§ Mr. Neil Kinnock (Islwyn)
I beg to move,That this House has no confidence in Her Majesty's Government.In the present circumstances, there is not much of a Government in which to have no confidence. For a long time, the British people have recognised that the Government have failed comprehensively. Political pressures have been building up over many months and they have culminated today in the departure of the Prime Minister. I and my party are delighted to have played our full and proper part in bringing this about.
As the months have passed, we have seen all the signs of division and decay within the Government. As ex-Ministers have testified, the Government are riddled with distrust, just as the Conservative party is racked by disagreement—disagreement that cannot be healed under any leader at any time. The British people know that. That is why they have rejected the Conservative party in every political test—and will go on doing so—from the beginning of last year, in the south Wales by-elections of Pontypridd and Vale of Glamorgan, through the 1989 local elections, through the European elections, through the Mid-Staffordshire by-election, through this year's local elections and through the Bootle and Bradford by-elections. Next week, in Paisley, the results will be the same. [HON. MEMBERS: "What about Eastbourne?"] There was an excellent result in Eastbourne, which caused immense grief to the Conservative party, as did the lost deposits in the many cases when it was fighting against the Labour party and failing to hold seats.
The tale has gone on and will continue. It is a tale of continual rejection of the Government every time the British people get an opportunity. The Government have tried to take evasive action as the tide has risen. We have had shuffles and shifts in ministerial jobs—musicial chairs to the tune of the dead march—but there was, and is, no escape for the Conservatives. Their whole record is against them. The Conservative party has suddenly discovered that the Prime Minister's conduct of government has been wrong, yet the same party only a few weeks ago was prepared to adore that system, falling in behind the Prime Minister and chanting at its conference, "Ten more years." It did not even mean 10 more weeks.
With such duplicity, who can trust such a party? Who can ever trust it again? The people on the Government Benches—Front and Back—supported and still support the freezing of child benefit, the breaking of the link between pensions and earnings, the reduction of housing benefit, the cutting of training budgets and the freezing of care in the community. Those and many other policies were supported heartily by the Conservative party and they brought disadvantage and despair to millions of their fellow citizens across all parts of Britain.
The Government have been undeviating in the application of those policies. Goodness knows, there were plenty of causes for rebellion, but there were few rebels. There was no panic, no demand for the Prime Minister to go when hospital wards were closing and schools crumbling. The Conservatives were not striving to topple the Prime Minister when unemployment went over 3 440 million or crushing mortgages were imposed and poverty was spreading. There were no rebellions, no panickings, no demands for the Prime Minister to go then. The Conservative party summoned the strength of self-interest to take action only when its members saw that their political careers were in danger of being terminated.
The lack of trust felt by the British people in the Government comes as a result of 11 years of misrule. When they reflect on those 11 years, the British people ask how it can be that our standards of pensions, child care, training, transport and much else are lower than those of our neighbours in the European Community.
How can that have happened when Britain has had the oil wealth that no one else in Europe has had? It is true that other countries in Europe did not have the oil wealth, but nor did they have this Government and this Conservative party. All the policies that have so directly touched people's lives have emanated from the head of the Government, but they were applauded, supported, voted for and implemented by the entire Government, not only by the poor woman who has been chosen for ejection today. There are no innocents on the Government Benches. Conservative Members are all members of a guilty party which is supporting a guilty Government. There are some Conservative Members who will say that there is a great exception to that rule. There are some——
§ Mr. Kinnock
Perhaps I am hearing pleas of not guilty from the hon. Gentleman and other Conservative Members. Plea bargaining will do them no good. Guilty they are, the whole lot of them.
There are some who will claim that they have always been against the poll tax. I do not blame them for that. It is certain that among all the Tory policies there is not one that is more detested by a greater majority of the British people than the poll tax. They do not just hate——
§ Mr. Dick Douglas (Dunfermline, West)
Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us what advice he is giving, in his authoritative position as Leader of the Opposition, to Labour councillors in Scotland who are pursuing people with poinding notices and warrant sales in implementing a tax which has no majority in the House and which he will abolish if he becomes Prime Minister? Is it not about time the right hon. Gentleman said, "Call off the warrant sales and let us have no more poinding notices—the poll tax is ended"?
§ Mr. Kinnock
I shall give the hon. Gentleman the advice that I gave him clearly before he defected from my party. As a legislator, he cannot come to the House and pass legislation and then refuse to accept that legislation outside this place. The advice that I offer to all those who can pay is that they should pay. To those who cannot pay, I say that I hope that within such an infamous law every possible sympathy will be extended to them. I say with no fear and no favour that the rule is absolute. Those who make the law cannot break the law. It is as simple as that.
The British people hate the very idea of the poll tax, and not only the level at which it is being applied. As it comes as such a menace to the Government politically, they have tried manipulation. Instead of providing a safety net for 441 the victims of the poll tax, they have provided a sort of lifebelt to Tory Members in marginal seats whose careers were in jeopardy. Even in that, they have failed.
The Secretary of State for Education and Science has said, "The poll tax is a major problem on our plate." The Secretary of State for the Environment has said, generous as ever, "We are always prepared to look at new proposals." Now there is a new bid in the great poll tax auction. It is called the immediate and fundamental review. At least that is what it was called on 15 November when the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Hesletine) proposed it. In the week since then it has gone through many changes in shape and meaning. I suppose that that is like the right hon. Gentleman himself, who at about quarter past nine this morning reverted to being a stalking horse. The week for the right hon. Gentleman has been a long time in Parliament. I understand, of course, the changes that have taken place for him. After all, like all his right hon. and hon. Friends the right hon. Gentleman voted for the poll tax in Scotland. Indeed, he did not vote against the poll tax legislation for England and Wales. There is some unsteadiness in his position.
§ Mr. Jonathan Sayeed (Bristol, East)
The right hon. Gentleman is advocating consistency. Is his membership of CND consistent with the Labour party's defence policy?
§ Mr. Kinnock
We heard a welcome statement yesterday about progress that the Prime Minister has played her full part in securing. It was the most comprehensive statement of arms reduction, with the promise of a new common security policy for Europe and the prospect of future nuclear arms reduction. The answer to the hon. Gentleman's question is yes, yes, yes.
§ Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan)
Many of us remember the right hon. Gentleman's speech last year, when he spoke about the idiocy of targeting nuclear weapons on the great cities of eastern Europe at a time when they were moving towards democracy. In the light of that, can the right hon. Gentleman explain how he, as a socialist, can justify spending £9,000 million on placing three Trident submarines on the Clyde estuary?
§ Mr. Kinnock
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. He has drawn attention to the fact that there is total consistency in the position that I put to the Prime Minister last year about the targeting of medium and short-range weapons on the rest of Europe. I am delighted to see how much progress is being made, with the active involvement of Governments of the east and west.
As for Trident, the hon. Gentleman will be familiar with our programme—to ensure that, by every conceivable means, comprehensive nuclear arms reduction and withdrawal are achieved. Of course, for that purpose, the effective use of our armament will absolutely come into play. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman is very familiar with that position. Of course, the puniness of his party and its influence means that he cannot be expected to play any significant role in the great moves forward that are taking place right across the world.
I was speaking about the variety of poll tax reviews that have been on offer. What is common to all of the reviews——
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The right hon. Gentleman has already given way to two hon. Members from those Benches. If the right hon. Gentleman will not give way, the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Sillars) must resume his seat.
§ Mr. Sillars
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I draw your attention to last year's Queen's Speech, in which I tried to intervene on the right hon. Gentleman. He said—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I must hear the point of order, but the hon. Gentleman has been here long enough to know that if the right hon. Gentleman will not give way he must resume his seat.
§ Mr. Kinnock
I see that, with the hon. Gentleman, history is repeating itself. It was his party that, on 28 March 1979, ushered in a Tory Government; he is trying the same old tricks now.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The right hon. Gentleman is not giving way, so the hon. Gentleman must resume his seat.
§ Mr. Kinnock
I was referring to the variety of poll tax reviews currently on offer. Common to all of them, whatever their original concept or the motive in offering them is that, whatever else they profess to do, there is one thing that they will not do—they will not touch the fundamentals of the poll tax. They will not deal with the most basic of the evils of the poll tax—the fact that it is a head tax. That most fundamental feature will not go under any Tory Government or any Tory leader, but go it must, because the poll tax cannot be improved by tinkering or by reviewing. It must be abolished and a Labour Government will abolish it lock, stock and uniform business rate.
The Government's social policies have inflicted disadvantage on millions of people. Their poll tax policies have generated despair and fury. Their economic policies have brought this country into recession once again. It is a central cause of the lack of confidence felt by British people in this Government. The Administration began 11 years ago with policies which provoked recession, eradicated 20 per cent. of British manufacturing capacity——
§ Mr. Roger King (Birmingham, Northfield)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Has the right hon. Gentleman missed a page in his speech? I clearly heard—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. Points of order of that nature are not at all helpful and tend to disrupt our proceedings.
§ Mr. Kinnock
I can understand why the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. King) is so reluctant to hear the history of the disaster of the past eleven and a half years.
The Conservative Administration began with a recession, which they provoked, and which eradicated 20 per cent. of British manufacturing capacity. I should have thought that that, at least, would be of interest to the hon. Gentleman, coming from the part of the world that he does. The recession created a huge rise in unemployment and brought the first-ever manufacturing trade deficit in 443 the history of this country, which in turn established the basis for the massive balance of payments deficit in more recent years. Incidentally, today the month-on-month figure again amounted to more than £1 billion.
It is worth recalling, and fair to recall, that when the right hon. Lady first went to Downing street, she inherited from the previous Labour Administration a £46 million a month balance of payments surplus. The deficit this month is £1.1 billion. That is the reason why Conservative Members should have been protesting. That is the reason why they should have been against this Administration—but the trade position of our country never bothered them. This month is just another in the calendar of loss of markets and increases in deficit.
We are told that the early years of this Government are remembered with pride by all who served in or supported the Government, from Surrey, East to Blaby, from Huntingdon to Witney and, of course, Henley. In subsequent years, especially during periods leading up to general elections, they let a deregulated, credit-financed economy rip. They called those years, "the transformation, the great recovery, the economic miracle"—some miracle, when they pushed the economy back into recession again this year. In this recession, not only is there rising unemployment again, increasing numbers of bankruptcies again, declining output again and falling investment again, but there is increased inflation under a Government who promised zero inflation. What a record—11 oil-rich years with a recession at each end and a miracle in between.
In Britain we need a different way. We must give the same primacy as our competitors do to building and strengthening a modern manufacturing industrial economy. We must put at the centre of our economic policy commitments to education, training, transport and investment in science and technology, research and development, as others do, as our neighbours do. We must create modern employment opportunities and give our young people the means of building a proud and confident future—a future of success. The British people know that that must be done. Our people know that that is the best means of ensuring that Britain does not go on falling further behind the other major economies of the EC.
In 11 years, the Government have never seriously tried to build the productive economy, and they will never do it under any leader. Under no leader can they resolve the fundamental conflicts inside the Conservative party about Britain's future in the EC. [Interruption.] That laughter is about 55 per cent. embarrassment.
§ Mr. Tim Devlin (Stockton, South)
Have not the right hon. Gentleman and his party changed their attitude on whether they wish to be in the Community no fewer than six times in the past 10 years?
§ Mr. Kinnock
I only wish that the Conservative party would change its attitude so that it could obtain benefit and advantage for the people of Britain from the EC.
§ Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland)
Does the right hon. Gentleman believe that Britain will gain advantage from a single currency?
§ Mr. Kinnock
First, we would have to define the possibility of obtaining a single currency. By a huge majority, the Labour party warmly embraced closer monetary co-operation in the EC as inevitable and 444 desirable. We have further said, as the hon. Gentleman would know if he had listened to the debates of recent weeks, that in the process of movement it will be essential to achieve three objectives. One is to ensure that there is in that Community, in that development of greater cohesion, in that integration, in that union—[Interruption.] Conservative Members do not like it because they do not have a policy—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Kinnock
There will have to be firm policies for the convergence of economic performance across the Community, firm policies—[Interruption.] If Conservative Members will not listen to this, it is no wonder that they go unprepared into the intergovernmental conference chamber.
Secondly, we must ensure that there is a growth orientation because the alternative—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Kinnock
The alterative to that strategy is the very same stagflation that the Government have brought to Britain.
Thirdly, in any form of union there must be proper arrangements for the transfer of resources between regions, without which there will definitely be a two or even three-speed Europe. It is also essential—I am sure that there must be agreement on this in the House—that there is no question of an unaccountable central monetary institution, because that would be as improper as to surrender fiscal powers to a non-accountable body.
§ Mr. Nigel Lawson (Blaby)
The right hon. Gentleman owes it to the House to answer the question that was put to him. Assuming that there is a single European central bank which is accountable, is he saying that he and his party favour a single currency issued by a single European bank responsible for a single monetary policy—yes or no?
§ Mr. Kinnock
As the right hon. Gentleman will know, there is no yes or no answer now. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. Kinnock
The right hon. Gentleman has spent much of his career systematically refusing to give yes or no answers to hypothetical questions. That is the only fitting answer.
§ Mr. Kinnock
Everything that I have heard from the Conservative party in recent weeks shows that it has a surfeit of comedians.
The intergovernmental conferences approaching in a few weeks' time are clearly vital to Britain. The party of government is locked in civil war over the issue. That is one of the reasons for what we are hearing today. During recent weeks the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister have sent very different signals about the political process. We also know that during recent weeks the Chancellor and the Prime Minister have differed greatly on economic union. We can only assume that in the wake of the Prime Minister's departure there will be a degree of similarity between the views of the Foreign Secretary and the Chancellor. What is certain, however, is that a substantial body of opinion in the Tory party strongly disagrees with the Chancellor and the Foreign Secretary. That division is basic and unbridgeable.
