HL Deb 13 July 1983 vol 443 cc874-85

8.44 p.m.

Lord Hatch of Lusby rose to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will appoint an independent commission to inquire into the circumstances surrounding the decision to sink the "General Belgrano".

The noble Lord said: My Lords, may I first say to the noble Baroness who is to answer this Question that I greatly appreciate the stamina she is showing and the interest which she is displaying by staying on, after a long and exhausting debate, to answer this Question. While I am speaking particularly to the noble Baroness, may I suggest to her that she takes the first opportunity of taking the Prime Minister aside and having some very stern words with her.

It was on 28th June that the noble Baroness, Lady Young, told me that she assumed I had read the letter from the Prime Minister to the National Union of Seamen. I asked the Library here and in another place to look out this letter. With their usual diligence, they sought it but could not find it. Eventually they turned to No. 10, only to get the answer late last night that it was not the practice of the Prime Minister to reveal the contents of a private letter to a third party. May I suggest to the noble Baroness that she suggests to the Prime Minister that it is time that there was better communication between the Prime Minister and members of the Cabinet.

Let me clear up right at the beginning one or two canards that might be thrown at me in this debate. First, I have no sympathy whatever with the Argentine invasion of the Falklands. I am totally opposed to the use of force to settle international disputes. Secondly, nothing that I say and nothing that I intend in this discussion is any reflection whatever on the Armed Services who did what they were told with excellence and with courage. This issue is one of a political decision and not of military action. Thirdly, I make no accusation whatever against any individual Minister. My concern is that a series of contradictory statements appears to have been made by the Government, dubious answers given to questions and hidden evidence. Therefore. there is public concern whether and when the Government are telling the truth and whether the casualties among the British and the Argentine Forces were really necessary.

May I also make particular mention of the work done, first, by my honourable friend Tam Dalyell, who I believe will go down when the history of the period is written as a man who would not be deflected from what he saw as his duty and who has uncovered a whole series of facts which should be known to the public; and, secondly, of my right honourable and learned friend, the Member for Aberavon, Mr. John Morris, who is a former Minister of Defence, and who put a whole set of questions in the debate in the other place on the gracious Speech—questions which have not been answered and some of which I shall be repeating tonight.

Let me next set the broad background of the Question that I am asking. On 30th April 1982 the efforts of Secretary of State Haig to get agreement between the two sides over the Falklands collapsed. On the same day the United States declared its support for Britain. This meant that Britain had got the support of all the countries of the EEC, the USA and Japan; in other words, Britain was in a position to mobilise economic sanctions against the Argentine if she so decided. The following day, on 1st May, the duty of seeking an accommodation—negotiations or some compromise—between the two sides fell upon Peru and the United Nations Secretariat. On that same day a Vulcan bomber based on Ascension Island, Sea Harriers and then Naval ships took part in a bombardment of the Stanley runway. Presumably this would have increased the power of the United Kingdom to exercise a blockade against the Argentine. The Argentine admitted 56 casualties during that bombardment.

Also on the same day (1st May 1982) Mr. Francis Pym, then Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, was in Washington to seek the chance of a peaceful settlement. When he arrived in Washington he gave a press conference at which he said that the attacks on Stanley, which I have just mentioned, were intended to concentrate Argentinian minds on a peaceful settlement. Then he added: No further military action is envisaged at the moment, except to keep the exclusion zone secure".

The following day, Sunday 2nd May, the "Belgrano" was sunk, at approximately 8 p.m. London time. Three hundred and sixty-eight lives were lost. The Peruvian peace initiative was destroyed. The opportunity for consideration of the peace proposals mentioned by Mr. Pym in a letter to the Daily Mirroron 20th May of this year was abrogated. War became inevitable—a war in which 1,200 British and Argentinian lives were lost; a war which cost several thousand million pounds in British money; and a war which led to the ruinous Fortress Falklands policy, to the rearmament of Argentina, now apparently with the help of British money, to the impossibility of a political settlement and to an absence of any secure future for the islanders.

These three major questions arise from this situation. First, why was the order given to sink the "Belgrano" at that particular time, 30 hours after the ship has been located? Secondly, did that order torpedo not only the "Belgrano" but the last chance of peace? Thirdly, did the sinking lose Britain international moral support and result in the loss of the "Sheffield", the "Coventry" and the "Atlantic Surveyor", along with all the casualties and other ships?

