Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1982 Jun 17 Th
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type:public statement
Document kind:House of Commons PQs
Venue:House of Commons
Source:Hansard HC [25/1080-84]
Journalist:-
Editorial comments:1515-30.
Importance ranking:Major
Word count:2245
Themes:Autobiographical comments, Parliament, Defence (Falklands War 1982), Employment, Privatised and state industries, Pay, European Union (general), Foreign policy (Americas excluding USA), Foreign policy (Middle East), Health policy, Sport, Trade unions, Transport
1080

PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Alton

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

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The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

This morning I presided at a meeting of the Cabinet and had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House, I shall be having further meetings later today.

Mr. Alton

Can the Prime Minister tell the House whether the ceasefire agreed in the South Atlantic has been extended to cover all military activities in that area? How many prisoners are held by British forces in the South Atlantic? Does she agree that the callous indifference shown by the Argentine junta towards its own men demonstrates very eloquently indeed its indifference to life and dignity?

The Prime Minister

We have not yet been able to procure a complete ceasefire in the South Atlantic. We seek such a ceasefire for the reasons that I explained last time I answered questions. It is important for us in the future.

The figures for the number of prisoners that I gave to the House the other day were given to us by the commandant of the Argentine forces, whom we assumed knew the numbers. I am not sure that that assumption was correct. As far as we are aware, the latest estimate is 10,660, but the final figure is not yet confirmed. The only solution is to do an actual count to make certain of the numbers.

I agree with what the hon. Member said about the Argentine indifference to the state of its prisoners. We are trying hard to return the younger conscripts as soon as possible. The "Canberra" will be loaded by this evening with about 5,000 young Argentine prisoners of war. So far Argentina has not agreed a safe conduct to allow those prisoners to be repatriated to any Argentine Port. Argentina is attempting to insist that they go to Montevideo, which is a lot further away and would take longer.

Mr. Sainsbury

Will my right hon. Friend find time today to consider the plight of the journalists still imprisoned in Argentina? Can she assure the House that their immediate and unconditional release will form part of any arrangements that we are eventually able to arrive at with Argentina?

The Prime Minister

We have already made further representations about the journalists, through the Swiss embassy, asking that they be restored to Britain as part of the arrangements for the repatriation of prisoners.

Mr. Foot

I thank the right hon. Lady for the representations that she has made on that matter. The Opposition hope that the ceasefire can be made as effective as possible as swiftly as possible.

I turn to another subject, because other matters must proceed. I understand that the right hon. Lady has had to concentrate on the Falkland Islands, but will she now direct the Secretary of State for Employment to intervene in the railway dispute, so that a bitter railway strike is avoided?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. That is a matter for the British Railways Board. We regard it as important that it secures the increase in productivity which so far have not been forthcoming.

Mr. Foot

Does the right hon. Lady mean that she and the Government are to stand idly by and do nothing whatever on the subject? I urge her once again to look at 1082the facts afresh. If she will do that she will see that the unions have a strong case to put. I hope that she will try to get the Department of Employment to do its proper job, to try to prevent industrial disputes of this nature rising to a crisis. That is what the Department ought to be doing.

The Prime Minister

The management of British Rail is a matter for the management and the board, and not for the Government. The Government set the external financing limit for British Rail, which this year is about £950 million, the highest ever.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell

Is the right hon. Lady aware that the report has now been received from the public analyst on a certain substance recently subjected to analysis and that I have obtained a copy of the report? It shows that the substance under test consisted of ferrous matter of the highest quality, that it is of exceptional tensile strength, is highly resistant to wear and tear and to stress, and may be used with advantage for all national purposes?

The Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I think that I am very grateful indeed to the right hon. Gentleman. I agree with every word that he said.

Sir Bernard Braine

Bearing in mind that the Falklands conflict has been the direct result of criminal irresponsibility by a Fascist dictatorship, which has defied the United Nations, has not hesitated to use outlawed weapons and, at this moment, is refusing to declare hostilities at an end, thereby increasing the anxieties of the prisoners in our hands, would not my right hon. Friend think it right and humane to inform each prisoner by letter of our concern for his welfare and our wish for his early and safe return to his country, and for such a letter to make it plain where the responsibility for delaying such an end lies?

The Prime Minister

I realise the very worthy purpose behind what my hon. Friend has said, but our first concern is to get some of the young Argentine conscripts repatriated. We are trying to do that with all possible speed and his valuable suggestion would, I am afraid, hold that up.

Q2. Mr. Ray Powell

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

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Powell

Further to my question to the right hon. Lady on Tuesday, is she aware that a strike took place yesterday of 26,000 Welsh miners who were protesting against the Government's miserable and mean offer of 4 per cent. to the National Health Service workers? Will the Prime Minister now put pressure on her Minister at least to offer them a fair and reasonable amount? Surely she has enough blood on her hands?

