Falkland Islands

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:33 pm on 13th May 1982.

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Photo of David Winnick David Winnick , Walsall North 8:33 pm, 13th May 1982

That is probably quite right, and I am sure that does not apply only to the most senior executives.

But this is not a question of the private views of BBC executives or anyone else. It is a question of the independence and credibility of the BBC at times of crisis such as this. That is why there is a considerable difference, as there must be, between the broadcasts by Argentina's authorities or any other dictatorship and the BBC. Indeed, the same could be said of some American broadcasting stations such as Radio Liberty and the Voice of America. Their broadcasts are not viewed in the same light as those of the BBC. The BBC has its reputation and credibility because it is free from constant Government control and interference. I hope that it will continue to be that way.

If the BBC broadcasts—I leave aside television programmes—are supposed to be sympathetic to the junta's point of view, why is the junta so busy jamming those broadcasts? To me, that is an odd state of affairs. Therefore, we should leave the broadcasting authorities to get on with their business. They should not be the subject of interference.

There is also much hysteria in the press. One can only describe the reporting by some newspapers of events relating to the Falklands as the worst type of gutter journalism. I believe that they are far more concerned with circulation wars and rivalry than with the interests of Britain or our Service men. Indeed, if some hon. Members are to be believed, those Service men could be involved in a widespread military conflict within seven or 10 days.

According to the press, the agent in the Beaconsfield by-election has said that if the Union Jack is flying in Port Stanley on polling day, the Tory vote will be up. I was not aware that this crisis was about by-elections, increasing the Tory vote or anything else like that. But the truth is that to a large extent, rather like some of the popular press, Conservative Members believe that the present events can be exploited for party political purposes.

I accept that the Labour Party may be losing votes—for all I know, it did so in the local elections last Thursday—because of the Falklands crisis. That is not the most important consideration. It is that we should put forward our point of view about the way in which the crisis can be resolved. It is not a question of winning votes or of popularity, although one hopes that in time people will come to respect our views.

The Government must not allow themselves to be swayed by some of the more jingoistic feelings and emotions that have been expressed by some Conservative Members. At the end of the day, this House wants to see a negotiated settlement. We do not want an escalation of the conflict or an invasion in which thousands of lives could be lost. That is why I hope that the efforts now being made by the United Nations Secretary-General will be successful.

That is the way to bring about a solution. We must try to involve the United Nations and at the same time try to reach an agreement that would ensure the removal of Argentina's troops from the islands. We must also recognise that sovereignty must be negotiated. The parties concerned must realise that once the military conflict comes to an end there can be meaningful talks. As I said earlier, we cannot take the view that the Falklands will remain British for ever and a day.

The Government should pursue the line that they are now beginning to take—lessening the military aspect and putting much more emphasis on the diplomatic. They should recognise British wishes that the United Nations should be involved and that there should be a solution as suggested by the Secretary General of the United Nations. In that way, not only would we come out of the conflict honourably, but we would not be isolated from our supporters overseas. Moreover, it would be a most effective way of saving thousands of lives in military conflict.