going to get on the old merry-go-round again and again, with no possible solution in the future.

I thought that the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition made a very strong speech; perhaps, if I may say so, the best speech that he has made since he became the Leader of the Opposition. Being a Welshman, he took the advice of Nye Bevan: Don't attack the monkey when you can deal with the organ grinder". I can understand that because we have now had the Franks Report, we have had statements from the Government and we have had various other reports. But I hope that that does not mean that the Falklands and all that it implies will become a party football, because in that there is always a danger of kicking the ball in your own goal.

It has been said in the press, in your Lordships' House and by the Government that it was a short war and that it will be a long-term harassment, which would be a headache for any Foreign Office. But, of course, as the noble Earl said in his speech, we are not dealing with a normal, ordinary, democratic Government. We are still dealing with a military dictatorship, a junta, at the Pink Palace and the Plaza del Mayo. It is a country where the widows still parade around the Plaza del Mayo crying, "Now cry for me, Evita". They are the widows of thousands who have disappeared in their own country, and who have never been traced.

I have listened to the debate with very great interest, and I am convinced that the only real hope that we have is of a truly democratic government in Buenos Aires with whom we can negotiate upon an international basis. But in the course of today's discussion two questions have arisen. Did our intelligence service, our secret service, really know? Did the Government, the Foreign Office, the Cabinet, the Prime Minister, really know?

I believe that our secret service is second to none but the Pink Palace, the Galtieri Government, told the military attachés in the embassies at Buenos Aires that all that was happening at Bahia Blanca and at the southern ports of the Argentine was the annual manoeuvres on a full basis. This is what they said. What was landed at the Falklands, where the invasion took place must have taken months of organisation and preparation, with a general conscription and a general call-up; and everybody seemed to know about it and what would happen. All leave was cancelled, ships were there waiting, the aerodromes were put on full alert, and I believe that our intelligence—which I still think is the best in the world—must have seen that happening, must have understood it and must have reported it, even to our much-maligned communications centre at Cheltenham.

The CIA, the Reagan interest in South America at the back door—and this is their front door—which is active in all the South American countries, knew what was going to happen; they must have told their counterparts and it must have reached us. There were the reconnaissance flights over British Antarctica, the islands, where Russia, under the treaty arrangement between the 11 nations, was very interested, and still is so. Why?—because the prize there is oil and minerals plus.

There is another thing. Marcel Dassault of Paris, the great arms and aircraft producer, was stocking up the supply of Mirages and Exocets for months before the invasion took place—and the scrap merchants of the island were a feeler. Even the ordinary Argentine newspaper reporters in London and in Paris were openly reporting back to Buenos Aires and making statements here that the Argentine was going to invade the Malvinas.

The Argentine Embassy in London were probably advising the military junta and giving them the same advice as Ribbentrop gave to Hitler, that appeasement and pacifism is strong in the United Kingdom so that the United Kingdom will do nothing; and, of course, since the "Odessa Run", the Nazi influence with the Buenos junta is still very strong. One must realise there are conflicting opinions about this. There was a letter in a prime position in The Times today from which I will quote at this late hour just one sentence. The writer says, quoting Winston Churchill: By all means turn the other cheek, but don't turn all four". In CIA language, where was the buck going to stop? Was it with the United Nations? There was Mrs. Kirkpatrick and all that, and the South American lobby; but I am glad to read that there is to be a committee of inquiry into the media in wartime and the relationship between the press, television and broadcasting with the Cabinet and those responsible for the direction of operations. But there were media interviews during the crisis when we could have lost the Falklands war, when it was as close as that. At least one, if not more, of those interviews sounded as though it was coming from Buenos Aires, from the Pink Palace, and as if the Iron Curtain had infiltrated the media here. As the noble Lord, Lord Benson, said, the media had great problems. It is a long way. It is just as well that Sir Alan Cobham's refuelling project was not cancelled or we should have been in a desperate plight. I repeat that the real hope, and the only hope, I think, is for a democratically-elected government in Argentina with whom we can negotiate. I do not mean another Peron and Evita. The Falklands could become a maritime staging post with full port facilities and air capability between two vast oceans.

Nearly everything has been said in this debate. In conclusion, I believe that we have the best scientists and technicians. As the noble Earl suggested, the trouble with us as a nation is that we have looked inwards for too long. We still have enormous responsibilities in the scattered empire. I put to the Government, as a long-term study, that they should consider the French system of electing senators to Paris from far-away dependencies in their colonies. This would be one solution for many countries, and not only the Falklands, which would give this country, the mother country, closer ties than the Foreign and Commonwealth Office can offer at the present time. I suggest to the Government that perhaps one day when the future of your Lordships' House is being considered this might be one of the suggestions.

8.28 p.m.

The Duke of Portland

My Lords, I venture to address your Lordships as I was chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee from September 1939 to June 1945. The formation of this committee was first proposed by Sir Maurice Hankey, later Lord Hankey, in 1937, but it was not properly constituted until June 1939. The JIC, as it came to be called, was composed of the directors of intelligence of the three services and a Foreign Office representative who became chairman, the post to which I was appointed at the outbreak of war. The Foreign Office representative was appointed chairman as he was the most acceptable member of the committee in view of the rivalry between the three services. On the outbreak of war the director of the Ministry of Economic Warfare joined the committee and the heads of M15 and M16 attended when required.

During the winter of 1939–40, and also during the operations in Norway, the JIC, was not often called upon to produce appreciations or reports as the three services preferred to rely on their own intelligence divisions. However, after the German attack on France had been launched in early May 1940, adversity drove the three intelligence divisions into closer co-operation and it became easier to reach agreement on the reports to be submitted to the chiefs of staff. At first comparatively junior officers from the three services, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Foreign Office would meet ad hoc to draft appreciations and reports as required for submission to the full JIC. But later it was found desirable that a junior JIC should be formed, which was called the Joint Intelligence Staff or JIS. This committee met almost daily and its members were fully briefed by their respective departments. They had access to all available intelligence (except Enigma or Ultra in the raw), namely, reports from His Majesty's missions in allied and neutral countries, press extracts, SIS reports, the produce of cryptography and "bugged" conversations between senior enemy prisoners of war—which were most amusing. All of this provided the material on which the JIS based their reports. As and when I thought it desirable, I would take the chair at meetings of the JIS.

During the first year of the war, the JIC did not have regular meetings with the chiefs of staff but subsequently we had weekly meetings of about an hour every Tuesday morning. In my capacity as chairman of the JIC, I regarded General Ismay as my chief but remained in daily contact with Sir Alexander Cadogan, the Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office. Since June 1945,1 have had nothing to do with intelligence matters, and I am well aware that conditions have greatly changed. Nevertheless, I cannot resist the temptation to make the following comments and suggestions after reading paragraphs 299 to 323 of the excellent report of the noble Lord, Lord Franks.

In paragraph 319, Lord Franks recommends that consideration should be given to the position of the chairman of the JIC, to the desirability that he or she should be full time with a more critical and independent role, be appointed by the Prime Minister and be a member of the Cabinet Office. 1 regarded myself as seconded to the War Cabinet Office although, at the same time, I had a room in the Foreign Office. I was occupied full time on JIC work, though from 1942 I was also Foreign Office adviser to the Directors of Plans. I am certain that 20 years in the foreign service, dealing with foreigners and foreign affairs was of great benefit to me as chairman of the JIC. I understand that the Foreign Office chairmanship of the JIC had proved satisfactory until the unfortunate Falklands affair, and I wonder whether the appointment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Franks, will prove equally satisfactory throughout the next 40 years. Like the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill of Harrow, I hope that the person appointed to be chairman will be someone with wide and practical experience in appraising foreign individuals and reports.

In paragraph 319 Lord Franks expressed the view that the assessment machinery should be reviewed. I shall venture to offer some suggestions—which I hope will be practical—based on my wartime experience. First, the JIC should continue to be composed of a Foreign Office representative of the rank of Deputy Under-Secretary of State, the Director of Intelligence at the Ministry of Defence, the heads of Cheltenham, of the SIS and of M15, plus—and I know this is a novelty—a senior Treasury official. The JIC should prepare reports and appreciations on the instructions of the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary or the Minister of Defence, also the Secretary of the Cabinet, or on their own initiative—and I hope they will often do so. These reports should be prepared and submitted as speedily as possible and should not be delayed awaiting the meeting of some ministerial or other committee.

The JIS, which would correspond to the present assessment groups, should be composed of representatives of the members of the JIC, though the Army, Navy and Air Force should each have separate representatives. The JIS would be responsible for the preparation of all JIC appreciations and reports, which would be based on all available intelligence, also on the views of the respective departments of the members of the JIS. Officers and officials seconded to the JIS should be persons who are regarded as likely to rise to high rank. Before the last war, Intelligence was not a stepping stone to rapid promotion; in my position as Foreign Office adviser to the Directors of Plans and also at the same time chairman of the JIC, I found the Directors of Plans to be of higher calibre than the Directors of Intelligence.

I would finally urge that any expansion in the machinery of the JIC should be very closely controlled. After 28 years in the Civil Service and 35 years in the private sector, I have reached the conclusion that the efficiency of Government departments or organisations, also that of the head offices of large companies, is generally in inverse ratio to their size.

8.37 p.m.

Lord Thomas of Swynnerton

My Lords, like many other noble Lords, I must congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Franks, on his exceptionally well written and skilful report which was both fair and interesting—a combination which is not always achieved. This must be the only occasion when a report on the responsibility for a crisis has been commissioned in this way when the crisis concerned has turned out to result in a military victory, and so the report without question has a historical curiosity of its own to begin with.

I should like to say what a privilege it was to have been here today to listen to the speech of my noble friend Lord Carrington, whose conduct in April of this year and whose speech today it seems to me is a model as to how to behave in such circumstances. What a tragedy and irony it is that a Foreign Secretary, one of the very few Foreign Secretaries who have both known and liked Latin America—I think the only other Foreign Secretary who has actually been to Latin America is sitting on the Benches opposite at the present time—should have had to interrupt his career in this way.

In 1981 I had the pleasure, along with two other noble Lords who are in the Chamber at the moment, to accompany my noble friend, Lord Carrington, on a visit to Latin America. I know very well therefore from personal experience how well respected and admired he is in that fascinating, great green continent whose countries will, as the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, said in his speech today, continue to exercise us in the future very considerably. Also, all who heard him will wish to ponder Lord Carrington's reflections on the press, on public opinion and on parliamentary opinion in 1981–82. and will wish to do the same in respect of his defence of his then colleague, Mr. Ridley in the House of Commons in 1981.

Although I naturally have some reflections like everybody else on some of the details of this interesting and important report, I want to devote most of what I have to say to a subject which is certainly at the heart of the matter but is not very well covered, if I may so put it, in the report itself. I refer to the psychology and the character of Argentina. Sometimes, reading the report, you get the impression that those who wrote it were thinking of it as a far-away country—almost a far-away planet—of whose quarrels they knew little. I think that perhaps that is the chief weakness that I detected in the report. It is, however, rather like having a discussion about the effectiveness of the policies of Mr. Chamberlain or Mr. Baldwin without considering the character of the Nazis.

Argentina, it seems important to represent to your Lordships, is a country of great wealth and great complexity with irrational Governments for many years, as the noble Lord, Lord Granville, has pointed out. It is also a country in which the people and society generally have had connections with this country for nearly 200 years. I would submit, indeed, that that is part of the problem. I do not believe it to be irrelevant, for example, that it was Commodore Popham's expedition to Buenos Aires in 1806 which led directly to the independence of Argentina. It was British investment and trade in Argentina between 1850 and 1930 that led Argentina to become the great success story of Latin America, both politically and economically, in the early part of the century. British immigrants to Argentina were far more than to any other Latin American country. Many who were fortunate enough to have inherited wealth in this country must certainly reflect on the connections that they have even today—the connections that their ancestors established—with British involvement with refrigerated meat, gas, insurance, railways and shipping in what was for many years referred to as the "sixth dominion". It is entirely appropriate that the dictator who in 20 years of brutal rule managed to create modern Argentina should be buried in Hampshire—in Swaythling, I think—to which exile he was able to escape by courtesy of a British cruiser.

