HC Deb 28 April 1981 vol 3 cc646-8
1. Mr. John Townend

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 28 April.

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in this House, I shall be having further meetings later today.

Mr. Townend

May I first congratulate my right hon. Friend on her most successful tour, and particularly on the way in which she stood up for Britain and British interests?

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that legislation passed by this House is not the business of foreign Powers, that the British Nationality Bill is non-racial, that we have the same laws in Britain for black and white, and, above all, that young thugs who riot with Molotov cocktails will be severely punished, regardless of colour?

The Prime Minister

I thank my right hon. Friend for his congratulations. I confirm that legislation passed by this House about United Kingdom citizens is riot the business of other Powers, although we listen to representations made by old friends. I confirm that the British Nationality Bill will apply equally across all racial boundaries. Indeed, many minority groups here will benefit from its better definition of British citizenship. I confirm that the same laws apply to everyone in the community, and that those who break the law should be punished, irrespective of race or colour.

Mr. Foot

Since this is the first opportunity that I have had of doing so, may I ask the right hon. Lady—indeed, urge her—to respond to the representations that were made from the Labour Benches yesterday not to proceed with the imposition of the guillotine on the British Nationality Bill? I do so in the interests of good race relations in this country. Will the right hon. Lady recognise that the attempt to force through this Bill, of all Bills, by this means, can only further injure good race relations in this country?

The Prime Minister

I cannot respond to the appeal made by the right hon. Gentleman. In making such an appeal he should remember that in two years of office the Government have only just passed his record for guillotines in one day.

Mr. Foot

Does the right hon. Lady understand that this is a constitutional measure, that it should have been taken on the Floor of the House, and if she really is to attempt to deal with a Bill of this nature in this insensitive manner, it shows how unqualified she is to talk on any of these issues?

Will the right hon. Lady now take the opportunity to withdraw the remarks that she made when she was in India, when she said that one of the purposes of the Bill was to stop immigrants from pouring into this country? Does she think that that showed any knowledge of the Bill or any sensitivity about race relations?

The Prime Minister

I said in India that the purpose of the British Nationality Bill was to enable the British Parliament to define British citizenship. That is a right that almost every other Parliament or Government in the world take unto themselves and which we should also possess. With regard to the right hon. Gentleman's point that this is a constitutional Bill, he guillotined the Scotland and Wales Bills and the European Assembly Elections Bill.

Mr. Foot

Why is the right hon. Lady so eager to dodge the fact that the Bills to which she refers were taken on the Floor of the House of Commons? Does she not understand, even at this late stage, that race relations are in a somewhat sensitive state in this country and that almost everything that the right hon. Lady does or says apparently contributes to these animosities? Will not she consider once again what we, as an Opposition, have asked her to do in order to give the British Parliament proper time to discuss this major measure?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. I believe that what the British Government are doing in the British Nationality Bill, in taking the right to define British citizenship, is correct. I believe that our approach, which is non-racial, will contribute to good race relations and not detract from them. We shall continue the way we are going.

Mr. Latham

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the catastrophic situation regarding the electricity supply in many parts of the East Midlands, where thousands of people have been without power since Saturday night? Will she ensure that the full resources of the State, including the Army, are immediately available to deal with this desperately urgent matter?

The Prime Minister

I am very much aware of the grievous circumstances in which my hon. Friend's constituents find themselves together with certain people——

Mr. Skinner

And in Derbyshire.

The Prime Minister

—in the Midlands and elsewhere in the country. Ninety five per cent. of people who were without electricity have been connected. That does not alter the difficulties affecting the other 5 per cent. I know that my hon. Friend has been in contact with the Department of Energy and the electricity boards. I confirm that the Army is being brought in to use generators, wherever possible. Where elderly people are particularly affected, measures are being taken to get them to rest centres when they cannot cope. The electricity boards will continue to do everything in their power to help, together with the Army if necessary.

Mr. Wm. Ross

Following the law and order question by her hon. Friend the Member for Bridlington (Mr. Townend) may I ask whether the right hon. Lady is aware that the IRA gun-runner Neil Blaney is to address a meeting in this building this afternoon? Does she deplore the use of the facilities of the Palace of Westminster for the promotion of the interests of a murderous terrorist organisation?

The Prime Minister

I was aware that such a meeting is to be held. I must point out to the hon. Gentleman that the use of rooms in this House is not a matter for me but for the authorities of the House. It would be wrong for me to interfere.

Mr. Kilfedder

Is the Prime Minister aware that another of my constituents, Garry Martin, a young policeman with a wife and two baby children, was brutally murdered yesterday and his colleagues seriously injured by Irish republican terrorists? Does she realise that it is heartbreaking and sickening to the Ulster people—particularly to the relatives of the 2,000 people murdered by the IRA—and provocative to all law-abiding people of the Province, that the world's press, including the British media, churn out IRA propaganda about a convicted thug who attempts to commit suicide when even that choice was not given to other people? Will the Government vigorously counter lies with the truth in embassies throughout the world?

The Prime Minister

I join the hon. Gentleman in condemning totally all organisations in Northern Ireland and anywhere in the world which try to impose their will by terrorism which takes or endangers the lives or limbs of innocent men, women and children. I share his great sympathy for the relatives of the 1,500 civilians and 600 soldiers and policemen who have been murdered since the troubles in Northern Ireland began. Our sympathies are with them. We condemn utterly and totally those who perpetrate these monstrous offences.