I now come to specific questions of which I have given the noble Baroness notice. They are divided into two sets. The first set of questions is on the military situation, and the second set is on the political consequences. I should like to read them out without comment in order to save time, and to give the noble Baroness the most ample opportunity possible to prepare to answer them. Why did Sir John Nott then Minister of Defence tell the House on 4th May 1982, (as reported at columns 29 and 30 of the Official Report) that the "Belgrano" was close to the total exlusion zone and was closing on elements of our task force, which was only hours away", when it has since been established that the "Belgrano" was on a course away from the islands and away from the task force?

Secondly, why did the noble Lord, Lord Lewin, the Chief of Staff, tell the BBC that, from the time the 'Conqueror' sighted the 'Belgrano' to the time it took to sink her was only a matter of hours"? Why did the Government White Paper state: The 'Belgrano' was detected on 2nd May", when Commander Wreford-Brown, captain of the "Conqueror", declared that he followed the "Belgrano" for over 30 hours and reported contact? Why was the order not given to sink the ship on 1st May, when the "Belgrano" was certainly a greater potential threat to the task force than it was on 2nd May?

Thirdly, why did Sir John Nott tell Parliament on 5th May (as reported at column 156 of the Official Report): The actual decision to launch a torpedo was clearly one taken by the submarine commander", when the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, the predecessor in this House of the noble Baroness at the Foreign Office, told this House in answer to a Question from myself that the decision was taken by the Prime Minister and the War Cabinet?

Fourthly, why has Parliament been told that the "Conqueror" might have lost the "Belgrano" in the shallow waters of Burdwood Bank when the draught of the "Conqueror", the depth of the bank and the course of the "Belgrano" render such an explanation invalid? Fifthly, was there any naval intelligence that the Argentine Government had ordered ships back to port?

The second set of questions is on political statements and the political consequences of the situation which I have so far described. First, why did the Prime Minister state on television on 7th June this year that if she had not given the order—that is, to sink the "Belgrano"—she would have endangered the "Hermes", the "Invincible" and other ships when they were east of the Falklands and the "Belgrano" was nine hours away, on the west of the islands and steaming westwards?

Secondly, why did the Foreign Secretary make the statement, which I have already quoted, in Washington on 1st May? Thirdly, what document was prepared by the Peruvian Government for signature on 2nd May? What discussions were held by the British Ambassador in Lima on 1st and 2nd May? Were these reported to the Foreign Secretary or the Foreign Office? Did he have authority from the Foreign Office to hold the discussions, and did the Prime Minister know of them at the time of her decision?

Fourthly, was the Prime Minister aware of the negotiations which were described later by Secretary Haig as a formulation that provided hope that a settlement could be reached"? Fifthly—and perhaps most crucial of all—what attempts were made by the Prime Minister and the War Cabinet to get the views and the news of the Foreign Secretary before the decision to sink the "Belgrano" was taken?

I consider that the public have a right to know the answers to these questions. I accuse nobody. I have simply put the questions about which there is public doubt. I consider that the questions which have not yet been answered by the Government represent a prima faciecase for an independent investigation in which witnesses can be called and questioned. I ask the noble Baroness, who I hope is not too tired after this long day, to answer the questions that I have put.

8.58 p.m.

Lord Mayhew

My Lords, we should be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, for making his case tonight without repeating some of the wilder and more paranoid allegations against the Prime Minister which have been made in this field, especially by Mr. Dalyell in another place. We should also be grateful to the noble Lord for the tribute which he very justly paid to the armed services for the part that they played in this affair. Frankly, it had come to the point of being rather difficult to judge this demand for an inquiry on its merits. It was difficult to feel sympathy for such a demand when put forward in such an unattractive and exaggerated manner.

