Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [25/724-28]
Editorial comments: 1515-30.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2135
Themes: Defence (general), Defence (arms control), Defence (Falklands War, 1982), Economy (general discussions), Employment, Public spending & borrowing, Taxation, Foreign policy (International organizations), Foreign policy (Middle East), Health policy, Social security & welfare, Strikes & other union action
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Q1. Mr. Kenneth Carlisle

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 15 June.

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 have further meetings later today, including one with the President of Bangladesh.

Mr. Carlisle

In the light of the most welcome news from the Falklands, does my right hon. Friend agree that we should praise and give thanks for the skill, courage and sacrifice of the members of the task force who succeeded so brilliantly in an exercise that was fraught with hazard? Does she agree that it is a fine moment for our country? Does she further agree that it demonstrates that wherever British power can reach, nobody should embark upon aggression?

The Prime Minister

I think my hon. Friend for his comments. I entirely agree with him. We cannot say enough about how wonderful our Armed Forces and Merchant Marine have been. We salute them all. I hope, as my hon. Friend said, that we have once again restored Britain's dominance and let every nation know that British sovereign territory will be well and truly defended and that we shall never again be the victim of aggression.

Mr. Grimond

Does the welcome ceasefire apply only to hostilities in the Falkland Islands or to all hostilities with Argentina?

The Prime Minister

I shall have something to say about that in my statement. We are endeavouring to achieve a complete ceasefire with Argentina.

Mr. Walters

Now that the Argentine aggression has been so brilliantly and successfully dealt with, will my right hon. Friend turn her full attention to the Israeli aggression in Lebanon? Does she agree that it is intolerable that Israeli armed forces, in their determination intolerable that Israeli armed forces, in their determination to exterminate the Palestinians, should continue to devastate Beirut and slaughter thousands of civilians?

The Prime Minister

We have made clear to everyone, and to all countries, our horror at what has happened in the Lebanon, our insistence that Israeli forces withdraw and that Lebanon be free to continue her own life in her own way, within her own securely defended borders.

Mr. Edwin Wainwright

I do not wish to detract from the proud achievement of the task force in the Falkland Islands conflict, but will the Prime Minister now turn her attention to another serious problem facing Britain? Will she show the same determination as our boys demonstrated in the Falklands conflict with regard to unemployment? When will she vanquish the problem of 3 million unemployed?

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The Prime Minister

We are addressing our minds to that very problem. Not only are we doing that here, but we did it at the economic conference at Versailles. So much depends on our continuing with policies to reduce inflation, to reduce the budget deficit, to ensure that new technology is introduced into industry, to ensure that wages are lower for the time being than the present rate of inflation and to ensure that unit costs are kept down. If we do all that, we shall be well on the way to being able to benefit from an increase in world trade.

Q2. Mr. Ray Powell

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 15 June.

The Prime Minister

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply that I gave earlier this afternoon.

Mr. Powell

Is the Prime Minister aware that tomorrow 26,000 Welsh miners will be on strike in support of the National Health Service workers' 12 per cent. pay claim and that thousands of people in Wales will be marching in support of the health workers? Will she intervene to try to persuade the Minister responsible to have a joint agreement whereby the health workers receive the compassionate and caring treatment that a Labour Government would have shown?

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services has just spent about 40 minutes answering questions on the National Health Service. For my part, I find it very ironic indeed that, just when we are celebrating the victory of our Armed Forces, other people are on strike.

Mr. Bill Walker

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the sad events in the Lebanon in recent weeks have clearly shown the impotence of United Nations peacekeeping forces and that when consideration is given to the security of British territory in the future that must be borne very much in mind?

The Prime Minister

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that point. It is clear that those forces cannot be effective for peacekeeping in the Lebanon. The same happened in Cyprus. This means that we must continue to make our own arrangements to maintain our own security.

Mr. Lofthouse

In celebrating yesterday's events with the whole House and indeed the country, will the Prime Minister spare time today to give though to the 35,000 widows whose total income is less than £40 per week and who have been brought into tax since the Government came to office?

The Prime Minister

We are all very conscious of the problems of those widows and we should like to reduce taxation, but we cannot do that so long as we have colossally increased expenditure. Therefore, we must keep an eye on expenditure as well.

Mr. Moate

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the liberation of the Falkland Islands has shown that, although we must be grateful for international support and co-operation, which is always essential, this nation must always retain the freedom, resources and resolve to act independently in defence of the principles for which we stand?

