Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1986 Jun 24 Tu
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: speeches
Document kind: House of Commons PQs
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [100/174-78]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2534
Themes: Commonwealth (South Africa), Monetary policy, Energy, Trade, European Union (general), Foreign policy (Africa), Health policy, Transport, Trade unions
[column 174]

PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Hirst

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 24 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. This evening I hope to have an audience of Her Majesty the Queen.

Mr. Hirst

Has my right hon. Friend had time today to read the article in the Daily Telegraph by Norman Stone, Professor of Modern History at Oxford, pointing out that sanctions have never yet succeeded in altering the domestic policies of any country? Will she reaffirm her Government's commitment to an early ending to apartheid and to the economic and political advancement of all races in South Africa, and will she resist any measures that destroy the jobs and living standards of black people in that country and the jobs of thousands of people in this country?

The Prime Minister

I gladly confirm what my hon. Friend has said. We seek an early end to apartheid and the advancement of all races in the political government of South Africa, and we seek, further, the suspension of violence on all sides in return for negotiations to achieve the end defined by my hon. Friend.

Mr. Hattersley

May I first congratulate the Prime Minister on wisely changing course and agreeing to the meeting between the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and Mr. Oliver Tambo. May I go on to assure her that, if she follows the logic of that decision and decides to stand out against the extreme Right-wing pressure on her Back Benches, the Opposition will support that change of course. If she continues either to prevaricate about sanctions or to pretend, as she did a moment ago, that they will not change the policy of the regime in Pretoria, how does she propose to bring about a change in South Africa?

The Prime Minister

May I point out that Lynda Chalkermy hon. Friend's purpose in seeing Mr. Tambo will be to tell him that suspension of violence on all sides is essential to peaceful change in South Africa. The right hon. Gentleman talks about change of course. He has changed course perhaps more than anyone else. As a Minister of State at the Foreign Office, he said:

“I do not believe that a policy of general economic sanctions would be in the interests either of the British people or of South Africa.” —[Official Report, 7 July 1976; Vol. 914, c. 1354.]
[column 175]

Mr. Hattersley

I am grateful and flattered by the Prime Minister's interest. On that exact point, does she understand that the sanctions that will be most effective are not general economic sanctions but financial sanctions? Let me therefore ask a specific question. If the international community loses faith in the South African economy and withdraws capital from South Africa, will she and the Chancellor bolster up the Pretoria regime by rescheduling South African debts?

The Prime Minister

I gather from the right hon. Gentleman that he is against general economic sanctions against South Africa. I am grateful to him for making his position clear. We, too, are against general economic sanctions, as I have made clear on many occasions. We have carried out the measures that I indicated last time. We shall now consider the position with our EEC and Commonwealth partners.

Mr. Hattersley

We are all used to the combination of prevarication and bluster that—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order.

Mr. Hattersley

On this occasion—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. These interruptions take up time.

Mr. Hattersley

On this occasion, the Prime Minister's technique does more than its usual damage to her electoral prospects. Does she not realise that by prevaricating about the racist regime in South Africa she is giving it comfort and support and encouraging its continuation?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman is talking nonsense in his usual blustering fashion. Moreover, he knows that the debts are not Government to Government, but commercial.

Mrs. Ann Winterton

Bearing in mind the old saying that those who live in glass houses should not throw stones, will my right hon. Friend tell those members of the Commonwealth, such as Zimbabwe, to put their own houses in order before calling for sanctions against South Africa?

The Prime Minister

The system of apartheid must end, and I do not believe that general economic sanctions would help it to end. They would be highly damaging, both to black interests in South Africa and to employment in this country. In the end, there will have to be negotiations between the South African Government and black South Africans, and we should keep our eye on that purpose and do everything possible to achieve it.

Mr. Steel

Does the right hon. Lady agree that the advantage of the suggestion in the report of the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group that intercontinental air links with South Africa should cease is that that is specific and easily policed? Is she further aware that gesture politics, which the right hon. Lady so despises, also include the gesture of doing nothing or being seen to be dragging one's feet—the most impossible posture of all for any Government?

The Prime Minister

To do anything about air links would be very damaging, not least to some 800,000 people in South Africa who have the right to come to this country. I note that the right hon. Gentleman does not share the views of his right hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen), who in an article on 24 March 1985 said:

“Total or even selective trade sanctions will not succeed.”
[column 176]

Mr. George Gardiner

While none of us expects my right hon. Friend to reveal in advance the proposals that she will put to her colleagues in The Hague this week, can she assure us that nothing that she does there will be at variance with the policies and the principles that she has described and hitherto defended resolutely in this House?

The Prime Minister

I shall do my level best at the European economic summit, as at the Commonwealth conference, to bring about change in South Africa through a process of negotiation between the Government of South Africa and full representation of the black population, in the absence and suspension of violence.

Q2. Mr. Hardy

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 24 June.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Hardy

As NACODs is holding its annual conference this week, may I remind the right hon. Lady that at last year's conference members of the association still believed that she knew what she meant by the use of the word “sacrosanct” ? In order to keep the record straight and to maintain the international regard for the integrity of her office, does she now accept that she, her Government and their new knight seriously misled both the House and my association?

