Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1986 Apr 15 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 [95/723-28]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2374
Themes: Defence (general), European Union (general), Foreign policy (International organizations), Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (USA), Local government finance, Media, Northern Ireland, Terrorism
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PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Litherland

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

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 this House I shall be having further meetings later today.

Mr. Litherland

Is the Prime Minister aware that, by giving permission for the launching of F-111s to undertake a military attack on the mainland of Libya, she has not only broken the confidence of the EEC and international law, but now has the blood of innocents on her hands? Does she realise that that action and the build-up of American naval power are a threat to world peace and that she should divorce herself from Reagan 's Rambo policies in that area? This is not the answer to international terrorism, which we all abhor. These are the questions that nations are asking.

The Prime Minister

I believe that the attacks made by the United States on Libya were within the inherent right of self-defence under article 51. That was why we gave our support to that action and our consent to the use of bases in Britain for that purpose.

Q2. Mr. Bellingham

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

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Bellingham

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is considerable concern in East Anglia this afternoon about the use to which United States air force bases have been put during the last 24 hours? Further, is she aware that this understandable anxiety could be allayed if it is proved beyond doubt that the United States raids were not contrary to article 51 and were strictly necessary to meet the Libyan terrorist threat?

The Prime Minister

As I indicated, I believe that the United States action against terrorist-related targets, undertaken in the light of evidence that further terrorist attacks were planned, was within the inherent right of self-defence under article 51.

Mr. Kinnock

I realise that there is to be a statement later today and a debate on Libya and the attack on Libya tomorrow, but the House and the country will want to know as quickly as possible what steps have been taken by Her Majesty's Government to safeguard the welfare of British citizens in Libya and other countries in the middle east.

The Prime Minister

As the right hon. Gentleman is aware, since we broke off diplomatic relations with Libya following the St. James's Square terrorist incident some two years ago we have had consistently to tell our own people who remain in Libya that they do so on their own responsibility. The only representation that we have is someone in the British interests section of the Italian embassy. Of course, we are in touch with him and he will advise British citizens as best he can.

Mr. Kinnock

Is the Prime Minister satisfied that, acknowledging the background to our relationship with [column 724] Libya, enough can and will be done not only in Libya but elsewhere where people may be extremely vulnerable in the next period to provide proper safeguards to ensure their security?

The Prime Minister

Under terrorist attack there is no universal safeguard, as the right hon. Gentleman knows. All posts have been alerted and security stepped up.

Mr. Walters

While recognising the frustration felt by the United States when dealing with the Libyan Government, will not the effect of this American attack on Tripoli be to strengthen President Gaddafi, and to weaken our moderate friends in Egypt, Jordan and the Gulf?

The Prime Minister

No, I do not believe that it will have that effect. There has been state-sponsored terrorism by Libya for a long time. How much longer were we to remain passive and not exercise the right of self-defence inherent in the charter?

Mr. Benn

Will the Prime Minister be explicit with the House? Is she standing at the Dispatch Box on behalf of the Government condoning and supporting the death of civilians in Libya, who were killed by aircraft flying with her consent from British bases, when the House of Commons has neither been informed or consulted, nor given any approval to this act?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman is aware that action by the United States took place against continued state-sponsored terrorism by Libya. I believe that we were entitled to use, that the United States was entitled to use, its inherent right of self-defence. If one refuses to take any risks because of the consequences, the terrorist Governments will win and one can only cringe before them.

Mr. Patrick McNair-Wilson

Is my right hon. Friend aware that until some real progress is made in securing self-determination for the Palestiman people—a cause to which I believe she is committed—no amount of bombing is likely to stop friendly Arab Governments from planning violent actions throughout the world?

The Prime Minister

As my hon. Friend is aware, we take as much action as we can to further the peace process between the Arab and Palestinian peoples in the middle east. We shall continue to do so. We have taken peaceful action against terrorism. Much of that action has, unfortunately, not secured its objective. The United States decided to exercise, in the light of a specific target, its right of self-defence. To have refused to have done so would have meant that we were supine and passive in the face of that terrorism.

Mr. Foot

Regarding the discussions that the right hon. Lady had with the American President in the past few days, can she say what discussion there was about the acceptable level of civilian destruction and murder that might follow an attack upon Libya? Did she try to restrain the actions of the President on that account? Does she understand that the worst way to deal with terrorism is to act like terrorists ourselves?

The Prime Minister

The discussion was to secure targets and action proportionate to the threat, and to ensure that the action taken by the United States was within article 51. The United States and we believe that that action was [column 725]within article 51. Could I refer the right hon. Gentleman to the leader that appeared in The Mirror yesterday—as robust a leader as I have ever seen?