I suggest that this is one of the problems. Even recently it is the same people in Argentina who in the middle of the afternoon would be demanding the return of the Falklands, the Malvinas, who, in the evening, would be going to the British Council and trying to negotiate some way of sending their sons to an English public school.

The second complexity of Argentina seems to me to relate to the country itself, and not to its relations with us. As I have said, it was very wealthy, comparatively speaking, at the beginning if this century. It looked down on the other Latin American countries and considered itself a rival to the United States for the leadership of Latin America. Its history is in some ways an object lesson of how countries can go down in the league table of development as well as up. That is particularly interesting, because all the inhabitants are of either Spanish or Italian origin; that is to say, they are all of European origin. The problem of modern Argentina, it seems to me, is that the agricultural wealth of the country led to the development of a great deal of industry linked with agriculture, which in itself attracted immigration from Europe on a large scale in the last century and the beginning of this, particularly from Italy.

The large increase in population as a result of that immigration led eventually to economic problems, which were exacerbated by the economic crisis following 1918. The consequence was that in the 1920s and 1930s there began to be in Argentina a large unskilled labour force which was easily stimulated by demagoguery, whose task, in turn, has recently been rendered even easier by modern mass communications. Although Argentina today is still primarily an agricultural country—60 per cent, of GNP and 60 per cent, of exports derive from agriculture—political power in the country depends on the man who can best control the huge urban population, concentrated in Buenos Aires and Cordoba, the big cities. Hence, therefore, Peron and the excessively corrupt monopoly labour force; hence a great deal of government interventionism, very expensively managed to create quite bogus industries in the cities; hence, therefore, inflation; and hence, in the end, the military adventures which have resulted in this present debate.

Until recently Argentina has not played a very large part in Latin American international politics. That is perhaps because they are so far away. Some of your Lordships may remember a book by a distinguished Australian historian called The Tyranny of Distance. Maybe that has to some extent applied in the case of Argentina as well. Argentina was known to despise her neighbours who, on the whole, either feared her or made fun of her. But things began to change in the 1970s. The military régime which, as many of your Lordships have pointed out, won a ferocious civil war against terrorism did not become immediately popular, because of the continuation of the lopsided economy to which I have drawn attention.

Oddly enough, Argentine generals, once in power, behave rather like politicians—they wish to have popularity. I think incidentally, it would be wrong, as the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, did today, and as other speakers have done on other occasions, to refer to the Argentina junta as being "fascist". They themselves are of military origin and were responsible for a successful civil war against elements, some of which were fascist; and it would be false to refer to them by that adjective.

The drive for popularity by the generals in Argentina led them to seek some kind of adventure with which to entertain their population in these huge and uncontrollable cities. The modern urban mass does not want loaves and fishes. It wants vicarious excitement on its television screens, preferably at the expense of other countries—hence the incident of the Beagle Channel, which nearly led to war with Chile; hence the Argentine involvement in Bolivian coups d'etat a few years ago; hence their idea of a flirtation with involvement in Central America earlier this year; and, ultimately, hence the campaign against the Falklands. That was an obvious option for a military Government looking for popularity, since it was one which enabled them to pursue a war against a country which is an old enemy but also, as I said earlier, and old friend. What better plan could there be than that?

The Franks Committee is naturally vague about the actual day or the actual circumstances in which Argentina decided to attack, and some attention was paid to that by the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn. But the fact is that we probably never will find out the truth about all that since, with many countries such as Argentina, the papers which relate to these things are likely to be taken away by the Ministers concerned. Therefore, although we ourselves will be able no doubt to look up our papers in the Public Record Office in 30 years' time, people in Buenos Aires will not be able to do so to see the truth about those activities referred to in this report.

Perhaps I could conclude by referring to some points which relate to the future rather than to the present. First, whatever confusion there may be in Argentina at the moment, she will certainly remain a rich country, with unsurpassed agricultural assets and sufficient oil and gas for all her needs. Thus, unfortunately, it could be the case that she will be able to afford bad government for a good deal more time.

It is not so much evil government as bad government I am complaining about, though certainly they have used evil methods, as many of your Lordships have pointed out. The trouble with the Argentine Government, as it is presently constituted, is that it is not susceptible of being able to take a proper decision. We saw that during the course of the crisis in May, when an extremely conciliatory British compromise plan could not be brought by the Government to stick with the army officers in the barracks upon whom the Government depend.

In conclusion, it is possible, as the noble Lord, Lord Granville, seemed to suggest, that this crisis may result ultimately in the opening of the door towards democracy in Argentina, and I agree with him that the odds are that such a Government resulting from a democracy would be easier for us to deal with. On the whole, democracies are more pacific than military regimes, if only because they find it more difficult to get their electorates to vote for large arms budgets.

Nevertheless, in Argentina anything is possible and there is certainly a chance that a democratic system in Argentina would result in a Government which felt itself bound to retain the same irrational and jingoistic policies of its predecessors. We cannot be certain what will happen in Argentina. It is all very well for rational noble Lords to tell us that we must secure a solution almost at all costs. The fact is that in certain circumstances, when one is dealing with a régime which has this long, complex and difficult history, such solutions may be a long time coming.

8.52 p.m.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, the first principle of responsible government is the granting and acceptance of responsibility. The electorate delegates its responsibility to its elected representatives, and they to members of the Government. At the apex of this pyramid of responsibility is the Prime Minister. This responsibility must be recognised and its consequences accepted. We are discussing today a war which cost 250 British lives and several hundred maimed men; some of them, incidentally, killed or maimed by arms provided by this country. The consequence of responsible Government is that every wife, every son and daughter and every mother and father of those who died, or who were maimed, has a right to know who is responsible. That is the awesome task which we in this Parliament have to approach today in both this House and in another place, because it is Parliament which is the final court.

The Franks Report is a valuable document and I am certain that we are all grateful for the way in which the noble Lord and his team have put it together. But we have been enjoined from all sides, and, in particular, by the noble Lord, Lord Franks, himself, to read the report as a whole, and, as a whole, the Franks Report presents evidence of a kind about Government actions, ministerial discussions and papers which is, in my experience, unique in being published so early after the events which they describe.

We are enjoined to read the Franks Report, and I believe most of us have read it, but that does not necessarily mean that we must accept all its conclusions. It is the evidence in that report which is most important and, as I have said, it is Parliament which is the highest court. Therefore, it is a report which is presented to Parliament, and it is for us as responsible Members of Parliament to consider the evidence which the report presents. My noble friend Lord Cledwyn made this abundantly clear in his opening speech, and he demolished the selective sentences which were included in the introduction of that report when it was published last week.

In the debate last week on the military side of this issue, I was told from the other side that the deaths that had occurred were the responsibility of the Argentinian junta. No, my Lords, they were not. The Argentinian junta are responsible for the Argentinian deaths and wounds, and I hope that their people will hold them responsible and act accordingly. But we in this Parliament are responsible for any national action which causes death or wounding to British citizens. Therefore, that responsibility cannot be sloughed off to the unforgivable action that was taken by the junta in the invasion of the Falklands. In any case, it is a little hypocritical to talk about the principle of maintaining human rights and freedom, when we would be somewhat uncomfortable if we were asked, as a country, what our Government are doing in their relations with countries like Chile, Turkey or South Africa.

In paragraph 260 of the report, the Franks Committee set itself these two questions: First, could the Government have foreseen the invasion on 2 April? Secondly, could the Government have prevented that invasion? Those are two very narrow questions. The committee answered them both in the simple negative. But it did not ask the question which is surely more important than that: who was responsible for creating the situation in which that invasion and the consequent war took place? I noticed, in particular, this afternoon the great difference in emphasis between the opening speech by the noble Baroness the Leader of the House and the speech by the ex-Foreign Secretary, the noble Lord, Lord Carrington. I am not surprised that there was a difference in emphasis, because Lord Carrington made out an unanswerable case for the actions of the Foreign Office; in particular, in deliberately warning the Government, both the Cabinet and the Defence Committee, time after time, of the danger of invasion. He started in 1979, when he put his three options and when he rejected Fortress Falklands or negotiations without the concession on sovereignty, both of which he believed brought a serious threat of invasion.

The Prime Minister and the Defence Committee received that advice from him. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister put it aside until after the Lancaster House conference. Nothing was done about it for three months. It was not even discussed until January 1980. But the Joint Intelligence Committee that has been so attacked, particularly in the press and by some noble Lords, was warning in 1979 that there was a danger of military activity if certain circumstances came about. Those circumstances did come about, and they were brought about by the present British Government.

Then there was the case of Mr. Nicholas Ridley. I believe that Mr. Ridley has been very badly treated by his colleagues. I can understand the difficulty which Lord Carrington had, because he was in the wrong House. He was not sitting beside Mr. Ridley when Mr. Ridley came back with the suggestion of the leaseback solution. When he was being savaged in the other place, who was there to stand up for him? The Prime Minister did not. I cannot believe that if Lord Carrington had been with Mr. Ridley on that occasion he would not have come to his support. That might very well have changed the minds of certain Members of the other place.

In June and July 1981, the Joint Intelligence Committee was reporting once more that there was a definite danger of invasion if negotiations were thought by the Argentinians to be being carried on by the British Government without any serious intention of transferring sovereignty. Your Lordships will see in paragraph 100 that the then Foreign Secretary, Lord Carrington, in September 1981 sent a memo to this effect to the Prime Minister and to the Defence Committee: that there was a risk of military confrontation. But the Cabinet Ministers never met on the Falklands issue from January 1981 to 25th March 1982, a matter of 15 months. In the meantime, there had been the difference of opinion between Lord Carrington and Mr., now Sir John Nott, the Defence Secretary, on the issue of the withdrawal of HMS "Endurance". What happened? The Prime Minister supported her Defence Secretary against the Foreign Secretary. So I believe that this afternoon Lord Carrington made out a good case.

I have only two criticisms to make of Lord Carrington's handling of this situation as Foreign Secretary. In the first place, I think he was somewhat lacking in political courage (although I can understand why, after the number of rebuffs he had had) when he did not try to convince the Cabinet that there was a need for the Government to promote the leaseback option. He said that his Cabinet colleagues would not "wear it". What does that really mean? It means that they were so in awe of the Prime Minister that they would not consider the case on its merits and decide what was in the best interests of Britain in that situation.

By then, 1981, Lord Carrington had become very unpopular with the Prime Minister. From the attitude which the Prime Minister took before the Lusaka conference, it was quite obvious that she was by no means pleased with the Rhodesian settlement which Lord Carrington managed to engineer. Nor was the Prime Minister pleased with the Foreign Office in their attitude towards the European Community. So I think Lord Carrington might have summoned up a little more courage to go to the Cabinet, face them squarely with the options he had been trying to insist on for two years and insist that they make a Cabinet decision as to whether they should go for the leaseback option. It might be that if at that stage Lord Carrington had been defeated he would have felt that he ought to resign.

The second criticism I have to make of Lord Carrington is that he does not appear to have seen the need to have some defence behind the negotiations, as had been the case in 1977—defence which could be called on if, and only if, the negotiations broke down. Those noble Lords who have said that the Argentinians did not know that there was a submarine there in 1977 are missing the point. They were not supposed to know. The submarine was to be deployed only in the circumstances which are laid down by the JIC and by the Foreign Office: that the Argentinians had been convinced that Britain was not serious in its negotiations and had then followed up with an attack on the islands. That submarine could certainly have prevented the invasion of the islands. So both the Cabinet and the Defence Committee, but particularly the Defence Committee, continually ignored the frequent warnings that were given by Lord Carrington and by the JIC over a period of two and a half years.

Where does that leave us? It leaves us in this situation: that there is one common factor running right through this story. That factor is the Prime Minister. It is the Prime Minister who at every stage has been the blocking point to what could have been—I only say "could", because we cannot forecast what might have happened if circumstances had been different—a prevention of the invasion and therefore a prevention of the war. I would say quite frankly that those members of the servicemen's families who are feeling so saddened now, if they want to look for responsibility, must go where that responsibility is, and that is at the top of the pyramid of power.

