HC Deb 03 July 1979 vol 969 cc1101-8
Q1. Mr. Brotherton

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 3 July.

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. After Question Time I shall be making a statement about the Tokyo economic summit and my subsequent visit to Australia. Later today I shall be meeting President Turbay of Colombia and this evening I shall be the host at a dinner for him.

Mr. Brotherton

May I be the first to welcome my right hon. Friend on her safe return and to welcome her remarks about sanctions, made in Australia? Will my right hon. Friend give further thought today to the question of Rhodesia and muse on the speed with which the Government recognised the new Government in Ghana compared with their failure to recognise the Government in Rhodesia? Can it be that we consider that Flight Lieutenant Rawlings is more acceptable to the people of Ghana than the bishop is acceptable in Salisbury?

The Prime Minister

I can give my hon. Friend a reply, but I am not certain whether he will find it entirely satisfactory. The two situations are different in that when it comes to a new Government in an independent country such as Ghana—which received independence many years ago—the only question is whether one recognises the new Government. That depends upon certain accepted criteria. When considering Rhodesia, the question is not one of recognition of the regime but of returning it to legality. It is that which takes longer.

Mr. Faulds

Will the Prime Minister find time to contemplate the wisdom of listening to the advice of her Conservative colleagues, such as the Prime Minister of Australia, who wish to restrain her impetuosity in recognising an unacceptable and fake Smith-Muzorewa set-up in Rhodesia?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Member cannot have listened to what I said. The question is of returning Rhodesia to legality. It is our objective to do that with as wide international recognition as possible. That is why so much activity is taking place. Lord Harlech is visiting many countries to see how best we can proceed with that objective.

Mr. Aitken

When thinking of recognising new Governments, will my right hon. Friend give some thought to changing what she described as the accepted criteria? Does my right hon. Friend agree that when any Government are embarked upon a wide campaign of brutal executions—whether in Iran, Ghana or anywhere else—it is wiser and more acceptable to the British people at least to withhold recognition?

The Prime Minister

We are certainly prepared to consider the criteria for recognition. There was considerable concern about the recognition of Ghana. The recognition was made just a few hours before all those terrible executions which I have continued totally and utterly to condemn.

Q2. Mr. Skinner

asked the Prime Minister what are her official engagements for 3 July.

The Prime Minister

I refer the hon. Member to the reply which I have just given to my hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Mr. Brotherton).

Mr. Skinner

Is the Prime Minister aware that after about only two months in office she has fallen victim to the dreaded Leaders' disease known as "summititis" and preaching policies abroad which she is not prepared to practise at home? Is it not true that, while she has been giving a nod and a wink to the world's leaders about international planning on energy, dole queues and other matters, at home she is on the side of the oil barons, the petrol suppliers and all those who are profiteering at the expense of the motorist? Will the real Tory stand up and answer today?

The Prime Minister

May I assure the hon. Gentleman that my pithy comments do not change whether I make them at home or abroad.

Mr. David Price

Will my right hon. Friend take time today to discuss with her Private Office the acceptance of questions to the Prime Minister of a general nature, as used to be done by her predecessors? It was not the practice when the previous Labour Government were in power, and consequently there have been nothing but questions with regard to her engagements. Will she revert to the practice of answering general questions about Government policy?

The Prime Minister

I am prepared to consider any complaints put to me and I am quite prepared to answer any questions.

Mr. Whitehead

Reverting to the question of Zimbabwe—Rhodesia, as the Prime Minister thought aloud, in her after-dinner diplomacy, about the question of raising sanctions, is she also prepared to say what concessions she would require from the Muzorewa regime before she would consider it to have returned to legality.

The Prime Minister

Lord Harlech is discussing with the Muzorewa regime today just those issues. I believe it would be premature to make any statement about them.

Mr. George Gardiner

The Prime Minister will doubtless have given some thought today to the question of the safety of Her Majesty the Queen when she attends the Lusaka conference. Though nobody would expect an answer on this matter in the context of Prime Minister's questions, will my right hon. Friend take into account the fact that the anxiety of the British people is not confined to Her Majesty's planned presence in Lusaka but extends to her tour of the African States starting on 19 July? The tour includes three of the States involved, quite openly, in hostilities with the Government of Zimbabwe—Rhodesia.

The Prime Minister

Let me make it quite clear that the Queen will go unless advised not to. In tendering that advice I obviously have to wait for the latest up-to-the-minute reports. We are very anxious that the Queen should be able to undertake these visits and we shall weigh our judgment and our advice very carefully.

Mr. James Callaghan

May I revert to the question of the lifting of sanctions on Rhodesia? Will the Prime Minister explain further what she means by saying that it is premature to make a judgment or any statements on Lord Harlech's visit? Has she not already done so in Australia—or was she incorrectly reported—when we understood her to say that sanctions would have to be lifted in November because the Conservative Party would not stand for it? Whatever her views about that, was that not, in fact, foreclosing on Lord Harlech's visit?

The Prime Minister

As I understood it, the question asked by the hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead) was about a return to legality. The hon. Gentleman will correct me if I am wrong. The question I was answering was about sanctions and I made the very realistic observation that there was very considerable doubt about whether an order for the renewal of sanctions would go through this House in November.

