§ 3.40 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Young) rose to move, That this House takes note of the situation in Grenada.
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, we are having this debate today in response to a request made last Wednesday that this House should have the opportunity to discuss the situation in Grenada. It is right that we should do so. I should, however, like to emphasise at the outset that the debate is about Grenada and that we are not engaged in a debate about foreign policy in general. Before turning to the main part of my speech, perhaps I may say that we look forward to hearing the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon.
§ With your Lordships' permission, I should like to begin by bringing your Lordships up to date with the present situation in Grenada and then say a few words about the Government's approach to the present crisis. The fighting in Grenada appears largely to be over. The United States' forces have been consolidating their control in the capital, St. George's, and in the south-west of the island around the new Point Salines airport, although there may still be some sniper activity in both areas. There may also continue to be some pockets of resistance elsewhere. Regrettably, as your Lordships may have heard, a number of patients were killed when a mental hospital was bombed near Fort Frederick. We understand that the Americans attacked the building because a Cuban artillery post 440 had been established there. The details of the incident are still unclear, but we know that the Americans were unaware that it was a hospital.
§ I am pleased to be able to report that a British consular team has been in Grenada since the weekend. They have been establishing the whereabouts of British nationals, checking on their welfare and determining whether or not they wish to be evacuated. A total of 61 British subjects have already left the island and we expect about 50 more to leave within the next 24 hours. Indeed, within the next day or so we expect that any British subject wishing to leave Grenada will have been able to do so. I am delighted to say that so far we have received no reports of any British casualties.
§ I am sure your Lordships will also join me in welcoming most warmly the fact that the Governor General of Grenada and his wife, Sir Paul and Lady Scoon, are safe and well after their ordeal of recent weeks.
§ Your Lordships may also wish to have an account of activity at the United Nations last week in a debate in the Security Council. Our permanent representative in New York explained that, while Her Majesty's Government had doubts about some of the actions taken by the United States and certain Caribbean countries, we nevertheless understood that events in Grenada had caused serious concern to those who had taken those actions. Our permanent representative explained that, in the light of this, we could not support the draft resolution then before the Security Council because it failed to take adequate account of those concerns. We therefore abstained.
§ The House will wish me also to say something about the position of Her Majesty The Queen in relation to Grenada and about the constitutional position of the Governor General. Grenada is a fully independent realm within the Commonwealth and the Queen is Queen of Grenada and as such the Head of State. The Governor General, Sir Paul Scoon, is her representative. I should emphasise that he is neither British himself nor is he in any sense the representative of the British Government. The Governor General would normally act on the advice of Her Majesty's Ministers in Grenada. Although the constitution under which Grenada came to independence in 1973 was suspended at the time of the revolution in 1979, the Queen remained Head of State and the Governor General's position as her representative also remained.
§ Early last month the People's Revolutionary Government was deposed by the Revolutionary Military Council, which, as far as we are aware, enacted no legislation concerning the Governor General's functions. This left him in office as Her Majesty's representative but, in the absence of the source of advice stipulated by the existing law, in effect in a vacuum. With the disappearance of the Military Council, this vacuum remained. In that situation, the Governor General had to decide what steps it was appropriate for him to take to ensure that Her Majesty's government in Grenada was carried on.
§ We now know that the Governor General is calling together a group of responsible citizens as an advisory council to assist him in governing the country until such time as it can be restored to normal conditions, 441 and we understand that he is basing this action on Section 57 of the 1973 constitution. We would see no reason to dissent from the Governor General's view that this is a legally proper course for him to take. Indeed, we see this as a responsible action entirely consistent with the authority delegated to him by the Crown.
§ I should like to take this opportunity to comment on an extraordinary line of argument put forward in the past few days to the effect that successive British Governments were somehow irresponsible or derelict in their duty in granting independence to our former Caribbean colonies. Put at its crudest, the argument seems to be that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office lacked foresight and judgment in bringing these states to independence because instability was bound to arise in the power vacuum left behind. I reject such suggestions totally. It is surprising to find that some sections of the British press have suggested that Governments of either party should have resisted the wishes of the people of the Caribbean states for independence. I do not need to labour the importance which we attach and have always attached to the principle of self-determination.
§ I shall not disguise the fact, which is anyway well known to your Lordships, that British Governments of the day hoped that many of the Caribbean territories would decide that their best prospect for a stable and prosperous future was to federate with each other. That is why we hoped it would be possible to sustain a Federation of the West Indies. But it was not to be. The people of the West Indian and Caribbean region chose otherwise. I suggest that, once they had made their choice, it was inconceivable that we should stand in their way. And let me add, my Lords, that, regrettable as recent developments in Grenada have been, the political record of the great majority of the Caribbean states which were granted their independence by us has been admirable. The freedoms enjoyed in the democracies of Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and many of the rest of our former colonies are a credit to them, an example to much of the rest of the world and a vindication of the policies of successive British Governments which brought them to independence.
§ There is one other line of argument which has manifested itself in recent days and which I believe to be equally specious. It is the argument that the policy the United States has pursued with regard to Grenada somehow casts doubt on the Atlantic Alliance. It does not, and it is nonsense to pretend otherwise. The Government have made clear their regret that consultation with the Americans about Grenada was not better and their reservations about the policy which the United States chose to adopt. But it is frankly absurd to try to suggest on the basis of this episode that the Americans are in some way unreliable allies, or that their crucial importance to the defence of Europe is in any way diminished.
§ Any suggestion that there is an analogy between our exchanges with the Americans before their troops landed in Grenada and the consultations that would take place before any decision to launch American nuclear missiles from Britain is, as my right honourable friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary said in another place on 26th October, simply not 442 credible. There are specific understandings between the British and the United States Governments on the use by the Americans of their nuclear weapons and bases in Britain. These understandings have been jointly reviewed in the light of the planned deployment here of cruise missiles, and we are satisfied that they are effective. They mean that no nuclear weapons would be launched from British territory without the British Prime Minister's agreement.
§ I believe that the large majority which the Government secured yesterday at the end of the debate in another place is convincing proof that the policy we have pursued on cruise missiles, including the understandings governing their use, enjoys the confidence of the country. I repeat that any attempt to draw parallels between the question of Grenada and the question of American nuclear forces in the United Kingdom is facile and misleading. The crisis over Grenada must not be allowed to further the cause of those whose purpose is to weaken our alliance and undermine the trust between us and the United States.
§ Whatever differences of analysis there may have been about the situation in Grenada after the coup which toppled Mr. Bishop; and whatever doubts there may have been about how best to deal with it, there can surely be little doubt that much good seems likely to result from the American intervention. I am sure that, in the last two or three days, many of your Lordships have seen interviews on television with Grenadians, all of whom have welcomed the arrival of the United States forces. Their hope, and ours, must now be that, with peace and freedom restored to the island, the people will be able to move forward towards free and fair elections on the basis of the constitution which was suspended by the 1979 coup.
§ I have no doubt that that is the hope, too, of the overwhelming majority of Grenada's Caribbean neighbours. Seven independent Caribbean countries joined the United States in the intervention; indeed they urged it on them. It is not always realised that the states of the region have a high degree of mutual interdependence, which explains why so many of them were so concerned by events in Grenada, fearing that the breakdown of constitutional government and the rule of law there might well have dangerous implications for the rest of them. This is why so many of the Caribbean countries have been so relieved that the United States agreed to intervene with them. Now they are looking to the future, in the hope that Grenada can make a new start, restored to the democratic community of the Caribbean states.
§ My Lords, we stand ready to help. But as to the form which that help might most usefully take, we have an open mind. We have a Development Division in Barbados with the capacity to channel or provide aid of various kinds. Where we may be able to help is with such things as food and medical supplies, the training of the police force, and with the organisation of elections. Grenada's needs will become clearer once the fighting is completely over and the interim administration is established. The United States, the Commonwealth Caribbean countries, the Commonwealth itself, as well as the Secretary General, Mr. Ramphal, will all have a contribution to make. But Grenada is an independent state, and the Governor General is well able to determine what direction the 443 next phase of reconstruction should take. We shall be guided by what he asks us to do. But I can assure your Lordships that, within our limitations, we shall respond as sympathetically as we can.
§ Moved, That this House takes note of the situation in Grenada.—(Baroness Young.)
§ 3.53 p.m.
§ Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos
My Lords, may I first thank the Leader of the House for arranging time for this debate, and the noble Baroness, Lady Young, for her introductory speech. My colleagues and I are also looking forward to the maiden speech of my noble friend Lord Stoddart of Swindon.
We have now had a little time to think about the sad developments in the Caribbean, and the press and the rest of the media have supplied us with a mass of information over the past eight days or so. What happened there certainly came as a surprise to me and to my noble friends, and, I believe, to the Government and to the party opposite as well; for on Monday, 24th October—a week yesterday—the Foreign Secretary, in a Statement repeated by the noble Baroness in this House, was placed in an invidious position and gave no impression that military action by the United States was imminent or was even contemplated. Within hours, the United States had invaded Grenada, and fighting on the island has continued ever since. There has been the inevitable loss of life, and we were deeply sorry to hear, in particular, of the deaths at the mental hospital to which the noble Baroness has just referred.
There is a sense in which I can feel sorry for the Government, because the events of the past week have been a traumatic experience for them. Notwithstanding the noble Baroness's confident assertions in the speech she has just made, they have shown that the relationship between the United Kingdom and the United States is not quite as it has been represented by the Prime Minister over the past four years—especially since the accession of President Reagan—and that the often quoted "special relationship", or "equal partnership" and "mutual trust", are, at the end of the day, not to be totally relied upon. They will, I trust, inject a touch of realism into our foreign policy from now on.
That foreign policy should continue to rest upon NATO and upon friendly relations with the United States and our other allies—but it should not be subservient to any country. The Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary would not have been so dismayed and so disconcerted if their previous stance had been a little more independent. Indeed, their advice as proferred on the telephone by Mrs. Thatcher might have been taken more seriously by the President.
We have been given several chronological accounts of the events leading to the invasion. The noble Baroness was good enough to outline one in her Statement of last Wednesday, and I will not weary the House with a re-examination of those events today. But what emerges clearly is that, notwithstanding our friendship and our alliances, and the Prime Minister's support for President Reagan's policies in Central America and elsewhere, as evidenced by her 444 Washington speech at the end of September, not only did the United States reject the United Kingdom Government's strong advice but they also acted precipitately, without the courtesy of consultation. They invaded an independent Commonwealth country whose Head of State is Her Majesty the Queen. They did so without any preliminary discussions, which could have been arranged quickly and in confidence had the United States so wished. There was no great hurry. There was some diplomatic contact, as we have learned, on 22nd, 23rd and 24th of October, but it appears to have been weak and unco-ordinated.
By Sunday, 23rd October, the Foreign Office should have been fully alerted to the dangers of the situation which were developing in and adjacent to Grenada; and they should have briefed the Foreign Secretary more thoroughly in preparation for his Statement in another place on the Monday. All this raises questions of the utmost significance which go far beyond the Grenada operation itself—and I will come to them in a moment.
On Wednesday, the noble Baroness reiterated that consultations had taken place. When I questioned her on that point she was quite adamant that they were satisfactory, as she will recall. But she appeared to me to be resting her case on exchanges between our embassy in Washington and the United States Government on 21st and 24th October. This latter consultation was the more important of the two because it instructed the Ambassador to put to the United States Government,factors which would have to be carefully weighed before any decisions were taken by the United States Government".We know now that decisions had already been taken and that the invasion was under way, although the Foreign Secretary reassured us that same afternoon that we had no cause to be unduly concerned. He himself said on Wednesday in another place that consultations were "regrettably less" than they would have wished. The telephone conversation between the Prime Minister and President Reagan, and the flurry of messages on Monday night and Tuesday morning, were not "consultations" as I understand them. As between friends and allies, Britain could have expected something better; and the tie between the Crown and Grenada, in my view, strengthens this belief.
We now have the obligation and the task to re-establish our relations with the United States on the basis of a much clearer understanding of our objectives. This applies to our partners in NATO and in the EEC as well. France, Germany and the other Western European countries have all expressed their acute concern, both about the operation and about the lack of consultation which preceded it—and they voted accordingly in the Security Council. Relations between the United States and Western Europe have not been at their best over the past 18 months, and this latest episode has widened the gulf. They must not be allowed to deteriorate further, as otherwise the strains and stresses of the Middle East, Central America and now the Caribbean will damage the Western Alliance seriously. This is something that should cause acute concern to all the Governments concerned, not least the United States of America.
445 Some people have argued that there is a similarity between the Falklands conflict and the Grenada invasion. Any comparison must be seen as absurd. In the Falklands an authoritarian military régime invaded British territory, and Britain, after lengthy and intense negotiation—which, incidentally, involved the United States closely—had the authrority of a United Nations resolution. The circumstances in Grenada were totally different. Furthermore, during the period of the Falklands conflict there were those, like Mrs. Kirkpatrick, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, who were not slow to indicate where they thought American interests lay at that time. It was not easy for Her Majesty's Government during the Falklands conflict; I do not complain about what she said; but I think the British Government have an equal right, where they believe the United States action is mistaken, to be plain and straightforward about it.
The ambivalent line taken at the start by the Foreign Secretary, who I know and like, does not improve matters. "On the one hand this, and on the other hand that" diplomacy is the last thing needed in a crisis. The Trinidad meeting of Commonwealth Caribbean countries on 23rd October showed clearly that there was a division of opinion there as between the Commonwealth countries in the area. Some were for military action of the kind that was eventually taken. Others, while condemning the killing of Mr. Bishop and his colleagues, argued for economic and political action.
No country at the Trinidad talks wanted the matter to be left as it was. There was division on the nature of the response. But there was no evidence at that stage, nothing from Sir Paul Scoon, the Govenor-General, that American or British visitors or residents were in any danger, and at the start that was said to be the reason for the U.S intervention, namely that they wanted to be sure that the resident and visiting Americans there were safe and could be removed if necessary. I think we can assume—I shall be glad if the noble Baroness will confirm this when she replies—that on the 23rd October the British Government shared that understanding. Since them, as we know, the casus belli has been enlarged substantially. There are more Cubans there than were anitcipated; there are large consignments or arms, and there is the new airport, stated by the United States to be a military one. It is doubtful, to say the least, whether these things combined on an island less than half the size of the Isle of Wight—less than half the size of Anglesey, for that matter—were sufficient to justify the action taken a week ago.
I am sure that noble Lords will have noted the article in the Sunday Express over the weekend about the airfield, and we shall very much appreciate the noble Baroness's comment on this when she comes to wind up. The allegation is that the airport is being managed by a British firm supported by British Government guarantees, that the contract was backed by the Foreign Office, with an undertaking by the Export Credit Guarantee scheme, that the firm, said to be Plesseys, would be paid. A spokesman for the firm, Mr. Devereaux, stated that it was a purely civil airport and that there is a big difference between a military 446 and a civil airfield. He went on to say, as quoted by the Sunday Express:There would be no need for a passenger terminal on a military field …There are no hardened shelters for warplanes on our project, and all the fuel dumps are on the surface".It is further stated in the article that the United States Government have been fully aware of all the facts about this airport throughout. If it is true that the Government backed the contract, is the Minister able to say whether the United States Government has at any time since work started on the project protested to the Government and asked them to use their influence to stop work on this airfield? This is a question which the Minister may wish to answer, because it is, in my view, an extremely serious allegation. I do no more than rehearse what was said by Mr. Michael Toner in his article in the Sunday Express. In any event it would also be interesting to know whether, if Plesseys—a British firm—are in fact the main contractors, they employed these Cuban workers and whether they knew that the Cuban workers were armed; and if they knew that the Cuban workers were armed did they inform the British Government that these men were carrying arms?
There are also some other more fundamental questions which call for an answer. For example, was there any justification in fact, even if not in law, for America's action? Was Grenada being "readied as a major military bastion to export terror", as President Reagan has alleged? There appears to be very considerable doubt about this, even in Washington itself, as we have heard over the weekend. In any event there was no immediate urgency, and the advice to take economic and political measures was in all the circumstances reasonable.
As the Prime Minister herself has said, you do not lightly invade a foreign independent country, even if you do dislike its Government. If you start doing that you will have your work cut out for you. I was glad to hear the Prime Minister speaking so plainly and so strongly about this on Sunday. As to the legality of the operation, I do not think there can be any doubt that it was illegal. The Charter of the United Nations and international law seem to me to have been violated. My noble and learned friend Lord Elwyn-Jones will deal with these matters in detail when he comes to wind up on this side of the House.
But in this insecure and violent world in which we live it is the consequences of this which must cause us concern. The Observer leader on Sunday put it in a nutshell. As I do not think it can be improved upon, I will quote the relevant sentence:Washington … has put at risk one of its main strengths in the ideological war it cares about so much: its adherence to the concept of legitimacy".That seems to me to be the central point. Amercia has lost its authority—temporarily one hopes—to condemn aggression elsewhere with the force it used to enjoy. That is the chief tragedy of Grenada.
Nevertheless it is essential not to join those elements which thrive on anti-Americanism and who glory in the chance this gives them to excoriate the United States and to undermine the Western Alliance. We know of and sympathise with the great burdens that are carried by the United States at this time. Their reaction to the terrible Beirut tragedy is 447 understandable, and we have said so. But the United States Government must understand that what they have done, and the way they have done it, has still further weakened our confidence in the foreign policy judgments of the present United States administration. We are concerned that it will affect the stability of the Alliance and of NATO. The Reagan administration must not forget that the Iron Curtain is in Europe and not in Grenada.
On Wednesday, when I said that this action brought the dual key principle into focus once again, the noble Baroness tended to dismiss the point. She said (at col. 279 of Hansard):there is no parallel at all with the question of cruise or dual key.She has reiterated that again in her speech today. She will have noted since she made her Statement on Wednesday that this question is very much in the minds of many people and that what has happened has a direct bearing on the imminent introduction of cruise and Pershing missiles to this country. She quoted the agreement that no nuclear weapon would be fired or launched from British territory without the agreement of the British Prime Minister. What does this mean, "the agreement of the British Prime Minister"? Does it mean consultation by telephone in the early hours of the morning? That question must be asked in the light of what has happened. I am frankly unhappy about it because what really counts is the physical application of a finger to the button—our physical control as well as American physical control. That is really the central issue in relation to Pershing and cruise. I will say no more of this now, as there was a full debate in another place yesterday, except that I hope the Government will reopen discussions on this point forthwith. The polls have shown that a large majority of the people are very concerned and uncertain about this issue. Even the Spectator, a periodical which is sympathetic to the party opposite, said in its leader of 29th October:It is natural to ask in the light of this"—that is, the invasion—whether the government is right to be so confident that the American interest in cruise and Pershing missiles in Europe is identical with our own.I conclude by asking the Government some questions about their future policy. We now have a responsibility to do what we can to restore Grenada to a peaceful and democratic state with a constitutional Government It is only nine years since Britain handed independence to Grenada and, unhappily, handed the reins of independent government to a petty tyrant in the person of Eric Gairy, who was later knighted for his dubious services. On 11th December, 1973, my noble and learned friend Lord Elwyn-Jones, who was then Attorney-General, expressed concern in another place about the procedures which were used by the Government to dissociate Grenada, and about the successor Government there.
I do not think that it is quite as simple as the noble Baroness sought to describe. I do not attribute any unworthy motives to the Government of the day: I merely say that the subsequent experiences of the people of Grenada have been extremely unhappy. My noble and learned friend may wish to refer to that aspect in his speech. In any event, it was a bad start for 448 this beautiful island, and I suppose the accession of Mr. Maurice Bishop in 1979 was inevitable. However, it is remarkable how in so short a time—a period of nine years—we seem to have lost our influence and our diplomatic touch in the Caribbean.
In the last week we seem to have been wallowing in uncertainty and seemingly inadequate intelligence. The Observer commented that the Government were "dangerously ill-informed." This is a considerable misfortune for us if it is true. By today we should know exactly where we stand. Events have occurred without our involvement or our intervention. Yet Grenada thus far remains a Commonwealth country of which the Queen is Head of State. These factors may be of nominal value, but I believe that we can and should urge the United States to withdraw its forces as soon as practicably possible so that they can be replaced by a Commonwealth peace-keeping force which can remain on the island until after free elections have been held and a new Government have taken office. I hope that President Reagan will accept such an arrangement with good grace, because much depends upon it. Britain should be ready to participate in any measure to help the return to normality.
I was glad to hear the noble Baroness say that representatives of Her Majesty's Government are in Barbados ready to give every help by way of food and medical services to the island of Grenada. That is a helpful gesture and we welcome it. The noble Baroness should perhaps say a little more about our attitude towards taking part in a peace-keeping force or in some physical presence on the island itself.
I should like to hear a little more from the Grenadians themselves. I therefore welcome what the noble Baroness said about the invitation issued by the Governor General, Sir Paul Scoon, to a group of people to act as a temporary advisory council. I think that is a step in the right direction.
There is a very old Welsh proverb which comes from the Mabinogion and says:"A fo ben bid bont"Translated, this means:He who would lead must be a bridge.After the events of the last week there are many bridges to be built and repaired: the bridge between Britain and the United States, which is an essential one; the bridge between Europe and the United States—the Atlantic Alliance itself—and the bridge between differing factions in Grenada and in the Caribbean. At the end of the day, although I avoid the broader foreign policy scene as the noble Baroness asked us to do, ultimately there is the bridge between East and West itself. But as the proverb says, this calls for leadership and it calls for vision; and it calls for imagination as well. I hope that this Government will be able to provide them.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Lord Kennet
My Lords, this is a debate in the British Parliament and consequently about what the British Government ought to do and what they have been doing. It looks to me as though so far the conduct of the Government can be divided into two phases: the first phase during Which they did nothing at all when they should have done much, and a second phase in 449 which they have done everything right. So far, of course, that reminds us of the Falklands. But in that case there was also a third phase during which the Government showed that they had no idea what to do next. We must hope that there will be no such third phase in the case of Grenada, and today's debate gives noble Lords the chance to make helpful suggestions in order to prevent this happening again.
Let us look first at the first phase, during which the Government did nothing at all. Ever since Bishop came in four years ago, it has been perfectly well known that the United States was looking at possible ways of destabilising his regime. The United States never did it, and a good thing too. This was as true of Carter's Administration as it is of the present Administration. We learnt this from Panorama last night from the lady who had been Mr. Carter's ambassador in Grenada. Recently, since the horrible coup d'etat, for which it is impossible to blame the murderers too strongly, there began a flurry of diplomatic activity in the Caribbean. There was a meeting of the OECS—the Organisation of East Caribbean States—which agreed on a certain course of action. It then called a meeting of CARICOM, the wider organisation, and tried to obtain its support for that course of action, but did not obtain it. I think it is inconceivable that this activity should have been unknown to Her Majesty's Government, at least on the spot. Especially is it inconceivable because Montserrat went to this meeting. Montserrat is not a sovereign state. It is a British colony and it had no right to go to those meetings. It is precluded by the terms of the OECS Treaty from taking part in that Security Committee of that organisation—which is what met. Montserrat should have asked permission to go, in which case I am sure it would have been refused, or it should have asked the United Kingdom to go on its behalf, in which case I am sure we should not have agreed. How was it that Montserrat did go?
It is also known that after that meeting the authorities in Montserrat, who had been at the meeting improperly, decided that they wanted to send armed men with the invasion force and they asked Britain whether they might do so. That was a correct action. The British Government said no—again, a correct action. But the question arises: when did this exchange take place? If it was before the invasion, it must have drawn the attention of Her Majesty's Government to what was going on in no uncertain manner.
