Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1990 Nov 7 We
Margaret Thatcher

HC S: [Debate on the Address]

Document type: speeches
Document kind: House of Commons Statement
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [180/22-34]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1543-1634.
Importance ranking: Key
Word count: 6837
Themes: Agriculture, Executive (appointments), Conservatism, Defence (general), Economy (general discussions), Education, Employment, Industry, Monetary policy, Privatized & state industries, Public spending & borrowing, Trade, European Union (general), Economic, monetary & political union, Family, Foreign policy (Central & Eastern Europe), Foreign policy (International organizations), Foreign policy (Middle East), NHS reforms 1987-90, Labour Party & socialism, Law & order, Leadership, Social security & welfare, Transport, Trade unions
[column 22]

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

rose[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. I hope that those who sit on the Opposition Benches, who asked me to call Conservative Members to order, will now behave themselves and allow the Prime Minister to speak.

The Prime Minister

I join the Neil Kinnock Leader of the Opposition in congratulating my right hon. Friend the Member for Ayr(Mr. Younger) and my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond and Barnes (Mr. Younger) and my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond and Barnes (Mr. Hanley) on their superb speeches to move and second the Loyal Address. They did it so well that it is difficult to say anything that can even match their superb judgment of the situation. I thank in particular my right hon. Friend the Member for Ayr for his warm tributes to Ian Gow. We remember him especially on this day for the remarkable way in which he moved the Address last year. We remember him always for his staunch support of liberty and justice and for his tremendous interest in Ulster. My right hon Friend the Member for Ayr has been one of our most distinguished Secretaries of State for Scotland and then for Defence. It speaks volumes about his equable good humour wherever he worked that the only nickname that he ever acquired from those who work for him was “ Gentleman George” , and it is a very good one.

My right hon. Friend comes from quite a long political dynasty in Scotland. He spoke of one of his ancestors who was Chief Whip under Lloyd George in 1922. That Chief Whip had the unique distinction for a holder of that office of bringing down his own Government. That was not as reprehensible as it sounds because he put a good Conservative Administration in place of the coalition that fell. My right hon. Friend has recently become chairman of the Royal Bank of Scotland which, of course, continues to issue a parallel currency. He may have a good deal of advice to give us in the future.

The House also greatly enjoyed the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond and Barnes. He has been a diligent Member of Parliament for seven years and his reputation in Richmond is such that his majority in 1987 was no less than 24 times what it was in 1983. As far as I am aware, he is the only Member of Parliament to appear every week on television dressed only in his birthday suit. That is not as bad as it sounds since he was only six months old at the time and he retired from that work at 18 months for fear of being typecast as a baby.

As is traditional, Neil Kinnockthe Leader of the Opposition was rightly complimentary about the mover and seconder of the Loyal Address. As is traditional also, he was less than complimentary about me. If I might say so, I thought him rather confrontational, indeed strident in his tone, mood and style. The House will not expect me to complain about that. In fact, I gave him some good marks for his combative style, but I gave him none for content. As one of his professors recalled of his essays as a student:

“He could always turn in ten pages about nothing. But he found it difficult to write two pages about anything.”

The right hon. Gentleman has given his usual speech. He totally overlooks the economic resurgence that we have brought about in the past 12 years. Indeed, one wonders what country he has been living in.[column 23]

“Until 1979 we were in the corporate state era. It was an era of relative economic decline and social disintegration. We enter the 1990s with the supply side of the British economy in incomparably better shape than at any time in our history.” Those are not my words. They are the words of Sir J. Banhamthe director general of the Confederation of British Industry.[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. let us settle down and listen to the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister

Yesterday, speaking about alternative socialist policies, the director general said:

“Let there be no going back to the days of industrial relations chaos, to the bogus sham that was the corporate state, to useless so-called agreements that no one could deliver where it matters on the ground at local level, to nationalisation. Let there be no going back to local rates, the principle of representation without taxation for householders, to the poisonous politics of envy. Let there be no going back, in short, to the dreary, dreadful days of failure”
, under socialism. One hon. Gentleman who thought that the words were mine called out, “Ask the CBI.” I am quoting the CBI—the people who know who to run industry. [Interruption.]

Yes, as the Neil KinnockLeader of the Opposition said, we need to get inflation down, and we shall bring it down. I shall refer to that in a moment, but first let us consider what—[Interruption.]

