Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1986 Apr 24 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 [96/418-24]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2860
Themes: Defence (general), Industry, Economic, monetary & political union, Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (Western Europe - non-EU), Labour Party & socialism, Law & order, Local government, Local government finance, Science & technology, Social security & welfare, Terrorism, Transport
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PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Q1. Mr. Eadie

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 24 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. This evening I shall attend a state banquet given by Their Majesties the King and Queen of Spain.

Mr. Eadie

Has the Prime Minister had time to reconsider the statement that she made in the House last Tuesday to the effect that the Americans would choose the type of weapons that they would use on aircraft taking off from British bases? If she has had time to reconsider that, does she adhere to the statement that she made on Tuesday?

The Prime Minister

I made it perfectly clear on Tuesday that we had set down very strict criteria for the use of F111s from British bases in this country. Those [column 419]strict criteria were in the statement that I made, and added to those strict criteria was the duty to minimise civilian casualties. Therefore, it is clear that we were considering only conventional weapons. Nuclear weapons would require totally different procedures. It is absurd to say that they were ever asked for. Within the strict criteria that we laid down, the precise choice of weapons in the conventional sphere was for the United States.

Sir Peter Hordern

Since both the Italian and French Governments are liberalising their exchange controls, and since all the criticisms made by Professor Alan Walters in The Times have either been met or are unfounded, is it not time that we joined the European monetary system?

The Prime Minister

I did not read Professor Alan Walters' book in quite that way. As my hon. Friend knows, it is our policy that we shall one day join the European monetary exchange mechanism, but we do not believe that the time is yet right.

Mr. Kinnock

President Reagan made two speeches yesterday in which he emphasised that he is prepared, as he put it, to act again against Libya. Will the Prime Minister tell us frankly whether she would be prepared to endorse or assist in a further similar raid?

The Prime Minister

I have already answered that question several times. Should there be a further request, it would have to be considered. We would reach our conclusions in the light of circumstances and matters which would have to be considered at that time.

Mr. Kinnock

Has the Prime Minister read the interview given by the Secretary of State for Defence to Mr. Terry Coleman, which appeared in The Guardian this morning, in which the Secretary of State said:

“It wasn't our decision to do it, … If that question had been put to us, I don't know quite what response we'd have given.” If the President of the United States should again present the Prime Minister with such a fait accompli and say that he will go ahead whatever her opinion, what will be her response?

The Prime Minister

I have already answered the right hon. Gentleman's question, if only he would listen.

Mr. Kinnock

The Prime Minister has not answered that question. She is trying to claim that she has somehow mitigated the nature and effects of the American raid. Is it not the case that she has now moved into the worst of all worlds, demonstrating both complicity and impotence?

The Prime Minister

What the right hon. Gentleman is seeking to do is to help the terrorists by letting them know exactly what answer we shall give to a request. I have already told him that if a request were received we would have to consider it in the light of the circumstances at the time.

Mrs. Currie

Has my right hon. Friend had time to read the statements by the Advocate General of the European Court of Justice in the case of invalid care allowances? Will she accept that married women who care voluntarily for disabled relatives at home have much sympathy on both sides of the House? Could not the Government, who do care for the carers, consider making this payment available?

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The Prime Minister

As my hon. Friend is aware, the judgment in that case will not be given until about June. When it arrives we shall, of course, consider it carefully and the reasons for it.

Q2. Mr. Maclennan

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 24 April.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Maclennan

Further to the answer that the Prime Minister gave to her hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Sir P. Hordern), does she agree that the exchange rate is now within the central band and that the European monetary system can be adjusted to include us without a major realignment? In view of the strong arguments advanced by Sir James Cleminson, the president of the CBI, concerning the advantage to British industry of entering the mechanism now, should she not listen to the senior members of her Cabinet, who favour entry now; and stop playing this one-man band record on the subject?

The Prime Minister

No. I outlined the general policy to my hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Sir P. Hordern). The time is not ripe to join the EMS. Just because the exchange rate is in a certain band now does not mean that it will stay there. If it did not, one would either have to use scarce reserves artificially to keep it within that limit, or one might be driven to put up the interest rate. We would be much more circumscribed within the EMS mechanism than we wish to be at the moment.

Sir Peter Tapsell

While we are on the EMS issue, will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that some of us would prefer to have our affairs managed by the Bank of England rather than by the Bundesbank?

The Prime Minister

I note what my hon. Friend says. I have already said that to join it at the moment would limit our freedom of action, and that is not desirable at present.

Mr. Flannery

Has the Prime Minister noticed the statements that President Reagan has made about Iran and Syria—almost threatening them with the same thing that was done to Libya? Has she also noticed how few Americans are coming over here and that people are deeply worried by the fact that the President of the United States seems to have lost his mind about this business and is literally threatening all mankind with what he will do next if terrorism breaks out anywhere?

The Prime Minister

As the hon. Gentleman is aware, the objective is to fight terrorism. If one always rejects the use of force to fight terrorism, the terrorist wins and the consequences for more victims are horrific.

Q3. Sir John Farr

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 24 April.

The Prime Minister

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

Sir John Farr

While the whole House goes along with the “Viva el Rey” speech by Mr. Speaker yesterday in another place, can my right hon. Friend assure the House that there will be no change in the sovereignty of Gibraltar, and certainly no change without the consent of the people in that colony?

The Prime Minister

I agree with my hon. Friend. The whole House and, I think, the whole country welcomes the [column 421]state visit of Their Majesties the King and Queen of Spain. It is a great success. We know full well Their Majesties' views on Gibraltar. As my hon. Friend is aware, the Government have given assurances to the people of Gibraltar that Gibraltar will remain part of Her Majesty's dominions unless and until an Act of Parliament otherwise provides, and furthermore that Her Majesty's Government will never enter into arrangements under which the people of Gibraltar would pass under the sovereignty of another state against their freely and democratically expressed wishes.

