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Volume 22: debated on Thursday 29 April 1982

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asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official duties for Thursday 29 April.

This morning I presided at a meeting of the Cabinet and had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House I shall have further meetings later today.

Will the Prime Minister tell the House how many British and Argentine soldiers, and how many Falklanders, she is prepared to see killed—[Interruption.] —to establish the sovereignty that she will later concede in negotiations?

To answer the hon. Gentleman indirectly, there is only one thing that is more important than peace, and that is liberty and justice. If someone had not fought to get that for us, the hon. Gentleman could not even have asked me that question.

Will my right hon. Friend find time this afternoon to reflect on the significance of the observations of the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, which indicated that in his opinion the Commonwealth not only fully supported the British diplomatic position, but accepted that there might be a need for further force?

Yes, Sir. I saw Sir Shridath Ramphal's observation, and I might have something to say about it later. It was excellent and showed that the British Commonwealth firmly believes in upholding international law and in seeing that unprovoked aggression does not win.

Since the United States of America's attempt to play the honest broker seems to be about to fail, will the Prime Minister give an undertaking that if the American Government do not then come of the fence immediately and impose economic sanctions on Argentina—which could mean the quick end of the dispute without bloodshed—she will consider withdrawing the invitation to President Reagan to address both Houses of Parliament next month?

I have every reason to believe that the fundamental friendship between the United States of America and Great Britain will continue, and will continue to flourish.

Will the Prime Minister find time today to tell those who supported the dispatch of the task force, but who now have doubts about its use, that they have a clear duty to spell out their view of the terms of an honorable settlement and the time scale that they would countenance for achieving it? Does the right hon. Lady agree that there is a world of difference between a genuine search for a negotiated peaceful withdrawal of the Argentine invaders and a disgraceful, blatant policy of appeasement of aggression?

The hon. Gentleman has made his point very effectively. The task force has no point, even in support of diplomacy, unless it is clear that one is prepared to use it if necessary. I very much agree with the hon. Gentleman about the time scale for negotiations. The longer they are, the longer our people will be under the heel of the Argentine dictator.

Will my right hon. Friend accept that many of us strongly deprecate the discussion of the tactical options facing our forces either here or in the media? Will she persuade them to shut up?

I very much share my hon. Friend's concern. If such concern is expressed in the House, some of the media may take notice of it. I hope that all concerned will have in mind only one thing, which is that everything that they say may put someone's life in jeopardy. Therefore, we all have a responsibility to those in Her Majesty's fleet.


asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 29 April.

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply that I gave some moments ago.

Following the Prime Minister's experiences of the Argentine Fascist junta, will she give the House a categoric assurance that her Government will sell no more arms to Fascist and neo-Fascist Stales, wherever they may be?

Governments of both panties have been responsible for contracts for sales of arms to Argentina. As the hon. Gentleman knows, we look at each and every order as it comes. There is not a general rule.

Does the Prime Minister agree that two considerations must be kept in mind: first, the defence of sovereign British territory; and, secondly, the wishes of the Falkland Islanders, and that they must have top priority in any decision that is made?

I think that I see the special point in the hon. Gentleman's question. Of course both those things are supremely important, and they are very much in the forefront of my mind.

Will the Prime Minister confirm that even at this late stage Mr. Secretary Haig is actively pursuing a peaceful solution to the dispute? Will she confirm also that he has sent proposals both to London and Buenos Aires on the matter? Have the Government responded to those proposals?

I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman will leave that question until a little later, when I shall have something to say about it. I should prefer to stick to what I have already prepared.

If the Prime Minister has any communication with the Secretary-General of the United Nations, as has been so stridently urged by the Leader of the Opposition, should not the first question to which the Secretary-General should address himself be the speedy and effective implementation of resolution 502 of his Security Council, which has been outstanding for over three weeks?

