Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1986 Apr 17 Th
Margaret Thatcher

House of Commons PQs

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: House of Commons PQs
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [95/1004-08]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2297
Themes: Defence (general), European Union (general), Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (USA), Health policy, Law & order, Terrorism
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PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Penhaligon

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 17 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, including one with His Royal Highness King Hussein of Jordan.

Mr. Penhaligon

Is the Prime Minister aware that her own Secretary of State for Defence, while recording an item for Radio Clyde on Monday of this week, said:

“My colleagues and I are very dubious” —[Interruption.]— “as to whether a military strike” ——

Mr. Speaker

Order. Paraphrase, please.

Mr. Penhaligon

The Secretary of State clearly indicated that he and his colleagues were dubious as to whether a military strike was the best way of dealing with Gaddafi because it would create tensions in other areas and would hit the wrong people. What changed the Prime Minister's mind, from Monday to Tuesday, regarding that very sensible statement?

The Prime Minister

George YoungerMy right hon. Friend was indicating that we considered many aspects of the very difficult decision before us—and we did go over them very thoroughly and consulted about them—but we came together to the decision which the House knows.

Mr. Fry

Will my right hon. Friend find time today to consider what seems to have been the disappointing result of the meeting of EEC Foreign Ministers this morning? Will she consider pointing out to our European allies that the American action against Libya was very much due to frustration and the effective lack of the Western civilised world's opposition to terrorism? Does she agree that if we [column 1005]wish to avoid further strikes, the rest of the countries of the Western world must get together to take effective action to stop terrorism?

The Prime Minister

I agree with my hon. Friend. I understand that the result of that meeting this morning is that Europe is prepared to take further measures. We now have to work at turning that general willingness into specific measures. The need to do that has increased because of recent events, and we shall be pursuing the matter vigorously.

Mr. Kinnock

I am sure that the Prime Minister and I, every other Member of the House, and people throughout the country, will be united in their condemnation of the vile murder of helpless and harmless British citizens in the Lebanon. The Prime Minister said yesterday that if there were any question of using United States aircraft based in this country in a further action that would be the subject of a new approach to the United Kingdom. Does that mean that refusal of the use of bases has now become, to coin a phrase, conceivable?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman is making selective use of something that I said. I indicated that in all the circumstances, when we had considered every aspect, that was the conclusion which I had come to, and the conclusion which we agreed—that we should give our consent for the use of those bases. That was after a long period of terrorist action, and after a long period of the United States trying to secure peaceful measures for the prevention of terrorism. That referred to a decision taken after a long period of consideration of both of those factors. In future if the United States required the operational use of those bases again, it would have to ask specially, and we could agree or withhold our agreement.

Mr. Kinnock

That appears to be the second shift in position by the Prime Minister in the course of a week. As it is clear that the right hon. Lady has the right to say no, as was testified by two former Prime Ministers yesterday, and also has the power to say no, as we heard in the same testimony, will she show the will to resist? Will she accept that that is the very strong desire of the British people, who understand that there are much more effective ways of combating and defeating terrorism?

The Prime Minister

There has been no shift in position. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman did not fully comprehend it, but there has been no shift in position whatsoever. Yesterday I set out the position on the use of the bases. I am delighted that the right hon. Gentleman renews his statement that he wishes to fight terrorism in every possible way. I hope that in future the Labour party will vote for the prevention of terrorism legislation.

Mr. Kinnock

I will not take that from the right hon. Lady. The sour and salutary fact about the prevention of terrorism legislation is that it has not prevented terrorism and it will not prevent terrorism. The right hon. Lady provokes terrorism?

The Prime Minister

The prevention of terrorism legislation has helped the police to prevent acts of terrorism. That is well known. I should be delighted if the Labour party, instead of voting against it, would in future vote for it.

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Q2. Sir Fergus Montgomery

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 17 April.

The Prime Minister

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

Sir Fergus Montgomery

Is my right hon. Friend aware that expenditure on the National Health Service in the north-west in 1978, the last year of the Labour Government, was £380 million, and that today it is £903 million? Does my right hon. Friend not think that it is time we began to proclaim the true facts rather then let the Opposition parties continue to perpetuate myths?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend is correct to say that the National Health Service is now treating more patients, is better staffed and better financed and makes more effective use of resources than ever before. We shall do our level best to apply the resources to it. I am delighted that nurses, also, are better paid.