It is one thing to say—and it may be true—that the Government were too anxious to stop delaying tactics by the Argentinians over the peace negotiations, or that the Government were not anxious enough to avoid loss of life. Those are hard charges, but it is possible to make them. However, to argue that the Prime Minister deliberately ordered the sinking of the "General Belgrano" in order to torpedo the peace talks, is a wild and unjustified allegation which should never have been made. After all, it is also true (is it not?) that one can make a terrible mistake without necessarily being wicked, stupid or careless. Indeed, everyone who has had to take difficut decisions, especially in wartime, knows that it is quite possible for intelligent, conscientious people, acting with the utmost good faith, to make terribly wrong decisions. Indeed, that is especially true when one has to make the decision against time, on incomplete or uncertain information, and when people's lives are at stake. Mistakes are made in such circumstance and they are sometimes cause for criticism, in some cases they are cause for sympathy, but they are never cause for what we saw in the general election—a series of bitter, personal insults against the Prime Minister made for electoral purposes.

However, having said all that, I agree with the noble Lord. Lord Hatch, that there are questions that need answering and that should be cleared up in the Government's own interests. I suspect that there are a number of perfectly sound answers to a number of questions that the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, has put to the Minister. It is in the general interest and in the interest of the Government that the matter should be cleared up. My own feeling is that the most worrying aspect is the extraordinary conflict of statements made by the Government themselves: the conflict between the earlier statements made, for example, about the position of the cruiser, about its direction and about its distance from our surface forces, and the later statements made officially on those points.

I also agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, in wondering why the cruiser was sunk at that moment, when it had been trailed for as much as 30 hours. It suggests possibly that the Government despaired too early and too readily of achieving a negotiated settlement for withdrawal of Argentinian troops and that they underrated the impact of their own success with the bombardment and with the blockade on the position of the Argentinians. I do not think that the answers to these questions are necessarily difficult to find. It might well be in the general interest, and in the interest of the Government, to set up an inquiry and discover and publish the answers. It is for those reasons that, while we wish to disassociate ourselves completely from wild and paranoid allegations made by Members of the Opposition, we on this side think that there should be an independent inquiry into these questions.

9.4 p.m.

Lord Rea

My Lords, I will not keep your Lordships long because it is getting late. From the moment the news first reached us in early May last year, the sinking of the "General Belgrano" has been a very emotive topic. Some highly charged exchanges have taken place in another place, and serious allegations have been made against the Government. Many, not only housewives from Bristol, are not entirely satisfied with the answers to the questions that have been asked. It is therefore timely that the matter has now been raised in your Lordships' House by the noble Lord, Lord Hatch.

I should describe why I, personally, am interested in this Unstarred Question. I have spent only a small part of my life in the armed services, as a national serviceman. I did not see active service; but since early teenage years during the last war I have been keenly interested in the causes of the peculiarly nasty human habit of war and its conduct. As a doctor, I am only too keenly aware of the scale of human suffering involved; and, while I am not a pacifist, I am not alone in feeling that even for a just cause it is worth making superhuman efforts to explore every possible means of preventing war before resorting to force.

After the Argentine seizure of the Falklands and South Georgia last year—incidentally, without the loss of a single British or Falkland Islander's life—many of us reluctantly accepted that at least a display of force was justified. Galtieri was unlikely to withdraw with the threat of sanctions alone. With the bloodless recapture of South Georgia, with its heroic and remarkable exploits of helicopter flying in terrible weather conditions, many of us who had doubts about the wisdom of sending the Task Force were won over. Above all, no lives had yet been lost. But soon, however, we heard of the bombs on Stanley Airport—again, we probably thought without loss of life. But here it appears that we were wrong. Antipersonnel weapons were used, and the runways in fact remained usable.

It was soon after this that we learned of the sinking of the "General Belgrano" well outside the 200-mile exclusion zone. Why was she sunk? It was because she apparently posed a threat to a section of our Task Force and was closing upon them. But when the 200-mile exclusion zone was first imposed, no suggestion was made that craft outside the zone might be sunk without warning, without being given the chance to turn back. Now we have learned from the Written Answer to a Parliamentary Question in another place that when the torpedo struck the "General Belgrano" had already turned for home. There are many of us who want to know more about this. As the "General Belgrano" sank the crew of more than 1,000 had to take to lifeboats and rafts and abandon ship into an icy sea which quickly caused the death from hypothermia of any who failed to get on to an overcrowded rescue craft or who fell off one. In such conditions it is, to me, pretty remarkable that two-thirds of the crew were saved. Nevertheless, 368 were lost. I remember at the time shuddering at the thought of this loss of young life in that cold sea, and wondering whether it was really necessary.

