Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1982 Dec 7 Tu
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: House of Commons PQs
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [33/708-12]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2191
Themes: Defence (arms control), Defence (Falklands War, 1982), Employment, Privatized & state industries, European Union (general), Labour Party & socialism, Local government, Northern Ireland, Terrorism
[column 708]

PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Foulkes

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 7 December.

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. This evening I hope to have an audience of Her Majesty the Queen.

Mr. Foulkes

Has the Prime Minister seen today the unanimous report of the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs which says that to close Ravenscraig would be to devastate the west of Scotland? If the Secretary of State for Scotland can openly oppose that closure, why cannot the Prime Minister stop making cryptic comments and openly oppose what would be a disastrous closure?

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friend Patrick Jenkinthe Secretary of State for Industry will be making a statement about all five major steel plants before the House rises for the Christmas Recess.

Mr. Cormack

Will my right hon. Friend take time today to express the absolute abhorrence of people throughout Britain at the appalling attitude of Mr. Ken Livingstone, who has invited front men from the IRA to Britain? Will she also comment on Mr. Livingstone's refusal to comment on the outrage that was perpetrated last night?

The Prime Minister

May I take the last point first? I believe that the whole House will join in sending its deepest sympathy to those who were bereaved and injured in Northern Ireland last evening. This is one of the most horrifying crimes in Ulster's tragic history. The slaughter of innocent people is the product of evil and depraved minds, and the act of callous and brutal men. No words can express our absolute revulsion and complete condemnation.

However, nothing will deflect the Government from their resolve to free Ulster of terrorism and to restore peace to Northern Ireland. We should pay tribute to the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the security services, whose selfless service we admire. We shall not rest until the merciless killers are brought to justice.

Even before yesterday, most right hon. and hon. Members were astounded that the invitation to which my hon. Friend referred was ever issued. I believe that the nation would now find it intolerable if it were not withdrawn.

Mr. Foot

rose——

[column 709]

Mr. Wellbeloved

Repudiate Livingstone.

Mr. Foot

First, may I say on behalf of all Labour Members how strongly we condemn this wanton act of mass murder? We have always condemned those methods and we shall continue to condemn them. We will do everything in our power to ensure that such methods will not succeed. Anybody who doubts our determination in that respect has not followed these events over many years. My right hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon), our spokesman on Northern Ireland affairs, has reiterated that on many occasions. We will do everything in our power to stamp out and defeat those who conduct such campaigns of mass murder.

Now may I turn to the other questions, because we must proceed with them as well? Who is in charge of the steel industry?

Hon. Members

No. Livingstone.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The House must listen to the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr. Foot

May I ask the right hon. Lady about the steel industry?

Hon. Members

Livingstone.

Mr. Foot

Our views on the bombings have been known and they remain the same. If anybody——

Mr. Wellbeloved

Repudiate Livingstone.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I do not know what shouts are emanating from below the Gangway——

Mr. Cryer

It was the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved).

Mr. Speaker

Order. I know who, but not what. On a day like this, I suggest that the House should settle down and proceed.

Mr. Foot

I hope that nobody in the House will try to use the bombings for political purposes.

Mr. Dixon

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I cannot hear what the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition are saying. It is this crowd here—not my hon. Friends on the Front Bench below the Gangway, but these Social Democrats in front of me. Will you please tell them to shut up until they are called, Mr. Speaker?

Mr. Speaker

Order. I welcome such support. We do our name and reputation no good by trying to shout down hon. Members when the House wants to get on with serious business.

Mr. Foot

I return to the steel industry. Nothing will dissuade us from protecting the jobs and livelihoods of people in the steel industry. They are matters of major importance to the House and the country. Who in the Government is responsible for the steel industry? Is it the Secretary of State for Industry, the right hon. Lady or the Cabinet, because it is several weeks since the Secretary of State for Industry said that he was taking responsibility? Since then, every week, more steel workers have lost their jobs. How soon will the Government make a statement on the subject? Is it not a fact that the Government have taken responsibility for the steel industry and must answer to the House and the country?

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friend Patrick Jenkinthe Secretary of State for Industry has already told the House, as I have on a number of occasions, that there will be a [column 710]political decision on the future of the five major steel plants. The Secretary of State for Industry is considering the British Steel Corporation's corporate plan for next year. He will be able to make a statement to the House before the House rises for the Christmas Recess.

Mr. Foot

It is not just the five major plants, but the thousands of workers who are losing their jobs in other plants. When will the Government make a statement about their jobs?