Mr. William Shelton

Is my right hon. Friend aware that when the 30 or more Labour councillors were disqualified at Lambeth they left a rump of three councillors to run Lambeth council? Is she aware that a meeting tomorrow night—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. The question must involve the Prime Minister's responsibility.

Mr. Shelton

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is to be a meeting tomorrow night to reverse the position? Will she condemn the use of force, which I understand will be employed to break up that meeting, and, indeed, any use of force in public life?

The Prime Minister

I think that we would all unhesitatingly condemn any use of force to break up that council meeting. I hope that it takes place tomorrow night and that the Conservatives take over the authority of the council.

Mr. Tony Banks

In the discussions between representatives of the American Government and Her Majesty's Government about bombing targets in Libya, did the Americans at any time say that one of the objectives was the killing of Colonel Gaddafi?

The Prime Minister

No, of course not.

Q4. Mr. Loyden

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 23 April.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Loyden

Will the Prime Minister comment on a report that the Tory candidate in the by-election at Ryedale made a statement at a press conference this morning to the effect that we are at war with Libya? Does the Prime Minister approve of that, and does it reflect the attitude of the Government?

The Prime Minister

No, that is not correct. Of course, terrorism itself—[Hon. Members: “Answer.” ] If hon. Gentlemen had had the courtesy to listen, they would have heard what I said. They do not have the courtesy to listen, or courtesy of any other sort. Terrorism is a form of warfare against all other citizens in democratic societies.

Q5. Mr. Thurnham

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 23 April.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Thurnham

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the voluntary licensing authority should be congratulated on its first year's work in monitoring IVF clinics and research laboratories, work in which this country leads the world in setting the very highest ethical standards?

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The Prime Minister

I am aware of my hon. Friend's great interest in this matter. I noted that the first report had been published, and I hope that it will be widely studied, because the organisation's work is excellent.

Dr. Owen

‘Can the Prime Minister assure the House that the Government are taking every step possible to coordinate other countries’ actions in refusing Libyan aircraft facilities to land at our airports, and that we are now prepared to adopt sanctions against Libyan air flights both in and out of this country?

The Prime Minister

I think the right hon. Gentleman is aware that if some of the deportees about whom my right hon. Friend Douglas Hurdthe Home Secretary spoke to the House are to go, they will probably have to do so on Libyan aircraft. He is also aware that there are a number of our citizens in Libya, some of whom may want to get out on other aircraft.

Mr. Gregory

In view of the act of terrorism today and the others that we have experienced in Europe so recently, will my right hon. Friend encourage as many Americans as possible to follow their colleagues last year and come to this country to see that it is the safest in the EEC? Will she also give support to the British Tourist Authority in promoting Britain overseas?

The Prime Minister

Yes, I gladly support my hon. Friend and my right hon. Friend Lord Young of Graffhamthe Secretary of State for Employment, who is also responsible for tourism. He is doing everything that he can to promote in the United States our tourist industry. My hon. Friend may have heard what someone from the American embassy said this morning—that he hoped that more American tourists would come to this country, which is a safe and good country.

Q6. Mr. Fisher

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 24 April.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Fisher

Does the Prime Minister agree with her Secretary of State for Defence, who is reported in the papers this morning as saying that the precise position and the precise targets were not agreed, and he was not informed about them? Will the Prime Minister tell the House whether she did have precise detailed information of the targets that were to be bombed, or is the special relationship that she has with President Reagan more one of master and servant?

The Prime Minister

I have answered that question in previous statements and speeches. I made it perfectly clear that the Government agreed to the use of United States aircraft based in the United Kingdom if that was necessary in the action of self-defence against specific targets, demonstrably involved in the conduct and support of terrorist activities. We laid down strict criteria. I notice that the hon. Member, like so many of his colleagues, does everything to try to undermine the fundamental relationship between Europe and the United States.

Mr. Kinnock

On a point of order arising directly from questions, and because it is a complete calumny, I want to ask through you, Mr. Speaker, if the Prime Minister will unreservedly withdraw her statement, made in the heat of [column 423]Question Time, that I am seeking to help terrorists? That is utterly unjustified, and a vile insult, that is not even acceptable in the bitterest of exchanges in this place.

Mr. Speaker

Order. If the Prime Minister did say that, and I must confess that from where I was sitting I did not hear it, I am sure that she would wish to correct it.

The Prime Minister

May I make it perfectly clear what precisely, I believe, I did say. I said that if one tells the terrorists precisely what one is, or is not going to do, that is the way to help him. I did not seek to impute anything personal to the right hon. Gentleman, and if that was the effect of what I said, I gladly withdraw it.

Sir Eldon Griffiths

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. There are rights in this House that belong to hon. Members other than the Leader of the Opposition and the [column 424]Prime Minister, and we are entitled to look to you, to safeguard the rights of all Members of this House. It is within the knowledge of all Members that recently statements have been made in the course of questions and answers, and hon. Members have risen to object. It has been the convention, in my experience in this House, that Mr. Speaker will not allow time to be used for hon. Members to object to comments. I ask a simple question—why have you allowed, on a point of order, a statement from the Leader of the Opposition that you would not have allowed from any other hon. Member?

Mr. Speaker

Order. If the Prime Minister or any other hon. Member, casts an aspersion on the honour of any other hon. Member, I will always apply the rules. I am the guardian of Back Benchers as much as of Front Benchers, and the same rules apply to everyone.