Mr. Charles Morrison

Two weeks ago there was a skirmish between the United States and Libya. Yesterday there was a major attack by the United States on Libya. What convinces my right hon. Friend that this escalation in events will not continue?

The Prime Minister

There has been an escalation in terrorism for some time. We have all been subjected to it in this country, as well as elsewhere. The question was, at what time did one attempt, or the United States attempt, to invoke the right of self-defence, or were we to continue being passive and supine? I believe that, under the circumstances, the United States was acting within article 51 in exercising its inherent right of self-defence to try to turn the tide against terrorism, and to discourage those who engage in it and state-sponsored terrorism, from engaging in further attacks.

Dr. Owen

Does the Prime Minister agree that, under the Churchill-Truman agreement of 1952, the decision whether to use the bases was a matter for joint decision? Does that not lay an obligation on the Government to prove that article 51 has been fully used and to produce evidence to the Security Council?

The Prime Minister

As the right hon. Gentleman knows, the Security Council has condemned terrorism. He is also aware that that condemnation has been without effect. It did not seem that further condemnation by the Security Council would have any effect this time. The right hon. Gentleman is right. The arrangements under which American bases are used in this country have been the same for well over 30 years and they have not changed. Under those arrangements, our agreement was required. It was sought and, after discussion and question, it was obtained on the basis that the action would be on targets that were within article 51.

Mr. Mates

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

I will take points of order after questions.

Q3. Mr. Thurnham

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

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Thurnham

Although I welcome the Government's £3.6 million urban grant to regenerate industry in Bolton, will my right hon. Friend condemn Bolton's labour-controlled council, which is discouraging business with a 23 per cent. rate increase?

The Prime Minister

I understand that Bolton council has increased its expenditure by almost 13 per cent., which is about three or four times above the expected rate of inflation. I agree with my hon. Friend also that high rate increases drive away businesses, especially small businesses, and therefore jobs. I agree with my hon. Friend also that ratepayers have a right to expect good value for money. Therefore, there is some concern about the fact that Bolton has suspended its efficiency study.

Q4. Dr. M.S. Miller

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

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The Prime Minister

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

Dr. Miller

Did the right hon. lady consult our EEC partners, some of which are fellow members of NATO, about the attack on Tripoli and Benghazi? if she did not, why not? If she did, why did she choose to disregard their views?

The Prime Minister

My right hon. and learned Friend Sir Geoffrey Howethe Foreign Secretary met some of our EEC partners yesterday. We did not consult them on the use of our bases. That is a matter for our decision.

Mr. Aitken

When my right hon. Friend took the difficult but wholly correct decision to permit the use of British bases for the United States attack, was she influenced not only by loyalty to an ally with a just cause, but by a much more practical consideration, namely, that fewer risks were likely to be caused to Libyan civilians and to United States military personnel if the United States used the much more precise equipment, the F 111, rather than carrier-based aircraft?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. My hon. Friend is correct. That was a factor in the decision to use our bases and why those aircraft were especialy right for the action that was undertaken. We were also influenced by the fact that the United States has hundreds of thousands of forces in Europe to defend the liberty of Europe. In that capacity they have been subject to terrorist attack. It was inconceivable to me that we should refuse United States aircraft and pilots the opportunity to defend their people.

Mr. McWilliam

Why did the Prime Minister choose to authorise the use of British bases for this attack when the capability to mount that attack existed with the battle fleet not 300 miles north of the coast of Libya?

The Prime Minister

As my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, South (Mr. Aitken) indicated in an earlier question, the F 111s were required because they are more accurate on particular targets and because they would involve far less collateral damage and far less risk to American pilots. The Americans are our allies and put considerable effort into defending the freedom of Europe. I hope that hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition Benches will remember that.

Mr. Terlezki

Am I right in assuming that there is a very strong link between the Libyan Government and the IRA, which results in the death of many innocent people in this country?

The Prime Minister

Yes, we have evidence that the Libyan Government support the Provisional IRA. That is also a factor which must be taken into account.

Q5. Mr. Foulkes

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

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Foulkes

Following the question from my hon. Friend the Member for East Kilbride (Dr. Miller), can the Prime Minister tell the House whether, when the Foreign Secretary was trying to persuade our European partners to take firm diplomatic action, he was aware that she had already authorised the use of this country as a glorified aircraft carrier for the United States, and is this what she means by co-operation with our European partners?

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The Prime Minister

Sir Geoffrey HoweThe Foreign Secretary and I have acted very closely together throughout. I remind the hon. Gentleman that the United States has more than 330,000 members of her forces in Europe to defend our liberty. [column 728]Because they are here, they are subject to terrorist attack. It is inconceivable that they should be refused the right to use American aircraft and American pilots in the inherent right of self-defence, to defend their own people.