Is it not obvious, too, that at every stage, in all the signals we have heard about which were sent across the Atlantic, it has been domestic policy which has been extended into foreign policy over the whole of this issue—the "Endurance" to be withdrawn to save £3 million a year; the British Antarctic Survey to have its budget cut so that it would have to abandon South Georgia; the sale of HMS "Invincible"; the British Nationality Act, which deprived a considerable number of islanders of their British citizenship. All these signals come directly from domestic policies—again, under the leadership and direction of the Prime Minister. I believe that when it comes to a question of responsibility, because of the Prime Minister's ignorance of foreign affairs, because of her prejudices and because of her lack of interest, but above all because of her presidential style of government, it is the Prime Minister who must be held responsible for the whole of this story.

After all, how many Prime Ministers would have written a note on 3rd March calling for contingency plans and then have said nothing when there came no reply? How many Prime Ministers would have asked the Defence Secretary on 8th March how long it would take to send naval ships to the Falklands, and then find that nothing happened? If the Prime Minister really believes in Victorian values, as she told the nation on television, I can think of many Victorian Prime Ministers who would have felt that they had the responsibility of resigning rather than allowing their Foreign Secretary and his colleagues, who had been right all the way through so far as their assessment of the situation was concerned, to "carry the can" —people who had been blocked continually by the Prime Minister and her followers, and by her style of government.

I do not need to go into the details of the future, although it would be wrong not to finish this speech by doing so. However, this has been done so well by the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, that all I can say in looking to the future is that I agree with virtually everything that was said by the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, about the projection of the future of the islands. What I would say, first, is that we shall secure no hopeful future by just fiddling with institutions and the chairmanship of committees. Secondly, we have other territories similar to, if not identical with, the Falklands. We have to look at the situation in Belize; we have to look at the situation in Guyana. There are many people in both those countries who would ask, "Are you going to treat us like the Falklands, or are you going to treat us in the same way as you treated the citizens of Diego Garcia?—who were not given any paramountcy of either interest or veto, but were thrown off their homeland without any choice and sent into exile despite the fact that they were a British reponsibility.

Across the Floor of the House the future of the Falklands as a Fortress Falklands has been rejected. I will simply endorse what the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, had to say about the necessity to begin thinking about, talking about and discussing the question of the extension of the 1961 Antarctic Treaty; and to begin to discuss with representatives of other nations the role that the United Nations should play in this—after all, we set up United Nations in order to prevent this kind of war happening, and to negotiate in disputes—and, in particular, the role of the Trusteeship Council of the United Nations, which, again, was set up for this purpose.

I am a little encouraged—only a very little—that in May 1982, even after the war had started, there were some proposals along this line. They were quickly withdrawn, but they were there. We are the people responsible for the welfare, safety, lives and prosperity of the people of this country, and we owe it to them to take such action now to hold responsible those people who are responsible; otherwise, the whole structure of responsible government will collapse. Further, we must begin now to discuss and look forward to an internationally negotiated settlement that will prevent this kind of tragedy from ever occurring again.

9.15 p.m.

Lord Wilson of Langside

My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, when he says that it is indeed an awesome responsibility that rests upon us in this matter, and I agree with him too about the debt which we owe to the soldiers sailors and airmen, the dead the wounded and the survived for the professional skill with which they got us out of the mess into which we had gotten ourselves. I am not quite sure, beyond that, to what extent I am in agreement with the noble Lord. I agree, too, with what has been said by a number of your Lordships—Lord Kennet, Lord Chalfont and Lord Carver, to mention but three—that what we should be concerned principally to do is look towards tomorrow, and I agree with Lord Chalfont when he said that embarking upon a party political debate, raking over the ashes of this particular matter, would be indeed a sterile exercise.

I think that our Government adopted the least objectionable of the courses which were open to them in April last. It is a circumstance of human affairs almost invariably when presented with any situation, but particularly a political situation, that several courses of action are open to us. This is a simple truth which most people acknowledge, but there are still some who are not prepared to acknowledge it, and more of that anon. In any event we adopted this course which was the least objectionable of the lot and we went to war with Argentina. And with the committee's final conclusion, as stated by them, I would have thought that it was pretty well impossible to quarrel: they concluded that they would not be justified in attaching any criticism or blame to the present Government—they did not stop there—for the Argentine junta's decision to commit its act of unprovoked aggression. I would have thought it was impossible, practically speaking, to quarrel with that conclusion. Yet there have been some who have. After all, in the last resort when at our prompting President Reagan tried to get in touch with him the ghastly Galtieri refused even to answer the phone, and at that stage it was not too late.

I think the British custom of self-criticism, particularly political self-criticism, is a quite admirable one, and I do not think we want to lose it. But, you know, you can carry it too far, and it often leads to misunderstandings in foreign affairs. At this time of night one does not want to explore the many illustrations in history where those of other lands have been misled by the circumstance that it is possible to be fiercely patriotic and British and yet to enjoy nothing so much as criticising your own country. This was the kind of custom which was adopted, for example, in the Germany of Bismarck or Kaiser Bill, and that led in due course to a lot of misunderstandings. But this is not the time of night to go into these historical parallels.

I was not able to be in the House last Tuesday and I did not get the report until Thursday, so for two days I was dependent on the media. I do not read too many newspapers. One must not do that, because every time one reads about something about which one knows one can see that the newspapers are almost always wrong. Nowadays television reporting is becoming almost as bad. I spent two days dependent on the media and I formed an impression of the report. That impression was that, while it was obviously an admirably informative review of the situation, it appeared from the media to have one or two fatal flaws. It appeared to have let the politicians off the hook too easily—I do not believe that is ever a good thing to do-and to have left the Civil Service carrying the can as it were, albeit a fairly small can. That was the impression that I gathered from the media.

I deprecate the fashion, already referred to in the debate, of seeking to blame the Civil Service for all our misgovernment, and that is not merely in relation to the Foreign Office. That fashion is commonplace among men and women in the street, and I deprecate it greatly. I can enjoy "Yes, Minister" just as much as anyone, and perhaps more than most; but so far as the Civil Service is concerned my inclination is to adopt the aphorism of the first Duke of Wellington in relation to military men and say that there are really no bad civil servants, only bad Ministers. Of course, that is the kind of thing that one says and is then immediately, in no time at all, the victim of the actions of a bad, wretched civil servant and has to be rescued by a diligent Minister. However, your Lordships are men and women of the world and will know what I mean.

This first impression of the report was completely dispelled when I read it. I echo the appreciation which has already been expressed by so many of your Lordships. This historic document, apart from anything else, is extremely readable; and that is not only highly commendable but not always achieved in committee reports. Nevertheless, I remained a little unhappy about some aspects of the committee's approach to its main task. I think I have already said that carping criticism on points of detail tends to be sterile, but now I am going to carp a little, and I accept that. I was a little unhappy, for example, about the first sentence of paragraph 13, which states: In our review we have taken particular care to avoid the exercise of hindsight in reaching judgments on the development of policy and on the actions of Ministers and officials". I feel that the word "hindsight" is much over-used. It is much favoured by politicians, and I do not mean that in relation to any of those who were responsible in Government in this matter, but as a general approach to assessing information before the committee. The word "hindsight" is favoured by politicians when matters for which they are responsible go adrift. We cannot expect Ministers to have second sight, but I should have thought that they must be strong on foresight. Moreover, I would have hoped that, equally, the committee would take particular care to avoid using hindsight as an excuse for failing to see the foreseeable. I hope that your Lordships will not regard this as a carping type of criticism on a matter of detail. As a lawyer, I feel that it is fundamental to the approach of judging the matters which were before the committee.

Paragraph 13 goes on: We have sought to judge on each important issue whether the views expressed and the action taken by those concerned were reasonable in the light of the information available to them and the circumstances prevailing at the time, and not to substitute our judgment of what we might have done in those circumstances". I would not have thought that that was quite right. I would not have expected a committee of this type to adopt the approach of a famous Glasgow lay magistrate who was faced with a reprobate in the dock, whom he asked whether he was pleading guilty or not guilty and who said that he was pleading not guilty, but who then in the local patois added, "And what's mair, I've got an alibi". The magistrate in the same patois replied: "I'll have none of your alibis. If you had not been there, you would not be here". I am not suggesting that that is the type of approach which the committee should have had, but I am wondering whether the one they adopted was the right one.

Paragraph 14 says: We have also borne in mind that our task required us to focus exclusively on the Government's responsibilities for the Falkland Islands and the Dependencies, whereas those concerned, both Ministers and officials, had to deal with many other major and pressing preoccupations. I should have thought—and this is quite important too as regards the matter of approach, but perhaps your Lordships will not agree—that that was appropriate in relation to small matters of day-to-day routine in any department, and a proper consideration to take into account. However, in relation to matters of this magnitude, in my view the answer lay in the famous observation of Harry S. Truman, when he said: If you don't like the heat, you should keep out of the kitchen". As I have said, it is sterile to carp on and I have taken too long already. In conclusion, let me say that it is important to learn the lessons, to explore the options which are now open with the utmost care—which many of your Lordships have already suggested is necessary—and to make from those the right choice for the future. There are many lessons, but I venture to mention only two. The first is probably the oldest in the book, but it is not perhaps sufficiently appreciated by any of us, and it is that politics is not only the art of the possible, but very often involves choices between what is unpalatable and what is utterly disastrous.

The second lesson, which is also one of the oldest in the book, is that there is not a lot of time to spare. It has been said that there is no alternative to Fortress Falklands. In my view that is nonsense, and it is dangerous nonsense. We do not have much time left to find the alternatives. Of course we cannot discuss them openly with the Argentinians, but certainly the Government should be thinking about them. There is not much time left, particularly since we are now, after all—and we should keep reminding ourselves of this—on the last lap to 1984.

9.30 p.m.

Viscount Massereene and Ferrard

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Buxton of Alsa asked why for 130 years the Falkland Islands were peaceful and why this trouble had all blown up in the 1960s. To a great extent I think that many British Governments are to blame for this. It may seem fanciful to say so, but if we look back to that famous "wind of change" speech by Mr. Macmillan, we see that from those years onwards we were dismantling and getting rid of all our vast responsibilities throughout the world, and, unfortunately, handing many of them over to corrupt and tyrannical dictatorships. Many countries of the world looked on in wonder at this action, and those countries with aggressive tendencies came to think that, to use a piece of slang, we would be a "soft pushover" and that we were great appeasers.

With the type of Government that we have had in Argentina for the past few years—and it is a very volatile country (Italians and those with Spanish blood being excitable)—those dictators have thought that we had sunk into decadence. I think that that has had a great bearing on why Argentina has for the last 20 years been aggressive.

The trouble is that we as a nation are very bad at dealing with dictators. Certainly we are not a young nation, but when you are young you are very inclined to think that other people should behave as you would behave. We as a nation do not appear to have outgrown that philosophy. When we deal with dictators we seem to think that they will behave as we behave. It is a habit that we must grow out of, but I doubt whether we shall because that is not in our nature.

General Galtieri came to power on 22nd December 1981. According to the constitution of that country, he was also Commander in Chief until 1982. He caught this country in the Christmas festivities and Recess, which certainly went on for a long time. I think that we were slightly casual about the whole affair. The British Ambassador in Buenos Aires said that in his opinion negotiations would go on for a long time, and that if there was to be any invasion it would probably be in January 1983. This was the 150th anniversary of the British occupation of the Falklands. Of course he was wrong, but had he been dealing with a reasonable, democratic Government in Argentina he would probably have been right; an invasion would have been very unlikely.

We have heard a lot about HMS "Endurance". I think that there were three reasons that gave the junta the green light to go ahead, and without doubt one of the reasons was the decision to withdraw HMS "Endurance". The reason given in Parliament for this decision was to economise. However, as HMS "Endurance" cost only about £2½ million a year, I do not think that the Argentine Government really believed that it was to economise. After all, we spend £12,000 million on defence and probably £40,000 million on the welfare state, so I do not think that the question of spending £2£ million made them think that the idea was to economise. No; what they thought was that we had decided to give up the Falklands.

The other reason was the plan to educate public opinion to cede sovereignty. I am glad to say that my noble friend Lord Carrington did not fall in with either of these plans. The plan to educate public opinion to cede sovereignty was washed aside. With leaseback you are ceding sovereignty, but there is some point in it. If you are ceding sovereignty on a leaseback for 30 years, as was proposed, to a régime like General Galtieri's, and perhaps to further régimes like that, one of those regimes would probably find an excuse to abrogate the agreement. You would probably find that they cut short the period of the leaseback agreement. I feel rather like the noble Lord, Lord Buxton, that if you are going to have a leaseback it must be for a very long period, and that you must negotiate leasebacks with stable Governments. However, to the credit of Her Majesty's Government, they did not embark on the leaseback because the islanders did not wish it. I have heard mention of the figure 1,700, but I thought that there were 2,000 inhabitants.

