Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [47/421-24]
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2086
Themes: Commonwealth (general), Defence (general), Defence (Falklands), Foreign policy (Americas excluding USA), Foreign policy (International organizations), Foreign policy (USA)
[column 421]



Q1. Mr. Stan Thorne

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 27 October.

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 be having further meetings later today.

Mr. Thorne

Can the Prime Minister confirm that it is true that the Governor-General of Grenada, Sir Paul Scoon, approached the Eastern Caribbean States for military assistance, as has been reported to the United Nations by the Prime Minister of Dominica, and if it is true, say who authorised Sir Paul to do that?

The Prime Minister

No request for intervention from the Governor-General was passed through British channels, nor was any such request reported to us.

Mr. Temple-Morris

Does my right hon. Friend recall that only yesterday the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) referred to Grenada as British territory, when he talked of a threat to British territory? Will my right hon. Friend make it clear that Grenada is not British territory, but rather is an independent Commonwealth state?

The Prime Minister

I confirm what my hon. Friend says. Grenada is an independent sovereign state, and is not British territory. [Hon. Members: “Or American.” ] The Governor-General is not British but was appointed on the recommendation of the first Prime Minister of the independent Grenada.

Dr. Owen

Is the Prime Minister aware that it has now become public knowledge that the mobile land forces were placed on standby for several days? How long has that been the case, and were they told to go on alert to go to Grenada yesterday? Will the Prime Minister assure the House that there is no question of British troops being used other than as part of a Commonwealth peacekeeping initiative? Does this now mean that the Government are accepting their responsibility and taking a joint role, together with the Commonwealth, on Grenada?

The Prime Minister

As both my right hon. and learned Friend and I have said, no British troops were involved in the landing on Grenada. HMS Antrim is there and was instructed to go there on Sunday as a precautionary measure, to take off British citizens should they be in danger. There has been no change in the [column 422]position. We are grateful to the United States, which is looking after British citizens and evacuating them from Grenada.

Mr. Kinnock

Following that answer, could the right hon. Lady tell us what obligations she now feels towards the President of the United States?

The Prime Minister

I feel the obligations of a very close ally. I also feel the obligations of one member of NATO to the United States, without whose support, freedom and justice in Europe would be in doubt.

Mr. Kinnock

Is it not a fact, however, that the special relationship between Britain and the United States is now somewhat in question, and that the only reason for that is that the relationship that was said to exist between the right hon. Lady and the President turned out to be not so special? In the chaos and humiliation of the Grenada affair, will the right hon. Lady at least take the opportunity of adopting a new deportment in world affairs and, as a consequence, demonstrate a greater independence in furthering British interests and working for peace throughout the world?

The Prime Minister

When two nations are friends each owes the other its own judgment. That does not mean that the other in either case is compelled to accept it. It would hardly be a friendship unless one could tender advice to another country——

Mr. Foulkes

And have it ignored.

The Prime Minister

—and have it either accepted or rejected. We do not run the sort of Warsaw pact organisation that the right hon. Gentleman—[Interruption.]

Mr. Kinnock

I would be the last to suggest the rendering of any alliances, but when the judgment of this Government is apparently utterly cast aside and trampled on by our ally, what obligation does the right hon. Lady then have?

The Prime Minister

It follows from what the right hon. Gentleman has said that, as the United States and Britain are allies, we would always have had to accept any advice that the United States gave us. Indeed, it follows that we would not be free to accept or reject the advice of the United States. However, at the beginning of the Falklands affair we did not ask the United States whether we should recapture the Falklands. We took our own decisions. When the United States took the part of an independent negotiator at the beginning, it was we who in the end persuaded the United States to follow us.

Q2. Mr. Dubs

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 27 October.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Dubs

Is the Prime Minister aware that all hon. Members understand why she was so obviously angry with the Foreign Secretary at the end of yesterday's debate? Will she now dissociate herself and her Government from what the right hon. and learned Gentleman said on “Newsnight” last night, when he announced that it would be a matter for rejoicing if the invasion of Grenada resulted in a Government more to his liking?

The Prime Minister

I fully agree with everything that Sir Geoffrey Howethe Foreign Secretary said yesterday, particularly his view [column 423]that there are much larger issues at stake between the United States and the United Kingdom, such as the whole future of the freedom of Europe and the whole future of NATO. We stand by the United States and will continue to do so in the larger alliances. The United States is the final guarantor of freedom in Europe—[Interruption.] and I hope that that will not be undermined by anything said by the Opposition. It—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. I cannot hear what the Prime Minister is saying because of the noise.