All that Conservative Members have in common is their opposition to the social charter and the standards that it sets for youth training, social security, health and safety at work, and much else. All that unites them is their opposition to the opportunities for improvement that could be afforded to the British people by that charter. They are also against the extension of majority voting to secure greater protection for the environment.
The Labour party is for the social charter. We are for extending majority voting for proposals to improve social and environmental standards. We are for them because they are a means of gaining advantage for the British people; a means of ensuring that we are part of a community as well as part of a market.
I could not really care less what Conservative Members do to themselves and their party, but I do care about the damage that they have done, are doing and will do to the interests of our country. How can anyone have confidence in a Government whose former deputy Prime Minister admits that they have been pursuing the wrong policies for half a decade? Who can have confidence in a Government with Cabinet Ministers who in the past week have been privately telling the press that the Prime Minister is finished and minutes later in the television studio supporting her position, before going off to a private meeting to contrive a coup against her? What confidence can there be in a Government headed by anyone who has sworn allegiance to Thatcherism, as every one of the contestants in the leadership contest has? Who can have confidence in a Government split from top to bottom? If they have no confidence in one another, how can the country have confidence in them? Conservative Members on the Back Benches and on the Government Front Bench have no confidence in one another, as they have shown in everything that they have said about one another in recent weeks and everything that they have done about one another in recent weeks. They are unfit to govern and should go now.
In a democracy, there should be one fitting conclusion to today's dramatic events—a general election. Let the people decide and let Britain have a fresh chance with a Labour Government.
§ The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)
It is, of course, the right and duty of Her Majesty's Opposition to challenge the position of the Government of the day. It is 446 also their right to test the confidence of the House in the Government if they think that the circumstances warrant it. I make no complaint about that. But when the windy rhetoric of the right hon. Member for Islwyn (Mr. Kinnock) has blown away, what are their real reasons for bringing this motion before the House? There were no alternative policies—just a lot of disjointed, opaque words.
It cannot be a complaint about Britain's standing in the world. That is deservedly high, not least because of our contribution to ending the cold war and to the spread of democracy through eastern Europe and the Soviet Union —achievements that were celebrated at the historic meeting in Paris from which I returned yesterday.
It cannot be the nation's finances. We are repaying debts, including the debts run up by the Labour party. It cannot be the Government's inability to carry forward their programme for the year ahead, which was announced in the Gracious Speech on 7 November. We carried that debate by a majority of 108.
The Opposition's real reason is the leadership election for the Conservative party, which is a democratic election according to rules which have been public knowledge for many years—one member, one vote. That is a far cry from the way in which the Labour party does these things. Two in every five votes for its leader are cast by the trade union block votes, which have a bigger say than Labour Members in that decision: precious little democracy there.
The real issue to be decided by my right hon. and hon. Friends is how best to build on the achievements of the 1980s, how to carry Conservative policies forward through the 1990s and how to add to three general election victories a fourth, which we shall surely win.
Eleven years ago, we rescued Britain from the parlous state to which socialism had brought it. I remind the House that, under socialism, this country had come to such a pass that one of our most able and distinguished ambassadors felt compelled to write in a famous dispatch, a copy of which found its way into The Economist, the following words:We talk of ourselves without shame as being one of the less prosperous countries of Europe. The prognosis for the foreseeable future",he said in 1979, wasdiscouraging".Conservative government has changed all that. Once again, Britain stands tall in the councils of Europe and of the world, and our policies have brought unparalleled prosperity to our citizens at home.
In the past decade, we have given power back to the people on an unprecedented scale. We have given back control to people over their own lives and over their livelihood—over the decisions that matter most to them and their families. We have done it by curbing the monopoly power of trade unions to control, even to victimise, the individual worker. Labour would return us to conflict, confrontation and government by the consent of the TUC. We have done it by enabling families to own their homes, not least through the sale of 1.25 million council houses. Labour opposes our new rents-to-mortgage initiative, which will spread the benefits of ownership wider still. We have done it by giving people choice in public services—which school is right for their children, which training course is best for the school leaver, which doctor they choose to look after their health and which hospital they want for their treatment.
447 Labour is against spreading those freedoms and choice to all our people. It is against us giving power back to the people by privatising nationalised industries. Eleven million people now own shares, and 7.5 million people have registered an interest in buying electricity shares. Labour wants to renationalise electricity, water and British Telecom. It wants to take power back to the state and back into its own grasp— a fitful and debilitating grasp.
§ Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
The right hon. Lady says that she has given power back to the people, but more than 2 million of them are unemployed. Has she given power back to them? Inflation is 10.9 per cent. Is that giving power back to the people, compared with rates throughout the rest of Europe? Is the frittering away of £100 billion-worth of North sea oil, which no other country has had, giving power back to the people? Will she kindly explain that—and how pushing many people into cardboard boxes and taking power away from them is somehow giving power back to them?
§ The Prime Minister
Two million more jobs since 1979 represent a great deal more opportunity for people. Yes, 10.9 per cent. inflation is much higher than it should be, but it is a lot lower than 26.9 per cent. under the last Labour Government. Yes, we have benefited from North sea oil. The Government have made great investments abroad that will give this country an income long after North sea oil has ceased. We have provided colossal investment for future generations. Labour Members ran up debts, which we have repaid. We are providing investment for the future; we do not believe in living at the expense of the future.
§ Mr. Dave Nellist (Coventry, South-East)
If things are as good as the Prime Minister is outlining, why are her colleagues not happy for her to continue in the job of defending that record?
§ The Prime Minister
These are the reasons why we shall win a fourth general election. We have been down in the polls before when we have taken difficult decisions. The essence of a good Government is that they are prepared to take difficult decisions to achieve long-term prosperity. That is what we have achieved and why we shall handsomely win the next general election.
I was speaking of the Labour party wanting to renationalise privatised industry. Four of the industries that we have privatised are in the top 10 British businesses, but at the very bottom of the list of 1,000 British businesses lie four nationalised industries. Labour's industries consume the wealth that others create and give nothing back.
Because individuals and families have more power and more choice, they have more opportunities to succeed—2 million more jobs than in 1979, better rewards for hard work, income tax down from 33p in the pound to 25p in the pound and no surcharge on savings income. Living standards are up by a third and 400,000 new businesses have been set up since 1979—more than 700 every week. There is a better future for our children, thanks to our hard work, success and enterprise. Our people are better off than ever before. The average pensioner——
§ The Prime Minister
If the hon. Gentleman will just listen, he might hear something that he did not know. The average pensioner now has twice as much to hand on to his children as he did 11 years ago. They are thinking about the future. This massive rise in our living standards reflects the extraordinary transformation of the private sector.
§ Mr. Hughes
There is no doubt that the Prime Minister, in many ways, has achieved substantial success. There is one statistic, however, that I understand is not challenged, and that is that, during her 11 years as Prime Minister, the gap between the richest 10 per cent. and the poorest 10 per cent. in this country has widened substantially. At the end of her chapter of British politics, how can she say that she can justify the fact that many people in a constituency such as mine are relatively much poorer, much less well housed and much less well provided for than they were in 1979? Surely she accepts that that is not a record that she or any Prime Minister can be proud of.
§ The Prime Minister
People on all levels of income are better off than they were in 1979. The hon. Gentleman is saying that he would rather that the poor were poorer, provided that the rich were less rich. That way one will never create the wealth for better social services, as we have. What a policy. Yes, he would rather have the poor poorer, provided that the rich were less rich. That is the Liberal policy.
§ The Prime Minister
Yes, it came out. The hon. Member did not intend it to, but it did.
The extraordinary transformation of the private sector has created the wealth for better social services and better pensions—it enables pensioners to have twice as much as they did 10 years ago to leave to their children.
We are no longer the sick man of Europe—our output and investment grew faster during the 1980s than that of any of our major competitors.
§ The Prime Minister
If hon. Members would be a little patient, it would allow me to get a little further.
No longer a doubtful prospect, when American and Japanese companies invest in Europe, we are their first choice. Britain no longer has an overmanned, inefficient, backward manufacturing sector, but modern, dynamic industries.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to the level of inflation. Yes, in 1987 and 1988, the economy did expand too fast. There was too much borrowing, and inflation rose. That is why we had to take the tough, unpopular, measures to bring the growth of money supply within target. Inflation has now peaked and will soon be coming down. Inevitably, the economy has slowed, but we firmly expect growth to resume next year. For the fundamentals are right. Our industry is now enterprising. It has been modernised and restructured. In sector after sector, it is our companies which lead the world—in pharmaceuticals, in telecommunications and in aerospace. Our companies have the freedom and talent to succeed—and the will to compete.
§ Mr. Sillars
The Prime Minister is aware that I detest every single one of her domestic policies, and I have never hidden that fact. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. Sillars
However, it is always a greater pleasure to tackle a political heavyweight opponent than a lightweight Leader of the Opposition—[Interruption]—who is afraid to explain why, after a lifetime of campaigning to get rid of nuclear weapons, he is going to plant three Trident missiles in my country.
Can I take the Prime Minister back to the question of the poor getting poorer? Does she not realize—even at this point, five minutes after midnight for her—that, because of the transfer of resources from the poor to the wealthy, the poll tax was unacceptable, and that it was because of the poll tax that she has fallen?
§ The Prime Minister
I think that the hon. Gentleman knows that I have the same contempt for his socialist policies as the people of east Europe, who have experienced them, have for theirs. I think that I must have hit the right nail on the head when I pointed out that the logic of those policies is that they would rather the poor were poorer. Once they start to talk about the gap, they would rather that the gap were that—[indicating]—down here, not this—[indicating]—but that—[indicating]. So long as the gap is smaller, they would rather have the poor poorer. One does not create wealth and opportunity that way. One does not create a property-owning democracy that way.
Can I now get back to the subject of industry and an industrial policy from which Scotland has benefited so much, and from which it could never have benefited under the Government that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Sillars) used to support, and under the political policy that he espouses now?
Yes, our companies have the freedom and talent to succeed, and the will to compete. And compete we must. Our competitors will not be taking a break. There must be no hankering after soft options and no going back to the disastrous economic policies of Labour Governments. No amount of distance lends enchantment to the lean years of Labour, which gave us the lowest growth rate in Europe, the highest strike record and, for the average family, virtually no increase in take-home pay. Labour's policies are a vote of no confidence in the ability of British people to manage their own affairs. We have that confidence. Confidence in freedom and confidence in enterprise. That is what divides Conservatives from socialists.
Our stewardship of the public finances has been better than that of any Government for nearly 50 years. It has enabled us to repay debt and cut taxes. The resulting success of the private sector has generated the wealth and revenues which pay for better social services—to double the amount being spent to help the disabled, to give extra help to war widows, and vastly to increase spending on the national health service. More than 1 million more patients are being treated each year and there are 8,000 more doctors and 53,000 more nurses to treat them.
§ The Prime Minister
That is the record of eleven and a half years of Conservative Government and Conservative principles. All these are grounds for congratulation, not censure, least of all from the Leader of the Opposition, who has no alternative policies.
§ The Prime Minister
I shall give way to the right hon. Gentleman, but then I should like to move on to say something about Europe, because what the Leader of the Opposition said about it was, to say the least, opaque.
§ Mr. Ashley
The Prime Minister mentioned disabled people, and as she is always anxious to be honest with the House, would she care to give a wider perspective about what has happened to disabled people under her Government? Would she care to confirm the official figures, which show that, in the first 10 years of her reign, average male earnings rose by 20 per cent. in real terms, whereas benefits for disabled people in that period rose 1 per cent. in real terms? How well did disabled people do out of that?
§ The Prime Minister
The right hon. Gentleman is very selective indeed. He knows full well that, in the past 11 years, we have spent twice as much on the disabled, over and above inflation—not twice as much in cash terms, but twice as much in terms of what the benefits will buy—especially in the mobility allowance and the Motability scheme. This has been quite outstanding and has been brought about because, under our policies, we have been able to create the wealth which created the resources to do that, among other things.
During the past 11 years, this Government have had a clear and unwavering vision of the future of Europe and Britain's role in it. It is a vision which stems from our deep-seated attachment to parliamentary democracy and commitment to economic liberty, enterprise, competition and a free market economy. No Government in Europe have fought more resolutely against subsidies, state aids to industry and protectionism; unnecessary regulation and bureaucracy and increasing unaccountable central power at the expense of national Parliaments. No Government have fought more against that in Europe than we have.
We have fought attempts to put new burdens and constraints on industry, such as the social charter which would take away jobs, in particular part-time jobs. For us part of the purpose of the Community is to demolish trade barriers and eliminate unfair subsidies, so that we can all benefit from a great expansion of trade both within Europe and with the outside world.
The fact is that Britain has done more to shape the Community over the past 11 years than any other member state. Britain is leading the reform of the common agricultural policy, getting surpluses down, putting a ceiling on agricultural spending. We have been the driving force towards the single market which, when it is completed, will be the most significant advance in the Community since the treaty of Rome itself. We have done more than any other Government to resist protectionism, keep Europe's market open to trade with the rest of the world, and make a success of the GATT negotiations.
We have worked for our vision of a Europe which is free and open to the rest of the world, and above all to the countries of eastern Europe as they emerge from the shadows of socialism. It would not help them if Europe became a tight-knit little club, tied up in regulations and restrictions. They deserve a Europe where there is room for their rediscovered sense of nationhood and a place to decide their own destiny after decades of repression.
