Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1987 Jan 29 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 [109/481-86]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1515-1530.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2669
Themes: British Constitution (general discussions), Executive (appointments), Defence (general), Employment, Industry, Monetary policy, Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (Western Europe - non-EU), Health policy, Labour Party & socialism, Law & order, Liberal & Social Democratic Parties, Media, Religion & morality, Terrorism, Strikes & other union action
[column 481]

PRIME MINISTER

La Belle Discotheque

Q1. Mr. Dalyell

asked the Prime Minister, pursuant to her answer of 12 January, Official Report, column 3, what assumptions, as opposed to evidence, have been conveyed to Her Majesty's Government by the other Governments consulted regarding possible Syrian involvement in the La Belle discotheque nightclub terrorist bombing in Berlin; and if she will make a statement.

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

None, Sir.

Mr. Dalyell

With regard to what happened in Berlin, why does the Prime Minister suppose that her sources for certainty are better than those of the West German Department of Justice, the West Berlin police and Der Spiegel?

The Prime Minister

As we understand it, the position has not changed since I replied to a question last January, and the hon. Gentleman knows what that is. We have evidence of Libyan involvement in the bombing of La Belle discotheque in Berlin on 5 April, but the Germans have evidence of Syrian involvement in relation to the German-Arab Friendship Society. The position has not changed since I answered a question many months ago.

Mr. Latham

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that there is at least one correct assumption behind the hon. Gentleman's question—that when it comes to violent terrorism Libya and Syria are as bad as each other?

The Prime Minister

As my hon. Friend is aware, we have taken strong action against both.

Mr. Tom Clarke

Does the Prime Minister consider that the information from the German police sent to my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) was right or wrong?

The Prime Minister

I am answering about what I understand to be the Government's position——

Mr. Tony Banks

Do they not tell the right hon. Lady?

[column 482]

The Prime Minister

I have given the answer many, many times. We have evidence of Libyan involvement in La Belle discotheque. The Germans have evidence of Syrian involvement in the matter of the German-Arab Friendship Society. That is the position.

Mr. Hickmet

My right hon. Friend will be aware of the damage done to national security by the contacts between the Leader of the Opposition and members of his party in the Peter Wright case and——

Mr. Speaker

Order. Does this relate to the specific question?

Mr. Bell

As the West German Government evidence is clearly of Syrian involvement, was it not a tragic mistake by the Government to allow American fighters to attack Libya from this country on the basis of faulty information and evidence—a tragic mistake as a result of which innocent people lost their lives?

The Prime Minister

I have given the answer with regard to our evidence about Libyan involvement and about our understanding of German knowledge of evidence of Syrian involvement which came out in the trial. I have answered debates about the raid on Libya for which facilities were given from this country. I believe that to have been the right action against terrorism.

Mr. Dalyell

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the Prime Minister's reply and her economality with the truth, I give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment.

Engagements

Q2. Sir John Biggs-Davison

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 29 January.

The Prime Minister

This morning I attended a presentation about the Government programme for action for jobs. 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.

Sir John Biggs-Davison

As the First Lord of the Treasury was not on the Treasury Bench when this was raised in Treasury Question Time, may I ask my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister whether she has studied the Official Report of yesterday's debate on the City? If so, is she surprised that in the very week of the umpteenth relaunch of the alliance the SDP leader and the Liberal leader voted against each other? One hears about guarding one's flanks, but this is ridiculous. Is not their claim to be a true alliance as spurious as a 50p note?

The Prime Minister

I studied both the debate on the City and the Division List which followed the debate. I understand that at the very time that the two right hon. Members were appearing together on television last night they were voting differently in the House, one with the Government and one with the Opposition—walking proof that the so-called alliance is not an alliance.

Mr. Kinnock

Can the Prime Minister confirm that, following his speech and interviews yesterday, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry is giving serious consideration to enacting extra-statutory powers to [column 483]replace voluntary compliance with the takeover panel's fair dealing code? Does this proposal by the Secretary of State have her full support?

The Prime Minister

Paul ChannonThe Secretary of State made an excellent statement yesterday. He announced a review of the takeover panel—if that is what the right hon. Gentleman is referring to—and we shall wait to see what that produces.

Mr. Kinnock

Is the right hon. Lady correcting the quotations in the Daily Telegraph and the Financial Times this morning of the Secretary of State saying that failure to secure compliance would ensure extra-statutory powers? If that is the case—and I quote from c. 372 of yesterday's Official Report—can the Prime Minister tell us why that is the case now and why in June last year the Government voted against exactly that proposal when it came from Opposition Members?

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry yesterday announced a review of the operation of the takeover code. As I understand it, the right hon. Gentleman wants us to prejudge that review. We do not prejudge the outcome of the review, but if practitioners do not respect the system we shall replace it with one making greater use of statutory powers and sanctions.

Mr. Kinnock

In that case, how long is the period of proof, given that the review that the Secretary of State set up last June is not, according to his hon. and learned Friend, expected to report before the end of this year, so that we will not be able to consider it this side of the election?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman is aware that this Government have done more that any other to bring in legislation to prevent abuse in the City. Perhaps he might look at what The Guardian said on Tuesday 20 January:

“Opposition taunts of too little, too late dissolve when it is remembered that the last Labour administration jettisoned legislation drawn up by the outgoing Heath Government which would have made insider trading a criminal offence in the early seventies.”