The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, and one or two other noble Lords, suggested that we should not accede to the Falkland Islanders' wishes, but that we ought to decide what is in their interests. That is a dangerous policy for a democracy such as ours. Much depends on who is going to decide on the interests of the islanders, or in fact any other group of people. One need only take the case of ethnic minorities in this country. Much depends on the Government in power, of course, but it would be possible for a Government to decide some unpleasant things for ethnic minorities. Indeed, if a Government took the view that it was in the interest of the people, they might decide after five years in power to have another ten years in office. Thus, I do not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, and others on that line.

Although I agree with the Franks Report that the invasion on 2nd April could not have been foreseen, we must remember that that was only one day. It would require a very clever Government, with an extremely good espionage system—indeed, one would need to be in the pocket of the commander in chief—to know the exact date of an invasion. Anyone who was in the services during the last war will be aware that prior to an invasion there must be a great deal of preparation. No commander of an army or fleet can say suddenly, "We shall invade". There must be a big build-up.

I feel especially sympathetic for our Defence Attaché in Buenos Aires, who lacked the means to finance sufficient people to watch the build-up of the invasion force. Had he had enough finance—I suppose the Treasury would not allow that; I rather blame the Treasury over several aspects of the matter—the Government would probably have had very accurate knowledge of the date of the invasion. Indeed, in some circumstances they might even have known the day of the invasion, or at least have known within a few days of it. Lack of adequate finance clearly had a great bearing on the Falklands affair, though not once the war started. Then finance was unstinted. I refer to the lack of finance during the time leading up to hostilities.

My noble friend Lord Carrington comes out of all this extremely well; being an honourable man, he resigned, and while that has been a great loss, I hope that one day he will again hold high office. On 24th March he wanted to plan for civil replacements for sea and air services to the Falklands—because he had a shrewd idea that the invasion was coming—with the cost coming from the Contingency Reserve Fund. Again, however, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury refused, so the Treasury has some share of the blame, though of course only on the financial side.

To sum up, I hope we shall learn the lesson that the real cause of the invasion was, as everyone knows, that we did not have a sufficient deterrent in the Falklands. If we had had that deterrent, in the form of one or two ships and submarines—though a submarine was sent a bit late—there would not have been an invasion. I sincerely hope that we take that lesson to heart, but I doubt whether we shall.

One item I cannot understand; that apparently someone in the Ministry of Defence or the Foreign Office gave the advice that the few marines we had there—not more than about 70, I understand—were quite sufficient to protect the Falklands. I find it very hard to believe that that was said. But I have seen it reported. The Falklands has a coastline of 4,000 miles and it seems a fantasy that any civil servant with responsibility could have said such a thing. I have spoken enough, but I hope we will learn the lesson.

9.47 p.m.

Lord Beloff

My Lords, to some extent this debate has been disappointing. It has been disappointing in the sense that the Franks Report has clearly not achieved what we hoped it would achieve. It was set. Its membership was agreed. Its terms of reference were agreed, and yet we find that noble Lords opposite are disposed to challenge its conclusions. I find this a rather extreme example of party spirit. Indeed, its seemed to me that the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, could scarcely contain his grief, not for the losses in the Falklands but because of the failure of the Franks Report to damage the reputation of the Prime Minister.

It is, I think, clear, and it has been made clear from speeches in this House—notably from the very remarkable speech, which in itself has justified the debate, of my noble friend Lord Carrington—that it could have been, and was indeed, foreseen that an attack on the Falklands was a not unlikely event. There were differences of opinion as to when the date might be, but certainly there is no evidence that the Government excluded that from their considerations. But, as I understood the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, he thinks that the Government, having achieved this insight into the likely course of events, could have acted so as to prevent it. The only way one can prevent an attack is, as the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, said, by a deterrent, by having a force so considerable that only a lunatic—General Galtieri was perhaps a man of strong passions but, so far as we know, perfectly sane—would challenge it.

Is it thinkable that Her Majesty's Government could have sent a major task force to the South Atlantic in time of peace and not be criticised by the Opposition, particularly the Opposition in another place, for unnecessary belligerence? After all, the Leader of the Opposition in another place is committed to the view that we exaggerate our need for a deterrent against a much more dangerous and forceful foe. Is it to be thought that he would have led a party which would have said, "Bravo! Why not a couple more ships while you are about it?" rather than, "Surely at a moment like this, when negotiations are still possible, we must do nothing to ruffle the Diplomatic scene"?

I believe that a Government can take measures of this kind—and this is a very important part of the lessons of the report—only when they have in Parliament a degree of understanding, and a degree of consensus, that will make the actions acceptable. That I believe did not exist, and for the Opposition now to say that the Government should have taken action of that kind—if that is what the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, meant—is I believe in the circumstances difficult to maintain. But perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, will reply to that point—

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, will the noble Lord give way? He is making a pretty good party political speech himself. What I in fact said was that, in my view, the government were responsible for a number of actions which could well have given the regime in Buenos Aires the impression that we were no longer interested in the Falklands; and that emerges clearly from the evidence in the report. Is the noble Lord saying that we have no right in this House to criticise the report?

Lord Beloff

My Lords, I would myself agree that the report brings up these points. The report states (and I am inclined to agree with it) that even if the decisions had been taken differently—and I think that in many cases, with hindsight, one would have expected them to have been taken differently—things might not have been different.

I am not an uncritical admirer of the report. I believe that a mistake was made in not enlisting the services of professional historians. I consider that the report concentrates rather too narrowly on a particular set of events and a particular set of considerations, which would have been much enriched if there had been the services of someone such as the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Swynnerton, who has contributed some important matter to our deliberations this evening. But I do not think that it amounts to saying that there were actions which the Government could have taken, with popular public approval, which would have been so convincing of our determination that the Argentinians would have held back.

I would go further. I would say also that I would agree with the criticism of the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, that it is a pity that the financial aspects of the constraints were not explored. There is evidence from the inter-war period, where the documents are available, of the way in which those charged with financial responsibilities tended to believe that they could also make policy as to the way in which those responsibilities were discharged. Although not much was made of that point, I think that it is a genuine one.

In my view the report's most important lacuna—because it points towards the future, and we have been repeatedly asked to look at the future—is that it does not ask the question which seems to me to be essential to understanding the position that arose and the war that happened. The question is: why did General Galtieri think that once he got the islands by a coup de main—it was not really an invasion; one can hardly call it an invasion against a dozen or so marines—we would in the end accept it?

There are various reasons why he might have thought that. They have been referred to in passing by a number of noble Lords, though they do not appear in the report. One of them lies in a feeling abroad that Britain was not going to interrupt the procession of imperial abandonment for a relatively small territory and an even smaller number of people; that Britain would go on behaving as it had on the whole behaved, and that the very different circumstances of the islands were not taken into account.

The second, I think, which may account for General Galtieri's confidence, was a belief that he may have acquired that the United States had come to view him and his régime as an important part of the security of the American continent and that they, as Britain's closest ally, would suffice to prevent Britain from taking action which would lead to his troops being turned out of the islands. Indeed, there is public evidence to this effect and I think it is a pity that two distinguished servants of Government who have been mentioned by more than one noble Lord, our Ambassador at the United Nations and our Ambassador at Washington, were not asked to give their views—they were not interviewed by the Franks Committee—about the international political background. It remains to some extent, therefore, a mystery, more of a mystery perhaps to others than to ourselves.

There is one other issue which is quite essential; and you may say that it is not so much lack of historians or lack of historical imagination but simply a question of time, the pressures of time, which led to the report nowhere indicating to the reader the importance, if any, of the Falkland Islands as such or indeed of their dependencies. Is this an important part of the world or is it not an important part of the world? And noble Lords in the course of our debate have differed as to that. We know that many people in Argentina, in Chile and in other countries think that the Antarctic and the Falkland Island dependencies (which are in a sense a gateway to the Antarctic) are of considerable importance, strategic, economic, political. Therefore, it seems that when one inquires into the origins of a war of this kind some indication might have been given of the committee's view as to whether we were only concerned with the admitted rather disagreeable fate which the Falkland islanders would have under Argentinian rule or—and this explains perhaps the assistance that we eventually got from the United States—whether we were concerned with the role which these islands and the other dependencies might take in the future; because that view would surely tell us to what extent the various peaceful solutions for the future which have been suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, and others, have a chance of success and a chance of commanding attention in the international community.

There are still some very odd things about the story—like the detective story about "the dog that barked in the night; but he didn't"; why for some six years successive Governments (beginning with the Government of which noble Lords on the Front Bench opposite were members) allowed an occupation of a piece of territory in Southern Thule which was within the area over which we claimed sovereign rights. The Franks Committee mention this; but they never explain it; they never go into why and what were the considerations which made us feel that we could, as it were, let this derogation from our sovereignty go by default.

I think that the committee, under the constraints they had, have produced a series of arguments which lead them to the conclusions they have and which I think it is idle to try to upset. But there are still matters to which we shall have to come back when perhaps, with passion subsiding, we can look at these events in the general context which, as we were reminded by the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill of Harrow, and again by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, must underlie all our thinking on these as on other events on the international scene.

10 p.m.

Viscount Hanworth

My Lords, at this time of night one ought to consider three alternatives: first, to remove one's name altogether from the list of speakers; secondly, not to use one's speech but to refer to other speeches with which one may agree or disagree; thirdly, to give the speech one originally intended with possibly some alterations. I am going to adopt the third alternative because although much of what I wish to say has already been said, it has not been said in the same way, and that will probably be the quickest way for me to complete my speech.

I suggest that it is really rather pointless talking about the few possible mistakes which the Government may have made just before or during the Falklands campaign. I submit it is scratching around in a rather arid desert. The real failures in my view go far deeper, and both this and previous Governments are to blame for failing to grasp the nettle and for boxing Britain into an impossible situation.

As events have turned out, the money already spent and required for military purposes alone could have made every Falkland islander a multi-millionaire. Yes, I know—and I agree—that we had to be prepared to fight, if only to demonstrate to the world that the use of force to achieve political ends will not be tolerated. But the situation should never have arisen. The war could almost certainly have been avoided, and the ultimate prospects of the islanders greatly improved, if we had been able to agree to give sovereignty to Argentina with a leaseback agreement.

If, on the other hand, we were determined to preserve sovereignty, then we should have clearly said that this was not negotiable and taken the necessary steps to safeguard the position from a military point of view. As it was, negotiations were little more than a delaying tactic, with no advantage being taken from the delay. 1 am sorry to say it, but never, never should we have given a pledge that the islanders' views should be paramount. Important, yes; paramount, no. To take this view meant neglecting all other people concerned. For example, our taxpayers will now have to provide billions of pounds, with an enormous continuing annual expenditure. We completely ignored the interests of some 10,000 Britishers in Argentina. As it turns out, we have gravely weakened our contribution to NATO and brought sadness to the relatives of those killed and injured in the war.

The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, has said that a leaseback arrangement, which he favoured, would have probably been politically unacceptable by Parliament without education, and I can well appreciate that. But, on the other hand, I do not go along with him in the view that this would have made the negotiations impossible. After all, you could take another point of view, and that is that if the Argentines had realised that we really were prepared to do this and were merely prevented from doing it at the moment, we might in fact have found negotiations easier. As it was, they did not believe that our negotiations had any purpose at all—and they were right.

We have also to consider that we should have tried to get across to the Falkland Islanders the facts of life and their own interests, and their pure emotions were not really very relevant to a very difficult point of view. All this should have been done, starting years and years ago. I hope that we will never again give a pledge regarding a community's view as paramount. It is equivalent to giving a dependant a blank cheque on one's account. Moreover, no community, Britain included, can give a sensible answer to an emotional issue without having time to assimilate the facts.

