Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1983 Nov 8 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 [48/142-46]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 1938
Themes: Autobiographical comments, Defence (general), Trade, Foreign policy (Africa), Foreign policy (Americas excluding USA), Foreign policy (development, aid, etc), Foreign policy (International organizations), Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (USA), Private health care, Law & order, Local government, Security services, Terrorism
[column 142]

PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Kilroy-Silk

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 8 November.

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. Later this afternoon I shall be going to Bonn to attend one of the regular series of Anglo-German bilateral meetings.

Mr. Kilroy-Silk

If, as the Prime Minister constantly tells us, the National Health Service is safe in her hands, why does she not feel safe in its hands?

The Prime Minister

I take a view which I should have thought would commend itself to the hon. Gentleman, who I am sure is anxious that waiting lists should be reduced. I pay my full whack to the National Health Service and I make no demands on it.

Dr. Mawhinney

Will my right hon. Friend accept that even those of us who are strong supporters of the Anglo-American alliance will be greatly concerned if, on top of everything else, the American President were to sell arms to Argentina before that country had formally concluded its hostilities with us?

The Prime Minister

Yes, I agree with my hon. Friend. We should be greatly concerned indeed if the United States were to sell arms to Argentina before Argentina had made it perfectly clear that hostilities were at an end. It has not yet done so.

Mr. Kinnock

I am sure that the whole House will welcome the Prime Minister's prudent warnings to the American Government of the consequence of retaliatory action in the Lebanon. Did the right hon. Lady make it clear to the American Government in her contacts yesterday that British troops would be withdrawn if any retaliatory action were undertaken?

The Prime Minister

First I must make it clear, with regard both to the tone and content of newspaper reports of the breakfast meeting yesterday, that I just do not recognise some of them as relating to the meeting that I had—and I was, after all, there the whole time.

The United States is of course entitled to take measures of self-defence. That is precisely why I sent six Buccaneers to Cyprus—to be there should our [column 143]multinational force need that support—and I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman would have agreed with that. As for pulling out, that is a hypothetical question at the moment. We should need to be in contact with all our partners in the multinational force before such a decision could be taken.

Mr. Kinnock

Does the Prime Minister recognise that the situation has changed dramatically and tragically since the time, for instance, when the Buccaneers were committed to defending and assisting our troops in the Lebanon? If the right hon. Lady is not prepared to make it clear that withdrawal would be the consequence of a retaliatory attack, what means would she be prepared to use to enforce her judgment that retaliatory action could jeopardise the reconciliation talks in Geneva as well as the situation of British troops in the multinational force? What means would she employ to back up her own judgment?

The Prime Minister

I have just said that we put Buccaneers in Cyprus in case our forces should feel that they need extra forces for self-defence. The position has changed since then. One tragedy has been what happened to the United States, French and Israeli forces. The right hon. Gentleman would take the same view as I do, that these were terrorist atrocities of appalling proportions and we sympathise with all who were involved. Our troops in that multinational force are carrying out their original terms of reference, which are set out in a Command Paper. Should there be any change, we would have to consult other members of the multinational force. The multinational force is doing a good job. Its work of patrolling and guarding where the peace talks were taking place is much appreciated. At the moment, I see no reason to change that unilaterally.

Mr. Kinnock

I must press the Prime Minister. While we recognise that, on the basis of their original deployment, the British troops are doing the fine job that the right hon. Lady mentions, the change in the deployment of American forces, and the awful tragedy of the deaths caused by the bombing, alter the atmosphere. What will the right hon. Lady's attitude be towards the American Government if they proceed, as many responsible commentators and analysts believe will be the case, to consider a retaliatory attack? British lives may be at stake.

The Prime Minister

Any members of any multinational force are entitled to take measures in self-defence. I have made that clear to the right hon. Gentleman. He then proceeded to consider an event that has not occurred, and therefore I cannot answer the question. The British members of the multinational force are doing a good job, which is much appreciated in the Lebanon. They went into Beirut with other members of the multinational force to re-establish the authority of the Lebanese Government and armed forces. It is important that nothing should be done to prejudice or hinder the reconciliation talks, which are vital if Lebanon is to be restored as a fully independent country.