With all this, we have never hesitated to stand up for Britain's interests. The people of Britain want a fair deal in Europe, particularly over our budget contribution. We 451 have got back nearly £10 billion which would otherwise have been paid over to the EC under the arrangements negotiated by the Labour party when it was in power.
Indeed, what sort of vision does the Labour party have? None, according to the Leader of the Opposition. Labour Members want a Europe of subsidies, a Europe of socialist restrictions, a Europe of protectionism. They want it because that is how they would like to run—or is it ruin?—this country.
Every time that we have stood up and fought for Britain and British interests, Labour Front Bench spokesmen have carped, criticised and moaned. On the central issues of Europe's future, they will not tell us where they stand. Do they want a single currency? The right hon. Gentleman does not even know what it means, so how can he know? —[Laughter.]
§ The Prime Minister
Absolute nonsense. It is appalling. He says that it is a hypothetical question. It will not be a hypothetical question. Someone must go to Europe and argue knowing what it means.
Are Labour Members prepared to defend the rights of this United Kingdom Parliament? No, for all that the right hon. Gentleman said. For them, it is all compromise, "sweep it under the carpet", "leave it for another day", and "it might sort itself out", in the hope that the people of Britain will not notice what is happening to them, and how the powers would gradually slip away.
The Government will continue to take a positive and constructive approach to the future of Europe. We welcome economic and monetary co-operation: indeed, no other member state has gone further than Britain in tabling proposals for the next stage, including the hard ecu. But our proposals would work with the market and give people and Governments real choice.
We want the Community to move forward as twelve: and from my talks in Paris with other European leaders over the past few days, I am convinced that that is their aim too. Europe is strongest when it grows through willing co-operation and practical measures, not compulsion or bureaucratic dreams.
§ Mr. Alan Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)
Will the Prime Minister tell us whether she intends to continue her personal fight against a single currency and an independent central bank when she leaves office?
§ The Prime Minister
What a good idea. I had not thought of that. But if I were, there would be no European central bank accountable to no one, least of all national Parliaments. The point of that kind of Europe with a central bank is no democracy, taking powers away from every single Parliament, and having a single currency, a monetary policy and interest rates which take all political power away from us. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Blaby (Mr. Lawson) said in his first speech after the proposal for a single currency was made, a single currency is about the politics of Europe, it is about a federal Europe by the back door. So I shall consider the proposal of the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner). Now where were we? I am enjoying this.
§ The Prime Minister
Yes, indeed—I was talking about Europe and the socialist ideal of Europe. Not for us the corporatism, socialism and central control. We leave those to the Opposition. Ours is a larger vision of a Community whose member states co-operate with one another more and more closely to the benefit of all.
Are we then to be censured for standing up for a free and open Britain in a free and open Europe? No. Our policies are in tune with the deepest instincts of the British people. We shall win the censure motion, so we shall not be censured for what is thoroughly right.
Under our leadership, Britain has been just as influential in shaping the wider Europe and the relations between East and West. Ten years ago, the eastern part of Europe lay under totalitarian rule, its people knowing neither rights nor liberties. Today, we have a Europe in which democracy, the rule of law and basic human rights are spreading ever more widely, where the threat to our security from the overwhelming conventional forces of the Warsaw pact has been removed: where the Berlin wall has been torn down and the cold war is at an end.
These immense changes did not come about by chance. They have been achieved by strength and resolution in defence, and by a refusal ever to be intimidated. No one in eastern Europe believes that their countries would be free had it not been for those western Governments who were prepared to defend liberty, and who kept alive their hope that one day east Europe too would enjoy freedom.
But it was no thanks to the Labour party, or to the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament of which the right hon. Gentleman is still a member. It is this Government who kept the nuclear weapons which ensured that we could never be blackmailed or threatened. When Brezhnev deployed the SS20s, Britain deployed the cruise missiles and was the first to do so. And all these things were done in the teeth of the opposition of the hon. Gentlemen opposite—and their ladies. [Laughter.] The SS20s could never have been negotiated away without the bargaining strength which cruise and Pershing gave to the west.
Should we be censured for our strength? Or should the Labour party be censured for its weakness? I have no doubt that the people of Britain will willingly entrust Britain's security in future to a Conservative Government who defend them, rather than to socialists who put expediency before principle.
§ Sir Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)
May I offer my right hon. Friend one measurement of the immense international respect and affection that she enjoys as a result of her policies of peace through strength? An opinion poll published on the west coast of America last month—[Laughter.]
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. This takes up a great deal of time. The hon. Gentleman is seeking to participate in the debate. Will he please ask a question?
§ Sir Eldon Griffiths
The figures are Gorbachev 74 per cent., Bush 75 per cent. and Thatcher 94 per cent.
§ The Prime Minister
I am sure that they were quite right, too.
453 I wish to say a word or two about the situation in the Gulf, because it will dominate politics until the matter is resolved. It is principle which is at stake, as well as the rule of international law.
In my discussions with other Heads of Government at the CSCE summit in Paris, I found a unanimous and impressive determination that Iraq's aggression must not succeed. The resolutions of the United Nations must be implemented in full. That is the peaceful option, Mr. Speaker, and it is there to be taken, if Saddam Hussein so chooses. There was also a widespread recognition among my colleagues in Paris that the time was fast approaching when the world community would have to take more decisive action to uphold international law and compel Saddam Hussein to leave Kuwait.
No one can doubt the dangers which lie ahead. Saddam Hussein has many times shown his contempt for human life, not least for the lives of his own people. He has large armed forces. They are equipped with peculiarly evil weapons, both chemical and biological.
§ The Prime Minister
No, not now.
Twice in my time as Prime Minister we have had to send our forces across the world to defend a small country against ruthless aggression: first to our own people in the Falklands and now to the borders of Kuwait. To those who have never had to take such decisions, I say that they are taken with a heavy heart and in the knowledge of the manifold dangers, but with tremendous pride in the professionalism and courage of our armed forces.
There is something else which one feels. That is a sense of this country's destiny: the centuries of history and experience which ensure that, when principles have to be defended, when good has to be upheld and when evil has to be overcome, Britain will take up arms. It is because we on this side have never flinched from difficult decisions that this House and this country can have confidence in this Government today.
§ Mr. Speaker
Before I call hon. Members to speak in this important debate, I must say that I have no authority to limit speeches in a debate of this sort, nor would it be right to do so. Nevertheless, this is a day on which right hon. and hon. Members should exercise self-restraint. I ask hon. Members who are not remaining to leave quietly, please.
§ Mr. Paddy Ashdown (Yeovil)
It is impossible to follow the Prime Minister without soberly reflecting for a moment that we have just heard what is probably the last of her important and considerable speeches from the Government Dispatch Box. It was a bravura performance of the sort which she has made her own. I cannot with honesty say that I shall miss it, but I shall certainly remember it and, as time intervenes, remember it with ever greater affection.
We have just heard a catalogue of the Prime Minister's achievements and to some extent a political will and testament to her party. I must warn whoever is successful in the leadership election to watch out for that one on the Back Benches. Whatever the right hon. Member for Old 454 Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) did to her, she will be a powerful voice in months to come. We shall be interested to see how much that voice will be used to unite her party or, on the issue of Europe, to divide it.
It is impossible to have lived through last week without feeling that one is participating in a moment of history.
§ Mr. Ashdown
If the hon. Gentleman will let me get further into my speech, I shall happily consider his intervention later.
In the past week we have seen the end of one era—the end of a decade to which the Prime Minister has in many senses given her name—and the beginning of another. What struck me as remarkable about the two speeches was that neither was about the future and both were about the past. Both were about what has happened in the past decade. If there is a reason to have a lack of confidence in this Government it is much more that they are not addressing the real agenda of the 1990s—a new agenda is opening up—than their terrible failures in the past.
I recognise that the Prime Minister's decision today was a difficult one. She took it in a way which was right for her remarkable reputation, right for her party's unity and right for the country. We can all understand what she went through. She is a fighter and must have been considerably tempted to stay on and battle it out—to go down like the Fighting Temeraire with all guns blazing. That would undoubtedly be a noble end for a great captain, but not best calculated to encourage enthusiasm in the crew, as we have seen during the past week.
The Prime Minister has opened the way for the new politics that Britain so badly needs. It is impossible to let the moment pass without having the smallest tinge of sadness about the end of an era. I do not want to underestimate her considerable achievements. I have never agreed with her politics. I have always felt that they are bad and wrong for Britain. I have never agreed with her style. I have not denied—nor can we deny—some of her achievements or the courage and skill with which she has done her job. Indeed, she has achievements.
§ Mr. Ashdown
The Prime Minister's pre-eminent achievement, which is not welcome to Labour Members, and the one for which she will be remembered, is the democratisation of the trade union movement.
In 1979 we debated whether Britain would be run by the trade unions or the elected Government of the day—it is hard to remember that now. The Prime Minister, to her credit, answered that challenge. [HON. MEMBERS: "Get on with it."] I hear Opposition Members baying behind me; no doubt they do not like to hear that. It is important, however, to mark up what the Prime Minister has done. She is right to say that she has given this country a standing abroad that it did not have in the 1970s. The right hon. Lady has also given us some sense of the value of sound money, which is important. She has also highlighted the importance of the market in our economy.
§ Sir Jim Spicer (Dorset, West)
Will the right hon. Gentleman say just a word of thanks to the Prime Minister on behalf of his constituents and mine who work——
§ Sir Jim Spicer
Will you keep quiet? [Interruption.] I apologise, Mr. Speaker. The right hon. Gentleman should give a word of thanks to the Prime Minister for all that she has done to change the climate for Westland in the past 10 years. Those changes made it possible to retain jobs which otherwise would have been lost.
§ Mr. Ashdown
Of course, I pay that tribute, but I should have thought that Westland was not a subject that the Prime Minister would necessarily want to be brought up today. It is important to remember, however, that all the indecision about Westland cost my constituency and the hon. Gentleman's constituency 1,000 jobs. I pay a two-edged compliment.
I believe that the Prime Minister can claim to have been the spirit of the 1980s. he failure of the right hon. Lady and her party is that they are unable to address what is needed for Britain in the 1990s.
The censure motion was a flat-footed blunder on the part of the Labour party——
§ Mr. Ashdown
Exactly so. If the Labour party had supported that motion or tabled one on Europe, it would have divided the Government. We well know that the Labour party could not table a motion on Europe for reasons that became patently obvious when the Leader of the Opposition spoke. The Labour party is profoundly divided on Europe—as divided as the Government are.
The Labour party tabled the motion to support the Prime Minister—what strange nonsense.
§ Mr. Ashdown
If that is true—Opposition Members have just said it—the Labour party's last-ditch attempt to save the Prime Minister has signally failed. The truth of the matter is that the Labour party is now left without a policy. It intended to present to Britain the simple message, "Please vote for us because we are the 'Not the Mrs. Thatcher party'." That is the single policy of the Labour party.
§ Mr. Ashdown
The Labour party's fox has been shot. It must now address the agenda of the future and the policies it has so far ignored.
§ Mr. Ashdown
The hon. Gentleman must accept that if I have not given way to him by now, I do not intend to.
It is not without significance that the Leader of the Opposition's entire speech was concentrated on attacking the Government. That is perfectly reasonable in a censure motion, but he said nothing about the poll tax, Europe, the economy or anything else relating to Labour party policy.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. If the right hon. Gentleman does not give way, the hon. Lady and other hon. Gentlemen must resume their seats. The right hon. Gentleman has already said that he does not intend to give way.
§ Mr. Ashdown
No doubt it will be interesting to all observers of this debate to note that the hooligans on this side of the House——
§ Mr. Wareing
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The right hon. Gentleman's party voted for the Government on the previous censure motion, but that Government are now in trouble.
§ Mr. Wareing
No, it is not. The right hon. Gentleman referred to my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Mrs. Mahon) and me as hooligans. Is that a party expression?
§ Mr. Speaker
I did not hear it, but if the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends persist in interrupting, things are sometimes said that are not always meant. If the hon. Gentleman resumed his seat, he might have some chance to take part in the debate.
§ Mr. Ashdown
The motion is not one of no confidence in the Prime Minister—we do not need one because Conservative Members have kindly provided us with one in duplicate. It is, however, a motion of no confidence in the Government. The fundamental reason why we shall vote for this motion—[HON. MEMBERS: "Ah!"] Oh yes. Given that the Labour party has followed, three weeks late, what we did, we shall naturally vote for the motion. The reason is simple: the Government are now terminally divided. They are divided on all the key issues that confront Britain. The losers are not the right hon. Gentlemen who are candidates for the leadership of the Conservative party—one will win and no doubt two will lose. [HON. MEMBERS: "Brilliant!"] The real losers are the people of Britain because the Government are divided on Europe, the poll tax and all the other key issues before us.
The country is passing through a deep economic recession, but the Government are in crisis. In the future this country must decide on Europe—that decision is as important as any of those reached since the second world war—but the Government are divided on that crucial matter. As a consequence, the ordinary people will have to pay higher mortgages for longer, the recession will go on for longer, more jobs will be lost and the poll tax will go on for longer. Those facts mean that the Government are no longer fit to govern. No future leader of the Conservative party will be able to paper over those deep cracks—mortal divisions—that divide that party.
