Falklands Campaign

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:34 pm on 21st December 1982.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Dick Crawshaw Lieut-Colonel Dick Crawshaw , Liverpool Toxteth 7:34 pm, 21st December 1982

I am sorry that the Secretary of State is not present. I want to say a few words of tribute to him. We shall be sorry to lose him from the Front Bench, and we shall be sorrier to lose him from the House, as I understand is likely.

I have not always seen eye to eye with the right hon. Gentleman, as many other hon. Members have not. In a debate about three weeks before the Falklands crisis arose I spoke of my fears about our naval weakness. I am old enough to know that had it not been the Falklands crisis, about which I can say that I was right, it could have been another crisis when the right hon. Gentleman would have been right and I would have been wrong. It does not behove any of us to be arrogant when we are discussing defence. Each campaign has its own lessons to teach us. All that we can try to do is to learn from the lessons of the past.

I shall say a few words about the campaign generally. I was surprised at some of the remarks of the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn), although I have heard them many times before. Many of the things that he said during the campaign were completely contradicted by what happened. If it was not him, certainly some of his hon. Friends talked about the devastation of Port Stanley and the hundreds of civilian lives that would be lost. None of those things happened. Of course, they need not have happened.

We are talking about 1,700 people. At what point do people who talk about numbers start to pay regard to the individuals? Was it for those 1,700 people or for a principle that we went into the Falklands? Each of the issues must be considered on that basis.

I was 100 per cent. behind what the Government did during the Falkland Islands crisis. However, one had to ask oneself whether a principle was involved and, if so, whether one could do something about it. I could have accepted that we could not do anything about it, if the odds were so much against our doing anything about it. When one joined the Army in 1939 to save Poland and ended up by selling the country to someone else, one can accept anything in political life. All that one has to do is to be realistic and to do what one can to defend principles. If one cannot do so, one must just sit back and accept.

However, I could not do so. I believed that there was a principle at stake. The Prime Minister and the Government deserve the greatest tribute. I am not saying that there were not faults beforehand. I am talking about after the campaign started. It does less than service to the people of this country when we hear right hon. and hon. Members talking about the Government and the press beating up a campaign of hatred and war—that is not so. The people realised what was at stake. Few people of an older generation were averse to what was happening and to the action that we took in the Falkland Islands, because they had lived through it before. I lived through the 1930s. I have heard all the arguments before. Nothing new is coming out in the unilateral disarmament movement that I had not heard time and again in the 1930s.