Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Complete list of 8,000+ Thatcher statements & texts of many of them

1986 Jun 17 Tu
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: speeches
Document kind: House of Commons PQs
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [99/905-10]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2659
Themes: Monarchy, Commonwealth (South Africa), Defence (general), Industry, Privatized & state industries, Energy, Trade, Foreign policy (Africa), Foreign policy (Middle East), Labour Party & socialism, Race, immigration, nationality
[column 905]

PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Craigen

asked the Prime Minister is she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 17 June.

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in this House I shall be having further meetings later today, including one with His Majesty King Hussein.

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Mr. Craigen

In what sense can the Prime Minister claim that her Administration are giving moral leadership on South Africa?

The Prime Minister

We tried at the Commonwealth conference to see whether we could get the solution to the South African problem by negotiation and we helped to set up the Eminent Persons Group. That Eminent Persons Group was widely welcomed. It was due to our leadership. I believe that had it not been for the bombing of the three capitals, that group would have continued and could have come through to a conclusion.

Mr. Latham

When my right hon. Friend meets King Hussein today, will she describe to him her extremely successful visit to Israel—[Interruption.]—oh, yes—and encourage him to enter into negotiations directly with Mr. Peres, the Prime Minister of Israel?

The Prime Minister

Of course I shall discuss with King Hussein the visit to Israel. I do not think that there is any point in trying to encourage King Hussein to have direct negotiations with the Prime Minister of Israel. I do not think he would contemplate that without the support of the other Arab nations. My hon. Friend is only too well aware of what happened to one of the King's ancestors on just such a similar occasion.

Mr. Kinnock

When Bishop Tutu and his colleagues, as well as the ANC and the UDF, together with other organisations representative of majority black opinion in South Africa, all say repeatedly that economic sanctions are the most effective non-violent way to pursue the end of apartheid, what right has the Prime Minister to disagree with them?

The Prime Minister

With all due respect to the right hon. Gentleman, we each have a right and a duty to formulate our own opinions.

Mr. Kinnock

In that case, we can tell that the right hon. Lady is not black and in South Africa, where they do not have the right to formulate their own opinions. That is what is wrong with the system. Since she offered her opinions, as she is freely entitled to do, last Friday, about what was best for the black people of South Africa, what was her authority for stating that?

The Prime Minister

I have given, and shall continue to give, our views on the lack of effectiveness of economic sanctions. I shall continue to give our view that the important thing is to try to end apartheid by negotiation and to try to get a suspension of violence on all sides. That will continue to be our objective.

Mr. Kinnock

And the Botha regime will continue to mock it. Does the right hon. Lady not understand that if she really wants negotiations they can come only through pressure, and that economic sanctions are vital to pressure?

The Prime Minister

Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will remember what previous Members of his party have said about sanctions and what Mrs. Helen Suzman has said about sanctions, that they clearly would not be effective and would be counter-productive. The right hon. Gentleman wants sanctions, which will increase unemployment in South Africa and in Britain. How does he think that that will bring about peaceful change?

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Mr. Richard Page

Does my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister agree that the recent honour to Sir Ian MacGregor was well deserved and——

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman must not ask a question about the Prime Minister's advice on honours.

Mr. Page

Does my right hon. Friend believe that Sir Ian MacGregor 's task to create the most efficient steel industry in Europe, if not the world, was made so much more difficult through the lack of courage of the Labour Government between 1974 and 1979 in not implementing the recommendations of the Beswick review?

The Prime Minister

The fact that the Labour Government did not implement certain recommendations on the steel industry made it more difficult for this Government. I believe that, partly as a result of the foundations laid by Sir Ian MacGregorSir Ian, British Steel is now trading profitably for the first time in 12 years.

Q2. Mr. Willie W. Hamilton

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 17 June.

The Prime Minister

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply that I gave some moments ago.

Mr. Hamilton

With regard to the Prime Minister's meeting with the Queen tonight, and in view of Her Majesty's known anxiety about the need to preserve the unity of the Commonwealth, especially in connection with South Africa, will the Prime Minister—despite what she said last week—give Her Majesty an assurance that she places the unity of the Commonwealth above the unity of the Conservative party?

The Prime Minister

Had the hon. Gentleman listened earlier, he would have heard that I do not have an audience of Her Majesty this evening. When I do have an audience of Her Majesty, there are certain matters that I discuss only with Her Majesty and not with others.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Will my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister convey to Her Majesty the concern of the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton) about her welfare?

The Prime Minister

I have nothing to add to what I have already said.

Mr. Steel

Will the Prime Minister explain to the House, in advance of this afternoon's debate, the distinction in her mind between sanctions, effective economic measures and effective measures? Is she aware that most of us find it humiliating that Britain is seen as being dragged along towards the inevitable international action to bring pressure to bear on South Africa for peaceful change? Should we not be taking the lead in these matters?

The Prime Minister

Had the right hon. Gentleman listened to my earlier remarks, he would have known that it was we who took the lead in setting up the Eminent Persons Group, which would have been successful but for the circumstances that I mentioned earlier. It is important to secure effective measures to bring the system of apartheid to an end and enable black South Africans to play their proper part in the government of South Africa.

Mr. John Browne

Does my right hon. Friend accept that, with regard to race, our superb armed forces are [column 908]effectively colour blind, with recruitment and promotion based on aptitude and merit? Does she agree that ethnic monitoring will lead to positive discrimination and enhance racialism and non-merit promotion? Can she please assure the House that ethnic monitoring will not be accepted in the armed forces?