The right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine), who is not in the Chamber, has identified four of the five key areas in which the Government have failed. He ignored the environment, however, which is vital. Britain must have a political party that is prepared to address what needs to be done to change our lifestyle so as to save our environment. Unless that happens we shall fail the crucial test that lies ahead in the last decade of the century. The right hon. Member for Henley has asked the questions, but, in so far as he has provided the answers, 457 they are answers upon which his party is divided. The Liberal Democrats ask many of the same questions, but we provide the answers and our party is united on them.
The right hon. Member for Henley rightly raised the issue of the poll tax. He identifies the poll tax as a major problem for the Government, but he does not propose any alternative. He retreats to the old refuge of politicians who do not have an answer, which is to call for a review.
We in the House will not forget that the right hon. Gentleman has never voted against the poll tax. Indeed, the people of Scotland will not forget that he voted for it. When the right hon. Member for Henley was asked why he voted for the poll tax in Scotland, he gave the curious answer that he thought the Scottish people were in favour of it. Any candidate for the premiership of Britain who is so out of touch with the people does not deserve the position.
We in my party are united on what must happen to the poll tax. It should be replaced by a local income tax. We need a sensible, fair, just, cheap, efficient and easy-to-raise tax, just as accountable for local government as the accountability that is enjoyed by the Prime Minister.
§ Ms. Dawn Primarolo (Bristol, South)
Does the right hon. Gentleman believe that our present national taxation system is fair? If not, why does he propose that local authority taxes should be levied in the same way?
§ Mr. Ashdown
The national taxation system is a hell of a lot fairer than the poll tax. Also, that system has lasted through the lifetime of a number of Labour Governments, and it is for the Government of the day to change it in any way they wish to make it fair—if the hon. Lady thinks that it is not fair.
I come to the issue of Europe——
§ Mr. Ashdown
I will give way to the hon. Gentleman, but I make it clear that it is the last time that I shall give way. I do not wish to prolong my speech, because many other hon. Members wish to take part in the debate.
§ Mr. Cryer
The right hon. Gentleman gave way on precisely the same point in a previous speech. Others make the same error when talking about Europe. I assume that he is talking about the European Economic Community. I should be grateful if the right hon. Gentleman would not assume the arrogant attitude that Europe is covered by the EEC, when it is only a tiny proportion of western Europe.
§ Mr. Ashdown
The hon. Gentleman intervened at the point when I had simply used the word "Europe". He is out of date, for there is no such thing as the European Economic Community. It is now the European Community, so perhaps he should get his terminology right.
I come to the question of Europe and the European Community. The right hon. Member for Henley is right to say that it is a key issue, for the Government and the nation, but his policy—he has stated it publicly—is not to change the Prime Minister's policy but to argue it better. We would simply bring the problem back to the House. We would remain left behind, isolated and on the outer ring of a two-speed Europe.
458 My party is not divided on the issue of Europe as the Conservative and Labour parties are divided. We are not confused on it. We know precisely where we stand—[Interruption.]—for we are in favour of European monetary union, of a central bank for Europe, of political integration and of being part of the mainstream of Europe moving towards European unity. That is our clear and united position.
The next matter raised by the right hon. Member for Henley was the economy, and he was right to say that the economic policies of the Government have not succeeded. There is evidence all around us of that. But the right hon. Gentleman, putting himself forward for the leadership of the Conservative party, proposes that we should return to a 1970s dirigisme which, frankly, failed.
The Prime Minister is right to draw a parallel between the economic proposals of the right hon. Member for Henley and those of the Labour Shadow Chancellor because they have a great deal of similarity. We in my party know and understand the importance of the market and of competition, but we also know and understand, and are united on, the role of Government in those circumstances.
We say that the Government's role is to tackle monopolies; to promote real competition, not the sham competition promoted by the present Government by the privatisation of the utilities; and to let the power of the market have its effect. But the Government of the day have a duty to invest where the market will not invest, especially in education and training. That is why we say that that is the pre-eminent role of the economic policies of a future Government. We are clear and united on that issue.
The right hon. Member for Henley is right to identify the fact that there is a constitutional problem with the way in which the Prime Minister has handled her office. It is right for him to point out that the Prime Minister has—as many would say, and I would agree with them—overstepped the conventions of her office in the past 11 years.
The difference between us is that the right hon. Member for Henley would replace the Prime Minister with himself. We would replace the system. That is the fundamental difference because we say that no Prime Minister—not the right hon. Member for Henley nor any of the other contenders, and certainly not the leader of the Labour party—should enjoy the powers that the present Prime Minister has created for that office. It is not healthy in a democracy.
What separates my party from any other in this Parliament is that we do not want to inherit that office. We want to change it. We want for our country a written constitution which does not allow the Prime Minister or any other politician to overstep the bounds of their power. Marching hand in hand with that constitution, we want a Bill of Rights that will enshrine the inalienable freedoms of every citizen in a way that cannot be tampered with by the Prime Minister, by the bureaucrats, by trade unions or by big business. That is the way to begin to tackle the fundamental constitutional issues.
On the constitutional side, my party is alone in the House, among the major parties, in saying that there must be a reform of the voting system. We must have a fair voting system in Britain——
§ Mr. Ashdown
I accept that the Scottish Nationalists adduce the same argument. The people of Britain are entitled to ask how a 55 per cent. vote is not sufficient to elect a Conservative leader, when a 40 per cent. vote is sufficient to elect a whole Government.
When, in due course, as I predict will happen, the Conservatives go to a third ballot and must use proportional representation with a single transferable vote, we shall be entitled to ask the new Prime Minister who will have been elected by that mechanism why he is prepared for himself to be elected by that means but denies it to the people of Britain. We cannot have a stable Government unless we are prepared to have a reformed and fair voting system.
There is a sense that we are passing through a period of change. The Liberal Democrats now stand united on the agenda for the 1990s, the agenda to which other parties will have to come. We are united, while the two other main parties are divided. The great moment of change has arrived. The difference between us is that they fear change while we welcome it.
I say to the new leader of the Conservative party, whoever he may be, that it will not be sufficient for him simply to be elected by a caucus of Conservative Members of Parliament in secret in a Committee Room of the House of Commons. If he is to put the good of his country before the good of his party, he must do what must be done, and that is to seek the mandate of the British people in a general election. Until that happens, he will not be able to lead the Conservative party or the Government.
§ Mr. Cranley Onslow (Woking)
You and I were elected to the House on the same day, Mr. Speaker, and I cannot presume to speak for you, but this is the saddest day of my political life. Nor can I pretend that I find it easy to speak without emotion. I hope that you and the House will forgive me for that.
I know that many people outside the House heard the news of the resignation of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister with the greatest sorrow, as I did—and with anger, too, because of the events which brought it about. Those emotions are real and will be slow to fade.
In her truly remarkable speech today and by her answers at Question Time, my right hon. Friend reminded us once again of those qualities in herself which must not be obscured by tears of rage. Above all, she showed us her enormous courage, her self-possession and her dignity. In that, she should have taken the House back to the statement that she made here earlier this week and from which I shall quote. In her report on the Paris summit, my right hon. Friend told the House, among other things, thatThe steady resolve of the United Kingdom and the United States to maintain strong defence during the years when the Warsaw pact represented a direct challenge to our way of life, and our refusal to give way to military threats, was crucial in securing this excellent agreement … I believe that this summit was an historic gathering. It marked the end of the cold war in Europe and the triumph of democracy, freedom and the rule of law …Britain has throughout been in the forefront of those who supported the struggle for human rights in those dark days".My right hon. Friend concluded:I believe that the outcome of the summit is one of which this Government, this House and this country can be proud."—[Official Report, 21 November 1990; Vol. 181, c.292.]As one who remembers the start of the cold war, I say to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister how much we 460 all know that it was her steady resolve, her refusal to give way and her support for the struggle for human rights that made the outcome of that summit something of which she can be proud. And there are so many other things in which my right hon. Friend can take pride.
I should like to quote also from the statement that the Lord Chancellor made this morning on behalf of the whole Cabinet, in which he said to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister:You have served as Leader of the Conservative Party for nearly 16 years and as Prime Minister for the past 11 years, the longest serving Prime Minister this century. You led the Government through a time of severe economic difficulty in the early years of the decade to a period of sustained economic growth unparalleled since the Second World War. Your fortitude sustained the effort to recover the Falkland Islands and showed a resolve which many thought had been lost to Britain …Your place in our country's history is already assured … We thank you most warmly for your leadership and we extend to both you and your husband, who has supported you so marvellously, all our best wishes for the future.Those words should be recorded and reaffirmed in the House.
When I proposed you for re-election to the Chair at the start of this Parliament, Mr. Speaker, it never occurred to me that one of the great advantages of your high office was that you did not need to know anything about the rules for the election of the leader of the Conservative party. Others may realise the constraints under which they have placed me. This means that I can say little about the events of the coming week—much as I might like to speak out—save to say that I am confident that my colleagues can elect a successor who will respond to the challenges which face the people of this country in the years ahead and that he will prove worthy of the support of all my colleagues. That, I believe, is the one sure way in which we can work together towards the twin objectives that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister set us today—the unity of this party and victory in a general election.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Blaenau Gwent)
I hope that the Prime Minister will not depart immediately. I know that she has many other pressing engagements. She has to listen to those who will follow her, which I am sure must be a great strain. If she has to go, then she must, but I was about to comment on her speech. There seemed to be a great mystery about it. If her record and that of her Government is as plain and as good as she claimed, and if the figures uphold all the doctrines that she has announced and all the achievements that she listed, if it is all so plain and so obvious, I cannot understand why the Prime Minister did not respond to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and call a general election. If the evidence is so clear, so plain, so obvious and so comprehensive, surely she should be the one to take those great accomplishments to the British public and persuade them. So something else must have occurred. One possibility is that the achievements are perhaps not so great as the right hon. Lady has claimed. Another is that others think that they can present the case better than she can. Either way, it does not seem as though the right hon. Lady is upholding the case which she put to the House.
The truth is that, as so often, the right hon. Lady has failed to face the reality of what is happening in the country. She does not seem to understand what has happened in so many constituencies, including my own 461 and many others, in the past 10 years. She does not seem to understand the real consequences of so many of her policies. Because of the way in which she has presented the case to date, it is not only Opposition Members and my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition who are protesting about what she has done—some leading Conservative Members are doing so as well. I notice that the right hon. Member for Blaby (Mr. Lawson), the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, is in his place. I shall come to him in a moment. I am sorry that the candidates are not present. The right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) might have turned up for the whole debate. Not that he comes to our debates often, of course—when he closed the Devonport dockyard, he did not trouble to come to the House himself but sent one of his underlings. That is the way in which the right hon. Gentleman has often treated the House of Commons and, so far as I can see, his party as well.
I listened to the funeral oration given by the right hon. Member for Henley this morning when he commented on the announcement from No. 10 Downing street. That must have been the first assassination scene in which the envious Casca tried to pass himself off as Mark Antony. If it was such a good performance—we all know that the right hon. Gentleman often repeats himself—perhaps he should have come along to the House to join in and to give us that delight on this occasion.
We have some recollections of the right hon. Gentleman. Some people think that some of us object to him because of the way in which he waved the Mace. I think that it is the best thing that he has done. By the way, he apologised for that and I thought that he might be happy to proffer an apology again.
The right hon. Member for Henley has recently sought to make some capital out of the poll tax, although he has not yet apologised to the Scots for voting to impose the poll tax on them. Apparently, he says that he was told that the people of Scotland were in favour of it. However, he did not raise the matter when he went up there. Again, I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman has not graced us with his presence. We know that he likes to listen to the Prime Minister, but we would have valued his evidence and presence now.
The charge that the right hon. Member for Henley has made against the Prime Minister over many years in which, at one stage, he was supported by the right hon. Member for Blaby, who is present, is a serious charge and one of which the House should take some cognition. The charge is that over a long period—the right hon. Member for Henley would say over five years—the Prime Minister was guilty of refusing to sustain proper collective Cabinet responsibility. I should have preferred to say this to the right hon. Lady's face rather than behind her back, but that is not my fault. Some of us made that accusation on earlier occasions because we thought that that was her nature. One of the reasons why we became involved in the Falklands war was that the right hon. Lady refused proper collective Cabinet responsibility to settle those issues, and there have been numerous other examples of such refusal.
The right hon. Member for Henley was so outraged by the right hon. Lady's refusal to follow the normal Cabinet system that he resigned from the Government. Her nature was confirmed again the other day by no less a person than 462 the deputy Prime Minister, who had been in the Government for 10 years and who claimed that she had persisted in such action throughout that time. The right hon. Member for Blaby resigned for the same reason, too. He said that he thought it wrong that the Prime Minister of this country should take advice from someone outside the Cabinet on major matters of economic policy while refusing to take proper advice from her Cabinet. We were told the other day that so serious was the problem that the right hon. Member for Blaby and the deputy Prime Minister went to the Prime Minister three or four years ago, put a pistol to her head and told her that if she persisted in refusing to abide by proper collective Cabinet responsibility, they would resign. Only by that threat was the Prime Minister brought to heel on that occasion.
I must tell supporters of the right hon. Member for Henley that if he thought for five years that the Government was being conducted in a manner in which Cabinet responsibility was breached persistently—he quoted in his support the right hon. Member for Blaby and the deputy Prime Minister—how was he able to go up and down the country, recalling how he had been treated in Cabinet, saying that he could not imagine circumstances in which he would ever stand for election against the Prime Minister? Conservative associations throughout the country have been subjected to a gross deception. I do not have to worry about that, but some of the public may have overheard what the right hon. Gentleman said. Perhaps he wanted the country to believe what he said.
