§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Thompson.]3.43 pm
§ The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)
Seven weeks ago today the Argentine Foreign Minister summoned the British ambassador in Buenos Aires and informed him that the diplomatic channel was now closed. Later on that same day President Reagan appealed to President Galtieri not to invade the Falkland Islands. That appeal was rejected.
Ever since 2 April Argentina has continued to defy the mandatory resolution of the Security Council. During the past 24 hours the crisis over the Falkland Islands has moved into a new and even more serious phase.
On Monday of this week our ambassador to the United Nations handed to the Secretary-General our proposals for a peaceful settlement of the dispute. These proposals represented the limit to which the Government believe it was right to go. We made it clear to Senor Perez de Cuellar that we expected the Argentine Government to give us a very rapid response to them.
By yesterday morning we had had a first indication of the Argentine reaction. It was not encouraging. By the evening we received their full response in writing. It was in effect a total rejection of the British proposals. Indeed, in many respects the Argentine reply went back to their position when they rejected Mr. Haig's second set of proposals on 29 April. It retracted virtually all the movement that their representative had shown during the Secretary-General's efforts to find a negotiated settlement. I shall have some more to say about his efforts later.
The implications of the Argentine response are of the utmost gravity. This is why the Government decided to publish immediately the proposals that we had put to the Secretary-General and to give the House the earliest opportunity to consider them. These proposals were placed in the Vote Office earlier today. The Government believe that they represented a truly responsible effort to find a peaceful solution which both preserved the fundamental principles of our position and offered the opportunity to stop further loss of life in the South Atlantic.
We have reached this very serious situation because the Argentines clearly decided at the outset of the negotiations that they would cling to the spoils of invasion and occupation by thwarting at every turn all the attempts that have been made to solve the conflict by peaceful means. Ever since 2 April they have responded to the efforts to find a negotiated solution with obduracy and delay, deception and bad faith.
We have now been negotiating for six weeks. The House will recall the strenuous efforts made over an extended period by Secretary of State Haig. During that period my ministerial colleagues and I considered no fewer than four sets of proposals. Although these presented substantial difficulties, we did our best to help Mr. Haig continue his mission, until Argentine rejection of his last proposals left him no alternative but to abandon his efforts.
The next stage of negotiations was based on proposals originally advanced by President Belaunde of Peru and modified in consultations between him and Mr. Haig. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs informed the House on 7 May, Britain was willing to accept these, the fifth set of 478 proposals, for an interim settlement. They could have led to an almost immediate ceasefire. But again it was Argentina that rejected them.
I shall not take up the time of the House with a detailed description of those earlier proposals, partly because they belong to those who devised them, but, more importantly, because they are no longer on the negotiating table. Britain is not now committed to them.
Since 6 May, when it became clear that the United States-Peruvian proposals were not acceptable to Argentina, the United Nations Secretary-General, Senor Perez de Cuellar, has been conducting negotiations with Britain and Argentina.
Following several rounds of discussions, the United Kingdom representative at the United Nations was summoned to London for consultation last Sunday. On Monday Sir Anthony Parsons returned to New York and presented to the Secretary-General a draft interim agreement between Britain and Argentina which set out the British position in full. He made it clear that the text represented the furthest that Britain could go in the negotiations. He requested that the draft should be transmitted to the Argentine representative and that he should be asked to convey his Government's response within two days.
Yesterday we received the Argentine Government's reply. It amounted to a rejection of our own proposals, and we have so informed the Secretary-General. This morning we have received proposals from the Secretary-General himself.
It will help the House to understand the present position if I now describe briefly these three sets of proposals.
I deal first with our own proposals. These preserve the fundamental principles which are the basis of the Government's position. Aggression must not be allowed to succeed. International law must be upheld. Sovereignty cannot be changed by invasion.
The liberty of the Falkland Islanders must be restored. For years they have been free to express their own wishes about how they want to be governed. They have had institutions of their own choosing. They have enjoyed self-determination. Why should they lose that freedom and exchange it for dictatorship?
Our proposals are contained in two documents. First, and mainly, there is a draft interim agreement between ourselves and Argentina. Secondly, there is a letter to the Secretary-General which makes it clear that the British Government do not regard the draft interim agreement as covering the dependencies of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.
I deal with the dependencies first. South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands are geographically distant from the Falkland Islands themselves. They have no settled population. British title to them does not derive from the Falkland Islands but is separate. These territories have been treated as dependencies of the Falkland Islands only for reasons of administrative convenience. That is why they are outside the draft agreement.
The House has before it the draft agreement, and I turn now to its main features. Article 2 provides for the cessation of hostilities and the withdrawal of Argentine and British forces from the islands and their surrounding waters within 14 days. At the end of the withdrawal British ships would be at least 150 nautical miles from the islands. 479 Withdrawal much beyond this would not have been reasonable, because the proximity of the Argentine mainland would have given their forces undue advantage.
Withdrawal of the Argentine Forces would be the most immediate and explicit sign that their Government's aggression had failed and that they were being made to give up what they had gained by force. It is the essential beginning of a peaceful settlement and the imperative of resolution 502.
Article 6 sets out the interim arrangements under which the islands would be administered in the period between the cessation of hostilities and the conclusion of negotiations on the long-term future of the islands.
In this interim period there would be a United Nations administrator, appointed by the Secretary-General and acceptable to Britain and the Argentine. He would be the officer administering the Government. Under clause 3 of this article he would exercise his powers in conformity with the laws and the practices traditionally obtaining in the islands. He would consult the islands' representative institutions—that is the Legislative and Executive Councils through which the islanders were governed until 2 April. There would be an addition to each of the two Councils of one representative of the 20 or 30 Argentines normally resident in the islands. Their representatives would be nominated by the administrator.
The clause has been carefully drawn so that the interim administration cannot make changes in the law and customs of the islanders that would prejudge the outcome of the negotiations on a long-term settlement.
This provision would not only go a long way to giving back to the Falklanders the way of life that they have always enjoyed but would prevent an influx of Argentine settlers in the interim period whose residence would change the nature of society there and radically affect the future of the islands. That would not have been a true interim administration. It would have been an instrument of change.
Clause 3 of this article thus fully safeguards the future of the islands. Nothing in this interim administration would compromise the eventual status of the Falklands or the freedom which they have enjoyed for so long.
Clause 4 would require the administrator to verify the withdrawal of all forces from the islands and to prevent their reintroduction.
§ Mr. Jack Ashley (Stoke-on-Trent, South)
I am grateful to the Prime Minister for giving way. Could she help the House by clarifying one point? She said on the Jimmy Young radio programme the other day that she did not like the word "veto" as it applied to the Falkland Islands. Is the Government's position that the Falkland Islanders will be consulted and that their views are still paramount? Can the right hon. Lady help the House on that point?
§ The Prime Minister
I am dealing with the arrangements for the interim between the cessation of hostilities and the negotiations. The right hon. Gentleman will notice that we have imported into this agreement article 73 of the United Nations charter, which refers to the paramountcy of the interests of the islanders. During the long-term negotiations we shall closely consult the islanders on their wishes and of course we believe in self-determination. That relates to the long-term negotiations. 480 These articles deal with the interim administration, and I have been trying to make it clear that the interim administration must not have provisions within it which, in effect, pre-empt the outcome of the long-term negotiations.
I return to clause 4 of article 6. We think it likely that the administrator will need to call upon the help of three or four countries other than ourselves and the Argentine to provide him with the necessary equipment and a small but effective force. The purpose of that is that if our troops leave the islands we must have some way of guarding against another Argentine invasion. The safest way under these arrangements would be for the United Nations' administrator to have a small United Nations force at his disposal, of the type I have described.
Articles 8 and 9 are also very important. They deal with negotiations between Britain and Argentina on the long-term future of the islands.
The key sentence is the one which reads:These negotiations shall be initiated without prejudice to the rights, claims and positions of the parties and without prejudgment of the outcome.We should thus be free to take fully into account the wishes of the islanders themselves. And Argentina would not be able to claim that the negotiations had to end with a conclusion that suited her.
§ Mr. Alexander W. Lyon (York)
Surely it is implicit in those words that if the rights and claims of the Argentines are being considered, the outcome of the negotiations may be that we shall cede sovereignty to Argentina.
§ The Prime Minister
I have said that we do not prejudge the outcome. If the islanders wished to go to Argentina, I believe that this country would uphold the wishes of the islanders. After their experience I doubt very much whether that would be the wish of the islanders. Indeed, I believe that they would recoil from it.
I return to article 9. We have to recognise that the negotiations might be lengthy. That is why article 9 provides that until the final agreement has been reached and implemented the interim agreement will remain in force.
Although this interim agreement does not restore things fully to what they were before the Argentine invasion, it is faithful to the fundamental principles that I outlined earlier. Had the Argentines accepted our proposals, we should have achieved the great prize of preventing further loss of life. It was with that in mind that we were prepared to make practical changes that were reasonable. But we were not prepared to compromise on principle.
I turn now to the Argentine response. This revived once again all the points which had been obstacles in earlier negotiations. The Argentine draft interim agreement applied not only to the Falklands but included South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands as well. The Argentines demanded that all forces should withdraw, including our forces on South Georgia, and return to their normal bases and areas of operation. This was plainly calculated to put us at an enormous disadvantage.
They required that the interim administration should be the exclusive responsibility of the United Nations which should take over all executive, legislative, judicial and security functions in the islands. They rejected any role for the islands democratic institutions.
481 They envisaged that the interim administration would appoint as advisers equal numbers of British and Argentine residents of the islands, despite their huge disparity.
They required freedom of movement and equality of access with regard to residence, work and property for Argentine nationals on an equal basis with the Falkland Islanders. the Junta's clear aim was to flood the islands with its own nationals during the interim period, and thereby change the nature of Falklands society and so prejudge the future of the Islands.
With regard to negotiations for a long-term settlement, while pretending not to prejudice the outcome the junta stipulated that the object was to comply not only with the Charter of the United Nations but with various resolutions of the General Assembly, from some of which the United Kingdom dissented on the grounds that they favoured Argentine sovereignty.
And if the period provided for the completion of the negotiation expired, the junta demanded that the General Assembly should determine the lines to which final agreement should conform. It was manifestly impossible for Britain to accept such demands. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]
Argentina began the crisis. Argentina has rejected proposal after proposal. One is bound to ask whether the junta has ever intended to seek a peaceful settlement or whether it has sought merely to confuse and prolong the negotiations while remaining in illegal possession of the Islands. I believe that if we had a dozen more negotiations the tactics and results would be the same. From the course of these negotiations and Argentina's persistent refusal to acept resolution 502 we are bound to conclude that its objective is procrastination and continuing occupation, leading eventually to sovereignty.
§ Sir John Biggs-Davison (Epping Forest)
I thank the Prime Minister for giving way and I apologise for interrupting her. Are we to understand that the proposed interim agreement, like some earlier proposals, is no longer on the table, having regard to the fact that the proposed provisions for the withdrawal of British forces and a non-British administration have consequences for British sovereignty and for the principles for which the task force was dispatched?
§ The Prime Minister
The proposals have been rejected. They are no longer on the table.
As I said earlier, the Secretary-General has this morning put to us and to Argentina an aide-memoire describing those issues where, in his opinion, agreement seems to exist and those on which differences remain.
The first group of issues—those where he believes there is a measure of agreement—would require further clarification, for on some points our interpretation would be different. The aide-memoire states, for example, that Argentina would accept long-term negotiations without prejudgment of the outcome. This important phrase was, however, omitted from the Argentine response to our own proposals and is belied by a succession of statements from Buenos Aires.
Those points where, in the Secretary-General's judgment, differences remain include: first, aspects of the interim administration; secondly, the timetable for completion of negotiations and the related duration of the interim administration; thirdly, aspects of the mutual 482 withdrawal of forces; and, fourthly, the geographic area to be covered. Senor Perez de Cuellar has proposed formulations to cover some of those points.
The Secretary-General, to whose efforts I pay tribute, has a duty to continue to seek agreement. But, as our representative is telling him in New York, his paper differs in certain important respects from our position as presented to him on 17 May and which we then described as the furthest that we could go. Moreover, it differs fundamentally from the present Argentine position as communicated to us yesterday.
It is not a draft agreement, but, as the Secretary-General himself puts it, a number of formulations and suggestions. Some of his suggestions are the very ones which have already been rejected by the Argentine response to our own proposals. Even if they were acceptable to both parties as a basis for negotiation, that negotiation would take many days, if not weeks, to reach either success or failure.
We have been through this often before and each time we have been met with Argentine obduracy and procrastination. Argentina rejected our proposals. It is inconceivable that it would now genuinely accept those of the Secretary-General's ideas which closely resemble our own.
§ Mr. Guy Barnett (Greenwich)
Is the Prime Minister aware that, according to the Quaker mission at the United Nations in New York, certain members of the Security Council have prepared a document which it is thought may be the basis for negotiation between ourselves and the Argentines?
§ The Prime Minister
No, Sir. I think that that is covered by what I have already said. This is the seventh set of proposals that we have considered. We have considered them carefully. Each time we have met with tactics the object of which is procrastination leading to continued occupation of the islands. Because of the record on this matter we thought it best to put up our own specific draft interim agreement in writing so that our position was clear for the world to see and so that it was clear that we were not compromising fundamental principles, but that we were prepared to make some reasonable, paractical suggestions if we could secure the prize of no further loss of life. Those proposals were rejected. They are no longer on the table.
§ The Prime Minister
No, not at the moment. The hon. Gentleman is interrupting the flow of what I am saying. What is being considered is what is called an aide-memoire, which is not a draft agreement, but a number of formulations and suggestions. The essence of those formulations and suggestions, where they are clear, is that they are those that have already been rejected by the Argentine response to our proposals.
§ Mr. Robinson
I am grateful to the Prime Minister for giving way. Why have we withdrawn those proposals, even though they have been rejected by Argentina? Why cannot they stay on the table for acceptance by Argentina right up to the last minute?
§ The Prime Minister
Because they have been rejected and it is the seventh lot of proposals with which we have 483 been involved. This cannot go on and on. Someone has to make a decision and an assessment of the objectives of the Argentine junta.
§ Mr. Leo Abse (Pontypool)
Since, at the end of the day, every rational man and woman knows that we cannot sustain indefinitely the sovereignty of those rocks 8,000 miles away, why is the Prime Minister showing such extraordinary impatience?—[Interruption.] Why will she not continue to seek to negotiate when the alternative is carnage and bloodshed, which will have no good effect at all?
§ The Prime Minister
Because the Argentines do not want a negotiated settlement. They want sovereignty of the islands and they are using protracted negotiations to procure that objective. I do not believe that they are genuine in their negotiations.
§ Dr. David Owen (Plymouth, Devonport)
Does the Prime Minister accept that many people believe that the proposals by the British Government are fair? Many people now recognise that the British Government may feel it necessary to take further military measures, but they cannot necessarily understand why the Prime Minister believes it necessary to withdraw the proposals or why the proposals cannot be held on the table in the hope that the Argentine Government will eventually come to their senses.
§ The Prime Minister
It seems perfectly clear to me that if the proposals have been rejected it is reasonable to withdraw them. They have been rejected. They are no longer on the table. What we are now considering is an aide-memoire put up by the Secretary-General. It seems right that if one makes an offer and it is rejected, that is the end of the matter, particularly bearing in mind that we are discussing the seventh set of proposals in which I have been involved.
Even if we were prepared to negotiate on the basis of the aide-memoire, we should first wish to see subsantive Argentine comments on it, going beyond mere acceptance of it as a basis for negotiation. These are the points that we are making in our reply to the Secretary-General. At the same time, we are reminding him—as my right hon. Friends and I have repeatedly said to the House—that negotiations do not close any military options.
The gravity of the situation will be apparent to the House and the nation. Difficult days lie ahead, but Britain will face them in the conviction that our cause is just and in the knowledge that we have been doing everything reasonable to secure a negotiated settlement.
The principles that we are defending are fundamental to everything that this Parliament and this country stand for. They are the principles of democracy and the rule of law. Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands in violation of the rights of peoples to determine by whom and in what way they are governed. Its aggression was committed against a people who are used to enjoying full human rights and freedom. It was executed by a Government with a notorious record in suspending and violating those same rights.
Britain has a responsibility towards the islanders to restore their democratic way of life. She has a duty to the whole world to show that aggression will not succeed and to uphold the cause of freedom.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)
I believe that it has been to the benefit of the House and the country not only to have this debate, but for the House to have before it in preparation for the debate the document that the Government have presented about the last period of negotiations. I underline to the Government my hope that they will provide at an early date a larger document. There are documents concerned with Peruvian proposals and the proposals made by Secretary of State Haig. The House and the country have a right to have those propositions before them. The House can see from what has happened here today how absurd it would have been if we had proceeded without having the latest proposals, which the Government have had published in preparation for the debate, albeit at fairly short notice.
I shall certainly comment upon that document and particularly upon the latest remarks that the right hon. Lady made about the Secretary-General's proposals. In my opinion, that is the most important aspect of the debate, and I shall return to it.
There are one or two preliminary matters that I should like to underline afresh. I do not claim that they are novel in any sense. I believe that it is important that we should clearly understand them. First, I refer to the debate of 3 April. I know that there are some people who say that the House reacted in a spirit of impetuosity. I believe that there were good grounds for what was done and that it was the expression by the House of its feeling of moral outrage at what had occurred. I believe that the House was right to underline its concern for the Falkland Islanders. They were the people who were most afflicted and against whom the least possible accusation could be made. They were living their lives perfectly innocently. They were interfering with nobody, and it was the interference with their lives that gave rise to that feeling in the dabate on 3 April. I do not believe that the House needs to apologise for that in any sense. We are concerned not only about the rights of the Falkland Islanders, but with their lives. We have to take that into account, and what kind of protection we can best afford them.
Let me refer also to another matter which became prominent during that debate—even though we did not know the exact outcome—and that is resolution 502, which has been the sheet anchor of the British case throughout the world during the whole period. The passage of that resolution was a matter of major importance. The allegiance of the House to that resolution has been of major importance, and it has been our guide throughout all the difficulties.
I do not believe that it would have been possible for us to proceed without some such resolution to which every Member of the House has given his support in one form or another. It is important that that should be reiterated because it was primarily on the basis of that resolution that we were able to command support for the British case throughout the world. It was important for us to insist upon it. I do not claim any precedence in the matter, but we on the Opposition Benches attach the greatest importance to upholding the United Nations charter and organisation. The crisis has proved that if we did not have the United Nations Charter we would have to invent one, if we did not have the United Nations Organisation we would have to invent one, if we did not have a Secretary-General who could assist in these matters we would have to— 485 [Interruption.] I shall come to the Secretary-General in a moment, and I hope that there will not be derision from any part of the House. Any such derision is repudiated by the Opposition. I am sure that it is repudiated by the Foreign Secretary. I believe that in the crisis our allegiance to the United Nations charter and organisation has been of enormous importance and it should be continued. It is the bedrock of our policy.
I know that there may be some doubts on this point, but the view that I have held throughout is that I support the action under resolution 502. It was necessary for the Government to send the task force. In the debate of 14 April I gave my reasons for that view. I still hold that view about the task force, and it is of absolute importance that it should be under political control. The right hon. Lady has constantly reiterated that that is the case, and, of course, it must always remain the case, especially if there is to be an escalation of the military action over the coming days.
If our troops are sent in to further escalating military action—whatever it may be—I am sure that it is the desire of everyone in the House that the action should be as swift and successful as possible. We said that at the time of the recovery of South Georgia. I repeat it because I believe that it is important that it should be said.
The right hon. Lady sometimes refers to "our boys", as if they are her boys. They are not exactly her boys. [Interruption.] We have to deal with our Ministers and their responsibility. We are perfectly entitled to make whatever demands we wish in that respect. In sustaining the rights of the country the Government have had the fullest support from the Opposition. I do not believe that anybody could complain upon that score.
I come to some of the legitimate doubts and anxieties that people in the country have argued about from the beginning of the crisis in April. As time has elapsed it has become evident that it is incomparably better that the dispute should be settled, if possible, by peaceful means. When I use the expression "incomparably better" I mean exactly that. A long list of factors can be cited to illustrate how much greater would be the advantage if we could have a peaceful settlement.
First, there is the obvious factor, which I am sure is agreed by everybody in the House, of the danger of the loss of life of our young men, the Argentines and the Falkland Islanders themselves. All their lives might be involved. That is the first reason why it is important for us to seek a peaceful settlement of the dispute and why we have emphasised that throughout the period. There are other reasons, as the Government know and that we have mentioned in the debates. My right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) particularly mentioned the possibility that if certain actions were taken, which I do not intend to describe now—all of us can understand them—we could lose some of the backing that we have in some other parts of the world. I am sure that the Government would not ignore such a development. It could happen, although I do not want it to. We must ensure that action is taken so that it does not occur. However, it is one of the factors in the situation.
Other factors are the geography of the matter, its diplomatic history, and many of the other developments that were discussed in the debate last Thursday. They cannot all be pushed aside by impatient Government Back Benchers. In considering the way in which the debate has been conducted throughout the country, special credit 486 should go to the newspapers which have sought to withstand the hysteria and stupidity that have been spread in some quarters. All honour should go to those newspapers—The Guardian, the Daily Mirror,the Financial Times, The Observer and The Sunday Times—which have withstood the hysterical nonsense contained in many others. It has been good for the reputation of this country, and advantageous to the attempt to secure peace.
I come now to the document which the right hon. Lady and the Government have presented.
§ Mr. Mark Lennox-Boyd (Morecambe and Lonsdale)
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. Will he take the opportunity at this stage, at the outset of his comments, to say whether he feels that the British Government should have offered more than was contained in the proposals?
§ Mr. Foot
I am coming to that matter, as I said at the beginning of my remarks that I would, but it was perfectly right for me to put my remarks in the context that I have. I certainly do not intend to be dissuaded from that purpose by the hon. Gentleman. I shall, of course, answer his question.
The right hon. Lady and the Government have presented the terms of their document to us. Since I received it earlier today, I have read it, and I believe that it presents a clear and formidable case. Anyone who claims differently would not be reading it intelligently. The Government have stated clearly the principles on which they have acted—the principles of democracy and self-determination—and they have indicated some matters on which they have been prepared, I shall not say to compromise, but at any rate to make proposals which they believed would help towards a settlement.
It is important that that should be underlined, too, particularly in view of the accusation made in some quarters that the Government have been solely intransigent on the matter, as is said in Buenos Aires. The reputation of the case in this document is a matter of value for the present and for the future. If the Government could secure a settlement on the basis that they have proposed, we in the Opposition would be gratified as, I am sure, would the country and the world. In my view, they are fair proposals, and it is right that they should have been presented in theme terms.
However, I also say to the Government—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"]. One cannot get peace by just roaring in the House of Commons. There would have been peace long ago if that was the way to get it. As those who have been engaged in those matters will understand, much more important issues are involved. There are other factors in the Government's statement that I believe should be considered.
There are many defects in the Argentine proposals, to some of which the Prime Minister very properly drew attention, because many of them are deeply objectionable to the country. I could cite some, but there is no need to cite them all. The one about South Georgia, for example, is an extremely difficult proposition, and one that this country would find it impossible to accept. There are other proposals of that nature. However, I do not believe the right hon. Lady when she says that the Argentine proposals, as outlined in her document, amount to a complete rejection of all proposals. Indeed, I do net believe that the Foreign Secretary would claim that. In the 487 debate last Thursday, the right hon. Gentleman suggested that there had been some movement towards the acceptance of two essential requirements that the British Government had rightly insisted on from the very beginning: first, the requirement about withdrawal and, secondly, the requirement of no preconditions about the eventual discussions that were to take place. I do not say that what Argentina proposes on those two items is adequate in any sense, but to say that it is a total rejection on those grounds does not seem to be an accurate account of the state of affairs.
However, the right hon. Lady—here I come to the most important aspect of her speech—said that we have had dozens of proposals. [HON. MEMBERS: "Seven".] Yes, seven. That is quite enough. Then she said that someone has to make an assessment. That is quite right, but it is a question not only of this Government making an assessment, or of an assessment being made in this country; it is also a question of an assessment being made by others, and among those who are entitled to make an assessment on how we are to get peace or war in this matter is the Secretary-General of the United Nations. No one could be more determined to ensure that than the right hon. Lady. She has been saying that. If any of her hon. Friends do not back her in that, they can say so, but she has been most forthcoming on this subject. At the beginning of the week, in response to questions, she said:We've been at this for six weeks and we're having one last go to see if we can get a peaceful settlement.The questioner on the programme asked:How long can that one last go, go on for? Days, hours, weeks?To that the right hon. Lady replied:Well, it occurs through the Secretary-General of the United Nations who is being very active indeed. A person of total integrity. And it just depends how long he thinks he can go on.That was one answer from the right hon. Lady.
The right hon. Lady gave another answer yesterday about the Secretary-General. She said:United Nations administration I believe would be carried on with great integrity.She was referring to the possibilities of the interim administration.I think that we are all lucky to have Mr. de Cuellar as Secretary-General. He is a person himself of great integrity and we have a special relationship with him … because he was head of the United Nations observers at the elections in Rhodesia.She went on:So he knows we bring colonies to independence. He knows how we arrange things with free elections. He knows that we believe in self determination, and he has seen us at it. So we have special faith in him.At the beginning of this week I put it to the right hon. Lady that one of the reasons why I requested this debate and why we should have the documents was not merely that the Government and the House of Commons would demand the right to judge the terms, but, as I said in the letter that I sent to her on Monday, the Secretary-General himself might come forward with proposals at the end to be put to both sides. On Monday I said that I thought that it would be intolerable if, when proposals were coming from the Secretary-General, who knows as much about the intricacies of the negotiations as anyone, we were to go ahead with a great escalation of the conflict without having had the chance to judge what the Secretary-General might propose at the end of the discussions.