Dr. Michael Clark (Rochford)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. As I and my hon. Friends can hear nothing of this debate—[Interruption.]—could you arrange for sound to be conveyed to the monitors in our offices so that we can sit there to hear debates rather than waste our time coming here?

Mr. Speaker

Order. We are all well used to the cut and thrust of debate on these occasions, but we must give each other a fair hearing. The Leader of the Opposition had a fair hearing and I call upon Members on the Opposition Benches to show the same courtesy to the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister

Let us first consider what has been achieved. Nearly 400,000 extra businesses—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. Those who are watching these proceedings will draw their own conclusions—[Interruption.] The Leader of the Opposition had a fair hearing. Members on the Opposition Benches should show the same courtesy to the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister

Nearly 400,000 extra businesses have been created and every week more businesses are being created than are failing. We have had fewer strikes than at any time since the war. Two million more people are in work than when the Labour Government left office. Business investment is at a rate unprecedented for 50 years and living standards are up by a quarter. Our industry is better managed and better equipped than ever before—from cars to steel, to chemicals, to aerospace, to electronics. New industries are growing up and industries that scraped by under Labour are flourishing under the Conservatives. We are seeing the re-industrialisation of Britain.

Moreover, the brightest and best of our young people——

[column 24]

Mr. Stuart Bell (Middlesbrough)

rose——

The Prime Minister

I shall continue because I have not been able to get far. I will give way before the end of this section.

The brightest and best of our young people now want to go into industry and commerce. They want to set up business for themselves and that is the best guarantee for British prosperity in the 1990s and beyond.

Britain has had nine years of sustained economic growth when our economy grew faster than anywhere in Europe. Indeed, our growth became too fast and it was fuelled by too much borrowing and too little saving. As a result, inflation has risen and oil prices have pushed it up further.

Mr. Bell

rose——

The Prime Minister

One moment. The economy needed to slow down, but such was the sheer strength and vitality of the expansion that it has taken some time to rein back the momentum. But we are now getting on top of inflation. The growth in money supply—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order.

The Prime Minister

The growth in money supply is well within target, savings are rising and inflationary pressures are being squeezed out.

Mr. Bell

Opposition Members cannot conceive that the picture the right hon. Lady has painted is the picture that is presented to the nation today. Has the right hon. Lady read today's report from Touche Ross and Co., the auditors, which says that this is the worst year of recession since the war? It reports that there have been more company closures this year than in any year since 1945. How does that square with the record that the right hon. Lady is presenting to the House?

The Prime Minister

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman did not hear because of the noise—[Interruption.]—but all the figures that I gave were facts. Which one does he say is wrong? On bankruptcies, I pointed out that 400,000 new businesses had been created since 1979. There are still far more new businesses being created than there are numbers failing. That is the answer.

Once inflation has been brought down, the British economy will be far more capable of beating the competition and generating wealth than ever before. That will happen because, first, our industries have been restructured and they are stronger and, secondly, because we have kept our public finances sound, unlike some other countries, for example America and Italy, which have run up enormous budget deficits. We have repaid £26 billion of national debt, so when the economy expands again it will not be burdened with the kind of borrowing that Labour Governments produce. In just one year the Leader of the Opposition's party managed to borrow today's equivalent of £50 billion.

The right hon. Gentleman refuses to recognise what a transformation there has been, but other countries recognise it—for example, Japan, whose businesses invest twice as much in Britain as in any other European country. Of America's top 100 companies, 96 are investing here. And, yes, what of Germany? German business invests more here than it does anywhere else in the Community. That is not because we offer more handouts, but because Britain is the most free enterprise, free trade country [column 25]anywhere in Europe. It is because British talent, inventiveness and good industrial relations make this a country worth investing in and because we have turned our back on socialism.

Our industrial strategy is a strategy for an enterprise economy. It is a strategy for setting industry free to prosper with laws to guarantee fair competition here and in Europe; for securing free trade the world over; and for rewarding hard work and success by lower tax on earnings, savings and profits. It is a strategy for putting trade unions in their rightful place, under the control of their members and encouraging an ever-widening capital and property-owning democracy. That is the right industrial strategy.