Sir Hugh Fraser

Is it not time that the right hon. Gentleman considered—I hope that my right hon. Friend can reinforce this view—that critical though the middle east position may be, a Syrian takeover of Lebanon would be worse? That is one of the dangers that face us.

[column 144]

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friend will agree that the position in Lebanon is serious. There is almost a de facto partition, with the multinational forces around Beirut and the terrible battles in Tripoli between the different factions of the Palestine Liberation Organisation. I believe that I am expressing the general feelings of many right hon. and hon. Members when I hope that nothing will be done to increase the turmoil or put at risk the reconciliation talks taking place.

Mr. Steel

Does the Prime Minister agree that the withdrawal of the Syrian and Israeli forces from the Lebanon may be achieved only in the context of a wider middle east settlement? Does the right hon. Lady agree that such a conference should be called?

The Prime Minister

As the right hon. Gentleman is aware, for a long time we have been proceeding towards a general settlement of the middle eastern problem in the wider Israeli-Arab context. We shall wait a long time if we wait for that settlement before sorting out the Lebanese problem. We must try to seek reconciliations wherever we can. We are anxious that the reconciliation talks in Lebanon continue with all possible speed.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

As the press reports of my right hon. Friend's discussion with Mr. Dam were apparently inaccurate, will the Prime Minister take this opportunity to tell the House what was discussed? Does she accept that in seeking to promote peace in the middle east she will have the support of right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House?

The Prime Minister

As my right hon. Friend would expect, the talks were friendly, serious, constructive and considered each of the important issues. I believe that my right hon. Friend, after a moment's thought, would be the first to realise that, if everything said in confidential talks had to be revealed for comment, confidential talks would soon cease.

Q2. Mr. Alton

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 8 November.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Alton

Has the Prime Minister had the chance to consider the disturbing allegations made today on Liverpool's Radio City station to the effect that a man who today was convicted of murder had links with the special branch and with British intelligence? [Hon. Members: “Oh!” ] Has she had the chance to consider his admission that he had concealed the fact that he had committed a number of other murders? What steps has the Prime Minister taken to instigate an inquiry into this serious and major allegation?

The Prime Minister

I assure the House that the police and other law enforcement agencies will investigate the allegations of criminal offences with proper thoroughness. The House knows that it is not the practice to confirm or deny the other allegations.

Mr. John Townend

Does my right hon. Friend believe that, in view of the continued imprisonment of the Zimbabwean officers—despite their acquittal—the imprisonment of Bishop Abel Muzorewa without trial and the latest threats by Mr. Mugabe to Joshua Nkomo and Mr. [column 145]Sithole, the time is coming when we should reconsider our policy on Zimbabwe, especially the amount of aid that we give?

The Prime Minister

No aid to Zimbabwe has been help up. The acid test is whether, if such an action were to be taken—we are not contemplating it—it would help those whom we aim to help.

Mr. Donald Stewart

Will the Prime Minister confirm that, in the tense international situation, which is compounded by the Soviet leader's illness, the impending invasion of the Lebanon by America and Israel will be strongly condemned by the British Government? Will she further confirm that she will seek to persuade other Western democracies to join in that condemnation?

The Prime Minister

I cannot add much to what I have already said. Action in self-defence is permitted under military law. One must understand that the United States, France and Israel were at the receiving end of the most terrible atrocities. It is for them to consider how far the laws of self-defence permit any action they may be contemplating. It would be wrong to make any statement in advance of any action that may or may not occur.

[column 146]

Q3. Mr. Wareing

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 8 November.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Wareing

Does the right hon. Lady agree with the Secretary of State for the Environment, who told the Tory party conference that we should listen to the voice of industry? Would she change her mind if the collective voice of commerce and industry on Merseyside were to tell her that it is opposed to her proposals to abolish the Merseyside county council?

The Prime Minister

The short answer is no, Sir. We fought the election on that manifesto and we shall carry it out.

Mr. Tracey

Will my right hon. Friend welcome the report in some newspapers to the effect that the Leader of the Opposition has offered to pay, out of his own pocket, for bright black children from the west midlands to attend independent schools and that, apparently, four have been found?

The Prime Minister

Fortunately, I do not answer for the Leader of the Opposition, but I am sure that any charitable gesture will be welcomed.