The Prime Minister

It is always important that promotion should take place based on individual merit and ability and not on other factors. There is no monitoring of ethnic origins in the armed forces at present. A review is being conducted, which is nearing completion, and an announcement will be made in due course.

Q3. Mr. Home Robertson

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 17 June.

The Prime Minister

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply that I gave some moments ago.

Mr. Home Robertson

Is the Prime Minister aware that my constituents do not want the Torness nuclear power station to be commissioned until such time as they can have satisfactory answers to vital questions about the Chernobyl disaster and about Scotland's future energy needs? As I received reliable information today about serious defects in the insulation of the reactor at Torness and about hot spots that may be having an effect on the steel and concrete linings of the reactor, will the right hon. Lady halt the loading of the reactor until those vital questions can be answered?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. The matters that the hon. Gentleman raises are for the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate, which I am sure he is the first to recognise is an excellent inspectorate, with a superb record in this country.

Q4. Mr. Hirst

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 17 June.

The Prime Minister

I refer my hon. Friend to the reply that I gave some moments ago.

Mr. Hirst

Is my right hon. Friend aware that Bishop Mokoena, the leader of the Independent Reform Church in South Africa, with 4.5 million black Christian adherents, is presently in the United Kingdom, and has brought a clear message to the British people that, while apartheid is totally unacceptable, he believes that economic sanctions and disinvestment would be profoundly unhelpful and damaging to the South African people?

The Prime Minister

I have heard reports of the bishop's views. That underlines the view that we take, that any measures must be effective, to try to bring about the end of apartheid. Economic sanctions are punitive and negative in their effect. We are much more interested in positive measures if they can be shaped for that purpose.

Q5. Mr. Allen Adams

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 17 June.

The Prime Minister

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply that I gave some moments ago.

Mr. Adams

Is the Prime Minister aware that she failed to satisfy me last Thursday when I asked her or her Ministers to give me an assurance about the future of aeroengine production in Glasgow? May I now ask the Prime Minister, against the background of defence questions this [column 909]afternoon, whether she is prepared to give the House, Scotland and the United Kingdom as a whole a commitment about the future of shipbuilding on the Clyde and in Britain as a whole? Is there any point at which the Government will become involved in protecting British jobs in British yards?

The Prime Minister

The future of British yards, and also of British jobs in factories, will depend upon our securing the requisite orders. All Governments in power, of whatever complexion, know that.

Mr. Roger King

Has my right hon. Friend read reports that the Church Commissioners are not able or willing to withdraw investment from South Africa because it may affect the livelihood of the clergy in this country? Does it not follow that hundreds of companies and tens of thousands of work people in this country will be similarly affected if there are swingeing trade sanctions against South Africa?

The Prime Minister

I agree with my hon. Friend. That stresses the correctness of the view that the Government have taken, that the matter must be considered very seriously and deeply, along with our partners, because the purpose is not to hurt those whom we least wish to hurt, but to bring about an end to apartheid. Anything that we do must be directed towards that end.

Q6. Mr. Ashton

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 17 June.

The Prime Minister

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply that I gave some moments ago.

Mr. Ashton

Is it not a fact that the Prime Minister's party is now split down the middle on South Africa, just as it was on British Leyland, the Shops Bill and Westland helicopters? Yesterday even a former Prime Minister split with his party on the NHS. The alliance is now split down the middle on defence. Is it not a fact that the only party that is united in its policies in the House and fit to run the country is the Labour party?

The Prime Minister

Why did the previous Labour Government vote against sanctions in the United Nations? Why did the previous Labour Foreign Secretary say, about economic sanctions, that those who we do not wish to hurt would suffer most if economic sanctions were imposed?

Mr. Nelson

In answer to an earlier question by my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Latham) my right hon. Friend was rightly cautious about urging on King Hussein later today bilateral direct discussions with Israel. However, does not the presidency of the European [column 910]Community later this year provide a golden opportunity for a forum for discussions for all the participants in the middle east, in which context the recent visit of President Assad of Syria to Greece is encouraging? May we hope that my right hon. Friend will place this high on her agenda of priorities?

The Prime Minister

It is a cause of concern that at present there is no initiative to solve the middle east problem. We come back in the end to two problems: who should negotiate along with King Hussein—who should be the Palestinians who truly represent the Palestinian people and who would also be acceptable for the negotiating process; and what form should the international grouping behind the negotiations take. So far we have not been able to come to a conclusion about that, but we must keep on trying. To that extent I agree with my hon. Friend.

Q7. Mr. Roy Hughes

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 17 June.

The Prime Minister

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply that I gave some moments ago.

Mr. Hughes

Will the Prime Minister pause to consider that, in the past 12 months or so, she has presided over a massive contraction of the British coal industry? Now there is speculation about a further 10 per cent. reduction in manpower in south Wales. In the post-Chernobyl era, is that not a grave mistake? Is not what is now needed massive investment in the industry to put it at the centre of the British energy industry?

The Prime Minister

As the hon. Gentleman knows, there has been massive investment in the coal industry—about £2 million for every day that we have been in power. He also knows that the coal industry has been doing very well and has had a record-breaking year for productivity, which is now over 3 tonnes per man shift. For industry to have a future it must be efficient, and the coal industry is becoming really efficient and working well.