Sir Patrick Nairne


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The Independent Online

In his obituary of Sir Patrick Nairne (10 June), Paul Levy mentioned that Nairne served on the Franks Committee reviewing the Falklands War, writes Tam Dalyell. On a gloomy November Friday afternoon in 1982 I was summoned to give oral evidence to the Franks Committee. The chairman asked a dozen prepared questions, and there followed a loquacious interrogation by Anthony Barber, Harold Lever and Merlyn Rees (Harold Watkinson was absent). The sixth member of the Commission, Patrick Nairne, sat there, listening intently but uttering not a word. Two decades later I asked Nairne for his recollections.

"It was all very difficult," he told me. "My friends from MoD days, Admirals Sir Terence Lewin and Sir Henry Leach (Sir John Fieldhouse thought differently) were apoplectic about your opposition to the Falklands War; but, uncomfortably, I thought you might possibly be generally correct."

Then he added, "I am only sure of two things: first, tired and exhausted, Oliver [Lord Franks] produced a final draft which simply did not chime with the evidence which we had accumulated and heard; secondly, if Denis Healey had been in the country, and not in the United States, Michael Foot and John Silkin would not have committed the Labour Party in the Saturday morning debate on 3 April 1982 to endorsing Mrs Thatcher, and I doubt if in those circumstances the task force would have sailed."