§ Mr. Robert Adley (Christchurch and Leamington)
If the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot) had been Prime Minister, would he have approved the sending of the task force? Is the right hon. Gentleman suggesting that the Prime Minister should hand over to the Secretary-General of the United Nations the timing of future negotiations regardless of their outcome? Many of us would find that extremely hard to accept.
§ Mr. Foot
I am not saying that we should hand it over regardless of the outcome or of the time. The right hon. Lady has insisted on another occasion that there has been no hold up in the military operations because of the discussions. She is now nodding. The right hon. Lady has said many times that there has been no hold up in the military operations because of the discussions. It is a question not of asking for a great deal of time, but of asking for a proper response to what the Secretary-General has to say.
One of the disputes that I had with the right hon. Lady three weeks ago was when the Secretary-General came forward with some suggestions before the Foreign Secretary had had any meetings with him. We said that it would be improper for us to proceed without having the fullest possible discussions with the Secretary-General. That has been repaired in the sense that the Foreign Secretary has had discussions with the Secretary-General.
We have now reached the point at which a breakdown has occurred in the other negotiations, but the Secretary-General believes that the matter is of such supreme importance that, in the words of the right hon. Lady, someone must make an assessment. The Secretary-General has as much right to make an assessment as the Prime Minister or anybody else. The Secretary-General may be listened to in many parts of the world on this subject, and we shall need the support of many countries. I believe that it was a great mistake for the right hon. Lady to say—although I do not suppose it will govern her conduct in future negotiations—that all the proposals that she and her Government had made in the past were now withdrawn. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] I will tell hon. Members. It is because we want the Secretary-General to succeed. We want him to be supported. We want to ensure that the Government will give every proper response to the Secretary-General.
I shall make a specific proposal to the right hon. Lady on the subject in a few moments. It is no use hon. Members pushing it aside and saying that we will have nothing to do with what the Secretary-General proposes.
§ The Prime Minister
The right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot) cannot have heard what I said. The Secretary-General has put forward an aide-memoire. I described what we were saying to him. I said that what we were saying to him could not foreclose military options any more than it has in the past. There is his aide-memoire. I do not understand the right hon. Gentleman's point.
§ Mr. Foot
If the right hon. Lady is now telling us that her response to the Secretary-General is one which she is prepared to follow further at the United Nations, I am in favour of it. I am not quite sure whether a few of her more raucous Back Benchers would support her, but that is another matter. I hope that the right hon. Lady and her Government at such a delicate moment as this, when the command of support throughout the world is of paramount importance, will build on the answer the right hon. Lady 489 has just given, that they will build on the response they have already made about the Secretary-General and that they will carry it much further. I hope that, before they take any further action, they will make a much bigger response. I know that the Government have tried on previous occasions to brush aside the Secretary-General, but they have had to come back to him in the end.
The proper course for both the right hon. Lady and the Foreign Secretary is, either tonight or tomorrow, to go to New York and to discuss the matter. That is the proper way in which such discussions should be carried through. If the right hon. Lady wishes to command support in this situation, she must command support through the United Nations Organisation. That means sustaining the Secretary-General in the proposition that he has put before the British Government today.
§ Dr. David Owen (Plymouth, Devonport)
The House has listened to a very grave speech from the Prime Minister. I do not believe that anyone who listened to it can be in any doubt that we have witnessed a serious attempt to seek a negotiated settlement. That should be said and heard in the rest of the world.
I am pleased that the Leader of the official Opposition was prepared to recognise that the negotiating position adopted by the Government and now before the House and the world is a fair and reasonable one. It ought to be said quite clearly that we support that negotiating position. We recognise that many of us as individuals have had to accept a fair degree of compromise in those proposals. They are not the ideal proposals which each and every one of us in this House would wish to accept.
It is also right that this debate should be heard in the rest of the world. If the Government are advised by the Chiefs of Staff that the task force needs to take further measures to protect itself or further to tighten the military pressure around the invaders on the Falkland Islands, it is reasonable for them to be given the political authorisation to do so. No one is under any illusion that that would be a grave and dangerous step, and nobody wishes to see any loss of life. We would be fools, however, if we thought that we could take such a step without the real possibility of loss of life, Therefore, this is a very sombre moment, and it should be faced in a sombre and steady mood.
I do not believe that the military option that faces the Government is a single option, as we are sometimes led to believe. I do not believe that the only option is a D-Day-like frontal invasion. But we are getting close to the necessity to put a substantial proportion of our forces on to the Falkland Islands. Like many hon. Members, I have been deeply worried over the last few weeks about the possibility that what happened to HMS "Sheffield", and the tragedy that befell the Argentine cruiser, could happen to any of our ships.
In the light of these negotiations, if the Chiefs of Staff want a decision from the Government such a decision should be taken. I hope that their military judgment will be wisely exercised and their options wisely chosen, and that it will be possible to repossess parts of the islands—a lot of which will not contain any Argentine troops at all—to provide ourselves with an air base, to protect it with Rapier missiles and to have a base on land instead of the rather hazardous base for our aircraft on ships on the high seas.
490 I must say to the Prime Minister that none of that in any way reduces,the responsibility to continue the negotiations. None of that in any way reduces the responsibility on us, as a loyal member of the United Nations, to respond to any reasonable request from the Secretary-General. The Secretary-General will face a difficult task. The history of the negotiations does not give ground for optimism. If the Secretary-General is ready to pursue his aide-memoire and to try to reach a negotiated position, we ought to be ready to listen. There has been a lull, although the Prime Minister has said that there has been no period in which there has been a delay in the decisions. All of us who are realistic know that there has been a lull in the fighting. If that fighting increases, it will be one of the pressures.
I hope that when our friends read the negotiating document and the interim proposals, they will recognise the necessity to continue with economic sanctions. I have no doubt that that will be the response of Australia, Canada and New Zealand. I hope that it will be the response of Norway. Although it is not a member of the EEC, it has taken exactly the same measures as the EEC. I profoundly hope that the other nine member States take that decision. If it is not possible to reach a unanimous decision, and if Ireland feels unable to go along with it, I hope that the remaining eight member States will take that decision.
Furthermore, I hope that the United States is prepared to look at its economic sanctions and to take further economic sanctions. If the rest of the countries of the world are asked by us to take economic sanctions which are painful to them and may have adverse economic consequences, we must be prepared to listen to them. They are our friends. They have taken those measures because there is a fellow feeling in the European Community, the Commonwealth and NATO. The message that is corning from those countries now is "We will take further economic sanctions and we recognise why you are driven to tighten the military pressures, but we believe that you must continue to negotiate."
I hope that the Prime Minister, and the Foreign Secretary when he replies, will reflect upon her answer to my question about the necessity to withdraw and take the proposals from the table. What is the aim and object? Surely the aim and object is not unconditional surrender. History shows that by holding out for unconditional surrender one unnecessarily loses lives. Unconditional surrender is rarely the right position for a strong democratic country to adopt.
Having put down these proposals, which are essentially proposals for a ceasefire, withdrawal and an honourable negotiation, Britain should be strong enough and clear enough in the justice of its cause to keep those propositions on the table. Britain should be prepared to say to the Argentines "If at any time in the next few days or weeks of military and economic pressure you are prepared to have a ceasefire on these terms, we will honour it." I believe that that is an essential negotiating position.
§ Mr. Powell
Is the right hon. Gentleman saying that if we continue with military action, whatever the outcome may be, we should go back to the position of withdrawing our forces, a phased withdrawal of both sides and someone else's administration?
§ Dr. Owen
The right hon. Gentleman assumes that he has a monopoly of these issues. He has his own view and he is entitled to it, but if we had held to his view there would have been no negotiations and no movement in the Government's position, and we would not have had support from any country. The right hon. Gentleman has always held a view of absolute and total certainty. His position of absoluteness and certainty is very similar to the position of the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn). The reality of life is that most of us are prepared to negotiate and to have a measure of compromise. Most of us are prepared to live in the real world and not in the nationalistic island on which the right hon. Gentleman seems to have impaled himself.
I urge the Prime Minister to look carefully at this issue because it is on this issue that she could lose opinion not just in the House and in the country but in the rest of the world. There must be a readiness to continue the negotiating process.
These proposals are different from the Peruvian proposals. Those proposals were from another Government. They contained elements that were unpalatable to the British and the Argentines. In the document the right hon. Lady said that she was prepared to accept the final Peruvian argument, but, the Argentines having rejected it, she withdrew that offer. That is different from withdrawing the proposals that have been put forward by the British Government. The Prime Minister should look at that issue. She cannot quote some parts of the United Nations charter and ignore others.
§ The Prime Minister
The right hon. Gentleman is ignoring what I said in my speech. We gave a full written interim agreement. It was put to the Argentines with two days to reply. They knew what they were doing when they replied within that time limit: they were rejecting the proposals. If we were to enter into negotiations again, they would probably be totally different because they would be on a different basis.
§ Dr. Owen
If there is a misunderstanding, let us try to clear it up. I am saying not that we should enter into the negotiations on the basis of the document, but that the document is the offer. If in the next few days and weeks, as a result of economic and military pressures, the Argentines accept the document lock, stock and barrel, the Prime Minister should recognise that that is an honourable offer on which it is honourable to ask our forces and Service men to fight. The right hon. Lady should not hold out for a proposition that is as yet unheard of or for unconditional surrender.
The right hon. Lady quoted article 73 of the United Nations charter, which is also quoted in the document. The House should listen to the words of article 74, which also relates to the declaration regarding non-self-governing territories. It states:Members of the United Nations also agree that their policy in respect of the territories to which this Chapter applies, no less 492 than in respect of their metropolitan areas, must be based on the general principle of good-neighbourliness, due account being taken of the interests and well-being of the rest of the world, in social, economic, and commercial matters.We have a wider responsibility. The right hon. Lady knows that if, as I hope, military action is totally successful—let us hope that that is possible, although most of us are more objective than that—what would we face? Are we prepared to face a situation in which we have a military garrison in the Falkland Islands for the next 10 or 20 years, which is within range of Argentine land-based aircraft? Is that what we are being asked to do? We know that at the end of the day there must be negotiations. It must be said now before lives are lost that this country is prepared to negotiate. We are not pursuing a colonial claim. [Interruption.] All I am asking Conservative Members to do is to uphold the proposition tabled at the United Nations by their Government. I ask them to uphold it over the next few weeks and months and to be prepared to recognise that an honourable ceasefire, withdrawal and negotiations can happen on that basis. If the Argentines lose the lives of their soldiers in order to resist this fair document, the rest of the world will judge them hard. If the rest of the world has any doubt as to what we are fighting for, we will jeopardise our position. It is a reasonable request to make to the Prime Minister.
During the past seven weeks, the right hon. Lady has had considerable support from the House and the country. She is entitled to that. But she also has a responsibility as Prime Minister to listen to others and consider the views not just of myself or of my party, but of many other Governments. She knows that what I am saying is a view held by many other people in the world.
We wish the Prime Minister every success. We have given her unstinting support and will continue to do so in the pursuit of honourable objectives. We have not flinched from supporting the negotiating position, the application of economic sanctions, or the use of military force. We shall also not flinch from saying unpopular things if necessary about the need for an honourable negotiating position.
§ Mr. Julian Amery (Brighton, Pavilion)
I congratulate the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) on the early part of his speech and on the support that he offered to the Government if, as circumstances unfold, the Chiefs of Staff should decide that action should be taken. However, in the second half of his speech he departed a little from the realism that he has, on the whole, steadily shown in these debates.
The right hon. Gentleman led up to the terms that have been offered by the Government by saying that we must be clear about our objectives. They were well summed up by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister at the beginning of the crisis. She said that we were asking for the unconditional withdrawal of the Argentine forces from the Falkland Islands and for the full restoration of British sovereignty on the islands. She said that the interests of the islanders remain paramount. I stress the word "remain".
The right hon. Gentleman the leader of the Liberal Party was right when he said the other day that the final decision about the islands' future depends on the House, because we are the sovereign power of the Falkland Islands. But it must not be forgotten that ever since 1964 493 no Government, Conservative or Labour, have put before the House any proposal for the islands' future which the islanders said was unacceptable.
The paper that we have before us shows that in a determined and laudable effort to avoid bloodshed the Government were prepared to make substantial concessions from those original objectives. They would not necessarily have been inconsistent with the original objectives that we had in mind, but they might have put the fulfilment of those objectives at risk. Many Conservative Members would have found them hard to accept. I do not know how many that applies to, but it would certainly have applied to me.
All that is academic now. General Galtieri has failed to learn the lesson of the Sybiline books—what was on offer can no longer be on offer—He that will not when he may, when he would he shall have nay.We cannot ask our forces to go into battle, as the right hon. Gentleman is suggesting, to hand over the islands when repossessed to a United Nations trusteeship under the kind of interim administration that we were previously discussing.
We are taking back our own property. We shall be liberating our own people. If we accomplish that there will not be much to negotiate about, except the surrender of the adversary forces and their repatriation under honourable terms to Argentina.
I do not think that my right hon. Friends would disagree that the phoney war is over and that we are now proceeding to serious business. These will be grim days for the task force. They will be grim days, too, for the islanders. Can we give them just a little encouragement? Can we send back the governor to join the task force as soon as possible so that as we establish ourselves on the islands the new administration will also be there? Can we offer to the Falkland Islands Council—it is for it to reject or accept—what we rejected earlier—the citizenship terms with Britain which the Gibraltarians now enjoy?
The Government have shown admirable determination in terminating—as far as I understand it they have—the negotiating process at the United Nations. Had they made any further concessions, the authority and the standing of Britain in the world would have been seriously undermined. So would the credibility of the Government at home. All policies, economic and social, however sound they may be, are ineffective if the Government's credibility is undermined.
§ Mr. Amery
I will continue if I may, because I know that many right hon. and hon. Members want to catch Mr. Speaker's eye.
Since 3 April there has been a new spirit abroad in Britain. Any surrender, however well presented—I do not doubt the Foreign Office's ability to produce the appropriate draft—would undermine national self-confidence. Without national self-confidence there can be no economic, social or moral revival. The consequences of a failure of nerve—there has not been one, thank God—would have been far-reaching. The consequences of determination and, let us pray, success, may be no less important. Indeed, they may be far more important.
What is at stake in the Falkland Islands crisis transcends the immediate issues of the Falkland Islanders and our own stake in the South Atlantic. The crisis is a catalyst of the 494 basic values of our society; what Henry Kissinger has referred to as "honour, justice and patriotism". Those are not just intellectual concepts, nor are they jingoism or war hysteria.
The right hon. Member the Leader of the Opposition allowed himself a diatribe against the popular press. As a former editor of a Beaverbrook newspaper he should know that editors do their best to meet the wishes of the public. The editors know that the public are getting what they want. What is happening is not jingoism or war hysteria. It is the expression of the deep feeling of a proud and ancient nation and of the most mature democracy in the world.
Even if it is not always expressed in terms familiar to the defeatist "Establishment" that has governed Britain for far too long, those are the feelings that inspire our people. They could lead to unexpected endeavours and unexpected unity such as no political theory could give. Such feelings have not been alive in the same way since 1940, but they could be the key to our national revival.
It is perfectly natural that before the die is cast, before the Rubicon is crossed, there should be doubts, fears and hesitations. But the time is past for such doubts. We stand on the eve of battle. On 3 April the House gave a lead to the nation and sent the task force on its course. Hopes of a peaceful settlement have since been dashed. Our purpose, however, should be as firm today as it was at the beginning. Irrespective of party allegiances or political opinions, I hope that both sides of the House will act together to ensure that we prevail.
§ Mr. Tony Benn (Bristol, South-East)
I listened carefully—as the whole House did—to the Prime Minister's speech. It is apparent that with the withdrawal of the negotiated interim agreement, the restatement of the fact that the military option must remain open, and with the Ministry of Defence briefing we must assume that an invasion is imminent, and some hon. Members have already called for it. A tragedy is unfolding, the magnitude of which is not apparent from the speeches. As the Prime Minister told the House, responsibility lies not with Parliament, but with the Government. She constantly reminded the Leader of the Opposition that it was for the Government to act. Hon. Members must do as they think right, and therefore some of my colleagues and I will tonight vote against the Adjournment, for reasons that I shall give the House.
§ Mr. Hugh D. Brown (Glasgow, Provan)
As one of those who will be involved, would my right hon. Friend mind telling me who he consulted before he made that ringing declaration?
§ Mr. Andrew Faulds (Warley, East)
My right hon. Friend has been asked whom, among his colleagues, he 495 consulted. May I assure him that some of us met to discuss this issue—although we do not always find ourselves in the same stable—and that we intend to vote on this issue tonight? My right hon. Friend is not alone in his intention.
§ Mr. Benn
Tomorrow's Division list will record the names of those who have exercised their right to state in the Lobby their view of what is happening.
I shall base my argument on an examination of the Government's document. It gives an account of recent events. It also gives the Government's proposals for a settlement, which have now been withdrawn. Because they have been withdrawn, they must necessarily become the war aims of a Cabinet that is about to launch an invasion. Since the Prime Minister said that no proposals for future negotiations were likely to succeed, we must view the document in that light.
One of the arguments given for the Government's reaction to the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands was that it took place during a period of negotiation between the British and Argentine Governments. I put it to the Prime Minister that if the interim agreement contained in the document had been made available to Argentina by this Government, or any Government in the past 20 years, the invasion would not have occurred.
Therefore, the task force has not played any part, because—as the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) said—the proposals involve the abandonment of the substance of sovereignty, which is the right to have troops on one's territory and to control its administration. By publishing this document—and hon. Members should not think that a withdrawal makes any difference—the Government have published their readiness to abandon, in substance, British sovereignty over the islands.
The document says that the Government rejected a "purely military policy". I ask the House to consider whether that is true. What effort did the Government make to bring pressure to bear on the Argentine Government through the world bankers? Had they refused to reschedule the debts, they could have brought the Argentine Government to their knees. What effort did the Government make? None whatsoever.
I cannot anticipate the reason, but yesterday's edition of The Times, in conjunction with other recent articles, pointed out that if the Argentine Government had not had their debts rescheduled we might have seen something approaching the collapse of the world banking system as a result of the financial losses. To rational people it appears that the Prime Minister was prepared to protect the bankers and to send the soldiers in instead. The Government made no serious effort in that direction.
A massive task force has been sent. The Prime Minister allows and encourages the idea that a "War Cabinet" meets every day. That is from a Government who say in their document that they have rejected a military policy. The briefings come every day not from the Foreign Office but from the Ministry of Defence. In various speeches the Prime Minister has encouraged what can only be described as war hysteria. I suspect that that is not like the spirit of 1940, but is expressed in a feeling among the people that a military solution is intended, should be supported and will be successful. The world certainly sees it that way, and that is why support for the Government abroad is eroding.
496 The Government's document states that Argentina has been playing for time. Of course it has. But who put the clock in its armoury? The task force gave it the clock as a weapon. It is impossible to leave the task force hanging about. Therefore, once the task force was dispatched, time was given to Buenos Aires—[Interruption.] Of course that was the reason.
The Prime Minister spoke about the weather conditions. Everyone can imagine the conditions faced by the troops. Events are in control. Whether Admiral Woodward is technically under political control is not the issue. The Prime Minister knows that, even if she thought that negotiations would succeed in two or three weeks' time, the task force could not remain there for that time doing nothing. The very presence of the task force gave Argentina the right to dictate an ultimatum to us. Its ultimatum was fight, or withdraw. The Government have decided to fight. When they fight, world support will disappear.
I turn to the Government's negotiating position, as contained in the terms of the interim agreement. I invite those keenest on war on the Government Benches to listen carefully. The document conveyed by Sir Anthony Parsons on Monday is a remarkable one. The offer made involved major concessions, and the war aims have thus been eroded by them. I want the House to understand the question of mutual withdrawal. The Government offered Argentina the concession that no British troops from the task force would land on the Falkland Islands. That is the meaning of mutual withdrawal. However, the essence of sovereignty and of the right to self-defence—to which much reference has been made—is that we have that right. Therefore, the Government conceded that.
Next, the Government conceded that if there were a ceasefire economic sanctions would be abandoned at once. Thus the junta—which is properly denounced as representing a denial of human rights—would immediately be supported again. As soon as the ceasefire began, the junta would get back its money and trade. That was contained in the document, which I invite the House to consider.
The Government also conceded that a United Nations administrator would go to the Falkland Islands. Indeed, many of us urged that that should happen. However, the United Nations administrator would only consult the islanders and would take account only of their interests, not their views. So much for paramountcy! Argentine observers would be there to ensure that he took account only of their interests, not of their views. The Government said that they wanted that administration to continue indefinitely until they had obtained an agreed solution.
The essence of sovereignty is administration, but that was abandoned. Paramountcy was also abandoned. With the Government insisting on an indefinite agreement, there was no guarantee in the interim agreement offer made by Sir Anthony Parsons that British troops or a British administration would ever return to the Falkland Islands.
§ Mr. Rippon
Does the right hon. Gentleman recall the terms of the draft Labour manifesto of 1980, which was published under the authority of the national executive—of which I believe the right hon. Member is the chairman, or was at that time? Paragraph 28 reads:We reaffirm our commitment that under no circumstances will the inhabitants of the Falkland Islands be handed over to any Argentine regime which violates human and civil rights.Does that still represent the right hon. Gentleman's policy, or does he say it is different if Argentina takes them?
§ Mr. Benn
I congratulate the right hon. and learned Gentleman on reading our documents. There is nobody on the Labour Benches who supported the Argentine attack or who favours the handing over of the Falkland Islands. The point that I am making is that the right hon. and learned Gentleman's Government have been prepared to make an offer to keep British troops off the islands, and to have a United Nations administrator with Argentine observers. They made the offer and, although it is officially withdrawn, it is now in the public domain.
§ Mr. Benn
I am sorry; I must carry on.
The task force was not needed. That offer could have been made at any time. With the whole British case conceded, what is the case for war? Why should people die for a pre-arranged abandonment of the paramountcy of the interests of the islanders to a United Nations administration? This is what the debate is about. If we go on—and I am sure that the House knows that this is what is planned—to attempt to repossess the islands by force, there will be more deaths, there will be more killings, but for what?
We know the Government's furthest negotiation position. There will be escalation, because if we land troops they will be attacked, and Argentina must have some strategy for attacking our ships. When the ships, if any, are sunk—and God knows none of us wants to contemplate such a possibility—Tory Members will be demanding that we bomb the mainland. Some have already said it. Are we to bomb the mainland so that in the end we can give the Falklands to the United Nations and take our troops out? We shall be isolated if we do escalate the situation. Everyone knows that President Reagan will stop the present Prime Minister, as Eisenhower stopped Sir Anthony Eden, because the President cannot see the British bombing the mainland of a continent that he seeks to control. The costs, both direct and indirect, will be enormous.
I do not believe, in all conscience, that the House can support this policy. Those of us who opposed the sending of the task force from the outset, as my hon. Friends and I did, have found all our warnings confirmed. We cannot support this policy. The Leader of the Opposition, who has urged on every occasion that the task force should be there but that there should be no escalation of the violence, cannot support a policy contemplating an invasion and then an abandonment. The Government's Back Benchers, who have urged war so strongly, cannot want war, only to prepare for abandonment.
Tonight I hope that hon. Members from both sides of the House will go into the Lobby to vote against the 498 Adjournment. I say against the Adjournment, because there is a special significance about the Adjournment. By voting against the Adjournment the House shows that it wishes to continue the debate so that these issues can be explored.
I finish with the points that have been made in earlier debates. We should go for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire. We should hand over to the United Nations the Falkland Islands administration in exactly the same way as the Government have conceded in the document. Far from abandoning sanctions at the moment when we unilaterally hand over responsibility for the administration to the United Nations, which the Government contemplate, we should step up the sanctions on Argentina. Financial and economic sanctions, combined with the transfer of the islands to a United Nations responsibility, will almost certainly bring Galtieri down. Let us not forget that when Nixon wanted to bring down Allende he did not send a task force; he economically strangled President Allende. Reagan has the power to strangle Galtieri, provided that we do not make war upon him. Finally, we should bring the fleet home.
These proposals, which are modest and to some extent build on what the Government are prepared to concede, will win widespread support throughout the country. At least tonight in the Division Lobby there will be those who will record their profound opposition to this war upon which we believe the Prime Minister has been determined from the outset.
§ Sir Paul Bryan (Howden)
Many of my right hon. and hon. Friends will by now have come to the reluctant conclusion that in a matter of days we may be driven to the use of major force in the Falkland Islands. If this it to be, it is important that the nation should see that we are taking this step after much thought and with a heavy heart.
It is fortunate that the Government have had seven weeks to prepare the nation and world opinion for this desperately serious decision. The Government have used those seven weeks remarkably well. Immediately after the Argentine invasion, the Prime Minister announced that our intention was to repossess the islands, preferably by diplomacy, otherwise by force, and to restore liberty to the islanders. This has been repeated again and again in the plainest terms, and by now no one can doubt what we mean to do.
Our plan of action was to be intense diplomacy, backed by increasing economic and military pressure, culminating in the use of force if all else failed. The progress of this plan has been discussed and described continuously. In Parliament we have had no fewer than seven debates—one debate per week—in addition to endless opportunities for hon. Members to question the Prime Minister and the Secretaries of State.
On the media, Ministers and experts of every kind have made themselves constantly available. Never have the public been better informed about anything. The document published this morning adds one more valuable piece of information that the House needs. No one can doubt that the Government have tried very hard to reach a peaceful solution.
After all this discussion and clear explanation, and largely because of it, the Government's policy seems to have a remarkable degree of support in the country and in the world, with a good deal more than a majority in its 499 favour in the House of Commons. However, once we resort to force in earnest, the picture changes on all three fronts—diplomatic, economic and military. I am sure that the Government have seriously considered the problem of how, in the face of mounting loss of life, we can continue to hold the confidence of our people and of world opinion.
The troops that we have sent to the Falkland Islands—marines, parachute battalions, SAS and Gurkhas—are probably the finest and best trained in the world. Only with superlative training could they have carried out the superb operation on Pebble Island the other day without loss of life.