My hon. Friend is right. If that resolution were to be implemented there would be few problems left in relation to the Falkland Islands, but it has always been one of the fundamental weaknesses of the United Nations that it does not have the means of implementing its resolutions. If it did, Afghanistan would not be occupied, we would not still have the terrible situation in Vietnam and Cambodia and we would have solved the Cyprus situation. There are many other examples. My hon. Friend has hit upon the fundamental weakness. Therefore, we have to take action.


asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 29 April.

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply that I gave some moments ago.

Has the Prime Minister noticed the decline in bellicosity of the public statements by the task force commander, who now views the situation with more realism and has moved from a "walkover" to a "long and bloody struggle"? Will she take note of that? Will she realise that even at this very late stage there is still time for her to go to the United Nations and discuss a peaceful solution? Does she take note of the sheer bloodthirstiness of those in the ranks behind her, who have now lost touch with reality and no longer think in terms of peace and the United Nations, but resort to gutter allegations against those who are struggling for a peaceful solution?

The comments of the task force commander are always vivid, if various. We have been to the United Nations. We went to the United Nations before the invasion. We have the Security Council resolution. If that resolution could be implemented there would be no problems now.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that she and the Royal Navy task force have the full and unqualified backing of the British people as a whole in regaining the Falkland Islands and liberating our people from Fascism? Is she further aware that her leadership and resolve at the moment when thousands of our finest young men are embarked on a hazardous and dangerous enterprise stand in marked contrast to those who run for cover at the first whiff of grapeshot?

I think that the vast majority of our people, whatever their political views, are firmly behind the action that the Government are taking. Whatever their political views, they are delighted that Britain is firmly standing up once again for the principles in which she believes.

If a negotiated settlement is reached between Britain and Argentina on the question of the Falkland Islands, will the Falkland Islanders, whose wishes the Prime Minister says are paramount, have the right to veto such a settlement, or will their choice be between living under any new administration agreed between the two parties and leaving the Falkland Islands for this country?

I have noticed the word "veto" creeping into many commentaries on the present situation. The right of self-determination for inhabited territories is fundamental to the United Nations charter. That is what I believe the House will insist upon. That is what we are trying to ensure for the Falkland Islanders.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it would be timely to remind our many friends in South America, in the world and in the House, of the tremendous services that this country has rendered towards the liberation of South America, that SimÓn Bolivar launched his liberation of four countries from Britain, that the Marques of Maranhāõ in the Brazilian nobility was better known here as the hon. Member for Honiton and as Admiral of the Fleet Lord Cochrane, and that the history of Great Britain in the South American continent is one of liberation, assistance towards independence and granting people the right to chose their own Government?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who has made an extremely important point. There has been a traditional friendship between Britain and many South American countries. We have contributed greatly to the development of their economies. That has been a traditional friendship in the past. It is one of the tragedies of the present situation that that traditional friendship had been totally disregarded.


asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 29 April.

Does my right hon. Friend realise that there is great support in the country for the leadership that she is showing in this crisis? Does she agree that the greatest deterrent of all to any tinpot dictator or other agressor, or perhaps a greater power, is resolute and decisive Government?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. It is important, if we are to deter dictators, to have the capacity to do so and to demonstrate our resolve, both on the part of Government and of the people.

In view of the reported statements of Rear-Admiral Woodward, which Minister approved the arrangements for press representatives to be on the flagships?

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence. I was wholly behind the arrangements. It is absolutely right and fully in accordance with tradition that we should carry war correspondents on Her Majesty's ships when they are on such a mission.

While I appreciate that the House is mainly concerned, quite properly, about the situation in the Falkland Islands, may I raise the issue of the disaster caused to Londoners by the doubling of their fares through the mismanagement of London Transport by the GLC, which has also doubled their rates? Will the Prime Minister urge the Secretary of State for Transport to take London Transport away from the GLC and set up a separate transport authority for London, as recommended by Sir Peter Masefield?

I rather agree with my hon. Friend that both fares and rates are too high. I think that there is much merit in the solution that he has proposed. I hope that it will be considered by the Select Committee, which, I understand, is inquiring into the future of London Transport. If London had achieved the productivity levels of other major cities in this country, about £80 million a year would be available to reduce fairs.