Advisers told Thatcher to 'buy out' Falkland Islanders
Paying 'bribe' of $100,000 to families in disputed territory would avoid war, PM's aides recommended
MARGARET THATCHER'S senior advisers proposed "buying out" the Falkland Islanders by giving $100,000 to each family, rather than sending a task force to defend their sovereignty, newly-released files reveal.
The papers, drawn from the former PM's personal archive, also reveal the deep divisions within the government as the prospect of war with Argentina grew. One unnamed MP told the party's Chief Whip that the war would be "a big mistake" and make the 1956 Suez crisis "look like common sense".
Another comment recorded by the Whip expresses the hope that "nobody thinks we are going to fight the Argentinians. We should blow up a few ships but nothing more."
The publication of the 1982 papers by the Margaret Thatcher Foundation comes just two weeks after the result of a referendum showed islanders are overwhelmingly in favour of remaining a British overseas territory. Earlier this week, it was reported that Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner had asked for her compatriot Pope Francis's "intervention" in the long-running Falklands dispute.
The BBC's Bridget Kendall says the papers reveal for the first time "how deeply split the [Conservative] party was over the Falklands". The Guardian points out that "contrary to the jingoistic spirit at the time" the deep divisions over the Falklands "went to the very heart of Downing Street".
Fiscal alternatives to war were proposed by some of Thatcher's most senior staff. Senior economic adviser Sir Alan Walters and chief of staff David Wolfson both put forward schemes offering to "buy out the 1,800 islanders" rather than send a task force to the South Atlantic. Wolfson gave specific details of such a scheme on 22 April 1982, suggesting each islander family be offered a "bribe" of $100,000 and given lifetime guarantees allowing them to settle in Britain, Australia or New Zealand with full citizenship. "This is the bribe which would have to convince [General] Galtieri that they would vote for Argentine sovereignty," he told the PM.
The papers also reveal Thatcher's "steely determination", says the BBC. A draft of a strongly-worded letter to President Reagan shows the "no-holds-barred approach" she used to rebuff US attempts to broker a peace deal. ·