So admirable has been the performance of our forces during the past few years, be it in the Iranian embassy, Northern Ireland or South Georgia, that there is a positive danger of the public expecting too much—of expecting an easy ride. But even with the finest troops, losses must mount as the fighting spreads.
What is more, anyone who has seen much fighting would agree with me that luck always plays a horribly big part in the fortunes of war. Luck was on our side in South Georgia when a submarine full of reinforcements literally fell into our hands; but, with luck against us, however good our fighters or air defence, we could lose ships, big ships, with devastating losses. Any serving officer to whom one speaks now is apt to say "I hope the country is ready to accept casualties, possibly heavy casualties".
Once major operations have started, Ministers must constantly warn the public of what may be in store. Despite the loss of two major warships, the fighting so far can be no more than a preliminary skirmish with neither side committing its main forces. The Argentines will certainly have kept their main air effort back until more of our ships are in range.
One sees comforting statements in the press, and even hears them in the House, that the Argentine troops are probably not much good, that many of them are unwilling conscripts and that their morale is probably low after the battering that they have had from the awful weather. That is pure wishful thinking. The oldest mistake, in infantry or any other fighting, is to believe that you are up against a weak opposition until that has been surely proved.
I agree with the Prime Minister that concessions, once offered and refused, cannot continue to lie on the table. Those concessions were made at a particular time in return for a peaceful solution. Once the task force has put us in a stronger bargaining position, it would be folly to lessen our requirements, which must always start with a real Argentine military withdrawal.
My point is well illustrated by the contents of the paper published by the Government today. Some of my hon. Friends may consider that the terms that we offered were too generous. On the whole, they were just about right as the price for a peaceful solution at that time and in those circumstances, but they may well seem to be too generous after we have had to suffer the loss of hundreds of lives and after we are in possession of the islands, or a major part of them. That shows the importance of speed in our military action. The more extensive our occupation of the Falkland Islands by the time the next serious peace offer is made, the stronger will be our negotiating position.
The diplomatic contest will take on quite a different form once the real battle is joined. It will not be long before we must consider some other deal, probably 500 through the United Nations or through the United States of America, possibly with pressure applied from America. We must be very wary not to give away the strength of our position. We must always remember that America's interests are not necessarily our interests.
As our Foreign Office has been under heavy criticism, I wish to finish by paying tribute to the superlative service that we have received from our diplomats and from the two Foreign Secretaries since the crisis erupted. It is fitting that the last act of a brilliant Foreign Secretary was probably his greatest single achievement. To secure the mandatory resoluton from the Security Council was the foundation upon which all our diplomacy has been based and without which we should have been in a far weaker moral position.
Our present Foreign Secretary took over the reins for as rough a ride as he is ever likely to have, and a ride that still has a long way to go. He has played his part with great courage and with robust skill. I am sure that he would be the first to pay tribute to Sir Nicholas Henderson, who has recaptured the confidence of the Americans, and to Sir Anthony Parsons, on whose advice the Government are so dependent. World support, especially Commonwealth support, will be all-important when the inevitable final deal is made, and it certainly cannot be taken for granted.
§ Mr. Ken Weetch (Ipswich)
Since the crisis occurred early in April, this is the sixth set piece debate in the house and, if comment is to be believed, it is the last set piece debate that we shall have before the fighting begins in earnest, if I may put it in that way. It is taking place at a time when the protracted searches for a peaceful solution appear to have reached a dead end.
In my short contribution to the debate I wish, first, to put my views on record, because I do not wish to move my feet after the cat has jumped. Secondly, I shall comment briefly on what I consider to be some of the fundamental issues thrown up by the dispute.
It has been my view from the beginning that the issue was never merely a dispute between Britain and Argentina over a group of islands. It is a dispute about the sanctity of international law and about facing up to unlawful aggression for political ends. Times change, but in essence the aggression that we have seen by the Argentines is the same species of aggression as we saw in Britain in the 1930s. As we are on the edge of war—I put it as bluntly as that—we would do well, even at the eleventh hour, to consider the fundamental simplicity of the essential lines of truth which I believe to be Britain's case.
First, only a few short weeks ago we were holding negotiations in good faith with Argentina about the future of the islands. Let us not forget that. Secondly, the islands are ours in law and come within the British framework of sovereignty. Thirdly, they were invaded and occupied and remain so because of an unprovoked, unprincipled and naked act of aggression. It was described by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition asan act of naked, unqualified aggression, carried out in the most shameful and disreputable circumstances.My right hon. Friend said that what was at stake wasthe claim of our country to be a defender of people's freedom throughout the world, particularly those who look to us for special protection".Those words are absolutely true, and that was my right hon. Friend's gut reaction in his first speech. He has played a principled and statesmanlike part in our debates 501 as matters have unfolded. I put it to the House that there are no better words than those of my right hon. Friend to describe the origin and causes of this crisis.
As events unfolded the detail was complicated but the profile remained simple. The behaviour of Argentina was condemned in United Nations resolution 502, but the United Nations' call for withdrawal proved to no avail. Far from it, the Argentine response was to reinforce both troops and equipment. It was evident all along that Argentina did not have the slightest intention of negotiating in any meaningful way—quite the reverse. The junta used every procrastinating device to play for time until the physical conditions in the South Atlantic altered the odds in Argentina's favour. That was true from start to finish.
Among Britain's critics, much has been made of the imperial dimension of this dispute. Britain, it is said, is clinging to an imperialism which has long gone. That is a complete fiction. My right hon. Friend said:There is no question in the Falkland Islands of any colonial dependence or anything of the sort. It is a question of people who wish to be associated with this country and who have built their whole lives on the basis of association with this country."—[Official Report, 3 April 1982; Vol. 21, c. 638–39.]I believe that the sending of the task force was right. I put it more strongly than that. Not to have done so would have been an act of the most craven appeasement. If anyone believes that the Argentine military dictatorship would have negotiated without such a task force being sent, they will believe anything. To all Britain's critics I say this: given the facts, the unvarnished truth of the aggression, how strong a case does Britain need in order to exert itself and do something? That is the question to be answered.
Much of what I have said has already been said, and said much better. However, I want to examine the conduct of Britain's ostensible friends in this dispute. I am disappointed, to say the least, at the American response. At most times, as events unfolded, the support of the American Administration has been grudging and halfhearted. I am sorry to say that American support of Britain's case has always been qualified by a desire to keep the lines open to South American States of an odious character.
The United States described itself as an honest broker. Bismarck once said at the Congress of Berlin that he was an honest broker, but that all honest brokers act for a large commission. In political terms, that is what has happened. Given the facts of the dispute, an evenhanded approach from the United States was never justified. If America had given a firm commitment and come in right from the start on the side of Britain—a democracy and a North Atlantic Treaty ally—the dispute would never have reached this stage.
I was not disappointed with the response from Europe, because I never expected anything better. After the grudging extension of sanctions for seven days, my disillusion with the EEC has been confirmed. There is a great deal of talk about the European Community standing for noble ideals of democracy, and all the rest, but in this dispute our European partners have never lifted their eyes above the cash register. I am sorry to say that, but it is the truth.
In broad principle, I support the Government. I believe that they have negotiated in good faith and that they have 502 shown flexibility. From a brief reading of the memorandum it is my view that the Government have shown a great deal too much flexibility.
The Government have made an honest attempt to reach a peaceful solution. After listening carefully to the Prime Minister this afternoon, I am satisfied that an exhaustive search has been made for a negotiated settlement. If the Government have failed, it is because of Argentine intransigence. If Britain now exercises her legitimate right of self-defence of her territory under article 51 of the charter, I hope that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition will attend the special briefings which must come from the Government. Consistent with justice for Britain, and in the face of all the facts, I see no alternative but to exercise the only option—to respond to unlawful aggression with self-defence.
If a man is sitting at a table talking to someone who kicks the table over and draws a knife, and if help is not forthcoming, he must face the situation alone. I put the matter in those simple terms. I hope that if things cut up rough the voice of this House will be for national unity first, middle and last.
§ Sir John Eden (Bournemouth, West)
It has been most refreshing to listen to the words of the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Weetch). He spoke straight and true and without equivocation. I have no doubt that what he has said will find a ready echo in all parts of the United Kingdom and not least in the hearts and minds of those currently engaged in the task force. We owe him our gratitude for his courage in speaking out as he has done.
Earlier in the debate some hon. Members urged the Government to leave their negotiating proposals on the table. I do not agree. It would be dangerous to attempt to roll up all the separate stages of negotiation as though they had taken place within a single time scale and under precisely similar circumstances.
Since the outset of the difficulties there have been two major events. The first was the invasion of our territory by Argentina. The second was the rejection of terms offered to Argentina to achieve a negotiated settlement. The invasion changed the situation from what it was before those events took place. If someone were to seize my property, I should be prepared to offer more to get it back than I should have been prepared to offer in the first place to deter him from taking it.
The invasion has presented us with a different situation. But just as the Argentine act of invasion has altered the circumstances from those which existed before that event, so would repossession of our own territory by our own forces change the situation dramatically from what it is today. We must be absolutely clear that at each successive stage, as these events unfold, we are dealing with a different situation.
In the light of what we have now had presented to us, it seems that there are three options open to us. First, we can accept the invasion and hand over our territory and our people to Argentina. I do not believe that that is a course that commends itself to any hon. Member in the House.
The second course would be to continue to negotiate while agreeing to withdraw our task force, to encourage the Argentines to leave and to accept a formula for an interim regime that would inevitably lead to the establishment of Argentine sovereignty and the handing over of our people to the Argentine regime. That appears 503 to be a course that commends itself to some Opposition Members. It certainly does not commend itself to me. I do not believe that it commends itself to the majority of hon. Members or to most people in this country.
The third choice is to increase our efforts to repossess the islands by further military means. Here I agree with the views of the hon. Member for Ipswich. It has been put to me in recent weeks, notably by Churchmen and others who understandably say that they are practising Christians, that they regard the use of force as an immoral act. I need to remind them, as I think my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has consistently underlined throughout the past seven weeks, that the Argentines have already used force, that they intended to seize our territory by the use of force and that they are seeking to hold on to our territory by the employment of force.
I am, however, reminded by Sir John Balfour, who, as many hon. Members will know, is a former ambassador to Buenos Aires and has been a wise and distinguished diplomat in the service of this country, that religion and virtue cannot be maintained without the punishment of wickedness and vice. That might well be underlined throughout the Christian world. There must be recognition of the fact that on occasion, in order to uphold what is right, what is true and what is lawful, it may be necessary to embark upon a course of action that employs the use of force and that hazards the lives of those actively involved in its execution.
If we were to stand back and do nothing, can anyone doubt the consequences? It seems clear to me that the Argentines have ambitions not just over the Falkland Islands and the dependencies. Were they to achieve their objective in that respect, there seems little doubt that they would seek to advance what they believe to be their national cause by further establishing themselves as a continental power in southern America. The people of Chile or other neighbouring territories must be watching with concern to see that on this occasion the Argentines do not succeed. They believe, perhaps rightly, that if the Argentines were to succeed, they would be next in line.
Inevitably, in the employment of force, there is the risk of casualties. It is right, on what has been described as a solemn occasion, for hon. Members to recognise that this is not a course that is being embarked upon lightly by Her Majesty's Government. Deep and careful thought has been given to it. Every possible step has been, and is being, taken to try to reduce the risk to our Aimed Forces. I am certain, however, that members of the Armed Forces would agree with the objectives that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has outlined—that aggression should not succeed, that international law should be upheld, that sovereignty cannot and must not be changed simply by the fact of invasion and that the freedom of our own people, in this case the Falkland Islanders, should be secured.
As my right hon. Friend said, Britain has the duty to ensure that aggression shall not succeed and that we should uphold the cause of freedom. When my right hon. Friend says "Britain", she means not only the British forces. I am certain that she means the British people as a whole. I agree with her that all of us should now join the British forces in sharing that duty to ensure that aggression shall not succeed.
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)
I should like to refer to the document, to the way that we should proceed—on which I may offer my views—and to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) who has invited me to follow him into the Lobby tonight. I am sorry that my right hon. Friend has left the Chamber. If anyone wishes to go and fetch him, I shall be very happy. I agree that he, like anyone else, is entitled to a cup of tea, but I do not like attacking him if he is not present.
I do not complain, but I very much regret, that the document was not available to hon. Members earlier. I understand why it was not available, but if every hon. Member had had the opportunity to read its contents thoroughly and to consider them for 24 hours before the debate, I do not see how anyone could have reached a conclusion other than that the Government had negotiated in good faith and made a number of concessions that were not to have been expected when we set out on this enterprise. I do not see how any other conclusion can be drawn.
I am sure that the Prime Minister and others have already set the process in motion, but the document seems to explain our position so clearly and fully that every organ ought now to be put to work to ensure that the BBC World Service and everyone at the United Nations is informed about the offer that the Government made. I suggest that the Prime Minister should do what is rarely, but sometimes, done by Heads of Government—send this document to all Heads of Government or Heads of State with a covering note, if she has not already done so, inviting them to study it and asking them what more could have been done by Britain consonant with honour and consonant with accepting and carrying out resolution 502 of the United Nations. I have no doubt that the Government have done their job properly and that they should be supported in the efforts that they have made to secure a negotiated settlement.
I turn now to how we should proceed. I appreciate the Prime Minister's point that if one puts forward proposals which are then rejected, one then says that they are no longer on the table. Formally, I understand the position. I trust, however, that it will not be the final word. I believe that the right hon. Lady could wrong foot herself. I do not think that we could sustain a position in which it was allowed to be thought that, once proposals had been put forward and then withdrawn, we would say, in the event that the Argentines later indicated that they were ready to consider them or similar proposals put forward by the United Nations Secretary-General, "No. They are wiped off the sheet." I understand the difficulty, because we are now, I suppose, going to accelerate military action. It is ironic, as the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West—
§ Mr. Callaghan
And the right hon. Gentleman's. The right hon. Gentleman, with his impeccable logic, asked how, if we put troops on to the islands and lives are lost, we can possibly evacuate the islands having called for such 505 a sacrifice. It is a difficult proposition. I thought that he was saying something with which I agreed. We must consider the long-term implications of what we are doing.
I repeat what I said in my first speech on the subject. It is not possible for the Falkland Islanders to live in permanent hostility to the Argentine mainland. That dictated much of the Foreign Office approach that has been attacked so heavily for so long. Because of that, successive Governments have tried to make arrangements between the Falkland Islanders and the people on the mainland that would ensure that the islanders could continue with their self-government and recognised that their communications and much of their life were dependent upon their closest neighbours who, even so, are some 400 miles away.
Despite the logic of the right hon. Member for Down, South, which I cannot fault, we must in the end make some arrangements—I shall not particularise them—that will ensure the permanent security of the Falkland Islanders. No doubt it could be maintained by a large naval presence and a military garrison on the islands. We could maintain that once we have won the islands back. What we could not do, except at great cost, is to develop the islands in the way that the islanders want and in the way that the resources of the region demand.
Therefore, I repeat what I said when I spoke first. We must in the end secure correct relations, if no better, with the Argentine for the future of the Falklands. It is hard to say that at the beginning of what may be a battle. Nevertheless, as the point has been raised, I hope that the Prime Minister will not, having conducted affairs as she has—correctly and with my support—wrong foot herself now by saying that she cannot consider such proposals should they come up again.
With regard to military action, all that we can do at this stage is to wish our men god-speed. Only the Government have the information and advice to decide whether to continue the blockade, whether there should'be a blockade plus landings or whether there should be some form of multi-pronged invasion such as I have read about in the newspapers. I do not envy their decisions. Only the commander on the spot can decide the time to launch any further acceleration.
I hope that it is not improper to say that the anxieties that we must all share are about air cover, the defence of our ships and the facility for reinforcement. The Government should not be attacked if they decide that they do not want to go ahead with a full-scale attack. I am not advising them either way, but they should not be attacked if they do not proceed. The difficulties that have faced us ever since the task force was sent, with my full support, are great.
I echo what the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) said. We owe our thanks to the New Zealand Government for their generous offer of a ship.
I shall conclude with a word about what I am supposed to do in the Lobbies tonight. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) have provided real leadership at a time when hostilities are being contemplated by a Government of one party. The Opposition have a duty to give a lead. They also have a duty to make a critical appraisal of what the Government are doing. Some Conservative Members catcall during speeches by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot), but they do him less than justice. He has 506 a responsibility. It would be beneath the integrity of the House if he did not carry it out by putting probing and searching points to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister and the Government have never been in any doubt about where the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Labour Party have stood on the main issues that have confronted the House and the country. They are entitled to our thanks for what they have done.
I come now to my right hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South-East. I agree with something that he said. He bears some resemblance to the right hon. Member for Down, South. It is, however, only in that they both attack a proposition with devastating and impeccable logic, but then proceed to utterly false, eccentric and wrong conclusions. For example, in the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South-East—
§ Mr. Callaghan
He is having his cup of tea. Some of us sometimes wish that the hon. Member for Lancaster (Mrs. Kellett-Bowman) would go and have one, too.
What did my right hon. Friend tell us? He told us that the Government agreed that the British task force should be withdrawn in certain circumstances. He told us that they had agreed, in certain circumstances, to the appointment of a United Nations administrator and a governor who, I assume, would not return. He talked about the addition of Argentine representatives. Everything he said seemed to lead to his concluding that he was right. But he did not. He went on to say that the Government were war-like; that they were seeking a war.
I thought that the conclusion that my right hon. Friend must draw from the points that he said the Government had conceded was that they had come nearer to his point of view and that there could be no question but that he had won the argument. If it had suited him, that is exactly what he would have said. He failed to comment on whether he thought that the continuation of negotiations would lead to the Argentine dropping its claim to the South Georgia and South Sandwich dependencies.
He did not say whether he thought that that was a proper Argentine claim. He did not say whether he thought that it would be proper to concede the Argentine claim, that the islanders should be excluded from the United Nations administration. Apparently the Argentine has demanded that. Nor did he comment on the Argentine demand for free access for Argentine nationals to settle on the islands to influence any ballot that may be conducted. If, when choosing which Lobby to go into tonight, I must choose between that leadership or the leadership of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, I know where I stand.
I know that my right hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South-East disclaims all personal ambition. I do not suggest that those who follow him tonight will do so on that ground. But Opposition Members who are disposed to support him should note that this is yet another example of what he has consistently done since the general election. I regret that he is not present to hear what I have to say. He has chosen to challenge the leadership of the party, whoever it may be, to set out his own position. Whether that was calculated for tonight or whether it is consequential, that is the result. My right hon. and hon. Friends must choose who to follow tonight. They must choose whether to follow my right hon. Friend the 507 Member for Bristol, South-East, and thereby create yet one more division, or to follow my right hon. Friends on the Opposition Front Bench. That is the choice. I strongly regret that my right hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South-East has put the party in that position again. However, if that is the challenge, it must be resisted. We must follow the advice of our Front Bench.
§ Mr. Alexander W. Lyon
I disagree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) on his perception of the Falklands crisis. Nevertheless, I honour his integrity in holding that view. Will he please honour the integrity of those who have consistently opposed the war and the sending of the task force, not on any political grounds, but because we believe that, in the moral and the practical issues that have been raised by it, it is wrong to shed blood? If we take that view, does my right hon. Friend say that we should take into consideration the partisan position of my right hon. Friends on the Opposition Front Bench, or that of the party as a whole, if we divide the House? Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is right that we should exercise the freedom to vote—
§ Mr. Callaghan
I do not attack my hon. Friend's integrity. He is one of the characters in the House who will always speak his own mind and go his own way. If ever he were to live in a totalitarian society, he would be the first to have his head chopped off.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I could not even send my hon. Friend to Siberia. I merely sent him to the Back Benches. I was right to do so. The only thing that I did wrong was not to send him there earlier.
At a moment like this, when our troops may be going into accelerated action, it is wrong to give the impression that the House is divided. My hon. Friend can speak his mind.
§ Mr. Callaghan
At least we are agreed on that. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South-East can make the speech that he has made consistently since the affair started, but he does not have to vote tonight. If he does, the wrong impression will be given to the world, to the country and to our Service men, who are our first consideration. For that reason, my right hon. Friend is wrong and I hope that the Labour Party will not support him.
§ 6.2 pm
§ Sir Frederic Bennett (Torbay)
By a strange coincidence, this is the third time that I have spoken immediately after the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) in debates on various subjects. It must be of almost equal embarrassment to us both that on each occasion I have had no alternative but to compliment him on his remarks. I shall not refer to his party's internal matters, which are not for me to speak about.
508 There are few who will not be genuinely touched by the right hon. Gentleman's remarks about our responsibilities to our men overseas. His comments will be a source of inspiration to us all.
I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman referred to his attitude to South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. His right hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) failed to do so.
In the documentation that has been made available to us, far too little attention has been given to a vital factor in all the calculations that we have to make. If we are to talk about international law and negotiations, it is difficult to find any international legal reason why Argentina has a valid claim to the Falklands. Whenever it has been suggested that Argentina should refer the issue to the only relevant international tribunal if it claims such a strong case, on the understanding that it will accept whatever award is made, it is curious that the suggestion has been consistently rejected.
Yet there cannot be even a remote possibility of a legal claim being sustained by Argentina to South Georgia and the Sandwich Islands. That is important in law and equally important for another valid reason. If we had secured an Argentine withdrawal in return for a withdrawal of our task force and there had followed, to use the Prime Minister's words, the installation of a United Nations administration with a small United Nations force for security reasons, I should not have had great faith in the United Nations' capacity to provide adequate security forces against a determined aggressor.
I have great faith in some of the United Nations' capabilities, but not in that respect. Indeed, there is a paragraph in the United Nations charter which, I think, would prevent United Nations' forces from engaging in hostilities were the Argentines, after some weeks or months, and either under the present dictatorship or that of a successor, to be induced to launch a reinvasion to assuage what it would describe as a national betrayal. In such circumstances, I do not think that any hon. Member would claim that we could go through the whole operation again or that a small United Nations force would be able to offer effective resistance against such a renewal of aggression.
There may be some who think that what I have just said is fantasy. I suggest that the record of the Argentine Government on keeping international agreements is particularly unsavoury, even in a world in which all too few Governments observe international agreements and undertakings.
I shall give three examples. First, there are some islands in the channel between Argentina and Chile—the Beagle Islands—that have long been the subject of dispute. On two separate occasions in recent years the Argentine Government have agreed, after much sabre-rattling, that the dispute should be put before international arbitration. In putting it before international arbitration—the most recent arbitrator being the Pope—Argentina has written in advance approving the arbitrator and binding itself to accept the award, pleasant or unpleasant. On both occasions the award turned out to be unpleasant for Argentina and the Argentine Government flatly declined to accept it. They said that for various unstated reasons their previous undertakings were no longer valid.
In the Falklands dispute there has already been an appalling breach of faith by Argentina. When Argentina joined the United Nations it agreed to adhere to the charter 509 like all other signatories. The charter incorporates the provision that if the Security Council issues a mandatory resolution it will be mandatory on all member States. On joining the United Nations Argentina made itself subject to the rules that had been accepted by the other signatories. When the Security Council issued the mandatory resolution 502 which Argentina refused to follow, it was already in direct breach of faith of international undertakings for the third time in recent years.
If we are successful in accomplishing our aims, we must ensure that the incident does not repeat itself in weeks, months or possibly years. We must be sure that there is some effective restraint. Mention has been made of a large naval contingency force. I do not believe that it has to be a large force, but in the interim, and for some time to come, we shall need something more substantial than hitherto, and not as far away as forces that are held normally in Portsmouth, or even on the Ascension Islands. There must be a presence sufficient to deter Argentina from repeating what it has undertaken.
I do not apologise for repeating that because the record shows that Argentine dictators come and go. There are some even more unpleasant characters in the wings. If there is an effective British success, for which we pray, in the next days or weeks, do hon. Members really believe that Mr. Galtieri is likely to survive? Can there be any doubt that the man who succeeds him will say that his predecessor betrayed him and the country and that Argentina still intends, at the earliest opportunity, to regain by force what it lost as a result of our action? I cannot contemplate with any equanimity our having this type of debate again if such a repetition takes place in the not-too-distant future.
In the European councils to which I belong—the Council of Europe and Western European Union—I have noticed that the support which was forthcoming at the beginning of the operation has to some extent been eroded. Of course, those who said that we had not had any support from Europe were not altogether fair. European Members of Parliament of 21 countries meeting at Strasbourg voted 150 to 1—the one vote being a Spanish Communist; the other five Spanish Members abstained—in expressing solidarity with the British point of view and condemning the Argentines.
Therefore, why has there been some erosion of the high level of support that we enjoyed in those first days? Paradoxically, the answer is that my right hon. Friends and, in particular the Prime Minister, have been so endlessly patient and persevering in trying to achieve a peaceful solution. Because the dispute has gone on for so long, human nature being what it is—I recall the old phrase about a nine days' wonder—people now talk about our invading the Falklands.
Some hon. Members have said that today. The fact that it was the Argentines who invaded the Falklands on 2 April is beginning to become clouded to some extent by that old maxim on which many criminals rely—possession is nine points of the law. The longer the dispute goes on, the more it will appear when it is resolved that we, as some hon. Members have said today, were doing the invading. We cannot say too often that to defend ourselves, our people and our territory cannot be regarded as an invasion. It is a repossession which, in law and in morality, we are fully entitled to carry out.
I am of a generation which, although too young to be in public life before the war, can well remember those 510 years and the principles which at least made me volunteer for the forces at the begining of the war. I make no boast about that; so did many millions of people in Britain. But the principles that guided me then as a young man are exactly those which impel me to say what I have said today.
It is odd that in many cases it is the same right hon. and hon. Members and other older men in Britain who have been most virulent in condemning those who then sought peace by what was called "appeasement", but is now more generally referred to as "detente", who before the last war and afterwards condemned the Government of the day for trying to seek peace by negotiation, believing that unprovoked aggression could safely be alllowed to occur, but leading in the event to the last war and who now attack us for resisting a new act of unprovoked aggression.
Even though I, like anyone else, am appalled at the thought of the casualties that might occur through the pursuance of our policies, I am certain that if we go back to the discredited concept that an act of unprovoked aggression can be allowed to succeed we shall open a Pandora's box of casualties in the future in comparison with which our casualties in the Falkland Islands will appear to be an infinitesimal minority.
§ Mr. Andrew Faulds (Warley, East)
It is one of those strange and happy facts that the hon. Member for Torbay (Sir F. Bennett) and I have been right on a number of foreign affairs issues a long time before most of our colleagues in the House. I have only to quote the arguments that we have made for the inevitability of making friends with China to offset the power of the Soviet Union and the centrality of the Palestinian issue to a real settlement of the Middle East problem, to make the point.
But I have to say that on a number of other issues I have had profound disagreements with the hon. Gentleman. One issue where I was right again, was the emergence of Robert Mugabe as the leader of the new, independent Zimbabwe. I do not think we saw eye to eye on that, and we do not see eye to eye on this issue.
I intend to make an unpopular speech. I have never exactly courted popularity in the House, nor with the parliamentary press, but I had hoped to speak earlier because of my boast, if I must use that word, of having been right on a whole range of foreign affairs issues. I am sorry to have to say it, but I think that I am right in my interpretation of the lunacies of what the Government are presently embarked on.
For an ex-imperial power to embark on a course of negotiations by pounding shot and shell into countries of the Third world is not an advisable policy. That is, tragically, how we have reacted to the totally illegal Argentinian invasion of the Falklands. We intend apparently with the near unanimous agreement of the House of Commons, to pursue that course by launching an assault on the islands and possibly by attacking the South American mainland. I do urge my colleagues to see the absolute lunacy and short-sightedness of such misjudged actions.
We started this unhappy operation with a large degree of world-wide support following Argentina's illegal occupation. We have already seen that support drain away as a result, in the first place, of our naval operations, and particularly the sinking of the "General Belgrano".The 511 Hispanic world has declared its support for Argentina. That is not surprising—it shares the same sort of memories of Spain's colonial exercises in South America.
The United States Administration has shown obvious concern about our intention to settle twentieth century problem of decolonisation by nineteenth century means. And we have gravely jeopardised America's relations with the whole of South America. Whether we believe that those relations were pursuing sensible courses or not, we have gravely jeopardised the possibility of the leading power in the world influencing what happens in South America, for good or for ill.
Our European colleagues have expressed their reservations—to put it mildly—about the Government's military intentions. And I believe the EEC action, in disregarding the Luxembourg compromise, is both a signal of how fed up our European colleagues are with the fabricated toughness of the Prime Minister, and a mark of disapproval for, if I may term it such, the Thatcher tantrum exercise in the South Atlantic, which is apparently, inevitably and inexorably leading us into a quite unnecessary war.
Do we really think it worth while damaging Britain's interests, Britain's standing in the world and Britain's enormous and extensive trading interests throughout the world to maintain an imperial outpost in the stormy wastes of the South Atlantic? That may not be how my colleagues see it, but that is how a large part of the world views this matter—
§ Mr. Faulds
—and a large part of the Commonwealth.
Perhaps we should try to see this issue as those outside forces see it by bluntly facing the facts with less cant about the self-determination of a minute settler community. The rest of the world knows, and we should more frankly admit, that for 20 years we have been trying—
§ Mr. Russell Johnston (Inverness)
Does the hon. Gentleman accept that most of the Falkland Islanders have been there longer than the Argentine population? I do not think that it is necessary to use offensive expressions such as "minute settler community".
§ Mr. Faulds
If I may be allowed to finish my speech, I shall explain what I mean by "minute settler community". I shall come to that in the next few moments.
We should frankly admit that for 20 years we have been trying to withdraw from this outpost of empire, if we could decently cede sovereignty. Every British ambassador over that period will confirm that view.
§ Mr. James Callaghan
I completely deny that myth which now has such currency that I doubt whether it will ever be corrected. Certainly the Administration with which I was connected between 1974 and 1979 never made any such proposal or had any such intention. We tried to establish relations between the Falklanders and the Argentines that would recognise the Argentines' special interests. The intention certainly was never to hand over the islands to the Argentines. Such a proposal was never made, nor was it thought of so far as I am concerned.
§ Mr. Faulds
Of course I accept my right hon. Friend's words because I have the greatest regard for him. But my 512 own experience—in having discussed this issue with a particular ambassador of ours and checked with another—is that the ceding of sovereignty was part of that exercise. If my right hon. Friend's Administration had no such intention, then of course I accept that, but the outside world has understood the intention of successive British Governments as being a wish and an intention to get rid of the problem of the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands.
§ Mr. James Callaghan
I am sure that some ambassadors thought that that was the right policy, but I want my hon. Friend to understand that that was not the policy of the Labour Government when I was Prime Minister.
§ Mr. Faulds
Of course I accept what my right hon. Friend has said, but I repeat that the outside world saw the issue in somewhat different terms. It is important to take those considerations into view.
What has gone wrong with the whole exercise is that we have too tardily pursued the discussions on the Falklands problem. We have given foolish endorsement to the islanders' determination to insist on their British ties. We really cannot, we must not, be held to ransom by the self-determination argument. We shall have to maintain a presence in the South Atlantic from here on in if that is what we intend to do.
What worries me too about the arguments that have been adopted is that the Falklanders hardly enjoy what that admirable gentleman Sir Nicholas Henderson has described as "democratic government" and what the Prime Minister described in her friendly little propaganda chat with Jimmy Young two mornings ago as "democratic institutions". That is simply not true. The Legislative and Executive Councils in the Falklands are part elected—and only recently part elected—and part nominated. Why do we maintain the argument that the Falklanders have had freedom, in the sense that we understand political freedom, when they have been kept under careful control by this neat arrangement which is largely dependent on the nominations of the governor and the Falkland Islands Company?
In any case—and this is where the self-determination argument comes in—the people on the islands are not an indigenous people. They are a settler community which went out from the impoverished parts of this kingdom, from Scotland and from Wales, when there were massive exoduses from this island because the economic circumstances dictated emigration. A whole range of those people settled in America and happily changed their nationality. Why should we be so terribly sensitive about our friends the Falklanders, who have Scottish and Welsh blood, when in every geographic and historic circumstance they should be thought of as having much more dependence on their relations with Argentina than on their very distant relations with the British Isles?
§ Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South-West)
The hon. Member is making an eccentric speech, as he frequently does. Will he please say who is in charge in Argentina? Are they indigenous people?
§ Mr. Faulds
No, they are not. The hon. Gentleman does not have to be offensive in his interventions. I am making a rational statement on the contrary arguments and I think when we come to examine the history of the period I may once again be proved right in my interpretation of 513 the facts. The hon. Gentleman is making my point for me. The Brits who went out to Argentina have happily accepted Argentinian nationality. The Italians who went out to Argentina have happily accepted Argentinian nationality. I am grateful for endorsement of my argument.
These settlers moved in to the islands after we had chucked out in 1833 an Argentinian administrator put in by the young Argentinian republic in 1828 or 1829. That has long rankled with South Americans generally in the history of the independence of their continent.
We have neglected the Falkland Islands reform. The reaction to the Shackleton report is proof of that. We left it to the Falkland Islands Company to control the economy of the island. Many of the islanders are only tenants of the company. Many retire to the Antipodes or return to the United Kingdom when their working days are over. There is only a proportion of the 1,600 or 1,800 islanders who are Falklands families by continuous settlement. That cannot be disputed. It is a settler community which has been there just 50 years longer than the settlers had been in Southern Rhodesia. And there in Southern Rhodesia, if anywhere, we should have taken military action against an illegal declaration of independence by a minority regime against the interests and against the wishes of a truly indigenous people. I do not remember many calls for action then by our Conservative colleagues, nor by the Prime Minister, nor indeed by some of my hon. Friends who are now vociferous for self-determination.
What appalling double standards this place is capable of. I can understand those of my hon. Friends who are incensed by the actions of a Fascist regime in Argentina with its appalling record of brutal repression of human rights, but where they are less than honest with themselves is in not recognising that the vast majority of people in Argentina and throughout South America back Argentina's claim to the Falklands, on both historic and geographic grounds. We must accept that even Fascist regimes cannot dismiss a country's claim to what are seen as its historic rights—rights which many other countries endorse, regardless of the regime that runs the country.
And now we have come to this near unbelievable and tragic situation in a mad wave of patriotic misjudgment, fostered by the appalling irresponsibility of the popular press—such as the jingoistic gibberish of soppy, hysterical scribblers like Jean Rook and the mystic nonsense of the recent article in The Times by that silly sage from South Down and his mystic nonsense about recovering our greatness if we embark on this exercise and we manage to shed some blood at the end of it.
And so stirred by all that sort of rubbish, Britain goes to war over the Falklands. And for what? For the retention of an outcrop of rocks in the waters of the South Atlantic? For a colonial vestige and perhaps for the reinstitution of the Company's right to run the islands? What worries me is that the prime purpose I believe is to prove what a man the Prime Minister is. That is what the person in the street thinks. [Interruption.] That may lead to a few giggles on the Government Benches, but that is what most of the people in our constituencies who support us and discuss these matters think that the exercise is about—that the Prime Minister has to prove what a man she is.
What psychological maladjustment lies behind her shrill toughness? I ask in all seriousness, how many young men must die in this unnecessary war to prove her mettle 514 and to provide justification for the dispatch of the task force? It is a tragic misjudgement which the leaders of my party misguidedly endorsed.
The excuse for the task force was to strengthen our hand in negotiations. It has failed to do that, as some of us warned that it would. But the logic of its dispatch had to end in actions of death and disaster. How can we in the Labour Party explain a policy which appears willing to strike but afraid to wound? How do we explain this to our people? We should have opposed the sending of the force from the beginning. We should have insisted on United Nations involvement from the start and dispensed with our American aid. And we should have given some sort of leadership and guidance to our people. And that has been desperately and sadly lacking in the whole exercise.
As it is, the Labour Party's position merely strengthened the Prime Minister's role, and gave our approval to what I am convinced will come to be seen as a shaming episode in our post-colonial history. We really have got to come to our collective senses. Are we really intent on launching an assault on these islands? It will be a bloody business because by now the Argentinians must have the best part of 10,000 troops on those islands. They have been fortifying them defensively with a whole range of armaments, and they may not prove to be such cowards as our expectations make them out. Hundreds upon hundreds of lads from Birmingham, from Glasgow, from Liverpool, from Portsmouth, from the London suburbs—most of them good, patriotic, working-class lads—will pay the price of this last shrug of empire. And they will pay it in suffering, in maiming and in death. And many many British working-class mothers will have cause to mourn, and so too will many Argentinian working-class mothers.
We really have got to resist the temptation, which seems to be abroad in this country at the moment, to go in regardless in a national spasm of a Tory Government in a temper. It is not in Britain's interests to continue this war and so endanger not only the lives of our troops, not only the islanders—who are involved in the whole exercise and cannot get out of it—but also young Argentinians. And we will damage our commercial and trade contacts throughout South America and with the Third world. They are appalled. It is in our interests to propose now a negotiating position which would gain the support of world opinion and help to restore Britain's somewhat damaged standing in the world.
I beg my colleagues on both sides of the House to foresee the danger and the damage that the present course of policy will do to Britain if we seek a military solution. We have to come eventually to a negotiated resolution of this little problem. As the former Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath), said during the last debate, we have to give the Argentines room to get out of their original offence. We will not do that if we take our latest negotiating position off the table. We must find a way of avoiding a resolution by military means of this totally unnecessary war. We must find a way of settling it—perhaps not amicably—but at least peacefully, so that the lasting scars of an unnecessary war between these two peoples can be avoided. It can be done if the Government's will is there to do it.
§ Mr. Neil Thorne (Ilford, South)
A Member does not realise how keen his colleagues are to get rid of him until 515 we have a crisis such as this on our hands and he is known to be a member of the reserve forces. Hardly a day passes without them asking why he is not yet in uniform and when is he about to leave for the South Atlantic.
§ Mr. Thorne
I wish to pay a tribute to the patience and care of the Government and their civil servants for the way that they are dealing with the present crisis. I believe that every possible action has been taken to try to reach a peaceful settlement.
Sadly, certain regimes are not prepared in any circumstances to deal with matters in a rational, sensible way. It seems clear that in Argentina there is an organisation that remains in power only because of its invasion of the Falkland Islands. If it were seen to condone a withdrawal it would fall quickly, for the simple reason that for so many years it has been staggering along from one internal crisis to another.
I believe, as do many of my colleagues, that this action was by way of a diversionary tactic in the same way as much of Hitler's campaign in Europe before the Second World War was designed as a diversionary tactic for the benefit of the German people. However hard the Government have tried, I do not believe that they could have achieved a rational and sensible response.
I should like to pay tribute to the support that we have received from our Commonwealth friends. Canada, Australia, New Zealand and other Commonwealth members have rallied to our support and given us every possible encouragement in trying to uphold international law and order. I was also pleased to see that our European allies were giving us backing, although I am disappointed that they have decided to extend economic sanctions only for a further seven days. That, I believe, was a grave mistake, because this country is not only shouldering a substantial burden with lives at risk, but is facing a considerable extra financial burden. I should have thought that if the Common Market maintains that it wishes to return some of the money that we are contributing towards the Common Market coffers—largely, it would appear, for the benefit of the farming community in France and elsewhere—it could have helped to carry some of the costs of our international policing efforts.
§ Mrs. Kellett-Bowman
Does my hon. Friend accept that the people of Europe are much more behind us than their Foreign Ministers appear to be? The European Parliament overwhelmingly passed a resolution endorsing the renewal of sanctions. It was the Foreign Ministers who let the side down.
§ Mr. Thorne
I acknowledge that to be so, but I wish that the European Parliament and the Foreign Ministers would turn their minds towards giving us some economic support in our role, which is for the benefit of the international community, not purely and simply for the Falkland Islanders. It is right and proper that we should look to them for a contribution towards the cost of the exercise.
One of the greatest problems facing the task force is the adverse weather conditions in the South Atlantic and the possible effect on both morale and equipment. We have 516 been extremely fortunate and successful in maintaining the equipment so far. I know that we have lost a number of helicopters, and the longer this period continues the more difficult it will be to sustain our position. I hope that it will soon be possible to land some of our men and equipment on one of the main Falkland Islands. That would relieve a lot of the pressure on the ships maintaining the blockade and would give us additional support for air power. I hope that my right hon. Friends will look carefully at the matter soon, because time is running out on our ability to maintain both morale and equipment for a long period of time.
I did not wish to follow the flambouyant speech of the hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds), except in one regard. I agree with him that we have neglected this area for too long. Constituents who have relations living in the Falkland Islands, or who were born there, have drawn to my attention the remarkable opportunities that are available in that part of the world. I do not believe that it will be necessary to maintain a permanent presence there with a garrison. In my view, any garrison of less than 3,000 would be quite unprofitable. If one sought to garrison an area of such a substantial size, one would have to think in terms of numbers of that size. In this case, I do not believe that it will be necessary to do that because, with the expertise that we have acquired during the past seven weeks, we should be in a position to mount a campaign, particularly from the Ascension Islands or elswhere. We should not expect to maintain a permanent substantial garrision in that part of the world, because it would be counterproductive and unnecessary after we had repossessed the islands.
Other facilities are available in that part of the world, quite apart from the Ascension Islands. There are ports in Chile and elsewhere that could be used. We have had agreements in the past—
§ Mr. Russell Johnston
With respect, it is contradictory, on the one hand, to hear a rousing denunciation of the Fascist dictatorship in Argentina and, on the other hand to be told that we should use ports in Chile.
§ Mr. Thorne
I am open to alternative suggestions from the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston), if he thinks that there is somewhere nearer where we can effectively maintain supplies. We do not necessarily have to agree with every organisation or dictatorship in the world before we trade with it. I have not heard of any territorial ambitions on the part of Chile towards the Falkland Islands. I do not hold with its type of Government, any more than I hold with that of the Soviet Union, but I am not proposing anything to cut off trade completely with either Government. If it is possible to make alternative arrangements through Chile, I hope that my right hon. Friends will consider that possibility.
§ Mr. Canavan
Is the hon. Gentleman enunciating a new principle: that it is all right to use Fascist military dictatorships as long as we are using them to our own ends?
§ Mr. Thorne
I believe that we should trade with countries, whether or not we agree with their type of Government. I do not believe that we should support the East German type of dictatorship, any more than we should support any of the other dictatorships of Eastern Europe. Nevertheless, I am not saying that we should not 517 trade with them. This is an entirely different matter. If we need facilities such as hospitals, closer to the Falkland Islands than the Ascension Islands, I see nothing wrong in purchasing facilities in Chile. The Government do not have to agree with what the Chilean Government stand for, any more than they should agree with what the Argentine Government stand for. If the Chilean Government were to express territorial ambitions towards the Falkland Islands or in Antarctica, it would be an entirely different matter. I do not believe that that is so. Therefore, the argument does not apply—unless, of course, the Opposition advocate that we trade exclusively with recognised democracies of a Western European type.
Much criticism has been mounted in the recent past against the news coverage. It has been suggested in the Chamber today that some papers are being extremely aggressive and unreliable and are putting forward a case for taking on the Argentines in war. We have the good fortune to have a free press, and the way in which it has presented its case to the public has generally been extremely fair and reasonable. The way in which it has spoken to its readers has not been unusual. It knows its readers a good deal better than some hon. Members seem to know them, and it should be allowed to express itself in its own way. I deplore any denunciation of the popular press in what it is doing in support of the Falkland Islanders at this time.
§ Mr. Stuart Holland (Vauxhall)
On those same grounds, can we expect the hon. Gentleman to deplore the Foreign Secretarys's criticism of the BBC for expressing its views on the Falkland crisis?
§ Mr. Thorne
I was about to come to the BBC. The way that it has conducted its broadcasts recently has been much more balanced than has happened in the past. It is important to know what a paper stands for, and it is equally important to know what a broadcast stands for. If the BBC puts out a broadcast of dissidents in the Conservative Party against Government action, the programme should make it clear that that is what it is doing, and that it is not putting forward a general Conservative Party viewpoint or the viewpoint of Labour dissidents. The programme should make quite clear what it is attempting to put over. Criticism has been justified to some considerable extent, but I think that the matter has been put right and that we now have a good balance. My view is that the press has done and is continuing to do a good job on this issue.
§ Mr. Jack Ashley (Stoke-on-Trent, South)
There is a startling and remarkable resemblance in the attitudes in Britain today to those of early 1914, before the so-called Great War. We have the flag waving, the emotional farewells to the troops, and the growing hatred for the enemy, all of which are redolent of that fateful period in British history. The hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Thorne) may well deplore the denunciation of the popular press, but the fact is that the tabloid press is practically handing out white feathers to all those who dare to express their reservations.
The public are becoming quite hysterical about the present situation, and so are some hon. Members. In this respect, we are no different from the people of Argentina, who are behaving in a similarly primitive fashion. We expect that from a nation that is under the control of a 518 junta, because it knows no better, but I am appalled when I see that kind of wild, flamboyant attitude to war in Britain, which is supposed to be the world's most mature political democracy.
We have been brought to this emotive state and the brink of war by repeated statements of over-simplified objectives, and they have been repeated today by the Prime Minister. We are supposed to be defending the islanders' interests and proving to the world that aggression does not pay. These objectives conveniently provoke the primitive reaction that Britain should teach the "Argies" a lesson. That is the language of the popular press—"Let us teach the Argies a lesson and show that Britain cannot be pushed around, and demonstrate to the world that Britain can show how the peace of the world should be preserved." Those are the sentiments of today. But the basic objectives of this or any other Government ought to be what is in the national interest. That is the objective, or ought to be.
The basic question is whether British interests are being served or damaged by invading the Falklands now that negotiations have broken down. Contrary to the views of most Members of Parliament, and contrary to the views of most people outside, I believe that our interests in Britain will be gravely damaged if we go ahead with the invasion of the Falklands.
I share the anger about the unprovoked aggression by Argentina. I, too, want action against them, but I believe that military action, which appears to be the most effective, will in fact be the least effective. Invasion will, by any standards, be a hazardous operation, depending as it does for air cover on the two floating platforms of the "Hermes" and the "Invincible" in Arctic seas, 8,000 miles away and within range of enemy missiles. The fact is that modern technology has rendered the most powerful naval forces vulnerable to the most unsophisticated enemy, and Argentina's forces are by no means unsophisticated.
Naturally, all war incurs risk, but if, God forbid, either the "Hermes" or the "Invincible", or both, were sunk we would literally be defeated as a nation unless we were to resort to our nuclear power, which I hope is unthinkable. We are taking this monumental risk and indulging in this crass folly for the sake of islands which, for very sensible reasons, successive Governments have been trying to give away for years.
I accept what my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), the former Prime Minister, said but many Governments have been trying to give away these islands. They have been baulked by the 1,800 Falkland Islanders. If ever there were a classic case of the tail wagging the dog, this is it. Unfortunately, we have had a vociferous group of Members of Parliament who have elevated that tail into a holy shrine and a matter of golden principle. Never did any nation lose its sense of proportion so foolishly and never did it dissipate its armed forces and the goodwill of its friends so wantonly.
Britain at war in defence of its own people against armed aggression from any quarter would win the admiration of the world, but Britain at war for islands that it has neglected and sought to abandon for two decades is an absurdity.
If we win the battle for the repossession of the Falklands it will be the beginning of a long war with Argentina in particular and Latin America in general. The island and the islanders—assuming that any of them are left alive after the battle—would be isolated from all supplies from the 519 mainland and vulnerable to continuous harassment and missile attack from Argentina. That is hardly likely to make a massive contribution to world peace.
The final proof of the folly of this invasion, if it takes place, will not be available for some years. It cannot be available tomorrow or the day after, but I have no doubt that it will become available. That will be when a British Government do what British Governments have been trying to do for the last past 17 years—cede the Falkland Islands. Then it will be proved how nonsensical, how farcical and how tragic has been this war in the Falklands. This invasion could turn out to be an international tragedy if the super powers are brought in, but that will not happen.
The Government are right to resist aggression, but let them do it by maintaining the blockade. Let them do it by intensifying economic sanctions and negotiating now what must be negotiated eventually. It will be slower and more painstaking to reach a solution that way, but it will lead to a negotiated settlement that will be enduring. That way we can resolve a deadly crisis without the deaths, without the horror, and without the decades of bitterness that would undoubtedly follow war in the Falklands.
§ Mr. David Atkinson (Bournemouth, East)
The message coming out of the debate tonight, especially from the Government side of the House, is the recognition that negotiations have failed; that every avenue to a peaceful settlement has been realistically explored and exhausted; and that, if our task force and the losses we have already sustained are to mean anything at all, the time for action is now.
I want to stress right away to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister that the decision to liberate the Falkland Islands now will receive the unreserved and wholehearted support of the vast majority of my constituents and of the British people.
It goes without saying that no one wants to see further bloodshed. Already we have seen hundreds of British and Argentine lives lost, both on land and at sea, for which the junta must be held wholly responsible. I have no doubt that the foundations have long been laid by those forces of ours who have already been on the Falkland Islands in the past few weeks for the most efficient occupation with the minimum of casualties on both sides. We must pray for that, especially for the islanders themselves, who are bound to be at risk, being caught in the crossfire and the shellfire, and could well be held as hostages during the conflict that is to come. I urge that when we decide to go in, we do not stop until we have the job done. There must be no repetition of the Suez fiasco. There must be no echo this time of the awful words of the Austrian dramatist, Grillparzer, who said about the Hapsburgs:It is the curse of our proud dynasty to move too late, to stop halfway, and to take half measures hesitatingly.If that were the case, it would have been better that the task force had never been born.
There will be faint hearts and cold feet at home and abroad as we go through with the liberation of the islands. Never let us cease to remind ourselves or the world that our action now is in response to Argentina's absolute and blind refusal to comply with United Nations resolution 502 and that we are acting in self-defence, totally compatible with United Nations article 51. When our action comes 520 under the full scrutiny of a United Nations debate—as it will, because the Soviet Union will see to it—let us accept no lectures on imperialism or colonialism, particularly when the people of Poland are burning red flags in rejection of superimposed Communism or when Afghan freedom-fighters continue to refuse to accept an alien occupation.
We shall be told that we are putting Britain's long-term interests in South America and elsewhere in the world at risk. My right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) referred to that point last week and the hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds) mentioned it today. British compatriots in Argentina have been telling us that all the time. That must be a consideration, but let us also consider why and how we came to establish our world interests and presence in the first place.
I should like to think that the world trades with us because our products are superior to those of the West Germans, for example. However, that is not necessarily so. I should like to think that the reason is that we offer better value for money than the Japanese. Would that that were the case, but it is not. Many countries choose to associate and to trade with us still because of other qualities for which we are peculiarly known as a nation—qualities which we are displaying and principles which we are now defending.
I applaud my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister for articulating those qualities and principles in such an inspiring way, which we have not seen since Churchill. To suggest that we should fudge, compromise or abandon our position now in favour of self-interest would do more damage to our standing abroad as well as to morale at home than any temporary loss of trade that may result from reasserting our sovereignty.
No events in history are directly comparable, but let us recall the Portuguese experience. Portugal was once a great power with colonies and interests similar to the Falkland Islands throughout the world. The power of Portugal declined and its empire disintegrated, as do all empires that fail to recognise the right of self-determination, as the Soviet Union is doing now slowly, surely but inevitably. Let us recall how easy it was for India to seize control of Goa in 1961. Portugal was shown up to be the weak and powerless nation that it then was. Following Goa came Angola and Mozambique. The consequences for the West remain to this day. Within a decade Portugal was on the brink of a Marxist revolution.
As I have said, nothing in history is directly comparable, but Britain's long-term interests will be far better served by standing up for ourselves and by liberating those islands now than by pussy footing, delaying and relying instead on economic sanctions and eternal negotiations.