The Prime Minister

I think that the latter part of the question asked by the hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. Dubs) concerned the restoration of democracy in Grenada. I should be very glad if democracy was restored in Grenada and operated there. The United States, in very similar circumstances in 1965, went into the Dominican Republic and then pulled out, and democracy was restored there, and still persists today.

Mr. Tapsell

Has not the time now come to put our full support behind our ally, the United States, in the United Nations and elsewhere and to take a lead in setting up a Commonwealth force to replace the American presence in Grenada?

The Prime Minister

I think that Sir S. Ramphalthe Secretary-General of the Commonwealth has said that he is ready to use his good offices. If he were to make a request we would, of course, consider it. As my hon. Friend has said, the matter is being discussed in the United Nations, and it is our intention to abstain on that resolution.

Hon. Members


Mr. Rowlands

Will the Prime Minister take time this afternoon to ring President Reagan and tell him plainly that we will not support in any shape or form the cynical manipulation of the Queen's representative, the Governor-General, in bringing into Grenada some pre-packaged Government from outside?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. The position of the Governor-General is perfectly clear constitutionally. He is not in any way responsible to the Government of the United Kingdom, nor does he in any way take instructions from the Government of the United Kingdom.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

What exactly are the orders now to HMS Antrim? Is it supposed to be helping the Americans, on the ground that the Americans have rescued our people and have the Governor-General in their care, or is it supposed to be hindering the Americans on the ground that Her Majesty's Government disapprove of their action? It is vital to tell the House what the orders for HMS Antrim are.

The Prime Minister

The orders are much simpler than my hon. Friend perceives. They are for the protection and evacuation of our own people.

Q3. Mr. Ron Davies

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 27 October.

The Prime Minister

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

[column 424]

Mr. Davies

What positive steps does the Prime Minister now intend to take to restore democracy to Grenada? Would not the first most positive step be to condemn the American presence in Grenada and to call for the immediate withdrawal of all American troops?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. The Government of the United Kingdom have no residual responsibility for the independent sovereign state of Grenada. As I pointed out earlier, when, in 1965, the United States intervened in the affairs of the Dominican Republic, democracy was restored and the United States pulled out. Democracy has persisted there ever since.

Sir John Biggs-Davison

Since the Governor-General—the representative of the Queen of Grenada—is the last remaining embodiment of constitutional order on the island, would not the position that he took have fully justified any support that we could give to Commonwealth partners who loyally supported us over the Falklands affair? Will my right hon. Friend give due consideration to the proposal made by my hon. Friend the Member for East Lindsey (Mr. Tapsell) regarding a Commonwealth force?

The Prime Minister

There is not very much that I can add to what I have said. The deputy high commissioner from Barbados saw Sir Paul Scoonthe Governor-General on Sunday in Grenada and was accompanied there by two American consular representatives. The Governor-General did not indicate in any way then to the deputy high commissioner any request for intervention. I can only give my hon. Friend the facts as I know them. That does not mean to say that we are in full possession of the facts. There may have been other requests that were made that I know nothing about. I cannot go any further than what I have said. My view with regard to the Grenadian matter is as I gave it in response to questions the last time that I replied.

Mr. Hoyle

Will the Prime Minister take time today to find out why, although the Governor-General has been in American hands for 24 hours, he has not been in touch with the Palace? Is that why she cannot comment on the statement by the Dominican Prime Minister? What steps have been taken to find out whether the statement is true or false?

The Prime Minister

I have no responsibility to answer for the Governor-General—[Hon. Members: “Oh!” ] No responsibility in any way. I have given the facts as I know them. No request was made through Britain, or to the knowledge of Britain. I understand that a statement was issued from the Palace this morning to the effect that it does not know of any such request. That does not mean that such a request was not made; it means that we do not know of one.

Mr. Rippon

While I regret that we did not support our Caribbean Commonwealth partners from the outset, may I ask my right hon. Friend to make it clear that we are willing to contribute to a Commonwealth peacekeeping force if asked to do so?

The Prime Minister

The Government will, of course, sympathetically consider any reasonable request, as my right hon. and learned Friend might expect.