Hon. Members

Withdraw.

The Prime Minister

The answer is "No, Sir".

Mr. Peter Bottomley

Leaving aside the ridiculous question that we have just heard, will my right hon. Friend turn to the Northern Ireland Bill what the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) calls her golden talents and ask him whether he will drop his opposition to it?

The Prime Minister

That is not for me to ask.

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Q3. Mr. Greville Janner

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

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Janner

Will the right hon. Lady find time today to turn her attention to the long-term unemployed, the growing, vast and sad army of people whose prospects——

Mr. Alan Clark

What about genocide in the Lebanon? What about the Palestinians? Tell us about that.

Mr. Janner

Does the Prime Minister agree that there are problems at home that are causing vast worry, including the 50 per cent. of constituents in some parts of Leicester who are unemployed? What specific steps will she take to assist those people?

The Prime Minister

The hon. and learned Gentleman began his question by asking specifically about the long-term unemployed. It was with those people in mind, and because we were anxious to relieve that unemployment, that my right hon. and learned Friend [Sir Geoffrey Howe] the Chancellor of the Exchequer, during the Budget, set aside £150 million to see whether we could find useful work for those people. That £150 million has not yet been used, but the Manpower Services Commission is, I hope, shortly to put forward proposals for the best way in which it could be used to help the very many people whom the hon. and learned Gentleman has in mind.

Mr. Budgen

In view of the great compliment that the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) paid to my right hon. Friend, could she tell the House whether she has recently fought any battle on his behalf in Cabinet?

The Prime Minister

I fight both the battles of war and the battles of peace frequently.

Mr. R. C. Mitchell

In view of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and the subsequent deaths of thousands of innocent civilians, will the Prime Minister seek an urgent meeting with her European partners with a view to achieving, on a European basis, military and economic sanctions against Israel?

The Prime Minister

Statements have been issued by the European Foreign Ministers and political heads condemning vigorously the occupation of, and the intrusion into, the Lebanon by Israeli forces. The Foreign Ministers will be meeting again shortly. I do not believe that there is very much likelihood of sanctions against Israel. I join the hon. Gentleman in saying that what has happened is, in a way, a double tragedy. First, there is the invasion of the Lebanon itself with all the deaths, devastation and suffering that it has caused and, secondly, the fact that that invasion was made by a country which has itself suffered so much in the past and whose suffering we have always tried to alleviate.

Mr. Dykes

Further to the exchanges on the end of hostilities in the Falklands and the internal position in Argentina, will my right hon. Friend examine the rumours about the long-term detention in Argentine gaols of British nationals, who have been illegally imprisoned for many years and been tortured by the secret police or by the other agencies of the regime without justification? Will she press for their immediate release?

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The Prime Minister

Of course we would press for the release of any detained British citizens about which we knew and would make representations to the Argentine junta. It is partly because of the nature of the Argentine junta and the total lack of human rights in Argentina that we were so anxious to get the Argentines to leave the Falklands, and were prepared to use force to do so.

Mr. Douglas

Will the Prime Minister give some time during her busy day to comment further on the statements that she made on Tuesday about the nature and content of the inquiry that might be made into the Falklands dispute? In particular, does she take the view that it can be done under existing legislation, such as the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act 1921 or does it require further legislation and a specific role for the House of Commons?

The Prime Minister

It is not necessary to carry out an inquiry under the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act. Indeed, I think that a number of people would say that it would be most undesirable to pursue that particular form of inquiry. I shall, as I indicated, shortly be writing with suggested terms of reference and the form of the inquiry to the Leader of the Opposition and to the leaders of other political parties in the House.

Q4. Mr. Temple-Morris

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

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Temple-Morris

Not least because the World Cup is being held in Spain, would my right hon. Friend consider today appealing to the many thousands of young British football fans, whatever the provocation, not to behave in a way that might detract from the outstanding heroism shown by our young soldiers in the Falklands, who are their contemporaries?

The Prime Minister

I warmly endorse what my hon. Friend has said. I hope that those young people will be as good representatives of this country as our Armed Forces have been in the South Atlantic.

Mr. Hoyle

Will the Prime Minister reflect on her earlier reply concerning Health Service workers, because they are a far more deserving case than, say, judges or top civil servants——

Mr. Skinner

And the House of Lords.

Mr. Hoyle

Or the House of Lords. Does the right hon. Lady agree that the cost of helping the Health Service workers would be only a fraction of what the Falkland Islands operations have cost?

The Prime Minister

We increased the cash limit of the National Health Service to make a higher offer to the nurses. The hon. Gentleman will know that the amount being spent on the Health Service this year is 6 per cent. in real terms above what it was in 1979. Beyond that, I leave the matter to my right hon. Friend [ Norman Fowler] the Secretary of State.