I now turn to the question of sovereignty and the position that we should adopt once we have liberated the Falkland Islands. I welcome the confirmation by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister at the beginning of the debate that the concessions that we were prepared to make, which were the cause of a great deal of concern by Back Bench Conservative Members and people throughout the country, will now no longer be on the negotiating table. It is right to say, as has been said many times, that our position in the South Atlantic, in the light of the experience of the last seven weeks, can never be the same again. I fear that when we say that we may still have something to concede.
521 As a result of the experience of the past seven weeks we have all learnt a lot more about the Falkland Islands and Argentina than we knew before. The hon. Member for Warley, East said how much we had neglected the islands. We should pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Essex, South-East (Sir B. Braine), who has been tireless in his attempts to warn us of our neglect of the Falklands Islands, as has the Falkland Islands office in London.
But for the sovereignty issue, industry today would have been exploring and developing the substantial hydrocarbon accumulations that are known to exist, despite the depth and hostility of the waters. We should be foolish now to ignore, abandon or concede that long-term source of oil and gas. For that we shall require Argentine co-operation. That will be a factor in any future negotiations.
Moreover, let us be fully aware of the massive food resources from the seas, together with adjacent Antarctica. Modern technology there—there is no reason why it cannot be British technology—can be used to help to feed the world, the population of which will double in the next 25 years. It is all those untapped resources, together with the many inconclusive legal claims rather than the sovereignty issue, which should be the subject of future negotiations not just between this country and Argentina, but all the countries that have claims in Antarctica.
Has Argentina given any indication that, in the event of its claim to sovereignty being conceded, it will not exploit such resources for purely selfish, national use? If so, I am not aware of it. However, there is every sign of intense Soviet interest and involvement, which should never be far from our minds at this time. That should come as no surprise to us. Although Fascism and Communism are at opposite ends of the political spectrum, those two ideologies have a great deal in common. They share important characteristics—a hatred of parliamentary democracy, a belief in force, in revolution and in contempt for the law both national and international.
When we see how much the Kremlin is prepared to do business with Argentina, we can appreciate that, far from Communism and Facism being implacable opponents, they are ideological bedfellows. The Soviet Union today is Argentina's major trading partner. There is good reason to believe that it is helping Argentina to develop the nuclear bomb. It was Argentina that sabotaged President Carter's grain embargo on the Soviet Union following the events in Afghanistan.
We would be foolish to ignore those facts and trends as well as the great strategic potential that the Falkland Islands offer to the Western Alliance. In the circumstances, we should contemplate nothing that does not restore full British sovereignty to that part of the South Atlantic. That is why I hope that there will be no more hesitation. He who hesitates is lost. He who dares, wins.
§ Mr. Russell Johnston (Inverness)
We are in a grave and immensely difficult position. The Government, in their response to the invasion of the Falkland Islands, for which they have had wide support in the country and the House, have unquestionably been prepared to make considerable concessions to achieve a peaceful settlement. Today's Government document has made that clear and I unequivocally acknowledge it. That has been against the background of the dispatch of the task force, which has 522 been in position for some time and which has been involved in hostilities resulting in serious loss of life, both British and Argentine.
There is no doubt that the sending of the task force was supported by all parties in the House. It was seen as a necessary backing without which, given the nature of the Argentine Government and the fact of their invasion during negotiations, it was unlikely that a peaceful solution would be achieved.
I found the view of the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn), that the task force damaged our chance of achieving a peaceful settlement, difficult to understand. The right hon. Gentleman is a hawk with an ingrowing beak. He seems to advocate a peaceful approach that does not always work out. Essentially, he appeared to say that the sensible course was to increase economic sanctions and that that would be even more successful if there were no task force and no military action. I find that difficult to conceive. The idea that a world economic boycott of Argentina, for some 1,800 people in the Falkland Islands, could be sustained for any length of time is not a real proposition.
The support given to the task force rests on certain assumptions. Everyone knows that, irrespective of the right of self-determination of the islanders and the justice of restoring that right, if it had in the end to be achieved by military means, all parties recognised that it would be a solution of the last resort which presented great risks at a distance of 8,000 miles. That risk has been underlined in black by the sinking of HMS "Sheffield" and already we have had hon. Members referring to HMS "Invincible", HMS "Hermes" and, God forbid, the "Canberra" and the "QE2". The risks are enormous and we must be in no doubt of that.
Not only must we assess the correctness of what we do—that is enshrined in resolution 502 of the United Nations—but also what it is possible for us to do. We are not the United States. Perhaps there are hon. Members who still yearn for the time when we had the sort of power that the United States has. However, strong as we are, and effective as our forces clearly are, we no longer have the capacity of the United States. If we land on the Falkland Islands this weekend—if that course is taken, as the right hon. Leader of the Opposition said, we hope that it will be done swiftly and without loss—what afterwards?
It is proper to ask whether the Government have calculated what, first, can be done, and, secondly, sustained. I say that not to undermine the efforts that have been made but because it is essential at this critical time to realise clearly what we are doing. If the Falkland Islands are recaptured by force, we almost certainly commit ourselves to defending them for many years. I do not think that that is necessarily wrong, nor do I say that I do not want us to defend them. However, we must appreciate clearly what our action means and what burden it will lay upon us. We must face up to that burden. Irrespective of the remarks of the right hon. Member for Cardiff. South-East (Mr. Callaghan), the former Prime Minister, past Governments recoiled from that burden. Indeed, the Government drew back prior to the invasion, perhaps helping to precipitate the position in which we are now placed. If we recover the islands, we must face up to that burden.
I reinforce the words of the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) about the most recent 523 initiatives, the aide-memoire of the Secretary-General, Perez de Cuellar, to whom all hon. Members owe a great debt for his energy, calmness, diplomacy and objectivity.
If there is a chance of peace, it must be taken unhesitatingly. What do we lose by keeping our proposals on the table? That point has already been made by many hon. Members. What do we lose by saying clearly that if the Argentines, under pressure, come back with an acceptance of the Peruvian proposals we would be prepared to reactivate them? We lose nothing. We could gain lives and a stable outcome even at this late hour.
It must be in all our minds that a forced solution, while it would bring back freedom to the islanders, would leave the position unstable and unpredictable, perhaps making any rational economic development upon which a decent life for the islanders depends impossible for a long time.
One thing that this affair has brought into frightening focus is how near the surface lie the atavistic forces of nationalism. It is unreasoning. It is the most difficult of human drives, perhaps with the exception of religion, to contain, but in the end it must be contained, and contained in the South Atlantic.
Hon. Members have said that the islanders are few, approximately 590 families, mainly sheep farmers. I have met some of them such as the Luxtons, who were expelled, and John Cheek, men who are unused to the niceties of political language and who express themselves bluntly. They are very like a number of people whom I know in my constituency, islanders who are not all that excited about politics and who want to get back to the job and the place that they know and love. It repelled me to hear metropolitan Members suggesting early on that it was simply a question of giving them a grant and sending them to New Zealand, the Western Isles or some such place. They misunderstand deeply the profound, rightful affection that islanders develop for a place in which they have lived for many generations. They want to go home. I also found thoughtless and insensitive the remarks of the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse) about rocks in the South Atlantic and those of the hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds) about imperial outposts.
While I understand the wishes of the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East for peace—I desperately want peace—and those of the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell), their speeches make no mention of the unquestioned rights of these inoffensive people.
Have the Government any knowledge of the conditions in which the islanders are living? I know that there are difficulties, but have any of the islanders been imprisoned? Do we know what their position is in relation to food, water, hospital care and so on?
I sense a feeling in the House that a landing is inevitable. If that is to be, the calculation and the responsibility lie with the Government. Our thoughts and prayers will be with our forces who, in the bitter cold of the South Atlantic, will have the job of correcting political misjudgments—some with their lives.
§ Mr. Ivan Lawrence (Burton)
The unity of the House—with only one or two exceptions—will do a tremendous amount to boost the morale of our troops in the South Atlantic, as will the massive support of the British people. That massive support is evidenced in recent 524 public opinion polls and in our experience of our respective constituencies. In addition, we have the support of our friends in the Commonwealth, our friends in America, the EEC, Japan and other countries around the world.
We have heard tonight that one of those exceptions is the hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds). Fortunately, no one takes him very seriously when he dresses up and acts the politician. He may be more successful in some of his parts and I sincerely hope that he is. Another exception is the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) whom some, from time to time, take seriously. We shall see how many hon. Members follow him into the Lobby tonight in his attempt to show that the House is disunited and to lower the morale of our troops. He wants the troops to be turned back. He is a man of peace at all costs. Never has anyone been more hoist by his own petard than the right hon. Gentleman when he was felled by a question from my right hon. and learned Friend, the Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon).
In 1980, the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East was the chairman of the home policy committee of the Labour Party. He had something to do with the draft Labour manifesto in 1980. Paragraph 88 states:We reaffirm our commitment that under no circumstances will the inhabitants of the Falkland islands be handed over to any Argentinian regime which violates human and civil rights.We know what the Argentine Government do to human and civil rights now. What did the right hon. Gentleman mean when he was a party to the commitment "under no circumstances"? My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hexham asked him whether he meant under no circumstances other than when the Falkland Islands are taken by force. The only possible answer was "Yes", and with that the right hon. Gentleman—the arch appeaser of the moment—left the Chamber and has not been seen since.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, West (Sir J. Eden) said, there are only three options at this hour. We could turn, run and quit. As we shall see in the Lobby tonight, few hon. Members want that to happen. We could keep on talking, or we could liberate—that is the word—the islands. From the first moment that the Argentine tyrant invaded the Falkland Islands seven weeks ago—knowing full well that what he did was in clear breach of international law and against the wishes of the Falkland Islanders, who had no wish to be anything but British—we had an inherent right, under article 51 of the United Nations charter, to go in to end the occupation by military means.
How much more did we become justified in so doing in the days that followed, when the United Nations resolution 502 demanded the immediate withdrawal of all Argentine forces from the Falkland Islands? When the Argentines, far from obeying and withdrawing, proceeded to put more arms and men on the islands and invaded and captured South Georgia, which was not even part of the Falkland Islands, how much more were we justified in doing so? It became increasingly obvious as week followed week that the Argentines wanted the sovereignty of the islands and nothing but that sovereignty. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said this afternoon, they were prepared to use protracted negotiations to achieve that end.
However, we have made no fewer than seven attempts to achieve a negotiated settlement. No responsible country 525 in the world could have done more. It is almost astonishing to relate that there are still more demands for ever increasing delays from the Leader of the Opposition and other right hon. and hon. Members. How many more hours, days, weeks and months must we delay, while the seas upon which our troops are sailing become rougher, while the weather deteriorates, while our boys—yes, our boys—become more sick and while accidents may happen? How long must we delay before that spirit of enthusiasm that may make the difference between the morale of a winning side and that of a losing side goes off the boil?
It is all very well for perpetual peacemongers to get redder and redder in the face demanding that there should be no military action. Perhaps they do not care whether we betray the Falkland Islanders, the rule of international law, freedom and democracy or whether we betray the memories of those who have unfortunately already died. How long do they want to keep our troops there, as sitting targets that are more vulnerable to attack as the days go by? If HMS "Invincible" and HMS "Hermes" are sunk the day after tomorrow and hundreds of British lives are lost, will they still say "Let's talk"? If they will not say that after the ships have been sunk, why say it now?
§ Mr. Lawrence
For the sake of those ships and the men that we have sent into battle, if for no other reason, we can no longer expect delay. The Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary, the Secretary of State for Defence, the Chiefs of Staff and our commanders and forces on the spot have, to date, all shown extremely wise judgment and have handled the crisis with great skill and courage. I am certain that the overwhelming majority of those who sent me to the House will be content to leave the judgment of timing to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. If the time has come to invade—as I believe that it has—that action will be taken with the blessing and, I hope, the prayers of us all.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. If hon. Members make speeches lasting only nine minutes, the 10 hon. Members who still wish to catch my eye can be called.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Robinson (Coventry, North-West)
I am glad to participate in the debate, which will probably be a historic one and the last in the House before there is military action at a level that has so far not been seen during the crisis. I hope that I shall stay comfortably within your guidelines, Mr. Speaker, out of respect for those hon. Members who, like me, have attended throughout this debate and many others.
Some of my right hon. and hon. Friends wish to divide the House. I make it clear from the outset that I shall not join them in the Lobby. No hon. Member can take such a decision lightly. Each must make his own decision. I hope and believe that the vast majority of my hon. Friends will not join them. In saying that, I do not necessarily subscribe to the view that in voting tonight we do the House, the country or our troops great damage. I do not, for one minute, impugn my hon. Friends' motives or their sincerity. However, I disagree with their judgment of the situation.
526 Like every hon. Member, I must then ask myself why I support the Government's position. My support rests on the document, published today, as a result of which I am now more convinced than ever that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition was correct to ask for it. It does the country and the Government a great service. I do not for a moment pretend that it is the whole truth. We shall not know that until we have had a full inquiry, which will take a long time. However, the Prime Minister has properly promised that there will be such an inquiry. Nevertheless, I am well enough satisfied that it is the truth. From the paper, it is clear that the Government have shown seriousness of intent and sincerity of purpose in the pursuit of a peaceful settlement—several aspects of which must be deeply distasteful to many Conservative Members, Government Members and, not least, the Prime Minister.
If the Prime Minister were in the Chamber, I am sure that she would accept the criticism that her remarks have sometimes shown too strong a proclivity for a military solution. On balance—not all my hon. Friends, I am aware, would share this judgment—the Prime Minister has let her head rule her heart. She has been guided by others of a more temperate nature than herself in reaching the proposition spelt out in the document.
Where I disagree with the position, and where I think that the Prime Minister and the Government have unnecessarily wrong-footed themselves, is in the way in which they have abruptly withdrawn the proposals. Having tabled them as a basis for a peaceful settlement, they must have believed that it was an acceptable and honourable settlement—otherwise it would not have been tabled—and one to which they would expect the Falkland Islanders to subscribe, as they did themselves. However, they then withdrew the proposals almost before the Argentines had rejected them. I know that there has been a formal rejection by Argentina, but I hope that the withdrawal of the terms by the United Kingdom Government following that rejection by Argentina is more formal than substantive. I say that for three reasons.
First, by withdrawing the proposals so abruptly and unconditionally, as if to say "Those are the terms, you will not get anything like that now. We are going in for a fight and we shall come out with full sovereignty on our own terms" we shall give the wrong impression abroad. It went a long way to contradicting the idea that we wish to project of a country forced to take action, although it does not want to, but willing to compromise in a decent and honourable way with the country with whom we realise we shall sooner or later have to reach agreement over the long-term future of the islands.
I say that having had the opportunity to participate in television debates in Europe, in Italy and in France. There is not a great deal of understanding of why we are prepared to risk so much for, what is seen in Europe and elsewhere, so little, and why we have not been clearer about our aims and the concessions that we are prepared to make in obtaining them. I echo the words of my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) in saying how important this document is in showing how far the Government were prepared to go to reach a decent, sensible negotiated settlement. That is still not understood, although the document will go a long way to help that understanding. However, the withdrawal of the proposals will create the wrong impression, and will set us back further. Therefore, it should still be known that we are prepared at any time to settle on those terms.
527 That is the first of the three reasons, which hang together, why I think that it is wrong to have withdrawn the proposals.
The second reason is that that action will tend to foreclose an eventual option if—and every one of us hopes that it will not happen—there is no speedy and successful military solution. It may be that we shall be only too anxious to resort to this set of proposals, the option for which, by their withdrawal, we have, as I said, tended to foreclose.
The third reason is difficult to express, but it is an essential objection to what the Government have done. If we say that these proposals were all right for a peaceful settlement but not for a military one, it makes the proposals an unworthy settlement for which to fight. I hope that there will be a successful outcome to any military action that is undertaken. However, if we send our soldiers, sailors and marines to fight with the idea that the only thing that they are fighting for is an outright, uncompromising and unconditional victory over the Argentine invader it will be seen as, and we shall foster the idea of its being, a sell out when we come back later, as surely we shall, to some sort of political settlement and compromise.
This set of proposals is the only plain, logical and coherent solution for the islands. We must not let the idea of victory or nothing, or that it is a choice between a military victory and a political sell out, get abroad. We must foster the idea that it is not ignoble to fight for a United Nations trusteeship of the Falklands. It is the only sensible and logical conclusion for a long-standing problem in this tiny but troubled part of the world. It is by distance too far, and by numbers too small, to be part of our kingdom. It has its own long-established traditions and belongs to itself. It comes logically under arrangements that could be negotiated with it for a United Nations trusteeship.
I urge the Government to look to this as their long-term solution and to remain as flexible in their conduct of the possibilities for negotiation, even as the military operations start and continue, as they have been in the events that have led to this crisis. Now is not the time for us to say that the Government are wrong, or that it is a Tory Government and therefore wrong. I should rather believe in this Tory Government, the Prime Minister and her Ministers who are part of the War Cabinet than what has come out of Buenos Aires. Anyone who has listened to the news bulletins in the past few weeks can logically and honestly come to only that conclusion.
I shall not be joining those of my colleagues who wish to vote against the Adjournment tonight. It is part of the democratic process and the strength of our democracy that they can and do vote. We should not impugn their motives though we disagree with their arguments. But the fact is that the Government have come forward with a set of proposals that can provide the long-term political solution that we all wish to see. Let us hope that it can still be obtained at this late hour.
§ Mr. David Crouch (Canterbury)
The hon. Member for Coventry, North-West (Mr. Robinson) referred to the Prime Minister using her head rather than her heart. We are fortunate that the Prime Minister has both a head and 528 a heart. We should be grateful for that in the country, in the House, and in the Conservative Party. Listening to the Prime Minister this afternoon and reading the document, we realised for the first time how desperately hard the Government have tried over the past seven weeks to obtain a peaceful solution by diplomatic means.
We know that the Prime Minister will not flinch from the military option. She made that clear, and it is right that she should not. She has also shown that she has great patience and is prepared to go overboard to try for a solution. In the document many additional tactical withdrawals have been inserted in an endeavour to try to obtain a diplomatic solution. Clearly the Prime Minister and the Government have been rebuffed on every occasion. I agree with the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), a former Prime Minister, that the document should be made available and distributed on a wider scale to the Heads of State around the world.
The latest response from the junta has been all too clear and stark. It must know that it and we are on the brink of war, but it seems to be prepared to turn its back on this last chance for peace. What can we do now, in the face of this final procrastination? We have shown how hard we are prepared to fight to find a peaceful settlement. Unfortunately, we must now consider a military solution. We are ready, and we have been forced to do no less. It does not delight me, as hon. Members will know, and I hope that we shall continue to keep the diplomatic door open. Much reference has been made to this. It is important that we should do so.
I hope that the military operation, which I am convinced will be successful, will be carried out with the least possible casualties and suffering. Perhaps the Argentine people, underneath the junta, will declare that it is ridiculous for them to fight when they have been offered such generous terms.
I have been criticised for appearing on "Panorama" not once, but twice. On the second occasion, I felt that the BBC was, to use that time honoured phrase, falling over backwards to show that my views were in the minority in the Conservative Party. Perhaps it has succeeded. It did it with fun and good taste and I am prepared to accept it for what it was.
For my first appearance, with that dissident view, I have been criticised by some for being on the programme at all, as though it were wrong to be associated with the BBC. I have been criticised by others for beng a dissident voice. I can understand that. Members of Parliament must be prepared to be criticised when they get up and make speeches in this place or anywhere else. They must be prepared to face their critics and explain their point of view. I am so prepared. I should have been prepared on the first "Panorama" programme to have had one of my critics, one of those with a different view from mine, beside me to counter my arguments.
Few people know exactly what I said. Many who have not seen the programme, but have heard what was in it, have condemned what I said. It is said that I was wrong to criticise Government action because I belong to the Conservative Party. It is said that I was wrong to hold a different view. At once I was being judged to be wrong and it was said to be my fault. It is not wrong to hold a different view, provided that one can explain that view. I chose my words carefully, after considerable thought, and even now, two weeks later—I made the recording two weeks ago today—I stand by everything that I said.
529 In the Library there is a full typescript of the programme, but I shall summarise briefly my four main points. First, I said that the sending of the task force was right as the strength behind the diplomatic action. I also supported the resolve to use the task force if a peaceful solution could not be found.
Secondly, I said that all along we had been rebuffed by the Argentines and that at every stage they had turned down the peace proposals that had been submitted. I said:This is where the fault lies … In the end … there is going to be blood and tears on both sides.I wished to fight hard, not with the military option but with the diplomatic option, to avoid reaching the blood and tears stage.
My third point was about the Falkland Islanders. There perhaps I trod on thinner ice and was more contentious. I praised their loyalty. The first speech that I made in this series of debates was about the Falkland Islanders, because many of them in my constituency have visited me. I said of them:It just isn't reasonable to say that 1,800 people should determine our foreign policy and defence commitment.I went on to point out that we have a foreign policy and defence commitment in NATO and elsewhere in the world of great proportion and significance and that we have a potentially great adversary in the Soviet bloc. However, perhaps I was on thin ice.
My fourth point was about our duty to defend our territory and our people and, even wider, to defend freedom. We must stand up to dictators. That is hardly a dissident view, but perhaps what I went on to say was misunderstood. I said that, if the war escalated, I believedthat we may be judged to be standing on our dignity for a colonialist ideal rather than these wider ideals that we are standing on now.I did not say that I believed that we were standing on colonialist ideals, but that we might so be judged if the war escalated. That might yet happen, but we must wear those difficulties, as a politician must wear the difficulties of criticism.
I did not say that I would not support a military escalation when asked that question. I made it clear all along that I would be prepared in the end, if peaceful solutions did not appear, to go to that limit. However, I added that I believed that it would be "disastrous". I copied that word from Secretary of State Haig. I believed that it would be disastrous because we would lose much support for our rightful aims. I was thinking of disaster not so much in blood and tears, which is disaster enough. All wars are disasters, not triumphs. They are disasters for many families. They are also disasters for the overall main foreign policy intent of Britain and the Western Alliance.
Perhaps the area of greatest interest in the world for development in the next 30 to 50 years are the South American States. Perhaps the Soviet bloc, with its small outpost in Cuba, is anxious to operate in that potentially exciting area of development of resources and people. There could be a disaster if we allow the Soviets to fish in muddy water.
The Falkland Islands crisis or war is a delicate and dangerous subject. It is dynamite. It is very upsetting to people. Was I wrong to plead for more time for our diplomatic efforts to succeed? When I listened to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister this afternoon, I did not believe so. Those extra two weeks have been valuable. They have produced a valuable document on which a 530 peaceful solution could yet be established, a settlement created and friendship re-established with Argentina and the other nations of the southern hemisphere.
I am in good company. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is the good company that I keep. Two weeks ago some people said that we had talked enough and that we should send in the marines. That is a correct point of view in the logic of some, but it was not my point of view. The great principle of freedom was and is at stake. The world is watching Britain today to see whether we have the determination to show that aggression will not be tolerated and to see whether we are prepared to defend and fight for democracy. I was biased in favour of diplomatic action if we could achieve those aims by diplomacy.
The two weeks since then have shown that the Government were also in favour of that course. They have not been dragging their feet. It has been said of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister that she is using her head. So did the Foreign Secretary in our previous debate on 13 May when he said:The Government remain determined to see the implementation of the mandatory resolution of the Security Council. As before, we infinitely prefer to achieve this by negotiation."—[Official Report, 13 May 1982; Vol. 23, c. 958.]I still believe that, and I am in good company with the Foreign Secretary.
I recognised that if the negotiations failed we would have no option but to switch the emphasis to the military solution. I have always had full confidence in the task force. It has my full and loyal support. I have no doubt about its professionalism, courage, modern training and equipment. We wish it god-speed.
I do not believe that I was wrong to speak out for a peaceful solution and to try to avoid the tragedy of war. Wars have a momentum of their own. Surely in these sophisticated and dangerous days, when wars are lot fought by men with limited fire power, we should think first of the diplomatic solution rather than go immediately for the military solution
I saw it as my duty to speak out to the Government, to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, to the Conservative Party, to my constituents and to the task force. Perhaps it was a dissident voice, but I spoke because I believed that I was right and that I should be heard. That is not disloyalty. It is what we are prepared to fight for today. It is democracy.
§ Mr. Stuart Holland (Vauxhall)
I am not sure whether it will be an advantage to the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch) if I say that his arguments are notable by their exception among Conservative Members. The plea that he has made for time in this issue seriously to consider the basis of negotiations would have been even more welcome had it come from the Government Front Bench.
The hon. Member drew attention to the fact that we are facing warfare of a completely different kind from that of the Second World War. This is no longer the battle of the River Plate. This is no longer a matter of better morale, of which we heard from Government Benches, the faster turning circles of our ships, the more rapid rate of fire from the "Ajax" and "Achilles".
A missile war at sea is over in seconds rather than hours or days. We have seen that already in the case of the Exocet and the "Sheffield". How many hon. Members are actually aware that according to French sources Argentina 531 is one of the very few clients for all three varieties of the sea-skimming Exocet missile and that this missile is not simply launched by the Super Etendard fighter? They have two varieties of this missile deployed on both frigates and destroyers. The question is, therefore, posed whether the House should be surprised, if an invasion force approaches the islands, why the Argentines have been holding back from releasing or launching those missiles?
The question has been very well put by my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) that we may all find in an invasion that we face the same disaster as occurred to the "Prince of Wales" and the "Repulse" through superior Japanese air power during the Second World War. The whole venture of an invasion in these terms may be the most massive misadventure, not only for our troops but for the country.
