Falklands Campaign

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:22 pm on 21st December 1982.

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Photo of Mr Reginald Prentice Mr Reginald Prentice , Daventry 6:22 pm, 21st December 1982

One can scarcely envisage anything more distorted than the view of the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) that national support for our troops in the Falklands was some kind of militarism instilled into the people of this country by the Prime Minister for party reasons.

Nevertheless, throughout the whole of this argument the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East has at least been clear and consistent—and totally wrong. His view is entirely out of step with that of the vast majority of the people of this country, including the vast majority of Labour supporters. In a sense, however, I have more respect for the right hon. Gentleman and for the 30 or so Members who voted with him in the final Division on the Falklands crisis than for those Opposition Members, including the right hon. Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin) who opened for them today, who gave half-hearted quasi-support while constantly seeking political opportunities to sneer at the Government's motives and to score points.

This is the first time that I have participated in a debate on the Falklands and I wished to be non-partisan, but in view of the speeches that we have heard from the Opposition today and on previous occasions I shall make three short, sharp political points.

First, the blame for that unnecessary war lies with the Argentines. It was their aggression and their international crime, not ours, it was their crass folly in underestimating the willpower of the British Government and the British people and the skill and courage of the British forces which led to disaster and caused enormous damage to the Argentines as well as to us.

Secondly, in so far as there have been errors of judgment by British Governments, such errors go back over 20 years or more. I do not wish to anticipate the Franks report, although the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East and the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) sought to do so. Certainly errors of judgment have been made in the past. I remember clearly the occasion to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) referred—the rejection of the Shackleton proposals to improve the Air Force. I was a member of the Cabinet in the then Labour Government, so I must share the blame, but so, too, were the right hon. Members for Deptford and for Bristol, South-East, and the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East presided over that Cabinet, so we all share the responsibility.