The Leader of the Opposition and his party have a rather different view. They still believe that prosperity can be created by politicians rather than by enterprise. They would make “strategic interventions in key sectors” of industry. In other words, they would take money from successful firms to hand it out to failures. They would restore a host of powers to union bosses to damage industry and bully their members. They would bring back nationalisation—taking power back from the managers who know how to run the business and giving it to socialist politicians who do not.

The ex-communists in eastern Europe are far more advanced in their economic thinking than the backward-looking British Labour party which the right hon. Gentleman leads. The eastern European Governments are now encouraging private ownership, reducing price controls, boosting competition and promoting enterprise. What is more, they are coming to Conservative Britain to learn how to do it. Wherever one looks, those who have experienced socialism most are the ones who like it least.

The right hon. Gentleman has suddenly set himself up as an expert on all things European, although as late as 1983 he was still saying “We want out of the Common Market” . Recently the right hon. Gentleman and his friends criticised us when we went into the exchange rate mechanism, even though he had been urging us to do just that. We joined the ERM to give still more discipline to the fight against inflation. Indeed, that is its main purpose. But not for Labour. It wants to change the ERM to give it less discipline. Or, as it puts it, less “deflationary emphasis” —in other words, to join the anti-inflation club, and then change the rules to undermine it.

Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)

Will the right hon. Lady give way?

The Prime Minister

In a moment or two.

The Leader of the Opposition also managed to criticise us when we cut interest rates, although only three days earlier he was urging us to do just that. But then he is always saying, “Cut interest rates” ; he did it when inflationary pressures were rising. He is like a stopped clock. It is bound to tell the right time eventually, but it is completely useless there is someone else around who actually knows the time of day.

We cut interest rates at the right time, as all the indicators published since have shown. We will make further reductions only when we are sure that it is right to do so.

Mr. Beith

I am grateful to the Prime Minister for giving way and for the assurance that she has just given about the care she will take over interest rate policy. Why [column 26]is she so reluctant to join the real anti-inflation club, the one that combines a single currency with an independent central bank? Does not she realise that many of the industrialists whom she has praised see a single currency as the natural extension of free enterprise and a free market?

The Prime Minister

I shall come to that point in greater detail, but I shall of course respond to the hon. Gentleman now. First, the exchange rate mechanism, with the deutschmark as the leading currency, is itself anti-inflationary currency would be the hard ecu, which is precisely what we are proposing, and which I shall come to later.

Rising prosperity has brought an enormous expansion of choice in the goods and services that people can buy. It has also enabled far more to be spent on our public services, particularly education and health. But choice must extend to public services, too. Those services do not belong to Government Departments, health authorities, town halls or trade unions. They belong to the citizens who pay for them with their taxes.

Our reforms, passed during this Parliament, are now giving people more choice. Parents, not the local council, can now choose the school they want their children to go to. They are not restricted just to local authority schools, because every school now has the choice to become an independent state school. Patients can choose their doctor and doctors can choose the hospitals to get their patients treated sooner and better—[Interruption.] Of course, the Labour party does not like this. It hates choice being given to people——

Mr. Tom Clarke (Monklands, West)

Will the Prime Minister give way?

The Prime Minister

I shall give way in due course.

At the same time, we are devolving power away from the centre and giving it to those on the spot who know what has to be done. Schools and teachers can now decide how to spend their own budgets. More money will go straight to the classroom and less to the town hall. Hospitals can now govern themselves and GPs can have their own budgets. More money will go straight to the classroom and less to the town hall. Hospitals can now govern themselves and GPs can have their own budgets. We are taking direct action to improve standards.

In health, we have introduced a medical audit to ensure that hospital treatment everywhere is up to the standard of the best. In education, the national curriculum and testing will reassure parents that their children are learning the basic subjects and skills that they need. The Government are determined both to promote more vocational education and to retain high standards of A-levels. One does not raise achievement by watering down standards. These are the reforms that we have put in legislation; now we are pursuing them, and they will greatly benefit children and patients.

Mr. Tom Clarke

Does the Prime Minister recall that she began this section of her speech by referring to past reforms carried out by this Parliament? Does she agree that one of the most radical reforms—there have not been many—agreed by this Parliament was the Disabled Persons (Services, Consultation and Representation) Act 1986? Does she further agree that 6.5 million disabled people and their carers will have some difficulty believing [column 27]the Government's pledges today when they know that nearly five years later that Act has not been fully implemented? When will it be implemented?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman knows that most of its sections have been implemented and he will be familiar with the fact, even if he does not say it, that the Government have spent, in real terms, more than twice as much as the previous Government on the disabled. No previous Government have such a good record on the disabled——

Mr. Alun Michael (Cardiff, South and Penarth)

Will the Prime Minister give way?