I do not criticise the Government's policy for being jingoistic. The jingle relating to that term is:We don't want to fight but by jingo if we do we've got the men we've got the ships we've got the money too.It is questionable whether Government policy has any of those three key categories. We have the men, but they have gone to the Falklands with redundancy notices recently delivered into their hands. We have the ships, but only through a rent-a-fleet because of the rundown of our conventional naval forces. We have the money—or have we? The question is there to be asked inasmuch as it has already been made apparent that the money may have to be found by cuts in public spending on housing, health and education. Moreover, tragically enough, it is not apparent that the Government, or the Prime Minister in particular, "don't want to fight". That is not made evident by the documentation which, with other hon. Members, I am glad to have seen put before the House today. It is not made evident precisely because of the point just made by my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, North-West (Mr. Robinson). If we are not going to fight and are not going to invade, why are those documents not still on the negotiating table?
There is a further factor. There have been many criticisms made in the debate of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn). Some of them were unworthy of those who made them. We are short of time and I shall not reply to them directly. We have not heard one word from Conservative Members that meets the points that he made on the case for economic sanctions backing up diplomatic action rather than resorting to war. If ever a country was ripe for effective application of sanctions, it is Argentina. It has $32 billion worth of debt. Argentina's total foreign exchange earnings do not cover its debt interest to the international community. We have seen the Bank of England rolling over Argentine debt, and the Government have imposed no sanctions or penalty on British-based merchant banks which have removed to Switzerland to carry on their business during the war. What conclusion can we draw from this? That there is a truce for profits but not for our troops.
The tragedy is that perhaps the Government have seriously considered the arguments for applying economic sanctions. Perhaps the Government are aware of the incredible inflation in Argentina. The fact that the Argentine people had their hands round the throat of that 532 Government was, after all, one of the reasons why that Government went to war in the first place, and we are aware of it.
So why have our Government not applied sanctions? One is regrettably forced to the conclusion that they could not face the possible collapse of certain banks in the Northern hemisphere if Argentina, with her scale of loans, defaulted. That reflects the failure of monetarist policies, on the slump syndrome in the North which has aggravated the financial situation of those banks. It also reflects the total failure of the Government, with certain other Governments—notably that of which the Prime Minister herself is so fond in the United States—to undertake measures to ensure that the financial instability that could be caused would be offset by joint action by the central banks. That certainly could be done. The underwriting of the loans, whatever the main names of the banks in question—big banks would be at risk—by joint action by the central banks could ensure that the private banks would not collapse. The pressure on Argentina would be such that most probably it would be forced to come to the negotiating table and sign on terms or face the humiliation of the total collapse of its foreign exchange.
In that sense, sanctions have not been tried. Regrettably there is a link between the monetarist policies of the Government, including their failure to pursue policies to intervene and sustain markets, and the Government's militarist policies—for that is essentially what they are—in terms of their invasion of the Falkland Islands. Some Conservative Members have said that we should not be talking about "invasion". The vocabulary is open to choice, but when we reoccupied the mainland continent of Europe in the Second World War that term was used for the D-Day landings.
The right hon. Lady also talked about her record of diplomacy and the efforts that she has made, as if she were the Canning of this new era, whereas it is precisely the whole tradition of Britain's relations with Latin America, based on Canning a century and a half ago, which she has thrown into question by her militarist posture. That is how the policies she is pursuing are seen abroad. For a Prime Minister who advises us that we need to spend £15,000 million a year on defence because of the Soviet threat in terms of world expansion, she has achieved the almost unparalleled feat of bringing Cuba and Argentina into each other's arms with the sponsorship of the Soviet Union. I share with other hon. Members the concern about how this is viewed in Latin America and elsewhere.
The Government's policies also have thrown into question the neo-imperialist heritage of this country in the eyes of world opinion. One thing should be made clear. British occupation of the Falkland Islands was in no sense imperialist. It was not a matter of one State imposing its will over another foreign State. It is Argentina's invasion of the Falkland Islands, where it did not have people settled, which is imperialist. But the moral basis for opposing such action is undermined by precisely the manner in which the Government are pursuing their militarist policies.
I end on this point. Some Conservative hon. Members have claimed that we on the Opposition Benches who will vote tonight on this issue are appeasers of the Argentine. Nothing could be further from the case. What has not been tried is a combination of international economic sanctions and United Nations action. The scenario could well have been a period of effective sanctions under the aegis of 533 Security Council resolution 502 with a deadline possibly set on the Government's terms, if the Government had been willing, and the United Nations backing a joint policing action in the South Atlantic with overwhelming force. If there was a wish to use force in the South Atlantic, why could it not have been done on those terms as in the case of United Nations involvement in South Korea?
Safeguards for the islanders have been neglected and invasion is a risk. With modern missile technology, an invasion now will not be in the style of the raid on Entebbe not least because we lack the element of surprise. It may be a minor Gallipoli. If so, it will be a disaster not only for those involved but for this country.
§ 8 pm
§ Sir Bernard Braine (Essex, South-East)
It was a pity that the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot), in an otherwise interesting speech—he has a duty as Leader of the Opposition to probe and to criticise—saw fit to say that some hon. Members had disparaged the efforts of the United Nations Secretary-General. That is untrue, certainly so far as I am concerned. No one who has experienced war ever contemplates military action with equanimity. What must be now must be, but I have remarked in broadcasts in this country, to the United States and to more distant parts of the world, that there has been a real appreciation of the tireless efforts of Secretary of State Haig initially and of the Secretary-General more recently to avoid recourse to arms.
I have stated repeatedly that it has been right for the Government to be patient and to give the Argentine Government a way out, if they were willing to take it. It is also right that there has been this series of debates in the House. After all, the essence of parliamentary Government is accountability. A point that I have not yet had an opportunity of making, I make now, namely that looking back, it is not unfair to comment that if more attention had been paid to the Falkland Islands and their inhabitants and if Ministers had been called more frequently to account for their ambivalent attitude over the years we would not be in this dangerous situation now. I am referring to their protestations on the one side that the interests of the Falkland Islanders would be fully safeguarded and were paramount, while on the other their policies were designed to force the islanders into a dependence upon Argentina for their external communications.
I remind the House of what was stated by Lord Caradon at the United Nations in 1968. He was quoted by the then Foreign Secretary, Michael Stewart, when the Government were challenged on the subject at that time. Lord Caradon said:There are two basic principles we cannot betray; the principle that the interests of the people must be paramount and, second, that the people have the right freely to express their own wishes as to their future".The tragedy is that the policies never matched the words. The result was that the Argentines were given the impression that we did not really care about the islands and that we were not prepared to face any dramatic putsch on their part. If we had paid attention to this matter, as some of us urged repeatedly in the House, we would not now be in this dangerous and worrying situation. It was ever thus. Little dangers by being despised grow great, and warnings ignored become terrifying realities.
534 None of those who had issued warnings over the last two decades had any idea that Argentine aggression would take the form that it did on 2 April—a full-scale military occupation. But the risks were clear to all but the blind, the deaf and the perverse. There was Operation Condor in 1966. A party of armed Argentines descended upon Port Stanley. They were rebuffed, but it was clear it would happen again unless we took firm action. It was a warning. The Falkland Islanders at that time begged Parliament to be vigilant. An hon. Member sneered at their legislature. I remind him that the Parliament in the Argentine was not only suspended five years ago but some of its Members have since disappeared, no doubt into the prisons and torture chambers of the junta. Unofficial Members of the Falkland Islands Legislature wrote an open letter to Parliament alleging that secret talks about transfer of sovereignty were taking place between the two Governments and appealing to hon. Members, because they did not wish in any circumstances to live under Argentine rule.
The principle of self-determination is enshrined in the United Nations charter. The situation had been described perfectly by Lord Caradon at the United Nations, on the instructions of the Government of the day. The principle has been recognised for all peoples in our former colonial empire. I expect it to be respected here, whatever lies ahead. However, after listening to some hon. Members and some commentators, it appears that in their view self-determination or paramountcy should not stand in the way of some eventual accommodation with Argentina.
It is ironic in the extreme that the one dependency that according to these folk should be denied self-determination is one where the population is wholly British, where there is no ethnic minority, no split allegiance and no desire for independence.
Moreover, despite pledges made to Parliament, Governments here have sent signal after signal to Argentina—I do not say deliberately—that the principle of self-determination is not one which, in the end, would be allowed to stand in the way of agreement.
No extension to the airport runway was permitted. The Argentines were given a monopoly of fuel supply. They were allowed to stay in South Thule without interference. HMS "Endeavour" and the White Ensign were withdrawn from the South Atlantic. Incredibly, all this was allowed to happen against the background of unstable government in Argentina, brutal suppression of political opposition, including trade unions, denial of human rights and the killing, torture and imprisonment of thousands of innocent people.
I have referred to past events quite deliberately. As we move towards expelling Argentina from the Falkland Islands by force, it is essential that we should have a clear idea of our objectives. Listening to the Prime Minister, I get a clear message. Argentina must withdraw by peaceful means if possible, and by force if necessary. British authority must be restored. The islanders must be given the opportunity to indicate their wishes as to the future. But this nation will never forgive a Government who, having expelled the invader from our territory, then submits to pressures which, in the end, gives Argentina what it wants. If that happens, two questions will arise: first, who was responsible for the betrayal of the islanders in the first place; and, secondly, why did we embark on a military operation that cost British lives only to throw away the fruits of victory?
535 I come now to my central argument. We have no quarrel with the Argentine people. There is no sense of false patriotism in the attitude of those of us who want to stand up to a brutal dictatorship. After all, the first victims of the Argentine's military junta were not Falkland Islanders; they were Argentines. Their number could be 15,000 or 30,000. No one really knows. What we do know is that today thousands of Argentine families are grieving for loved ones who have disappeared into the junta's prisons and torture chambers. As has been said, in the long term there is plenty of room for a mutually advantageous and functional partnership but it will have to be with a different kind of Argentine. We should seek that by every possible means.
What can one say, however, in defence of those who have been advocating what is effectively a sell-out, either without military action or after it, when it is obvious that we are dealing with a Government who have almost the worst human rights record in the world?
The right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale spoke of the assessment that he thought that the United Nations Secretary-General could still make. It would be unrealistic if the Secretary-General left out of his assessment the report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights which was made to the United Nations as recently as 1980. Why is the right hon. Gentleman, and other passionate devotees of human rights and freedom so coy to avoid mention of the appalling crimes of the junta, the worst of which were committed when the last Labour Government were in office?
Amnesty International can supply any hon. Member with a long list of named persons who have been tortured and killed or who have disappeared in the past five or six years. The list includes not only men but women and children. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights report concluded that not only have thousands of people disappeared since 1975, but that there was a systematic use of torture and other cruel, inhumane and degrading treatments. Those of us who have inquired about specific cases over the years—long before the invasion of 2 April—have met with a blank wall of silence.
The gallant captain Astiz, the senior officer on South Georgia who is wanted by the Governments of Sweden and France for killing and torturing women, is but one of a large army of sadistic brutes who are employed by the junta. Moreover, General Menendez who commanded III Army Corps in whose area was located one of the worst of the torture centres is surely the man who is today the governor of the occupied Falkland Islands. The Secretary-General of the United Nations knows the facts perfectly well. I am sure that the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale also knows them perfectly well. The right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) must also know them. Such facts cannot be ignored. The nettle must be grasped. One can see at once that it would be impossible for any British Government to agree to any proposals, either in the interim or in the long run, which will put Falkland Islanders under the control of the Argentine dictatorship.
I have one final thought for those who believe that we must not accept the paramountcy of the Falkland Islanders' wishes, and who think that we can conveniently forget what Lord Caradon told the United Nations in 1968. Some of the elected representatives, to whom the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston) referred in kindly terms, are in Britain. They have told us here in the Palace of 536 Westminster that they believe that their people will refuse to live under Argentine rule. Hon. Members should consider where that leads.
Any settlement that offers the prospect that I have outlined and which opens the door to the islanders being swamped by Argentines some time in the future—not necessarily in the next six months or a year—is likely to lead to their demanding resettlement elsewhere. Who would blame them? It would be a solution of a sort. It has been suggested by various commentators writing in the quality press who recoil at the sight of blood but pay no attention to the suffering of those who are in the junta's prisons and torture chambers. It would be ironic if we were to embark on a course which led the Falkland Islanders to leave, and the islands being handed over at some time or other and under some formula or other to Argentina. That would not merely put the clock back to 2 April; it would put it back to 1833 since when the islands have been occupied by a decent, god-fearing, hard-working and democratic British community. It will then be asked "Why did you bother to send a task force? Why did the men of the 'General Belgrano' and the 'Sheffield' have to die?"
In those circumstances, one would be tempted to recall the grand old Duke of York, who marched his army up the hill and then down again, an exercise in complete futility. But it would be worse than that. We would be guilty of a base betrayal and would be regarded both in Britain and throughout the civilised world with contempt, and deservedly so. I shall not rehearse the arguments as they have been made eloquently by others, but the message that "aggression pays", the burglar should be allowed to enjoy his loot, would go out to the world. That must not be.
§ Mr. Alfred Dubs (Battersea, South)
I was interested to hear some of the denunciations of the Fascist regime in Argentina by the hon. Member for Essex, South-East (Sir B. Braine). I know that he has a good record on denouncing that regime and other manifestations of Fascism. I wish that he were not almost a lone voice on the Conservative Benches making such denunciations.
During the past seven weeks, the world has watched with disbelief two nations heading for war. I am pleased that the world, through the United Nations Security Council, has given us backing through resolution 502. I was dismayed and astonished by a recent statement of President Galtieri. He said that he did not mind if as many as 40,000 Argentine lives were lost holding the Falkland Islands. It makes one wonder about the mentality of a leader who is willing so blindly to disregard the lives of 40,000 of his people. He is apparently willing to sacrifice them in a cause of his own making.
We have every right to recover the islands—by force if necessary—and to throw the Argentines out. The question is whether we ought to exercise that right. Other nations have had that right. Often they have decided that it was not sensible to exercise it.
Are the principles at stake sufficiently important and clear-cut to justify the possible substantial loss of life that would be entailed in the recovery of the islands by force? If our use of force is successful—as I assume it will be—will there be a sufficiently stable and long-term outcome to have made the whole enterprise worth while, bearing in mind the possible loss of life? If the answer to either question is "No"—I suggest that it is—we must ask ourselves whether it is right to recover the islands by force.
537 There would be nothing wrong in our deciding that, having examined the issues at stake, the possible loss of life can not be justified.
What makes the issue seem less than clear-cut? First, we must consider the question of sovereignty. As we have for many years been willing to discuss the sovereignty of the islands with the Argentine Government, we should think hard before we say that, as of today, the sovereignty of the islands is so important that we will send many men to recover them to re-establish our sovereignty.
Secondly, is our claim to the islands clear-cut? Having been a British possession for about 150 years, in all probability the International Court of Justice, if asked, would back our claim. Nevertheless, we acquired the islands, uninhabited as they were, because we sent a task force to them. For a period the Argentines, or their predecessors, when they were under the rule of Spain, laid claim to the islands. That leads me to wonder whether our claim is clear-cut. I suppose that the past 150 years give us a claim in international law.
Thirdly, the Falkland Islands are not and never will be a viable State. When we discussed the British Nationality Bill, the Government ensured that the Falkland Islanders would not have full British citizenship. We are 8,000 miles away from the islands and we cannot sustain economic life upon them. Therefore, the only option is for the islands to have closer ties with the South American mainland.
Many of us agree that there is an extremely unpleasant Fascist regime in Argentina. However, it seems an inescapable conclusion that any alternative Government in Argentina—democratic, socialist, or a combination of the two—would make a territorial claim to the Falkland Islands. I trust that such a Government would not use force to fortify that claim.
Against that background I question whether the recovery of the islands by the use of force is worth the loss of life that may be entailed. I do not say that we should do nothing. Other hon. Members have spoken eloquently about the possibility of exercising greater pressure on Argentina by introducing tougher economic sanctions and other economic and political measures. I seek to make a distinction between the rights of the islanders and our attitude towards the islands themselves.
We have a responsibility to the islanders to ensure that they are not forced to live under a Fascist regime. Surely that is different from saying that we have sovereignty over the islands and that it must be re-established by military means. We could, even at this late stage, hand over the islands to the United Nations Trusteeship Council and allow it to exercise administration over the islands, provided that the islanders were involved in their internal self-government under the auspices of the United Nations.
It seems that shortly the troops will be going in. This evening we do not wish to say or do anything that will prejudice the lives and safety of our men in the task force. However, given our democratic traditions, that consideration does not mean that there should not be a free debate, and possibly a Division, in the exercise of our traditional rights. Our concern about the well-being of our men in the task force will not be weakened when we exercise our democratic right this evening. They are brave and skilful men, and they have demonstrated clearly that they are willing to do their duty. The question that is implicit in 538 many of the speeches that have been made in the debate is whether that duty is one that we have a right to ask of them, given all the facts that must be taken into account.
Even at this late hour I hope that the Prime Minister will pause before there is a full-blooded invasion of the islands. I hope that she will pause to allow further negotiations. I fear that she will not. If we are to use more force than hitherto, it is important that the world should be clear about our aims in using that force. Not having our previous negotiating base on the table will make it more difficult for us to explain to the rest of the world that we are doing other than recovering the islands by military means. I urge the Government to tell the world—especially our friends and allies—exactly what it is that we are embarking upon.
I am not in sympathy with the thrust of the Government's policies. However, if the Government insist on using the task force to its full and on stepping up military measures in the South Atlantic, I hope that those measures will be effected speedily and that the islands will be recovered easily and with the minimum loss of life on both sides.
§ Mr. Ian Lloyd (Havant and Waterloo)
I am sure that all hon. Members who participate in debates on the Falkland Islands speak with the utmost conviction and sincerity. I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House recognise the expression of feeling of all hon. Members. It has been somewhat disturbing that some of us should have been criticised for being raucous militarists. I was the initiator of a motion that was so interpreted. I lost many friends in the Second World War and I was involved in it myself. There can be no one of my generation who embarks on decisions of war or peace without the utmost gravity and responsibility. No such views are expressed lightly and no such decisions are taken lightly.
I was concerned when the hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds), who is unfortunately not in his place, introduced some of the most objectionable comments that I have heard in the debate by suggesting that we are about to embark on a class war and that only those of a particular class are likely to suffer.
Some months ago I had the great privilege to make a pilgrimage to Delville Wood, on the Somme, where some thousands of men of the Commonwealth were buried. As it happens, it is the burial ground for about 2,600 men of the South African Brigade. I expect that those who died were not greatly concerned whether they came from a racial society or any other type of society. They made the supreme sacrifice. No one who has stood in such a place and experienced the eerie and uncanny silence can do otherwise than speak as I do this evening.
Some of the remarks of the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) turned on the vital issue of strategic bombing. He has said that the President of the United States cannot accept British bombing on the mainland. That is a tenable view or argument and great issues hinge on it. If the right hon. Gentleman is right, we must rule out pre-emptive strikes, however limited, for whatever purpose and however great the danger that is faced by our forces.
That argument cannot be carried forward. If we are right and our consciences are clear, as I believe they are, if the principles of international law have been challenged and gravely breached, as I believe they have, if aggression 539 has taken place, as it has, and if the United Nations has been gravely flouted, as it has, we are entitled to call on the support of the forces of the free world, no less, whenever these principles are attacked on whatever occasion and however embarrassing the geographical circumstances may be. Geography does not determine right and wrong, and it should not be allowed to invalidate alliances.
§ Mr. Clinton Davis (Hackney, Central)
Is it the hon. Gentleman's assessment that if we were to attack the mainland we would carry our allies with us?
§ Mr. Lloyd
That is a matter of grave doubt, but it should not be the determining consideration.
I should like to remind the House of an historical parallel. I know that the House is reluctant to accept either history or technology—I once made the mistake of introducing both at the same time. Should it be the decision of our task force commander and of the Government—and I believe in political control—that only by this pre-emptive action can we fulfil our purposes and avoid the devastating attack on the fleet, I must remind the House of an occasion which is of the utmost relevance to the question of bombing the mainland.
In 1950, General MacArthur had gone up the Korean peninsula and had achieved a great victory. He stood on the banks of the Yalu river. At that point he discovered that two Chinese armies were massing on the other side of the river. General MacArthur's military judgment—it is described in his autobiography—was that only by attacking the bridges on the Yalu river could he prevent the Chinese armies from moving down into Korea and virtually undoing most of his work. He was overruled by Washington and, having ordered 90 B29s into action, he was countermanded by Marshall in Washington.
Nothing in the immediate future happened, but I shall remind the House of the consequences. I shall also remind the House of what MacArthur said:I was even more worried by a series of directives from Washington, which were greatly decreasing the potential of my airforce … Manchuria and Siberia were sanctuaries of inviolate protection.At the moment, the Argentine mainland is a sanctuary of inviolate protection. Some hon. Members will ask that it continues. Marshall countermanded the order. MacArthur accepted it under the greatest protest and said that itmight well result in a calamity of the greatest proportions.I was alive at that time. I remember the strong arguments that took place in the House and elsewhere. MacArthur was right: "a calamity of the greatest proportions" followed. Two hundred thousand Chinese and two army groups crossed the Yalu and drove the United Nations forces back to below Seoul at a cost of 13,000 casualties to the American and United Nations forces.
The net result was that the main purpose of the United Nations forces in Korea was effectively defeated. Korea was not reunified and, although one may question General MacArthur's judgment on whether he could have achieved his objectives, he has said clearly and argued powerfully in his book that the defence of the United Nation's objectives was weakened by a failure of will. A failure of will is the most dangerous thing in war. General MacArthur concluded: 540The order not to bomb the Yalu bridges was the most indefensible and ill-conceived decision ever forced on a field commander in our nation's history.We should remind ourselves of that judgment this evening, especially when we consider the proper ambit of the task force commander's authority and the question of political control. These are not simple matters; they are immensely complex. No historical parallel is ever perfect, but we should remind ourselves of this one.
I should also like to discuss the generosity of the Government's terms. In a supplementary question to the Prime Minister, I said that I thought that she had compromised to the point of folly. On reflection, perhaps that was a little harsh. I had read the Government paper only briefly before I put my question. Looking at it again now—I have had several hours in which to do so—there are indications of substantial compromise. The Government had been exceptionally generous. They had put forward a series of proposals which my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary realised might not easily have got through the House. It would be an exaggeration to say that the House would have reacted with other than the greatest of scepticism had these terms been presented at any time in the past three weeks as the basis of an agreed settlement, but we should have had strenuous and wide-ranging debates. General Galtieri would have had an easier time and greater opportunity of presenting such a settlement, not to his people but to the other members of his oligarchy, than any British Prime Minister would have had of presenting it, through the House of Commons, to the Britsh people.
The Government have leant over backwards. Their generosity has been exceptional. If we are not able to achieve a settlement on that basis, everything that follows will follow, without our feeling that there is a retreat or that we have to requalify and take a different view.
We have heard much about the need to obtain and maintain diplomatic support in the United Nations throughout the world. I regard a hierarchy of diplomatic support as important. I regard the opinions of the great Western democracies as being of the utmost importance because they think as we do and have our values and our principles. If we fail to carry them on a matter of great substance, that will be a diplomatic failure. I go down from that hierarchy, in the United Nations no less, to the other 87 States which have authoritarian regimes of one type or another. My concern with their international opinion is of a wholly different order and will remain, ever and anon. When I say that we should carry international opinion with us, I must ask whether it is the opinion of free men whose judgment I value and respect, or the opinion of those for whose judgment I have no respect.
It is sometimes argued in both the domestic and international spheres that we should occupy the middle ground. There is no middle ground in the South Atlantic. There is only a deep, cold and watery grave. Our forces will occupy the high ground. In this Chamber we should be occupying the high ground of opinion, judgment, morale and will, and be seen to be so doing.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)
Politicians who press Service men into action when the means of carrying such action to a successful conclusion are doubtful have an awesome responsibility and must risk daunting criticism at the bar of history when the bill has to be paid 541 in other men's lives and the world standing of our country. I am shocked at the view of the world expressed by the hon. Member for Havant and Waterloo (Mr. Lloyd) and at what he said by implication about the importance of Latin American countries.
The Government must distinguish between what they want to do and their capacity to do it. Do they have the means to invade the Falkland Islands? An hon. Member's duty is to warn, to warn of loss of lives and—I take no joy whatsoever in saying this—to warn of a possible defeat of the first magnitude. This is not a matter of hindsight, because on 4 April, as reported in The Scotsman of 5 April, I said to West Lothian CLP that sending the expedition was the most unwise decision since the Duke of Buckingham left for La Rochelle in 1627. I am concerned about improvisation and a scheme which is not thought out, the details of which were announced as titbits for the media without regard to immediate need or long-term relevance. In that I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) when he said that our first consideration must be for the lives of our men. We are talking about an improvisation with ill-defined objectives which may not be fulfillable.
Who said that the military solution would not provide the answer? It was not a member of the Labour Party or one of the dissidents; it was Al Haig's considered judgment. We may be faced with, God help us, something of the order of the 1905 Russo-Japanese war in which we are in the role of the Russians. Because we are in entrenched positions, we could be faced with Dieppe 1942 or, worse, Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima or the Solomon Islands.
My right hon Friend the Leader of the Opposition hopes that if there is action it will be swift and successful. The right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen), who spoke for the Liberal Party, hoped that it could all be done without loss of life. So do I. But we have to make a cool assessment of the facts. The Argentine army has 130,000 men, 90,000 of whom are conscripts. When Mr. Bruce Carlisle came to see some of us—he is a pillar of the Anglo-Argentine community—he told us that his 23-year-old son, who had been head boy of Harrow public school, had returned to Argentina and now had volunteered for the forces, but it was the Argentine forces.
The Foreign Secretary knows that many of the conscripts may fight as if they were fighting a holy war. They are stiffened by the Argentine marine corps who are professionally well thought of by marines in this country and the United States of America. They are armed with 10 Tiger Cat surface-to-air missiles. I shall go through some of their hardware: 100 105 mm self-propelled anti-tank guns, the light Austrian Kurassian tanks modified for dirt track conditions, 30, 40 and 90 mm anti-aircraft guns, bantam anti-tank wire-guided missiles, 300 infantry carrier vehicles bouncing around and, John Erickson tells me, built for exactly that terrain, 400 to 500 artillery pieces, 10 towed howitzers with 105 mm guns, six self-propelled United States howitzers, 125 Tam tanks built in Argentina, well engineered and a smaller version of the German Leopard. It is not a rag-bag force to be despised, and yet it is what we are going in against.