Let us now turn to the action of the United States, because it is obvious that it carried these many mistakes with it. The arguments advanced have been manifold. First, there is the "back yard" argument. Well, some back yard! Mr. Denis Healey had good fun with that in the House of Commons yesterday and said that the distance from Florida to Grenada is the same as the distance from Britain to Suez. That is not quite true, although it is nearly true. I should like to tell the House what our back yard is if defined by a radius of 1,500 miles, which is the distance of Grenada from Florida. It starts at the North Pole and goes down the middle of the Kara Sea, off Soviet Siberia. Thence it passes well to the east of Moscow. It includes the Sea of Azov. It goes outside Istanbul to a point in the central Sahara; south of the Canary Islands, across the Atlantic almost to Newfoundland and, via Baffin 450 Island, up to the North Pole again. That is our back yard. The Soviet Union's back yard includes (besides ourselves and France) the whole of the Middle East, the whole of the Gulf, the Red Sea down to Ethiopia, India and the whole of British Columbia. It is also interesting to note that Cuba is one-tenth of the distance Grenada is from the United States and about one-tenth of the distance Grenada is from Central America. So much for the back yard.
I come now to the airport argument. The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, referred to what Plessey told the press. Plessey have issued a statement today, too, and I have discussed that with them. This British firm, operating with an export credit guarantee from the Government, has overall project management of the building of that airport, and has had since May 1982. It is physically fitting everything, including the electronics, the power generation and the buildings. It is providing airport transport. It is doing everything except the brute construction of the runway, which had mainly been finished by the Cubans before it got there.
Of course, a military aeroplane can land at any civil airport if the runway is long enough, just as a civil aircraft can land at a military one. It happens all the time. But to be dignified with the title of a military airport, I submit—and I think all would agree—an airfield must have protected fuel tanks, protected stands or hangars for aircraft, protected dispersal points for aircraft, ground-to-air defence, and perimeter defence. The airport that Plessey was building—it has brought its people home now—has none of these. But it does have a large passenger terminal building—which one quite obviously does not want for a military airport. This is the airport that President Reagan described assuspiciously suitable for Soviet-built long-range bombers".I wonder why American intelligence was so bad. Did we contribute to its badness in any way? When President Reagan some months ago showed, on television, pictures of the runway in Grenada, did the Government point out to him that it was being built by this British firm under a Government guarantee and was an obvious civil airport? Even now it has not proved possible for inquirers from this House to obtain from the US Embassy the latest pictures of the alleged vast arms dumps on Grenada and the comments of the US authorities on them. Tourism has been free in Grenada all the time until the invasion. British and American tourists were there—yet such things were believed in Washington.
I turn now to the question of the safety of citizens. The majority of the American citizens there were the 600 medical students. A Caribbean island is an odd place to find an American medical college. Some say that the owners found it necessary to go to the Caribbean because the United States medical profession unwisely limits the entry of students, so they had to get extra places outside the United States. Others say that the students in the establishment were those who were not good enough to obtain posts in regular United States medical schools. In any case the medical school was a conspicuous presence, as President Reagan said in justification of the invasion, and the students could readily have been taken hostage. But that has been so all along. Did anybody 451 from the United States Government advise the medical school to withdraw to another island? If not, I wonder why they did not. If they did, how great a duty then had the United States to rescue those American citizens? We have also heard that the medical school was told by the United States Government to ask to have its students rescued a few days before the invasion.
I shall quote Castro, not because I necessarily believe what he says but because it has not hit the British press at all. He has said that the Cubans on Grenada were armed not by him but by the Grenadian Government because they had news of the invasion coming and that he had ordered them not to fight unless they were attacked. They were attacked, so Castro wins the PR trick, if nothing else. He has also published his letter to President Reagan making various sensible proposals to the United States five days before the invasion. He says that he received no answer until after the invasion.
Diplomatically the action presents a perfect bonanza for the Soviet Union, who are using it with the greatest possible relish. It has split the local islands. Trinidad and the Bahamas are against it. By the same token, it has split the Organisation of American States. The invasion was against the provisions of the United Nations Charter and of the charters of the OECS and the Organisation of American States. It broke all three treaties. It has also split the Commonwealth. It has split the West, leaving Canada, France and Germany—I say nothing of ourselves—in the opposite camp to the United States. On the other hand, it has prevented one split which we might have liked to see, and that was the nascent split between Cuba and the Soviet Union. When the Hudson Austin massacre took place the Soviet Union appeared to welcome the emerging regime, and of course the Cuban Government bitterly lamented the death of Mr Bishop.
If we look at the actions of the United States as a whole we see what a decline there has been since the Cuban crisis when the United States extremely carefully stayed within international law. If the Kennedy Administration could by a legal "quarantine" force succeed in removing Soviet thermo-nuclear missiles from the largest of the Caribbean islands, within 90 miles of its own shore, how strange it is that the fears of the small neighbours of one of the smallest and most distant islands from the United States—and indeed the fears of the United States themselves—should not have been able to be assuaged by legal means. The Prime Minister has correctly identified the breaking of international law as the main point about what has happend.
We cannot fail to notice the point made both by Mrs. Fitzpatrick and Dr. Kissinger (which is perhaps even a more serious matter) that our failure to stand by the United States is poor recompense for the support that it gave us over the Falklands war. I think that we must answer that when the United States finds it necessary to throw a foreign invader off United States territory, which is peopled by United States people, and the legal authorities of which have just been thrown off the territory by the invader, it will have every support that we can give, and all parties in this country would unite behind that.
452 I turn now to the invasion itself. There have been various odd features, such as the exclusion of all press by the invading forces. That decision was then overruled by Congress. I have a feeling that we have still to hear the story of the battle around the airport. The bombing of the Americans' own troops and of the hospital are mistakes that can happen in war. We come to the period when our Government first had to say something about the invasion and Sir Geoffrey Howe's first appearances in the House of Commons and the first appearance of the noble Baroness, Lady Young, here early last week. At the time I think that most Members of both Houses could not quite make out what was happening and why the Government were saying so little and in such confused terms—not so much confused but such minimal terms, exposing so short a front.
The reason is now clear. They had just discovered that they had been purposely deceived by the United States Administration over a period of about two days and wanted a little time to think about the implications of that discovery. We should not grudge it to them now that we know what happened. Then last Sunday, two days ago, the Government had second thoughts. They abandoned the "Oh, dearie me; I don't know" approach for an attitude of blame, clear but not heated, which is in accordance with reality. We welcome this new clarity, and turn now to the question of, "What next?"
We on these Benches are not anti-United States. We are not even anti-Reagan. Friends must be free to disagree. We believe that no purpose is served by keeping quiet at a time of great difficulty and crisis on the grounds that one might be feared to be anti-something or someone when one is not. That way lies further confusion. The United States is our greatest ally, and it has made a great mistake. It is most important that NATO should be patched up once again, and it is impossible to pretend that nothing has happened. Maybe this is no more than a routine challenge to diplomacy. Let us hope so—but a challenge it certainly is.
Dual key has, of course, to be considered, although not particularly because of Grenada. We on these Benches are not saying that we must have dual key because of what has happened in Grenada. We have been saying it—all of us—for two years. At the trisk of annoying the House, I remind your Lordships once again that I have been saying it since December, 1979, when the dual track decision was taken. There is explicit agreement on a joint decision to launch the missiles. The noble Baroness, Lady Young, went back to another word—"consultation". I am sure that this was only a slip of the tongue and that she meant explicit joint decision. The noble Baroness pointed out that this could not be paralleled because there was no written agreement for joint decision on Grenada. Of course; there was not. If the Americans had simply invaded, against our advice, it would not have added much to the case for dual key. But they did more than that. They decided positively to deceive us for a short period, a couple of days. That being so, it seems to me that the Government must think again.
453 It is impossible to claim that we cannot have the dual key without buying the lot simply because we bought the lot last time. Have we asked the United States for that? If so, what was the response? Let us have the details and the text. The public seem to understand this pretty well, with their 73 per cent. It is impossible to claim that you cannot see the difference, as Mr. Heseltine claimed yesterday, between a United States owned and commanded missile launched from British soil and a United States owned and commanded missile launched from a submerged submarine whose last port of call was a British one.
As to the future of Grenada, we hear that the new council to be appointed by Sir Paul Scoon is to be advisory. We take it that this means advisory to him. Under what powers will he, single-handed, be governing the country? In general, it is urgent to help the United States off the island. There have been stories about 400 vanishing Cubans. There were supposed to be between 200 and 400 Cubans who had gone to ground in the woods. They were written off when the Senate said that it was going to visit. They are no longer there. There is the question of the Cuban wounded being held up for five days before being shipped back to Cuba. We should do all that we can to help the Red Cross get to Grenada quickly. There was Admiral Metcalf's statement, reported only this morning, thatWe found a field full of bodies é No one wants to handle them. They are getting kinda hot".If the United States' invading forces are not up to burying the dead, that is another reason for hurrying in the Red Cross.
We must help the United States off the diplomatic hook. Mrs. Kirkpatrick has said thatany continued political involvement in this co-operative effort will be guided wholly by the views of the OECS and the Government being formed in Grenada.I do not think that we should accept that. I do not think that the world should accept that it should be guided wholly by the views of some members of an association of nearby mini-island states and of non-elected persons chosen by Sir Paul Scoon to advise him.
On a wider scale, we support what we gather is the growing movement for a Commonwealth force. We must have this Commonwealth force to pacify what might be a running fear in the Commonwealth itself that an open season has been declared for landing on small Commonwealth islands whose Governments are unpopular. What about the Seychelles? I hope that Sir Sonny Ramphal will be able to pull the rabbit out of the hat in a way that will satisfy the entire Commonwealth. I commend to the Government the proposals made by my right honourable friend Dr. David Owen in an article last week.
We come back in the end to the European policy within NATO. Everything that has happened indicates that we should tackle this now and not wait until we are forced to rush in and do something in hot confusion, as we risk being if we allow things to go too long.
I have just been handed a note to the effect that two companies of United States marines have landed on a Caribbean island 30 miles north of Grenada, 454 Carriacou, to follow up a report that there were Cubans there. The White House says that this action is to clear away any further opposition and to take control of weapons and other material reportedly stored on the island. Carriacou is, of course, part of the sovereign territory of Grenada. The Government will perhaps take the opportunity to comment on this report when the time comes.
§ 4.37 p.m.
Lord Home of the Hirsel
My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, I am glad that the usual channels were able to arrange this debate. In a situation where the leading members of a Commonwealth Government had been murdered, where the internal political differences in the island of Grenada were inflamed by the presence of foreign mercenaries, and where two countries, Barbados and Jamaica, judged the danger to be so acute in the context of Caribbean security that they were ready to provide troops themselves for an expedition and called on the Americans to restore law and order and sovereignty, then it is of an abnormality and of an enormity which requires that Parliament must take notice. Parliament must learn the many lessons that there are to be learned from the many aspects of the case.
There are only three matters on which I should like to comment today. Your Lordships will be grateful to my noble friend Lady Young for clarifying the constitutional position of the Queen in relation to Grenada and Her Majesty's limited responsibilities in relation to the appointment of a Governor General. Commonwealth leaders would be unanimous in acclaiming the office of the Queen, as Head of the Commonwealth, as giving the Commonwealth an identity and a cohesion that otherwise it would be difficult for it to acquire.
They would testify, too, to the scrupulous care taken by Her Majesty in never allowing in any circumstances her name to be associated with any aspect of the internal politics of any Commonwealth country. We know the constitutional significance of that, but other countries, understandably, cannot follow the niceties of the constitutional arrangements following the transition from Empire to Commonwealth. I hope, therefore, that my noble friend's very clear definition will be given the widest circulation, to stop mischievous persons associating Her Majesty's name in an undersirable way with situations of this kind.
The second matter that must concern Parliament involves the actions of the British Government in relation to the events in Grenada. Those actions were, I understand, in two parts. The first decision was not to send forces from this country to the island unless to the extent that British citizens might require rescue or evacuation. That was strictly correct in terms of both the United Nations Charter and the rules of nonintervention accepted by Commonwealth membership.
No rule can be absolute. It so happened that in the year that I was Prime Minister there was a political revolt against Mr. Nyerere in Tanzania within days of the handover of power from this country to that Government. Technically, to intervene from this country would have been to flout the United Nations rules. I had to consider the matter and I authorised the 455 despatch of units of the British Army in order to save that situation and to restore the Government of Mr. Nyerere to office. That could of course have been interpreted in the way in which I have described, but I think that it was necessary to take that action because within a short time—indeed, I think, within four days—the whole of the arrangements between ourselves and the transfer of power could have been put at nought and an alien regime would have come to power.
No two cases are alike. The appeals of two responsible Commonwealth countries like Jamaica and Barbados were no doubt weighty considerations in favour of Britain's association with their action and that of the United States when they went into Grenada.
Lord Home of the Hirsel
No, my Lords, not for the moment. There is another case to which I will refer a little later, if the noble Lord does not mind, and that is the British troops in the Lebanon. They are not there under any international cover at all; they are simply there because the French, the Italians, ourselves and the United States considered that unless we intervened Lebanon would cease to exist.
One cannot put all these matters—with all respect to the correspondent in the Observer—into "a nutshell". Nevertheless, I believe that the Government were right to decide against the intervention of British forces in this case for it would undoubtedly have added to the divisions in the island, the divisions in the Caribbean and the divisions in the Commonwealth. I believe therefore that this part of the Government's action was right.
The next judgment that has to be made is whether, involving—as in fact it did—a breach of the nonintervention clause of the United Nations, the United States were nevertheless justified in taking the action that they did. In the case of the United States there are considerations which are very different from those of which the British Government have to take notice. No Commonwealth consideration or obligation arose. There were substantial Eastern Caribbean countries, members of the Association of Eastern Caribbean States-namely, Jamaica and Barbados-who had appealed to the United States for help. They knew of the stationing of armed Cubans in Grenada. The Americans had experienced the Russian—Cuban duplicity of the 1960s when they tried to place nuclear missiles on the doorstep of the United States. They were aware of course that Castro in relation to Central America, South America and Cuba, had declared and proclaimed his purpose to be revolutionary. What was paramount (and I think with substantial reason) was the Americans' concern as regards the security of the United States and of the Caribbean region.
The odd aspect is that in all the correspondence and talk—and there has been a great deal of it in the past eight days—nobody seems to have appreciated the vital importance of the Caribbean area to the Western world; it is a very important strategic area. In that context there is one piece of information for which I 456 would be grateful. Did the Governor General directly appeal to the American Administration for military help? If he did so, who could speak with more authority than he on behalf of a sovereign state? Who was in a better position to judge the urgency of the danger and therefore to take a decision as to the power necessary and the power available to do the job, and to do it in time? If the answer to my question is, "Yes, the Governor General did directly appeal to the United States", I can still understand the decision not to send troops from Britain but I confess that I would have been very much happier if the Government had decided to support Jamaica, Barbados and the United States in the Council of the United Nations.
There is another and final angle on these matters. For many years the Soviet Union and its "cat's paws"—and by them I mean North Vietnam, Syria and Cuba—have not played by international rules; they have not observed the non-intervention rule. The result is that time and again the democracies have been placed in a stark dilemma. Do they—do we—have to sit and watch while subversion paves the way for political chaos and in the end takeover, or do we intervene and find ourselves condemned by liberal opinion all over the world as aggressors ourselves? Again these matters cannot be confined so easily in "a nutshell".
As I reminded the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, Britain has troops in Lebanon and they are not there under international law. Of course the non-intervention rule of the United Nations Charter is right in an ideal world and we must keep it in the Charter for reasons that will be clear to all of your Lordships. But when a world power like Russia subverts and overbears and does not play to the rules, then sooner or later a potential political victim—remembering that the worm will turn—will have had enough and will resist as, indeed, the Poles have done. Inevitably those countries that have the power—such as the United States and the European countries—will have to face the question whether to intervene and save sovereignty and law and order. The consideration of which they will have to take note as they make those decisions is whether, if they do nothing, democracy will not lose all along the line and the epitaph may well be written of the free world, the two words, "Too late".
There has been a failure of communication—the United States has virtually admitted it; and, having admitted it, I hope that we, our allies and friends will come together and make sure that there is a complete understanding, and the machinery of consultation will really work in future. I hope that the post mortem now ends and we can get on with that essential job.
§ Lord Hatch of Lusby
My Lords, knowing the noble Lord, I know that he will not want me to mislead the House. However, will he confirm that when the Tanzanians, the Ugandans and the Kenyans asked for military help it was a request which came from their elected representatives; that it was not in any way thrust upon them but was the response of the British Government to a request from the elected Governments?
Lord Home of the Hirsel
My Lords, of course. The noble Lord underlines my point. We had transferred 457 sovereignty to Tanzania. The electors had elected a new Government. That Government was threatened with force from outside. So, on behalf of the British Government, I decided that we had to meet that request, and a perfectly legitimate request it was. Perhaps I can remind the noble Lord—as I have been brought to my feet, again, against my will—that Mr. Nyerere found himself using force in Uganda at a later date.
§ 4.51 p.m.
§ Lord Stoddart of Swindon
My Lords, because I am aware of the immense store of knowledge, ability, experience and expertise that resides in your noble House, it is with some trepidation that I rise to make this, my first, speech. However, I have been encouraged and, indeed, reassured by my reception so far, and I greatly appreciate the kindness already shown me by many noble Lords and, indeed, by the ready assistance rendered by officers and staff of this noble House. The welcome that I have received so far augers well for my future contentment and work in your Lordships' House.
It is my hope and belief that experience gained in other fields will prove to be of use and will enable me to contribute to the important proceedings of this House. For example, my past employment in the electricity supply industry and my participation through the trade union movement in the negotiating and joint consultative procedures of that industry may very well be of assistance in future debates on energy and industrial relations. I am also fortunate in being armed with experience gained in another place, where I was proud to serve the interests of the people of Swindon, who were good enough to elect me as their representative over a period of 13 years. It was an honour and a privilege to be their Member of Parliament and I owe them a debt of gratitude for their support over such a significant period of time.
Furthermore, because Swindon is a famous railway town which has successfully grappled with the problems of a declining industry, together with considerable expansion of its area and population, I have had the advantage of seeing how a determined community, through far-sightedness and good planning, can successfully wrestle with adversity and propel itself into a new age and an era of prosperity, as Swindon has done.
My 18 years of service as a member of Reading County Borough Council certainly gave me a good insight into the working of local government and, indeed, to some extent of Whitehall too, although that was a bit more difficult. I hope to put that experience to good use in this noble House, and I may very well find it of particular value during the present Session and the next Session when significant changes affecting local government may very well fall to be considered.
It is, of course, a convention in this place, as it is in another place, that maiden speeches should be non-controversial and as far as possible, bearing in mind the subject of this debate, I shall do my best to observe the convention. That is not to say that one should frown on controversy or shun it, for controversy is the 458 spring of enlightenment and the engine of progressive thought and action.
When I first heard that United States forces had invaded Grenada I was surprised as well as profoundly shocked. There was no reason to believe, in spite of the coup against Mr. Bishop's Government and his subsequent murder, that this tiny country with a population about the same size as Swindon could in any possible sense threaten the safety of the United States of America; nor has any evidence been adduced that United States citizens in Grenada were under any serious threat.
Certainly the coup had been universally condemned, even by Cuba, and it was expected that some action would be taken by neighbouring states to show their revulsion and distaste at the situation in Grenada and to persuade by every peaceful means those in power in Grenada to restore democratic government without delay.
But the invasion of a sovereign state was totally unexpected, even by Her Majesty's Government, and I have to say that I welcome the much firmer stance adopted by both the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary over the weekend against the invasion of Grenada, and their expressed disapproval of that invasion and disagreement with the reasons given by President Reagan for embarking upon it.
This episode can do nothing but harm—harm to Western democracy, harm to the Western Alliance and harm to the special relationship between this country and the United States. It also legitimises the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and provides a ready-made justification for the Soviets and perhaps others to take over by force countries with Governments they do not like, or conceive that those countries may be a threat to their own safety because a number of foreign nationals are working there or perhaps they have accepted military equipment from the United States. The language may be different. We shall hear of Right-wing fascist thugs rather than Left-wing thugs, but the justification for the use of force will be that used by President Reagan.
There is always a danger of being labelled anti-American if one is critical of United States foreign policy. That is certainly not so in my own case, for I like the American people, I admire their dynamism, and some of their democratic rights could be imported to Britain with benefit. I also value the special relationship as I believe that, provided it exists in a real sense and on the basis of equality, it makes a contribution to world peace and retards the possible formation of yet another power bloc based on Europe, which would further destabilise an already unstable world.
But the special relationship must rest on a firmer base than was shown to be the case during the hours before the armed invasion of a Commonwealth country. It is simply not good enough for the United States President to telephone the Prime Minister of this country to say what he has in mind and then a couple of hours later, before the Prime Minister has had time to consult her colleagues, ring back to say that he has made a decision regardless of the British view. That is not a special relationship; it is a relationship which reduces our country to the status of 459 a satellite state and is one which cannot be tolerated by any Government of Britain, whatever their political colour.
On Britain's part there can be no doubt as to the high value we put on our special links with the United States. When President Reagan paid an official visit to our country, he was treated as an extra special and honoured guest; as a close and trusted friend he was accorded the rare privilege of addressing both Houses of Parliament. Her Majesty not only extended official hospitality to him; she also most graciously and generously extended private hospitality of a kind which, if not unique, is not often accorded to visiting Heads of State.
Under all these circumstances I would have expected the United States President to have had rather more care for our country's standing and to have thought much harder and longer before taking actions which were bound to cause embarrassment and humiliation to our Sovereign and her Realm.
There are of course other implications that arise from the strains imposed on the special relationship by the invasion of Grenada. One of them, despite some remarks made earlier, is in my belief both topical and of the utmost gravity. I refer to the arrangements for control of the launching of cruise missiles. We are told that these weapons can be launched only with the consent of the Prime Minister. But what guarantee have we that the United States President will take any greater notice of our Prime Minister over the launching of a missile than he did over the launching of an invasion of a Commonwealth country?
After all, it is United States servicemen who will man the missile launchers, and whereas there were weeks available for consultation over Grenada there may very well be only minutes available for consultation before the launch of a cruise missile. This noble House and the country ought to require better guarantees than we have at present over the launching of cruise missiles, and I trust that the Government will rethink the whole position in the weeks ahead.
It is perhaps difficult to see how any good can arise from this sorry and unnecessary invasion, and yet if the lessons are properly learned by our own Government there is a possibility that the damage can be repaired and new initiatives taken to lessen the tensions between the super powers, and push back the threat of a suicidal nuclear war. The first thing our own Government must do is to shake the United States out of their dangerously complacent attitude towards their relationships with Britain and their other European allies. President Reagan and Congress must be told bluntly that the Western Alliance will be strained to breaking point if another invasion of a sovereign state takes place in Central America or elsewhere.
Secondly, the Government, and the Prime Minister in particular, must desist from what the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, described as megaphone diplomacy. The Prime Minister is an able and determined woman. She does not need to act the part of Little Miss Echo, nor indeed play second fiddle in Reagan's ragtime band. She should embark upon a more independent and considered evaluation of the world scene and the problems which are so acute in many sensitive areas. 460 We must in this country make it clear that Britain will not be dragged behind some semi-religious crusade which sees the Russians as devils incarnate to be exorcised by saintly Americans on white chargers. Instead we must emphasise that in a dangerous and unstable world patient and understanding diplomacy has no substitute.
Thirdly, if we are to avoid future Grenada incidents the British Government must embark upon an independent dialogue with the Soviet Union to see whether new ways and means can be found of bridging the frightening gulf between themselves and the United States. Our country has centuries of experience in the art of diplomacy, and that expertise ought to be placed at the disposal of the world at this critical point in history.
Finally, I believe that we must convince the United States Government that communism tends to thrive only where desperate poverty and exploitation exist, and that in the long run the safest and most productive course is to help overcome that poverty and end exploitation—even if this sometimes means assisting Left-wing Governments of which they do not approve. Had that been done in the case of Grenada from 1979 onwards rather than the reverse, Maurice Bishop may very well have been alive today at the head of a properly-elected Government and firmly wedded to our democratic concepts.
§ 5.4 p.m.
§ Lord Soames
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, came here after long service in Parliament, in local government, and in Government itself. He came here after a long experience and with much to offer to your Lordships' House. He has made a vigorous speech about foreign affairs. He will forgive me if I do not agree with every theme that was contained within that speech, or every argument that sustained those themes, but nevertheless he has shown the House this afternoon the extent to which he is going to make a vigorous contribution in the future. We are delighted to have heard him today, and we look forward to hearing him often in the future.