Mr. Callaghan

As regards the question of voting, may I say to the right hon. Lady that she will have the full support of the Labour Party if she introduces an order to continue sanctions? Concerning the more general point was it not a great mistake on her part, before she actually goes to Lusaka to give an indication of that sort, in view of the fact that, if she is not very careful, she will find herself isolated, Britain will find itself isolated, and the interests of this country will be put at great risk as a result of what she calls her "pithy comments?"

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman will not be surprised if I disagree with him completely. That is why we are making such strenuous efforts now to consult other countries, in order to try to bring Rhodesia back to legality. If we are successful, of course, the basis of sanctions will go. If we are not successful, we shall face a very difficult situation in November to which I referred, accurately and realistically, in answer to a similar question in Canberra.

Mr. Mellor

Will my right hon. Friend find time today to read the report by the right hon. Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson) which called for tax concessions for film stars and others in the film industry? Is the Prime Minister at all concerned as to the correctness of our policy on tax cuts, having regard to their apparent endorsement by the right hon. Gentleman.

The Prime Minister

I did read some comments by the right hon. Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson) during the general election and I thought they were extremely good.

3. Mr. John Evans

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 3 July.

The Prime Minister

I refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave earlier.

Mr. John Evans

Will the Prime Minister give a little thought, during her busy schedule, to the accelerating rate of inflation which is so worrying the British people? Will she confirm that, because of her Budget measures and her failure on European farm prices, and as a result of the latest oil price rises, inflation in Great Britain will be running at 20 per cent. by Christmas?

The Prime Minister

I cannot confirm any particular figure, but I would remind the hon. Gentleman that, because of the butter subsidy, there will be a very considerable reduction in the price of butter.

Sir Nigel Fisher

Following the question raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Mr. Gardiner) about the Queen's visit to Lusaka, will my right hon. Friend consider following the precedent set by the Queen's visit to Ghana in 1961? Under similar circumstances the then Mr. Macmillan sent out the Commonwealth Secretary, now Lord Duncan-Sandys, to Ghana to check personally on the security arrangements there and report back to the Cabinet with his advice. Will the Prime Minister consider sending the Foreign Secretary to Lusaka with the same objective, to assess the situation personally?

The Prime Minister

I shall, of course, consider the suggestion of my hon. Friend. I think that perhaps the situation is just a little different in Zambia now from what it was in Ghana. I recollect the arrangements that were made then. The decision I have to make is a very different one because one must satisfy oneself about the security arrangements right up to the time just before Her Majesty leaves and the likelihood of safe security arrangements during the whole of her stay. I shall take all possible measures to see that they are secure enough so that I may advise Her Majesty to go.


Mr. English

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am sorry that I have been unable to give you notice of my intention to raise this point of order, but the matter with which it is concerned has only just arisen. There is a well-established constitutional convention that Her Majesty takes the advice of the Commonwealth Government within whose territorial jurisdiction she will be. In the light of the Prime Minister's answer, if the Zambian Government said one thing and the right hon. Lady said another, I am not clear what Her Majesty would be supposed to do.

Mr. Speaker

Quite clearly, that is not a question that I can answer. We must move on to the private notice question.

4. Mr. Stallard

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 3 July.

The Prime Minister

I refer the hon. Member to the reply which I have given previously.

Mr. Stallard

Will the right hon. Lady find time today—it will not take too long—to visit the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson hospital, which is not very far from here, to meet the staff there, who will tell her of their very grave concern at what appears to be collusion between officials of the DHSS and the area health authority to thwart the right hon. Lady's firmly-held conviction, stated in the debate on the Gracious Speech, that this hospital should be saved and remain a viable unit?

The Prime Minister

As the hon. Gentleman knows, I am very anxious that the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson hospital should continue. The plan was that it should continue as a specialist hospital for disorders affecting women. There are a number of other small specialist hospitals which continue, and it is absolutely vital that these specialist hospitals should have the back-up of a nearby general hospital. We had hoped in this case that that would be University College hospital. There now seems to be some doubt about that, and my hon. Friend the Minister for Health will certainly consider the matter with it. It has put up an alternative plan, but I must make it quite clear that I wish the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson hospital to continue.

Mr. Onslow

If my right hon. Friend has not had time to do so already, will she make time today to study the comments on output and productivity, and the proper role of trade unions in this country, made by Mr. Joe Gormley in her absence?

The Prime Minister

I shall certainly look at them. I have heard about them and they seem to be eminently sound in that a rising standard of living will come only from increased output. We should have as high output per person as any other country.

Mr. Grimond

As the most frightful barbarity going on in the world today is the behaviour of the Vietnamese Government, can the Prime Minister give us any hope that some notice will be taken of her pleas to the United Nations that the nations of the world should do something about it? Has she any reason to suppose that the Communist nations of the world are bringing any pressures to bear on the Vietnamese or are taking any of the refugees?

The Prime Minister

I wholly agree with the right hon. Gentleman that Vietnam should be condemned totally and utterly for its appallingly inhuman and callous conduct in expelling these people. I have said that wherever I have been in the world. As the right hon. Gentleman will hear in a moment, I mentioned it to Mr. Kosygin when I saw him, but I am bound to tell the right hon. Gentleman that I got precious little encouragement for my views when I urged him to bring pressure to bear on Vietnam to cease to expel these people.