The Prime Minister

I shall give way later.

In training, too, we are adopting the same principles. There will be more choice for those who want training. That is why we are giving young school leavers a voucher worth up to £1,000. There will be more responsibility for those who want to provide training locally. That is why we have set up training and enterprise councils across the country, led by local businesses, which know better than any what skills are needed. Every one of those reforms has been opposed by the Labour party.

The Labour party wants to abolish self-governing hospitals because the National Union of Public Employees says so. The Labour party wants to abolish independent state schools, city technology colleges and assisted places because the National Union of Teachers says so. The Opposition have fought our training reforms time after time—because the Trades Union Congress said so.

The Leader of the Opposition is fond of talking about supply-side socialism. We know what that means: whatever the unions demand, Labour will supply.

Mr. Michael

rose——

The Prime Minister

I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman before dealing with the legislative programme. I then wish to go on to deal with some of the arguments about Europe; and, after that, the Gulf.

Mr. Michael

Will the Prime Minister explain to the House how she can come here today saying sweet words about education and the care of the disabled when the Government have decided to abandon care in the community and have made no attempt to grapple with demographic changes in that area and when all parents know that she has abandoned all promises to the education system? She has even abandoned her Secretaries of State for Education, having been through three in a year.

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman is talking nonsense. He knows that community care has not been abandoned: certain parts are already being implemented through local authorities, and other parts will be implemented when the local authorities are fully ready to take over those great responsibilities. [Interruption.] What about the money? The Opposition are in no position to talk about money. They waste it time and again and do not know how to conduct the nation's finances. As I said earlier, in one year it got so bad that they borrowed today's equivalent of £50 billion. Of course, they do not mind [column 28]handing power to other people. They handed it over to the IMF. They had to, because they could not manage it themselves.

I shall now deal with the legislative programme. The Gracious Speech identifies 15 of the Bills that will be brought before the House in the fourth Session of this Parliament. The new programme has three main themes: to carry forward the fight against crime, to strengthen family responsibility, and to improve efficiency and safety in transport. The programme also provides for more privatisation; improving the town and country planning system; new pay machinery for teachers; new benefits for the disabled; strengthening existing anti-terrorism legislation; and a new approach to conservation and the countryside in Scotland.

Mr. Frank Haynes (Ashfield)

Will the Prime Minister give way?

The Prime Minister

I shall give way in a moment.

The fight against crime will be carried forward by a criminal justice Bill [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order.

The Prime Minister

That Bill is designed to ensure that the severity of the sentence matches the seriousness of the crime and the need to protect the public, and to make the sentence served by serious offenders more closely related to the sentence that is passed.

Mr. Haynes

Will the Prime Minister give way?

The Prime Minister

I shall give way when I have gone a little further in my speech.

The child maintenance Bill will establish a child support agency responsible for assessing maintenance and enforcing payment. This will be used for everyone who is living on benefit. It will be available for any other case where one of the parents concerned wishes to use it.

The second Bill, the maintenance enforcement Bill, will enable the courts to require regular payment by standing order and to order the attachment of the absent parent's earnings at the outset rather than having to wait until he or she has defaulted. The new system will provide much greater stability and independence for the parent who is left and it will safeguard the well-being of the children.

Four Bills in the coming Session will help to improve efficiency and safety in transport. First, the highways Bill, will encourage privately financed roads. It also deals with a major cause of urban congestion—holes in the road. Hon. Members will remember the song by Flanders and Swann “The Gasman Cometh” . It was the gasman on Monday, the electrician on Tuesday, the phone man on Wednesday and the water man on Thursday. This Bill requires the utilities to do their street works at the same time and to repair the road quickly and properly.

Secondly, the road traffic Bill will improve traffic management and punish bad drivers. Thirdly, we propose a trust ports Bill. Since we abolished the dock labour scheme, productivity in our ports has soared. Ports are expanding and new business is coming in. There has been a demand from many of this country's 60 trust ports to be privatised, so that they, too, can modernise and expand. The trust ports Bill will enable that to happen. Fourthly, the planning Bill proposes better compensation for compulsory purchase, particularly for those whose homes are affected. [column 29]

This is a slightly less heavy programme than the programme in the Session that has just ended, but I doubt very much whether there will be any complaints about that. I give way to the hon. Member with the booming voice.