Formally, we are taking note of the sitution in Grenada. I, for one, am most grateful to the noble Baroness for the explanation she gave us of the situation, because I fear I have no intimate knowledge of the situation on the ground in Grenada at this moment. But I do have views, some of which I should like to put to your Lordships, about the attitude of America's European allies in general and of Her Majesty's Government in particular towards this whole affair. It is of course plain that from the very beginning Her Majesty's Government had decided that this was a form of action which the United States should be counselled not to indulge in. Not only did Her Majesty's Government not want to have any part in it militarily—something which I, like my noble friend Lord Home, perfectly understand—but they also did their best to dissuade the American Administration from taking the action that they did.
I think that three points today stand out in the public mind as reasons why Her Majesty's Government arrived at this decision: first, because Grenada is a country within the Commonwealth; secondly, because the Americans had not consulted the Government to the extent that the Prime Minister or the 461 Foreign Secretary would have wished; and, thirdly, and I suspect most important in the minds of Her Majesty's Government, because the reasons for the invasion of Grenada were not defensible in terms of international law. I should like, if I may, to say a few words on all those three points.
First, the Commonwealth point. This, of course, was inevitably an added embarrassment for Her Majesty's Government. But, frankly, if the United States were right in assuming that Grenada was about to be turned into a military base which would threaten their security, if they were right in considering that, then many would understand that they would not feel constrained in taking the action they thought necessary because the island was a member of the Commonwealth, especially since other members of the Commonwealth had requested them so to do—and also the Governor General, we hear, had done the same.
Then there was the Government's view that the degree and extent of United States consultation left a lot to be desired. Frankly, I think that experience has shown us ever since the war that any British Government that give the impression that they have a very special degree of influence over the decisions and actions of the United States are likely to have that myth shattered somewhat brutally at some time or other.
It is happily true that there are great areas of policy of a political, military and economic character where the interests of the United States and those of her European allies in general, and of the United Kingdom in particular, are seen on both sides of the Atlantic to be largely identical, or at least running on parallel lines. But every so often major differences are thrown up when one or other member of the alliance sees its vital national interests being endangered, and as a result sees that particular situation in a different perspective from that in which it is seen by its other allies, and will not be deflected from protecting those interests. Indeed, I doubt whether there has been a single British Prime Minister since the war who, during the course of his term of office, has not had important disagreements over policy with the United States Administration of the day, let alone complaints of insufficient consultation, and vice versa.
I know that this was true during Sir Winston Churchill's first postwar Government, in spite of all the admiration and respect which the United States Administration had for him, for his wisdom, his record, his judgment and his long experience in world affairs. The situation has arisen since. I have no doubt that my noble friend Lord Home of the Hirsel had experience of it as well. It will happen again. But the alliance is of such importance that all members should do their best not to stand out against each other in these circumstances which arise, often quite unexpectedly—but such is the way of political life—unless the differences are so great that they feel that they have no choice. For instance, I believe that the Americans were wrong to take issue with us to the point they did over Suez. I question whether the recent American action in Grenada should have led to such differences between us and to our not supporting them when faced with a hostile motion in the Security Council of the United Nations.
462 The third reason, and I suspect the most important anxiety in the minds of Her Majesty's Government, was evidently the extent to which they saw American action in Grenada as flouting international law. Certainly we will not find within the United Nations Charter a paragraph giving blanket approval to military action in a Grenada-type situation, where a foreign military presence is not invited by the legal Government of a country. But where was the legal Government of the country? Perhaps when the noble Baroness replies, and even when the noble Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, speaks, I wonder what authority within Grenada could have put the United States in the situation where it was acting within the United Nations Charter. There was no legal Government. The place was in turmoil after a coup by the extreme Left resulting in the murder of the Prime Minister and others of his Ministers. The People's Revolutionary Government had been deposed and had been replaced, apparently, by a revolutionary military authority. Why, I wonder? I do not know, but I do not believe that it was because the People's Revolutionary Government were going too far to the Left and becoming too friendly with Cuba or the USSR.
Furthermore, we know that the Governments of nearby islands were greatly scared by the turn of events and wanted the Americans to intervene to restore normality without delay. We also know that the Governor General himself (for he has told us) sought help from outside; and the views from Grenadians that we have heard so far seem to show that the vast majority of the people of the island were much relieved when the Americans arrived. Fear, chaos and anarchy reigned. In those circumstances, who could have asked for intervention if it was not the Governor General, on the one hand, and the Governments of nearby islands, also within the Commonwealth, on the other?
Might it not have been wiser in this situation for Her Majesty's Government to have given the United States the benefit of the doubt? Were we really sure enough at the time that we were right to oppose that action in the public forum of the United Nations? Furthermore, was it not a possibility, to say the least, that those who engineered this coup might have been ready and willing to co-operate in turning the island into a military base threatening the United States? If the United States had not responded to the requests of the Governor General and other Governments in the area at the time, and if in a few months a major arms build-up in Grenada had become evident, would that not have created a much more serious situation for the whole world—a sort of second Cuban missile crisis, with its risk of major confrontation? I cannot help feeling that if it were necesary to be done it were necessary that it be done quickly.
I must confess that, given the circumstances and weighing the risks involved, I should have thought that Her Majesty's Government would have served our common cause best not by opposing American action but by seeking to convince others of our partners that this was not an issue which should be allowed to rend the alliance, and also by defending it against the hostile motion in the United Nations.
However, having said that I think that those in the United States who seek to stir up anti-European 463 discontent by contrasting American reaction to the Falklands dispute with British reactions to Grenada are not rendering any service at all to the alliance. The two situations are totally dissimilar. They have been referred to by other noble Lords, and I shall not go over them; we all know them in our hearts. Of course they are different, and this renders no service to anyone. Also, those in this country who cite the United States' refusal to heed our advice over Grenada as a reason for doubting the validity of the longstanding agreement between our two countries on missiles sited in the United Kingdom and any potential use thereof are rendering the greatest possible disservice to the alliance in general and to Anglo-American relations in particular. I wonder sometimes what are the motives of those who seek to liken the two.
The successive Governments here have been content to rest on a firm and specific commitment made by the United States and the United Kingdom together. I hope Her Majesty's Government will also draw the conclusion from this sorry episode that perhaps the best way for the United Kingdom to bring influence to bear upon the decision-making process of the United States in the middle and latter parts of the 1980s will be off a European base. It is in strengthening that base and in speaking with a European authority that we shall have much more influence over the United States than through any special Anglo-Saxon influence that may or may not be left over from the mists of time. I think that what is required now is not a bellowing across the Atlantic at each other, but a time for calm reflection and discussion in the unfortunate circumstances of apparently deep differences boiling up overnight—circumstances which have arisen now as they have in the past—and a time for looking to where the future risks are and for seeing how best between us within the alliance we may avoid them happening; for they do no good to any of us.
§ 5.21 p.m.
§ Lord Stewart of Fulham
My Lords, I am very glad to join with the noble Lord, Lord Soames, in congratulating my noble friend Lord Stoddart on his maiden speech, to which we all listened with interest and respect. He spoke with great force, evidently after very careful consideration of the issues involved in this problem, and we shall welcome hearing him again.
There is one aspect of the matter to which the noble Baroness in her opening speech did not refer and which we tended to have lost sight of in view of the rapid march of events since. That is the extent to which the British Government seemed to be uninformed of what was happening in Caribbean islands in the Commonwealth in the months and even days preceding this episode. This has happened before. Possibly there are technical difficulties about it, but I do hope that the Government will be able to do something to improve communications between the small Caribbean countries and the United Kingdom; and perhaps the noble Baroness may be able to tell us something about the Government's plans in that line at the end of the debate.
I do not want to spend too much time raking over the past. I want to speak very briefly on this question 464 of whether we can regard the United States action as justified. There is no doubt at all that it was the invasion of a sovereign state and explicitly the kind of thing precluded in the United Nations Charter. It is unfortunate that in some of the evidence advanced by the United States in justification of its action, it has evidently over-stated its case. It has exaggerated the number of Cubans, and the stores of weapons which we were told of no doubt were there and were serious but they were not quite the Aladdin's cave that we were led to suppose from the American description. This kind of exaggeration does not help the American cause. I am bound to say that, of all the questions, I find it hardest to answer this. In what circumstances can it be justified to invade the territory of an independent state?
I once had the interesting experience of hearing a member of the Icelandic Government describe the occasion when British and American forces arrived in his country and told his Government, in effect, that it was a belligerent. His comment was, "We felt that if there was a war and we had got to be in it, we wanted to be on the right side"—and he paused for a moment and said "and on the winning side". Fortunately for them, they proved to be justified in both those expectations. But it was by no means certain that that was exactly what they wanted or had invited. But in view of the whole world strategic position at that time, it seems to me that the British and American Governments would have been dreadfully lacking in responsibility to their own peoples if they had not taken this very obvious measure for the protection of the world against the Nazi power at that time. This was a straightforward matter of geography, and there you were. Anyone who searches for exact and precise answers to this question will be disappointed.
I should like to mention one factor that we ought to bring into consideration but which I think has so far been mentioned only by the noble Lord, Lord Soames, in his speech; and that is what the Grenadians think about it. My noble friend Lord Cledwyn said in his speech that we would like to know more about what they think. I think it is true to say that all the evidence at present is that they are delighted that the American invasion occurred. They are not standing up and demanding the speedy disappearance of the American troops. We have got to take this into account because if we come to the conclusion that, on balance, the United States action was wrong, we will tend to look rather absurd if we go on insisting on that point against the clear wishes of the Grenadians in that matter. If the Soviet Union could produce large groups of Afghans rejoicing over the arrival of Russian troops in their country —or Poles or Czechs —we should have to take a different view of their action. I say that this matter of the attitude of the Grenadians is something that we are bound to take into account.
The conclusion I reach from this, therefore, is that we had better keep a sense of proportion and that the less we go on arguing about this aspect of the matter in future, the better. There are certain things, I think, that both the United States and the British Governments will want to say to each other privately through the channels of diplomacy and politics and that will not be improved by being said publicly. Noble Lords may feel that this is a somewhat timid conclusion on my part 465 and that a resounding denunciation, on the one hand, or a resounding justification, on the other, might be more praiseworthy. I am not at all sure that resounding justifications and denunciations advance the cause of world peace and understanding within the Alliance. So I think that I shall leave that matter as it is.
Now, to look at the present situation, the person in the most interesting situation of all is the Governor General. He is required, presumably—as is Her Majesty in this country—if one Government comes to an end, to invite somebody else to form a Government. But what do you do if the Government which has come to an end is one that has been murdered by another group? Are you to regard the members of the other group as the persons whose advice you should take on the formation of a new Government? We are told in the days of ancient Rome there was, in some Italian forest, a fearsome shrine where there presided a priest who owed his position as priest to the fact that he had killed the previous occupant of the office. That was the rule of succession. It made for a very exciting life for the successive incumbents but it is not a form of succession that can generally be recommended for Governments. What therefore could the Governor General do?
It seems to me—and I must stop speaking in too light-hearted a manner on these things—that, after the shocking murder of Mr. Bishop and his colleagues, there was nobody to whom the Governor General could be regarded as constitutionally obliged to turn. He must therefore use his own judgment—which he is now doing. I think we should all wish him well and wish him success in that task. But no Government is of any use unless it has some mechanism for preventing itself from being forcibly overthrown. One of the difficulties of these small Caribbean islands is that their régimes can be so terribly fragile, capable of being subverted from within, invaded from without and having not only political enemies but sometimes having to fear brigandage and piracy and not knowing where to turn.
Can we in the light of what has happened try to find some remedy for this? We can in the immediate task of looking after Grenada. A Commonwealth force can be formed. There again, however, I hope that we shall not insist on its being a Commonwealth force if it is perfectly obvious that the Grenadians would rather have the Americans stay there for the time being. There is a certain amount of common sense and judgment about that. But one way or another it should be a force of people welcome to the Grenadians who would be competent to keep the peace. That will do for Grenada and for the time being, but I wonder whether the Commonwealth Secretary or somebody else could undertake the task of trying to find something more permanent. Can any arrangement be made between these Commonwealth countries for the rapid assembly in case of need of a sufficient force to meet attacks on any one of them? It would not be an easy job, but I am not sure that it would be impossible, and I am quite certain that it ought to be tried.
Finally, on this wider issue of whether, in view of the unhappy misunderstandings between the British and the American Governments, we ought to revise our opinion about cruise missiles here and the dual key, I 466 must say that I see a very great distinction between a clear, written, explicit obligation of the United States Government not to act without the agreement of the British Government, as there is over cruise, and the situation in Grenada when there was no such agreement of any kind. I think that the behaviour of the United States Government towards us was unnecessarily cavalier and was bound to arouse alarm and concern in this country. I, for myself, would not go saying, "We must have dual key or no cruise missiles", but I think it is important for the Government to notice that a large and increasing number of people in this country are worried about the dual key and they are more worried because of Grenada. They may be mistaken in that view, but it is a view which is widely held and it is not only important that our Government should know it but the United States Government should understand that that feeling is there. I hope the British Government will be able to make it clear to them.
If we can do that we may be able to proceed with an undisturbed Alliance, and I was very pleased that my noble friend Lord Cledwyn, when he began speaking of the major issues of foreign policy, started by talking of the North Atlantic Alliance. That is a massive, solid pact, without which any other arrangements for the preservation of our peace or our liberties will fall down. As I said at the beginning, I think we must see the whole thing in proportion, therefore. The troubles and vexations between the two Governments over Grenada are very small in proportion with the desperate importance of keeping the Alliance alive and in vigour.
§ 5.33 p.m.
§ Lord Buxton of Alsa
My Lords, I should like to speak very brieflly on an aspect which has not been mentioned so far; but first may I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, on his maiden speech and add my warm support to the tribute paid by my noble friend Lord Soames.
Because of my interest over the years in the South Atlantic, I have always been interested and concerned with the conceivable closure of the Panama Canal and I believe that the Grenada affair brings that into very sharp focus. The closure of the Panama Canal cannot conceivably be regarded as a fanciful notion because after all the other canal, Suez, has already been closed and both could be closed at any time.
The closure of the Panama Canal loomed as a somewhat spine-chilling possiblility in the long-term future following the invasion of the Falkland Islands. It was apparent that had we failed to recover the Falkland Islands and if Argentina at some future stage lands itself with a Castro-type régime—and it might; and it still might one day, even after the election—then Soviet Russia could have maritime facilities at Cape Horn.
I have seen for myself one of the substantial Russian bases in the Antarctic immediately opposite Cape Horn, and therefore if Russia had a foothold at the tip of South America she could then straddle what is called Drake Passage and, in the event of hostilities, dominate the sea lanes round the Cape between the Atlantic and the Pacific.
467 It requires very little imagination to recognise the mortal threat to the free world if the Panama Canal was then closed through extremist political action in Central America. Only possession of the Falkland Islands, incidentally, by the West might give us even a fighting chance, and this makes the strategic airport in the Falklands a very good investment indeed and probably cheap at the price. It makes the standard exercise of dividing the cost of the airport by 1800 Falklanders look particularly fatuous when the North Americas and most of the free world would be in dire peril without the airport.
I come back now to Grenada against the background of these potential dangers. If the Panama Canal was ever closed that would obviously and invitably lead to another invasion, although even that would not stop the Canal being blocked for some time, as we saw in the case of Suez. And if it is blocked, all free world shipping would be forced down the old windjammer and clipper sea lanes round the Horn—another 15,000 miles—and the free world could be held by the gullet.
Thus, instability in the Caribbean and in Central America is almost as much of a threat to us and the people of Europe as it is to the United States. I find it difficult to disagree with the notion and the wisdom, as some noble Lords have already said, of nipping all this in the bud before it gets out of hand. It is clear enough that a Cuban-Soviet strongpoint in Grenada, or any Caribbean island, is one more step towards the insecurity of the Panama zone.
I wonder sometimes whether preoccupation with nuclear weapons and nuclear confrontation in Europe is not diverting us from the realities and the dangers in other parts of the world. It sometimes rings in my mind, the recollection of the Maginot Line and also the possible use of gas. Both those misled us before the Second World War. The Maginot Line was thought to be impregnable, but the mobility of modern warfare proved it to be completely obsolete. It was also thought that gas might prevent an extended war, but it was never used because both sides were matched. Meanwhile, the war with conventional weapons went on just the same without either Maginot or gas. In my view, we should therefore be on our guard against the same misapprehensions prevailing in some way again, with the West becoming mesmerised by the nuclear factor, which one trusts, hopes and prays will never apply, while strife with conventional forces still goes on.
Perhaps, without our being fully aware of it—and I hope it does not sound too frivolous—the third world war is already going on behind our backs, around our flanks and across the sea. Maybe it is not too fanciful to consider that it is already going on without our realising it, in a sense in which we must hope that there may never be a nuclear holocaust, but in which Soviet Russia continues to build up her conventional forces to staggering proportions and continues to arm revolutionaries all round the globe to do her fighting for her. This may be the style of the third world war and therefore if the West invariably exercises restraint, as the noble Lord, Lord Home, implied, even in the most dangerous situations, and simply refers each matter to 468 the United Nations, the free world is certain automatically to lose and be in continuous retreat.
We know that neither the Soviets nor revolutionary régimes will ever be persuaded by arguments or by principles. They can only be contained by deterrence, and when a blatant case such as Grenada has been allowed to go too far and poses a clear threat to the security of the free world, I feel there is no other course than to take drastic measures.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Lord Greenhill of Harrow
My Lords, I apologise for being absent from the House during the speeches of some of its most authoritative Members, but I was trying unsuccessfully to reconcile my duties as a Member of the Select Committee with the privilege of taking part in this debate. I did however hear the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, and I congratulate him on it. So much has been said about the matter of Grenada in Parliament and in the media that it is difficult to separate fact from fantasy and fair judgment from prejudiced politicking. But I think it is still worthwhile trying, fairmindedly, to see what justification there was for the policies pursued over the past week.
At the outset, it is important to try to assess the real and imagined threat which the Grenadian régime—and I use the word "régime" in preference to "Government"—posed to four groups of people: first, to its own nationals; secondly, to foreign nationals within its borders; thirdly, to the largely defenceless Commonwealth neighbours; and, lastly and fourthly, to the United States Government and by extension to its allies.
First, the threat to its own nationals. After years of authoritarian rule, the Prime Minister and three Cabinet colleagues had just been murdered. Fear for the future was understandably widespread among the population and the relief shown at the arrival of the intervention force is decisive evidence of this. The Governor General has now confirmed it and for that reason he had sought outside help. Those who saw the "Panorama" programme last night would have seen individual citizens in Grenada referring to the rescue, rather than to the invasion.
Secondly, the threat to foreign nationals. In this sort of situation, experience has shown that it is virtually impossible to say at the height of a crisis either that there is no threat or that there is a serious threat. I understand that the British Deputy High Commissioner who visited the island was optimistic, and he may have been right; but in the light of what had happened on the streets he should have been uneasy, and I notice that many British nationals have since left the island.
What about the United States officials? Did they take a different view? We do not know, but they would surely have been mindful of recent hostage-taking in Iran and conscious of the emotion aroused at that time—an emotion which contributed to the defeat of President Carter. It is easy to sneer at United States' anxiety, or over-anxiety, for their nationals, but its existence was a political reality and the situation was one of high risk by any token.
Thirdly, what risk did the Grenadian régime pose to 469 the largely defenceless Commonwealth neighbours? It is perfectly clear that their alarm about the military junta and its Cuban and Russian friends was genuine enough. Responsible leaders like Mr. Adams and Mr. Seaga were in no doubt and, after mutual consultation, sought help from outside. Who are we to tell them that their fears were misplaced?
Fourthly, what risk or what threat, if any, was posed to the United States? It is hard to distinguish between a real and an imagined threat, and foreign policy is, in part, made up by historical memories. The Cuban missile crisis in 1962 seems to be a forgotten episode here, but it is not so in the United States. There were plenty of people here at that time who said that Russian activity in Cuba was nothing to fuss about, and the Foreign Minister of the Soviet Union denied in Washington that missiles were there. This is all passed over by their apologists now. These events have created a climate of opinion in the United States which may not be shared here, but it is in the minds of all US policy-makers whoever their President may be.
It seems to me largely immaterial whether the Cubans or the Russians were in Grenada at the invitation of the Government. Maybe there was an invitation, but when does an invitation from an unrepresentative group who have seized power by force inhibit neighbouring Governments from taking action to protect themselves? For this reason, I conclude that the steps taken by certain Caribbean countries and the United States were, in the light of all the circumstances, reasonable and should be acknowledged as such.
There are two more points which I should like to make: the role of Her Majesty's Government and the consultation procedures between Her Majesty's Government and the United States. I think that Her Majesty's Government have been right to stand aside, not least because any contribution of forces that we could have made would have been negligible; but, far more importantly, because we have for long voluntarily abandoned our responsibilities in the area and have, if press reports are true, recently been seeking to escape even from our modest commitment in Belize. If you put little or nothing in, you cannot expect to take something out or to put a veto on the judgment of others.
What alternative solution to the crisis in Grenada did Her Majesty's Government offer? This has not been spelled out in any detail. If it was a mixture of diplomatic persuasion and ineffective sanctions, I doubt whether the régime, after the murder of Mr. Bishop, was open to sweet reason or would crumble before minor economic restraints; and what if the Russians chose to ignore the economic sanctions? I also believe for the same reasons—but perhaps less strongly—that we should stand aside from participating in any force established in the island in the future. The very difficult road back from the present situation to a democratic Government is best managed by the people of the Caribbean themselves, and there are more ways of helping them than sending armed men.
The breakdown of communication between our Government and the United States on this issue is of course regrettable, and I hope that pride on either side 470 will not delay its repair. But it is not a question of institutional machinery or even personal relationships. It derives from a recognition of mutual interests and must in part depend on mutual commitment. In the Caribbean, our commitment had, without protest from Parliament or anyone else, been reduced to vanishing point. This could but affect the importance attached to our judgments. Where our commitment is undoubted, then our views will carry weight.
§ 5.48 p.m.
§ The Earl of Onslow
My Lords, I listened with attention and respect to the non-controversialish speech of the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, and I hope that we shall hear a lot more of him. We must always remember that without the United States we would probably not have won World War I, certainly not World War II, and would almost certainly have been involved in, and probably lost, World War III. We should also always remember "Marshall aid" ideals which lie behind American society. I personally have many American relations, both by marriage and by blood, so your Lordships will see that the criticisms of the United States that I am going to make, and the strong support that I intend to give to the action taken by Her Majesty's Government, are based not on anti-Americanism but on a perceived view of what is in this country's interests and, I would venture to suggest, the United States' interests as well.
My right honourable friend the Prime Minister and my noble friend Lady Young have both said that there are differences in perception from one side of the Atlantic to the other. It strikes me that one of the differences of perception is how high Cuba is held in the demonology of the United States. Cuba is not a large country. Castro himself overthrew a particularly nasty form of fascist dictatorship and, I believe, made friendly overtures to the United States when he first came to power. But he was spurned. Admittedly he came to power by revolution and by bloodshed but the alternative was not available in Batista's Cuba.
Let us also remember that even Cuba denounced the murder of Mr. Bishop by the so-called General Austin. The result of Cuba being spurned by the United States resulted, as we know, in the Cuban missile crisis, the Bay of Pigs and all the horrible things which followed. Furthermore, in the case of Nicaragua there has been a Left-wing revolution against the Somoza régime. The United States feels threatened by the new Sandinista régime to such an extent that it is arming and backing ex-Somoza thugs to try to overthrow it. El Salvador and Honduras have régimes of some degree of horror or another.