Mr. Watts

What action would my right hon. Friend take if one of her hon. Friends were to suggest that political power in this country should be won by violence on the streets? Has she any advice to offer to the Leader of the Opposition on this matter?

The Prime Minister

Any suggestion that political power should be exercised by violence on the streets is the very denigration and opposite of democracy.

Q3. Mr. Gareth Wardell

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 29 January.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Wardell

Bearing in mind the fiascos of Westland, the Wright case and Zircon, should the country now regard the Attorney-General as having been made to look more like a fool than a fall guy?

The Prime Minister

Sir Michael Havers No, Sir.

Q4. Mr. Robert Atkins

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 29 January.

[column 484]

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Atkins

Is my right hon. Friend aware that thousands of my constituents who work in local defence industries are obliged, and honour the obligation, to keep details of their work secret? Do they not have a right to be angry and frustrated at the activities of Left-wing activists and journals in publishing information which could damage our national security? As the Government have done all in their power to limit this subversion, will the Prime Minister prevail upon the Leader of the Opposition, on Privy Council terms if necessary, to stop the activities of his so-called supporters, which is so disgraceful?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend is right. The New Statesman deliberately chose to publish information which could be of benefit to our potential enemies. We are still waiting for a clear condemnation from the Labour Benches. With regard to any further showing of that film outside this House, Neil Kinnockthe Leader of the Opposition said, when he spoke last Thursday, that he would uphold the Government's view that the showing of a particular film would prejudice national security. The Leader of the Opposition also agreed that one breach, or threatened breach, does not justify a further breach.

Mr. Nellist

Will the Prime Minister take time to consider the fact that 10 days ago in Warwickshire there was an armed raid on a post office? Following that raid the police requested four emergency lines to the incident room. While members of the National Communications Union were willing to install those lines, on an unpaid basis, they were prevented from doing so by local management, who removed their vans, clearly under the instruction of Mr. Michael Bett, to bring this dispute to a head sooner rather than later. In that regard, is not the lack of emergency cover in the BT dispute clearly down to management?

The Prime Minister

The trouble is the strike itself, which can only put people out of work and make older people suffer if their telephone communications are not kept working. The trouble is the strike itself.

Q6. Mrs. Virginia Bottomley

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 29 January.

The Prime Minister

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

Mrs. Bottomley

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the package of training and employment measures announced yesterday offers real hope to the unemployed with the prospect—[Interruption.]—of jobs today and tomorrow? Does she further agree that attempts by the Labour party to denigrate these measures should be disregarded by us all, but most of all by the unemployed, who stand to benefit most directly from them?

The Prime Minister

Yes. My hon. Friend is right. No other country in Europe, even though some of them have a bigger proportion of unemployment among youth and a longer or greater proportion of long-term unemployed than we have, has such an excellent package of individual help to each and every unemployed person. That is evidence of the Government's commitment to provide the fullest possible help to all those looking for work.

[column 485]

Mrs. Renée Short

Can I ask the Prime Minister whether she will reconsider the support that she gave to a highly emotional and not very helpful speech by the chief constable of Greater Manchester, when he said that AIDS victims were whirling about in a cesspit of their own making? Does she not accept that this was an extremely unhelpful speech to make? Will she make sure that she now supports those, both in this House and outside, who are trying to deal with this very difficult problem?

The Prime Minister

I refer, not to the sentence which the hon. Member quoted, but to what I said. I do not have it with me, but she can find that from the transcript. I said that some people, whether from the Church or elsewhere, had spoken out to the effect that morals do matter in AIDS and that, while Governments cannot prevent people from getting AIDS, people themselves, by their own conduct, can do so. That is correct.

Q7. Mr. Anthony Nelson

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 29 January.

The Prime Minister

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

Mr. Nelson

Adverting to the point made by the Leader of the Opposition, may I invite my right hon. Friend to agree, with reference to the takeover panel, and code, that it would have been wholly improper to have imported statutory provision for that into the Financial Services Bill, that it was the Conservative Government who introduced that Bill, which tightened up in an unprecedented manner control and regulation of the supervisory structure of the City, that it was the Conservative party which amended that Bill to tighten up [column 486]very significantly the powers of the Securities and Investment Board, and that the Conservative Government will not hesitate to take further measures if necessary?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Mr. Speaker. It was the Labour Government who ran away from introducing legislation to make insider trading a criminal offence. It was this Government who have done so much about it. With regard to the takeover panel, a review has been announced. If hon. Gentlemen wish me to prejudge that review, I will not do so. If practitioners do not respect the system, we shall replace it with one making greater use of statutory powers and sanctions.

Mr. Beith

Will the Prime Minister find time to take a personal interest in the question of issuing free disposable syringes to diabetics? Does she agree that it would be morally wrong to deny disposable syringes to those who have no choice but to inject themselves daily for the rest of their lives when she is able to find the resources to make disposable syringes available for drug addicts so as to prevent AIDS?

The Prime Minister

I already have a number of letters on that subject and I am giving considerable attention to it.

Mr. Gow

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You have heard my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer say that last night the leader of the Liberal party and the leader of the Social Democratic parties voted in opposite Lobbies——

Mr. Speaker

Order. I cannot see that that has anything to do with me.

Mr. Gow

If you look at the Official Report, Mr. Speaker, you will see that. Surely there must be some mistake.