Mr. Haynes

I knew you would give way to me, ducky. The Prime Minister and the Government have been promising, but have let the side down, to do something about mining subsidence. Why are no measures to deal with this included in the Gracious Speech, despite all the promises? On behalf of my constituents, I want to know.

The Prime Minister

The hon. Member can live in hope. It all depends on how quickly we get through the 15 major Bills. In the last Gracious Speech, 15 major Bills were forecast, but we passed 45 in all. Therefore, although 15 are forecast in this Speech, there is room for more.

Several Hon. Members

rose——

The Prime Minister

I must continue. I have given way far more than did the Neil KinnockLeader of the Opposition, which is not surprising, because there is far more content in the Queen's Speech than in anything of which he spoke.

The right hon. Gentleman referred to the resignation of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Sir G. Howe). We very much regret—[Several Hon. Members: “We?” ]—We, the Government, very much regret that, after his long—[Interruption.] How small-minded can one get? I am told by my hon. Friends that one can get quite a lot smaller than that.

We very much regret that, after his long and distinguished service as Foreign Secretary and his contribution, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, to laying the foundations of Britain's economic success, my right hon. and learned Friend has resigned. If the Leader of the Opposition reads my right hon. and learned Friend's letter, he will be very pressed indeed to find any significant policy difference on Europe between my right hon. and learned Friend and the rest of us on this side. My right hon. and learned Friend makes it clear that he does not want to see a single currency imposed on this country. Nor do we. He wants to see Britain playing a full part in Europe's future monetary arrangements. So do we. As I said in my statement to the House after the European Council in Rome last week:

“Britain intends to be part of the further political, economic and monetary development of the European Community.”

My right hon. and learned Friend was also anxious that we should not be left behind on European monetary union, but, as I said in my statement to the House,

“When we come to negotiate on particular points, rather than concepts or generalities, I believe that solutions will be found which will enable the Community to go forward as Twelve. That will be our objective” .—[Official Report, 30 October 1990; Vol. 178, c. 871.]

Mr. Robert N. Wareing (Liverpool, West Derby)

The Prime Minister will resign.

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman should never hope for that.

The truth is that the Leader of the Opposition is trying to cover his own embarrassment about Europe. Judging by their speeches and interventions, many Labour Members seem to think that the Government are absolutely right on Europe: so do a large number of his party's supporters in the country. They do not want to see Parliament's powers [column 30]steadily and relentlessly diminished. They do not want to see sterling disappear. They believe in Britain. And they know that there are times when one has to stand up and be counted in order to uphold that belief.

Dr. John Reid (Motherwell, North)

Will the Prime Minister give way?

The Prime Minister

I wish to continue the argument, but I shall give way later.

Yes, there are some people who want a federal Europe, and they would be prepared to sacrifice a large part of our parliamentary democracy to get it. They would positively like to hand over our financial affairs and responsibilities to another body, an unelected Commission or European central bank. The fact is, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Blaby (Mr. Lawson) immediately recognised when the Delors plan was published,

“It is clear that economic and monetary union implies nothing less than European Government … the United State of Europe” .
So said my right hon. Friend, and that was very clear.

But when the Neil KinnockLeader of the Opposition comes to saying precisely where he stands, he is very obscure. Is he a secret federalist?

Mr. Giles Radice (Durham, North)

rose——

The Prime Minister

There is no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman desperately yearns for the approval——

Mr. Radice

Will the Prime Minister give way?

The Prime Minister

I wish to finish the sentence. I have given way far more often than the Leader of the Opposition would ever dare to give way. I shall continue and finish the argument. Perhaps the hon. Member for Durham, North (Mr. Radice) will do me the courtesy of listening.

There is no doubt that the Leader of the Opposition desperately yearns for the approval of those who are federalists, including the socialist Jacques DelorsPresident of the European Commission—who once told the European Parliament that before long 80 per cent. of economic decisions would be taken in Brussels rather than by national Governments. That is not very surprising, because socialism stands for intervention and central control.

The Leader of the Opposition has an uncomfortable suspicion that a majority of people do not want a federal Europe. So the right hon. Gentleman is in a dilemma. He likes to set his policies according to the prevailing wind. But he is not quite sure which way it is blowing. So he resorts to his usual tactic: the less he has to say, the more he says it.