I really believe that there is a greater threat to United States interests in supporting those régimes than could ever be created by Cuba or Grenada. The dungpit of E1 Salvador and some of the other repellant military dictatorships in Latin America are what fertilises the seedbed of Left-wing revolution. Russia is opportunist and aggressive and obviously has got to be kept out of that part of the world, for the reason which my noble friend Lord Buxton gave: the threat to the Panama Canal. That is obvious. But she is going to be helped by the behaviour of some of the régimes which are very ostentatiously supported by the United States Government.
471 Can we really believe that Grenada posed a threat to the United States? It seems to me pathetic that a small, impoverished island of 90,000 inhabitants could really pose a threat to 250 million people, with the American standard of living, with their skills, with their cruise missiles, with their new missile systems, with their 12 attack carriers and with their marine corps which is twice the size of the whole population of Grenada. There was no excuse for Gairy or for Bishop, and General Austin was, as I have said, an appalling man. All three have singularly abused the good nature of the Grenadian people, but, as the Prime Minister said on the BBC, you cannot go around invading other people's countries because you dislike their Governments or because those Governments came to power unconstitutionally. The American army would be overstretched, the British army would be overstretched, everybody's army would be all over the place shooting people it did not like. That is a theory and practice which would lead us into world anarchy and world oblivion. The action of the United States in Grenada looks suspiciously like finding someone to invade. Let us remember that the United States forces have taken a hammering worldwide since Korea. They lost the Vietnam war; they could not rescue their hostages in Tehran; and because they failed to take elementary precautions in Beirut they lost 200 men. There were no chicanes and the sentries were unarmed. They have also had the example in the South Atlantic of a professional army and navy mounting an expedition and defeating three times their own number 8,000 miles away. All of this must be galling. Could it be that excuses had to be invented for a military expedition of some sort to produce some sort of military success? The excuse of having to save United States lives which were threatened is hard to accept, despite what the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill, has said. Twenty United States marines have been killed. Yet there was no perceived threat to the students at the medical school.
The airfield excuse has been totally demolished by the document which has been provided by Plessey. I do not think anyone is saying that Plessey is an agent of imperial Communist expansion. The document says that the military airbase required various facilities, none of which existed at Port Saline: a parallel taxiway, dispersed parking, radar, hardened aircraft shelters, secure fuel, underground weapon storage, surface to air missiles, perimeter security, operational readiness, with ready access to aircraft engine workshops and major stores, aircraft arrester gear. None of those is present but, as has already been pointed out, there is a large passenger handling terminal which takes one jumbo load of people an hour.
They have found enough infantry weapons for 8,000 men, or claim to have done so. But whether those infantry weapons are in Grenada or Havana is relatively unimportant. What the United States' action in the Caribbean has done is to undermine the rule of international law. It has also given a spurious validity to the actions of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, considering that an unstable Afghanistan ruled by fundamentalist mullahs really does threaten public order in the Muslim parts of Russia which are under a system of government which has none of the moral 472 majesty of the United States system. The United States system is a system of free men. It is a system which allows people to choose their own Government. It is a system of real moral majesty.
When I criticise the United States I criticise them in sadness, not in anger. It is a fact that, by her actions in Grenada, the United States has given comfort to her enemies and to ours and succour to her detractors and to ours, and has aided those militant mullahs and turbulent priests who attempt to hi-jack the word "peace". That is why their Grenada action causes so much distress.
My noble friend Lady Young said that it is a facile comparison that their action gives aid to those people, but unfortunately those people will take it as aid even though the comparison, as my noble friend says, is genuinely and completely facile. The limitation of damage which the Government are trying to effect has my fullest support. It is right to point out to our American ally our great concern. Her Majesty's Government are surely right in emphasising the overall importance of the Atlantic Alliance. It is that upon which our security rests. It is also strong enough, I suggest, to take quite considerable internal disagreements into account without the whole thing collapsing.
§ 5.58 p.m.
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
My Lords, I find myself in a very large measure of agreement with the noble Earl. I think it right, proper and important that that speech should have been made from the Government side of the House. On this issue it ought to be possible for us to take a view of the interests of our country which may not be too far apart. From time to time we shall express ourselves, I think, in manners which on other sides of the House may not be entirely acceptable. There is shared among many people, much more so than has been made apparent from the Government Front Bench, a feeling that in this matter this country has been slighted, and unreasonably slighted, by our great ally. Therefore, this should be heard and should be heard strongly. The noble Earl is to be congratulated on that, as is my noble friend who spoke so trenchantly from the Front Bench. Equally trenchant was the maiden speech of my noble friend Lord Stoddart. I am sure the whole House will look forward to hearing him at full blast when he is not restrained by the necessities of a maiden speech to speak on a somewhat pianissimo note. We shall be glad to hear him on other occasions without those restraints.
The situation, in what we used to call "Grenarda" but which now we have to call "Grenayda", is that this Commonwealth country, a part of Her Majesty's domain, has been invaded by the United States against the wishes of Her Majesty's Government, against the Charter of the United Nations, against the wishes of most major Latin American and European countries, and in defiance of most of the civilised world. That is the situation. What the Government ask this House to do is to take note of it—almost to accept it. What a confession of, if I may say so, pusillanimity—not even to protest but to propose no action and simply to take note. This House takes note when the matter it is noting is of no great concern. It is a formula on which the House can hardly divide. It is not a Motion to approve; neither the Government nor the Opposition 473 approve of the American action—although I have a feeling that the Government are sliding dangerously, as day passes day, towards that position. Certainly the Governor General appears to have arrived at that position already.
Why have the Government not had the courage to put down a Motion disapproving the American action? Then those who feel that the Americans are always right, and who would still think the Americans right if they decided to blow the world to pieces, would be exposed as the minority they really are in this country.
It is true that the anti-communism of some people is almost irrational. It has certainly reached that stage in the case of President Reagan and some of his entourage. On these matters, the President almost seems to have the hallmarks of paranoia. It now seems clear that the Americans had been planning the invasion for some time, and that the assassination of Mr. Bishop provided them with an excuse which they were determined to use despite the feeble protestations of the British Prime Minister. With stronger action, with the determination that Mr. Attlee used in preventing the Americans from dropping the atom bomb in South-East Asia or which the Americans themselves used to bring a previous Conservative Government to their senses at the time of Suez, this disaster could have been avoided.
I venture to suggest that the proper role of an ally was demonstrated on both those occasions; when we stood up, on the one hand, and said to America, "No, that is something you must not do", and when, on another occasion, the Americans said to us, "No, this is old colonial stuff—don't do it". That is the proper kind of relationship that ought to exist between equal allies; not the relationship of satellite to master, which is all too near the position which the Government appear to have adopted on this matter and which is reminiscent of what is precisely charged in relation to the Warsaw Pact powers as being their relationship to the Soviet Union. If the Government want to avoid that charge, they must be not afraid to stand up and tell the Americans when they are wrong.
On this issue, I question whether there is any doubt at all that in all questions of law, whatever excuses may be made, the Americans were wrong. That, I believe, will increasingly become apparent. As it is, because of the lack of strong action by ourselves, the Americans have destroyed their own credibility. They have destroyed the trust they enjoyed in some Latin American countries, for if Grenada can be invaded, what can save Nicaragua? And who will be next on the list after that?
The Government say that President Reagan and his men may be crazy in the Caribbean—may lie, cheat and murder there—but can nevertheless be trusted with the fate of the British people in their operational control of cruise missiles. Like Hamlet, the President is only mad north-west; in the south, he knows a hawk from a handsaw—except that in this case it is the other way about. According to the Government, President Reagan may be slightly off his head in the south-west, but is absolutely sane in the North Atlantic.
He may mistake the British Plessey company's handsaw of a civil airport for the hawk of a Soviet missile in Grenada, but in England he is to be trusted. 474 The final crew controlling cruise missiles in Britain may both be Americans. Although there may be many other people about, two people are finally required to launch. They may both be Americans under the orders of a man whose grasp of his marbles sometimes seems to be precarious: for, as the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor might have perhaps put it more eloquently, President Reagan sometimes seems to be "stark staring bonkers".
If the Government are determined to go ahead with cruise, the only even partially safe solution is for one of the two men in final operational control of each cruise missile to be a Royal Air Force officer under the direct orders of the Prime Minister. That is the only safe solution. It is not a very safe solution as it is, but if one must have cruise missiles then those are the terms—and the only terms—on which the people of this country ought to accept them. If the Government are not prepared to have that safeguard then they are failing to represent the will of the people of this country.
At the very least, without such a safeguard the Government would be leaving our fate in the hands of a man who has proved himself to be without judgment and without integrity. It is nonsense to say that the two issues are not connected when the final orders will be given by the same man. The people of this country want to control their own fate. They do not trust President Reagan, and there is no reason why they should. Let the Government listen to their common sense and act accordingly; let that be the result of their noting the situation in Grenada.
If the Government are not ready to do that, then my advice to all young people would be to leave England and Europe and to go to Australia or anywhere else where they have no nuclear weapons; to get out now, before it is too late. In case that is thought to be exaggerated language, may I point out that the Government are saying two incompatible things. On the one hand, they say that cruise is a second strike missile. On the other hand, they say it is a missile that can be used in response to conventional attack. Those two statements are not compatible. If it is thought I have it wrong, I have here the Government's document on cruise missiles in which they say,The aim of using them"—nothing about them being a deterrent—would be to persuade the Russian leadership, even at the eleventh hour, to draw back".If we use those missiles it will not be the eleventh hour but the twelfth hour; it will be all over. It is for this reason that the question of Grenada cannot be divorced from the fate of our country.
I see that since I made that note the Americans' latest scientific appraisal is that after a nuclear exchange there will be no safe place on earth, and that to go to Australia would only be to prolong the agony. In that case my advice must be, if the Government will not learn the lesson of Grenada and are determined to allow the Americans to have operational control over cruise missiles, then we should all get a copy of the Voluntary Euthenasia Society's booklet on safe methods of suicide and leave this earth at a time of our own choosing rather than leave it to President Reagan to decide when we go.
475 On a less sombre note, tonight I have the privilege to attend a function being given in honour of a Member of your Lordships' House with whom I do not share political views but with whom I have had an association through the arts. My attendance at that function in honour of the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, is my reason for having to apologise for not being present to hear the reply which the noble Baroness, Lady Young, will be making to this debate. I shall, however, read it tomorrow in Hansard with extremely close attention, and, indeed, if I can get back in time, perhaps even listen to a little of it.
My Lords, there is, I think, no reflection on NATO in what I have said. A large majority in the other Chamber is not convincing on this issue. I believe that here the voice of what the people of this country need and want is beginning to be heard, and it is my prayer that the Government will listen to it.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Lord Thomas of Swynnerton
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, will, I hope, forgive me if I do not follow very precisely his juxtaposition of the issue of Grenada and Greenham, two places which seem to most of us to be far apart, a point which was made in a way more vigorously than anyone by the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, from Lord Jenkin's own Benches. Lord Stewart also pointed out, among other wise remarks, the evident fact that Her Majesty's Government in this crisis had plainly been treated cavalierly by the Government of the United States. It is certainly true that they behaved tactlessly, and there are enough historians around the the Government of the United States to realise that tactlessness very often causes much more difficult problems internationally than might be supposed.
There are also enough people around the Government of the United States who can recall that, in a greater Caribbean crisis, in 1962, the Government of President Kennedy sent Mr. Acheson to inform European Governments as to what was likely to happen. The whole incident seems to me to give weight to my suspicion that the more elaborate the technology and the quicker the means of communication by telephone or telex, the less satisfactory the actual means of communication turns out to be. I look forward therefore to a revival of the letter, and of the personal visit.
I have referred to Lord Stewart of Fulham, and I should like to say how much I enjoyed his speech, and indeed most of the speeches which have been made from the Benches opposite, speeches which, if it is not perhaps a breach of convention to say so, seemed to me to be a very welcome contrast to those made in the other House on this issue last week. For Mr. Denis Healey, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, to make use, not once but I think more than once, of the particular canine metaphor which he chose in relation to the Prime Minister seemed to me to be as stale as it was inapt, since, as we have seen from the debate in this House, á number of noble Lords felt that Her Majesty's Government went too far in distancing themselves from the policies of the United States.
Turning to the issue itself, it is quite clear that to begin with the crisis was easily made out in our 476 media—and indeed in our political life—as being a rather romantic struggle between a small and beautiful island, a member of the Commonwealth, a producer of spices, and a super power which has in its time caused distrust among those who dislike it as the capital of capitalism and among those on the Right who still have memories of the role of the United States in the persuading of the European powers to withdraw from their colonial empires. The memory of Suez is as important perhaps among Members of this House on the Right as other feelings which exist upon the other side of this House.
But of course as we have seen from the judgment of the Governor General of Grenada, of many Granadians, and indeed from most of the neighbouring States, that is a very fanciful view of the situation. Grenada is more, it must be said, than just a pearl in the Commonwealth necklace. It is indeed a pearl in two other necklaces; first of all, the chain of islands of the Eastern Caribbean to which it is attached geographically, as I understand it, since there was once a large peninsular stretching out from the mainland of South American. It is perfectly obvious, given the position of Grenada at the bottom of this chain, that it has a strategic position of great importance in the Caribbean, as my noble friend Lord Home has pointed
It is also obvious that in the event of a major war which of course we trust will not occur—a great deal of United States assistance to Europe will flow through that channel as well as a great deal of United States shipping, as it does now, from the Middle East. Hence the great importance of Grenada from the United States strategic position—a fact which the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, should perhaps bear in mind when he makes another contribution on this question.
Grenada also plainly has great significance for its neighbours, which, as the noble Baroness, Lady Young, reminded us, once had the hope, or the chance, of being associated with Grenada in a federation. It must be a matter for regret that that federation came to an end in the way that it did, not because of the Eastern Caribbean States themselves but because of the failure of Trinidad and Jamaica to collaborate in the way that we all hoped. It is obvious therefore that these other smaller states, ex-members of the Caribbean federation now independent, are bound to be preoccupied with what happens in their next door neighbour.
The other chain to which Grenada has become attached is the chain of Soviet satellites. As I had the occasion to point out to your Lordships last week, the main change in the Soviet world over the past generation has been that in addition to the assistance it can expect to receive from Communist parties abroad, the Soviet Union now has at its disposal in one form or another, linked to it in one form or another, a great number of surrogate states, Cuba being the obvious one in the first place, but Vietnam, South Yemen, and perhaps Nicaragua also play a part. This must affect our judgment as to what should have been done or was done. But of course had Grenada simply been a conventional Communist state, like, say, Kerala in India, as it once was, or even like Hungary, which does not threaten anyone very much, there would have been naturally no case whatever for the United States to intervene.
477 Indeed, I do not suppose for a second that they would have thought of doing so. But the fact is that Grenada, under Mr. Bishop, was progressively being turned by the Cubans—presumably at the Soviet behest—into a headquarters for terrorism and therefore guerrilla war and wars of liberation, as the Cubans refer to them, which could easily have affected the whole of the Eastern Caribbean and the North of South America, too. Dr. Castro and all Soviet leaders have made no bones about the fact that one of their main aims in the third world is to give support to wars of liberation wherever these may be successfully managed. The fact that Grenada is a smaller country does not affect that issue. Indeed, the smaller the country the more viable the headquarters.
Much has been said both in the press and in this House about sovereignty and it is obviously a serious matter which should be discussed. But the question must have occurred to your Lordships as to what extent Grenada was still an independent sovereign state. Indeed, the question whether any state with a population as small as 110,000 can be a sovereign state in the normal sense of the word is difficult and one which has not been satisfactorily answered. After all, when the United Nations was founded, a small state was something the size of Belgium. But now with so many of these tiny states, many of them a good deal smaller than either Blackpool or Brighton—to mention two cities which are so politically important to us—a wholly new situation arises with security consequences, to which several noble Lords have already referred.
§ Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos
My Lords, at what point does a state cease to be sovereign? Does it depend on the size of the population? Will the noble Lord tell the House whether he thinks Malta is an independent sovereign state?
§ Lord Thomas of Swynnerton
Certainly, my Lords, Malta is an independent sovereign state. So is Grenada. But, nevertheless, plainly it is a different kind of sovereign state to, say, China or the United States. Without any question it cannot be expected to sustain itself in the same way as a more conventional society. This seems to be one of the questions raised by the whole crisis which we are debating. Therefore, bearing in mind that fact, I think there is some question about the nature of the independence of these small states.
As to the events in Grenada, it seems as if the coup in 1979 was planned by Cubans in New York with Mr. Bishop. That is not a typical sign of a sovereign state. It does not seem as if the Grenadians had much say in the coup which took place last month. That is not the sign of an ordinary sovereign state. It does not seem that many Grenadians took part in the recent defence of Grenada. In this respect, once again, Grenada ceases to be a sovereign state. Indeed, perhaps it had already become a part of an extended Cuban empire. Certainly Dr. Castro, in referring to the death of the Cubans in the first attack, talked of the Cubans dying for their country. Which country? Why were they there? Surely this suggests that the normal sovereignty of Grenada had been qualified in a very striking way.
Then we have the news of the execution of Mr. Bishop and so many of his colleagues. That may seem 478 to some of your Lordships to be a typical happening in a violent part of the world. As a matter of fact I cannot think of a single precedent for it in the whole of the Eastern Caribbean or even in South America itself. It is a wholly unprecedented event, indicating that a new pattern of politics had taken over. Bearing in mind the security aspect as well—taking account, of course, of the ill propaganda which would accrue to the United States and remembering also the support which the United States knew it would have from the Eastern Caribbean states themselves—it is my considered belief that the United States was justified in the action which it took.
Looking to the future, which is obviously the instruction from those who introduced this debate today so wisely, I have already raised one question as to whether the problem of the micro-state might not be almost as serious as with the large state. I also raise the question as to what extent a Marxist-Leninist state should be permitted to remain a part of the Commonwealth—a point which perhaps should be taken up at the forthcoming meeting of Commonwealth Heads of Government. Surely it is also quite possible, even if the expectations of the noble Lord, Lord Soames, for a European response to this kind of crisis in future may be delayed, that there may be a revival of the idea of a federation in the Eastern Caribbean, the unity among whose states was so striking an aspect of this crisis.
In conclusion, I simply say that we should bear in mind that however difficult it is for some of us to accept the collapse of the Marxist-Leninist régime in Grenada, it is nevertheless the first collapse of a Marxist-Leninist régime of this sort in history. None of the other setbacks to the Soviet empire has had anything like the same resonance. Some states managed by the Soviet Union, directly or indirectly, have certainly collapsed but none when they have begun to play such an important part in aggrandisement in the third world.
My final thought is the same as that of the Prime Minister when she said in another place that, at the very least, this crisis gives to Grenada another chance of democracy, and therefore another chance for the refortification of the ideas of liberty to which Grenada has as much right as any other member of the Commonwealth.
§ 6.27 p.m.
§ Lord Beswick
My Lords, I first offer my congratulations to my noble friend Lord Stoddart of Swindon. The vigour, sincerity and clarity of his speech had my absolutely unqualified admiration. This is the first time that I have ventured into a foreign affairs debate. I follow the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Swynnerton, with a certain amount of trepidation. He, like my noble friend Lord Stewart of Fulham, whom he praised so warmly, has a considerable reputation as an expert in these matters. Hitherto, I have been content to leave this field to the noble experts and to the connoisseurs.
However, I speak today to bear my witness to the deep and deepening disquiet at the whole attitude and actions in the international scene of the present Administration of the United States of America. On the other hand, I should like to make it clear that what 479 I want to come from this debate is not taken as anti-American but pro-principle. When we came home after the Second World War there were, I suppose, differing views about the way to build up our national society. But there was a most widely shared view and the most widely shared hope and intention that we should build, through the United Nations, an effective peace-keeping system built on the rule of law. For my part I assert my continuing belief in the validity of that objective. As we are nearing Remembrance Day I hope it is not improper to say that some of my friends who did not come back would think the less of me if I did not hold to that belief.
Everything that has happened since 1945 has shown how difficult is the road to the new world order, but equally true, I should say, is that everything that has happened shows the need to keep on trying. In the debate that we had about the Falklands conflict no speech impressed me more than that of the most reverend Primate, the Archbishop of Canterbury. I was pleased that, unlike more recent interpretations of church responsibility for political matters, he thought it right to come to the House to say what he thought were the principles at stake. The most reverend Primate said then that we were not fighting for narrow self-interest. There was, he said,the need to ensure that nations act within international law, which is the bulwark on which the future peace of the world depends".—[Official Report, 20/5/82; col. 814.]It seems to me that if next year the new Argentine Government try again to take over the Falklands, and we again seek United Nations support, we shall be laughed out of court if we cannot now condemn the United States invasion of Grenada.
The successive reasons given by Washington for the dispatch of 15,000 men against the little island have not, to put it mildly, carried total conviction. But I am glad, I am bound to say, that among the reasons Washington gave it did not include the one put forward by Lord Thomas of Swynnerton, that after all the island was only a little one. First we were told that it was to protect American citizens, although no evidence was shown that prior to the landing lives were in danger. I understand that Her Majesty's Government specifically said that British citizens were free to leave. Then we were told that Washington was requested to invade, although by whom and after what prodding by the American envoy, Ambassador McNeil, who had been sent to Barbados, is a little confused.
Of course, as has been said, we are now shown individuals from Grenada saying that they are glad the Americans came. To that I think there are two answers. If, as some people have predicated in the letter columns of The Times and elsewhere, there was a Left-wing Government elected in this country, and the American Administration genuinely thought that their vital interests required them to intervene and to invade, I am quite sure that there would be individuals from Kensington or the Cotswolds who could be brought to the television to say that the Americans had come just in time. But, more relevantly, even if conditions did merit some outside action, does this necessarily mean that all the military weight which the great United States brought to bear on this small island 480 is the way to change events? Other countries with knowledge and judgment thought there were other means of bringing influence to bear. They include, for instance, Mexico, Trinidad and Guyana, not to mention some professional advisers rather nearer to Westminster.
The further point which the Prime Minister seemed to come near to making, and which was made so well by Sir Sonny Ramphal on Saturday, is that it cannot be assumed that a big country can invade a smaller country simply because it does not conform to the Western pattern of democracy. There are now many, not only in the developing countries—the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Swynnerton, should take note of this—who do not care for Mr. Reagan's definition of democracy. They do not like the prospect of mass unemployment, the increasing gap between rich and poor or the doctrine that every man should seek to satisfy his own selfish interest. They want to build up another economic and social system, and they are entitled sometimes to say that that is their concept of democracy.
Sir Sonny Ramphal went on to say what so many others are now saying and thinking: if the larger nations, or the super-powers, are to be allowed the right to decide which Governments they will tolerate or which they will overthrow, we are entering the era of anarchy. This is the central issue of the Grenada controversy. If that American invasion does not prove to have created a watershed in world opinion, it has at least caused more people to think more clearly about the path we must take if world peace is to be assured.
I would emphasise again that this thinking has no connection with any crude anti-Americanism. It was indeed a distinguished American, a former Under-Secretary of State, who said over the weekend that Mr. Reagan had so compressed everything into an East-West mould, and had so concentrated his thinking on the Soviet question, that he was now acquiring Soviet characteristics. I understood Mr. George Ball to say that there was now a Mr. Reaganov directing foreign affairs in both the White House and the Kremlin.
In another sphere in which I have worked one often heard the expression, will it work? That was a good final test for any new technical proposal. If we apply that test to the Reaganov-type doctrine—to the way in which it has been applied so far—the results do not seem to me to show that it works, even if we are thinking in terms of narrow self-interest and self-security. Under a Conservative Administration we tried it. In our own lapse from the rule of international law in the Suez operation we can scarcely say that our position was strengthened. For all the terrible loss of life in Vietnam it cannot be said that the Americans strengthened their position in South-East Asia. The Soviet intervention in Afghanistan shows no sign at all of securing their border in that part of the world. For all the money and military equipment which the Americans have poured into Israel, and which made possible that original invasion of Lebanon, I fear that few Israelis can now really feel that their brave little country is more secure. The shells with which the United States warships bombarded the Lebanon may well have killed off some of the Moslems with whose politics they disagreed, but they have done as much as 481 anything to increase distrust and hostility towards the United States throughout the Moslem world.
