Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [26/150-54]
Editorial comments: 1515-30.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2191
Themes: Monarchy, Defence (general), Defence (arms control), Economic policy - theory and process, Employment, Industry, Monetary policy, Trade, Foreign policy (Middle East), Labour Party & socialism, Strikes & other union action
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Q1. Mr. Lawrence

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 22 June.

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House, I shall be having further meetings later today. Later this afternoon I shall depart for New York to attend the United Nations second special session on disarmament.

Mr. Lawrence

Since I have had the good fortune to draw Question No. 1 today, may I take this happy opportunity to ask my right hon. Friend if she will convey to Her Majesty the Queen and the Prince and Princess of Wales our feeling of joy and the warm congratulations of the whole House on the birth of the heir apparent?

Mr. William Hamilton


Mr. Cryer

You grovelling sycophant.

The Prime Minister

With great pleasure. I believe that the whole nation shares in the happiness of the Prince and Princess of Wales, the happiness of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh and also of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. I understand that we shall have an opportunity to say so, possibly on Thursday.

Dr. Owen

Will the Prime Minister, in view of the serious fighting between Syria and Israel that is reported today, seek the opportunity when she sees President [column 151]Reagan to make the offer that Britain will play a part in any United Nations peacekeeping role in the Lebanon, particularly if the United States could also be persuaded to play a part?

The Prime Minister

I shall hope and expect to discuss this subject with the President when I see him tomorrow. I do not think, at the moment, that I could make the offer that Britain would play a part in a peacekeeping role in the Lebanon. We are already playing a part in the multinational force in Sinai. It would be unwise to make further promises in view of our already extended commitment.

Mr. Hannam

Does my right hon. Friend agree that at a time when this country has regained its pride and confidence, it is sad that certain unions are calling out their members on crippling strikes that can only undermine the national recovery?

The Prime Minister

As my hon. Friend knows, I have never supported any strikes and I hope that even at this late hour——

Mr. Lofthouse


The Prime Minister

As my hon. Friend knows, I do not believe that people who go on strike in this country have a legitimate cause. Throughout the period of the Labour Government and this one, I have never supported any strikes in this country. I hope that, even at this late hour, those who are contemplating going on strike will realise that those they are harming are their fellow citizens.

Mr. Foot

May I join in offering the good wishes which the right hon. Lady offered on behalf, I am sure, of the whole House to the Royal Family on the news yesterday? I am glad that the House will have the opportunity to discuss the matter.

May I ask the right hon. Lady whether she has had a chance to study the extremely serious unemployment figures that are published today? They are the most serious domestic news for the nation. Is it not a fact that these seasonally adjusted figures show that we are back to the worst trend of last year—[Interruption]. No, it is not only school leavers. It is the seasonally adjusted figure. Can the right hon. Lady tell us what is the prospect for the future that she sees with these figures?

The Prime Minister

The unemployment figures are unwelcome. We have a number of school leavers in this month's figures. If the right hon. Gentleman studies the international figures on a quarterly basis he will see that a number of countries in Europe, quarter by quarter, also experienced an unusually greater increase in unemployment. We believe that in this country this was probably due to the increase in interest rates that occurred, partly because of the exchange rate, at the end of last autumn. The forward indicators are now giving hope for better things and for a continuing of economic recovery.

Mr. Foot

Does not the right hon. Lady think that part of the reason for these extremely serious unemployment figures, and the increase, is the fall in industrial production and the fall in house building and in other forms of activity? I know that the right hon. Lady always refuses to make prophecies on this matter, but can she tell us on what assumptions the Government are acting in deciding how long unemployment will continue at this rate?

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The Prime Minister

Any assumptions that we have made have already been published, not so much as assumptions, but as working practices for those who have to calculate any benefits that are due. If the right hon. Gentleman looks at the figures he will find that economic activity is above the levels of last spring. Industrial and manufacturing output is up 2 per cent. from spring 1981 and the prospect is for resumed and continued recovery. This is supported by almost all independent assessment. The cyclical indicators have, for a while, suggested—[Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman asked me, and I naturally expect to do him the courtesy of answering his question. The cyclical indicators have for a while suggested that there would be a plateau in the first half of 1982. They have also implied a subsequent continuation in the recovery.


Q2. Mr. Renton

asked the Prime Minister whether she will make a statement on the United Nations special session on disarmament.

The Prime Minister

A number of Heads of Governments and Foreign Ministers have already addressed the special session. Because of developments in the Falklands, I postponed my own address and shall now be speaking tomorrow. I shall reaffirm the importance that we in Britain attach to maintaining international security and our determination to press ahead with the search for realistic, balanced and verifiable arms control agreements.