Is the right hon. Gentleman really going to flannel? The answer is yes—I heard it. Why did he flannel, as he did on radio last week, when asked about a single currency? He tried to pretend that we could have it and keep the pound sterling as well. He seems to think that the issue can be solved by having the Queen's head on an ecu whose value is determined elsewhere. Does not he understand that the essence of a single currency is to deprive Governments of the right to issue their own currencies?

Mr. Radice

Will the right hon. Lady give way?

The Prime Minister

Does not the right hon. Gentleman understand that the value of the single currency would not be determined by this Government or Parliament but by a [column 31]European central bank, which would not be accountable to the House? The answer is no. The Leader of the Opposition does not understand this essential point, which my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) put so well in the House last week when he said:

“The mark of a single currency is not only that all other currencies must be extinguished but that the capacity of other institutions to issue currencies must also be extinguished” .—[Official Report, 30 October 1990; Vol. 178, c. 875.].
Let no one make the mistake of believing that what emerged from the Rome European Council was a fully worked-out strategy. It was just dates and deadlines.

Mr. Radice

Will the right hon. Lady give way?

Dr. Reid

Will the right hon. Lady give way?

The Prime Minister

As the President——

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member for Motherwell, North (Dr. Reid), who is an Opposition Front-Bench spokesman, should be the first to know that if the Prime Minister chooses not to give way, he must resume his seat.

Dr. Reid

The right hon. Lady said that she would give way.

Mr. Speaker

The Prime Minister said that she would give way at an appropriate moment.

The Prime Minister

I shall give way at the end of this argument. Clearly, some Opposition Members have not been listening, or they would have known that I was talking about a single currency. Some of the things that have been shouted from a sedentary position show that they have not grasped even that.

As I said, what emerged from Rome was just dates and deadlines. Karl-Otto PöhlThe President of the Bundesbank is reported to have said three days later:

“This outcome is not, in my opinion, a proper basis for such a far-reaching decision as the introduction of monetary union in Europe. In particular the way this communiqué” —

that agreed in Rome—

“describes the second stage of monetary union is almost incomprehensible to me. We do not need a new institution to co-ordinate monetary policy; we are already able to do that today.”

Yesterday the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung stated:

“However one looks at it, the entire Delors plan plus subsequent text is half baked. At the Intergovernmental conference in December, the Heads of State and Government should not discuss dates for stage 2. They should first seek an answer to the question: what is stage 2?”

The Foreign Minister of the country that will be the next president of the Community, and who will chair the intergovernmental conference, said at the Rome meeting:

“It was a useless Summit and we shall pay the consequences” .

We are the only country to have put forward a fully worked-out proposal for the way ahead—not for a single currency, but for a common currency that can be used alongside national currencies. We have no bureaucratic timetable; ours is a market approach, based on what people and Governments choose to do. If use of the hard ecu by people and commerce became widespread, it could, over time, evolve towards a single currency—but there could be no question of giving up our pound sterling unless and until Parliament and people at that time so decided. This Parliament should not pre-empt a choice that should be for future Parliaments and future generations to make. [column 32]

The Government whom I lead answer those questions clearly, fearlessly and coherently, even if that does sometimes mean being in a minority in the Community.

Dr. Reid

I am grateful to the Prime Minister. I shall not call her ducky—I am not that intimate. There is one question that people want answered. If there is such a degree of unanimity, why did the deputy Prime Minister resign? When the former Chancellor of the Exchequer resigned, the Prime Minister said on the Walden programme that she did not know why. Does she know why the deputy Prime Minister resigned, and will she tell us?

The Prime Minister

That question should be addressed to my right hon. and learned Friend the Sir Geoffrey HoweMember for Surrey, East. I am discussing and debating a single currency that we do not want imposed upon us. It was not clear from what the right hon. Member for Islwyn (Mr. Kinnock) said in this debate, nor in all his flannel on radio, whether he was for or against it. The Government are for a common currency and Britain is the only country in the whole of Europe which has a fully worked-out strategy for the second stage.

We want Britain to be part of a successful, prosperous and free-trading European Community. We want to work closely with our European friends: all our instincts and our history lead us that way. We want the European Community to be strengthened by being open to all the countries of Europe, including those of eastern Europe as they embrace democracy and as their economies become strong enough.