As for the Grenada invasion, it achieved one result over which I believe we should do extra well to ponder. For the first time in years the Soviet Union and the Republic of China united in their criticism of the United States of America. If Mr. Reaganov in the White House causes Russia and China to come closer together, indeed there will be cause for saying that the Reaganov doctrine just does not work.
Looking to the future I offer the Government my opinion on three points. I believe the Prime Minister does well to doubt the wisdom of sending British troops to Grenada. When servicemen died in the Falklands battle it was possible to say at the funeral service that they were killed in a worthy cause. If a sniper kills a British soldier in Grenada we could say only that he died while we were pulling the chestnuts out of the fire for Mr. Reagan. Secondly, I would say to the Government, be a little more careful about the claim that the operational firing of the cruise missiles from Britain is well covered by a letter written some 30 years ago. The stakes are now much higher. The time-factor for decision-making is much shorter. And the interpretation of what are American interests is now more suspect—or some would say more clearly understood. Finally I would say this. My friends will know that my admiration for the European Economic Community never passed the bounds of moderation. I never expected economic salvation through the common agricultural policy. But I listened attentively to those who said to me that one day there would be a great need for the accumulated experience and wisdom of Western Europe to be exercised in world affairs. That day, it seems to me, is now with us. That potential power and influence of Western Europe is now needed. It is needed to give a lead away from military laissez-faire and towards that more hopeful prospect of world peace under a system of world law. I only hope that Western Europe will prove equal to that challenge.
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ Viscount Massereene and Ferrard
My Lords, with due respect to the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, he appears to have argued against himself. At one moment, I understood him to say that nations have a perfect right to alter the social order of things if they wish. That is true, but they must not do so by brutal murder. At the same time, the noble Lord said that all nations must abide within international law. If you change the constitution of a country by brutal murder, you are presumably overruling international law.
I know the West Indies extremely well. I used to have agricultural property there and use to travel there very frequently. My property was in Jamaica, but I also know the other islands—not all of them, but quite a number of them. I do not, however, know Grenada. I can assure your Lordships that the West Indians, especially in Jamaica, were very loyal to Britain, and especially to the Queen. One could go into the poorest houses and into schools—we had a school on the property which was extremely well managed by black teachers and attended by 500 or 600 children—all of which contained pictures of the Royal Family. 482 Everyone looked to Britain as their protector. I am afraid that the Government—although, I am sure, that they did not perhaps mean to—have let the West Indians down. It will take the people in the West Indies a long time to forget that.
Much has been heard about international law. However, in a crisis such as that in Grenada, where there was a bloody revolution and people were being murdered, time is of the essence. There is not time to indulge in a long diplomatic discussion between nations if people are being murdered. Human life is more valuable than the pique of diplomats. I back fully the American invasion of Grenada. It is a great pity that we could not have joined in it. There appears to have been a great lack of communication in the Foreign Office. I understand that on the Friday before the Statement on the Monday—I was not here myself—the Prime Minister of Barbados, Mr. Adams, saw our High Commissioner and made an approach to him for help. We were told in Parliament on the Monday that no such approach had been made. This was not the fault of my noble friend when she made the Statement; but, obviously, someone in the chain is not telling the truth. If the person not telling the truth could be found, he should be sacked.
I was interested to hear my noble friend Lord Thomas of Swynnerton, who is not now present, get into an argument over whether or not a nation should have full sovereignty. It has always been my view that any small nation can have full sovereignty provided it is viable. If it is not viable, it is dangerous to give it sovereignty. Quite a few of these tiny islands in the West Indies were not viable when we gave them independence. They would have been far happier under the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Colonial Office having, of course, been disbanded.
I must apologise to your Lordships that I have a bit of a cold. I have just come down from Scotland. That does not mean, of course, that you will always catch a cold in Scotland. What makes me unhappy is the Foreign Office today. I remember that, in the old days, the Foreign Office was the star department of state. It was staffed by extremely able people, many of them brought up to a sense of responsibility from an early age. But about 30 years ago, the democratisation (it is a terrible word to pronounce) of the Foreign Office was embarked upon. I can only say that I do not consider it to have been a great success.
If we take the Falklands, the information pouring into the Foreign Office must have been that there was going to be an invasion. If the Foreign Office had acted, we could have been present in the Falklands on sea and land. There would have been no invasion and a great deal of blood would have been saved. The same has happened in relation to Grenada. The Foreign Office may have had information about the impending invasion; but, if so, it presumably did not send it to the high-ups in the Government. Something must have been very wrong in the communications.
The Prime Minister, for whom I have a great admiration, stated in a television interview—I think it was a phone-in—that you cannot expect America or Britain to go into every sovereign country that suffers a Communist takeover. Of course you cannot. But if it is a small Commonwealth country, of which Her Majesty the Queen is Head of State, I think that you 483 ought to go in. This country should try to do everything it can to prevent that Communist takeover. My right honourable friend says that she will give sympathetic consideration to joining a Commonwealth peace force. Coming from the Iron Lady, sympathetic consideration appears rather like the indecisiveness (with respect to your Lordships who are lawyers) of lawyers' language. I am afraid that the Iron Lady has been sitting on the fence. That, of course, would be very dangerous for an Iron Lady, especially if it was an electric fence—
§ Lord Elwyn-Jones
My Lords, is the noble Viscount afraid that the iron might have entered the Iron Lady's soul?
§ Viscount Massereene and Ferrard
My Lords, the noble and learned Lord has a point. I remember that when we had a debate after the Russians moved into Afghanistan everybody thought that probably in a year or two they would go advancing across the Strait of Hormuz into Arabia. I said that they were much too subtle for that, and that they would concentrate on the north of South America and have a diversion there for a year or two and would then probably come back to the Near East and Africa. It was known by America that Russia had been supporting one or two states in Central and South America.
Our Foreign Office appears to be rather weak on global strategy. The Americans were cheated by Cuba, and they were extremely nervous of the build-up in Grenada. The excuse is that it was only a civil airport, but I know one or two people who have been out there. It may appear to be a civil airport now, but it can take the largest planes in the world and it would be invaluable for transporting troops from Cuba to North America. It is quite easy to turn a civil airport into a military airport. The important point is to have the length of staging runway. When we consider the finance of that airport, we find that it was financed by various countries, including Syria and Libya. The amazing aspect is that the EEC gave £5 million towards it, as well as some free milk to the island, which was rather strange.
The point I want to make about the Foreign Office not being "clued up" about Grenada is that in September, 1982, Mr. Bishop, the then Premier, went to Moscow, where he was extremely well received. He was received by the Deputy Minister of Defence, and he took General Hudson with him. The Russians gave him eight million dollars and a million and a half dollars worth of goods. In a small country like that, I do not think all that money was meant to buy milk. They entered into an agreement saying that there would be a free interchange of technology and culture between Soviet Russia and Grenada. What technology Soviet Russia could get from Grenada I cannot imagine; obviously, the money was required for some other purpose.
I fully support America in this matter. She has brought happiness to Grenada and she has been a great set back to Cuban plans under the global strategy of their masters, the Soviet Union.
§ 6.54 p.m.
§ Lord Walston
My Lords, let me be the first from the Social Democrat Benches to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, on his maiden speech. He is clearly a very fine recruit to your Lordhips' House. He has many qualifications, as we have heard, and wide experience. I know that we shall look forward to hearing him frequently on a wide range of subjects.
I turn to the matter that we are discussing today. I share the view of the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, that one of my overriding impressions of the events of the last week or 10 days has been a lack of candour. I am not saying that there has been a lack of candour on the part of Her Majesty's Government, because I do not believe that to be the case; but there has been a general lack of candour and the difficulty, for those who approach this matter with an open mind, of getting at the true facts. For example, on Thursday last The Times on its back page had an article entitled "Invasion: The conflicting accounts", which summarises some of the conflicts, but not all of them.
What we want to know—and I hope that the noble Baroness may be able to tell us, but I rather doubt that she can do so—is what the real reason was for the American invasion of Grenada. Was it that they had been invited there by neighbouring Caribbean Governments? Was that the main reason? Or did they go there primarily in order to protect their own citizens who they considered were at risk? Alternatively, did they go there in order to protect their own vital interests militarily in the face of Grenada becoming an even more serious threat to them as a base for Russian aggression? Did they get there, as President Reagan assured his viewers on television, just in the nick of time and if they had not taken those steps, then, they might have been too late? Or did they, as is now beginning to transpire, go there because the Governor General invited them to go there? It would be helpful, as well as interesting historically, to know the real reasons. That does not mean to say that I condemn their action at this stage, but we want to know why they went and what their motives were. It is this lack of candour which is pervading the whole argument that we have heard.
The second question which I would like answered is when in fact the decision was taken to invade. Was it after the final telephone call to our own Prime Minister? Was it taken several days or even weeks in advance, but a certain amount of preparation was needed? That is my second question. Thirdly, did the invitation—in so far as there was one—from the Prime Ministers of the Caribbean islands come spontaneously of their own accord or were there nudges or winks to them or even direct approaches by the American authorities saying that such an invitation would be welcome? What was the role of the Governor General in the whole of this picture?
Clearly contingency plans must have been made a long time prior to such an invasion taking place because such action cannot be mounted in a matter of hours. There must have been a plan worked out in the Pentagon. Was the United Kingdom informed of this plan in its early formative stages or were we taken completely by surprise? What was the role of our own 485 High Commission in Barbados, and of the High Commission representative in Grenada itself?
What role did these people play? What intelligence did they send home to us? Were we warned that something of this sort might be happening, and in the light of this are we satisfied that our intelligence in that part of the world is satisfactory and keeps us sufficiently well-informed that we are able to make the correct decisions when the need arises? Those are all questions to which at some stage—preferably this evening but certainly at some stage—I, and I believe many of your Lordships, would like an answer.
But there are far more important matters than that. The most important matter is our policy and the policy of the United States in the Caribbean. The noble Baroness, Lady Young, reminded us at the beginning of this debate that it was about Grenada, and she asked us not to let the debate wander too far. But here I must say quite frankly that I disagree with her. Although the title of the debate is "Grenada", it cannot be taken in isolation. If it is taken in isolation, it simply shows our own ignorance of the importance of the Caribbean as a whole. I belive that that is a point that was made by the noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel. He spoke to us about the strategic importance of the Caribbean to the whole of the Western Alliance, and it is of enormous importance.
Therefore, we must look at the events in Grenada, not in the light of one small isolated island with 600 American citizens on it and having experienced the disastrous and brutal assassination of its Prime Minister, but in the context of the whole Caribbean policy, and in the context of Russian imperialistic aggression throughout the whole world and specifically there. We all know that it is taking place; all of us deplore it, and we are all of us determined that it shall be halted and, where possible, reversed.
However, the important question is: how do we set about doing this, what is the right strategy for it, and is it something which we in this country and Her Majesty's Government think should be left completely to the United States, as we have washed out hands of it and it is no concern of ours? Alternatively, do we feel, as we must feel—and here again I should like confirmation from the noble Baroness when she replies—that it is of vital interest to the United Kingdom and to the whole of the Western Alliance that the policy for countering Soviet aggression is worked out jointly, whether it be in the Caribbean, in Western Europe, in Africa, or in any other part of the world?
There are two ways of countering this aggression. One is that there should be armed help and economic help to any Right-wing Government that happens to come along in any country in Latin America, whether it be in E1 Salvador, in Chile, in the Argentine or in Guatemala: that those Right-wing Governments should be given support as the best means of making sure that there is no Soviet infiltration there. That is one way of doing it. Is there another way? I believe that there is another way and I should like to read to your Lordships the comments of a wise and experienced man who has already been quoted by the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, in a slightly different context. Mr. George Ball, as reported in The Times of 27th 486 October, says things about his own Government which it would not be proper for us here to say, but he accused Mr. Reagan of:impulsive heroics and of seeking to oversimplify every foreign problem as an East-West conflict".He went on to say:We confer positions of high responsibility on individuals who have not merely had no experience but who tend to oversimplify history without having read it".The article goes on to say:In 1927, he said, President Coolidge sent marines to save Nicaragua from bolshevism imported from Mexico, the bogyman of the time. The result was the Samoza dictatorship which tyrannized the people for 43 years";and he might have added that the result is now a Government in Nicaragua which the Americans regard as a threat to themselves, and it is under the wing of Cuba and the Soviet Union. The article goes on to say:In 1954, the CIA destabilized the Guatemalan government, leaving a legacy of brutal right-wing régimes. In 1961, the failure of the ignominious Bay of Pigs operation strenghtened Castro's hold on Cuba".Then he said:None of our crude interventions has brought our Latin American neighbours the blessings of democracy. We have simply secured the iron hold of squalid dictatorships".We cannot dismiss the words of a man as experienced as George Ball, experienced over many years in government, in the State Department, and particularly in Latin America. I believe that the policy that the present American Government are pursuing in Latin America as a whole and in the Caribbean specifically at the present time is one which, although not designed to promote Soviet influence and interest, in fact is achieving just that. When Castro first arrived after overthrowing the corrupt and inefficient Baptista régime had he been helped by the United States and to some extent fostered by them, although not wholeheartedly, he would never have come under the orbit of the Soviet Union. On a very much lower level, when Mr. Bishop became Prime Minister of independent Grenada, having overthrown a not very admirable character in the shape of Sir Eric Gairy, had he been treated in a friendly manner and been given help by the United States instead of being outlawed as a communist, the state of affairs that now exists in Grenada would never have taken place.
Therefore, I believe that the policy must be threshed out. I believe that my approach is right, but I am not dogmatic about it. I urge Her Majesty's Government that there should be discussions, although possibly discussions have been going on about which we know nothing. A further question that I would put to the noble Baroness is: have there been such discussions between Ministers and senior officials in this country and their counterparts in Washington with regard to a long-term strategy for the whole of the Caribbean area? If there have not, will Her Majesty's Government now attempt to produce such a policy and ensure that the decisions are taken only after they have been thoroughly threshed out and have the agreement—I hope the willing agreement—of all the parties to the discussions?
At the moment the whole of the Caribbean area is going through a serious economic difficulty. I here declare my interest in the island of St. Lucia, as some 487 of your Lordships may know. The Government there are a good Government, but they are struggling against enormous odds and at the end of their term of office when a general election is held, if the economic situation has deteriorated still further there is no guarantee that what we consider to be a sound, good and friendly Government will be re-elected. It may well be that some of the opposition parties and some of the opposition individuals will be able to persuade the voters of that island that their interests will best be served by voting for them.
We shall then find—the Americans will then find—that not only Grenada but other islands of the Eastern Caribbean have fallen under the sway of countries which are favourable to the Soviet Union and under the influence of Cuba. Those things can be overcome, they can be stopped by substantial economic aid, so that the enormous rate of unemployment is diminished; so that more schools are built, and the children of those islands have better oppportunties; so that the hospitals are better equipped and have more staff; so that all the things of life, roads, water supplies, and so on, are made available.
The islands cannot do it out of their own resources, but I believe that if you wish in the long term to counter the threat of Communism, which is a very real one indeed, and above all the threat of Russian imperialism, which is an even greater threat, the way to do that is by building up the economies of these small and poor islands, rather than ignoring them until they fall under the sway of the Left-wing Government, or giving help only when they are governed by what many people with great justification would call fascist Governments.
I urge upon Her Majesty's Government the need to discuss these things frankly, to put those views forward forcefully to our friends in the United States, and to insist that we are brought in at the very earliest stages of planning a strategy for the Eastern Caribbean designed to promote our own ideals of Western democracy and to keep at bay the threat of Soviet domination.
§ 7.12 p.m.
§ Lord Campbell of Alloway
My Lords, it is always a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Walston, and to listen to his advice as to future economic policy. I agree with him that the situation in Grenada cannot be viewed in isolation as if it were some sort of medical specimen in a bottle of alcohol. But I respectfully disagree with the noble Lord when he agrees with the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, in his philosophical tour d'horizon of American shock horror. I will return to this, if I may, at a later stage.
As my noble friend Lord Massereene and Ferrard has said in his delightful, inimitable and dismissive way, we have heard a lot about law this evening. The limitations of the law are of course means of enforcement. In public international law this of course involves very special problems. Nonetheless, is it not of some consequence that the special relationship should adopt a common approach to the rules of public international law and to questions of constitutional importance?
488 But even if by a better process of consultation we should achieve this common approach, the fact remains that the free world adopts one set of rules, the Soviet bloc rejects that set of rules and operates another set. Therefore, whatever may be the result of any academic, legalistic exercise, however well founded, we have to come to grips with practicalities; the facts of international life in which we live.
This presents a difficult situation for any lawyer. The dilemma situation in which the free world finds itself. The imprint of circumstances of any particular case upon the validity of rules. This has been eloquently described by my noble friend Lord Home. The noble Lord nonetheless acknowledges the value of public international law, perhaps because breaches have to be justified by circumstances, an element of onus; perhaps because, put at its least, it is preferable to have some rules of conduct than no rules at all.
The problem arises in the main over the concept of the request for armed intervention by a head of state. It will serve, I respectfully suggest, little purpose on critical analysis to show that the request for armed intervention in question was contrary to constitutional entitlement, or indeed that the act of intervention itself was in breach of public international law. It is indeed probable that such was the case, but the sheer impact of the circumstances with the build-up of the background of some 20 years constituted an overriding justification, to which again my noble friend Lord Home has referred.
There is, however—and it has to be faced—no doubt that this concept, already much used and far too much abused, affords a slippery slope. Indeed, a slope which both the free world and the Soviet bloc could slide down into mutual annihilation. Hence the importance of our alliances, the value of our weaponry, as an aid not only to the channels of traditional diplomacy but also as a means of survival in the balance of threat and terror in which we are ordained to live.
In conclusion, with all the inherent limitations, a common approach to the rules of public international law applicable to armed intervention would, I suggest, tend to strengthen the special relationship. In her opening speech the noble Baroness, Lady Young, was able for me to dispel the miasma of doubt, fear and even mistrust, in particular as regards access to nuclear arms sited in this country. I fully understand, and I wholly respect. the views expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Beswick. It is another philosophy. It is one that I am unable to share.
In her closing speech, when the noble Baroness winds up in this debate, she may by some emphasis on future consultation even be able to lay the ghost of unease. Although the Motion before your Lordships' House today is to take note of the situation in Grenada, maybe—and perhaps, one hopes, it will not be too long—we shall be able to take note of the benefit of the lessons we have learned from Grenada.
§ 7.20 p.m.
§ Lord Hankey
My Lords, I was greatly impressed by the very interesting and thoughtful speeches made by the noble Lords, Lord Home of the Hirsel and Lord Soames. I feel we need to look at the Grenada affair on a much broader basis than some of the speakers in this 489 debate have done. I am extremely sorry to differ from the Government and from the department I served for so many active years, because I think the Americans were entirely right to send their forces in. They acted swiftly and efficiently at the request of the Governor General and of the East Caribbean States. The Grenadian people, for whom I have great sympathy, seem to be happy to be relieved of a Communist oligarchy not led by Mr. Maurice Bishop and of the rapidly-growing Cuban presence in their midst. The situation had become thoroughly alarming also to the other Caribbean islands. Both they and the Governor General appealed to the Americans for help.
We have heard today some rather legalistic condemnation of the sending of American troops to Grenada; but the critics do not seem to have troubled to inquire why the Cubans were there and why they were sending in arms, obviously under cover of building what appeared to be, and probably was, a commercial airfield. The United Nations Council did itself very little credit in not considering these issues before it condemned the Americans. I am glad that Her Majesty's Government did not support the United Nations resolution, though, personally, I think they should have voted with the Americans. I believe Trinidad and Guyana favoured only economic sanctions.
I agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill of Harrow, said on this subject. The Americans were right to reject that idea. I cannot recall over a great many years any case where economic sanctions have been effective in forcing political change. They work extremely slowly too. In this case economic sanctions would merely have given time to the Cubans to dig in, to send more troops, to consolidate their hold on the island and to make it an extremely difficult job to dislodge them. I do not for one minute suppose they would have confined their attentions to Grenada. It was obviously to be a leaping off point and in that policy a good modern airfield was essential. I will say more about the airfield presently.
This brings me to the Cubans and the Soviet and Cuban policy over recent years. Without digressing too much, I recall President Carter's administration and our last Labour Government who always seemed to me to be unduly influenced by the Helsinki Conference of 1975 and the talk of recognising human rights and of establishing detente in East-West relations. It never seemed to me that detente meant to the Russians what it was meant to mean to us. Looking back it is now clear that we were bamboozled. Mr. Andropov and his KGB make quite sure that nothing much happens under the heading "human rights" in Eastern Europe.
However, under cover of this peace offensive the Soviet Union have built tanks, guns, missiles and aircraft like sausages. They vastly increased their fleet, especially nuclear and conventional submarines. The Americans let them get ahead in some fields, especially the SS.20 missiles, and put off the construction of cruise missiles. That is why we are now in so much trouble in the disarmament talks and about cruise and Pershing II. One cannot safely allow the Russians to get a jump ahead. I say that having dealt with the Russians or countries round Russia for a great many years.
490 In that period the Russians, largely using Cubans, secured control of Angola, Mozambique and Ethiopia. They also took over Aden and Socotra Island, largely using East Germans, giving control of access to the Red Sea. They took Kampuchea from Vietnam and finally Afghanistan. What has happened to democracy and human rights in any of those countries? It has absolutely gone to pot.
Where is this process leading? Many of us were concerned that neither President Carter nor Her Majesty's Government seemed able to do anything whatever to stop this misuse of Russia's Cuban surrogates. They sent ships to stand off Mozambique to stop oil going to Zimbabwe; but in the other issues which were very important they did nothing whatever. Mr. Solzhenitsyn warned us when he left Russia that we were losing the third world war. How right he was. It is really high time to call a stop and we should be profoundly grateful to President Reagan for having done so in Grenada.
The Caribbean is very much more than America's backyard. It is the approach to the Panama Canal. It is the waterway for transporting oil of Venezuela and Colombia; vital to us all, both in peace and war, if anything goes wrong in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf, and how delicate the situation there is. Grenada lies on one of the deep water channels from the Atlantic to Venezuela and Colombia. I am quite sure that in the period that lies ahead it will be seen to have great strategic significance, like Aden at the entrance to the Red Sea.
I agree with the Government that President Reagan should have consulted us more. It is a pity we were not consulted or appealed to by the Organisation of East Caribbean States or even by the Governor General, but clearly the Americans could take immediate action and we could not. In my opinion that is a quite adequate reason.
It is a pity that in a Commonwealth island going steadily more Marxist we were only represented at the moment of the crisis at a low level and perhaps only sporadically. A junior representative in my experience cannot hope to have regular access to a Governor General. Therefore I am sure that the information available to Her Majesty's Government was not what it should have been in a crisis of this dimension affecting a quite vital area. I hope our present Foreign Secretary will not take it amiss if I say I am sure that all that is the fault of the Treasury. It is penny wise and pound foolish.
I want to add another Foreign Office point to this. There have been some extraordinary cases of important telex communications from the Caribbean being sent to a plastics firm because the former Foreign Office telex number was out of date and had been reassigned to a plastics firm. The Foreign Office communications service must have dealt with this, but I should like an assurance from the noble Baroness that it has been seen to. In my rather difficult experiences a diplomat minus good communications, especially radio and telex, equals one tenth of a diplomat. It is a very important mathematical formula.
I wonder how many of your Lordships saw "Panorama" last night. I was very shocked by it 491 because they were leaning over backwards to put the Americans in the cart, really leaning over backwards—rather what you would expect from "Panorama" who are a bunch of Leftists. The "Panorama" representative was interviewing the Governor General, for whom I have the greatest admiration, may I say. He actually had the cheek, the unspeakable nerve, to say to him, "Have you not replaced one set of thugs with another set of thugs?" How desirable is it that such a very distinguished outfit as the BBC should carry out a gross slander of that sort on our principal allies? I really think it is a disgrace.
