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Libya

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:21 pm on 16th April 1986.

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Photo of Sir Ian Percival Sir Ian Percival , Southport 7:21 pm, 16th April 1986

The hon. Gentleman will realise that I am trying to keep to the rules as to time, and I shall come to that. Of course there is room for differences of opinion, but those hon. Members who have criticised seem to have forgotten that it is much easier to criticise than to do something. Do those who say that it was wrong think that the Prime Minister did not know how serious a decision it was? Do they not bear in mind that she is the one person who has all the evidence, a mass of which is public already? When they use such words as subservient and supine, do they stop to ask themselves whether if they were convinced that it was right to do something they would have the courage to do it? I believe that historians will say, "Thank goodness we had a Prime Minister with the perception to see the dangers and the courage to stand by, and with, our only ally fighting this terrorism." Once again we owe a debt to the Prime Minister and to the Foreign Secretary and their colleagues.

In the debate there has been plenty of criticism and suggestions that there should be some other way, but I have yet to hear any positive suggestion about that other way. [Interruption.] I shall not be diverted. If hon. Gentlemen look in Hansard tomorrow they will see that no positive alternative has been put forward.

Of course there is no question of our American friends being "our allies right or wrong", but I want to assure them that some of the hysterical outbursts they have heard in this debate are totally unrepresentative of the attitude of the British people.

I was sorry that my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) was so ungenerous in his reference to our American friends. He sought to balance the part played by the United States in the last war by saying that we stood alone for a year. So we did, and it was a very proud chapter in our history, and some right hon. and hon. Gentlemen might do well to spend a little more time seeing how we can live up to those standards; standards that cost so many lives. They might also remember that the Americans gave us more help to enable us to do that than all the other nations put together, and that they have been the most generous in giving us credit for what we did.

The burden of what was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup was that we must look after British interests. Of course we must, but he overlooked the fact that that is exactly what the Prime Minister and our Government are doing. He made an ungenerous reference to the Americans having their own interests to protect in Europe and suggested that that is the only reason why they have 300,000 troops there. Have right hon. and hon. Gentlemen forgotten that our interests are identical to those of the United States? Thank heavens we have their support in the protection of those interests.

There is another interest of enormous importance at stake here. It is in our interest to be good friends and loyal allies, and it is in our interest for that to be recognised throughout the world.