Let us take the Argentine Navy, possibly the greatest fear of many of us. There are three Kiel-built diesel electric submarines, capable of 22 knots, so far unlocated in the Atlantic lying doggo. What could they do to the "Canberra" or QE2? The resources of the task force will 542 be locked in self-protection. Faced with airborne surface-skimming launched missiles, what ship can be safe? The tragic sinking of the "Sheffield" was a turning point in naval history because, after "Sheffield", can "Canberra" and other ships loiter around the South Atlantic?
Those views are not just mine. The editorial of Flight International, a deeply serious technical magazine, reads:And what is it about the materials used in British warships that enables one missile hit to turn the ship into a blazing inferno, which has to be abandoned? Are other ships as fire-vulnerable as the Sheffield? And if so, what would have happened if the Exocet had penetrated the defensive screen and found its way into a carrier's hanger deck, full of Harriers and fuel?Those are the questions that Flight International asks. What was in people's minds when they sank the "Belgrano"? Is it true that four torpedoes missed? Was it intended to hit the rudder? What happened to the high quality weaponry of the task force? It is very strange that a cruiser, outside the limit with 6-in guns having a 10-mile maximum range, should be attacked from 35 miles away. We still have not had an answer to the question that was asked repeatedly by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) about the sinking of the "Belgrano".
I speak with some feeling on this matter. For two years I was on a troopship, which admittedly had been converted to a ship school. It was the "Dunera", but I have sailed in the "Uganda". I say, from my experience of the seas, that our men must be going through a most uncomfortable period. One must ask bluntly "Are they in a condition to carry on, after the assault, a sustained war?" I can understand what the hon. Member for Havant and Waterloo (Mr. Lloyd) said, spine-chilling though it may be. Come the next British ship that is crippled, how can we refuse to knock out the land bases from which the attackers come? Of course, once we bomb the Latin-American mainland, we shall then have to contend with Cuban MiG 23s, the Mil 24 helicopters, and Ile Venuzuelan Mirages. Roberto Campos, the Brazilian ambassador who is well known to many of our colleagues, has just confirmed Brazilian hostility if there is any attack on the mainland. I understand why the Venezuelan President told our ambassador that immediately that happens diplomatic relations will be cut off.
So we are in a dangerous situation, not least from the point of view of the air force, the nine Canberras. Any nation that can marry an Exocet missile with the wing of an aircraft and have an air-launched, surface-skimming missile is a very technologically advanced nation. It is a great error to think that there will be a walkover. The Sky Hawks, the Mirages with the R530s are precisely the combination that was so devastating in the hands of the Israelis.
Incidentally, on the subject of nuclear weapons, may I ask one question: are we infringing the treaty of Platelco, which establishes Latin America as a nuclear-free zone?
I accept that great skill has been shown in positioning the fleet, but there are critical weaknesses which could be cruelly exposed. If that happened, our stock would plummet. We can talk about the problem of mines, kelp and the weather.
It is not a matter of cowardice. The real cowardice of people like myself would be not to tell the truth as we saw it. It does nothing but honour to our forces to say that they are up against highly professional forces, whatever we may think of the Argentine regime. Should we not therefore say, faced with the stark reality of a war with 543 unforeseeable consequences on a continent where we are friendless, that we advocate withdrawal of the task force to home ports?
I want to put a question to the Foreign Secretary. At column 957 of Hansard on 13 May 1982, in answer to a question about the long-term arrangements, he replied, with his usual candour, that we were in "a difficult" area. However, there are only two clear alternatives in the long-term—either dependency on Britain, or dependency on Argentina. Does Britain assume such a responsibility in perpetuity? No Latin American country could replace Argentina as the source of air services, hospital services or postal services.
It is true that some Latin American countries disapproved of Argentina's invasion of the islands as a breach of international law. All of them support its title to the islands, and oppose Britain's use of the task force to recover them.
Another question has not been answered by the Foreign Secretary. A fortnight ago it was asked about Jules Goebel, the author of the major work "The Struggle for the Falklands", who, after 460 pages of turgid history and detailed law, came down on the side of the Argentine claims. There has been no answer to that, but at least it should be answered. The only viable policy for Britain in the South Atlantic is based on co-operation with Argentina.
The right hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. du Cann) recognised that; at the end of his "World at One" contribution my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East recognised that. Would more bloodshed help or hinder such co-operation? We can build up pressure steadily and remorselessly, as the Foreign Secretary would have it—diplomatically, militarily and economically—but diplomacy combined with military pressure will not work. Indeed, the two may be mutually exclusive.
The main obstacle to such co-operation has been our failure to grasp the fact that, whilst we see the Falkland Islands as our rightful property, Argentina sees the Malvinas as an integral part of its country. Indeed, it is a geological extension of the South American continental shelf. No amount of military action will change that fact. Nor would it help matters if today's junta were replaced by a democratically elected Government. We have been told that world opinion is vital. Now apparently the Government discount it; that we go it alone. It is an ill-wind strategy because military options are not options; they are constraints.
On Saturday 3 April, as reported in column 638 of the Official Report of that date, I asked the Prime Minister, "Who are your friends in Latin America?" If we take action by vote, it is because we do not like to see our country being made to look ridiculous. We are taking on the entire Hispanic world. We are taking on Central America. We are taking on, as many of us learnt at the Indian high commission yesterday, many countries in the Third world which did not like aggression in the first place. We have the disapproval of the Russians. We have the disapproval of the Chinese. Our EEC partners are extremely uncomfortable. It is clear that the United States is nearly exasperated with us for bitching its relationship with Latin America.
The Secretary of State for Defence justifies his actions by saying that in 15 or 20 years people will thank Britain 544 for this. I do not think that there will be much thanking of Britain for it. The best memorial, suggested by Chris Roper of Latin American newsletter, to the brave men who died in the "Sheffield" and in the "General Belgrano" would be some kind of flourishing community of British-stock people and of Argentine people on the Falklands who, after all, are no different from the isolated communities of Welsh, Irish and Scottish settlements who have retained their cultural identity.
When the Prime Minister talks about "subjection" of the Falklanders, that is a different concept from that of the Welsh and Scottish communities in Argentina. Britain still has many friends in Latin America. Let us listen to them. Let us take their advice not to go over the threshold of war.
§ Mr. John Stokes (Halesowen and Stourbridge)
I do not intend, nor do I have the time, to follow the defeatist remarks of the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell). My views about this debate are already known. This is the sixth such debate. On the other hand, I must say that this one has been a great improvement on the others, as we have had a very clear exposition from my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister of our negotiating stance. The document that has been published will be of enormous use not only in this country but in the world outside.
I listened today to one of the most enjoyable speeches that I have heard in my 12 years here, that of the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan). His delightfully relaxed style makes one realise what fun it must have been to be Prime Minister!
In general, I return to the point I have made so often, that I do not believe that these discussions can help our diplomacy very much. I doubt whether they aid morale in our battle fleet. We have pretty conclusive evidence that the public dislike them. The position has certainly been made much worse by the broadcasting of Prime Minister's Question Time, because, magnificent as her answers are, the volume of noise and bedlam which accompanies them distress and shock the ordinary listener.
The House of Commons cannot run a battle, and everyone knows it. The suggestion by the Leader of the Opposition that we in the Commons should be in day-to-day charge of operations is not only quite unconstitutional and without precedent in our long history, but is utterly unpractical, as is pointed out in the amusing cartoon which some colleagues may have seen in yesterday's Daily Express. Public opinion is behind the Government. Our job is to reflect that, back the Government and leave them to get on with the job that they alone have the capacity to do.
In spite of the fear of fighting and bloodshed—I was once, although an Army subaltern, in a naval battle—we all share a marvellous feeling of steadiness. It reminds me of the feeling in the summer of 1940. The people know that we have to see this through, by force if necessary. If this unprovoked aggression were to succeed there would be no peace or security anywhere, from West Berlin to the many small countries and islands scattered throughout the world. People also know that if we neglect the wishes of the islanders to live in peace under their own democratic Government, under the British Crown, few in number and far away as they are, democracy would not be safe anywhere.
545 I share the view of the vast majority of my constituents and of the people of this country that the invasion of the Falkland Islands must be soon, swift and sure. We want every Argentine off the islands and British administration restored. I want to see the Union flag flying there again and the governor returning with plumed hat and carrying his sword. After that victory we can be magnanimous. We might associate Australia, New Zealand and the United States in the administration of the islands and even allow Argentina a place in the development of the assets of the whole of the Antarctic.
What worries me deeply is the attitude of our allies in the EEC. After all, those countries owe their freedom to what we did for them in the last war. France would have been ruined without our nurturing General de Gaulle in these shores. Italy also was helpless when the Germans came in and before we landed to help them. The Benelux countries owe everything to us. At least the Dutch still remember that. Germany would have had a much worse time after the war without the decencies of the British occupation. The people of West Berlin, as I know from direct experience, look to us to succour them. Should not the Prime Minister say to our EEC partners the words that William Pitt used to our continental allies against Napoleon? He said:England has saved herself by her exertions, and will, as I trust, save Europe by her example.If those countries do not back us now in our conflict with Argentina, it will not only put the whole concept of the EEC at risk, but it will gravely injure NATO. The British public will grow to hate the other EEC countries. Such will be the force of their opinion that no Government will be able to ignore it. I devoutly hope that the Prime Minister will be as strong and firm with our EEC partners as she has been over the Falkland Islands crisis.
My right hon. Friend opened the debate with great clarity and brilliance in outlining our negotiating position and that of Argentina. Frankly, I am one of those who are glad that our proposals were rejected by Argentina, as I believe that in some respects they went too far.
Our position has been made clear before the world. Argentina was never prepared to compromise, and never prepared to evacuate the islands. The talking has gone on for seven weeks. For all that we have heard about the Secretary-General of the United Nations today, I do not believe that he has the power or the ability to make the Argentines become reasonable in negotiation. The time for words has ended and the time for action has come. The country wants it and expects it, and I believe that its instinct is right.
§ 9 pm
§ Mr. Denis Healey (Leeds, East)
The Government's detailed account of their proposals and the Argentine response show beyond any reasonable doubt that the Prime Minister and her colleagues have been prepared to make many concessions, some of them as unwelcome to us as they clearly are to Conservative Members, for the sake of a negotiated settlement. There is no doubt that the Government were right to do so.
Argentina, on its side, has made some concessions. The right hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel), leader of the Liberal Party, was wrong to suggest yesterday that Argentina had made none. However, the concessions made by Argentina have been nothing like sufficient to guarantee that negotiations on a 546 long-term settlement will not be prejudiced in advance. Inevitably there must be some tightening of the military screw.
The thoughts of the House must first be with the men of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force—some of whom have been at sea for seven weeks in extreme discomfort—who may soon be risking their lives in dangerous operations in appalling weather. They have the right to our unanimous support in the task that the Government now set them.
Today's debate has rightly focused on past and future negotiations. On past negotiations we have learnt much from the document that the Government have published. However, the Government must now produce, when they are able to do so, a fuller paper describing the earlier phases of the negotiations under Mr. Haig and President Belaunde. The Government should have published the full text of the Argentine reply with this document, because there is clearly disagreement between the Secretary-General and the Government on how some of the Argentine replies should be interpreted. The House urgently needs the publication of the Secretary-General's aide-memoire and the reply which I gather the Government—[Interruption.] I hope that the Prime Minister will ask the Secretary-General for permission to publish it and that the Government will publish their reply. The key to future negotiations must be the formulations, as the Prime Minister described them, which have been presented by the Secretary-General.
The House must agree—I hope that the Government agree—that any further increase in the level of military operations must not and cannot lead to a final end of negotiations. The final settlement of the dispute must be a negotiated settlement. As Secretary Haig said, a purely military settlement cannot endure over time. The Secretary of State for Defence made exactly that point with great force in a radio interview on Sunday. He described a military solution as being only short-term. He added, in words that I strongly endorse:Of course we will still be seeking, even when we've repossessed the islands, a long-term solution to this problem with countries in the area. We want to, in fact, even if we are forced to take the military option—and time is now very short for that—when that decision will have to be taken"—he was talking about the decision to employ further military force—we will still need obviously to negotiate and the process of negotiations will not end even when we're in possession of the islands once again and they're once again British sovereign territory.In other words, the view of Her Majesty's Government, as expressed by the Secretary of State for Defence in the words that I have just quoted, is that the negotiations must continue, even if the Government now rightly decide that they must increase the military pressure.
I very much hope that that is still the Government's view, although the Prime Minister did little to reflect it in her speech this afternoon. However, I understand that she may well have felt that it was necessary to say, for example, that the Government were withdrawing their latest proposals because Argentina had rejected them. The right hon. Lady would have had a lot of trouble from some of her right hon. and hon. Friends below the Gangway if she had not said that. Indeed, the concessions that she described in the document would justify her receiving the Bristol, South-East peace prize. At one moment in the 547 speech made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn), I thought that he was about to offer it.
We need not take over-tragically the Prime Minister's words on withdrawing the proposals that she made as recently as Sunday. I recall that the Foreign Secretary also made it clear a few days ago that the Government were withdrawing their acceptance of the Peruvian proposals after the Argentines had rejected them. He went on candidly to admit in that very same speech that the negotiations then about to begin under the Secretary-General's auspices were bound to follow the broad lines of the Peruvian proposals. Of course, he was right, and we can see that by reading the Government's document.
It is equally clear that any future negotiations are bound, in some way, to build on the proposals put before us in today's document; above all, on the two fundamental conditions described last week by the Foreign Secretary—the withdrawal of Argentine forces and negotiations for a long-term solution without prejudice to their outcome. Only seven days ago, the Foreign Secretary told us that if Argentina accepted those two fundamental conditions—which I firmly endorse on behalf of the Labour Opposition—we may be able to make greater progress in other areas, where some flexibility is possible."—[Official Report, 13 May 1982; Vol. 23, c. 956.]When the Foreign Secretary replies to the debate, will he say a little about the difference of judgment as to whether Argentina, in its reply to the Government's latest proposals, accepted the second condition—that negotiations on a long-term settlement should proceed without prejudice to their outcome?
In the Government's document the Argentine Government appear to accept that, although the Government used as their reasons for believing otherwise, first, that the Argentine Government had not accepted the particular formula put to them by the British Government—which is an insufficient reason—and, secondly, that some Argentine spokesmen in Buenos Aires had made statements that were incompatible with the official reply. I remind the House that that is also true of some British Government spokesmen.
The Secretary of State for Defence, in the interview to which I referred, made some statements about prejudicing the possibility of Argentine sovereignty. In one of her odd diplomatic forays into the world of disc jockeys yesterday, the Prime Minister interpreted that as being possibly attributable to the fact that the right hon. Gentleman had been rather tired at the end of a long interview. I often experience similar fatigue and readily concede that that is a natural error to make.
It seems clear that there are still some fundamental problems about other issues related to the prejudicing of negotiations. We would wholly agree with the Government that among the fundamental issues remaining are the Argentine demands that it should be able to swamp the islanders with immigrants and be able thereby to gain sovereignty over the islands by a vote in the General Assembly. If the Argentine Government were given that permission, they would be able to torpedo any negotiations with impunity and would be given an incentive to do so. We strongly support the Government's position on that 548 issue, just as we support them in their refusal to include consideration of the South Georgia and South Sandwich islands as open to negotiations in this context.
However, the House will agree that some flexibility is still possible, for example, on the precise timing and distance of the mutual force withdrawal. We all accept the general point that it would be wrong for the Argentines to withdraw only 200 or 300 miles and for us to send our forces back 8,000 miles. Clearly there is some scope for negotiation between the two. It seems to me, without knowing the formulations in the Secretary-General's aide-memoire, that the Government must apply themselves seriously to consider what he says.
I hope that what the Prime Minister said this afternoon demonstrates her readiness to do so, provided—and this is a sensible condition—that the Argentine Government, in their comments on the Secretary-General's aide-memoire, show their readiness not only to negotiate in general on the proposals in the aide-memoire, but to make concessions on certain specific issues.
This afternoon the right hon. Lady the Prime Minister spoke with a peculiar obliqueness that reminded me in some respects of the late Lord Butler's way of handling the language. She said:Even if we were prepared to negotiate on the basis of the aide-memoire, we should first wish to see substantive Argentine comments on it, going beyond mere acceptance of it as a basis for negotiation.That is a reasonable condition. The right hon. Lady went on to say:These are the points that we are making in our reply to the Secretary-General. At the same time, we are reminding him—as my right hon. Friends and I have repeatedly said to the House—that the negotiations do not close any military options.Those words imply that the Government are prepared to negotiate on the Secretary-General's proposals, provided that the Argentine Government show a readiness to move on some of the central issues. I hope that the Foreign Secretary will confirm my interpretation tonight, because he could set at rest many fears on the Labour Benches.
The Prime Minister, in the words quoted earlier today, showed her confidence in the abilities and objectivity of the Secretary-General. On Monday, she went so far as to say that how long the negotiations proceedjust depends on how long he thinks he can go on.That was a sensible way of approaching the problem.
Last Thursday, I told the House that Her Majesty's Opposition would support the Government's position, as outlined by the Foreign Secretary, provided that the Government supported the Secretary-General negotiating for as long as he believes there is a reasonable chance of success. The Government are committed by the right hon. Lady's words on the radio on Monday to follow up the proposals that he has made.
I agree with the Prime Minister that this does not, and must not, foreclose any military options. The right hon. Lady has made it clear—and the House and the Foreign Secretary should mark her words—that the long process of negotiation that has now lasted six weeks or so has not in any way inhibited the Government in using the task force as they thought wise. That has been so for the past six or seven weeks and must remain so.
That reinforces the point that I made earlier that, contrary to the impression given by a large part of the British press, negotiations and military operations are not alternatives but are indissolubly linked with one another.
549 Although the balance may shift from time to time, as it undoubtedly must after the latest Argentine rejection of the Government's proposals, the Government must continue to pursue both courses at the same time.
Some increase in the military pressure exerted on Argentina is now justified, and we support it. The task force commander must obviously be able to decide on the options that the Government have given him. I do not seek to inquire, any more than I did last week, what those options are. No doubt, to some extent, his choice would be determined by the weather as well as by his tactical judgment, but the Opposition would insist that any new military action must also be designed to create the possibility of more fruitful negotiations than we have had so far. The connection between military action and negotiation is just as important in the new situation as it was in the old one. If right hon. and hon. Members of the SDP believe otherwise, they will soon discover that their expectations are mistaken.
In a very powerful speech, my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Weetch) pointed out that no rational person could believe that the Argentines would already have agreed to withdraw their forces from the islands and to negotiate on the future of the islands without the pressure exerted by the task force. It requires an enviable innocence to believe that of a Fascist military dictator. I suppose that such innocence may be natural in the infantile Leftists who were so amiably castigated by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition in his article in this week's Tribune.
However, it is odd to find that those who enjoy this enviable innocence are the same people who asked us to rely not upon military force but upon financial and economic pressure exerted by an American Administration which they lose no opportunity of attacking as hostile to Britain and friendly to Fascism. There seems to be a certain schizophrenia about that approach that many of us noticed earlier in a powerful but somewhat revolving speech by one of my right hon. Friends.
More military pressure is now inevitable, but in this new phase it must be limited and controlled, as it was in earlier phases of the crisis. The Government must observe two basic conditions that I have put before the House. First, the force used must be seen by our friends in the world to be proportionate to the issue at stake. Secondly, the way in which the force is used must not jeopardise the possibility of negotiation.
The question of proportionality of the force used is becoming increasingly important to our friends on both sides of the Atlantic. Those of us who had the privilege of joining the Anglo-French council meeting in Edinburgh last weekend will recall that every French delegate expressed concern lest Her Majesty's Government might take actions whose consequences were disproportionate to the real importance of the issue at stake.
There can be no doubt that the reluctance of our Common Market partners to renew sanctions for more than one week at a time owed much to their concern that we might take actions that they would regard as disproportionate to the issue and damaging to wider Western interests in the area. The risk of driving Latin America into the arms of the Russians is real. Above all, some SDP Members, who have always paraded their fear and hostility towards the Soviet Union, should take that danger 550 seriously, as do all our allies and, most of all, our American ally, as Mr. Haig has repeatedly made clear in recent weeks.
§ Mr. Percy Grieve (Solihull)
I accept the importance of the proportionality of the force that we must use, but does the right hon. Gentleman accept that, in the minds of those who are in command on the spot, the first consideration must be protecting and saving the lives of our men?
§ Mr. Healey
I made that very clear at the beginning of my speech.
The point that I have tried to make repeatedly—I speak with some experience as a former Secretary of State for Defence for six years—is that the important duty of the Government is not to order their military commanders into operations in which, in order to defend their forces, they are compelled to take actions that are inconsistent with the Government's political objectives. Anyone who has served at the Ministry of Defence during military operations—when I was there we had operations in southern Arabia and in Borneo—will know how important that is, as does the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen), who was Foreign Secretary in the Labour Government.
The Government's duty is to ensure that the military commander is never faced with the position that the only way of achieving the objective that the Government have set him is to use force which destroys the Government's political objective. That is a difficult and unwelcome task for the Secretary of State for Defence and the Government, but in a democracy it is a task that must always be carried out by anyone who is prepared to use force in the pursuit of legitimate political ends.
It is difficult for an Opposition, without full knowledge of the military factors as well as of the diplomatic factors, to judge which operations are possible within those limitations. However, it is clear that in this new phase, in which greater importance may be given to the military arm of our three-pronged diplomacy—as the Foreign Secretary described it earlier—economic sanctions must be greater rather than less than they have been until now. We are entering a phase in which it is clearly necessary to exert more pressure on the Argentines to produce a successful negotiation.
I hope that the Foreign Secretary can assure us that he is approaching our American ally for help in this area, because it is our American ally on whom the main burden of financial sanctions must inevitably fall, since American banks are much more deeply involved in Argentina than British or European banks. But he will know, as well as I, that if we depend on our friends to increase the economic pressures on Argentina, we must be prepared to take notice of their views on how we should proceed in handling the crisis as a whole. There is no escape from that. We depend for a successful outcome of the crisis on the economic and diplomatic support of our friends. That support will be forthcoming only if our friends understand and support the way in which we conduct our policies.
To sum up what I have said, the intransigence of the Argentines, which has been described in detail in the Government's document, has inevitably shifted the balance between diplomacy and military action in the next phase of handling the dispute, but both are still required.
To return to a point that I made in the previous debate, one of the most damaging habits that one has perceived, 551 especially in some newspapers during the past few weeks, is the tendency to believe that there is no alternative to surrender and Armageddon and, equally, that there is no alternative to peace with Argentina and all-out war with Argentina. I hope that the Government agree that all-out war with Argentina is not justified in the present circumstances.
We heard with some relief what the Secretary of State for Defence told us about the Government's unwillingness, certainly in present conditions, to extend the war to the mainland of Argentina. He is right about that. There is an almost infinite spectrum of possibilities and there is no doubt that we are moving further towards the military end of the spectrum as a result of the intransigence shown by Argentina in diplomatic negotiations.
Balance between the negotiation arm and the military arm of our policy is just as necessary now as it was before. We shall keep the support of our friends so long as they regard us as preserving a proper balance in this new phase. If they feel that we are not observing a proper balance, they will certainly withdraw their support. We have seen disturbing signs of this in the past week.
I ask the Government to accept our view. We believe that so far, with one or two minor exceptions, their military and diplomatic behaviour has deserved the full support of both sides of the House. We recognise that a change in the balance between military and diplomatic action is required because of the failure of negotiation in the latest phase, but a balance must still be maintained. The Government must still see negotiation as the final objective of their actions, both diplomatic and military. So long as they do, they will have the support not only of their allies but of the Labour Opposition.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Francis Pym)
This has been, in my view, an important and useful debate. I have drawn encouragement from it as well as a great deal of advice which, I assure the House, I shall ponder. It also contained a gem—the way in which the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) dealt with the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn). Those of us who were here to witness it appreciated it in all its dimensions.
No two debates on the same subject in the House are the same, but tonight's debate has been different in a marked way from the five others that have preceded it on this subject. For the first time since the crisis began the Government have been able to make public a detailed British proposal for a negotiated settlement. This has been a great help to the House. It has enabled us to take our thinking further and has added a new dimension to our considerations.
The House has seen the nature of the proposal that was rejected by Argentina. It was rejected in a reply delivered yesterday. That reply makes it clear that Argentina is simply not interested in the peaceful and honourable solution which could have been available and which was, indeed, explicitly offered. Evidently, Argentina is interested only in delay—delay which would allow her to consolidate, if she can, what she has seized by force, to 552 scour the world in search of new weapons and to confuse the issues which were so clearly addressed by the international community in resolution 502.
As the House knows, we have pursued a consistent strategy to produce, if we can, Argentine withdrawal based upon pressures—diplomatic, economic and military pressures all acting in concert and all being necessary. We have sustained and increased these pressures in every possible way and I believe that we have had a great deal of success in all three fields. In addition, the decision taken by the Community earlier this week, and the support and the solidarity expressed by the Governments of our partners in the Community, were a great deal stronger than reports in the press appeared to indicate.
The debate today has concentrated mainly on the diplomatic efforts that we have made, and I shall do the same. However, I should like, in passing, to thank hon. Members who have expressed their support for our continuing military pressures. I have in mind what was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, West (Sir J. Eden), the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen), the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Weetch)—who made a particularly forthright speech, which the Government appreciate very much—my hon. Friend the Member for Howden (Sir P. Bryan) and the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, who continued to give support for the sending of the task force and actually said that if it is to be asked to undertake further action he hoped that that action would be as swift and as successful as possible. That is appreciated and it should be noted.