May I take the opportunity to say that I have been deeply shocked by the attitude of "Panorama" in trying to make public all the information that they could about our intelligence services about two years ago. The intelligence services are the best defence we can have against the policy of subversion followed by countries behind the Iron Curtain, not only the Soviet Union. It seems to me that "Panorama" is on the side of those countries in these matters and for long I have regarded their real loyalty as somewhat suspect.
We have had a lot of sorrow of course from people with very good democratic credentials about the action which has been taken, saying that it is a form of aggression and so on. I think that you have to take a broader view of this. I agreed with a great deal of what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Swynnerton, in this matter. I thought he gave us a very interesting speech indeed.
I should like to add another case to those which have been mentioned. Do your Lordships remember after the war the situation in Greece with the Communist organisations there which had been fighting the Nazis and had been largely armed by us, over the protests of the non-Communist Greek organisations which were also fighting the Germans; and that eventually it became clear that those people were going to take Greece over? They were on the point of taking Greece over. Mr. Churchill (as he then was) sent British troops into Greece and there was a tremendous outcry from all the democrats, liberals and socialists. There was never such a flap-doodle. Where would Greek democracy and human rights have been if we had not sent troops then into Greece? Just look over the frontier into Bulgaria and Rumania and the other countries in Eastern Europe and see what the state of Greece would have been in those circumstances.
There are cases where it is essential to make sure that countries friendly to us are not subjected to forceful takeovers of that sort. I think that this is a further reason for the general attitude I have taken. There has been a certain amount said about the airfield and there is a very interesting statement issued by the Plessey Company. The Plessey Company say that they have withdrawn their United Kingdom employees to the United Kingdom. They say that it really was a commercial airfield and lacked all the attributes of a military one, such as radar and fuel dumps underground and all that sort of thing. I want to say that the Plessey Company is a very great company, absolutely in the forefront of technical progress and a company of great respectability for which I have an enormous admiration. I do not think that we should be tempted to accuse them. As far as I 492 am concerned, their statement lets them out. But I still do not understand why the Cubans were there. I still do not understand why the Cuban workers—even if it was necessary to have Cubans to build an airfield; and I cannot see why that should be so—should be armed or why there should be such a large dump of arms there. So I excuse Plessey but I do not excuse the Cubans. I am sure that Mr. Coard and his colleagues in Grenada knew what was happening.
To sum up I am glad that the Grenadians are happy that the Americans went in. I hope that the Americans will put a stop to further Cuban or Soviet expansion in this and other areas, as far as they can. I do not think that we can afford to let it go further. At present, we are losing the third world war before it has begun. In the Caribbean the Americans are far better placed to act than we are. I entirely share the Government's hope that the Americans will get out as soon as they can and make way for a Commonwealth exercise—if necessary with troops; but, anyhow, with economic aid and technical assistance—to set Grenada up on a new course of democratic progress and prosperity. I was greatly impressed with the remarks of my noble friend Lord Walston in this connection.
We must all be firm about resisting further Cuban expansion. Finally, I hope that the Government will not suffer from a broken nose and a sense of humiliation after this affair. Let all that be forgotten in attention to the enormous issues that face us and all our NATO allies in this fateful Autumn. Above all, let us give generous, broad-minded and big-hearted help for the poor, struggling East Caribbean states so that none of them is lured away in future by specious Cuban or Soviet promises.
§ 7.37 p.m.
§ Lord Beloff
My Lords, the pleasure of following the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, is somewhat diminished by the fact that he has said much of what I myself should have liked to have said. I find myself in almost total agreement with him, but I will perhaps cover some of that ground from a rather different point of view and begin (since we have not had a right reverend Prelate to address us this afternoon on a matter which has some moral connotation) with a quotation from a Prelate:Things and actions are what they are, and the consequences of them will be what they will be: why then should we desire to be deceived?It seems to me that if one can bring any complaint against the relations between our own Government and that of the United States over this affair (and I would not defend the method or manner of United States consultation over that very short period) we should look a little earlier.
It seems to me—and there are here, I fear, parallels with the Falklands crisis which we were debating not so long ago—that we appear to regard foreign affairs as a series of discontinuous events which suddenly happen and demand a reaction which we may, either militarily or economically or diplomatically, find it difficult to make up our minds about. After all, the problem presented by a possible hostile base in Grenada has been familiar ground for many years. The Foreign Affairs Select Committee in another place looked at the Grenadian situation as recently as May 493 of last year. They fastened their attention on two points, both of which have been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Hankey. They called attention to the fact of our under-representation and to the fact that there was no high level person there to follow the events on this island, which could turn out to be, as they have turned out to be, of major significance.
The second point was that they called into question the real requirement of an airfield of this kind, given the likelihood of the amount of civilian traffic. I am certainly prepared, as I am sure all noble Lords are, to take the assurance the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, has given us, that what Plessey thought they were doing was helping the "jet set" to open up yet another island. I find it difficult to believe that this was the whole intention of the Government of Grenada at the time; and indeed the fact of Cubans working there should have been a warning from the beginning, because if there is one thing that we are all agreed upon, whatever our views about the Caribbean, it is that these islands suffer from massive unemployment. How was it that the Grenadian Government could not find the labour they needed in the neighbouring islands, which after all would be labour which spoke the English language—the language of the contractors and the language of the island? But they went a thousand miles to recruit relatively unskilled labour in the form of Cubans. If ever anyone had given a signal for alarm, I would have thought that was it.
I think also—and this is a partial reply to the noble Lord, Lord Walston, whose generous attitude towards the Caribbean Islands and islanders is well known and admired—that if we look at the circumstances so far as we can ascertain them (and I agree that there are grave lacunae in our information) which led to the murder of Mr. Bishop and his colleagues, it seems that Mr. Bishop (and he is not alone in this) is one of those people in the modern world who have succumbed to the delusion of the sorcerer's apprentice. He went ahead; he decided that he could get valuable aid from Cuba, the Soviet Union, East Germany and North Korea—unlikely tourists I should have thought, the North Koreans—and he thought he could do all this and still retain control.
There is some evidence to the effect that he began to lose control over the government of the island of which he was Prime Minister. Indeed, we know that he went to the United States and was generally thought to be moving towards a position in which he would hope for some kind of assistance—perhaps merely economic —to balance the hold which Cuba and the Soviet Union were acquiring. He was then murdered. It may be said that these two things have nothing to do with each other, but I find that on the face of it difficult to accept and I would offer one additional piece of evidence. In the spate of information which has come out in the press about the Caribbean, and Grenada in particular, over the last week or so, I do not know how many people noticed a small paragraph in The Times which pointed out that the Government of Surinam, which was also a Left-wing dictatorship that had come to power by violence, had just sent 100 Cubans back to Cuba. Perhaps the dictator in Surinam was getting a bit worried about what had happened to Mr. Bishop not so far away.
494 What lessons are we then to draw from this? We obviously worry a great deal, and rightly, about the effect of this upon the international system. There has been a great deal of talk of the law. It is true that the governing principle of international law in respect of matters of this kind is the principle of non-intervention. The difficulty is, as Talleyrand pointed out a long time ago, that non-intervention is only another way of saying "intervention". That is for this reason: you have to decide at what point intervention of an apparently peaceful or quasi-peaceful kind becomes intervention in the ordinary sense of the word; and at that stage it can be met only by counter-force.
I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, who was somewhat mocking in his expression when it was suggested—perhaps he even said something to this effect—that a problem about sovereignty and intervention existed in the case of very small states. International law may well at present say that what we think about intervention—and let us not take the huge lates—in, let us say, Portugal or Belgium, is exactly the same as intervention would be in, for example, Grenada or in a number of independent states in the world which are even smaller than Grenada. If that is the view of international law then international law is an ass and should be revised, because it is perfectly clear that there is a point at which a state is so small that it can be taken over by force not merely, as in the case of Grenada, by people professing a particular political doctrine but even by a group of common law criminals.
There are, for instance, islands in the West Indies which are largely already under the control or partial control of persons who use them for the large-scale smuggling of narcotics. One cannot take the view that any country, however small, is in a way given a total immunity, because if one does that one is really opening the way to intervention on a massive scale. Either, politically, we shall have to find a way of bringing small states under proper protection with each other or with larger neighbours or, alternatively, we shall have to say that in their case we cannot accept their total sovereign being.
I think it is very important that our lawyers should get down and state what are the tolerable limits about intervention. If we say that we, the British, believe—and indeed the Prime Minister came very close to saying this in her radio broadcast—that there are no possible circumstances in which the intervention of a power, even a friendly power, into the affairs of another country are justified, then I fear we are committing the error (which is now acknowledged, I think, very generally) made by the late Dean Acheson when Secretary of State of the United States in making a speech describing America's vital interests and leaving out South Korea. Many people hold that that was one, though not the only one, of the precipitating factors which led the North Koreans and their backers to believe that the United States would not resist aggression across that parallel. It is very important that we preserve to ourselves, within the limits of international law where that can be acceptably stated, the freedom to act and the freedom, where necessary, of our allies to act, in defence of our own vital interests.
I thought the noble lord, Lord Kennet, with his geographical descriptions of somebody's back yard 495 was, for once, far removed from his usual logical self. The importance of Grenada has nothing whatever to do with the distance of Grenada from Florida; the importance of Grenada is not particular to the continental United States, to which Cuba (not to mention various Soviet underwater craft) is considerably nearer. The importance of Grenada is much greater to Europe than it is to the United States, because the supplies that come to Europe and that could be interrupted by someone with control of Grenada are supplies to Europe. The United States is not in need of supplies, and, even in the event of a major confrontation, would not be in the same need of supplies as we are. Therefore, I hope very much—
§ Lord Kennet
My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord would allow me to interrupt, because it is important that the House should understand his argument. Supplies of what, from where, to Europe?
§ Lord Beloff
My Lords, supplies of commodities from the American ports in the Gulf of Mexico which would be, in the time of crisis, one of our major sources of supplies of all kinds, both peaceful and military. After all, this is one of the world's great trade routes, as I think we were reminded in an earlier debate about Grenada by the noble Earl, Lord De La Warr.
§ Lord Kennet
My Lords, may I follow that up? The noble Lord is being most forbearing. What could the Soviet Union do to interrupt those supplies from Grenada which it cannot do ten times better from Cuba?
§ Lord Beloff
My Lords, there are reasons for taking the view that it is not always the most conspicuous point on the map which one should worry about solely. There are perfectly good reasons for regarding the channels that pass Grenada as vital, just as there are important reasons, as the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, pointed out, for worrying about the entrance to the Red Sea. Naval strategy is a matter of many points, and not merely of a single one.
But I do not think it would be sensible or proper for us to confine ourselves in this debate to considering issues of that kind, though they are essential in explaining why the United States took the action that it did and why, like the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, I think they were right in taking that action. The important thing is, as many noble Lords have said, the future and the lessons that we should draw. One of them (to go hack to my first point) is that, whether or not we like what we see, whether or not we approve of what we see, whether Governments are Left-wing or Right-wing and whether they practise socialism or communism, seems to me to be a matter of, indifference compared with the strategic issues involved. Whatever it is, we ought to be informed; and I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, that if the Treasury's influence stops us from being properly informed it is time that someone stood up to the Treasury.
§ 7.53 p.m.
§ Lord Hatch of Lusby
My Lords, in this debate no one has doubted that international law has been broken by the invasion of Grenada, nor that the United Nations Charter has been flouted. As my noble friend Lord Beswick pointed out, the American Administration has given a number of excuses for this action. It began by talking about the safety of American citizens. Like the noble Lord. Lord Hankey, I also watched "Panorama" last night, and, whether or not one believes in a political motivation behind the production of "Panorama", the fact is that there was an interview on that programme which showed quite clearly, without any dubiety, that the 600 Americans who were in the medical school were the principal American citizens on the island, and that their dean had been asked by the American Administration to demand protection from the American Government as a pretext for the invasion. That was the first excuse.
The second one was that there was a dangerous airport being built, partly by the British company of Plessey. Although he is no longer in his place, I would mention to the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, that it is not unusual for Cubans to be working in other West Indian islands. I myself have seen them working in Jamaica and making a very constructive contribution to the development of those islands. Nobody, surely, is suggesting that a sovereign state does not have the right to invite workers and experts to assist it in developing its economic superstructure. Indeed, there are on the island of Grenada many Americans doing the same, there are many British doing the same and there are many other West Indians doing the same; so there is nothing peculiar about the Cubans working on the airport. Indeed, if the British and American Governments had been a little more forthcoming, they also would have been assisting in the construction of that airport, although I believe that the Government have given it some financial guarantees.
The third excuse given by the Americans was that they went there to restore democracy. One of their own senators. Senator Moynihan, has scotched that plea, but I wonder what kind of democracy the Americans want in their back yard, as it has been called. Is it the kind of democracy that they have in Haiti, is it the kind of democracy that they have in Chile or is it the kind of democracy that they have in Salvador?
Fourthly, there is another and, perhaps, more hidden factor behind that invasion which has been brought out—and I hope that no one accuses me of anti-Americanism, because my evidence is American evidence from American citizens—and that is the disaster which occurred, and which we all regret, to the American soldiers in Lebanon immediately preceding the invasion of Grenada. Again, I make quite certain that I am not here being accused of anti-Americanism. This is what Congressman Wyche Fowler had to say about the connection. He said:It means that in the aftermath of the horror of Beirut and of the frustrations in Central America we went for an achievable military objective".The reactions in America to what happened remind me rather of the reactions of a cowboy who finds that his fellows have been killed by the Indians and so he 497 proves that he can still use his gun, especially if the victim is too weak to shoot back.
But the valedictory declaration on this set of American excuses was given by another distinguished American, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Tip O'Neill, and I leave this list with his own words. He said:My honest opinion is that for two years the administration has been looking for an opportunity to get into Grenada, and I think they found the proper time for the excuse was when Prime Minister Bishop was killed. Is it the right thing to do? No, it isn't. It is the wrong thing. We have to abide by international law. What he did was gunboat diplomacy, and that is wrong".So I say RIP to the series of false American pretexts.
But we are not here to debate the actions of the American Administration, only in so far as they influenced the actions of our own Administration, the Government of Great Britain. It is on that theme that I want to spend the rest of the few minutes that I have left, because it is Her Majesty's Government, as well as the American Government, who are in the dock—Her Majesty's Govenment who were an accessory before the fact of the invasion. I believe that the tirades of the Prime Minister in Washington, described by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, as "megaphone diplomacy", were a signal to the Pentagon, the White House and certain Caribbean states that Britain would support any move, however violent, against what she saw as the evil of communism. That signal, like the signals of 18 months ago, were misread. But the signal was clear.
I want to make four points to the noble Baroness with whom I had some discussion during the first three days of last week. First, I want to deal with Monday of last week, 24th October. As we now know, from the Friday previously diplomatic representatives of Britain had been in contact with Caribbean leaders. Some had been on the island of Grenada. Yet on Monday, 24th October, the Foreign Secretary was able to bring himself to say twice in the other place that he knew of no intention of an American invasion. He repeated:I have no reason to think that American military intervention is likely". [Official Report, Commons, 24/10/83; col. 30.]The Foreign Secretary stressed three times that the movement of the United States naval vessels was not prompted by the consideration of invasion. The noble Baroness will recall that she reiterated this point when she said, and I quote from col. 30 of that day, 24th October:Regarding the United States Government, they have publicly explained that the movement of their naval task force into the area is prompted solely by the perceived requirement to be in a position to rescue any of their very sizeable community in Grenada.".I pointed out to the noble Baroness later in the week that she had also said that the British diplomats had found no reason to believe that there was any danger to British citizens. If there was no danger to British citizens there was no danger to American citizens. This has been confirmed, as two American diplomats accompanied the Deputy High Commissioner of Barbados on his visit to the island. They were able to see for themselves.
So we must come to the conclusion that the Foreign Office, and therefore the Government, knew that there was the danger of an American invasion and thus misled both Houses of Parliament. The only other 498 alternative is that they were incompetent, as they were last year over the Falklands, and had not found out that within an hour or two the intention of the American forces was to invade. I would ask the noble Baroness this question: if, as now appears to be the case, the information that she give to this House and which her right honourable friend gave to the other House on the afternoon of Monday, 24th October, was later that day proved to be incorrect, why did she not return to this House, when we were sitting until 10.30, and why did her right honourable friend not return to the other House, and tell Parliament that they had been wrong?
Secondly, this was the invasion of a sovereign Commonwealth state. I ask the noble Baroness the question to which she did not reply last Wednesday: is there any precedent for the invasion of a sovereign Commonwealth state which has not been condemned by the British Government, or is this the first case? Has this set a precedent? Moreover, this is a Commonwealth state headed by the Queen. The Queen was put into an embarrassing situation because of that invasion. Who would believe that under a Conservative Government, with their professed monarchist beliefs, there could come out last Wednesday a London evening paper with the bold headline, "Dilemma for the Queen"? Who had put the Queen in that dilemma? I suggest that it can only have been Her Majesty's Government—Her Majesty's Government through the sins of omission rather than through the sins of commission.
This is a breach of sovereignty. We remember that last year when there was a breach of British sovereignty in the Falklands the Government took certain action. Is Grenadian sovereignty less valuable than that of British sovereignty? What action have the Government taken when they have seen a poor member of the Commonwealth invaded by a foreign force? This is an affront to the Commonwealth and an embarrassment to the head of that state; namely, the Queen of this country who is also the Queen of Grenada and the Head of the Commonwealth.
Thirdly, what action did Her Majesty's Government take? Did Her Majesty's Government follow their precedent over the Falklands and raise the danger with the Security Council? Why was there no consultation with the Commonwealth itself? The Secretariat is here in London. Sir Sonny Ramphal has made his position, and the position of the Commonwealth, very clear indeed, as have other members of the Commonwealth. Why was there no discussion between Her Majesty's Government and Governments in the Caribbean itself? Why were there no consultations with our fellow members of the EEC? At the end of the week the Government eventually screwed up their courage, went to the United Nations and participated in the Security Council debate. How? By sitting on their hands and abstaining, willing to wound but afraid to strike.
My fourth point, and in some ways the most important, particularly for the future, is the treatment by Her Majesty's Government of Maurice Bishop. It has not been mentioned this afternoon that Maurice Bishop's father was killed by the previous régime. He was killed by the régime of Eric Gairy, the democratic régime over which we have seen so many crocodile 499 tears spilled, both in Washington and in London, during the past week. Nobody in this House can accuse me of being a friend of the conventional communists. I have worked my passage. If you ask Willie Hamilton in another place, he will tell you that for 10 years I had a running battle with the last communist Member of the House of Commons, Willie Gallagher. But there are different kinds of people who call themselves communist.
I hope Her Majesty's Government have learned something from this lesson. Maurice Bishop was not a conventional communist. He was certainly not a Soviet communist. A good deal of what has been said this afternoon about the Cuban involvement is just nonsense. The Cubans were supporting Maurice Bishop. The Cubans condemned the assassination of Maurice Bishop. The idea that Cuba had any part, as was suggested by the noble Lord. Lord Beloff, in the assassination of Maurice Bishop is sheer nonsense. In fact, the Cubans and the Soviet Union took different sides at the time of the crisis of the week when Maurice Bishop was killed. But what did the British Government do during the régime of Maurice Bishop? They cut off their aid to Grenada. What did Washington do? It did the same. Is this the way? With hindsight, Maurice Bishop has almost become a hero. Is this the way in which Maurice Bishop and his régime were going to be sustained?
Everyone in Grenada will tell you that the mass of the people in Grenada had a better life and better hopes under Maurice Bishop. I do not condone a great deal of the form that régime took. but that régime took over from a corrupt and venal so-called democracy which had its own secret police, its own prisons, its own torture chamber and its own assassinations.
I remember my first visit to Grenada. I was warned before I went there for the first time by a leading West Indian official who was then a Colonial Office official that, "Whatever you do when you go to Grenada, don't lend money to Eric Gairy because Eric Gairy is borrowing money all over the Caribbean." Now "Uncle Gairy", as he is known, has re-emerged in Washington. He says he is waiting to go back. Do Her Majesty's Government intend to stand by and allow the American Administration to send him back there? If they do, there will be a great deal more trouble in the future on that poor island than there has been in the past.
Finally, it is Her Majesty's Government of whom we are talking in this Chamber. That Government stand condemned for having failed to fulfil their responsibilities as a member of the Commonwealth; they stand condemned for having failed to protect the Monarchy; they stand condemned for having failed to safeguard the interests of the British people.
Let me put just this point to her Majesty's Government. The "Great" in Great Britain is not to be found in the using of guns and bombs and the killing of people. Those may have been Victorian values but certainly they are not twentieth century values. The "Great" in Great Britain comes from protecting the interests of the British people; from the framing of and obedience to the laws for a totally humane community; from adherence to international law. I 500 hope that Her Majesty's Government will recognise the way in which they have failed during this crisis and will take the opportunity they will have later this month in New Delhi to co-operate with other members of the Commonwealth in trying to rectify the disastrous record they have displayed over the past week.
§ 8.14 p.m.
§ Lord Auckland
My Lords, before a few days ago there is little doubt that the name "Grenada" meant to the vast majority of the people in this country a place on the map where there were beautiful beaches and palm trees, which undoubtedly it does have. I intervene in this debate because although I have not visited Grenada, I have been to St. Lucia and Barbados on business, and I went to Jamaica seven years ago for the annual Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conference. There is no doubt that this very distressing incident has been due in part to a breakdown in communications. Anybody who has had, as I have had, experience in management consultancy, albeit limited, knows that communications can break down and do break down. The varying degrees of seriousness of these break-downs can be measured by the incidents concerned.
I should like at this stage to pay tribute to our High Commissioner in Barbados and to his deputy. The High Commissioner happens to be a friend of mine. Giles Bullard and I were at the same school in Devon. He is a much more academic person than I am, I might add. He has been in his present post for only a few weeks. From what I have read, he and his deputy David Montgomery have done a sterling job in keeping this country informed of what has been going on.
Much has been seen on television and in the newspapers and elsewhere—and in a way, the more we say the more counter-productive the whole thing can be as to what has actually happened. Of course, there are lessons to be learnt; and I believe that, in the last analysis, there are lessons to be learnt for the future.
In neighbouring St. Lucia, when I was there, John Compton was the very able Prime Minister. He was deposed for a time when they had trouble there with the Black Power movement; but he has now been re-established as Prime Minister. In Dominica there is the very tough Mrs. Charles, who I understand was summoned to the White House for discussions on this matter. My understanding is that it was largely through her influence that America became involved in this matter.
I am not sufficient of a diplomat or knowledgeable enough about this remote part of the world to comment at this time of night, and after so much comment has been made, about the whys and wherefores of the American invasion of Grenada. I will merely make this observation; watching as I did "Panorama" last night and other programmes on television, it seemed that the vast majority of the inhabitants of Grenada seemed to be welcoming the Americans as such.
I believe there will be—and indeed there has been—deep regret that there was not more of what one might call practical and comprehensive 501 communication between President Reagan and my right honourable friend the Prime Minister, and that it was not at a more civilised hour of the day. That is something which may well have been quite unavoidable.
When we come to the question of Cuban involvement in this, I remember that when I was in Jamaica for the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association annual conference several years ago when Mr. Michael Manley was Prime Minister, there was no doubt then in the Caribbean that there was a considerable amount of Cuban involvement. At this time of night I will not go into the whys and wherefores as to whether the Cubans should have been there or not. We all have our own views on this; they have been expressed here by people far more qualified than I to express them; they have been expressed in another place, and they have certainly been expressed through the media. But there was one very disturbing picture in one of the newspapers showing some Grenadians bathing off one of the lovely bays which this island obviously has, and these people were described as Russian observers. I do not know whether my noble friend the Minister has any more information as to who those people might be and as to how many they might be. I stress the word Russian and not Cuban. Perhaps by now there has been some further information on this aspect.
Looking to the future, I think that what is concerning the minds of many is the situation not only in Grenada but in the neighbouring islands should one of the more stable—if I may use that word—Prime Ministers by any chance be deposed. These islands all have similar status to Grenada. The deposition of the leaders and the elected Governments of these islands could cause similar or worse trouble all over again.
