Falkland Islands

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:49 pm on 7th April 1982.

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Photo of Mr Antony Buck Mr Antony Buck , Colchester 7:49 pm, 7th April 1982

I regret having given way to the hon. Gentleman. Of course not. We are concerned to ensure that we do not appease dictators because, in the long run, it can lead to far more bloodshed than if we take a firm line early on. If we have not learnt that lesson by now, we should have.

This is not a time for inter-party rivalry. British subjects have been taken by force and their lands usurped. It is a matter that no British Government can possibly regard with anything but horror. This Parliament, with its traditions—valued by so many Members on both sides of the House—of legality and freedom would not be worthy of its great history if it did not back what the Government are doing to restore the rule of law. This has been a monstrous act of illegality, which the dictatorship cannot be allowed to get away with.

We must keep all the options open. I wish to commend what has already happened with the assembly of the force. Because of the life we lead in the House, we do not see much television, but I saw a brief glimpse of the great operation that is now being mounted with enormous skill and with the greatest rapidity by our Armed Forces. One admires their sheer professionalism and expertise. The force is now on the high seas and is dedicated to the preservation of the rule of law.

I wish to ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence some specific questions. First, will the Government keep the nation in general and hon. Members fully informed about the progress of events? It is somewhat difficult to do that if we are in recess, but I hope that my right hon. Friend will make special efforts to keep us informed. I should have wished, in accordance with precedent, that Members of Parliament could have accompanied our Armed Forces but the distances are so vast that that might not be practical. My father served in the First World War, in the 13th battalion of the Kings Royal Rifle Corps. He was both surprised and pleased to see Members of Parliament in the trenches. Is there any possibility of some hon. Members, besides the many journalists who are rightly there, visiting the task force to show our total support and commitment to the Armed Forces? I know that there would be considerable logistic difficulties about that.

What steps are being taken to ensure, probably through the Privy Council, that the Opposition are kept in the picture? This is a great national crisis. There are many fervent patriots in the Labour Party. I do not agree that we have any monopoly on patriotism or concern about such matters in the Conservative Party. I sometimes wish that Labour Members would concede that they did not have a monopoly of compassion and concern. Right hon. and hon. Members are vastly concerned about the problem, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will follow the precedent set in the Second World War by the grandfather of my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill), who made a point of keeping the Opposition and the rest of the House of Commons fully informed at all times.

I hope that the Secretary of State can tell us something of the pressures that will be put on the Argentines while the force is gathering. All of us wish to avoid the use of force in the Falkland Islands if possible. Like Lord Home of the Hirsel, I am a "matches man", but one realises that there are financial pressures that could bring down a shaky regime with the help of our allies and the power of the City. The Argentines must be made to come to their senses.

When she first came to office, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister quoted Sir Francis Drake: When we endeavour any great matter it is not the beginning of the matter but the continuing of the same until it is thoroughly finished which yieldeth great glory. I do not believe that any great glory save for our Armed Forces will come out of this, but we must ensure the restoration of the rule of law. Conservative Members will support my right hon. Friend and her colleagues in all steady, firm and sensible approaches to the matter and in the use of force, if necessary, in the last resort.