The Prime Minister

Last week we had a major debate on the steel industry, when the facts and figures were given and comprehensively debated.

Mr. Wilkinson

Will my right hon. Friend find time today to ask the Leader of the Opposition to join her in seeking the withdrawal of the invitation to the political apologists of murder and mutilation, who have been invited by Mr. Ken Livingstone? It is an affront to the people of London.

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend has already heard that I think that it would be intolerable and insensitive if that invitation were not withdrawn. Those who have suffered and been bereaved would feel it deeply. What the Leader of the Opposition says is a matter for him.

“The Falklands War at Sea”

Q2. Mr. Dalyell

asked the Prime Minister whether, pursuant to her answer to the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) on 23 November, Her Majesty's Government will acquire a copy of “The Falklands War at Sea” by Max Hastings and Simon Jenkins for the library of No. 10 Downing Street.

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. I understand that this book will not be published until next year.

Mr. Dalyell

Hastings and Jenkins have asserted in print that the Prime Minister and Lord Carrington despatched three submarines to the South Atlantic on Monday 29 March, two days before the Wednesday when the crisis came to the Prime Minister's knowledge out of the blue. Is that true or untrue?

The Prime Minister

All those matters are being considered by the Franks committee. The hon. Gentleman must await its report. There is nothing that I can usefully add until the report is published, when we shall debate it.

Mr. Stokes

Is my right hon. Friend aware that when the history books are written they will look upon her conduct in the Falklands conflict with pride, unlike the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell), whose contribution will be lucky to have even an unfavourable footnote?

Engagements

Q3. Mr. Chapman

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 7 December.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Chapman

I recognise that my right hon. Friend was one of only 13 Prime Ministers, or the equivalent, who attended the United Nations second special session on disarmament recently. Will my right hon. Friend take time [column 711]today to assure the House and emphasise to the country that the Government will take every possible practical initiative to encourage verifiable balanced multilateral disarmament? Does she agree further that if the Russians were interested in disarmament they would start dismantling hundreds of SS20 missiles targeted on Western Europe?

The Prime Minister

I agree with both my hon. Friend's points. Many disarmament initiatives are being taken. There is the NATO proposal to eliminate intermediate range nuclear weapons. If that were successful, a whole class of nuclear weapons would be eliminated on both sides. It requires agreement by the Soviet Union. There is also NATO's draft treaty for mutual and balanced force reductions, which has been negotiated for a long time. Work continues in Geneva to verify the comprehensive nuclear test ban. There is also in Geneva our proposal for verification and compliance with the chemical weapons ban. There is President Reagan 's initiative, which we support, for a substantial reduction in strategic ballistic missile warheads. I could continue, because the Government are taking many initiatives on multilateral disarmament. I notice that the Opposition are not interested in multilateral disarmament. They are interested only in unilateral disarmament, which jeopardises this country's security.

Mr. Coleman

Is the Prime Minister aware that her order of priorities for the day is unacceptable to the Opposition? We demand that she gives her attention to the steel industry. Does she recognise that both the public and private sectors of the steel industry are fast haemorrhaging to extinction? When will she give her attention to steel and unemployment, which are the real crises facing the country?

The Prime Minister

We had a debate on steel last week. My right hon. Friend Patrick Jenkinthe Secretary of State for [column 712]Industry is considering in calm and measured terms the British Steel Corporation's corporate plan for next year. We are also part of the European Community and we negotiated on prices and quotas as part of that Community. All those matters are being considered. It is right that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry should consider them thoroughly before making a full statement to the House covering the five major steel plants.

Q4. Mr. Geraint Howells

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 7 December.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Howells

Has the Prime Minister any plans to solve the unemployment problem in Wales before the next general election?

The Prime Minister

The Government will continue to try to reduce inflation, to contain public expenditure and to keep down interest rates. We look to industry to make itself competitive and to produce goods that can be purchased and that will command an increased share of the market both at home and abroad. There is no other way of obtaining sustainable extra jobs.

Mr. Robert Atkins

Is it not a sad comment on the Labour Party that when it is in Opposition, membership of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament increases, but that membership falls when the Labour Party is in power? Does not my right hon. Friend think that CND at least has courage—a courage that does not seem to lie on the Opposition Benches—because it wants Britain to withdraw from NATO instead of relying on the American nuclear umbrella while at the same time claiming to be a unilateral nuclear disarmer?

The Prime Minister

If CND's proposals were followed in any way, peace, security, freedom and justice would be put at risk in our country and war would become more likely. I condemn it completely.