Debate on the Address

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:42 pm on 22nd June 1983.

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Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow 5:42 pm, 22nd June 1983

I believe that there is only one other Opposition speaker. In deference, Mr. Speaker, to your clear wishes I shall cut what I would have said about the revealing interview between the Prime Minister and Mrs. Diana Gould at Bristol. Mrs. Gould had in front of her parliamentary questions that I had asked. It shows the value of the work that we do through parliamentary questions in the House.

The Guardian in its leader of 26 May pointed out that with all the efforts that some of us have made to put the Prime Minister on the spot and possibly extract the truth, no one has succeeded as well as this Cirencester housewife. I believe that reflects on the procedures of the House.

The issue cannot be covered properly even by parliamentary language because "lying" is not a parliamentary word. Therefore I am compelled to put the point by reading a letter from a Mr. Peter Garratt, of London Road, Brighton, which appeared in The Guardian on 7 June. His short letter, which put the point concisely, read: Not enough has been made of Mrs. Thatcher's interview on Nationwide. When a questioner asked her why the General Belgrano had been sunk while steaming away from the Falklands, she at first denied that this was true, saying the ship had not been steaming away from the islands. quite categorically. Next, the questioner quoted the exact course, just North of West, Astonishingly, the Prime Minister neither repeated nor withdrew her previous statement, nor challenged the questioner's description of the course. It seems to me incredible that any Prime Minister could be unaware of the best available facts. We therefore have to conclude that she deliberately lied in the hope of not being challenged. She was, however, caught out, and as far as I could see, has no answer either to the main charge of sinking the ship, its sailors, and the Peruvian peace plan without good reason. I put the point in the form of a quotation because "lying" is not a parliamentary word. I must also put it in terms of the serious aspect of misleading the House of Commons, and tell my right hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Leeds, South, who is not in his place, that various matters which were looked at by the Franks committee point in the same direction. How can the Prime Minister be exonerated, when she told the House on 26 October, c. 885, that the Falklands crisis had come out of the blue, something which she had said to George Gale, on Wednesday, 31 March, when, lo and behold, we find in Franks that she was saying in the first week of March, "We must have contingency plans," referring to military contingency plans?

In the words of Alistair Burnett, the right hon. Lady has "yomped it back to No 10". There is no word of St. Francis of Assisi now. There was another electoral victor, and he said that there could be no whitewash in the White House. The same applies to 10 Downing Street. It applied not least, among those who were triumphant at the polls, to Richard Nixon.

I must refer to a leading article in the New Statesman of 20 May entitled "A wholly justified obsession". I will spare the House the whole of the article and simply quote the conclusion: It seems that by that stage she wanted her war and was determined to get it. Those who died, the Falkland islanders and the British taxpayer will have paid her price". I do not apologise for taking an hour of the time of the House. If I have done nothing else, I hope I shall have persuaded serious hon. Members on both sides that only by a judicial inquiry under the chairmanship of someone of the calibre of Lord Scarman can these disturbing worries be quelled.