I should like to end by emphasising that I was never against using force, if we had to, but that I still believe the terms we offered to Argentina after the fleet sailed were unacceptable to any Argentine, and once again we hid these behind so-called negotiations. Our Prime Minister has the undeniable merit of forcefulness in carrying through a policy but, alas! I hardly think of statesmanship or possibly flexibility of mind. I do not propose to dwell on the future. I would only say that I think the ideas of the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, are worthy of very serious consideration. There is no doubt whatever, as the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, and others have said, that the present situation cannot endure indefinitely. Other solutions must be found to the present "fortress" policy.

10.2 p.m.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, may I also be allowed to congratulate the chairman and members of the review committee on what has been described by my noble friend Lord Home as a fair report and in no way flawed, as the noble Lord, Lord Wilson of Langside, was disposed to suggest, or indeed marred by the criticism raised by my noble friend Lord Beloff. May I also heartily endorse the many expressions of gratitude which have been made to my noble friend Lord Carrington from all sides of the House for his wholly efficient and selfless service to the state.

At this late hour, there is not really much to say that has not been said. My main concerns no longer exist. It is, however, idle to pretend that there is no political element in this debate. The conduct of policy by this Administration has been vindicated not only by the report but also by noble Lords who have spoken earlier in the debate. The Foreign Office has been vindicated. It is agreed on all sides, to take only some examples from the speeches of my noble friend Lord Carrington and those of the noble Lords, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, Lord Chalfont, and Lord Buxton of Alsa, that our only policy, now that we are permitted to protect our people from the instant threat of further aggression, is Fortress Falklands. This is a policy which the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, was disposed to describe to your Lordships as "crazy", though the reasons given for his view were not readily plain to me, and which the noble Lord, Lord Wilson of Langside, finds unacceptable, as I understand it. For, as my noble friend Lord Home observed when giving his authoritative assessment of the real interests of the islanders, in contra-distinction to the perceived interests to which my noble friend Lord Soames referred, we are talking not about what will happen in 20 to 30 years' time or the prospects of some international treaty, but about what is happening now.

If the key to that tomorrow lies in that metaphysical distinction between what are the real and the perceived interests, so be it. But today we are too close to the trauma and horrors of that occupation to be able to indulge in the exercise of drawing that distinction. Indeed, as I understand the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, he accepts that the climate is not now right, but in the long run it is, no doubt, the wish of all noble Lords to seek resolution by negotiation rather than war, if possible.

As my noble friend the Leader of the House truly stated, in 1982 there was no new situation. Indeed, my noble friend Lord Carrington might well have sensed that he was back in the reign of George III, who was constrained to seek the advice of Parliament in a similar dilemma about a war with dim prospects, then with Spain, or a shameful peace. As the report finds that no policy could have prevented resort to arms by the Argentines, may I inquire what relevancy it has to suggest—if I do not misunderstand the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn—that Her Majesty's Government's policy could not have been worse? For his own Administration, when in office, pursued the same policy as this Administration, as was pointed out forcefully by my noble friend Lord Soames. May I say a brief—

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, I am sure that the noble Lord would not want to misquote me. I have no recollection of saying anything in the sense that he has just said. Perhaps we had both better read Hansard in the morning. It may have been my Welsh accent that misled him.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, maybe it is my Scottish sense of understanding. I apologise to the noble Lord if I have misunderstood, and it was certainly not wilful. May I say a brief word or two about the wishes of the islanders, disagreeing, if I may respectfully do so, with the views just expressed by the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, as affording any fair criticism of either my right honourable friend the Prime Minister or of her Administration. I should also like to say a word about the transmission of signals, and about some matters of current concern, and I will then conclude.

On the question of the wishes of the islanders, the report endorses the policy which accorded paramount importance to the wishes of the islanders—a fact which Dr. Johnson failed to take into account in 1771, when he wrote that it would be manifestly absurd to go to war about them. It is the factor which constituted the stumbling block, as I understood the speech of my noble friend Lord Soames, over 200 years later in September, 1981, according to the report, when it was suggested in negotiations with Argentina that the present status of the islands could not be maintained. This was not acceptable to the islanders who were not interested in leaseback, any more than they were in condominium.

Hence the report finds that the pursuit of the policy of my noble friend Lord Carrington—protracted negotiations, no concession on sovereignty—was wholly justified, albeit that it carried the risk, though not the certainty, of a serious act of aggression, as distinct from the pinpricks of the past. The wishes of the islanders having precedence precludes resort to the International Court of Justice, as the principle of self-determination has not as yet been accepted as constituting an international custom or a general principle of law as part of the jurisdiction of that court. It is of passing interest, perhaps, that we offered to submit this ancient dispute for resolution by the court in 1951, but that that offer was refused by Argentina.

May I say a word about the transmission of signals. This report refutes the charge that we contributed to the invasion by the transmission of false signals as to our intentions—a point relied upon by the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, in his measured criticism of the conduct of the Government. The findings show that it was Argentina, bent on resort to force, which transmitted the false signals and went out of its way to mask its intentions to take us by surprise. The following questions arise. First, if false signals were transmitted, having regard to the findings of the report what relevance have they? Secondly, if we had reacted as was suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, and to some extent as was later suggested by my noble friend Lord Massereene and Ferrard, the situation, according to my noble friend Lord Carrington—and I, for one, trust his judgment—would have been worse, not better.

Thirdly, the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, blames the domestic policy of my right honourable friend the Prime Minister, saying that it was due to savings of expenditure on the defence budget, and so forth. The noble Lord appears to wish to align himself—a strange alliance—with Victorian Prime Ministers. Presumably he refers to Lord Palmerston. But I wonder, and I expect your Lordships wonder, what policy the noble Lord's party would have pursued, if we read with care the speeches of his right honourable friend Mr. Foot in another place. The criticism of the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, however sincerely motivated his criticism may be—I question not his motives—is without objective foundation and, in my submission, wholly misconceived.

Since 1771, when we resettled the islands after Spain's armed intervention the year before, we have stood on our right of discovery in 1592 and our landing in the 1690s. There is a very wide gulf between what we as a nation can accept when there is no immediate threat of force against our people and what we shall demand when that threat is imminent or has materialised. That threat persists. So long as it persists we can only pursue that policy with dim prospects and learn to live with it: never to opt for that shameful peace.

10.19 p.m.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, I want to follow the example of the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, who said that much of what he anticipated he would say had already been said. There have been quite a number of remarkable speeches. I thought that the examination made by noble friend the Leader of the Opposition, Lord Cledwyn, was admirable, fair and just. Because it was admirable, fair and just, and truthful, quite naturally it annoyed the Benches opposite. If it had been lacking in spirit or determination the noble Lord would probably have sat down to a few muffled cheers from the Conservative Benches.

Then we had the remarkable proposition of the noble Lord, Lord Beloff—and I am sorry that he is not in his place, He finds it utterly distasteful and almost an outrage to the British Constitution that Her Majesty's Opposition in another place and in this Chamber should dare to criticise Her Majesty's Government—particularly if it is a Conservative one. The only person who would have given him one and a half cheers for that would have been General Galtieri.

I want to place on record my honour of the forces in that campaign. Irrespective of what caused it and all the preparations or lack of preparations, what is beyond all peradventure is the magnificent endeavours of the British forces. I wish to pay my respects to those who were maimed or wounded and those who died. I hope that I will never have to say that again in this House. That perhaps is the real lesson of this remarkable Franks Report.

I find the committee's terms of reference also quite remarkable, but at this time of night I will not go into detail on that subject. When one reads the report, marks it, and then rereads what one has marked, it seems that there were a number of errors and a number of miscalculations but that nobody made them. The only person to whom is attached any degree of blame in the Franks Report is the Almighty; it would appear that everything was an act of God. 1 do not believe that this sort of thing helps us in our endeavours, because we are living in a very dangerous world.

I am bound to say that when I listened to the otherwise admirable speech of the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, I gasped for a moment when, if I interpreted his remarks correctly, the noble Lord said that we must keep an eye on the Soviet Union. Perhaps we will be sending a task force there. That would be a very bright thing to do, I am sure! I do not think such a thing can be in the mind of any serious person, and I hope that it was a genuine lapse on the part of the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont.

Lord Chalfont

My Lords, if the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, will permit me to intervene, I believe there must have been some terrible misunderstanding. I did say in the course of my speech that I thought there was a threat to the security of the West from the Soviet Union. If the noble Lord does not believe that, perhaps he will say so.

Lord Molloy

Of course I believe that, my Lords; but I was trying to say that because of that threat, and in view of the threat that was made when the Falklands issue began, perhaps we should take a little longer in arriving at a peaceful situation and follow the sane policy of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington—to talk, talk and talk until we arrive at a solution. To the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, I shall just say that it will be much more important to carry out the policies which the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, endeavoured to get the British people to understand if there should ever be a dangerous situation involving the Soviet Union—more so than in the case of the Falklands campaign. I hope that this House will thoroughly endorse that statement.

As I was saying before I was interrupted, when we examine in depth Lord Franks' Report we find a hidden rather than a blazoned reason and damaging charge of weakness and equivocation, despite the achievement in earlier years of preventing a military confrontation. I do not wish to apportion blame or say who was right and who was wrong at this stage in my remarks. What is beyond peradventure is that during the period of 10 or 12 years, under both Labour and Conservative Governments, because of endeavours to come to some agreement there was no war, no confrontation and no loss of life. If we could have gone on in that way we might perhaps ultimately have arrived at some form of solution, as we shall have to do in the end.

It may well be that we all have to share the blame in various degrees, but I believe the lion's share of the blame in the last instalment is this Government's. More than any previous Administration, Tory or Labour, it seems to me, on reading the inner depths of this report, the Government were massive in muddle, resolute in equivocation, somewhat competent frustraters and they seemed to be bereft of any firm policy. If they were not most of those things, why did Lord Carrington resign? We have to look at such behaviour as this as creating a terribly dangerous situation.

I will give credit for this fact, that it was terribly difficult for any democratic Government, such as we have in this country, whether Tory or Labour, to deal with a totalitarian junta. This, I believe, was not appreciated by our democratic allies. We had massive support in the initial stages from the United States of America, but I do not think they really understood the difficulties, never having had the experience of dealing with a junta as fascist as that which existed in Argentina or even being prepared to talk to them, distasteful though it was. I do not believe this situation was generally understood by those who have enjoyed democracy over the past 30 odd years in Europe, and much longer in the United States.

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, at the risk of boring the noble Lord by interrupting him yet again, would he say that General Haig's efforts were not a question of talking, trying to converse with the Argentines?

Lord Molloy

My Lords, as far as I understand the noble Baroness, she could not have heard the first part of what I said, about the admirable support we had from our allies, particularly the USA. Later there was a dwindling of that support; there was a confusion. Indeed, General Haig resigned. I think that proves what I am trying to say: that they did not really understand the difficulties of being an honest broker between a fascist régime and an ancient democratic regime like ours. Like our Foreign Secretary, their Secretary of State paid a very full price indeed.

Therefore, I would say that although Lord Carrington's efforts, his suggestion to educate public opinion in the United Kingdom and indeed in the Falkland Islands, particularly about leaseback, were abandoned, I believe we have to give earnest consideration to reintroducing them, and that we should listen to those who have had experience in the Falkland Islands. I am bound to admit that I would not be able to say what I am saying were it not for conversations and discussions I have had with people who have had considerable experience in the islands themselves, who know some of the misgivings and some of the misunderstandings of the islanders, just as much as they were here at home. I believe that although this policy was abandoned and the war has taken place, we have now to look very seriously at whether we ought to go back to that proposition first enunciated by Lord Carrington.

I happen also to believe that the economy of Great Britain would almost break its back if we indulged foolishly in a policy of Fortress Falkland. We would at some stage have to abandon it; we could not go on with it, having tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of men, ships, signals, all that is involved for year in and year out. The time would come when we would think we were fairly safe and we would withdraw, and some new Galtieri would start performing. So I do not believe that particular policy is viable.

I am one of those in this House who have always admired, and still very much do admire, the former Foreign Secretary, Lord Carrington. I cannot understand why he is not still Foreign Secretary. I believe it was Clement Attlee who said that if someone agrees with every single word he says, be suspicious of him. In the main I have agreed with nearly every single word that the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, has said, but not always. I did not agree with him on why he resigned. I believe that he was a very powerful restraining element on the Prime Minister. He has a first-class understanding of foreign affairs, which she has not, and, therefore, his value was not merely to his party but of much greater value to the nation. I hope that he will be restored in some way in the not too distant future.