It seems quite clear that the sooner the American forces can leave Grenada the better everybody will be pleased, and few people will take this view more than the American Marines themselves and the American authorities. I do not believe that President Reagan or any other American President would have deliberately wished to invade Grenada or any island in the Caribbean—America has enough commitments and problems of her own. So it is necessary, if it is at all possible, to have a Caribbean force. Jamaica has a most efficient armed service. Many will remember that during the war many Jamaicans served very loyally and with great distinction in this country. Other Caribbean islands, too, have forces who are reasonably well trained; they are very smart, and with some further training they could hopefully make a very useful and very practical force. The sooner this can be done obviously the better.
So far as British involvement is concerned, there was an article in the Daily Mail recently by the High Commissioner of the East Caribbean Territory, Dr. Claudius Thomas, whom I happen to know personally, who was, according to this article, very upset by the lack of assistance and lack of co-operation which this country Las given. This was several days ago. I believe events have now changed this situation considerably. In his admirable interview on "Weekend World" on Sunday I believe that my right honourable friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary put the view straight as to how Britain would act, if 502 necessary, when he was very closely questioned by Mr. Brian Walden. Of course, the whole problem with this is that events shift almost from hour to hour, so that even while we are speaking in this House, fresh developments might well take place.
I end by saying this: those of us who love the Caribbean—and anybody who has been there falls into that category—will hope and pray that a Caribbean force composed of the friendly countries of the East Caribbean Territory can go into Grenada and restore to those people, who are a very god fearing people, stability.
§ 8.26 p.m.
§ Lord Milford
My Lords. 10 years ago President Allende of Chile was murdered because he was trying to bring in a new society with more democratic grass roots. Two weeks ago Mr. Bishop was murdered for trying to bring in the same things in Grenada. I have just returned from Rome, where I attended a very high-powered big symposium held on the 10th anniversary of the assassination of President Allende of Chile. It was called by Rome and its provincial councils. The Mayor of Rome was in the chair all day during its two days of sitting. It took place in a parliamentary chamber. The aim of the symposium was to examine the thoughts, tactics and aims of Allende in his effort to create a new more democratic Socialist society in Chile.
Representatives came from all the countries of South and Central America, many ex-ambassadors and the ex-President of Mexico. There were even speakers from the United States; one of them a Democrat, was the elected chairman of the Defence Committee of the American Congress. I mention all this because it seems history is perhaps repeating itself. Immediately after Allende's murder it was emphasised that it had happened because the people were so angry and furious over the appalling economic chaos for which they blamed him. But as time went on it became clear who was guilty of creating this chaos. That it was the CIA who was responsible is now publicly admitted. It was taken for granted at the symposium. Even the three Americans took it for granted. It has become common knowledge that President Nixon gave orders to the CIA to destroy Allende and his Government by any means.
Now Socialist Prime Minister Bishop has been murdered. His crime, like Allende's, was to attempt to bring in a new society under Socialism. Who planned to kill him? His crime was the same as Allende's. Has history repeated itself? Who, behind all those thugs and criminals, wanted and planned to have this and the Allende job done? Bishop was captured by the army thugs. He was rescued from captivity by the masses and a huge joyful demonstration took place, so he was quickly and cold-bloodedly murdered. Where is his body?
This tragedy of Bishop is a terrible loss for Socialists throughout the world. He was one of the few revolutionary leaders who in four years maintained a broad popular consent before his next transition process towards Socialism. What motivated his actual executioners? Was be going too slow for the Coard gang because he wanted to encourage the trading community and was trying in vain to improve 503 relations with America? Or was he going too fast for the United States of America?
Bishop had great respect for human rights. He wanted realistic relations with America; but America gave him no encouragement. Instead, there was terrific pressure from the American Government and the CIA was turned on him. For instance, there were forms of boycott and hostile propaganda. With this and the background of military harassment in the Caribbean terrific tension was built up against Bishop and his Government. However, now the New York Times regrets that America did not seek accommodation with Bishop. The whole list of events in Grenada shows the immense difficulty facing any Government attempting to build a new society that is Socialist, more revolutionary and more democratic in the face of imperialist attack and its creation of domestic crisis.
The immense difficulty of implanting democratic norms and traditions within societies long subjected to oppression from within and without is terrific. We see the difficulties in Zimbabwe even now. For instance, look at the background to Grenada, which has moulded its society. It had two centuries of slavery; a further century of rule under British Colonialism; and a five-year spell of dictatorship after independence in 1974 under the insane Eric Gairy—the man who said he was appointed by God and knew it all the time. He said that might is right whatever one might hear about the situation. Two-thirds of the people have left to seek work elsewhere.
This is not a justification for what has happened but it did distort and constrict efforts to build a new Socialist democracy. Grenada has lost the leadership that could have held popular support. The way is now open for America to roll back the whole revolution, as it has in Chile under Pinochet. The Western Alliance is doing nothing to get rid of Pinochet.
Finally, the noble Baroness, Lady Young, asked us to notice on television how the people of Grenada are joyfully welcoming the American troops. But surely we must remember that only American crews and journalists were allowed in when those pictures were taken and interviews carried out.
§ 8.36 p.m.
Earl De La Warr
My Lords, I will be very brief because it is getting late. I have no doubt that this will please the Front Bench, and it will also please my wife, who is along the passage waiting for dinner.
I should like to begin by saying that for many years I had a very close connection with the West Indies. In my company it was my responsibility to look after five radio stations and two television stations in that area. This was a very political job. It took me to the West Indies between 20 and 25 times during that period, and I formed some very close political and personal connections which I have tried to keep up.
It is my strong belief that the United Staes took a very wise decision to do as they did in Grenada, and to do it when they did. But I cannot go on to argue this case without making the point, so cogently made by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Swynnerton, that in doing so it was at the very least short on courtesy, and short on courtesy to the point. I should say, of danger. 504 I should like to believe that this message has sunk in. We must make sure that it does so.
I have been extremely encouraged today by the fact that, for the first time over this tense period, this matter has been debated to a very large extent in terms of the cold and, sometimes, not so cold war that the Russians are waging constantly and without remission on the Western alliance. It is, of course, fundamental to my conclusions and my arguments that Grenada was and is very much a part of this cold war.
We must never forget that a constant stream of shipping flows by day through the Caribbean. In an emergency no less than 40 per cent. of men and supplies would come either from the southern ports of the United States or through the Panama Canal. Moreover, do not let us ever forget that the Panama Canal and the Caribbean are one subject in strategic terms. The thought of a barricade, as it were, of Eastern Caribbean islands stretching from south to north, all hostile to the Western powers, is so horrific in naval and defence terms as to be almost unthinkable.
Let us not forget, either, that over the past 20 years the United Kingdom has almost totally abdicated, for reasons that we all understand, its defence responsibilities in the Caribbean. There is now nothing but a battalion of troops in Belize, which is there for one precise job. It is my belief that the Americans were too slow to fill the vacuum that was left by our departure, and I think that they appreciate that. Indeed, it was not until 1981 that the United States Navy created the Caribbean Task Force, based on Key West, to the south of Miami. It is that force which now has the task of looking after the Caribbean.
I also remind the House that there has been a history of instability over the past 25 years in the Caribbean. First, there was Cuba, and your Lordships know too much about that for me to need to refer to it. Noble Lords may not know so well that until Mr. Seaga became Prime Minister of Jamaica there was a constant stream of Russian arms flowing into Jamaica from Cuba, paid for I know not how but I suspect mainly by ganja from the Blue Mountains. Your Lordships will remember that there was a Black Power invasion of Trinidad in the early 1970s which very nearly toppled the Government. Your Lordships will recall that Guyana is now to be regarded as a totally Marxist state with policies which are strongly inimical to the alliance. Your Lordships know too much about past and present troubles in Central America for it to be necessary for me to refer to them, but you may not know that it was only in August of this year that my old friend Mr. Compton, the Prime Minister of St. Lucia, told his Parliament of the plans that the Libyans were laying to start in Libya the training of Eastern Caribbean people in the techniques of subversion and terrorism. That brings not only Cuba but Libya into this story.
The people of the Eastern Caribbean knew very well of the domino effect which could, and almost certainly would, have followed a complete takeover by Cuba, the Russian surrogates, of the island of Grenada. They are small islands, and they are very poor. They do not have the political infrastructure to enable them to counter the clever techniques of subversion. They knew that their time would come, and come very soon, 505 if one of the islands went, so when the lid blew off they were not slow in asking for help from one of the great powers. In my belief it is greatly to the credit of President Reagan that he moved quickly, with determination and, in the words of the Governor General of Grenada, "in the nick of time". In effect, what he has done is to say, in the Caribbean, "No further." That is a lesson which I hope will prove to be very salutary indeed. In spite of their tactlessness, we must be grateful to our allies for what they have done.
Finally, let me say this. Do not let us relax our vigilance. We have just cut out one cancer; it would be all too easy for it to turn up again in another form and in another place. We, our Caribbean friends and the United States must watch this area, knowing that it is still one of potential danger to the Western alliance.
§ 8.44 p.m.
§ The Earl of Kimberley
My Lords, we have had many diverging speeches on the subject of Grenada today. To me as a layman, it appears that for reasons best known to itself the Foreign and Commonwealth Office may seem prepared to wash its hands of British influence in the few remaining areas of the world, such as the Caribbean, where we still have connections, however tenuous. To put this situation into logic, if my supposition is correct that would explain completely why the Governor General did not include Great Britain in his cry for help the other day. My noble friends Lord Home of the Hirsel and Lord Soames elaborated on that point. It is interesting to know that in a conference in Washington on 16th and 17th October last year the Secretary of State, Mr. Schultz, said that the United States would not seek to foment violent unrest in Communist countries but considered it a responsibility both moral and strategic to meet the call for help from those seeking to bring about change. The appeal from the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States under its 1979 treaty is to me directly in line with that statement.
We have to live in 1983. We can no more put the clock back than the CND can ban the bomb. Foreign policy today is very different from what it was when my great-grandfather was Secretary of State for the Colonies 120 years ago. I understand why my right honourable friend the Prime Minister, when she spoke the other day on the wireless, had a lot of worry that we must not create a new law to stop Communism by invasion of a country as this could lead to terrible wars.
I would humbly suggest that the policy of the Foreign Office today is perhaps a little out of date. Nowadays countries do not declare war. They subvert or take over by devious means, combining propaganda, detention, anarchy, torture, murder and all the other nasty little refinements which, alas, have evolved from Marxism. Therefore, subversion which eventually leads to a Marxist dictatorship has to be dealt with in a somewhat different manner. That is why I applaud the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States and the United States for liberating, and not invading, Grenada. Several noble Lords have called it invasion; I call it liberation.
§ The Earl of Kimberley
My Lords, I was not particularly including the CIA in this subversion work. Every country has its equivalent of the CIA. I was merely stating that countries which can fall prey to repression by the Soviet Union usually get stamped on.
As a result of the liberation of Grenada it will have free elections and become a fully democratic country. I am sure that there are several noble Lords on both sides of the House who will disagree with some of the points I make, but I ask them whether they really think that Grenada needed a civil airport at Point Salines—where I have been—with a 10,000 ft. runway for tourism. We have only three airfields in the whole of this country with such runways. It cannot possibly have been necessary. It was ostensibly built as a civil airport, but any of the Iron Curtain heavy transport aeroplanes flying direct from Moscow could operate in and out of it.
§ Lord Kennet
My Lords, can the noble Lord say why Grenada has any less right to a jumbo jet length runway than Martinique, Antigua, St. Lucia, Barbados or Trinidad, which have one?
§ The Earl of Kimberley
My Lords, I will happily tell the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, that none of them has a runway of 10,000 feet. The longest is 8,500 feet.
§ Lord Kennet
My Lords, it is 9,000 feet, not 10,000 feet. According to the testimony of Messrs. Plessey, who are in charge of the contract, it is 9,000 feet, not 10,000 feet.
§ The Earl of Kimberley
My Lords, why split hairs? they still do not need one of 9,000 feet. I agree with my noble friend Lord De La Warr and several noble Lords on both sides of the House that the end product of the action has been what I consider so satisfactory. I am absolutely puzzled when one or two noble Lords say that it has been a disaster. In my opinion, it has been just the opposite. It has also been speedy. It is high time that we got our own Anglo-American act back together again properly. The more that this can be disrupted by the vociferous Left-wing anti-American lobby that exists in this country today, the better the Soviet Union will be pleased. A particular example of this anti-Americanism that does us so much harm occurred when the shadow Foreign Secretary, Mr. Healey, virtually accused Mrs. Charles, the Prime Minister of Dominica, of not telling the truth.
I am not going to bring in cruise missiles. I should dearly like to take on the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, but as he is not here I shall leave it out. In any case, it has nothing to do with today's debate. As my noble friend Lord De La Warr said—be might have read some of my speech, sitting behind me—we have to bear in mind that the subversion attempt in Grenada will probably not be the last throughout the world. There are many other places that the Soviets would love to have a go at. I feel strongly that we have to modernise our foreign policy somehow and to discuss these problems of modernisation with our allies. As my noble friend Lord Beloff remarked, we should perhaps go even further and review the whole of international law as we have reached the year of 1983.
507 I hope sincerely that my noble friend Lady Young, when she winds up, will not find my thoughts completely out of court. But let us rejoice in what has occurred in the name of democracy. It would indeed be a sad and a bad day for democracy not only in our own country but all over the world if we could not, in the Mother of Parliaments, state our own individual views.
§ 8.53 p.m.
§ Lord Annan
My Lords, I rise although my name is not on the list of speakers because I was much moved by the opening speeches in today's debate which reached a standard I have rarely heard in your Lordships' House. I must confess that I found the speech nearest to my heart that delivered by the noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel. It seems to me that we have to be very careful when talking about principles in foreign policy. Foreign policy ultimately is about power. Principles are fine guidelines provided that you remember that in foreign policy they bear the same relation as proverbs do to morals. If you want to describe morality and what you should do, you can cite numbers of admirable proverbs; the trouble is that every proverb you cite always has an opposite proverb that is equally true: "Many hands make light work" and, "Too many cooks spoil the broth".
Principles in foreign policy can often lead you astray. One of the times when we were led astray by too great an adherence to a principle was at the time of Suez when Sir Anthony Eden (as he then was) was, very understandably, tremendously impressed by his experience in the 1930s of the need never to appease a dictator. But he translated this into the appeasement of Nasser in Egypt. In other words, the situation did not really fit the principle. Time and again principles are applied by clever journalists to situations to which really they are not relevant at all. Some of the principles, for example which have been drawn between our attitude to the Falkland Islands and our attitude to the invasion of Grenada are not parallel in any sense. In foreign policy one has to judge each situation in relation to the size, the dimension, the geography and all the other factors. You cannot really extrapolate from one situation to another; or if you do, you do so at your own risk. It would be easy to say that we should have adopted a different line towards the Americans in their war in Vietnam. It was a disastrous war—disastrous primarily not because of its political implications but because of its military implications. The Americans had forgotten the advice given by their most distinguished general, General MacArthur to someone who asked him about fighting in Asia. He said:Never fight in Asia, son. Your left flank is always in the air".We backed the Americans to the hilt, so far as we could, in Vietnam, and yet I am not at all sure that we should have gone so far as we did. When it comes to Grenada, it seems to me to be a totally different situation. I listened to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, with great admiration. It seemed to me an extremely professional speech. The noble Lord made great play satirically with the notion of America's back yard being some enormous territory and compared it with a similar territory supposing that 508 Russia claimed a back yard. He went on to say that it would be justifiable for the United States, if some foreign power landed on what I took to mean Long Island in the state of New York, to intervene.
I ask myself whether the noble Lord remembers the Monroe Doctrine. Let us be clear that this is a principle in American foreign policy that has lasted now for nearly two centuries. It is absolutely fundamental to American foreign policy. Anyone who judges American foreign policy without remembering the Monroe Doctrine seems to be wide of the mark. It is understandable that America regards the whole of Central America as vital to its own interests—
§ Lord Beswick
My Lords, would the noble Lord then accept that the Soviet Union is entitled to apply the same principle in its own back yard?
§ Lord Annan
My Lords, the Soviet Union did apply that principle. It applied that principle over Afghanistan. That is one of the reasons why American foreign policy has been exacerbated and explains why it is bound to take the strong line that it does.
§ Lord Beswick
My Lords, but the noble Lord says that this is the way that we should go ahead and that we should accept.
§ Lord Annan
My Lords, I am saying no such thing. I am just asking the noble Lord if he will remember that principles applied in that way lead to foolish decisions in foreign policy. Undoubtedly, the Russian invasion of Afghanistan hardened American foreign policy. It is a sad but, alas, true situation that under President Carter the President appeared to his fellow-countrymen to be, if we put it in the kindest way, an unlucky President. He was a President who was associated with humiliations and defeats in the sphere of foreign policy. This has led to the change and the hardening in the line of American foreign policy. We must take this into account. It is not possible for a country such as the United States to suffer the kind of blow which they suffered the other day in the Lebanon and not to react strongly.
It seems to me that it is no good us taking a "holier than thou" line on this matter. In the days when we were the leading power in the world we reacted in exactly that way. Indeed, we did so in the time of Lord Palmerston. If people say, "Oh, but surely we have moved on from the 19th century" I would say to them that in foreign policy you never move on; it is always the same problem of the relation of power of one country to another.
I have great sympathy with the Prime Minister's dilemma. When this happened she was obviously in very great difficulty. I personally wish, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Home, said, that she had come down slightly on the other side in saying that we regretted that we could do nothing very much to help, but we understood the American anxiety in this matter.
Subversion in the Caribbean is a fact. The Cuban foreign policy is the policy of an imperialist power. Where are Cuban troops to be found? They are in four African countries. All through the Caribbean Cuban influence is concerned with trying to establish bases to subvert the regimes in different countries. I am sure 509 that in the next few weeks to come we shall find from the evidence which has come out and which will come out from the invasion of Grenada ample evidence that subversion was undoubtedly one of the main objects of Cuban interest in that particular country.
One has therefore to recognise that America was faced with a Marxist, aggressive takeover of this particular island and it was determined to show that, although of course it could not prevent what has happened in Cuba in the past and what has happened in Nicaragua, it was not going to remain silent, inert and feeble in the face of the challenge which was put to it.
I should like to close with a quotation from a member of your Lordships' House of 200 years ago. It is a quotation of Lord Carteret, who said:The object of foreign policy is to jumble out something of interest to our country and knock the crowned heads of the kings of Europe together".There are not many crowned heads left in Europe and our ability to knock heads together is limited these days.
From the speeches which I have heard this afternoon one might imagine that we were as powerful as America. We are not. We are, indeed, an ally, a client state of America. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Home, that the thing to do now is to mend our fences as soon as possible because in American politics—and one must never forget this—in the politics of the Republican party and the Democratic party, it is how you treat your friends which is remembered, and how you treat your friends in time of adversity; that is what is remembered in American politics. There are people in America who will have sore memories of what they did when we were in trouble over the Falklands. It was very much in their interests, as Jeanne Kirkpatrick said, for the Americans to have rather shrugged off the British affair as a piece of old-fashioned British imperialism. However, they did something very much against some of their best interests when they supported us. I hope that we shall give good evidence in the months to come that we are prepared now to support them.
§ 9.5 p.m.
§ Lord Gladwyn
My Lords, I must confess that I have found this an absolutely fascinating debate. As I understand it, the House is divided almost equally into two halves. Irrespective of party, there are those who might be called "Thatcherites" and those who might be called "Reaganites". The Reaganites argue on the basis of "Realpolitik", of interests, of the absurdity of small states and come to the conclusion that in the circumstances the action of the United States in occupying Grenada was a very good thing. Irrespective of party, a large number of your Lordships' House accept that thesis.
With the Thatcherites we on these Benches have, rather surprisingly, very considerable sympathy. We feel very much for Mrs. Thatcher who was, after all—in her view at any rate and I think in our view—standing up for international law, for the charter of the United Nations, and for general decency. She was scandalously deceived—and there is no doubt about that—by what she considered to be her 510 greatest political friend. In the words of the old song, "How could he treat a poor maiden so?" Yes, the Prime Minister was badly deceived and it should not have happened in that way, if it happened at all.
However, there is one weak point in the Government's case which may have been brought out tonight, although not entirely. It has surely been evident for a very long time now that the United States might occupy Grenada. Indeed, just after the murder of Mr. Bishop while trying to tune in to the BBC Overseas programme—without much effect—I got on to Radio Moscow which in loud and clear terms announced that the United States was going to invade Grenada very shortly. Even to me who knew nothing about the situation—I am not in the least an expert—it seemed that that was quite a conceivable—indeed even a likely—event. If I thought that, then I should have thought that other people concerned might have thought so too. After all, we have it now on the authority of the Speaker of the House of Representatives of the United States that the invasion of Grenada was probably something under consideration for a period of years, and he ought to know.
But if we were at least aware of the possibility, should we not—and I speak now more of the Government—have had a word rather earlier on with our great ally recommending caution and restraint, if that indeed was what the Government wanted? Perhaps we did have such a quiet word, I do not know. However, on the face of the matter it looks, as has been said by many noble Lords this afternoon, as if the Government were taken completely by surprise. It was only on Monday, 24th October—two days after we learnt that the Eastern Caribbean states were contemplating asking for "military help to restore constitutional government," and only on the very day before the invasion occurred—that our Ambassador in Washington was instructed to put to the United States Government:factors which would have to be carefully weighed before decisions were taken".I suppose that it was these self same factors which it would appear were reiterated by Mrs. Thatcher later on the same day in her unsuccessful appeal to President Reagan to stay his hand.
Recent remarks by the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have shed some light on the probable nature of these "factors". They related, so we must now suppose, to the undesirability, if not the actual illegality, of occupying the territory of an independent state without any request for such action on the part of its Government. Nor did the alleged danger confronting United States citizens in Grenada, or the presence of some Cuban soldiers—apart from workers—or the construction of a large airfield appear in the United Kingdom's view to justify occupation. Among other things, what we have not been told is whether President Reagan's attention was drawn to the effects of his policy on the United Nations and how exactly Her Majesty's Government would have to oppose it in the Security Council, and presumably later in the General Assembly. Was he told that'? I hope that the noble Baroness's reply will tell us rather more and that she will be frank about these exchanges.
However that may be, it is pretty obvious that the immediate consequences of the American action are 511 in some ways most unfortunate, although there may conceivably be certain redeeming features. Unless I am misinformed, the present position is that the invasion of Grenada, whether it originated in an unsolicited request from the six small Caribbean countries concerned or, as some suggest, in a solicited one, so far has been approved only by those tiny countries and has either been roundly condemned or tacitly repudiated by all the other members of the Security Council, including the United Kingdom, whatever mollifying language our representative in New York may have been instructed to employ. I think that that is a fact.
It is also presumably pretty certain that the question will now be passed on to the General Assembly in accordance with the procedure known as "Uniting for Peace", a resolution passed in 1951 whereby if there is a veto in the Security Council, the complaining state can take the matter straight to the General Assembly.
Here again, to say the least I should have thought it would be difficult to find any members definately willing to approve of the American move in the whole of the General Assembly. No doubt the General Assembly will not sanction any positive action against the United States. Indeed, as I understand it, it has no power to do so. But I greatly fear that we must look forward to a splendid field day for the Russians.
The real trouble—and if it is not handled properly it may even undermine the North Atlantic Alliance—is that we are discovering, rather belatedly, that the American Administration has a very different idea of how best to conduct the continuing struggle with a vast totalitarian super power (which is commonly and accurately known as the Cold War) from that which until now, broadly speaking, has been accepted by the other members of the North Atlantic Alliance, and indeed by many American Democrats, to say nothing of the so-called "Eastern Establishment" in the United States, of which one no longer hears very much.
