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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 April, 2004, 12:37 GMT 13:37 UK
Q&A: The Franks Report
The Argentine ship Belgrano is sunk
Should the intelligence agencies have predicted the war?
In 1983 the Franks Committee reported on the decisions taken in the run-up to the Falklands War.

Senior civil servant Lord Franks chaired a committee of six Privy Counsellors, who sat in private.

There had been much speculation about whether the Falklands conflict could have been prevented, if the government had acted differently.

For some years Britain and Argentina had been discussing possible resolutions to the dispute over the Falkland Islands.

In 1977, at a previous time of heightened tension, Britain had covertly sent a small naval force to the area, but as tensions rose in 1982 no such force was sent.

The announcement by Britain in mid-1981 that it would withdraw its only naval vessel stationed in the area, HMS Endurance, gave credence to the view that Britain was not really interested in defending the Falklands from Argentine military action.

What were the terms of reference?

The Committee was asked to review the way the government carried out its responsibilities in the period leading up to the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands.

Who was on the Committee?

There were six members:

  • Lord Franks, a senior civil servant and former Ambassador to Washington
  • Lord Barber, a Conservative peer and former Chancellor of the Exchequer.
  • Lord Lever of Manchester, a Labour peer and former Paymaster General
  • Sir Patrick Nairne, a senior civil servant with a background in the Admiralty and MoD
  • Merlyn Rees, a Labour MP and former Home Secretary
  • Lord Watkinson, a Conservative peer and former Transport Minister
Who gave evidence?

Prime Minister of the day Margaret Thatcher and her three predecessors, current and former Cabinet Ministers, Government officials, intelligence officers, MPs, members of the Falkland Islands Legislative Council, journalists, and members of the UK Falkland Islands Committee.

What did the report say?

The Committee said the invasion 'could not have been foreseen'.

Some British Government policies, though, 'may have served to cast doubt on British commitment to the Islands and their defence'.
The Opposition's retort
For 338 paragraphs he painted a splendid picture, delineated the light and the shade, and the glowing colours in it, and when Franks got to paragraph 339 he got fed up with the canvas he was painting, and chucked a bucket of whitewash over it.
Former Prime Minister James Callaghan, to the Commons

These included not only the planned withdrawal of HMS Endurance, but also continued arms sales to Argentina, and limits on the extension of British citizenship to residents of the Falklands.

It was 'inadvisable for the Government to announce a decision to withdraw HMS Endurance'.

It also criticised the then Foreign Secretary, Lord Carrington, over the way he conducted negotiations.

The Committee looked in detail at the gathering and use of intelligence and recommended a review of the way intelligence was assessed and changes to the composition of the Joint Intelligence Committee.

Despite making a series of recommendations for change, the Report concluded:

'We would not be justified in attaching any criticism or blame to the present Government for the Argentine Junta's decision to commit its act of unprovoked aggression in the invasion of the Falkland Islands on 2 April 1982.'


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