Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1976 Mar 18 Th
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [907/1535-41]
Editorial comments: 1515-30.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2439
Themes: Commonwealth (Rhodesia-Zimbabwe), Foreign policy (Africa)
[column 1535]

PRIME MINISTER (VISITS)

Q1. Mr. Rifkind

asked the Prime Minister whether he will pay an official visit to Maputo.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

I have at present no plans to do so, Sir.

Mr. Rifkind

Does the Prime Minister realise that he will now have plenty of time to accept all the invitations he receives to visit exotic world capitals?

Does he accept that it would be intolerable for Britain to enter into any financial commitment with the Mozambique Government without a clear and unambiguous guarantee from that Government that they will not approve, condone, or permit armed intervention from Mozambique into what is still British territory?

The Prime Minister

Questions about future visits clearly refer to my visits as Prime Minister. Otherwise, this Question would, I suspect, be out of order.

I hope that the hon. Member is not suggesting that we should go back on the unanimous agreement of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference, which I reported to the House at the time, and on the view now being taken by the Security Council. We have made clear our opposition to the settlement of the Rhodesian dispute by terrorism or bloodshed, but we are certainly prepared, as we agreed at the Commonwealth Conference, and as is now the wish of the Security Council, that we should make a contribution to Mozambique in respect of its financial losses through honouring the United Nations sanctions agreed on the initiative of the then Labour Government.

Mr. Ford

Is my right hon. Friend aware that some of us are sorry that he will not be visiting Southern Africa in the near future? Will he speak to some of his friends in charge of the Southern Africa Solidarity Fund to ensure that its resources are devoted to helping [column 1536]oppressed people in this area wherever they are?

The Prime Minister

Yes, that has always been my view.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

Does the Prime Minister agree that the situation in Southern and Central Africa is now extremely dangerous and that great care will be needed to prevent minor clashes on the Rhodesian border from escalating into a full-scale guerrilla war? Will he take steps to improve urgently, as far as he is able, the channels of communication between this country and both black and white leaders in Rhodesia? In particular, will he accept that there is one thing upon which Mr. Smith, Mr. Nkomo, President Kaunda and Mr. Vorster are now agreed—that they want a British presence to back them up? Is the——

Mr. Speaker

Order. That is long enough.

The Prime Minister

I recognise that the hon. Gentleman has been trying to help in this matter and I understand that he has spent some time in the last few days in these areas. I have no doubt that because of his sincerity in this matter, which I acknowledge, he will put at the disposal of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary all the information he has gleaned during his visit. We naturally get our own direct reports of the views of some of the leaders whom he has mentioned, but my right hon. Friend will be grateful for anything that the hon. Member is able to tell him.

Mr. Lee

Is not the time fast approaching when my right hon. Friend might go to President Maputo with a view to getting access to Rhodesia? Is it not time for us to take the initiative in this matter and to set about establishing a lawful Government in Rhodesia for the first time since 1965?

The Prime Minister

I do not believe that it would be the view of either side of the House that we should intervene in a military sense, certainly not, as my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has made clear, to support a white minority in opposition to majority rule, when on the suggestion of successive Governments, going back to the time of Sir Alec Douglas-Home, the Rhodesians have [column 1537]had every chance to negotiate a satisfactory settlement. There will be no question of any intervention. If we have any rôle to play in discussions we shall be ready to consider the matter. In my view it must be something that looks like succeeding and not be a reason for further manoeuvring to postpone a settlement.

Mrs. Thatcher

Does Harold Wilsonthe Prime Minister accept that the Mozambique Government are either conniving at or fomenting terrorism against black and white Rhodesians across the frontier? Will he also accept that, quite apart from the illegal régime in Rhodesia, we and not the Commonwealth have the ultimate responsibility for Rhodesia? Therefore, is he aware that many Conservative Members believe that it is quite wrong to give aid to Mozambique in those circumstances?

The Prime Minister

I do not accept the right hon. Lady's views about fomenting. Mozambique has shown great patience and tolerance, because throughout this period it has not invoked the sanctions for which the Security Council has called. We proposed and invoked them when the Conservative Party was split three ways. Will the right hon. Lady say whether she supports the United Nations sanctions? Does the Conservative Party support the sanctions? [Interruption.] I can understand the nervousness of Conservative Members. Last May the right hon. Lady was told in the House about the Commonwealth agreement on financial assistance if sanctions were reimposed. Does she support that? She did not oppose it at the time.

As for outside intervention, as the House will know I called in the Soviet Ambassador immediately on his return from Moscow and warned him strongly against intervention in that part of Africa, as well as in other parts.

Mr. Thorpe

For the avoidance of doubt and as the right hon. Lady the Leader of the Opposition has alleged that Mozambique has fomented terrorism, will the Prime Minister take steps to find out whether she includes President Kaunda of Zambia within the ambit of her condemnation?

[column 1538]

The Prime Minister

I did not think she did. It is a matter for her if she did. I was interested in what the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) said after having met President Kaunda and others. We shall be very interested to study what he found there.

Q2. Mr. Skinner

asked the Prime Minister if he has any plans to visit Oxford.

The Prime Minister

I have at present no plans to do so, Sir.

Mr. Skinner

Is my right hon. Friend aware that when I tabled this Question about a fortnight ago I had something else on my mind? As that has been overtaken by events, will he take a trip to Oxford in the few days remaining and consult the Oxford-based British Leyland workers about their new three-day week chairman—the £22,500 a week chairman?