The Prime Minister

I entirely agree. We must have the capacity to act independently. I agree with my hon. Friend that we need both the power to act and the will to see it through.

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Mr. Foot

We shall have the opportunity to put further questions to the right hon. Lady about the Falkland Islands when she makes a fresh statement on the subject in a few minutes' time. Will she tell us now about the engagement for which I believe she is leaving tonight or tomorrow—the United Nation's special session on disarmament in New York? Does she agree that events both in the South Atlantic and in the Middle East make all the more necessary the effort to ensure that that disarmament conference is successful? Will she use all the strength of the British Government to try to get serious measures passed? Does she agree that the recent war, and particularly the use of certain weapons by the Argentines, make all the more necessary a concerted effort at the United Nations to stop the obscenity of traffic in arms, as a result of which some of our Service men were killed by weapons that we had sold to the Argentines?

The Prime Minister

I am not certain whether I shall be going to New York tomorrow, or possibly later, if it can be arranged. The disarmament conference is in no way a negotiating forum. Negotiations must be carried on elsewhere. I entirely agree that we should like to have security with a lower level of arms, but that lower level must be capable of being verified. The whole world is learning the lesson that unilateral disarmament leads to weakness and liability to attack by the strong, as it always has. Unilateral disarmament of all kinds leads to weakness and liability to be attacked on the part of the nation that undertakes it. Therefore, we need a proper balance of arms, which is what we are trying to obtain.

Mr. Kilfedder

As the victory in the South Atlantic was made possible by the supreme sacrifice made by our courageous Service men and merchant seamen, will the Prime Minister as quickly as possible promote a memorial to those gallant men, who epitomise all that is best in our nation?

The Prime Minister

Of course we shall consider that. I think that what they have achieved is their own best memorial. Indeed, none could better it.

Q3. Mr. Cryer

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 15 June.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Cryer

When the Prime Minister visits the United Nations, will she bear in mind the magnificent demonstration by nearly 1 million people in the United States and by 250,000 people in this country against nuclear weapons? Will she bear in mind that millions of people are sick and tired of Government representatives talking about disarmament at the United Nations while constantly building up stockpiles of nuclear weapons, as the Government are doing with Trident? Does she agree that unilateral disarmament by this country would strengthen the United Nations non-proliferation treaty and set an example to the majority of the nations of the world that do not possess nuclear weapons and whom we do not wish to see imitate our possession of such weapons?

The Prime Minister

I have listened to all that, but the fact is that the two major nuclear powers have not gone to war against each other—because, I believe, nuclear weapons are achieving their purpose as a deterrent that makes the prospect of war too horrific. It is noteworthy that, since the last world war, there have been 140 [column 727]conventional wars, fought with ordinary weapons, which are themselves horrific, and that nuclear weapons have been a deterrent to war. I therefore believe that we should keep them.

Mr. George Gardiner

In the light of today's marvellous news, will my right hon. Friend study the precedent set by the Prime Minister and the Monarch in May 1940 and consider the designation of a Sunday very soon as a national day of prayer and thanksgiving for our success in freeing the Falkland Islands?

Mr. Flannery

Give over. “Grovelling Gardiner.”

The Prime Minister

Of course we shall consider that, but I believe that throughout our land this day and the coming Sunday everywhere there will be thanksgiving.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Will the right hon. Lady give an absolute assurance that neither she nor No. 10 will in any way obstruct the promised inquiry into the events leading up to the invasion of the Falkland Islands and that the determination of the truth will be paramount, so that the British people may learn what actually happened, as against what the House was told happened?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir I shall shortly be writing to the Leader of the Opposition about the proposed form of the inquiry. I am certain that it needs to go back far further than the events leading up to the conflict.

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Mr. Latham

Did my right hon. Friend notice that when the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) listed the places where there had been CND marches and demonstrations he did not mention Moscow? Does my right hon. Friend draw any conclusions from that?

The Prime Minister

Yes, and I believe that I draw the same conclusion as my hon. Friend—that this is a free country in which people can march, but that to remain free we need sturdy and sure defences, including a nuclear deterrent.

Mr. Faulds


Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman should be allowed to ask his question, because I hope to move on to the next business at 3.30 pm.

Mr. Faulds

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for your protection. As British military abilities have once again rescued British politicians from their failures, will the right hon. Gentleman—[Laughter.] She likes that, she is the gentleman. Will the right hon. Lady contemplate today whether this is not the right time to offer the Argentines a reasonable involvement in the future of the Falkland Islands to prevent a continuing war on our naval and supply communications for the Falkland Islands?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir.