Skip to main content

Falkland Islands

Volume 21: debated on Friday 2 April 1982

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

2.34 pm

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons
(Mr. Francis Pym)

With your permission, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall make a short statement.

There is no confirmation of any change in the position in relation to the Falkland Islands since the statement of my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal this morning. However, I want to inform the House that, if it appears that the situation in the Falkland Islands makes requisite a meeting of the House tomorrow or on Sunday, I shall so represent to Mr. Speaker, in accordance with Standing Order No. 122, so that appropriate arrangements can be made for the House to be recalled.

It seems extraordinary that, with so much information apparently coming in by television and radio from the Argentinians, the Foreign Office should not yet be in a position to tell us what has happened.

In the circumstances, two things arise. First, I say to the Leader of the House that it is now essential that, in any event, we should meet at 11 o'clock tomorrow. The House would expect that, and the country would expect nothing less of us. Secondly, I would expect the Secretary of State for Defence also to be in attendance: we might wish to put some questions to him.

I note what the right hon. Gentleman says. If there are developments of if the situation deteriorates, I have prepared the ground for the House to meet. If, on the other hand, there is no change in the situation, it may be different. I am well aware of what the right hon. Gentleman has told me and of the views that have been expressed. I assure the House that I have taken this step and have spoken with Mr. Speaker precisely so that the House should be able to meet if the circumstances are such that that would be appropriate. I am, of course, referring to the confirmation of any developments. As we know, there have been many rumours but no confirmation. I shall keep in mind what the right hon. Gentleman has said.

I know that this is difficult and I fully understand the position of the Leader of the House. I think that the House and the country would prefer it to be said definitely that we shall meet at 11 o'clock tomorrow morning. It may be that there will be nothing much that can be said. In that event, the Leader of the House will readily appreciate that we shall be as co-operative as we can. I think that all hon. Members will adopt that approach. However, at a moment when we may be at war—that is the reality of the position—the House must meet. It has had to do so in the past on occasions like this, and it should do so now.

If those were the circumstances, the House should meet. I have prepared the ground in order that that should be so. I am clear about the right hon. Gentleman's request and I shall keep it absolutely in mind. If the situation is like that, arrangements will be made to recall the House. On the other hand, if it is quite different from that and if I think that there is nothing further to report it will be a mistake to recall the House. If there are further matters to report, I have prepared the ground to recall the House.

Can my right hon. Friend confirm that we are still in touch with the Governor?

I do not think that it would be appropriate for me to be drawn into the issue on a business statement about the arrangements for the House. However, as far as I am aware, the answer to that question is "Yes".

I know that the Leader of the House is trying to help the House, but I think that something more is needed of him. Surely if any Argentinian soldier, sailor or air force man has landed on the Falkland Islands the House must be recalled. That is the assurance that we need, and it has not actually been given by the Leader of the House. The Government must accept that many of us have exercised great restraint on this issue, which has been running since the end of February. Clear warnings have been given of a dangerous situation. There is great anxiety about whether naval forces have or have not been deployed. The House has shown restraint and has not pressed the Leader of the House or the Lord Privy Seal on the deployment of forces.

In those circumstances, it is surely reasonable that we should have an absolute assurance that the House will be called if there is an invasion of the Falkland Islands.

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for the restraint that he has shown. In the circumstances which he has described—that there should be an invasion of the Falkland Islands—the House will, of course, be recalled. That is exactly what I am trying to arrange.

In the event of our meeting tommorrow, could the Foreign Secretary be invited by Mr. Speaker to attend at the Bar of the House?

I shall have to consult on that issue. I do not know the answer to it.

As a provincial Member, I have certain commitments. I am sure that many of my colleagues have similar commitments. We would like to be advised that we should make arrangements to cancel our commitments if the House is to meet tomorrow. It is very important that we should know now, in fairness to those to whom we have committed ourselves, whether it is necessary for us to cancel some of our engagements.

That depends on events and on the judgment that the hon. Gentleman makes. I am sure that if events develop in a way that makes it obviously appropriate for us to come back, the hon. Gentleman will wish to be present. But each hon. Member must decide for himself.

Will my right hon. Friend please continue to resist efforts designed to ensure that we meet tomorrow, especially if we have to meet for a non-event? Many of us have important engagements and we would certainly not wish to turn up if no better information were available.

If there are any developments, even slight developments, the House will wish to meet tomorrow. I think that that is what the House is saying to me, and I have taken that firmly on board.

Will the Leader of the House ensure that the Secretary of State for Defence is in the Chamber if the House meets tomorrow?

I am sure that my right hon. Friend will be in attendance. He is in London at the moment, so I am sure that he will be present.