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 do not accept that. If that had been the case, the first requirement that I laid down and on which we have always insisted throughout our discussions would not have been fulfilled. If the Prime Minister had said that she intended to set up a Committee on this without securing the approval of the House, that would have been an error. In the circumstances, the House has the opportunity to decide whether it wishes the inquiry to proceed on this basis. I believe that that is the right way to proceed. The House of Commons has the opportunity to state its view. If my hon. Friend is saying that the whole nature of the inquiry must be changed to ensure that the Prime Minister's position in such a matter should be abandoned in accordance with precedent, I do not agree. We have asserted the right of the House to judge the matter. No service is done by suggesting that an inquiry of this kind, on which some of my right hon. Friends will serve, will do anything other than seek to carry through the task that the House wishes it to fulfil.

Having watched events in the past months since the beginning of the Falklands crisis, I have been reminded occasionally of a scene in Victor Hugo's book, "Ninety-Three", in which a sailor lets loose a great battering ram against a ship. When it looks as though the ship will be destroyed by it, by a skilful piece of agility and manoeuvre at the last minute, he manages to prevent it from doing the fatal damage. I sometimes see the Prime Minister as the heroine of that scene. The hero in the book was first decorated and then shot. I believe that that would be a proper way to apportion responsibility. I speak, of course, in political and electoral terms.

I welcome the inquiry. I hope that my right hon. and hon. Friends will support it. I believe that the report may be of great consequence for the country. It may help us to avoid the terrible errors that landed us in this crisis. It may also help to sustain the vigilance with which the House of Commons exercises its rights over the Executive.