Suddenly, a "gentlemanly" war with few lives lost changed to a struggle involving great grief and suffering with its accompaniment—avenging anger. The skill and at times almost foolhardy heroism of the Argentine Skyhawk pilots was, I think, largely based on this determined rage and indignation. As we now know, we probably would have lost more ships and men if the Argentine bombs had been properly primed. International opinion, which until then had been coming round to support the British cause, hesitated; uncommitted nations condemned the British act. We have still not been forgiven. Now, more than a year after the war is over, it should be possible, without fear of revealing military secrets, to hear the full reasons for this act, authorised from Northwood, which sparked off the real shooting and killing war in the Falklands.

Recently, even more disturbingly, as the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, has mentioned, we have had reports that a peaceful solution acceptable to Galtieri and involving the withdrawal of Argentine and British troops was about to be concluded under Peruvian auspices at or around the time of the sinking of the "General Belgrano". So many questions have now been asked, both here tonight and in another place, and have met with unsatisfactory replies, that nothing less than a full independent inquiry, which is proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, will satisfy the critics and also many of the supporters of the Government. I might add that if this inquiry is denied the conclusion will inevitably be drawn that the Government have something to hide. Alternatively, if the inquiry is held they will have a chance to prove that the allegations that have been made are groundless.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

My Lords, perhaps I may ask a question. If, as we are told, the "Belgrano" was sunk for military reasons and to ensure the safety of our ships, could the noble Baroness tell us why the escorting destroyers—which were the more dangerous of the small fleet because they carried the Exocets—were not sunk instead of the big ship, which was rather old-fashioned and armed only with heavy guns?

9.11 p.m.

Lord Bishopston

My Lords, your Lordships have had a very long sitting and the noble Baroness, Lady Young, is involved in two debates here today, so I hope to be brief. My noble friend Lord Hatch of Lusby, and indeed all who have taken part in this debate, have spoken with clarity. I may say in passing that it is interesting that, while the other place has been debating what to do about the death of individuals in a developed country, your Lordships have been discussing the death of millions of people in the third world. I am sure that we look forward to the time when the two issues are the cause of equal concern and publicity.

We are debating the issue of the sinking of the "General Belgrano", which resulted not only in the death of several hundreds of people when she was torpedoed, but indirectly in the death of many more casualties then and since. It is claimed that the sinking of this Argentine vessel was justified as she could have caused the death of hundreds of British personnel later. It is well, in relation to the debates in both Houses today, to recall the words of John Donne when he said that: Any man's death diminishes me". But if the main aspect of concern as shown today and at other times is the sinking of the vessel, then many think—rightly or wrongly—that the scuppering of the vessel resulted in the scuppering of talks which might have led to the settlement of the dispute between Britain and the Argentine, and which might well have prevented the loss of over 1,000 task force and civilian lives, apart from the lives of the Argentinians.

There is of course the resulting on-going commitment of the defence of the Falkland Islands. I think that Her Majesty's Government were right to ask the noble Lord, Lord Franks, to head an inquiry into the Falklands campaign, and this has indeed cleared the air on a number of issues. I want to be helpful to the Government—as I always seek to be—by asking them to allow the case that they claim to have to be examined. I make no accusations for we need facts in order to make claims of any sort.

Your Lordships have debated the document, The Falklands Campaign: The Lessons(Cmnd. 8758). Paragraph 110 refers briefly to the "General Belgrano" encounter. I shall not repeat the questions posed by my noble friends, Lord Hatch of Lusby and Lord Rea or indeed by the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew. But I will say that they are an expression of the concern of many people, both here and abroad. The Falklands Campaigndocument spends just five paragraphs on the preliminary diplomatic history leading up to the real hostilities. The Government commendably warned the Argentines time and time again to withdraw and avoid further conflict. However, as I say, it is widely felt that the scuppering of the "Belgrano" also ended the peace talks in which the Peruvians were also involved and inevitably led to the conflict.

It does not require one to visit the Falklands, as some of us have been so privileged, to be able to appreciate the magnitude of the task accomplished by our forces. Praise for the success of the operation should not lead to British people overlooking the fact that it would have been far better and much more to the Government's credit had it saved the peace rather than won the war over 1,000 casualties and billions of pounds later.