The point is well brought out by a long and absorbing dialogue in the latest number of the magazine, Encounter, between George Urban an intellectual standing slightly to the right of Solzhenitsyn and Jeanne Kirkpatrick the highly intelligent, if not controversial, American representative on the United Nations Security Council, who probably knows more about the Cold War than most. From this long dialogue, which I urge noble Lords to read if they are interested in the subject, we gather that the West must abandon all idea of, as it were, "taming" the Soviet régime; that is to say, by so operating détente as to achieve a sort of "westernising" of the Soviet Union with which a deal might eventually be made. On the contrary, all means short of an actual fighting war should be employed in order to weaken the Soviet régime, and nothing whatever should be done to strengthen it, this principle applying more especially, of course, to economic assistance. Naturally, too, all spontaneous resistance to Soviet domination, whether in the Union itself or in the satellites, should be actively encouraged, though not to the point of actually offering military help.
It follows that, short of provoking war—and on this point Jeanne Kirkpatrick is. happily, most 512 insistent—all possible measures designed to weaken the Soviet Union and its satellites should be taken, more especially—and this is the point—in Central and South America where any frankly pro-Soviet régimes must, if possible, be, as it were, immunised or at least rendered incapable of harming the United States in what must be regarded by the Europeans as an American sphere of interest. It is also argued that, while "democratic" régimes are by far the best, "authoritarian" Governments may well have to be tolerated, seeing that, however repressive, they are at least far preferable to "totalitarian" ones.
Well, if this is the general policy of the Reagan Administration, and there is much evidence to show that it is, what are the European members of the North Atlantic Treaty going to do about it? If, for instance, the Sandinista régime in Nicaragua succumbs, not necessarily to an actual United States invasion but rather to assaults by so-called "rebels" assisted by a large United States military presence in Honduras —which is quite possible—should we simply take note and abstain on any condemnatory resolution in the Security Council? I must confess that, whatever our feelings as Liberals, it looks as if in practice we should hardly he able to do anything else. No doubt we should protest, but I do not know that we could do anything else.
In a sense—and here I agree entirely with the noble Lord, Lord Annan—if this is the policy of the United States Government, and I think it probably is, it is a new kind of Monroe Doctrine adopted by the United States in an area where, except for the moment in Belize, we ourselves have no particular interest except in a very general way. No doubt we might, and I am sure we should, remonstrate privately as much as we could—we do not have to accept this doctrine; of course we do not—but I cannot see how, short of actually breaking with the United States, and thus imperilling the Alliance, we could seek to prevent them from doing something which they were determined to do judging, rightly or wrongly, that it was in the interests of their national security. We might think it wrong, but we should find it very difficult to take active steps against it.
However, elsewhere—and this is the point—the situation is surely rather different. In Europe, the European members of the Alliance successfully resisted American attempts to prevent them from participating in the construction of the gas line from Siberia. It was also possible without too much difficulty to get a common policy on Poland. Likewise in regard to nuclear arms limitation generally the views of the European members of the Alliance must be taken into serious account, more especially since two of them are nuclear powers already. And on the rather lamentable follow-up negotiations on Helsinki there seems to have been largely a meeting of minds.
On the other hand, Lebanon provides material for a dangerous split—there is no doubt about that—always supposing that the Americans decide that their Cold War doctrine necessitates their physical intervention in order to ensure that at least the Western and Southern Lebanon does not come within the sphere of influence of a totalitarian power. Whether Syria qualities for that description, I am not so sure.
513 Happily, as we have noted, it is not part of the policy, at least as laid down by Jeanne Kirkpatrick, to do anything which would necessarily provoke an armed clash with the super power of the East. So it looks on the whole as if in that area in the long run caution will prevail. We must all pray that it will. The same can also be said, for the moment at any rate, as regards the Persian Gulf.
Now, in the light of such general considerations, what is likely to be the future of Grenada? As soon as the 6,000 United States troops who are now apparently engaged in winkling out some Cubans still at large in the interior are withdrawn, I have no doubt that the United States would welcome the establishment of a small Commonwealth force for the purpose of keeping order during elections, or preparing for elections, which, however, may well take some time to organise given the present chaos prevailing on the island. But one thing is surely certain: the Commonwealth force could not move in, or should not move in, until order has been completely restored by the Americans. Even if it is, to my way of thinking the idea of United Kingdom troops taking over from United States marines who have already done what might be considered to have been the dirty work, is not particularly attractive. Would it not be better for such a force to be composed uniquely of troops from the six small Caribbean states which suggested occupation of the island in the first place, perhaps also including Trinidad?
If this happens that way, and let us hope it will, I imagine all this depends on one unspoken condition. I am sorry to say this, but it is a fact. If a majority of Grenadians ever freely elected a Government which once again appealed to Cuba or the Soviet Union for help or guidance, I have no doubt that the United States, in accordance with the new Monroe Doctrine, would once again reserve its right physically to intervene. I confess that I do not see, and I do not think any Liberal can see, how this doctrine can possibly be reconciled with international law, or with the charter of the United Nations. But there it is.
The noble Lord, Lord Beloff, argued that it did not matter, and I imagine that, after expressing indignation, in practice the United Nations would probably carry on much as before. I do not think the United Nations would break up. Moreover, if the doctrine has at least resulted in a happier future for Grenada than it would have had if it remained under Cuban domination, as well as a lessening of American fears of revolt spreading up from Mexico into Texas, then from that point of view it might be a good thing for the West generally. I would not dispute that. We can only hope that, having been partially reassured, the United States—which in any case it is ludicrous to compare with the Soviet Union—will, even in an election year, apply its new doctrine of wisdom and moderation and have some regard for the feelings of the so-called third world, always conscious of the absolute necessity in this perilous century of avoiding any action that could run the risk of a general war.
Finally, and here I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Soames, European members of the North Atlantic Alliance must speak with the same voice in connection with this rather unfortunate incident, for they are much more likely to have some influence on future 514 American actions if they work out a common line than if they are obviously divided. In other words, if the new Monroe Doctrine is to apply to the New World, then some new European doctrine must, within the Alliance, be devised for Europe.
§ 9.23 p.m.
§ Lord Elwyn-Jones
My Lords, it was important that Members of your Lordships' House should, at this stage in the sombre events in Grenada, have an opportunity to express their views upon them. It has been particularly agreeable to my noble friends and myself to hear and to welcome the splendid maiden speech of our noble friend Lord Stoddart of Swindon, in his first address to the House.
I confess I remember the beautiful island of Grenada from happier days, when its governor was a woman—that was not the only reason for its happiness—Dame Hilda Bynoe, who I fear left the country not very long afterwards, partly, I suspect, because of the activities of Sir Eric Geary, about whom the least I say the better. Since then, much tragedy has befallen the island, and we meet tonight against a tragic background of sorrow and suffering. I sympathise with our Grenadian friends. I sympathise with our American friends. The sight we have seen in recent months of those coffins of young Americans, young Marines, from Lebanon, from Korea and now from Grenada, being sorrowed upon by their families, is something we all feel. Nevertheless, the most important thing, if I may say so with respect, is to beware of the risk of violent reaction against those tragedies.
One of the things which has struck me about today's debate is how very few "Thatcherites" there are on the other side of the House on this question. I say that for this reason. The Prime Minister made a remarkable series of observations in the phone-in programme on the BBC's World Service, answering questions from New York and Barbados, a few days ago. The interviewing began with her being needled by a gentleman from New York about her failure to respond to United States support in the Falklands war. She said, rightly:There is no parallel. Britain went into the Falklands to get its own territory back and to ensure that British people could continue to go on living their own lives. But Grenada was an independent sovereign country, and had not been invaded. I am totally and utterly opposed to communism and terrorism, but if you are going to pronounce a new law that wherever there is communism imposed against the will of the people then the United States shall enter, then we are going to have really terrible wars in the world".Then she said that she was delighted whenever people had the yoke of communism lifted from their shoulders, and added:But that does not mean that you are entitled to go into every country, either in Central America or Eastern Europe, which is under communist oppression. When things happen in other countries which we do not like we don't just march in. We try to do it by persuasion".I regret that that mood and that attitude has been rarely reflected in the speeches of many noble Lords from the other side in the course of today's debate. Frankly, it shocked me a little as some of them who spoke have had experience of these matters. I was asked by the noble Lord, Lord Soames, what could have been done, apart from this invasion, in the face of 515 the violent actions which had taken place in Grenada—the murder of Mr. Bishop and his colleagues and the political vacuum which resulted. Surely, at any rate, before the last and desperate resort of invasion was embarked upon, there should have been attempts at economic and political action. The kind of steps that Her Majesty's Government took before we went to rescue our folk in the Falklands should have been carried out, surely, with an appeal to the Security Council.
I remember the desperate efforts of Mr. Francis Pym—and I hope that it is still a safe name to mention in Conservative circles—and the action that he took with the Security Council, with the EEC, with the Commonwealth. That was the action which was taken and which, if I may say so, gave us an honourable standing in the action that we took when the task force went out to the Falklands. That, alas! was not done here. There was no urgent need for this invasion to take place at that moment of time. America was not imperilled. The opportunity for these preliminary steps was available and should have been taken.
§ Lord Soames
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble and learned Lord for his courtesy. That was not actually the question that I asked him. The question that I addressed to him was not, "What else could have been done?" It was, "Who, other than the Governor General, given the situation of the murder of the Prime Minister and his ministers, could have invited other countries to come to the aid of his country, given that there was no Government?"
§ Lord Elwyn-Jones
My Lords, I shall come to that question. The noble Lord has known me for long enough to know that I do not run away from these problems. I shall come to it in my good time. One of the distressing features of the situation we have been faced with by the action of our American friends is the diversity of reasons, and sometimes the conflict of reasons, that have been given for the action that was taken. Self-defence was, not surprisingly, not pleaded by the United States Government because no question of self-defence arose excepting an extension of this new-type astonishing Monroe Doctrine which Mrs. Thatcher so roundly and emphatically denounced.
However, it was said that they were entitled to go in to protect their own nationals: there were a number of them, for instance, in the medical school. If that were the real purpose, American action should have been proportionate to that purpose—not a whole invasion by thousands of troops with bombs and guns. Indeed, the medical students came into danger only when the armed attack on the island took place. As Tip O'Neill, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, put it, the students were in far greater danger when the American troops arrived than before they came.
Then it was said by President Reagan that the purpose of the operation was,not only to protect our own citizens but also to help in the restoration of democratic institutions in Grenada.It is a very remarkable method—is it not?—of restoring democratic institutions. You cannot create democracy and freedom by military force—Turkey and Pakistan have shown that. In any event—as the 516 Prime Minister said so clearly—it is not within the power of the United States or any other Government to create freedom and democracy by external military force.
It is then said that the action which was taken was justified by the 1981 treaty establishing the Organisation of East Caribbean States. That was in fact no more than a regional co-operation agreement. It contains none of the elements of the agreement behind the Organisation of American States, which involves collective defence. Article 3 of the 1981 Treaty lists its purposes and stresses the need to defend the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of its members.
The invitation to the United States to join some of the members in the invasion, when others opposed that proposal, was not consistent with the terms of the treaty. In any event the United States was not a party to the treaty and it does not begin to validate what was done, either expressly or by implication. The treaty provides clearly that decisions should be unanimous. They were not.
Then I come to the question that was put to me by the noble Lord, Lord Soames. A good deal of discussion has turned on what the Governor General, Sir Paul Scoon, did. It is not clear whether he did in fact ask for intervention. That is still a little obscure; but assuming that it was so, his constitutional powers to do so were at the very least obscure. Indeed, it is doubtful whether constitutionally he had any such right. Since Grenada had become chaotic and was subjected to military rule, Sir Paul, in law, many lawyers think, ceased to be the Sovereign's representative. There was no recourse to the Sovereign, nor to the British Government, from the Governor General. The proposition that a Governor General has a reserve power personally to invite a foreign country to invade his native land by force without first taking the advice of a Government Minister—and that was difficult, I agree, in the circumstances—or of the Queen herself has no constitutional basis. This is not to denigrate any efforts that Sir Paul may now be able to make to rally a group of Grenadians willing to introduce a democratic form of government into that country.
The use of force otherwise than in self-defence or with the authority of an organ of the United Nations is illegal. Even before the existence of the United Nations charter, there was adequate evidence of a customary rule that the use of force as an instrument of national policy otherwise than under a necessity of self-defence was illegal. That rule was restated and reinforced by Article 2, paragraph 4, of the United Nations charter:All members shall refrain in their international relations from threat or use of force against territorial integrity or political independence of any state or in any other matter inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations".The essential illegality of the use of force as an instrument of national policy has since been underlined by several international instruments. It is not surprising, therefore, in this scene that the United Nations Security Council has condemned the invasion. France and the Netherlands were among the countries which voted for the resolution——
§ Lord Hankey
My Lords, what does the noble and learned Lord think that the Governor General ought to have done? The Government had been destroyed by force, there was a forceful régime which was totally unrepresentative and the Governor General was the only one left. Surely, the noble and learned Lord does not bar him from taking any action whatever to restore the situation.
§ Lord Elwyn-Jones
My Lords, one of the things he should have done was of course to communicate with the source of authority, such as it is, in the Commonwealth—the Commonwealth Secretariat. There have been bitter complaints by the Secretary General at the total failure to do that or to bring the Commonwealth into the picture at all. This was a Commonwealth problem; it was not essentially an American problem. It was a British Commonwealth problem and that is what he should have done. I do not want to express any unkind observations upon the mysterious movements of the Governor General in the days when he spent some of the time on an American man o'war, History may in the fullness of time fully recount to us some of those details.
But coming back to what I was saying when I was interrupted—and I make no complaint about it—in the interests of consistency—and indeed in the interests of the maintenance of the rule of law—I submit that the British Government, too, should have voted for the resolution. That has been very much a minority view expressed in this House tonight, for most of the voices on the other side have been in a different direction. But one thing is clear. As our Prime Minister has emphasised now, she could not possibly have supported an illegal action of intervention against a small Commonwealth country. In the end, it became as simple as that and we should have come out clearly in deploring the action in the Security Council. As my noble friend Lord Beswick said in his admirable speech, we would have been in good company if we had done so—good American company, the company of most of the delegates of the OAS states which condemned the invasion as a violation of international law and the principle of non-intervention in the domestic affairs of member states. We should have been in the company of Tip O'Neill, that splendid character, who denounced the action as "gunboat diplomacy and a breach of international law". It is indeed tragic that on this matter the Administration of President Reagan has wrong-footed itself so badly and greatly damaged its moral and legal standing.
When Theodore Roosevelt asked his Attorney-General, P. C. Knox, whether the President's intervention in 1904 in the Dominican Republic could be sustained constitutionally, the Attorney-General said, "Mr. President, do not let your actions he sustained by any taint of legality"—a good American Attorney-General's answer. I wonder whether President Reagan consulted his Attorney-General. I 518 have reason to think that in the Suez crisis of 1956 the Government did not consult theirs. But I must not lift these objects from under ancient stones, otherwise I may get into trouble in due course.
There was certainly no risk here that President Reagan tainted his actions with legality. The tragedy of the situation which we meet in this action of our great ally, upon whose strength and support we in many ways depend, is that legal regulation of the use of force is now not less but more imperative than ever. The problem that mankind faces was put starkly by the late Lord Avon when, as Sir Anthony Eden, he said in another place, way back in November 1945:Science has placed us several laps ahead of the present phase of international political development, and unless we catch up politically we are all going to be blown to smithereens.".As Ian Brownlie, a Fellow of All Souls, put it:While the United Nations Charter and the rules of international law, existing apart from the charter, are but imperfect instruments for preventing conflict, yet they do have the merit of existing here and now.".In this era of proliferating nuclear weapons, strict adherence to the law of nations and strict regulation of resort to force are more vital than ever before. What is in issue is not only law and morality but also the very survival of humanity.
§ Lord Greenhill of Harrow
My Lords, before the noble and learned Lord sits down, may I ask him about one point which he made? He said that the source of authority in the Commonwealth was the Commonwealth Secretariat. I wonder which member of the Commonwealth would agree with that?
My Lords, I should have thought that the first point of contact was through Sonny Ramphal.
§ Lord Greenhill of Harrow
My Lords, the noble and learned Lord said that the source of authority in the Commonwealth was the Commonwealth Secretariat.
§ Lord Elwyn-Jones
My Lords, the source by which authority could have been obtained, if the noble Lord wishes me to be meticulous, was through the Secretary-General. He had the contacts with the countries which now are willing to come forward—Canada, New Zealand, the rest of them—and which share the same fear and horror as do we on this side of the House about what is happening.
§ Lord Beloff
My Lords, before the noble and learned Lord sits down, the Prime Minister of New Zealand has expressed himself as in full accord with the American action.
§ Lord Elwyn-Jones
My Lords, I apologise. Did I say New Zealand? I meant Australia, which is a slightly larger place. I did say Australia, apparently. I thought I was being corrected.
§ 9.45 p.m.
§ Baroness Young
My Lords, we have had a long and interesting debate. We heard a robust maiden speech from the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon; and, if I may say so, as always, a very wise speech from my noble friend Lord Home of the Hirsel; an explanation 519 of realpolitik from the noble Lord, Lord Annan; and a great range of views covering in detail the events of the past 10 days as well as a wide-ranging discussion of the future of Anglo-American relations and questions relating to the strategic importance of the Caribbean.
A number of themes have emerged and I shall try to deal with them. At the beginning the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, suggested that my department—the Foreign and Commonwealth Office—might have been more active in the days immediately preceding the military intervention in Grenada; and others, that we might have had far more intelligence about what was going on in the preceding weeks. It may be helpful to remind noble Lords of the actions and events in which we were involved during the period of the 21st to 24th October.
In the first place, two specific messages were sent to the American Government outlining to them the grave reservations which the British Government had about any prospect of military intervention. In particular, we pointed out the dangers which this might involve for the Governor General and for the British community. We also impressed upon the American Government throughout the weekend the need for close consultation. We received assurances on this and an indication that the American Government's approach would be very cautious.
At the same time, we did not receive a request from the Organisation of East Caribbean States themselves for our participation in the move which we knew some of them had been contemplating, despite the fact that Mr. Adams of Barbados—which is not a member of that organisation—had told us to expect such a request. Equally, we learned that the CARICOM countries meeting in Trinidad had not given any general support for the idea of military intervention but had, on the contrary, reached a consensus in favour of economic measures against Grenada.
On the evidence available to us there was no reason to believe that we should be confronted with such a rapid and prejudged decision in favour of intervention. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister has not attempted to conceal her disappointment that this was the case. Nor need I apologise for our surprise that this was the case.
I should like to comment in detail because my noble friends Lord Beloff and Lord Massereene and Ferrard, and the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, have made a number of comments about British representation in Barbados and in the Caribbean. It is my view that our diplomatic representatives have done a good job in most difficult circumstances. Our High Commission in Barbados, led by Mr. Giles Bullard, has been extremely active on the diplomatic and consulate fronts. Mr. David Montgomery, the Deputy High Commissioner, visited Grenada on 23rd October and has led a consular team in the past few days. Nearly all the United Kingdom nationals who wished to leave Grenada have been brought out. In Grenada, Mr. John Kelly, the British High Commission representative, and his wife, have been on the island throughout the troubled period. We are much relieved that they are safe and well; and Mr. Kelly has chosen to stay at his post on the island now.
520 The arrangements in the Caribbean are that the British High Commission in Barbados is our principal post in the Eastern Caribbean. The High Commissioner is accredited to each of the independent countries in the Eastern Caribbean. Our communications arrangements, we believe, are adequate in normal circumstances; and our one-man post in Grenada was opened in 1980.
The noble Lord, Lord Walston, also asked whether or not there had been discussions between Ministers and officials and their United States counterparts about policy towards the Caribbean. Of course, there have been such discussions, and there will be again. Our exchanges with the United States on this, as on a wide range of other issues, occur frequently.
My noble friend Lord Home of the Hirsel asked a specific question about whether the Governor General appealed directly to the United States for military assistance. The Governor General stated on "Panorama" last night that he had decided late on Sunday, 23rd October, that help was necessary because of the rapid deterioration of the situation in Grenada. He said that he had requested assistance from the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, the OECS, and had asked the OECS to ask America for help. He had confirmed this in writing to President Reagan. We have not seen these letters. In the circumstances, and given our legitimate doubts about some of the actions taken by the United States with certain Caribbean countries, it remains our view that an abstention was the correct course of action in the Security Council. The Governor General did not request us to intervene. He confirmed this last night on "Panorama".
I shall read with great interest the speech of my noble friend Lord Thomas and what he said about the problems of small islands, and that of my noble friend Lord De La Warr on the strategic importance of the Caribbean.
A number of detailed points were raised, one of which was the role of the company Plessey's, which was referred to by both the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, and the noble Lord, Lord Kennet. They referred to the public statements that the airport which was being built on Grenada with the participation of Plessey's was a civil airport. This was indeed the case. It was for this reason that the Export Credits Guarantee Department was supporting Plessey in this project. An American company was also involved, but this does not invalidate American fears about the use to which the airport might have been put. A genuine civil airport can be used all too easily for military purposes.
The noble Lords also asked whether Plessey informed Her Majesty's Government that it was employing armed Cubans. The answer is it did not, for the simple reason that these Cubans were not employed on Plessey's electronic projects; they were engaged in other construction work. We have no reason to think that Plessey knew they were armed any more than we did, or indeed any more than the Americans appear to have known this. However, the fact that they were so armed suggests that here, again, American apprehensions may have been well-founded.
521 I was also asked about the role of Montserrat. Montserrat, a member of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States is a dependent territory, and the conduct of its external affairs remains the responsibility of the United Kingdom Government. The Chief Minister reported briefly from Bridgetown to the Governor after the OECS meeting there on 21st October. The Governor told the Chief Minister that he did not have authority to commit Montserrat to any such military venture. On 25th October, after the military intervention, the Montserrat Executive Council requested the United Kingdom Government's approval for participation by volunteer troops from the Montserrat Defence Force. This was sought but was refused. It would have been inconsistent with the United Kingdom Government's policy towards the military intervention to have permitted the dependent territory of Montserrat to have participated.
The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, also asked about the news-flash about the landing of United States marines in Carriacou. Carriacou is part of the territory of Grenada. The landings, of which we as yet have no separate confirmation, would be the continuation of mopping-up operations against pockets of resistance.
Not surprisingly, the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, once again devoted his speech to airing his well-known views on nuclear disarmament. I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Soames for reminding us that there is no comparison at all between the consultation on Grenada and the written undertaking concerning decisions to launch or to fire American missiles in this country. Perhaps I might repeat what I said in my opening speech. This means that no nuclear weapons would be launched from British territory without the British Prime Minister's agreement.
The noble Lord, Lord Hatch, made the comparison of the intervention in Grenada with the attack by the Argentines on the Falklands. This, I think, has been well answered by a number of noble Lords, so at this late hour I shall not repeat the arguments.
522 I was also asked about the attitude of Her Majesty's Government to a peace-keeping force. As I told the House at the beginning of this debate, it is too soon to say what assistance we shall most usefully be able to offer Grenada. We shall wait to see what requests the Governor-General puts to us. Within our limitations we shall then respond as positively as we can.
A number of noble Lords have, of course, asked several questions about why the American Government acted as it did and why the seven countries of the Eastern Caribbean States also acted as they did. I cannot answer those questions on why the United States Government or the various Caribbean countries acted in that way. It seems to me that it is the responsibility of those countries to answer those questions. It would be unrealistic for noble Lords to expect me to do so this evening. I hope that I have set out the Government's policy in this matter and I think it is right that I should do so. I hope I have explained it.
Nearly all noble Lords have made the point that we must not allow differences over Grenada to undermine the cohesion of the Alliance with the United States. I wholeheartedly agree. As my noble friend Lord Soames pointed out, there have been differences and disputes throughout the history of the Alliance. Indeed, these are inevitable in any alliance of free nations. Free nations are free to differ. They can differ in public and in that respect we are very different from the countries of the Warsaw Pact.
What is now important is to look ahead. I can assure your Lordshps that the Government will keep this latest episode in perspective. We shall certainly not allow it to affect the cohesion of our Alliance on which the defence and wellbeing of this country depend. On the future of Grenada itself, as I said in my opening speech, we stand ready to help.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.