Mr. Russell Kerr

£22,500 a year.

Mr. Skinner

I must not exaggerate.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

That will be a change.

Mr. Skinner

Will my right hon. Friend look at the possibility of having a snap election there to replace that chairman so that the workers can make the choice this time?

The Prime Minister

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. If I do visit Oxford it will be to see the twins, not to go to Cowley.

It is not for me or even my successor to go round the country to find out what people in particular factories think about these matters. There has been a great improvement in the British Leyland situation recently in terms of productivity and in its approach to viability. However, I would rely on the elected trade union representatives in these matters. As I have explained to the House, Sir Richard Dobson was appointed by the British Leyland Board in consultation with the National Enterprise Board, and we do not interfere in these matters. However, when this appointment was put to the Government, they approved it.

Mr. Alexander Fletcher

Does the Prime Minister recollect that in 1964 the present Foreign Secretary attended a crash course in economics at Oxford [column 1539]University? Does the right hon. Gentleman have any plans to arrange a similar course for his right hon. Friend in the next few weeks?

The Prime Minister

At that time my right hon. Friend was a Visiting Fellow of Nuffield College, as a number of distinguished right hon. and hon. Members of all parties have been. However, in view of the great disappointments—and I hope not to go finally to resignation without receiving an answer to my repeated question—I should like to arrange for similar facilities to those described by the hon. Gentleman to be provided for Opposition Front Bench spokesmen.

Mr. Luard

If my right hon. Friend should find himself with some time on his hands in the weeks to come, will he accept that he would be extremely welcome to visit my constituency, which is already quite well known to him? Does he appreciate that there are other things to visit than the University colleges, other even than grandchildren? Will he take the opportunity to go to Cowley to see for himself the dramatic improvement in industrial relations which has taken place over the last few years and to offer his congratulations to the workers and management of British Leyland at Cowley?

The Prime Minister

We have received very full reports not only about the Cowley factory but about other factories. I am informed that in the six or seven years prior to the change in ownership of British Leyland there were only four days on which there were no disputes. The great improvement in industrial relations there is remarkable. I understand that last month for the first time the factory was able to fulfil its production programme and even to exceed it.

EUROPEAN COMMUNITY (HEADS OF GOVERNMENT)

Q3. Mr. Luce

asked the Prime Minister whether he will raise the problems of Southern Africa at the forthcoming meeting of the EEC Heads of State.

The Prime Minister

It is not the practice to publish an agenda for European Council meetings or to specify in detail what subjects will be raised, Sir.

[column 1540]

Mr. Luce

As one of his final gestures, will the Prime Minister, in concert with the Community Heads of State, make it absolutely plain now to Mr. Nkomo and to Mr. Smith that if only they will reach agreement at this late hour, Britain, with the support of the West and the Community, will stand ready to give every possible assistance to the Europeans and Africans in Rhodesia to facilitate a peaceful transition to independence?

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has made this clear on a number of occasions. We want to give whatever assistance is possible to this end, but it must be a realistic settlement capable of sticking. There could have been one 10 years ago. On many occasions Mr. Smith put forward proposals which, if he had not resiled from them, could have led to a peaceful settlement.

The European Council is a relatively new invention—I think, an extremely good and successful one. These matters do not normally come up on the agenda but, as the hon. Gentleman may be aware, it often happens that in what is called the “fringe of conference” —dinners, lunches and late night meetings—we discuss world affairs. Last year the European Council discussed the Helsinki Conference and the problems of Spain and Portugal.

Mr. Frank Allaun

Will the Prime Minister urge the EEC to join our embargo on arms for South Africa? Secondly, is he aware that Centurion parts, spares and equipment have been supplied by Aviation (Jersey) Ltd, whose manager this morning told the South African Press that there was no reservation placed on such supplies by Her Majesty's Government?

The Prime Minister

We have already pressed our colleagues in every forum to support the line that we took on arms for South Africa when we came into office in 1964, and again in 1974. We have always pressed for full support for the sanctions policy. It was French oil in the period of President de Gaulle which frustrated the sanctions and which kept the white Rhodesian régime afloat.

With regard to the situation in the Channel Islands, I cannot anticipate any possible criminal proceedings. The responsibility in these matters is that of [column 1541]the local Government there. I understand that their laws are very similar to ours in the matter of sanctions on Rhodesia and the supply of arms to these areas. We must wait to see whether there will be prosecutions in their courts.

Mr. Marten

As the United Kingdom has been enforcing sanctions against Rhodesia and as some of the biggest sanction busters on Rhodesia are in fact our major partners in the Common Market, is it right that we should make this contribution to Mozambique while at the same time the big sanction busters, our partners in the Common Market, are not contributing to Mozambique, because one of the essences of the Common Market is that there should be fair competition?

The Prime Minister

I have referred—not now, but in past years—to the rôle of France in sanctions busting; otherwise, I think that the oil sanction would have been effective. If the hon. Gentleman has any evidence about sanctions busting by any country, no doubt my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary would be very glad to receive it from him. However, on the other issues raised here, I do not think that this is really a matter for the EEC Heads of Government, because giving help to Mozambique was a unanimous decision of the Commonwealth Conference. I have never known the hon. Gentleman—however much he may have been criticised from his own side—to be backward in supporting the Commonwealth and its decisions.