When I heard the sophistical lamentations of the right hon. Member for Henley this morning, I found it hard to suppress my outrage at his bursting hypocrisy, but when I had overcome that I was reminded of the saying of Halifax —"Trimmer" Halifax, not the Halifax who used to be one of the mischievous leaders of the Conservative party. Halifax the trimmer was a much more eminent man and Leader of the House of Commons in years gone by. He said that a known liar should be outlawed in any good Government. I hope that Conservative voters in the House of Commons will think about that when they come to vote.
The Opposition agree with another charge that has been laid against the Prime Minister by the right hon. Member for Henley and others. It was heard in its earliest and strongest form—I and many of my hon. Friends remember the speech vividly—from the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath). Thinking of her conduct over a whole series of matters, he was commenting on the relationship between 10 Downing street, Bernard Ingham and the Murdoch press. The right hon. Gentleman, were he here, could confirm what I say. He said that the relations between 10 Downing street, by which he meant the Prime Minister, and the rich man's millionaire press baron, Murdoch, and Bernard Ingham, who was carrying on these machinations, was corrupt—and that is what it was, and so it has been throughout. It is one of the reasons why the Prime Minister is being brought down. She substituted for proper collective Cabinet Government the operations of her kitchen Cabinet.
Previous Prime Ministers and better Prime Ministers than the present one have been guilty of this, too. Lloyd George was charged with having a kitchen Cabinet and got thrown out by the 1922 Committee almost as brutally as the right hon. Lady has been. At least there was a meeting to throw him out. He was thrown out because the Conservative party of the day was not prepared to put up 463 with a kitchen Cabinet instead of proper Cabinet responsibility. Yet the right hon. Lady has been doing the same thing: in each succeeding crisis, instead of taking the matter to the Cabinet and discussing it there, she has taken it to her kitchen Cabinet. Had she behaved otherwise, she might have saved herself some catastrophes. Her kitchen Cabinet has had exorbitant, dangerous powers during all these years. That is one reason why she has fallen.
When first I heard that the right hon. Lady was to come here and make her speech I was reminded of the occasion—perhaps I am the only person who remembers it—when, from the Press Gallery, I heard a speech by a previous Conservative leader who came here to try to defend his record. I refer to Neville Chamberlain in the famous Norway debate. There were many likenesses between him and the present Prime Minister. He, too, had a huge Tory majority behind him and thought that he could do anything. He, too, thought that he could ignore pressures. He, too, had his kitchen Cabinet advising him so much more wisely than the Foreign Office. And by such methods he brought this country near to utter destruction.
No one who witnessed that debate can ever forget it. Chamberlain still thought that he could get away with it. The Whips Department set up the debate for him; they still had support for the Chamberlain policy, they thought, and he came and appealed for support from his friends. It was when he made his appeal that the outrage of others— especially Lloyd George, who spoke from the Opposition Front Bench—exploded. The whole wretched Chamberlain Government, who thought that with their huge Tory majority they could do anything, were swept away after the motion moved by the leader of the Labour party of the time, and a decent Government were installed and saved the country after the most critical moment in about 1,000 years. Chamberlain's sense of rectitude, the feeling that he was always right and that nobody else was, and that he had to be listened to, closely resembles the way in which the present Prime Minister has sought to conduct the affairs of the country over the past 10 years. It is for the way she has done it, as well as for what she has done, that she will not be forgiven by my constituents. Again, I would prefer to say that to the right hon. Lady's face rather than behind her back.
The story that there has been a wonderful increase in our people's standard of living and that each section of the new community has been properly treated and has had its position improved is a lie—a lie of which the right hon. Lady constantly persuades herself. I do not imagine for a moment that she does not believe her own absurd statistics. Of course she does—that is one of the problems, and why she has had to be removed in this fashion. I give the right hon. Lady credit for the dignity with which she has stood down, but it would have been better still if she had the courage to say, here and now, "The only people entitled to judge my record are the British people, and not another hour will elapse before they get that chance."
§ Mr. Nicholas Ridley (Cirencester and Tewkesbury)
I shall shortly deal with the speech by the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot), but I should first like to thank the Leader of the Opposition for one thing only. I thank him for giving us in this debate the opportunity to pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. The three Opposition speeches that we 464 have heard so far were disgraceful and shameful in their return to party doctrine. The hon. Members who delivered them were unrepentant and unable to recognise that this is an historic and sad moment in the history of our country.
I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister for her courage, stamina and determination over the last eleven and a half years. Her speech today and her answers to parliamentary questions showed a fortitude and strength which I defy any other right hon. or hon. Member to show in similar circumstances. I pay tribute to her for her work in flying back and forth across the world and in staying up late at night to assist this country, sometimes limiting herself to three hours sleep a night. I admire her resolution to fight for her beliefs, however long the odds against her.
The right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent spoke about Cabinet responsibility. The two examples that he cited fit ill with his case. He talked about the resignation of my right hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine). I was present at that Cabinet meeting, and the opinion was 20:1 against my right hon. Friend. Now, who is it who does not accept Cabinet government?
That was part of the foundation of the flimsy case presented by the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent. He spoke about the event revealed by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Sir G. Howe), when he and my right hon. Friend the Member for Blaby (Mr. Lawson) apparently formed up on the Prime Minister and said that they would resign if a certain policy was not adopted. That, again, was the right hon. Gentleman's only evidence for his charge.
I, too, was a member of the Cabinet at that time, and I do not remember my two right hon. Friends coming before the Cabinet and saying what we should do. They never cleared their point of view with their colleagues, and never ever raised it in Cabinet. They tried to fight my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister: it was not the other way round. That must be recorded, because it is the truth about that matter. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has never failed to consult colleagues whose inputs to Cabinet were right, and this myth about her seeking to govern from outside the Cabinet is promoted by those who could not get their way in Cabinet.
We should go further in paying tribute to my right hon. Friend. We should remember her remarkable loyalty and generosity of spirit to people who were ill or unfortunate. We should remember the time that she took to look after people who had suffered misfortune, her support for colleagues when they were in trouble or going through a rough patch, and her ability to forgive. [Interruption.] I know that the Opposition do not like that, but I shall not use this occasion to attack them, because they are not worthy of it. I am trying to use it to support my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.
Lastly, we must remember her integrity. She could not say what she did not believe. She hated fudging. She put her purpose above her personal interest and never said or did a mean thing. It was because of those qualities that she achieved so much. She transformed this nation's economy and spread wealth both wider and more evenly geographically over the nation. She improved the public services, because we have earned the wealth to pay for that, and she increased the standard of living of the average person in Britain by 35 per cent. Those are great achievements.
465 On the political front, my right hon. and hon. Friends know that she won three general elections in a row and gave us eleven and a half socialist-free years. She never lost an election. Over the years, she exhibited a resolute defence of this country's interests, and we pay tribute to her efforts to make sure that the Community did not become a centralised, closed, exclusive club but moved towards wider membership and freer trade, thus allowing it to be a group of co-operating member states rather than a federal Europe. That is the sort of Community that the vast majority of hon. Members want. It was the Prime Minister who pushed the Community further in that direction than any other European statesman
§ Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)
The right hon. Gentleman would not expect me to agree with the part of his speech that he has just concluded. It is quite clear from experience that what he says about centralisation in the European Community is just not true. Does he not agree that the terms, implications and practice of the Single European Act treaty, which did much more than even those who closely examined it realised, have taken away from the House, by a majority vote in the Council of Ministers, enormous areas of legislation? The right hon. Gentleman, many of his hon. Friends, perhaps even the Prime Minister, and many Opposition Members did not understand that. What the right hon. Gentleman has just claimed is, alas, untrue.
§ Mr. Ridley
I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman, because I am not anti-Community or anti-European per se. I believe that it is necessary to have a free trading area and the central powers to insist on fair and free trading inside that area. I do not see anything wrong with that. However, that is where I stop, and perhaps in that way the hon. Gentleman and I are in the same company.
On the international scene, my right hon. Friend has played no small part in ending the Russian threat, freeing the countries of east Europe, maintaining the Atlantic alliance and bringing continuing peace to the world. How did we on the Government Benches reward her? The very day that she finished the cold war in Europe, we started the hot war here.
I deeply regret that the deed was done, and the manner of its doing. The deed was to enact a sort of shameless mediaeval betrayal, whipped up by the media. The manner of its doing was through the electoral device that we have for the leadership. Do we really want to have such a crude device for ever in our party? It is like saying that we will grant the Leader of the Opposition the right to call a general election any time that he feels that the Government might be weak. It is a crazy part of my party's constitution that we lay ourselves open to such a self-inflicted wound.
Those who use this device will not be at peace within their souls over the years to come. Were any of those who have used this device to inherit the crown, uneasy would lie his head. The consequences are yet to come. The backlash is starting in the constituencies. The Conservative party association offices have had their switchboards jammed with protest calls. Jacques Delors is laughing all the way to the Eurofed.
I am reminded of the ballad of the battle of Chevy Chace, where it is written:The child may rue that is unborne,The hunting of that day".466 I fear that that is the case. Nevertheless, we must forget the past. We must bind up our wounds and bury our dead. We must look to the future. We must reunite and, above all, let us behave over the next few days with dignity. It would be a fitting tribute to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister for us to behave with the same dignity with which she has behaved today.
§ Mr. Terry Rooney (Bradford, North)
I understand that it is rare for a maiden speech to be made in a debate such as this, but I feel that it is not inappropriate to make mine now in that the Bradford, North by-election result partly precipitated the crisis of confidence of many members of the Government and thus the resignation of the Prime Minister. I also understand that, while my share of the vote was 52 per cent., under current electoral law there will be no second or third ballot.
I must at this stage pay tribute to my predecessor, Pat Wall. All those who came to know Pat found him to be a man of the highest integrity, a thoroughly nice person, with a wry sense of humour and deeply held political convictions. In his all-too-short period of office, he gained the respect of friend and foe alike for his diligence, tenacity and compassion, and, despite his birthplace, an unwavering commitment to his constituency.
The people of my constituency have very little regard for the Government's record. For over a decade, Bradford has been a test bed for an alphabet soup of experiments, with a TEC, a CAT, a UDG, a TVEI, a CPVE, a LMS and, most recently and disgracefully, a CTC. The Conservative party's commitment to education was exposed under the Pickles regime, which cut £13 million from school budgets in 18 months, increased school meal prices by 78 per cent. and diverted scarce capital money into prestige city centre projects, despite Bradford being acknowledged as the crumbling schools capital of Britain.
The final insult to over 15,000 school children in Bradford, North is the recently opened city technology college, blessed with a capital investment from the taxpayer of £7,033 per pupil, while for local education authority schools the figure is a paltry £127.18.
On the housing front, we have seen homelessness double, the council waiting list increase by 18 per cent., and a 75 per cent. reduction in moneys for improvement grants. The 1980 housing capital allocation was £26 million. By 1990, this had reduced to £9 million—a fall in real terms of £47 million. This would finance the building of an additional 1,200 houses, or 11,000 improvement grants to maintain and retain the older housing stock of Bradford. The prospect of slum clearance once more looms on the horizon because of lack of investment and of Government commitment. The ultimate insult is the Government's latest foray into housing finance, which saw Bradford's housing revenue account robbed of £8 million of subsidy, in one fell swoop slashing repair programmes for public sector housing and losing some 120 jobs in the local construction industry.
The record is no better in employment generally. The 1980s have seen the loss of 32,000 manufacturing jobs in Bradford because of Government policies. Our once proud textile industry has seen 12,000 jobs disappear, which highlights the Government's disgraceful prevarication on the future of the multi-fibre arrangement.
467 Unemployment in Bradford, North is now 17 per cent. and rising, with over 2,000 people having suffered unemployment for more than 12 months.
The health service in Bradford will shed no tears at the departure from office of the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke). It remains to be seen whether his successor, the right hon. Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Waldegrave), has any greater commitment to patients and staff. He should be aware of the opt-out proposals for four hospitals in Bradford—the Royal Infirmary, Bierley Hall, Woodlands and St. Luke's. I ask him to take note of the various ballots on this issue, which show that, of the nursing staff, 93 per cent. are against, of consultants 86 per cent. are against, of general practitioners 88 per cent. are against and of the general public 97 per cent. are against.
The proposed general manager of the hospital trust has described these ballots as unrepresentative, which equates with Joe Stalin being the father of democracy. I sincerely hope that the new Secretary of State will take account of the strong feelings in Bradford against this experimentation and instead offer the prospect of early treatment to the 9,000-plus on the waiting lists, 20 per cent. of whom have been waiting over a year.
Poll tax is the albatross of this Government, to which none of the contenders in next week's ballot have offered the only solution—its repeal and replacement with a modern property tax based on fairness and ability to pay. Some 93 per cent. of my constituents in Bradford, North are losers under the poll tax. This figure will rise to 98 per cent. when safety nets and transitional relief disappear. It is no good Conservative Members complaining about the impact of the implementation of the poll tax. Every one of them trooped through the Government Lobby to support the legislation that has produced it, and every one of them stands equally condemned and carries equal guilt. To cry foul now is the equivalent of Christie asking for a retrial on the ground that he was not aware that arsenic was poisonous.
Despite my love for and devotion to my constituency, I seek no special favours for its population. On 8 November, my constituents were given the opportunity to pass judgment on the Government. Being magnanimous in victory, I think that it is only right and proper that the rest of the country be offered the same opportunity as the people of Bradford, North—in a general election, and the sooner the better. I am certain that the majority of those in this place share the same sentiment.
