Falkland Islands Review

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:14 pm on 8th July 1982.

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Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Ebbw Vale 4:14 pm, 8th July 1982

I am not suggesting that. I agree with the terms that the Prime Minister proposed and the interpretation that she placed upon them in her speech. I am not suggesting that there should be no comparisons between what happened on this and on previous occasions about the interpretation of intelligence. The Opposition have no desire, nor did we when we were in Government, to suppress, circumvent or hide information. The more the report brings the matter into the open, the better we shall like it and the better will be the service done to the nation.

I have not heard the right hon. Lady's statements on the rights of individuals who may be charged or accused or whose conduct may be criticised by the report. I was gratified to hear that they will have the right, prior to the report being published, to see what is said about them so that they will have an opportunity to comment. I assume that they will also be able to present their own views to the inquiry.

I have heard much in the past about various forms of tribunals of inquiry. I participated in some of the debates after which we set up the inquiries into tribunals of inquiry. We set them up because grave injustice had been done to individuals in many tribunals. It was the overwhelming opinion of the House—certainly on the Labour side—that there must be protection for people in those circumstances. Should anyone question what I say, they should examine the debates on the inquiry after the Vassall tribunal, for example, or earlier ones. People were implicated in inquiries at which they did not have the chance to defend themselves. Gross injustice was done to some of them. Some were excluded or driven from public life as a result of charges that they had not seen before they were published in newspaper headlines. I am opposed to British citizens, even if they are civil servants or in the Foreign Office, being subjected to that type of trial. The inquiry may have presented a different picture. Therefore, I warmly welcome what the right hon. Lady said.

It may be thought that inquiries are always to be approved and that they always have been. That is not so, partly for the reasons that the right hon. Member for Sidcup hinted at in his intervention and partly for others. The House has rejected the idea of inquiries on important occasions. In the main, the Opposition have always supported them. In circumstances of great national concern such as this, we have consistently argued for such inquiries. I warmly welcome the fact that the right hon. Lady and the Conservative Party now accept the necessity for an inquiry in present circumstances. It is a conversion. I say that as one who, together with my right hon. and hon. Friends, for many years argued for an inquiry into the Suez fiasco. There has been no such inquiry from that day to this. The Falklands crisis was solved by a considerable military success, but what preceded it cannot be called a diplomatic success.

It is wise for the House to have learnt about these matters. The Suez catastrophe led to the loss of British lives. This country's reputation was injured and great damage was done to our international affairs. That is why the Labour Party, with the Liberals of those times, pressed hard for an investigation into Suez. I am glad that there has been a conversion. It would have been much better for the country if it had listened to what the Labour Party said on the matter some 20 or 25 years ago.