The Prime Minister

No, and the hon. Gentleman knows that.

Mr. Nicholls

Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the many false assumptions about South Africa is that Bishop Tutu speaks exclusively for black Christians, or even the majority of them? Is she aware that while Bishop Tutu has a congregation of less than 150,000, Bishop Makoena of the Independent Reformed Church has a following of more than 4.5 million? Is it not essential that any steps that we take against South Africa have the effect of supporting moderate black leaders such as Bishop Makoena—who is vehemently opposed to sanctions—and not undermining their position?

The Prime Minister

It is absolutely vital to support moderate leaders in South Africa. It is also vital to support those many industries that have been in the forefront in trying to break down apartheid. To introduce sanctions against them would be to defeat the very people who have been trying to bring about the required change in South Africa.

It would be utterly callous to put large numbers of black South Africans out of work, to create unemployment in their country, and then to create additional unemployment in this country.

Q3. Mr. Straw

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 24 June 1986.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Straw

As the Prime Minister has claimed in the House today that sanctions would be highly damaging to British employment levels and has suggested that up to 150,000 jobs in this country might be at risk, how does she square those claims with the fact that when I asked for details of the likely effects on jobs and output in the United Kingdom of different levels of economic measures, [column 177]sanctions and of the non-imposition of sanctions on South Africa, I was told late last night in a parliamentary answer by the Minister for Trade that

“the information was not available” ?

Does that answer not show that the Prime Minister's own claims about the effects on unemployment are simply scare tactics?

The Prime Minister

If the hon. Gentleman looks back he will find answers from me about how the figures are calculated. They are calculated by the general value of exports from this country to South Africa and the number of jobs that that would normally be equivalent to.

Sir John Biggs-Davison

Have Her Majesty's Government, with other Commonwealth Governments, any contingency plans to deal with the collapse of the economy of Zimbabwe and other neighbours of South Africa in the event of the intensification of sanctions against the Republic of South Africa?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. As my hon. Friend is aware, that is a matter that could concern us a great deal, because so much of the imports of Zimbabwe and the other front-line states, and the exports from these countries, have to go by the roads or the rail bridge at Beitbridge between Zimbabwe and South Africa. Any major sanctions would have devastating effects on the future of those countries.

Q4. Mr. Eastham

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 24 June 1986.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Eastham

As the Prime Minister is a leading voice in the Commonwealth, may I draw her attention to the recent terror bombing incident by the South African Government against three independent African countries, which are also members of the Commonwealth? Other than making a protest, will the Prime Minister tell the House what representations she is making to South Africa regarding compensation? Will there be any retaliatory action against South Africa?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman has heard me say in the House before that we replied very sharply indeed to South Africa—[Interruption.]—about those terrible bombing incidents, which were responsible for bringing to an end the effective operation of the Eminent Persons Group. Without those incidents, that group had a chance of getting through to negotiations, with a suspension of violence on all sides.

Mr. Favell

Does my right hon. Friend agree with Mr. Russell Hopkins, a consultant surgeon recently appointed [column 178]as the general manager of a hospital in Cardiff, that doctors cannot demand with total honesty more cash for the Health Service until waste has been eliminated?

The Prime Minister

As my hon. Friend is aware, we are doing our level best to secure the more effective use of resources in the Health Service. Resources have increased enormously under this Government, from £7.75 billion in 1979 to £18.75 billion this year. Last year the efficiency savings amounted to £150 million. Those savings were ploughed back into the Health Service to secure more treatment for patients.

Q5. Mr. Strang

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 24 June 1986.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Strang

Will the Prime Minister accept that the ultimate responsibility for nuclear safety must lie with the elected Government? Is she aware that the two-month delay in the commissioning of Torness announced by the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate is quite inadequate? After Chernobyl, is it not clear that we need a national plan—if not a national emergency force—to cope with such an accident? Would it not be the height of irresponsibility to go ahead with the commissioning of a new power station before the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate, the Health and Safety Executive and Government Departments have had the chance to complete their post-Chernobyl reviews?

The Prime Minister

I was asked an identical question last week. Our Nuclear Installations Inspectorate is one of the best in the world. It has a superlative record. Not long ago some of the hon. Gentleman's colleagues were preferring the AGR to any other type of reactor.

Mr. Dykes

Does my right hon. Friend entertain the hope that the first ministerial contact with Mr. Tambo of the African National Congress will be the precursor to further contact with what is essentially a moderate nationalist movement and its domestic equivalent, the United Democratic Front? Will she and others bear in mind, in their proper exhortations to both sides to renounce violence, the fact that the majority of the violence emanates from the South African security forces?

The Prime Minister

I have already said that my hon. Friend's main task, when seeing Mr. Tambo tonight, will be to say that there must be a suspension of violence on all sides. That is essential to peaceful change in South Africa, and she will reiterate that most strongly.