§ Sir Bernard Braine (Castle Point)
One of the nicer features of our practice in this place is for the Member who is called immediately after someone has made his maiden speech to congratulate that Member on what for most of us—I imagine this goes for the hon. Member for Bradford, North (Mr. Rooney)—is the overcoming of somewhat of an ordeal. I preface my remarks by congratulating the hon. Gentleman on his speech. He spoke quietly and with confidence. He is young and I have no doubt that if he looks after his constituency—that is the first requirement—he will be with us for many years. We look forward to hearing his future contributions.
This has been one of the most remarkable debates to which I have ever listened. I have no doubt that it was designed to pillory my right hon. Friend the Prime 468 Minister, but it has turned out quite differently. I do not think that I have ever heard my right hon. Friend speak more brilliantly from the Government Front Bench. I do not think that I have ever heard her speak with greater confidence either in the Chamber or anywhere else. It was the Opposition who were lambasted. I say that with sadness because at the end of the day this is not a place for hurling brickbats at one another. This House is the grand council of the nation. Thousands of our fighting men are in the Gulf and the assumption that we are all making is that there will be no fighting; this then is a moment for choosing words carefully.
§ Mr. Giles Radice (Durham, North)
So what has the Conservative party been doing over the past week?
§ Sir. Radice
It is true that we need to choose our words carefully, but what has the Conservative party been doing over the past week?
§ Sir Bernard Braine
I am speaking as the Father of the House. I am speaking for myself and I shall express my own views. I am not here to engage in attacks upon the Opposition or on one part of the House or the other. I wish merely to draw the attention of some hon. Members to the gravity of what has been said and what may lie ahead for our people. That is my purpose and I shall not take too long in carrying it out.
§ Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Port Glasgow)
The right hon. Gentleman has referred to our soldiers and other service men who are stationed in the middle east. Given the growing threat of war in that troubled part of the world, does he agree that the House should debate the Gulf crisis in the very near future?
§ Sir Bernard Braine
We have already debated it, and I hope that we shall debate it again. I agree entirely with the hon. Gentleman about that.
I have been in Parliament for a long time. I have sat in this place under Mr. Speaker and five of his predecessors and also nine Prime Ministers. They were all good men who did their duty in their own way and left their mark on our national life. Some were struck down by illness before the time came to leave. Some lost an election and did not return. The truth is that ours is a hazardous calling. Looking back over the whole of my 40 years as a Member, this has to be—I speak solely for myself—the saddest day that I can recall. I did not think that what has happened over the past few days was inevitable. It has happened, however, and listening to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister earlier, it is my judgment that it should not have happened.
Given my great love for this place and its central role in our national life, in my experience my right hon. Friend, by any standard that one cares to apply, has been the greatest Prime Minister in peacetime this century. Neither David Lloyd George nor Winston Churchill, who provided such superb leadership after the beginning of two devastating world wars, would ever have been elected to their high office in peacetime. The historians among us know why and it is no part of my purpose to go into the details.
In the past decade my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has steered the United Kingdom from a state of 469 relative decline—there is no argument about that—at the bottom of the European league to where we are today near the top. It is—[Interruption.] There is no need to jeer. We know the facts. There is always imperfection in our society and in what we do. There are some occasions when we do not succeed, but if we compare the situation in which we found ourselves when my right hon. Friend became Prime Minister and that in which the vast majority of our people live today, there is no doubt that a transformation has taken place and that we owe a great deal to her achievements.
I think that the House knows that I have tended to be a specialist in foreign affairs. I have been to eastern Europe on many occasions. I have been also to the United States, Africa and Asia. In my travels I have become aware of the countless occasions on which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has earned respect for herself and enhanced the reputation of our country to a greater extent than I have known anyone else to do during all the years that I have sat in this place. Never let that be forgotten.
These are not my views alone. One would not have succeeded in remaining in the House after 12 general elections, in most of which my majority has increased and in some of which there was a swing to my party locally when the country elected a Labour Government, without knowing, or trying to know, what ordinary people think. One would not have otherwise been allowed the honour of representing the constituency without doing so. I have made myself aware of the thinking of ordinary people because in what we do here, and in the leaders that we choose, we have a distinct responsibility to those whom we represent.
I shall not speak for too long because I am aware that only a few of us will be able to speak our minds in this debate. All of us, however, have our private thoughts. I should like to say publicly, here in this Chamber, that despite what has happened in the Conservative party in recent weeks most of us are grateful to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister for her achievements at home and abroad, and for her untiring energy in the service of the nation. We are also grateful for her candour—an unexpected quality in politics—and her courage. In that context, let us remember what the young Winston Churchill said when he was asked, "What, Winston, is the greatest of the Christian virtues?". He replied, "Courage." When asked, "Why do you say that?", he answered, "Because it is the only one that guarantees the rest."
The verdict rests not with us but with history. My right hon. Friend need not fear what history will say about her.
§ Mr. Denis Healey (Leeds, East)
It is always a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine). I fear that he and I are much of an age, and we have both been in the House for a fair time. I follow him in at least one of his comments. I have been privileged to be drawn in debate against the Prime Minister for some 16 years now, since she was a junior Treasury spokesman—and, if I may say so, a very able one. For anyone who has watched her for so long, it is a moving experience to see her leaving her position in such circumstances. I must confess that, during Prime Minister's Question Time and much of her speech in this debate, I thought that she 470 showed her finest qualities, and I listened to her with sympathy and admiration. She has guts, and she has a degree of determination to which I fear that none of those who are now challenging her can lay claim. I agree very much with the right hon. Member for Castle Point on that point: she is a leader.
It is a little sad to find the Prime Minister compelled to leave office against her will, not because the country has been given a chance to express its views about her—as I believe that it should—but by colleagues—some sychophants, some hypocrites—who up to 24 hours ago were publicly professing their undying loyalty to her. I think that the right hon. Member for Castle Point will agree that is somewhat distasteful to witness. They have decided to throw her out because at the moment she is the best and most convenient scapegoat for the failure of the Government's collective policies. I shall miss her, as I think we all will, whether she goes to Brussels as the first chairman of the European central bank—which seems to be her preference—or, as suggested by one of her hon. Friends, to Pasadena as the governor of California.
However, I am bound to say that the Prime Minister leaves behind her a very sad legacy. I must comment a little on some of the claims that she made in her speech about that legacy. The fact is that even the Chancellor has admitted that our economy is now in deep recession. Unemployment has been rising for the past six months, and we are told by the Chancellor that it will rise faster for at least another 12. Inflation has been rising for more than 12 months, and—according to the Government's preferred measure—is now running at twice the level achieved by our partners in the exchange rate mechanism which we have just joined.
§ Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster)
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he is entirely mistaken in saying that the Chancellor said that we were in deep recession? He said no such thing; he said that, if there was a recession, it would be shallow, not deep.
§ Mr. Healey
"Shallow" is a word that I am quite prepared to use about the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Perhaps it would have been fairer to say that the phrase "deep recession" was used a fortnight ago by the Association of British Chambers of Commerce, which works at the coalface and, I suspect, knows a little bit more about what is happening than some of the Chancellor's advisers in the Treasury.
Bankruptcies are now at a 10-year high, and only this week the Government published figures showing that the decline in output in the last quarter had been the steepest for the past 10 years. Meanwhile, our social and economic infrastructure is collapsing. Anyone who meets teachers, nurses, consultants or university lecturers knows that demoralisation in the professions connected with education and health has never been so serious, and it will take many years to repair.
The CBI has pointed out that we have the worst transport system in Europe, and anyone who—unlike Conservative Members—travels on London tube trains or buses will know how true that is. I never thought that I would live to see the day when Britain would be performing worse than Italy on output, inflation and balance of payments, and when London—to the disgrace of this Government—would be a dirtier city than Milan.
471 Moreover, all that has happened in a decade when Britain has had the once-in-a-lifetime—in fact, once-in-history—advantages of North sea oil, which gave the Government an extra £70,000 million in revenue in their first 10 years and £100,000 million in assistance to the balance of payments. In spite of that, we now have the biggest balance of payments deficit among the larger countries in the developed world.
§ Mr. Healey
I shall give way in a moment. I always enjoy giving way to the hon. Gentleman because he is so helpful.
The Government have also enjoyed £27 billion in extra revenue as a result of cuts in public benefits. Now I give way, with pleasure, to the hon. Member for Bristol, East (Mr. Sayeed).
§ Mr. Sayeed
When the right hon. Gentleman gave way last, he admitted that he had made a mistake. [Laughter.] Perhaps I should rephrase that.
Does the right hon. Gentleman feel, even now, a sense of shame about the time when, as Chancellor, he had to go cap in hand to the International Monetary Fund?
§ Mr. Healey
To be quite honest, I do not. I am often criticised for having gone to the IMF, but let me give the hon. Gentleman the facts. In 1976, I borrowed £2.5 billion from the IMF at an interest rate of between 4 and 5 per cent.; I paid it all back by 1979. Last year alone, this Government borrowed £19 billion from the financial markets at interest rates four or five times as high. According to the Chancellor, this year they will be borrowing £15 billion from the financial markets at interest rates 3.5 times higher than the rates that I incurred. I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving me an opportunity to say that. However, I confess that I did slip the hon. Gentleman a pony, and he has performed the necessary service with exquisite aplomb.
The Prime Minister came to office with one slogan on her flag—we must not live on tick. Conservative Members are looking at me with bemused fascination, and I do not blame them. The increase in living standards enjoyed by some people, especially during 1988 and last year, was entirely financed by borrowing. Personal borrowing has been higher than at any time in our history, and as a result of the Chancellor's necessary measures, a number of families now face the possibility of dispossession because they can no longer pay their mortgages on the houses which, thanks to the Government, they have bought.
Company borrowing has never been so high. It has doubled during the past year, as the Leader of the House, who was a distinguished—or at any rate a junior—Treasury Minister must recall. Even the public sector borrowing requirement is mounting month by month, despite the fact that the Government's revenues have enjoyed colossal and unprecedented assistance from North sea oil.
One consequence of that excessive borrowing is not only that we must finance our deficit from the financial markets at mediaeval interest rates, but—according to The Economist—40 per cent. of British industry will be owned by foreigners by 1995 if we continue in that way. That is only another five years. I do not believe that the record that I have described is one of which any Conservative Member could be proud.
472 I have concentrated on issues on which the whole of the Conservative party has been united since it took office. I have not mentioned the poll tax—although I could have had a great deal of fun with that—and I have not mentioned its divisions on Europe. The economic and social policies that have resulted in the disaster that I have described were supported by every challenger to the Prime Minister, including the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine)——
§ Mr. Healey
With great respect to my hon. Friend, whom I dearly love, he is not right—the right hon. Gentleman is Flash Gordon.
Many of us remember with affection the late Lord Kilmuir—previously Sir David Maxwell Fyfe—of whom it was once said, "There is nothing more like death in life than Sir David Maxwell Fyfe." When he went to the Lords, he told a wondering world that loyalty was the Conservative party's secret weapon. The trouble is that, as has been shown during recent weeks, the loyalty of the Tory party is similar to that of Colonel Nasser's generals, of whom it was said that they would be 1,000 per cent. loyal until the day for treachery arrived. Now, it could more fairly be said that disloyalty is the Conservative party's public weapon. It has been a distasteful fight during the past few days.
I must tell Conservative Members that gutless opportunists have every right to choose an appropriate representative, and they may well exercise that right next Tuesday. However, they have no right to foist their choice on the people of this country as Prime Minister. Our people must be given their right to choose their Prime Minister, and the sooner the better.
§ Mr. William Cash (Stafford)
Today, we have heard one of the most magnificent speeches from a Prime Minister that has been heard in decades. At the end of my right hon. Friend's speech, I was tempted to remind the House of the events of 1938–39, and to say to my right hon. Friend, "In the name of God, stay." Unfortunately, that is not to be. Nevertheless, it is within our grasp and our ability to pay tribute to her work during the past 11 years, and before that as Leader of the Opposition. She outlined in her speech her many achievements, which I do not need to repeat because the points have been well made and they are true. It is also true that, as Disraeli said:The Tory party, unless it is a national party, is nothing.On the question of Europe, for which my right hon. Friend suffered so much, there is no doubt that she has been proved right and that she will be proved right again. She has done the right thing for the right reasons.
For 20 years, first by stealth and then by sleight of hand, a web has been woven over the subject of Europe. It was a web of deceit to cover what was actually being done. I make no bones about the fact that I want the European Community to work. I voted for the Single European Act and I want the House to preserve the maximum influence possible over the conduct of our affairs in the European Community. That is precisely what my right hon. Friend sought. That is the true position. She wanted to ensure that we played an active part in the Community, but that we did not lose the essential sovereignty of the House in the bargain.
473 The reason is simple. Underneath all the paraphernalia about the central bank, the technicalities of which we need not go into, the fact is that such a bank would prevent hon. Members and those whom they represent from forming a proper judgment about the economic and social priorities that they wish for themselves and their children.
My right hon. Friend was right in the view that she took because at the intergovernmental conference that is about to take place the amendments, which would have effect in 1994 or 2000—the date is less important than the content—are what matter. I challenge any contender to say before the House that he would have agreed to a date without the policy or programme attached to it. To pre-empt the intergovernmental conference at the Rome summit was unthinkable.
Furthermore, if the alleged goals were accepted by Parliament—a sort of automatic progression or historical inevitability—why are we to be presented with treaty amendments? The fact is that those matters have not been settled and that is what the future debate is all about.
My right hon. Friend, with her integrity, set out that case and she has paid a heavy price for doing so. She told people the truth and, as Churchill said, when the British people are told the truth they will respond. My right hon. Friend has paid the penalty for telling the truth which in this context was regarded as unforgiveable.