Some very serious charges have been levelled at the Government, and they will continue to be so levelled unless the Government are able to give acceptable facts and assurances. I do not at this stage want to suggest what kind of inquiry should be held. Parliament has various means of ensuring an examination of such issues. If the noble Baroness is not able to announce plans for an acceptable inquiry I hope that she will be able to ensure that Parliament is enabled somehow to examine the evidence in detail.

In asking that I have in mind not only that it may help the Government but that it would also resolve some of the concern about Britain's conduct in a world which has always had good reason to look to Britain for the maintenance of high standards and principles. Finally, the Falklands campaign document, to which I have referred, makes a valid point when it asserts in paragraph 257: It was crucial that public opinion, both at home and abroad, understood and supported our cause. It goes on to claim: It was vital to retain the support of friends and Allies abroad. That this was largely achieved is a measure of our success in providing a reliable account of the diplomatic and military developments. I believe that Her Majesty's Government would do well to accept the view of the Opposition that the substance of that paragraph, the Government's own document, will warrant their special consideration at this time.

9.16 p.m.

Baroness Young

My Lords, I confess that I would be misleading your Lordships if I said that it was with any sense of pleasure that I rise to reply to this short debate this evening initiated by the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby. Rather, it is with a weary sense of déjà-vu,since so much of what the noble Lord has said has been heard before both in your Lordships' House and in another place. I am reluctant to try your Lordships' patience still further by repeating at any length the answers which have similarly been given already to these questions. But since I am called upon to reply, I shall do so as briefly and succinctly as I can.

First of all, I must repeat what I told your Lordships on 28th June. The Government see no reason to have an inquiry into this matter, and nothing that the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, or indeed other noble Lords have said this evening inclines me to revise this belief. However, since the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, is insistent I must repeat to your Lordships yet again that the decision to sink the "General Belgrano" was taken for purely military reasons, not political reasons as he stated. The plain fact is that the Argentine cruiser posed a threat to the task force, for reasons which have been explained on previous occasions, and that the task force commander sought and obtained a change in the rules of engagement to enable her to be engaged.

Noble Lords and others who choose to overlook our responsibility for the security of the task force also tend to forget that Her Majesty's Government had notified the Argentine Government in a message delivered on 23rd April—and immediately circulated in the Security Council—that whatever the extent of the 200-mile Maritime Exclusion Zone around the Falkland Islands any aproach on the part of Argentine warships…which could amount to a threat to interfere with the mission of British forces in the South Atlantic will encounter the appropriate response". I hope that that point answers the point that was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Rea, who seemed to imply that no warning had been given.

This warning was unambiguous, and the Argentine Government, which itself had launched hostilities with its armed invasion of the Falkland Islands on 2nd April 1982, can have been in no doubt of the potential consequences of ordering its fleet to sea as the task force approached, and of its responsibility for keeping the "General Belgrano" in the area where it was on 2nd May regardless of any course it may have been on at any particular time. For anyone to profess surprise or shock that the "General Belgrano" should be attacked under these circumstances is I believe to display ignorance or disingenuousness.

Lord Rea

My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Baroness? In fact if the "General Belgrano" was posing a threat to the task force, why was she not sunk when she was actually much nearer to the task force rather than heading away after she had been tailed for 30 hours by the "Conqueror'?

Baroness Young

My Lords, this if I may say so is one of the questions that the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, has put to me quite specifically and which I am going to answer later in my remarks. To suggest that the "General Belgrano" was attacked in order to avert the possibility of any peaceful settlement—in particular, to "scupper" the so-called Peruvian peace proposals—is I believe absurd. I was grateful for the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, on that point.

I must remind your Lordships of the Government's untiring efforts to achieve a negotiated end to the conflict, with the unflagging assistance of such able intermediaries as Mr. Haig, President BelaÚnde of Peru, and the Secretary-General of the United Nations. These efforts were in train before the sinking of the "General Belgrano" and, I stress, continued unabated thereafter, despite the Argentine military Government's persistent evasiveness and intransigence, which on 17th May—more than two weeks after the sinking of the "General Belgrano"—finally thwarted the attempts of all concerned.