The noble Lord said that there was much more examination of the Falklands issue under the present Administration than under previous Administrations. He should have been in the other place when I was there a few years ago. I listened to the heated and great debates there—indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, proved it—and the massive debates that went on in the Upper Chamber. He was right when he said that the Labour side was horrified at the idea of doing any deal with a fascist junta. The Conservative side did not feel that anything was to be gained by dealing with such people who were threatening our shipping. So there was not much chance, I readily admit, but the fact is that the issues were discussed and the policies of the then Government, particularly Mr. Callaghan's Government, were enough to show, with the "Endurance" and a few other warships, and with the signals that were coming back, that we could deter the junta, even from 7,000 miles away, from behaving in the way it did.

I would refer to the endeavours and efforts of Mr. Ridley, who must have had a terrible time. We can be very sorry for Mr. Ridley, but we must have the courage to say that he was not given a fair and sensible hearing in the other place by Members on all sides. We can rectify that by examining what Mr. Ridley had to say and seeing whether we can, in this House, give him a better, decent and civilised hearing, not merely in the interests of our own country, but, ultimately, in the interests of mankind as a whole.

There are many things that I should like to say, but the noble Baroness has to wind up the debate and my noble friend has yet to speak. Therefore, I shall merely say that, concerning the future of the Falklands, I believe we should go back to the policy adumbrated by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, and Mr. Ridley. We need a campaign to teach and understand, both at home and in the Falkland Islands, what the issues really are. When the noble Baroness replies in this context, will she explain exactly what is the Falklands Islands Company? This question is being asked more and more every day. How much land in the Falklands Islands, that people died for, does it own? Why do the Falkland Islanders themselves look on the company as anything but helpful? Let us not forget that many men died. We have a right to an answer. It may be a decent and wholesome answer, but there is a danger that something is lurking behind the fact that no one will tell us openly what the Falklands Islands Company is, what land it owns, and what are its negotiations with the islanders. All this will help in getting back to a policy of campaigning to teach and understand.

It will be necessary for us to talk with the Argentines and, within reason, as soon as possible. I put this question to your Lordships' House: how many of us, when we were swanning over the Rhine, or wherever it was, in 1945, would have said to our tank crews, our companies, or whatever they were, "Look, boys, in two years' time we shall be sitting down talking to the Germans about business and commerce and helping them to rebuild their country"? That observation could apply also to the Italians and the Japanese. At some time we shall have to talk. Perhaps, and who knows, by that sort of gesture we might then at the same time be aiding the real democratic forces in the Argentine. It will be a hard task, but it will be better to waste words initially than blood and lives later.

If there is any country that can pull off something of this magnitude, that has 700 years of experience, that I still believe can lead the world in civilised behaviour, can pull us back from dangerous brinks, can give an example, even after errors have been made, of how to recoup from them, make the best of them, and take danger out of a situation, I believe that it is this country. I hope that the Government will acknowledge that, and that perhaps we can get on to this last strand of endeavouring to remove the danger which still exists in the Falkland Islands, to ensure a fair and just peace, not only in the interests of the people of this country and in the Falkland Islands, but in the interests of all mankind.

10.36 p.m.

Viscount Montgomery of Alamein

My Lords, like all noble Lords who have spoken I, too, should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Franks, and his team for this fascinating report, and to say that I agree totally with the conclusions. I should also like to say to the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, who has just spoken, that I find myself in quite some measure of agreement with much of what he has said, although not with all of it.

As instructed by the noble Leader last week, I have read the whole report, but as nightwatchman from these Back-Benches I propose to confine my remarks to the history of the negotiations between 1965 and 1980, and to make a few comments about the future. Throughout the long history of this report, and long before, Argentina has sought to press its claim to sovereignty by negotiation. It was therefore interesting to read and to hear that leaseback, which was—and I believe still is—the most viable formula, emerged so early in the negotiating process. What also emerges from the report is the progressive importance given to the views of the islanders. It started with consultation and respect for their interests; then their wishes were to be followed; and finally their views became paramount, overriding all other British interests in the region. This process of increasing paramountcy, which has been referred to by several noble Lords, reached a climax with the savaging of Nick Ridley in the other place in December, 1980. I believe that this situation came about partly due to the natural intransigence of the islanders, who wanted nothing more than to be left alone; partly due to the Legislative Council in Port Stanley; but mainly due to the small but exceedingly powerful Back-Bench lobby organised by the Falkland Islands Committee.

I should also like to join in the tributes that have been paid to my noble friend Lord Carrington, who shares with the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, who will speak next, the honour of being the only Foreign Minister to visit Latin America when in office. I was privileged to accompany him as a member of his team when the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, visited Latin America, which visit has already been referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Swynnerton.

My noble friend Lord Carrington, in a very fine speech this afternoon, said that he rejected the proposals for a campaign of public education on the Falklands Islands issue. It seems to me that this was a great pity; but, of course, he was quite right at the time, since it was far too late—any campaign should have been started long before. So I conclude that if there is any blame in the history of the negotiations it is due to successive Governments of both parties—and, indeed, as my noble friend Lord Soames pointed out, to successive Oppositions as well—which lacked the political will to overrule the powerful parliamentary Falklands faction.

But all that is now past and we must concern ourselves with the future. The islands are to become a fortress which, as the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, has pointed out so cogently, will distort our defence policy for many years. I should, therefore, like your Lordships to consider three important facts which may or may not find their way into the unusual book which has been proposed by my noble friend Lord Cork and Orrery.

First, the Argentine claim to the islands will not go away and is being maintained as strongly today as ever, despite miltary defeat and economic disaster. The claim derives from the Spanish succession and is based on an interpretation of uti possidetis. This complex legal proposition has important implications for the territorial integrity of all other Latin American states, and is one reason why they so consistently support Argentina.

Secondly, the United Nations has called for the recommencement of negotiations. If we ignore this call, which was passed by a large majority at the General Assembly, there will be further resolutions with greater majorities and also calls to the same tune in other international fora. Whatever noble Lords may think about the United Nations—and several opinions have been expressed about its effectiveness—there can be no doubt that we were loud in its praises when it passed Resolution 502. We cannot just turn the United Nations on and off when it suits us. Thirdly, the investment that is required to develop the economic resources in the Falkland Islands, which have been clearly outlined in the Shackleton Report, can never prosper in a climate of such uncertainty. If the islanders' interests, as opposed to their wishes, are to be served, investment must take place in combination with other nations and in a secure atmosphere.

Argentina is a proud nation with which we have had a long history of collaboration and friendship. We even helped to bring it into existence in the first place. Their Government have made a catastrophic blunder and are in total disarray. As victors in the last recent tragic conflict, we must eventually exend an olive branch, as otherwise we shall have the economic burden with us for a very long time, with no conceivable benefit. The early renewal, therefore, of diplomatic relations becomes essential.

There can be no lasting peace in the South Atlantic, and consequently no long-term future for the islands or the islanders, if we view this problem unilaterally and do not involve Argentina. Several noble Lords have suggested that we must wait until that country has a democratic Government, but I can assure this House from my long experience that if we wait that long, it will be much more difficult. No Government could ever be elected in Argentina unless it was committed irrevocably to securing sovereignty, not necessarily administration, of the islands.

I have spoken about our relations with Latin America many times before, but never has this subject seemed so important as it does today in these new circumstances. I therefore hope that when my noble friend replies to this debate she will be able to give some glimmer of hope that our real long-term interests in Latin America will receive proper consideration in due course.

10.45 p.m.

Lord Stewart of Fulham

My Lords, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilson of Langside, and certain other noble Lords have suggested during the debate that there is something ignoble in raking over the embers and digging up the past, and that we ought rather to talk and think about the future. It is understandable that noble Lords should say that, but if we follow that doctrine we stultify one of the main purposes of Parliament—and let us remember the situation on that Saturday in April when the House met.

We from our side of the House made it clear—and I think the Government will not question that we lived up to this—that we should do nothing to make the Government's task difficult in the military job of resisting and defeating the aggression; that they could count on our full support for that. That we did. But we also made it clear—and it was not only on our side of the House that it was said—that later on, when the conflict was over, there must be an inquiry into how we had ever got into this position. That was a perfectly proper inquiry to make.

We cannot therefore now say, the report being before us, "Don't let us discuss it; it is too sordid to rake over the past". We need to consider why it was that things fell out as they did, because that will help us to avoid similar errors in the future and be something of a guide to the future handling of this matter. It is of course much more attractive to talk about what we ought to do immediately in the Falklands, and about what should be our future policy towards the Falklands and the Argentine.

That is a more attractive and more interesting subject than, as it is described, raking over the past. For that reason I shall have a few words to say about it at the end of my speech. However, it is not, and is not meant to be, the main subject of this debate. The subject of this debate is an examination of the Government's handling of affairs in the years that led up to the invasion.

I think I might say this. The noble Lord, Lord Greenhill of Harrow, described how the Franks Report reminded him of the Stanley Holloway poem where the magistrate gave his opinion that no one was really to blame. Similarly, I myself was reminded of a rather macabre episode with which I had been connected earlier. Some years ago, in another place, I was the chairman of the committee to which the Ombudsman, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration, reports. At one of our meetings we were considering the case of a man serving a sentence of imprisonment who had fallen ill and needed to have his leg amputated. The operation was carried out with great skill and expertise, but unfortunately on the wrong leg.

Some of the officials concerned endeavoured to argue that, regrettable as this result was, there was in fact no maladministration in the matter, and it therefore did not fall within the Ombudsman's province. The Ombudsman gave the robust common-sense ruling that when you have a result such as this there must have been some maladministration somewhere. Similarly, when I read in the Franks Report the words, "No blame or criticism", I really had to remember that the invasion of the islands had occurred. This was something that might have occurred a number of years previously and which previous Governments, in one way or another—perhaps by skill, perhaps by luck—had managed to avoid. But now this appalling thing had actually happened. The wrong leg had been amputated.

It was difficult to believe that there was no criticism and no blame going around anywhere. Of course, when one came to read the report, as well as the conclusions, one saw that time and again in the report there were sharp criticisms of the way the Government behaved. It can be said that even if the Government had made none of those mistakes the result would have been the same. That may be so; but there is no proving it one way or the other, and it is no excuse for the Government's mistakes. What we are doing, therefore—and here I am, in effect, replying to Lord Beloff—is saying that we are not satisfied with the conclusion of the report because it contradicts the contents of the report as you go through them in detail. Now I do not propose to do that at great length, because so much has been said already, but there are a few salient points that I want to bring out.

A forcible attempt by the Argentine to seize the Falkland Islands had been a possibility for a long time. The aim of Governments had been to prevent that from happening, partly by the skilful use of diplomacy—by seeing whether any peaceable solution of the problem could be found in discussions with Argentina—partly by taking reasonable precautions against it, and, above all, by making it quite clear beyond doubt that Britain would resist an attempt to seize the Falkland Islands if it were made. One of the most serious charges against the present Government is that on that point of certainty they fell down. Gradually it became to observers in the Argentine less and less certain that Britain would have both the will and power to resist if the attempt were made.

When the present Government came to power, the situation, which had always had its ups and downs, was at a point where the temperature was rising. There had been, a year or two earlier, the military takeover of the Government of the Argentine, the Argentine had been disappointed and frustrated by the arbitration ruling given on its dispute with Chile over the Beagle Channel and might well be considered to be sore, frustrated and angry and looking for somewhere else to turn.

I want to look particularly at the situation which events had reached in the summer of 1981. At that time there was a JIC assessment which, after discussing various possibilities, expressly envisaged the possibility of a full-scale invasion of the islands. That was only one such warning. It is true that some of the warnings that came, either from intelligence sources or embassies, were rather cautiously worded and suggested that there might only be, to begin with, say, the harassment of shipping, the seizure of uninhabited territories and so on. But several of them mentioned, as that assessment of the summer of 1981, that invasion could not be discounted. That phrase was used on more than one occasion. One of the criticisms of the Government is that those warnings were not given the weight they deserved.