The Conservative party must find the centre of gravity on the European question. There is a centre of gravity and we will find it. We will have our debates and we will make our decisions about the next leader. Of one thing I am sure, and that is that we will reunite, put all these tragedies behind us and discover a policy on Europe which the Conservative party will be able to endorse.
§ 7.2 pm
§ Mrs. Margaret Ewing (Moray)
I speak on behalf not only of my colleagues in the Scottish National party but of my hon. Friends in Plaid Cymru. We shall all be in the Lobby tonight supporting the motion of no confidence. That will come as no surprise to hon. Members as our parties have a clear ideological dispute with the Conservative party and its Government, not the least aspect of which has been the Government's resolute determination to turn their face against the possibility of a constitutional change which recognises the rights and sovereignty of the people of Scotland and Wales. Scotland is perhaps unique in Europe in that it has two Parliament buildings but no Government of its own.
During the "Thatcher years", as they will be described, we have seen the results of the Tory party's policies in Scotland—policies which are alien to our tradition of social justice and caring. We see the national health service in crisis, with disillusioned doctors and disappointed nurses wondering whether they will have job opportunities in the careers that they have chosen.
We see our proud universities, with their ancient traditions, facing a real cash crisis, wondering whether they will be able to continue to offer the courses that they wish to our young people and to those who wish to return to education later in life.
We see our steel industry, its workers and its dependent communities, being sold down the river on the altar of privatisation so dearly loved by the Prime Minister.
474 Scotland has been earmarked as a possible site for a nuclear dump. Yet in the area chosen in the highlands and islands of Scotland, the democratically elected Members of Parliament have made it clear at all levels of government—in the district and regions, and in this Parliament and the European Parliament—that we are clearly opposed to such a project going ahead because it would result in the destruction of the area's basic industries, which depend on the perception of a clean environment—fishing, agriculture, tourism and the whisky industry. The people of that area clearly do not want a nuclear dump at Dounreay, yet the Government are wishing it upon us.
We also continue to see the loss of Scotland's life blood as our youngest, brightest and best leave Scotland to seek opportunities elsewhere. No nation can face the prospect of losing its life blood, which has continued under the Thatcher Administration.
I could spend the rest of the evening embroidering a tapestry of the devastation, despair, despondency and disillusionment wrought in the past 11 years in my nation of Scotland, but my colleagues and I wish to concentrate on one particular issue.
Our amendment, which has not been selected, draws attention to the poll tax, which is surely germane to the situation in which we find ourselves. It has always been seen as one of the most socially unjust taxes, and it is one which I would describe as immoral. The Prime Minister must recognise that her stubborn insistence on implementation of the poll tax has become her domestic Belgrano. Only now are people beginning to address the key issue of the poll tax. We in Scotland have been warning for several years of the implications of that tax and how it would affect us.
One of the great sadnesses must be that not only the Prime Minister but the Leader of the Opposition have judged the poll tax only on how it will affect their personal and political futures. The Prime Minister has realised that her adherence to the policy has cost not only 11 seats in Scotland at the last general election and more at the next general election, but the support of those English Members of Parliament who so happily voted for the poll tax in Scotland but are now realising its implications for their own constituencies. It has taken a long time for democratic reality to dawn on those people.
Meanwhile, the Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues have not fought against the poll tax with the adherence that they should have. They clearly saw it as the key to No. 10. The "stop it" campaign, so gladly launched by the Labour party in Scotland and endorsed by the Leader of the Opposition, soon became the "stump up" campaign.
§ Mr. George Foulkes (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley)
Does the hon. Lady recall the Second Reading of the poll tax Bill for Scotland, against which both she and I voted? Will she explain why she was not present?
§ Mrs. Ewing
I do not want to launch into a history lesson, but I was not present. Throughout the year, my colleagues had clearly stated our opposition to the poll tax. I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has attended this debate——
§ Mr. Foulkes
The hon. Lady, who is indeed naturally courteous, will recall that the person who is now her hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas) was supposed to be here on Second Reading, but for all his ranting and raving about the poll tax subsequently was not present to vote against the Second Reading of the poll tax Bill for Scotland. Does that not show him for the hypocrite that he is?
§ Mr. Douglas
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I was absent because I was a member of the Select Committee on Defence and was paired.
§ Mrs. Ewing
The record of my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas) in opposing the poll tax is beyond dispute. I am surprised that the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) is taking that stance.
The reality is that Labour Members have guilty consciences. Only those of us who have taken a strong, principled stance—in Scotland for an extra year—have sought to protect the poor and to offer a shield for the most vulnerable in our society. Our actions struck the hole in the bows of the flagship of the Prime Minister's third term and began the inevitable sinking of it, taking her with it.
§ Mrs. Ewing
I will give way when I have finished this point. Whatever the candidates for the leadership of the Conservative party—none of whom is present tonight—may say, we have made it clear that we do not want any amendment of the poll tax; we want it abandoned, and replaced by a local income tax, to which my party has adhered for more than 20 years.
§ Mrs. Ewing
The hon. Lady, who was not a Member in 1979, may not be aware that the then Labour Administration—this can be confirmed by senior Labour Members who have written about it in their memoris—were not prepared to make constitutional change for Scotland a matter of confidence. They would not exercise a three-line Whip and broke their election manifesto. I have no regret about bringing down a Government who did not fulfil their manifesto commitments. Perhaps the hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mrs. Fyfe) has more regrets about the failure of the committee of 100, of which she was a member, to stand up for the poor people of Scotland. I salute the people of Scotland for their dignity, their pride and their determination. By their principled stance, they have brought about the Tory leadership crisis and exposed Labour's weakness. 476 By resigning now, the Prime Minister may have salvaged some of her reputation, but nothing can hide the abysmal judgment and disgraceful role of the Leader of the Opposition and the Labour party in trying to throw her the lifebelt of their motion, which was tabled before voting had finished on Tuesday when it was evident even to the most junior Member that the Prime Minister was finished. It is a sign of the Labour party's desperation that it tried to keep her in office and provided the Conservative party with an opportunity not to show unity but at least to show some solidarity.
I will highlight the Labour party's desperation by quoting comments given by three Labour Members in the past few weeks. In the West Highland Free Press on 9 November, the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson) said:It is more certain than ever that it is in the Labour Party's interests that the lady should stay exactly where she is—for a few months!Appearing on "Behind the Lines" on 19 November, the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) said:It is in the Labour party's interests for Thatcher to stay. I am praying for Thatcher to win.The hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin) said at Prime Minister's Question Time:May I wish the Prime Minister well in her current difficulty? Although I cannot speak for Conservative Members, many Opposition Members are rooting for her." [Official Report, 14 November 1990; Vol. 180, c. 447.]In the light of that, one must query whether the Leader of the Opposition is serious. Today, he rightly called for a general election—a view which I endorse. The general technique of the Labour party, particularly during by-elections and because of the abysmal standards of its candidates, is to have media hype and to hide its candidate. After today's pathetic performance, the right hon. Gentleman should be taken away and hidden from the electorate. He should be hiding, because if he cannot do better than that he will be in for a hiding.
§ Sir Patrick McNair-Wilson (New Forest)
The resigniation of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is a sad occasion for many Conservative Members. Perhaps more than any other Conservative Prime Minister since the war, she has achieved fundamental and radical changes and did more to dismantle the socialist edifice.
Between 1945 and 1979, Britain was governed for 17 years by socialists and for 17 years by Conservatives. During those 17 socialist years—I became an hon. Member in 1964—we had the capture of the commanding heights and the establishment of a socialist state. Sadly, during the 17 years of Conservative rule, we tried to manage a socialist economy.
When my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister came on the scene in 1979, many of us who had longed to see it before began to see the dismantlement of that edifice and the rolling back of the socialist frontier. She may be remembered by my party for all the things that she did, but she will be remembered by the Labour party because as a result of her changes it has decided to run away from socialism. It knows that it is unelectable on the policies that it used to regard as sacrosanct. If it is any consolation to my right hon. Friend, she has been fatally wounded by a flash in the pan. Conservative Members and the country will miss her because we shall not see her like again in the foreseeable future.
477 Two great issues are facing Britain. The first is the economy, which is coming right. There is no doubt that had the Opposition had to face the 1987 crash, they would have poured money into the economy, too.
I was born in 1929, when the American banking system immediately responded to the great crash by reducing available liquidity by one quarter. Everyone in the House at the time of the 1987 crash declared—as did all the opinion-formers outside—that we should fill the hole in the world economy with credit. It is perfectly true that the British economy was stronger than many might have imagined, and that by filling the hole with credit we overheated the system. However, fine-tuning an economy —as the Opposition know better than anyone else—is extremely difficult. The economy had to be controlled and cooled down. During the next 12 months we shall see the fruits of those policies. My sadness is that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will not be leading the party to benefit from those successful policies.
§ Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Port Glasgow)
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. The Prime Minister will be remembered for many things, but, above all, she will be remembered for the ignominious defeat that she has suffered in the past two days.
§ Sir Patrick McNair-Wilson
I would not quarrel with that description of what has happened to my right hon. Friend. I am deeply saddened that something has been manufactured to take her away from the world stage and the stage here.
The second issue is our relationship with Europe. I regard it as more important than management of the domestic economy, as mistakes in the domestic economy can be corrected, but the mistakes that we could make in our relationship with Europe could be irreparable.
When I came into the House in 1964, the Opposition were lamenting the existence of what they laughingly called the gnomes of Zurich, who were destroying their ability to manage their affairs. I remember Lord Wilson standing at the Dispatch Box explaining to the House that, although Britain's economy had underlying strength, a crisis of confidence was affecting our currency. That terrible crisis dogged the Labour Government until they were eventually put out of office in 1970. One of the problems which made that crisis so difficult to solve was the effect of a tightly fixed exchange rate, under the Bretton Woods system, and our subsequent problems with expanding the economy. I remember many occasions on which the Labour Government had to cut hospital and other welfare programmes because of those financial constraints.
If we are not careful we shall be on the threshold of a situation where the gnomes of Zurich will look like pixies—we shall be run by a central bank which is effectively beyond our control, and we shall have surrendered our money supply. My right hon. Friend has fought passionately, throughout her period in office, to get a relationship with Europe which gives us, and the other nations, the freedom to manage our affairs without such constraints.
We are now members of the European exchange rate mechanism. Thank goodness sterling can operate within a 478 12 per cent. band. If anyone believes that we can solve our problems by bringing the band down to 4.5 per cent., I can assure them that they are 100 per cent. wrong.
Next month, after the German elections, hon. Members will witness one of the most significant economic events—the German economy bearing the full brunt of the cost of repairing the east. German interest rates will begin to move up, and we shall witness their effect upon the entire Community economy. My prediction is that the standard of living in the Community will start to fall during the next five years.
If, as a nation, we are not free to manage our domestic economy, we will fall along with other European nations. I am convinced that my right hon. Friend was correct to be prudent and careful. In the future there will be two super states—the United States and Germany. Many of the other European countries are scrambling about, trying to lock Germany into institutions in the belief that that will control her ambitions and power. I very much doubt it.
My family have had a home in continental Europe for many years. Anyone who believes that Europe is some glorious, united Utopia knows nothing about it. Going to Europe and living the gilded life in huge hotels, attending conferences, is not the same as talking to ordinary people.
I am convinced that my right hon. Friend's greatest contribution to the nation—quite apart from what she may have done for the domestic economy—was putting the brake on any rash moves across Europe and European monetary union. To some extent, we lose in the translation. The French call the single currency "monnaie unique"—something completely unique. They do not want it and will probably fight against it. The only difference between the French and ourselves is that they have the happy habit of joining things, and, if they do not like them, starting to sabotage them. Sadly, we play by different rules.
§ Sir Patrick McNair-Wilson
I am coming to the end of my remarks.
My right hon. Friend has played a significant role in maintaining our ability to manage our economy, and therefore our national state. To lose that now—to give it away—would be a tragedy after such a brilliant career.
§ Mr. Rees
My hon. Friend is right. I have been sitting here since the beginning of the debate. Successive Conservative Members have said that the Prime Minister is brilliant and that today is the saddest day of their lives. I understand that, but what they all forget is that more than 40 per cent. of them voted in the first ballot to ensure that the Prime Minister could not last. If that is true, I think that I have a title for my novel—"The Strange Death of the Thatcher Government." The realities have not been accepted by the bit players in the event.
§ Mr. Rees
I will tell hon. Members "whodunnit". It happened yesterday afternoon, when it was made clear to the Prime Minister that she would not win the next ballot. If Opposition Members and Scottish nationalists have been saying that we wanted the Prime Minister to stay, it was not because we loved her policies but because, in the past year, from by-elections, local elections and Euro-elections, we realised that the electorate did not think her policies brilliant. The electorate, not hon. Members, decide who forms the Government. That is what the system is all about. That is why I have to tell the Scottish nationalists what I said on local radio this morning—that I do not know what will happen, but that I shall be sorry that the Prime Minister will not lead the Conservative party at the next general election, because that would be good for us, at least in Yorkshire.
I want to speak of some of the myths which arise in "The Strange Death of the Thatcher Government"—the socialist economy and the welfare state. Decaying industry was taken over in 1945. The coal industry was out of date and non-technological, and had been in private hands. Nearly every hon. Member agreed that that was the reality. The Churchill and Macmillan Governments made no attempt to alter the situation. Indeed, Macmillan had advocated that arrangement in the 1930s. To equate the 1987 crash with the 1929 crash is really stretching the truth.
