The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I give the House the latest information about the battle of the Falklands? After successful attacks last night, General Moore decided to press forward. The Argentines retreated. Our forces reached the outskirts of Port Stanley. Large numbers of Argentine soldiers threw down their weapons. They are reported to be flying white flags over Port Stanley. Our troops have been ordered not to fire except in self-defence. Talks are now in progress between General Menendez and our Deputy Commander, Brigadier Waters, about the surrender of the Argentine forces on East and West Falkland. I shall report further to the House tomorrow.
Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. First, may I thank the right hon. Lady for coming to the House to give us the news, particularly because the news is so good for all concerned, especially because it appears from what she has been able to tell us that there will be an end to the bloodshed, which is what we have all desired. There will be widespread, genuine rejoicing—to use the word that the right hon. Lady once used—at the prospect of the end of the bloodshed. If the news is confirmed, as I trust it will be, there will be great congratulations from the House tomorrow to the British forces who have conducted themselves in such a manner and, if I may say so, to the right hon. Lady. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.” ] I know that there are many matters on which we shall have to have discussions, and perhaps there will be arguments about the origins of this matter and other questions, but I can well understand the anxieties and pressures that must have been upon the right hon. Lady during these weeks. I can understand that at this moment those pressures and anxieties may have been relieved, and I congratulate her on that.
I believe that we can as a House of Commons transform what has occurred into benefits for our country as a whole. I believe that that is the way in which we on the Opposition Benches will wish to proceed. There are many fruitful lessons in diplomacy and in other matters that we can draw from this occasion, and that will be the Opposition's determination.
Mr. David Steel (Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles)
Dr. David Owen (Plymouth, Devonport)
Order. I shall call both right hon. Members in turn.
Mr. David Steel
Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. Will the Prime Minister accept that this is an occasion when the whole House should rejoice and congratulate both the Government and the forces involved on bringing this sad matter to a satisfactory and peaceful conclusion?
The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. John Biffen))
I call the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen). [Hon. Members: “Why?” ]
Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I join the Leader of the official Opposition and the Leader of the Liberal Party in conveying the congratulations of the whole House to the Royal Navy, the Army, the Royal Air Force and the Royal Marines, and to the Government and all the Ministers who played a crucial role in the achievement of an extremely successful outcome? I wish all well, especially—thinking of those who have lost their lives—those families who are currently grieving tonight for their sacrifice. The sacrifice of their loved ones was a sacrifice which was necessary for all.
There is some business on the Order Paper that remains to be transacted, but I suggest to the Leader of the House that in these circumstances it would be much better if the House adjourned now and the business were brought forward on another occasion. I think that that is the general desire of the House.
The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but I think that he will find that what I have said is the view of the House.
I beg to move,
“That, at this day's sitting, notwithstanding the provisions of Standing Order No. 4 (Prayers against statutory instruments, &c. (negative procedure)), the Motion relating to Public Health (Scotland) may be proceeded with, though opposed, for one and a half hours after it has been entered upon” ——
[column 702] “and Mr. Speaker shall then put any Question necessary to dispose of the proceedings thereon, if not previously concluded.”
Several hon. Members
The Question is that the motion——
Mr. Christopher Price (Lewisham, West)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Order. I must put the Question. The Question is the motion just moved by the Leader of the House.
Mr. Christopher Price
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It has been the custom when this sort of occasion has occurred for previous Leaders of the House to recognise the feeling of the House and to arrange the business accordingly. In all the circumstances, nobody wants to go on with the business. The Leader of the House knows that if the House wishes to prevent the business from going through there are ways and means of doing so.
We had a right to expect that the Leader of the House, whom we all respect, would not move the motion but would proceed with some understanding of the feeling on both sides of the House. We should not be expected to proceed with the business that is set down on the Order Paper. We should be allowed to end this sitting at this moment.
Mr. Bruce Millan (Glasgow, Craigton)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. The Opposition had already decided not to move the prayer, so all this fuss is unnecessary, as is the motion moved by the Leader of the House.
I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion. Motion, by leave, withdrawn.