Mr. Norman Atkinson

Will the Prime Minister reconsider the statement that she has just made in reply to the Leader of the Opposition? As she now stands virtually alone among the political leadership of Europe in believing that military retaliation is an effective answer to terrorism of any kind, whether in the middle east or in Northern Ireland, and as I heard members of her own party saying privately last night that if she were to reconsider the views that she had put during yesterday's debate it would not mean either a loss of face for her or a loss of credibility in her own party, and recognising that no member of her own party could say that to her, will she recognise the sensitivity of her views and bring herself into line with the opinions expressed throughout Europe?

The Prime Minister

The decision was taken after prolonged and wide consideration. We came to that decision. I believe that it was the right decision. Should the United States wish to have the use of those bases again, it would have to make a totally fresh application. Our agreement would be required for their use for such an operation and we could either agree or withhold agreement.

Q3. Sir John Biggs-Davison

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 17 April.

The Prime Minister

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

Sir John Biggs-Davison

As the Leader of the Opposition and others more expert have questioned the present force of the long-standing agreement on the American use of Royal Air Force bases, will my right hon. Friend consider removing any doubts that may remain in the public mind after her clear speech yesterday by inviting President Reagan to make a joint statement with her to clarify the position?

The Prime Minister

I said yesterday that the arrangements are the same as they have been since they were agreed by Mr. Attlee and Mr. Truman. They have been renewed by every Prime Minister and every President since, and of course were renewed when the cruise missile question arose. They require that if the United States wishes to use bases in Britain for operational purposes it has to seek permission, seek agreement, and that permission can either be given or, as two former Prime [column 1007]Ministers said yesterday, it can be withheld. In my speech yesterday I made a statement about President Reagan 's and my understanding of the present position.

Mr. Steel

Does the Prime Minister now accept her share of personal responsibility for the boosting of Colonel Gaddafi 's political support, as we saw on the streets of Tripoli last night? Does she also accept her share of responsibility for exposing British citizens to increased fanaticism and terrorism? Does she now recognise that that is what happens when one turns the British bulldog into a Reagan poodle?

The Prime Minister

The reputation of Colonel Gaddafi has not been enhanced. I hope that people will look at the terrorism that he has been using for a long period as a political weapon and bear in mind the many lives that have been lost as a result of that terrorist activity. In the Berlin bombing over 230 people were injured. If one lets the threat of further terrorism prevent one from fighting against it, the terrorist has won and he will hold to ransom every free society.

Q4. Mr. Patrick Thompson

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 17 April.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Thompson

Does my right hon. Friend agree that industrial action by prison officers would be regrettable, bearing in mind the valuable service they perform in our prisons? In Norwich prison the strains are showing to the extent that there have been recent escapes. Will my right hon. Friend do all that she can to support those who are working for them, negotiating better working practices and better arrangements for the benefit of all concerned?

The Prime Minister

I gladly pay tribute to the prison service for the way in which the staff have carried out their duties. As my hon. Friend is aware, we have put a great deal more resources into building and for the employment of more prison officers. The management of the service has repeatedly made it clear that it is prepared to talk to the staff to try to resolve the problem. The management must do everything that it can to use resources most effectively.

Q5. Mr. Home Robertson

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 17 April.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Home Robertson

Will the Prime Minister reflect on the prophetic words of the Secretary of State for Defence, who said on Monday that a military strike hit the wrong targets and would give rise to what he referred to as “other tensions” ? Such tensions will, presumably, lead to reprisals against innocent British citizens. That has now happened. We in Scotland know that the Prime Minister has taken the right hon. Gentleman's advice often enough when he has been wrong. Why did she not take his advice on this one occasion when he was right? How on earth can he now remain in this bloodstained Government?

The Prime Minister

As I have said, my right hon. Friend George Youngerthe Secretary of State for Defence was telling the world that we considered all aspects of the situation that was put before us. Decisions of this kind are not easy. As I said yesterday, terrorism thrives on appeasement.

Q6. Mr. Peter Bruinvels

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 17 April.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Bruinvels

Does my right hon. Friend share my concern at the very high acquittal rate in trials by jury? Does she agree that today too many jurors have no respect for law and order, do not believe in crime meriting punishment and will do everything in their power to acquit rather than to convict? Will she introduce plans so that the selection of jurors is more representative of those who believe that the punishment should fit the crime?

The Prime Minister

Some days ago I saw the report that my hon. Friend has in mind and thought that it was very disquieting. The whole position regarding the challenging of jurors has been approached in the White Paper on criminal justice, and the matter to which my hon. Friend has referred will be considered by my right hon. Friend Douglas Hurdthe Home Secretary.