However, we also want to preserve our national currency and the sovereignty of this House of Commons. That, I believe, is what Britain's interests require and what the people of Britain want. It is by setting out clearly what we believe in that we stand up for Britain's interests—as this Government have done over our budget contribution, over agricultural surpluses, over the single market and, most recently, over the GATT negotiations. My right hon. Friend the John GummerMinister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food did a superb job at the seventh meeting. Had we behaved as France and Germany did, we would have been accused of being non-communautaire. We cannot secure that sort of Europe that we want through a policy of always going along with what others propose simply for fear of being left out. Nor can it be secured by the contortions and convolutions of the Opposition. The truth is that they know that our policy is right, but they dare not say so.

Mr. John Marshall (Hendon, South)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the decision taken yesterday by farm Ministers would not have been taken if she had not been so determined at the Rome summit to spell out the priorities of the common agricultural policy?

The Prime Minister

That is absolutely correct. If my right hon. Friend the Douglas HurdForeign Secretary and I had not insisted on raising the GATT issue at the last Rome European Council and also insisted that it be returned to farm Ministers, there would not have been a satisfactory solution. As it is, it will still be difficult to negotiate at the GATT round, but at least now there must be such negotiations between us and the other groups.

A few weeks ago the House was recalled to debate the situation in the Gulf, brought about by Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. The Government's strong stand—both at the [column 33]United Nations and in the sending of British forces to the area—was supported from all parts of the House. Since that debate the United Nations Security Council has passed further resolutions, repeating that Iraq must withdraw unconditionally from Kuwait and that the legitimate Government must be restored. Sanctions have been further tightened, with an air embargo to complement the maritime blockade. The Security Council has said that Saddam Hussein and those who obey his orders will be held responsible for their treatment of Kuwait and its people, as well as their treatment of the foreign nationals held hostage.

It has also been said that Iraq will have to pay compensation for the unspeakable damage caused to people and property. Britain and others have argued that Iraq's chemical, biological and nuclear weapon capability must be eliminated, so that it can never again threaten world peace.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

Will the right hon. Lady give way?

The Prime Minister

Does it concern the Gulf?

Mr. Dalyell

Yes; it is in connection with the unspeakable damage. What is the Prime Minister's response to the serious statements made by Jordan's King Hussein about the ecological damage that he envisages in the Gulf? I simply ask: what is the British Government's comment on that?

The Prime Minister

It is quite a simple one. If a tyrant is never to be fought in order that freedom and justice may be restored, there will be far more tyrants in the world, and freedom and justice will be extinguished. If we followed King Hussein 's argument—to which I listened with the greatest respect—we should never have fought Hitler, and we should not be having this debate today.

Mr. Tony Benn (Chesterfield)

Will the Prime Minister give way?

The Prime Minister

No. I have nearly finished, and I want to pay careful attention to this most important matter, which dominates us during this year.

At the same time, the build-up of Arab and western forces against Iraq has continued. Our own 7th Armoured Brigade—the Desert Rats—is in place, commanded by one of the most distinguished and fearless fighting soldiers in the British Army, whose experience goes back to Korea. I am sure that the whole House will wish him and all our forces godspeed.

However, even though condemnation by the international community grows stronger, even though sanctions are steadily tightened, and even though the people of Iraq are being subjected to unnecessary hardship to satisfy their dictator's lust for power and conquest, there is no sign that Saddam Hussein is prepared to relinquish his hold on Kuwait, or that he will stop the brutalities—the murder, rape, robbery and pillage—that he and his forces are inflicting on Kuwait and its people. He continues to hold our people hostage, in defiance of every rule of law and every standard of decency and civilisation. The tension and anxiety that the hostages and their families must feel weigh on every one of us.

For three months now we have given sanctions and other peaceful pressures a chance. We have given Saddam Hussein the opportunity to withdraw and to end these [column 34]abominations. Democracies are always reluctant to use force or to threaten it. However, we also know what happens when dictators are allowed to get away with aggression.

Time is running out for Saddam Hussein. The implacable message from the House must be this: either he gets out of Kuwait soon, or we and our allies will remove him by force, and he will go down to defeat with all its consequences. He has been warned.

Several Hon. Members

rose——

The Prime Minister

Both at home and abroad the year ahead will be demanding and decisive. We on this side face it with confidence.