It was about that time—when that was the JIC's assessment of the situation—that a meeting was held at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the conclusions of which were that they thought we should try for leaseback, that a scheme of public education would be needed for that, and that, at the same time, attention should be given to preparing contingency plans. That sounds reasonable enough; on the one hand, that you seek a diplomatic approach, while on the other, if that does not come about, you make contingency plans against possible action that might be taken by the Argentine if diplomacy does not succeed.

The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, then Foreign Secretary, turned down the proposals about leaseback, and he gave us today a very powerful account of the reasons for doing so, and I do not criticise him on that point. But that meant, of course, that if you were closing that door—a door towards trying to solve the problem by conciliation—you must give all the more attention to the preparation of contingency plans, civil and military, against action by the Argentine. Plans of a kind were prepared. They even got to the point of receiving the approval of the defence chiefs. But they did not reach the Defence Committee because that committee at that time was not discussing the Falklands Islands at all. Several references have been made to this matter, on which the Government's answers have been at their weakest. The undoubted fact is that the Defence Committee did not discuss the Falkland Islands from January 1981 until April 1982, when the invasion was upon it.

The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, said, "After all, one does not want matters conducted by perpetual committee". Perhaps not, but the Defence Committee has the merit that it can make decisions. The contingency plans had been patiently and diligently prepared in the Foreign Office and Ministry of Defence and could have been considered, with decisions taken on them, if that committee had met. The trouble at this time was that we were not having perpetual committee, we were having perpetual minutes from the Foreign Secretary and perpetual office meetings; but not a committee meeting on the Falklands issue, which would have turned all those deliberations into actual decisions for action. That seems to me to be a matter for serious criticism, and we are obliged to notice that the chairman of the Defence Committee is the Prime Minister.

May I just draw the attention of the House to paragraph 152 of the report. It describes how the Prime Minister saw a telegram on 3rd March which the British Ambassador in Buenos Aires had sent, describing the alarming worsening of the situation. When the Prime Minister saw this telegram she wrote on it: "We must make contingency plans". Her private secretary wrote to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on 8th March, four or five days later, copying his letter to the Minister of Defence in the Cabinet Office, recording the Prime Minister's comments and saying that he understood that it might be the intention of Lord Carrington to bring a further paper on the Falkland Islands to the Defence Committee in the fairly near future, and that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office might think that helpfully this could contain an account of contingency planning.

It seems to me that there is a declining emphasis and urgency as that paragraph proceeds. It reminds me rather of the person who said, when trying to explain a particular idiom of a foreign tongue, that it is like the Spanish "mañaña" but it has not the same sense of urgency. From the Prime Minister's Lists we must make contingency plans for the various "mights", "coulds", "could helpfully". It looks as if the machinery of government, as has been suggested by other critics, was suffering from a kind of paralysis in its reactions to the Falklands emergency. The swift commands of the Prime Minister were not being translated into action and she, apparently, was not doing anything to see that they should be. The Defence Committee, of course, did ultimately meet, but by that time the invasion had already occurred.

I would hesitate to pronounce on the proposed changes in the Joint Intelligence Committee, but if the idea is that instead of having a Foreign Office chairman one should have a chairman appointed by the Prime Minister, then if the Prime Minister is somebody whose orders and instructions run into the sand in this fashion, I doubt whether the change would be to the national advantage.

My noble friend Lord Walston drew our attention, with great wealth of detail, to the many warnings that came from embassies and intelligence sources and how they were repeatedly neglected. He also made a point that has not been made elsewhere but is, I think, important. Not until the last minute does there seem to have been an approach to the United States, and one wonders very much why not.

While all this was going on, several other things were occurring which were not lost on the Argentinians. The British Nationality Bill had made its appearance. It would be difficult to say exactly how much weight observers in the Argentine paid to this Bill, but, prima facie, it looked as if this Government were not greatly interested in the Falkland Islands. That the Government themselves have attempted, by their decision, with the help of the noble Baroness, Lady Vickers, to put right; and I trust they will see that that attempt is pushed through in another place as resolutely as I trust it will go through this House. By itself, that factor might not have mattered. But at a time when all the other signs were drawing attention to the increased danger of the situation, to push through Parliament a nationality Bill of that kind cannot have been helpful.

That is still more true of the matter that has been mentioned so often, and which must be mentioned again: the decision about Her Majesty's Ship "Endurance", and the proposed sale of the "Invincible". I need not go over what happened there. The Foreign Office kept asking that the decision about the "Endurance" should be altered. The Ministry of Defence, with the Prime Minister's support, kept refusing. That was the situation until, of course, the invasion altered the whole position.

When one looks at the comparative roles of the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence in this matter, one sees that it is not surprising that a good many people came to the conclusion at the beginning of April that the wrong person had resigned. It looked as though the Government had decided to act on a maxim laid down by one of Charles Dickens' characters, Better hang the wrong fellow, than no fellow". The nation wanted a scapegoat; unfortunately, they got the person who was not responsible for the trouble. Today, in a most moving speech, to which we all listened with great respect and interest, the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, I think was really saying that he and his colleagues were ritual victims, in a sacrifice which would enable the nation to obtain unity for the prosecution of the war. Well, I think that that may well be so, but I am not sure whether the choice of the wrong victim really meant that what happened was in the national interest.

In addition to those points, there was the neglect of the Argentine military preparations. The character who appears fascinatingly and, as it were, through the mists in the report, the British defence attaché in Buenos Aires, clearly thought that there was a good deal going on and wished that he had the resources to enable him to obtain, and send back to his Government, further and more detailed information about Argentine military preparations.

What is clear is that those preparations were certainly going on. They must have been going on for the invasion to have been launched when it was launched. There was also the matter of the Argentine press. One of the criticisms of the Joint Intelligence Committee is that it pays too much attention to secret sources of information and does not just go out and read the papers. I think that there may be something in that. Certainly to a lay person a study of the Argentine press at that time would have given considerable cause for alarm. So far as we can see, it does not appear to have had any impact on the Government.

So what that means is that in the summer of 1981 the Government had decided to drop one diplomatic possibility—leaseback—while at the same time they had allowed the efforts for making contingency plans to run into the sand. There had been apparent paralysis of the work of the Defence Committee about the Falklands. There was neglect of alarm signals in the Argentine press about Argentine military preparations, and there were actions taken, such as the nationality Bill, and the decision about "Endurance", that could not but have encouraged the Argentines to think that aggression might succeed.

In relation to any one of those matters, one might say, "Well, we all make mistakes". But really there are here rather a lot of mistakes, all tending in the same direction. I felt obliged to ask myself the question: If it had been a Labour Government that had done, and had not done, all this, what would have been the reaction? Would it have been possible to obtain six persons of the good and great to hold up their hands unanimously and say that there was no criticism or blame? I do not believe it. Nobody else believes it, either. Further, there would not have been all these speeches about, "Don't let's rake over the embers of the past", if the errors had been committed by a Labour Government—

Lord Soames

My Lords, will the noble Lord forgive me for interrupting? It seems to me quite extraordinary that he is saying that were there to have been a Labour Government, the Prime Minister could not have found, say, half a dozen Privy Counsellors who would have had the confidence of both the Government and the Opposition to make such a report and to render it to Parliament.

Lord Stewart of Fulham

My Lords, what I am saying is that if you had found them, they would not have delivered a unanimous verdict of "not guilty" if it had been a Labour Government that was in the dock. And that we all know; we need not be too mealy-mouthed about this. This is how politics works in this country.

We have had this catalogue of error. With that, I conclude what I have to say about the recent matters, the raking over of the past. I would just say a word now about the future. If by Fortress Falklands we mean creating a situation in the Falklands which will make it impossible for the aggression to be renewed, then I am certainly for it, whatever it may entail. That must be what is done at the present time and for the immediate future. And, with that ought to go, so far as possible, the implementation of the measures described in the Shackleton Report.

But, having said that, we have got to accept that that can be for only a limited period. After that we must consider the resumption of diplomatic discussions and, in the end, some solution of this problem which involves, as Sir Nicolas Henderson put it, an international dimension. Whether it be through the United Nation, whether it be on the lines of the interim plan proposed by the British Government themselves while the hostilities were on, or whether it is built on the Antarctic Treaty, those are matters that we can consider a little later.

I think that, in view of the feelings in the Falkland Islands, we cannot begin those discussions immediately. Neither can we postpone them indefinitely. I hope the time will come when we are able to take up that task. For, although I believe that this examination of who was to blame was right and necessary, more hopeful, more attractive for the future, is the consideration of whether we can yet find a proper, workable diplomatic solution to this problem.

11.7 p.m.

Baroness Young

My Lords, this has been a wide-ranging and immensely valuable debate on a matter of great importance to the country as a whole. It has been primarily concerned with the past, the causes of and the build-up to the invasion last April of British territory, and with the determined, successful but costly action undertaken for its recovery. It is absolutely right that these events should be the subject of exhaustive examination and of the widest possible debate. Many of your Lordships tonight have looked towards the future and that, too, is right and welcome. This House today paid warm tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Franks, and his right honourable colleagues for the admirable thoroughness and clarity of the report which they produced. I should like once more to report the Government's recognition of what, particularly in view of the complexity of the issues and volume of material and the relatively short time available, has been an impressive achievement and a model of its kind.

That said, I must say that I was astonished at the concluding remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Stewart, and I should like to say to him that perhaps on reflection he will feel that that was not a suitable criticism to make of the committee of the noble Lord, Lord Franks. We were fortunate that we had six Privy Counsellors who took part in it. It was a committee, the membership of which was agreed, the terms of reference were agreed, and it was in fact good for the country that they reached a unanimous conclusion. Indeed, if I might say this briefly to the noble Lord, Lord Stewart, he said that someone must be to blame. The answer perhaps is so clear that he has overlooked it—Argentina.

It is a mark of the quality of the proceedings in this House that we have heard from so many noble Lords who were directly concerned in British foreign policy in the period reviewed by Lord Franks' Committee. They spoke either as former Ministers or as officials of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. We have also heard from two professional historians, the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, and the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, and from at least two experts on the Falkland Islands, the noble Lord, Lord Buxton, and the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery. I shall be taking the opportunity to respond to the many important comments and views that we have heard, but I should like once again to welcome the presence of my right honourable and noble friend Lord Carrington. His contribution has, if I may say so, dominated our proceedings.

I should like to reflect briefly on one broad conclusion that has emerged clearly from the report of the noble Lord, Lord Franks, and I believe from the debate today, and which is essential to a proper understanding of the Falklands dispute. As the noble Lord, Lord Home, said, it has never been a simple issue capable of easy solution. If it were, it would have been resolved long ago. As so many speakers in the debate have stressed, four British Governments—two Labour and two Conservative—have faced the same dilemma. There has, on the one hand, been a persistent Argentine demand for an early transfer of sovereignty; and, on the other, a deep and enduring reluctance on the part of the Falkland islanders to see any change in their status or way of life. At the time, the islands' geographical position and the growing pressures on Britain's resources imposed inevitable constraints on any Government's ability to defend and support the islands against a strong and often unstable Argentina.

In these circumstances, successive Governments have concluded that it was both in the national interest and in the long-term interest of the islanders to seek a negotiated settlement to the sovereignty dispute, provided—and this has been the essential though necessarily complicated proviso—that any such settlement was in accordance with the islanders' own wishes. The difficulties of resolving such a complex question through negotiation were always clear; and even more clear were the difficult and dangerous consequences both for Britain and for the islanders of the alternative course of confrontation. It is this continuing dilemma, and the consistency of British foreign policy in the face of it, that the report of Lord Franks brings out so well. Throughout the course of the dispute and through previous periods of tension, the central objective was to maintain the negotiating process and to avoid a collision.

Over the years, the options steadily narrowed until only a solution based on leaseback seemed capable of bridging the negotiating gap. I am sure that we were all interested when my noble friend Lord Carrington said that it was the present Government which were the first to talk openly about the leaseback concept. For reasons which we all know, that, too, was blocked; and that was a point that was very well made by my noble friend Lord Soames and referred to as well by my noble friend Lord Montgomery.

By March 1982 tensions had risen, and it was apparent that without some modification in the position of either the Argentines or the islanders negotiations were approaching their end. But they had not yet broken down, and all the evidence which the report sets out in detail was that the period of danger for which the Government should prepare was the second and not the first half of 1982. It was the junta's sudden decision to exploit the South Georgia incident, in a way which Lord Franks concludes could not have been foreseen, which made the crisis come when it did and in the way that it did. But what underlines the report's conclusion is that the cause of the crisis should not be sought in a narrow examination of particular decisions or events; it has lain in the logic of this complex and intractable dispute.