Mr. Renton

The House will wish my right hon. Friend well on her important visit. Does she agree that many thousands of Britons who would never accept unilateral disarmament would dearly love to see Britain taking an initiative in suggesting a practical programme for multilateral disarmament that is, as my right hon. Friend has just said, verifiable and has agreed dates for implementation? Will the Prime Minister, with her usual implementation? Will the Prime Minister, with her usual courage, make that message plain at the United Nations?

The Prime Minister

I shall endeavour to do so, and also to point out that the purpose of disarmament is not to undermine security but to enable it to take place at a lower cost to all of the nations that at the moment have considerable armouries. I agree with my hon. Friend that unilateral disarmament would open one up to attack from strong nations. Therefore, we must have multilateral disarmament, which must be verifiable.

I confess that I am a little suspicious about timetables. The Vienna talks on mutual and balanced force reductions have already taken nine years, but there are fresh proposals now being made in those talks. I hope that that will give them an impetus towards success, which they have so far lacked.

Mr. David Steel

While welcoming the Prime Minister's decision to address this important conference, may I ask her whether she will have anything to say on conventional disarmament as well as nuclear disarmament? Is she aware that yesterday's opening of the defence equipment exhibition at Aldershot should remind us that among our previous good customers there was Argentina?

The Prime Minister

Yes, conventional disarmament is every bit as important as nuclear disarmament, particularly in view of the imbalance of conventional weapons across the NATO line, which is in favour of the [column 153]Warsaw Pact. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, we have pursued a policy, as have successive Governments, of selling arms to countries abroad, but each order is viewed on its merits. The right hon. Gentleman could say that we did not always make the right decisions. However, if we pulled out of selling armaments, nations would go to the Soviet Union for their arms.

Mr. Frank Allaun

Following that question, is it right for the Prime Minister in the same week to address the disarmament conference and to invite to this exhibition and sale of our latest and most sophisticated weapons representatives of nearly every Fascist dictatorship in Latin America, the Middle East and the Far East? Is not that hypocrisy?

The Prime Minister

No. Weakness has been the cause of as many wars as military strength. If one looks at history, one sees that arms races have not necessarily led to wars——

Mr. Allaun

Yes, always.

The Prime Minister

Certainly not. The hon. Gentleman is wrong historically. What tends to lead to war is rapid rearmament on the part of a tyrant and unilateral disarmament on the part of a victim.

Mr. Churchill

Can my right hon. Friend reaffirm Britain's, and her, firm commitment to the concept of multilateral disarmament, and will she further make it clear that unilateral disarmament represents the principal threat to achieving a negotiated multilateral settlement, as well as potentially paving the way to war?

The Prime Minister

Yes. Our object is to secure peace with freedom and justice. Unilateral disarmament would mean that we were not prepared to defend freedom and justice. Multilateral disarmament means that we are prepared to secure them and that we hope, through verifiable measures, to secure them at less cost than at present.

Mr. Foot

Does the appalling answer that the right hon. Lady gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Allaun) mean that she does not mind how many deadly weapons she sells to the Galtieris of the future?

The Prime Minister

No, and that is a ridiculous question from a right hon. Gentleman who was a member of the Government who signed the contracts to sell the destroyers to Argentina.

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Mr. Foot

As the right hon. Lady says that it is a ridiculous question to ask how many arms she sells to the Galtieris, will she publish the details of how many other Fascist countries she is selling arms to?

The Prime Minister

Why will the right hon. Gentleman not plead guilty? It was his Government who signed the contracts to sell the destroyers to Argentina, those very destroyers that have been used against us. Why will he not plead guilty when he knows that his Government pursued exactly the same policy as ours? We look at each order on its merits.

Mr. Foot

Will the right hon. Lady look up the facts before she tries to tell such tales to the country? We stopped the sale of arms to El Salvador, to Chile, to South Africa and to Argentina. The right hon. Lady's Government have started the sale of arms to all those countries. When will she stop this appalling traffic in arms?

The Prime Minister

Does the right hon. Gentleman deny that it was a Labour Government who signed the contracts for the sale of those destroyers? Does he?

Hon. Members


Mr. Warren

Will my right hon. Friend further pursue this point in any inquiry made into the Falklands operation and ensure that evidence is obtained of the political decisions taken by the Labour Government which affected the capability of our defence forces in the Falklands operation?

The Prime Minister

I have already written to the Leader of the Opposition and to the leaders of the Liberal and Social Democratic Parties——

Mr. Foulkes


Mr. Skinner


The Prime Minister

—about possible terms of reference for an inquiry. May I make it perfectly clear that I think that the evidence running up to the invasion of the Falklands must be judged against the decisions previously taken both on defence and on previous assessments of intelligence. I think that we owe it——

Mr. Winnick


The Prime Minister

—to those Ministers who have resigned and to those who have served the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence to have a thorough inquiry, and I am quite certain that neither the right hon. Gentleman nor hon. Gentlemen would wish to hide anything.