I agree entirely with what the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) said about military and diplomatic pressures going together. Both are required. Neither would be effective without the other. They are part of a comprehensive whole. It has been my responsibility to try to put together, with what patience, persistence and imagination I can command, the elements from which a peaceful solution could be constructed. I have been doing this, or trying to, in accordance with principles that have been endorsed by the Government and by the House. I had to pursue this goal without being able to feel sure at any time that the goal was a feasible one or that the Argentines were negotiating in a way that made it attainable; indeed, with a mounting suspicion that the reverse was the case.
There was no lack of advice both from this House and elsewhere. All kinds of frameworks have been examined. During all this time we investigated many possibilities. We pursued many blind alleys. I do not regret this in any way. In any diplomatic enterprise, as Mr. Haig said to me on one of the early days of the crisis, it is necessary to go to the last mile and beyond in order to demonstrate good faith.
§ Mr. Frank Allaun (Salford, East)
Apart from the loss of life, will not invasion fatally undermine the proposals made today by the Secretary-General of the United Nations?
§ Mr. Pym
We have made it clear throughout that we would sustain and increase all three pressures on Argentina, because what we want is its withdrawal without a shot being fired. That is up to Argentina.
The reception given by the House today to the document that we have produced and published suggests 553 to me that we have done what we had to do. Indeed, a number of hon. Members were surprised that we went as far as we did. I am convinced that we were right to do so. I am grateful for the support that has been expressed, including that of the right hon. Member for Leeds, East. I assure those hon. Members who raised the point that the document has already been given the widest distribution all around the world.
§ Mr. Robert Atkins (Preston, North)
Can my right hon. Friend give the House some details of how widely the document is being spread around? I find, like many hon. Members, that it delineates the case well and cogently. It will help us at the bar of world opinion. Can my right hon. Friend give more information about how widespread is its distribution?
§ Mr. Pym
It is at all our embassies and all our offices throughout the world on the widest possible scale. We want not only hon. Members but the British people and the whole world to know what we have been arguing about.
I remind the House of the basic requirements that we have set ourselves throughout these long weeks. Our first requirement has been to secure the withdrawal of Argentina forces, which was demanded as a matter of mandatory obligation by Security Council resolution 502. The second has been to establish a ceasefire to avoid further loss of life as soon as withdrawal could be agreed. The third has been to make satisfactory provision for the democratic administration of the islands in any interim arrangements that prove necessary. The fourth has been to ensure that the negotiations with Argentina over the future of the islands should be such as to conform with the principles so strongly supported in this House. We have made it clear in this connection that we remain prepared to negotiate with Argentina about the long-term future of the islands, as we and previous Governments were so prepared before the invasion, that we shall be ready to discuss anything which either side might wish to put forward, and that we insist only that the terms of reference of these negotiations should not be such as to predetermine or prejudge the outcome, whether on sovereignty or on other matters.
The Leader of the Opposition said that he understood that there had been some movement by Argentina towards the position of non-prejudgment. That was right, but the position changed yesterday and on Monday, as it has before, and the Argentines withdrew that position and the reply that we received yesterday did not contain it. I think that the right hon. Gentleman would wish to know that. That point was also raised by the right hon. Member for Leeds, East.
§ Mr. Healey
The right hon. Gentleman has published a document today in which he made it clear—I presume on the latest information—that the Argentine Government were prepared to initiate negotiations without prejudice to their outcome. The complaint made in the document is that the Argentines are not prepared to accept the Government's formula, which is rather different. As I understand it, the Secretary-General, with knowledge of the Argentine reply as well as of our own document, believes that on this matter at least the Argentines have met us.
§ Mr. Pym
Last week, the Argentine representative at the United Nations in New York tabled a form of words 554 which certainly went towards, or perhaps actually amounted to, non-prejudgment of the outcome. As I indicated in my speech a week ago, however, the Argentine Foreign Secretary and other Ministers there were making speeches in another sense. In the reply received yesterday, the words about which much play was made by the Argentines in New York last week were omitted, and the words used were not so strong or so clear as before. That is my point.
§ Mr. Healey
This is very important. Otherwise, I should not press the right hon. Gentleman. Paragraph 11e of the Government's document states:Argentina proposed a formula…which stated that they should be 'initiated' without prejudice to the rights and claims and positions of the two parties.I agree that that is different from the formula preferred by the British Government, but it is this formula that the Secretary-General regarded as acceptance that the outcome of the negotiaions should not be prejudiced
§ Mr. Pym
I stick to my reply, because the words to which I referred last week, which were proposed by the Argentines in New York but rejected or denied in Buenos Aires, were stronger and clearer. Those words were omitted from the reply that we received yesterday. There were some words in that direction, but they were not so convincing. That is the point that I wish to make.
I should tell the hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds) that there is certainly no question of our ceding sovereignty in advance, and the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East said that there was no such intention on the part of the Labour Government in the last Parliament.
§ Sir Derek Walker-Smith (Hertfordshire, East)
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his characteristic and customary courtesy in giving way. Paragraph 7c of the document refers to the British Government beingwilling, without prejudice, to include the question of sovereignty in negotiations with Argentina about the future of the Falkland Islands.Does that include the possibility of a reference to the International Court?
§ Mr. Pym
That possibility has certainly not been excluded, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister indicated in a speech a week or two ago.
With regard to the British proposals, the draft interim agreement that we put forward on 17 May, and which the House has seen today, meets the basic requirements to which I have referred. It shows how far we were prepared to go to reach a solution that would avoid further loss of life. The House and the country would have expected no less of us.
We have stood firm where we had to and we have shown flexibility where we could. In the event of withdrawal, we put forward proposals to secure the rapid, complete and verifiable withdrawal of Argentine forces. It could, of course, be argued that Argentina should have fulfilled its international obligations in this respect without any corresponding move on the part of the British forces, whose presence in the area was fully justified. To this clay, we are exercising only our rights of self-defence under article 51 of the charter. No doubt that is right in principle, but in practice a degree of flexibility on our part was clearly unavoidable if we were to achieve our basic 555 purpose of getting the Argentines out by peaceful means. It seemed to us that our withdrawal was an inevitable part of that.
The provisions of the draft agreement make it clear in article 1 that everything done thereunder is without prejudice to our position on the questions of substance which are relevant to the future of the islands. The statement that the administrator should exercise his powers in accordance with the terms of the agreement and in conformity with the laws and practices traditionally obtaining on the islands speaks for itself. So does the requirement that he shall discharge his functions, or would have done so, in consultation with the representative institutions on the islands. We have never lost sight of the importance of the democratic element in the life of the islanders.
Article 73 of the charter is specifically referred to in the agreement and annexed to it. In our proposals we think that we have carried out faithfully the obligations laid down in that article. Our aim was to ensure that they would be equally respected in future, as the people of the islands have a right to expect. I have every confidence that the Secretary-General of the United Nations would have ensured that that was done if our proposed agreement had been accepted. I have no confidence that these obligations, or anything like them, will be fulfilled by the Argentine invaders. That is why the membership of the United Nations must surely share our concern to get them out.
The interim arrangements have been controversial throughout. I explained previously to the House that it quickly became clear during the course of the negotiations that as a practical matter some interim arrangements would have to be made to supervise the withdrawal, to ensure that Argentine forces would not be reintroduced and to provide a degree of international involvement in the administration of the islands until a longer-term solution was achieved.
I think that we have shown flexibility both in agreeing to the need for such arrangements and in the discussion of the precise details. However, we insisted that the details should not be such as to predetermine or prejudge the longer-term settlement. In my view that is just as important in this context as it is in that of the terms of reference for the negotiations in the longer term. We also insisted that there could be no question of ignoring the democratic institutions which had been established by the islanders as the channel for the exercise of their democratic rights.
Responsibility for the present crisis lies entirely with the Argentines. As I have said, they responded to our proposals yesterday through the Secretary-General. Their reply reached us late last night and it was all too clear that it was the equivalent of a total rejection of all that we had proposed. In response to our proposals, which we regarded—I think that following the debate the House will so regard them—as completely reasonable and responsible, and which the Secretary-General passed on to Argentina in good faith, Argentina came back with proposed terms which would have included the following features: entirely unbalanced provisions for withdrawal; nothing less than destruction of the previous democratic structures and arrangements on the islands; the chance to change the character of the islands irreversibly in their favour; terms of reference for long-term negotiations 556 which led in only one direction and the need to withdraw from South Georgia. There were other conditions too but those were the main ones.
I invite the House to consider the likely sequence of events if the Argentine terms had been accepted. Within a month the armed forces of the two sides would be back in what are called their normal areas: 400 miles away in the Argentine case, 8,000 miles away in our case, with nothing whatever to prevent theirs from returning to the Falklands at any time. The islanders, whose fortitude we have so much admired and whose sufferings are, sadly, not yet at an end, would find themselves enjoying the same status as the handful of Argentines who lived there before the crisis, together with such inhabitants of the mainland as might choose to come over, by whatever means and in whatever numbers they wished.
Britain, which has enjoyed peaceful possession and administration of the islands for almost 150 years and Argentina, the aggressor and the international outcast, would be obliged to sit down and negotiate not only about the Falkland Islands but about South Georgia. Such negotiations would have been conducted against a deadline to be succeeded next year by a vacuum. One can well imagine what would be the nature of that vacuum, what the Argentines had in mind for dealing with the vacuum, and who, in their estimation, would be in a position to fill it.
That is the essence of the detailed reply which we received formally from the Argentines yesterday through the good offices of the Secretary-General. A more uncompromising rejection of our proposals could scarcely be imagined. Indeed, the Argentines went back on some of the lines that they had been taking earlier. Any lingering doubts that some may have had about Argentine good faith could hardly survive such a reply.
It is possible that Argentina may now claim to be flexible and to have changed its position. We can hardly be blamed for treating any such claim with the utmost scepticism. Argentina's whole object was to achieve through negotiations what she has tried to achieve by aggression—the imposition of irreversible transfer of sovereignty to her. All her arguments and all her points about the interim arrangements were designed so to change the character and normality of the islands in her favour that the end result of long-term negotiations could only be in her favour.
It is not for us to publish the Argentine proposals, although, no doubt, they will become public in due course. But from what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and I have been able to say about them, the House can judge for itself which party has been negotiating in good faith and which has made no genuine attempt to address the issues in any reasonable spirit; which party has made every effort to achieve a peaceful settlement and which has at every turn responded grudgingly and negatively; which party wants peace and the avoidance of further loss of life and which talks so blithely of its readiness to throw away any number of lives in the cause of aggression.
§ Mr. Healey
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman can give a better explanation of why he is not publishing the text of the Argentine reply. He is contemplating an increase in military activities to be directed against the Argentine Government. He has given a summary of the Argentine reply. It seems to me that there can be no 557 conceivable reason of protocol or political reason why he should not publish the text so that we may judge its full horror, if horror indeed it is.
§ Mr. Pym
All the papers and documents in relation to all the negotiations throughout the crisis have been kept secret and in the hands of the negotiator. They were when Mr. Haig was negotiating. They are now with the Secretary-General. We have tabled these British proposals, first, because they are British proposals and the responsibility of Her Majesty's Government and, secondly, because they have already been considered by the Argentines and we have received the reply that I have indicated to the House. The Argentine response is not my document, although it is directly relevant to what I have said. It probably will become public, but it is not for me to publish it. In publishing our own proposals and indicating the response I have been fair to the House. Argentina created the crisis—
§ Mr. John Gorst (Hendon, North)
I follow the necessity for what my right hon. Friend has said and the niceties involved, but could he say bluntly whether he intends to issue an ultimatum to the Argentines either to get out or be kicked out? When will he do that?
§ Mr. Pym
We are maintaining and increasing our pressures. That is our strategy. An ultimatum has never been part of it. We have tried in good faith to achieve a negotiated settlement. I have explained what has happened to the negotiations. Argentina created the crisis. Argentina has refused to take the road of serious and genuine negotiation which could have brought us to a peaceful conclusion. I noted the request by the right hon. Member for Leeds, East for a longer paper. Perhaps in due course a fuller account will be appropriate. I have taken note, but in the context of the privacy of present negotiations I do not think that a fuller account would be right.
§ Mr. Healey
This is a probing debate and the Opposition have taken care to keep it so. I have made it clear, as I did in the last debate, that the Opposition's attitude to the Government's policy will depend largely on the Government's readiness to allow the Secretary-General to continue negotiations so long as he thinks it wise.
Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm my interpretation of the Prime Minister's remarks this afternoon—that the Government are prepared to pursue the Secretary-General's formulations in further negotiations on a certain condition? It is important that the right hon. Gentleman gives an unequivocal reply to my questions on that, because it could be the decisive factor in maintaining unity on both sides of the House.
§ Mr. Pym
I am coming to that important matter and I hope that I shall be able to satisfy the right hon. Gentleman. I was about to deal with the Secretary-General's suggestion. A number of right hon. and hon. Members asked about the suggestions conveyed to both parties overnight. I shall make clear again the nature of the suggestions. They include formulations covering some of the most important matters of disagreement. They do not touch on some of the other crucial elements of the negotiations. For instance, they contain no specific proposals on the practical details of mutual force withdrawal. Obviously that is a matter which is very important to us and, indeed, to both sides.
558 In some respects the Secretary-General has come to the same conclusions as we have. In other respects his ideas differ from proposals in our draft interim agreement. We made it clear on Monday that these were our final positions. Even if the suggestions by the Secretary-General were acceptable to both parties as a basis for further negotiation, there could be no doubt that negotiations on the outstanding points would take many days—if not weeks, or more than a week—to reach either success or failure.
On many occasions we have been through the process and our concern about the detail that remains to be decided in relation to the Secretary-General's idea. That is what concerns us. We have been through this so many times. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister talked about six or seven sets of proposals. Although only three have been specifically put, we have explored all the areas of possible disagreement.
Because of the prolonged Argentine prevarication, we have made it clear to the Secretary-General throughout, and particularly since the beginning of this week, that we simply could not allow the negotiations held under his auspices to be spun out indefinitely. The Secretary-General acknowledged that. We have accordingly made it clear to the Secretary-General that, our final position having been rejected, the existence of his overnight suggestions cannot be allowed—any more than at any other stage in all the negotiations—to affect the military options at our disposal. That was acknowledged by the right hon. Member for Leeds, East, and I am grateful for that.
On that understanding and basis, we naturally await the Argentine response to the Secretary-General's ideas. We do not yet know what that is. I cannot conceal from the House, however, that, on the basis of the known Argentine position as it was communicated to us as recently as yesterday, I am far from hopeful, to put it no more pessimistically than that, that the Argentine response will be such as to enable an immediate ceasefire to be achieved, followed by the immediate withdrawal of Argentine forces from the island.
§ Mr. Healey
I have made it clear that for the Opposition this is perhaps the central issue. The right hon. Gentleman must answer the specific question: do we understand that the Government are prepared to pursue suggestions put forward by the Secretary-General so long as he thinks that there is a chance of their leading to a settlement, without prejudice to military action in the meantime?
§ Mr. Pym
I was coming on to the future of negotiations, which was one of the important points taken up by the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East as well. There is no question of the Government having turned their back on the idea of a negotiated settlement. The diplomatic option and effort continues as vigorously as before. It is clear to the House that we have tried hard to achieve a settlement over the past week. We are prepared to try equally hard in the future, but a carefully balanced offer made at a particular stage in complex negotiations cannot just be left on the table.
The Argentines, having rejected our offer, cannot be allowed to think that they can continue their unlawful occupation of the Falkland Islands, continue their attacks on our task force and continue their diplomatic 559 prevarication and public misrepresentation of our position, then hope to come back a few days or weeks later and pick up a position which had been put to them previously. The circumstances have changed since the Argentines rejected first—
§ Mr. Pym
I am coming to it.
The Argentines rejected Mr. Haig's proposals. Circumstances have changed since then and they will change again after the most recent rejection. We cannot ignore the realities and the conditions that existed at each stage in the negotiations. That covers the important point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Essex, South-East (Sir B. Braine), and others.
The House will recognise the position that I have described as the one which common sense requires. It does not in any way mean that we are no longer prepared to talk or that we will not follow up with imagination and energy any ideas which may lead to a fair settlement. We shall remain in the closest touch with the Secretary-General, who is doing all that he can to secure the implementation of resolution 502. He deserves the constructive support of all members of the United Nations. He will continue to get it from us. I hope that that answers the right hon. Gentleman. I hope that it answers also the point raised by the right hon. Member for Devonport.
§ Dame Judith Hart (Lanark)
rose in her place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put; but MR. SPEAKER withheld his consent and declined then to put that Question.
§ Mr. Pym
We remain ready to negotiate, but we shall not do anything to give credit to the cynical Argentine pretence that they are negotiating in good faith when they are not. We have set out today what we have been prepared to do to achieve a peaceful settlement. Throughout the crisis we have been upholding the essential principles of freedom, democracy and international law and order. That is why we have been able to attract such widespread international support for our strategy since the invasion.
§ Question put, That the Question be now put:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 33, Noes 296.561
|Division No. 165]||[9.59 pm|
|Abse, Leo||Maynard, MissJoan|
|Allaun, Frank||Meacher, Michael|
|Atkinson, N.(H'gey,)||Mikardo, Ian|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||Parry, Robert|
|Bennett, Andrew(St'kp'tN)||Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Race, Reg|
|Canavan, Dennis||Richardson, Jo|
|Cryer, Bob||Roberts, Allan(Bootle)|
|Dalyell, Tam||Roberts, Ernest (HackneyN)|
|Dubs, Alfred||Skinner, Dennis|
|Faulds, Andrew||Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)|
|Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith||Thorne, Stan (PrestonSouth)|
|Holland, S.(L'b'th,Vauxh'll)||Tilley, John|
|Huckfield, Les||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Lamond, James||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|McKelvey.William||Mr. Martin Flannery and Mr. Ernie Ross.|
|Adley, Robert||Finsberg, Geoffrey|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Fisher, Sir Nigel|
|Alexander, Richard||Fletcher, A. (Ed'nb'ghN)|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael||Fookes, Miss Janet|
|Ancram, Michael||Forman, Nigel|
|Arnold, Tom||Fowler, Rt Hon Norman|
|Aspinwall, jack||Fox, Marcus|
|Atkins, Rt Hon H.(S'thorne)||Fraser, Rt Hon Sir Hugh|
|Atkins, Robert (PrestonN)||Fraser, Peter (South Angus)|
|Atkinson, David(B'm'th,E)||Freud, Clement|
|Baker, Kenneth(St.M'bone)||Gardiner, George(Reigate)|
|Baker, Nicholas (NDorset)||Garel-Jones, Tristan|
|Banks, Robert||Glyn, Dr Alan|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Goodhart, Sir Philip|
|Bendall, Vivian||Goodhew, Sir Victor|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (T'bay)||Goodlad, Alastair|
|Benyon, Thomas(A'don)||Gorst, John|
|Benyon, W. (Buckingham)||Gow, Ian|
|Best, Keith||Greenway, Harry|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Grieve, Percy|
|Biggs-Davison, Sir John||Griffiths, PeterPortsm'thN)|
|Blackburn, John||Grist, Ian|
|Blaker, Peter||Grylls, Michael|
|Body, Richard||Gummer, JohnSelwyn|
|Boscawen, HonRobert||Hamilton, Hon A.|
|Bottomley, Peter (W'wichW)||Hamilton, Michael(Salisbury)|
|Bowden, Andrew||Hampson, Dr Keith|
|Boyson, Dr Rhodes||Hannam, John|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Hastings, Stephen|
|Bright, Graham||Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael|
|Brinton, Tim||Hawksley, Warren|
|Brittan, Rt. Hon. Leon||Hayhoe, Barney|
|Brocklebank-Fowler, C.||Heath, Rt Hon Edward|
|Brooke, Hon Peter||Heddle, John|
|Brotherton, Michael||Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael|
|Brown, Michael(Brigg&Sc'n)||Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.|
|Bruce-Gardyne, John||Hill, James|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Hogg, HonDouglas(Gr'th'm)|
|Buck, Antony||Holland, Philip(Carlton)|
|Budgen, Nick||Hooson, Tom|
|Burden, Sir Frederick||Hordern, Peter|
|Butcher, John||Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey|
|Butler, HonAdam||Howell, Rt Hon D.(G'ldf'd)|
|Cadbury, Jocelyn||Hunt, David (Wirral)|
|Carlisle, John (LutonWest)||Hunt, John(Ravensbourne)|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Hillhead)|
|Carlisle, Rt Hon M.(R'c'n)||Jessel, Toby|
|Chapman, Sydney||JohnsonSmith, Geoffrey|
|Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th, S'n)||Johnston, Russell(Inverness)|
|Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)||Jopling, Rt Hon Michael|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith|
|Clegg, Sir Walter||Kaberry, Sir Donald|
|Cockeram, Eric||Kellett-Bowman, MrsElaine|
|Colvin, Michael||Kershaw, Sir Anthony|
|Cope, John||Kimball, Sir Marcus|
|Cormack, Patrick||King, Rt Hon Tom|
|Costain, Sir Albert||Kitson, Sir Timothy|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Knight, MrsJill|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Knox, David|
|Crouch, David||Lamont, Norman|
|Cunningham, G.(IslingtonS)||Lang, Ian|
|Dean, Paul (NorthSomerset)||Langford-Holt, Sir John|
|Dorrell, Stephen||Latham, Michael|
|Douglas-Hamilton, LordJ.||Lawrence, Ivan|
|Dover, Denshore||Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel|
|du Cann, Rt Hon Edward||Lee, John|
|Dunn, James A.||Lennox-Boyd, HonMark|
|Dunn, Robert (Dartford)||Lester, Jim (Beeston)|
|Durant, Tony||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)|
|Dykes, Hugh||Lloyd, Ian (Havant & W'loo)|
|Eden, Rt Hon Sir John||Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)|
|Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke)||Loveridge, John|
|Eggar, Tim||Luce, Richard|
|Elliott, Sir William||Lyell, Nicholas|
|Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)||McCrindle, Robert|
|Emery, Sir Peter||Macfarlane, Neil|
|Eyre, Reginald||MacGregor, John|
|Farr, John||MacKay, John (Argyll)|
|Fell, Sir Anthony||Macmillan, Rt Hon M.|
|McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury)||Roper, John|
|McNally, Thomas||Rossi, Hugh|
|McQuarrie, Albert||Royle, Sir Anthony|
|Madel, David||Sainsbury, Hon Timothy|
|Major, John||St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.|
|Marland, Paul||Sandelson, Neville|
|Marlow, Antony||Scott, Nicholas|
|Marshall, Michael (Arundel)||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)|
|Marten, Rt Hon Neil||Shaw, Michael(Scarborough)|
|Mates, Michael||Shelton, William(Streatham)|
|Mawby, Ray||Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)|
|Mawhinney, Dr Brian||Shepherd, Richard|
|Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin||Shersby, Michael|
|Mellor, David||Silvester, Fred|
|Meyer, Sir Anthony||Sims, Roger|
|Miller, Hal(B'grove)||Smith, Dudley|
|Mills, Iain(Meriden)||Speed, Keith|
|Mills, Peter (West Devon)||Speller, Tony|
|Miscampbell, Norman||Spence, John|
|Mitchell, R. C. (Soton Itchen)||Spicer, Jim (West Dorset)|
|Moate, Roger||Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)|
|Molyneaux, James||Sproat, Iain|
|Monro, Sir Hector||Squire, Robin|
|Moore, John||Stainton, Keith|
|Morris, M. (N'hamptonS)||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)||Stanley, John|
|Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)||Steen, Anthony|
|Murphy, Christopher||Stevens, Martin|
|Myles, David||Stewart, A. (E Renfrewshire)|
|Neale, Gerrard||Stewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)|
|Needham, Richard||Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)|
|Nelson, Anthony||Stokes, John|
|Neubert, Michael||Stradling Thomas, J.|
|Newton, Tony||Tapsell, Peter|
|Normanton, Tom||Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)|
|Nott, Rt Hon John||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Ogden, Eric||Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M.|
|O'Halloran, Michael||Thomas, Rt Hon Peter|
|Onslow, Cranley||Thompson, Donald|
|Osborn, John||Thorne, Neil(Ilford South)|
|Owen, Rt Hon Dr David||Townsend, Cyril D, (B'heath)|
|Page, John (Harrow, West)||Trippier, David|
|Page, Richard (SW Herts)||Vaughan, Dr Gerard|
|Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil||Viggers, Peter|
|Parris, Matthew||Waddington, David|
|Patten, Christopher(Bath)||Wakeham, John|
|Patten, John (Oxford)||Waldegrave, Hon William|
|Pattie, Geoffrey||Walker, Rt Hon P.(W'cester)|
|Pawsey, James||Walker, B. (Perth)|
|Penhaligon, David||Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir D.|
|Percival, Sir Ian||Wall, Sir Patrick|
|Pitt, William Henry||Waller, Gary|
|Pollock, Alexander||Walters, Dennis|
|Powell, Rt Hon J.E. (S Down)||Ward, John|
|Prentice, Rt Hon Reg||Watson, John|
|Price, Sir David (Eastleigh)||Wellbeloved, James|
|Prior, Rt Hon James||Wheeler, John|
|Proctor, K. Harvey||Whitelaw, Rt Hon William|
|Pym, Rt Hon Francis||Whitney, Raymond|
|Raison, Rt Hon Timothy||Wickenden, Keith|
|Rathbone, Tim||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Rees, Peter (Dover and Deal)||Wilkinson, John|
|Rees-Davies, W. R.||Williams, D.(Montgomery)|
|Renton, Tim||Wolfson, Mark|
|Rhodes James, Robert||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon||Younger, Rt Hon George|
|Ridley, Hon Nicholas|
|Ridsdale, Sir Julian||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Rifkind, Malcolm||Mr. Anthony Berry and Mr. Carol Mather|
|Roberts, M. (Cardiff NW)|
|Roberts, Wyn (Conway)|
§ Question accordingly negatived.
§ It being after Ten o'clock, the motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.