I should now like to turn to some of the more specific points raised during the debate. The noble Lords, Lord Cledwyn, Lord Shinwell and Lord Stewart have suggested that after Parliament's rejection of leaseback, the Government's policy was one of drift, and the absence of a meeting of the Defence Committee was evidence of this. This is, of course, as I believe, simply not true. As we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, the Government's policy towards the Falklands was worked out in a series of ministerial discussions in 1980 and early 1981. The policy was to continue negotiations with Argentina. Discussions in Cabinet and Cabinet committees are primarily for the purpose of reviewing policies and taking fresh decisions.

Up to the New York talks at the end of February 1982, there was no cause for a reconsideration of agreed Government policy. The New York talks were the first round of negotiations for nearly a year. It was after these talks, and not before them, that the prospect for a continuation of negotiations would be clear and discussion in the Defence Committee would have been properly focused. A meeting of the Defence Committee on 16th March was arranged. It was the Argentine reaction to the New York talks, and the consequent need to establish agreed terms of reference for future negotiations endorsed by island councillors and accepted by the Argentines, which delayed this timetable. The details are set out in chapter 2 of the report and I will not rehearse them, but it really is nonsense to suggest that because there was no meeting of the Defence Committee the Government had been operating since early 1981 in some kind of policy vacuum. Ministers were agreed on the policy to be followed and had been kept fully abreast of events by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, whose speech we shall all read very carefully in the Official Report.

The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, also referred to the Government's policy as having been one of Micawberism, if I may use that phrase. I ask the House to consider what the policy options were in 1981 and early 1982.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, I apologise for interrupting. What I did was to quote our Ambassador in Buenos Aires, who described the policy as "Micawberism."

Baroness Young

My Lords, I agree: it was in the letter from the Ambassador in Buenos Aires. If I might return to the policy options in 1981, they were essentially those available to successive Governments during periods of either greater or lesser tension: negotiation or confrontation. The Government could have concluded that negotiations were useless and, by reinforcing the islands, have brought the dialogue to an end. We could deliberately have incurred the costs and penalties of what is described as a Fortress Falklands policy. But would it have been right to do so, or in the interests of Britain or the islanders? We could have chosen to disregard the wishes of the islanders and to impose on them whatever solution was agreed with Argentina. That was not a course which this Government could accept. All we could do—as we did—was to avoid any coercion of the islanders but to keep the negotiations going in order to avoid the consequences of their breakdown, and to keep open the prospect of a modification of either islander or Argentine opinion which might allow progress to be made. I have no doubt that that was the right course, and it seems the only sensible and practical policy.

It has also been suggested that in the months before the invasion there were signals of Argentina's aggressive intentions which the Government either ignored or misinterpreted, and that it was clear by early March of last year that negotiations were at an end. My Lords, surely not; the report itself does not bear this out. By early March, tensions had risen and the seriousness of the situation was recognised. The need for a full review of the situation by the Defence Committee was foreseen; but the evidence and the detailed account of the evidence in chapter 2 of the report should be carefully read. This was to the effect that the Argentine Government continued to attach overriding importance to the establishment of its negotiating position and that the talks were not yet dead. All the indications were that there was far from being any consensus within the junta on a possible use of force, that direct Argentine pressures would follow, and not precede, a breakdown of negotiations and that the crucial period would be the second, not the first, half of 1982. That view was fully corroborated by the intelligence which the report sets out and which it accepts as being reliable. It is the evidence at the time which is the main point: it is not hypotheses, aided by hindsight.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, would the noble Baroness give way? Is it not the case that the situation at the time that she is describing was precisely what had been forecast by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, from 1979 onwards?—that there was a grave danger of invasion of the islands if either Fortress Falklands or negotiations without concessions on sovereignty were the options taken by the Government?

Baroness Young

My Lords, the situation is as I have described it and it is, I believe, as set out in the report of the Franks Committee. I do not think there is any discrepancy between those two descriptions and I do not think that it is a valuable contribution, at this late hour, to go back once again on to further hypotheses.

In this situation and on this evidence it would have been wrong for the Government to take action to bring the negotiations to a premature end and to hasten confrontation. The right course was to keep alive the prospect of a peaceful settlement: to go down the road to negotiations while preparing against the contingency of their breakdown. That was what the Government were doing, and it was the junta's opportunist exploitation of the South Georgia incident, which could not have been foreseen, which accelerated events.

Perhaps I may now turn further to the point about contingency planning, to which the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, devoted a great deal of his speech, and which was also mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, and the noble Lord, Lord Stewart, who referred critically to the absence of a response to the Prime Minister's question on contingency planning in early March. The Prime Minister's request, as conveyed in her private secretary's letter of 8th March, was that, when Lord Carrington put his proposed paper on Falklands policy to the Overseas and Defence Committee, it should contain an account of contingency planning. That was already precisely the intention.

As the report sets out in paragraphs 108 to 113 and in paragraph 295, civil and military contingency papers had been drawn up in 1981. These were further developed and had been prepared as annexes to the proposed paper for the Defence Committee in March. When it became clear that the Defence Committee meeting, expected in mid-March, would be delayed, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office took steps before the South Georgia incident to obtain ministerial authority out of committee for carrying the civil contingency plans forward, as set out in paragraph 155. The military paper was also circulated. So I believe that this criticism is misplaced. The response required was to ensure that contingency planning was undertaken and ready for the expected meeting of the Defence Committee, and this was done; and, indeed, as the Franks Committee recognised, we were able to send the task force.

The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, referred to HMS "Endurance", and much has been said in the report and elsewhere about the decision to withdraw HMS "Endurance". As, however, to the effect on the I Argentine junta, this must, at the end of the day, be a matter of judgment. It would be wrong and irresponsible to suggest that the Government had any intention of giving a signal that the Falklands were free for the taking, or that they neglected the need to make clear, as we did, that the garrison in the Falklands would remain and that Her Majesty's ships would, from time to time, visit the islands. A number of speakers, including the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill, the noble Lord, Lord Walston, and my noble friend the Duke of Portland have referred to Lord Franks' comments on intelligence machinery—

Lord Kennet

My Lords, may I be so bold as to interrupt, before the noble Baroness leaves the question of the "Endurance"? Is the noble Baroness under the impression that any Member of this House this evening, or, indeed, to my knowledge, anywhere else before, has been suggesting that the Government intended to send a signal to the Argentines that they could invade, when they withdrew the "Endurance"?

Baroness Young

My Lords, I have not said that someone in this House had made that particular point. But it has been suggested that there was a signal to the Argentines that we were no longer prepared to defend the islands or to have a presence in the South Atlantic, and I was clearing that point. In fact, as we know, the ship was not withdrawn, but there has been discussion of the effect that this matter had on the Argentine junta. As I have indicated, it was, indeed, a matter of judgment.

If I may, I will now turn to the questions that were raised about intelligence. I hope I made clear in my opening speech that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has accepted the Franks Committee's proposal that the chairmanship of the Joint Intelligence Committee should be held full-time by a member of the Cabinet Office. He will have direct access to the Prime Minister, in the same way as the heads of the security and intelligence agencies.

A number of noble Lords paid tribute to the professionalism and valour of the British armed forces. They included the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, my noble friend Lady Vickers and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilson of Langside. My noble friend Lord Carrington reminded us that our servicemen and women are all volunteers, and I share his belief that there has been a resurgence of national self-respect and confidence as a result of their success in the South Atlantic.

I should like to add my own tribute, not only to the servicemen and women who sailed with the task force, but also to the countless number of service and civilian personnel who made possible the preparation and dispatch of the task force in a remarkably short space of time, and who kept it supplied with ammunition, fuel and stores along a supply line stretching half-way round the world. Let us not forget, despite all that has been said in today's debate, and which I have no doubt will continue to be said and has been said publicly in criticisms of contingency planning, that within a matter of 10 weeks British forces had sailed 8,000 miles, effectively neutralised the Argentine navy, fought off an air force which outnumbered British aircraft by more than six to one and brought to surrender an entrenched and well supplied enemy, who at all times outnumbered our forces. By any standards this was a brilliant campaign.

Many noble Lords also referred to the work of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and paid tribute to their ability and dedication to duty in the service of our country, a view which has been supported by the Franks Committee and which I myself am glad to reiterate once again.

The noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, referred to the living conditions of our troops stationed in the South Atlantic. I can assure the House that we regard the welfare of our troops as a matter of the greatest importance. I understand that the commander of the British forces in the Falkland Islands has investigated thoroughly the complaints published in the press last week and found them to be almost entirely without foundation. In addition, my honourable friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Armed Forces, who has been visiting the islands, has looked into this matter and will be making a full report to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence.

The noble Lord, Lord Walston, asked me to comment on why the Government had not sought the assistance of the United States with the Argentines in the years before the crisis. This is a question which applies to successive Governments. But it would not have been appropriate to seek to involve the United States Government in the rights and wrongs of a sovereignty dispute which was not their direct concern. It was only when it seemed that the Argentines might be considering forceful rather than peaceful means that we quite properly asked the United States to use its influence.

Most noble Lords have referred to the future of the islands, starting with the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn. The point has been made in the debate that if the need to seek a negotiated settlement was accepted in the past, why is it less necessary or acceptable now? The answer, of course, lies in present realities. The negotiations were broken off through unprovoked Argentine aggression. Thereafter we made strenuous but unsuccessful diplomatic efforts to avoid armed conflict and the resulting loss of life. The scars of war are still fresh in the islands and Argentina remains unrepentant, aggressive and unstable. In the longer term, relations between the islands and Argentina will have to be settled. As almost every noble Lord who has spoken has recognised, the conditions for doing so simply do not exist at present. There will need to be a fundamental change in the Argentine attitude before that can be possible. It is not possible to say when that might be, nor yet to consider the precise basis.

I have listened with interest to the very varied views which noble Lords have put on this question. We attach great value to our relations with Latin America and will continue to do so. Meanwhile, our duty remains to defend and support the islanders: to give them the conditions of peace and security necessary to recover from the effects of the invasion and for them to give thought to their own future. Our current defensive presence in the Falkland Islands in no way reflects a wish to establish a permanent British military base in the South Atlantic, but the fact of the matter is that Argentina has refused to declare a definitive end to hostilities and refuses to renounce the use of force in pursuit of her sovereignty claim. Argentine readiness to resort to force is a matter of record. It is clear that Britain must maintain an adequate defence force on the islands.

Meanwhile, noble Lords will be aware of the Government's commitment to press ahead with the economic development of the Falkland Islands, starting with the implementation of the economic programme announced to this House on 8th December. Indeed, if the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, looks again at the report of the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, he will see the answer to his particular questions about the Falkland Islands. This will be accompanied and, where necessary, preceded by a continuing reconstruction and rehabilitation programme to ensure the existence of the sound infrastructure which any economic development requires. A good start has already been made on this work, thanks in large part to the job done by the armed services. I am delighted to echo the tributes which have been already paid to them for what they have achieved in this field.

I have sought to respond as fully as possible to the many points raised by noble Lords tonight. We have had a full and valuable exchange of views covering many aspects of the Falkland Islands. But our central concern has been to consider Lord Franks' report on how the responsibilities of government were discharged in the period leading up to the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands on 2nd April 1982. On a matter of such exceptional importance and of such complexity there has inevitably been controversy. It was for that reason that the Government decided to have a full inquiry and to entrust this to an independent and distinguished committee of Privy Counsellors with a chairmanship, composition and terms of reference agreed on an all-party basis.

The review committee have considered all the evidence and have made an impressively thorough and detailed report. This sets out their unanimous conclusions that the Argentine invasion could have been neither foreseen nor prevented, and that there would be no justification for attaching any criticism or blame to the present Government. I hope, indeed, that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister takes great satisfaction from that. These are clear, unequivocal and unanimous conclusions, and should be accepted as such.

My Lords, the past nine months have been a difficult period. Let us now put this matter behind us and look to the future instead of to the past.

Several noble Lords

Hear, hear!

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House adjourned at twenty-eight minutes before midnight.