I must also tell your Lordships that for the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, to continue with his suggestion that the attack on the "General Belgrano" was in any way connected with the Peruvian proposals—when it has been stated categorically by Her Majesty's Government that news of these did not reach London until after the sinking—is to imply a warp either in time or in the noble Lord's imagination.

I can but reiterate what I told your Lordships two weeks ago: the report of the proposals was telegraphed to London at 2215 GMT—just ofter five o'clock in the afternoon Washington time—on 2nd May. The attack on the "General Belgrano" had taken place over three hours before that.

There is no question of that report having been unnecessarily delayed. The first intimation of the existence of any proposals from the President of Peru came in a series of conversations that same day in Washington between the then Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, Mr, Pym, and Mr. Haig. Clarification of the ideas expressed by Mr. Haig was needed before it was possible to send a report to London. Even then, Mr. Pym was given nothing which remotely suggested that an agreement was at hand: what Mr. Haig outlined was, as Mr. Pym has stated publicly, at best a promising basis for further work". One comes back yet again to the simple fact, unpalatable as it may be, that the "General Belgrano" had been attacked over three hours before news of the Peruvian ideas reached London.

The noble Lord, Lord Hatch, gave me notice of the 10 specific questions to which he required answers and I will give him the answers to the questions in the order in which he has written them. On the first question, which was the question which the noble Lord, Lord Rea, also put, both noble Lords are seeking yet again to throw doubt on the reasons for the attack on the "General Belgrano". The Government have explained the reasons in great detail. The fact is that the cruiser and her escorts presented a threat to the task force. The precise course being followed by the cruiser at any time was merely incidental to this threat. The cruiser had changed her course many times during the day in question and could easily have done so again at any moment.

On the second question it is not for me to comment on remarks attributed to the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Lewin. As the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, will see if he reads the Falklands White Paper, the paragraph in question deals with the question of the events which took place on 2nd May last year. It was not intended to indicate when the cruiser was first located.

On the third question, the noble Lord is confusing two events. Ministers approved a change in the rules of engagement, requested by the task force commander, to enable the cruiser to be engaged outside the total exclusion zone in accordance with the Government's warning of 23rd April 1982, that any approach by Argentine warships which posed a threat to our forces would encounter the appropriate response. The actual decision to fire the torpedo was taken by the commanding officer in accordance with his revised rules of engagement.

On question number four, it was the judgment of the task force commander himself—an experienced submariner—that the "General Belgrano" could have been lost over the Burdwood Bank and it was for this reason that he sought a change in the rules of engagement.

On question number five, it is a long-standing convention, followed by successive Governments, not to discuss intelligence matters. I do not propose to depart from this practice.

On question number six, the Government have already explained that the "General Belgrano" and her escorts represented a clear threat to the task force. If she had not been attacked she would have been free to carry out attacks on our own ships. The fact is that after the cruiser was sunk the Argentine surface fleet never again put to sea during the campaign.

On question number seven, I assume that the noble Lord is referring to Mr. Pym's comment quoted in The Timeson 2nd May 1982 that: No further military action is envisaged at the moment except to keep the exclusion zone secure". It has been repeatedly emphasised that the "Belgrano" did constitute a real threat on 2nd May which was why she was attacked.

On question number eight, I cannot speak for the Peruvian Government but if any document had been drawn up it was without our knowledge or encouragement. Our Ambassador, Mr. Charles Wallace, called on the Peruvian Foreign Minister on 1st May to discuss matters unrelated to any peace proposals.

On question number nine, it has already been made very clear that the first intimation that the Government had of the existence of any proposals from the President of Peru came in a series of conversations between Mr. Pym and Mr. Haig in Washington on 2nd May. The result of these conversations was telegraphed to London at 2215 GMT on 2nd May, over three hours after the attack on the "Belgrano".

Finally, on question number ten, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister said in another place on 5th July that she had nothing further to add to the explanations which had already been given.

I do not wish to spend more time on these allegations and insinuations. To do so would serve only to encourage those whose purpose is to score what I imagine to be party political points by constantly repeating them. Such repetition brings neither credit to the repeaters nor credibility to the allegations. Still less does it make them grounds upon which to call for any form of inquiry. As I said at the start of my remarks, the Government see no reason at all to have an inquiry. I have done my best to give full answers to all the questions that the noble Lord has asked me this evening.