I remind the hon. Member for New Forest (Sir P. McNair-Wilson) that in 1973 the Conservative Government were defeated because of the oil crisis. There was another oil crisis in 1979. If events in the Gulf develop as many people suggest, there will be another oil crisis soon. That cannot be ignored. The Government would have to take steps to deal with it.
I am glad that we have had this debate today. I would have been more glad if I could see more Government supporters in the House. I would much prefer to have a debate in the House than on television on programmes such as "Newsnight", in the press and in editorials. The House is the place which decides what happens and it is where the debate should take place. I am glad that the Prime Minister spoke, although on several occasions this morning I thought that she would not. It was in this House, if not in the Chamber, that the coup de grace took place. I am sorry that there are not many Conservative Members present.
§ Mr. Rees
Perhaps they will pass through during the evening.
During my almost 30 years in the House, many changes have taken place in the Labour party. I heard a story that we in the Labour party were the creatures of our constituency parties, and that our constituencies told us what to do. I tell the few Conservative Members here why the Thatcher Government fell. It was because 70, 80 or 90 youngsters in the House knew that they would lose their seats at the next election. At the same time, one reads that two Conservative Members will be carpeted, or perhaps worse, by their local constituency associations.
Is that democracy? It is exactly the point that they put to us. It is absolutely right to take the views of our constituency parties. I have been in the Labour party for over 50 years but, at the end of the day, a Member of 480 Parliament must do what he wants and face the consequences later. If not, this place will not work. Deselection is a problem.
It is a pity that the case of the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) was not put in the House. I have watched him on so many television shows. I have read about him in newspapers, but I have not heard it on the Floor of the House. I wish that he had been here to hear the arguments and the venom of the right hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley). We have heard the views of the right hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East (Sir G. Howe). He put forward a vicious argument. He should have been in the Chamber today.
§ Mr. Rees
I did not see him. Perhaps he was standing at the gate of paradise.
I should like to see one thing changed. My right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) referred to it. A sordid matter has been much talked about in the past three or four years. It is the way in which civil servant press officers and others at No. 10 have not only briefed the press, quite properly, about Government policy, but have issued briefings against Cabinet Ministers. There was a straight briefing by civil servants that the then Leader of the House was whatever he was said to be.
§ Mr. Rees
Indeed, he was said to be semi-detached and he was knifed. There were other such cases. I hope that, when the Labour party comes to power, the press department at No. 10 will be divided into the straight civil service side and the political side. The political side should not be inside No. 10. There is plenty of room just across the road, in what was the Home Office. There must be a distinction between the two. Rumours are running around that two members of the kitchen Cabinet have been given peerages. Someone whispered to me that that is the only way in which the story of Westland will be kept quiet.
The major reason why the Government are electorally unpopular in my constituency is not Europe. That is not at the forefront of people's minds. For many of them, it is the bank rate and its effect on purchasing houses. But the poll tax is the reason why the Government are in disarray. It is not simply the tax in itself. It is a bad tax—even Adam Smith could see that. There is no relationship with the ability to pay. It is bureaucratic and expensive. But in my novel, "The Strange Death of the Thatcher Government", it will be shown that the way in which it was conceived was its problem. There was no consultation with local treasurers or local authorities.
§ Mr. Graham
I am sure that my right hon. Friend's novel will place on record the fact that schools in Scotland can no longer give the school kids eye tests. The kids have to go elsewhere. Is that not an appalling indictment of any Government?
§ Mr. Rees
That is one of the effects of the poll tax. Certainly, local authority finance will have to be carefully 481 examined in the wide sense. However, the poll tax must be scrapped. There can be no pussyfooting with the poll tax. It is a bad tax, and the Government have learnt the effect of it. A new Government would have to end it.
I could raise many other points, but many were raised earlier and I wish to be as brief as I promised. However, I feel that I must mention the crime rate. I am interested in the crime rate because, in 1979, the Conservative party issued many familiar pamphlets saying that the Conservative party was the party of law and order. They said that it would solve the problem of law and order.
The latest statistics of recorded crime published in July this year show that the rise of 15 per cent. in the first quarter of 1990 was the largest increase since 1857. The crime rate in Britain has gone up and up. There are two points to be made about that. It is said that the statistics on recorded crime do not tell the full story, but they did not tell the full story in 1979 either. If there are more policemen, there will be more recorded crime. One must also take into account the changed nature of society. For my money, I should like to see the causes of crime investigated and analysed more objectively than they are at the time of a general election.
Whatever else this brilliant Government did, they failed miserably on the crime rate. By surprise, they have fallen even though no Conservative Member who has spoken today seemed to believe that they did anything wrong. That is another story which people in our constituencies know.
Another intriguing matter will come into my novel. In the 1970s, documents were drawn up, copies of which have now been passed to me. Certain people said that the country was ungovernable. It is alleged that there were plots to deal with that position. The crime rate was said to be so high that something had to be done. My hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) also knows about the matter. People with no political nous believed that all the problems were due to the wicked Labour Government. It was not so. The crime rate is worse now than it was then.
I hope that in the present—to use the phrase used then—ungovernable state of the country the same dirty tricks will not be used against this Government. Dirty tricks may have been the reason for the strange death of the Thatcher Government, but they did not come from the lower end of the security services or from dissident politicians. The reason why the Government have fallen is the Conservative party itself and the behaviour in the past week of many people in the Government.
Many Conservative Members and members of the Government know what the last chapter of my book on why the Government fell will contain. The Prime Minister was stabbed in her political back by her own party, by members of her own Government. That should not be allowed to happen with a new leader. We must have a general election. I believe that we will have an election sooner rather than later as a result of what has happened. For my money, the sooner the better.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)
Of all the speeches that I have heard in this House, only one stands out in my memory. It was made by the then right hon. Member for 482 Ebbw Vale—now the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot)—on the night the Labour Government fell, and it was one of the usual brilliant performances of that great orator. I remember particularly his remark that Lady Margaret was going out to battle with the Scotch armour bearer going before and her hand was in the hand of the boy David. I have found out that the greatest speeches in this House are usually made by the losers, and on that night the Labour Government fell.
Today, we heard a brilliant speech. No matter what anyone thinks of the Prime Minister, she was at her best today. She spoke with passion and with power. The cut and thrust was excellent. She replied to her critics. It was undoubtedly a difficult time for her, but she got full marks for her performance. I have many differences with the Prime Minister, but I pay tribute to her brilliance today. When history is written and all is revealed, as it will eventually be, her name will undoubtedly be embedded in it because she has been, in her own way, an outstanding Prime Minister. She has won three general elections and made a great change in this United Kingdom. That will never be forgotten.
Alas, Northern Ireland has had a sad history with the Prime Minister. We expected her to be a staunch, loyal Unionist who would never do what she did in the Anglo-Irish Agreement. It was unthinkable, especially as when the Irish Forum produced its report the previous year, she said, "Out, out, out." Yet she took her pen and signed away part of the sovereignty of Northern Ireland in that iniquitous diktat without any consultation whatever with the ordinary people of Northern Ireland. We were not consulted.
From that day, Margaret Thatcher was on the down hill. After that, she had trouble with her Cabinet and trouble on all sides. Day by day she adopted the attitude that she had adopted in Northern Ireland—that she could ignore the people and get away with it. But we cannot ignore the people.
Today, all those who were so strong in putting forward the Anglo-Irish Agreement have disappeared from politics, except one who is running for office. In the south of Ireland, the initiator of the agreement has gone and his replacement says that the agreement needs to be replaced and that articles 2 and 3 of the constitution need to be changed. We have a new President in the south of Ireland who resigned from the Irish Labour party on the issue of the agreement. Slowly but surely, the right of the people to express themselves will prevail. That is what is happening to the Anglo-Irish Agreement.
How can I, at the end of tonight's debate, go into a Lobby and say that I have confidence in the Government? My conscience would not allow me to do so, because I should be flying in the face of the cries of orphans and widows from an agonised Ulster which would never be in its present plight but for that agreement. We have only to look at the figures. The Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed five years ago. That year, there were 54 killings. I remind the House that the number of killings was spiralling downwards before the agreement was signed. The following year, the number of killings increased to 61 and the next year to 93. The year after that, it was 93 again. Then it fell to 62, but this year, even before we are into December, there have been 71 killings.
§ The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Peter Brooke)
I will ask the hon. Gentleman the same question 483 that I asked the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis), who made a similar point in our debate on Monday night. Has the hon. Gentleman also noted the coincidence between the years to which he has referred and the years when the Provisional IRA received massive armaments from Gaddafi of Libya?
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
There may be some connection. I have great respect for the right hon. Gentleman as I have been in a series of talks with him and found him open and forthcoming, but it was claimed that the agreement would bring about peace, stability and reconciliation. The right hon. Gentleman stays in the Province, continually goes about it, meets the bereaved people and sees the security forces, so he knows that we do not have peace, stability or reconciliation. People are at loggerheads with each other. Five years ago we were told that peace would break out, but it has not. What is more, we were promised proper extradition from the Irish Republic and that those who committed atrocities would be brought back and judged properly. The right hon. Gentleman knows what a fiasco that promise has been.
It was interesting that when the Prime Minister recounted her past achievements she did not mention the Anglo-Irish Agreement. Today, the right hon. Gentleman has said that the Government will consider a replacement for the agreement if it is possible. I trust that that policy will be pursued with great eagerness and dedication by all concerned because from the Province there comes today a cry for help.
Some hon. Members may think that Protestant paramilitaries, so called and wrongly called so, and the security forces are responsible in large measure for those who are killed. That is not so. Of all the murders of the past five years, 74.5 per cent. were slaughtered by the Irish Republican Army. One hundred and nineteen—41 per cent.—were Roman Catholics. At a recent conference, the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume), who is not present, pointed out that the IRA was responsible for killing more of its own people and co-religionists than anyone else in Northern Ireland. Those are the facts.
The Unionists disagreed greatly with the Prime Minister on the further issue that Sunday should be a special day. The House knows what happened on that. The votes from Northern Ireland stopped the legislation going through the House. There was a division between the Prime Minister and the Ulster Unionists—a division which united my party and the Ulster Unionist party. We fought on a common manifesto and pledged to the people that we had no other option but to go against the Government on that policy. Tonight my hon. Friends and I will do so again because of our convictions.
I largely agree with the Prime Minister about Europe. I have not sat in all the elected Parliaments of Europe, with the largest vote recorded for any member of any party in Europe, not to understand what is going on in Europe. I do not want this House to become a county council with Mr. Delors telling us that 80 per cent. of our Acts of Parliament will be passed by bureaucrats in Brussels. That is not British democracy. The hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) should be heeded when he tells us to find out what 1992 is really about—the single market. There are many things over which the House will have no power. Tonight the House must reconsider that issue. The Prime Minister has been right in her attitude. In Europe, I find that it is all right to be a Frenchman and fight for 484 France, it is all right to be a German and fight for Germany, but to be a Britisher and fight for this United Kingdom is apparently wrong.
§ Mr. Tony Benn (Chesterfield)
This debate is long overdue. It gives the House an opportunity to look back over a decade of Conservative Government. What has emerged—I am not sure whether Conservative Members realise this—is that the Conservatives have had strong messages from their supporters and from the electors suggesting that they cannot win with the leader who they have so loyally supported. We shall vote for a motion of no confidence, but the Conservative party has already had its motion of no confidence.
I do not believe that we should attach that motion to the personality of the Prime Minister because it is the policies that she has pursued, not her style, which have led to the message from the British people. I do not believe in scapegoats and it is important that we should understand that every present and former member of the Cabinet, every Conservative Member of Parliament who has trooped through the Lobby night after night after night in support of those policies, every newspaper that has supported the Government and every voter who voted for them share responsibility for the current situation.
So much has been said about the past that I want to speak about the future, but it would be wrong to let the motion of censure go by without touching on some of the damage that has been done in the past decade. I must admit that the mechanical recitation of statistics does not get near the real world.
One important point about which we rarely hear is that Britain has spent far too much money on defence and not enough on its industrial development. There is the illusion that the only reason for change in eastern Europe is Britain's possession of a nuclear weapon. Is it honestly believed by any serious person that there would have been no demand for liberty in Poland, Hungary and the Soviet Union unless we had had a nuclear weapon from the United States? But the price we paid for that high defence expenditure has crippled our capacity to make and sell what is needed.
Despite the fact that we have been told that this is an entrepreneurial society, Britain has an utter contempt for skill. If one talks to people who dig coal and drive trains, or to doctors, nurses, dentists or toolmakers, one discovers that no one in Britain is interested in them. The whole of the so-called entrepreneurial society is focused on the City news that we get in every bulletin which tells us what has happened to £ sterling to three decimal points against the basket of European currencies. Skill is what built this country's strength, but it has been treated with contempt.
I must confess that the auctioning of public assets, particularly the latest disgusting Frankenstein advertisement, told me more about the mentality of the Ministers who devised those schemes than the sales themselves. Those assets were built up by the labour of those who work in the electricity industry and by the taxpayer who invested in the equipment. Those assets are now to be auctioned at half their value to make a profit for a tax cut for the rich before the next general election. If Ministers were local councillors they would be before the courts for wilful misconduct, but because they are Ministers and because some of them later go on to the boards of the companies 485 they privatised, they are treated as business men who know better how to handle those companies as members of the board of directors than allegedly they did as the Ministers responsible.
Local government has been crippled. Across the river is the county hall of London county council—the seat of government of the greatest city in the world. It is empty and is to be sold because the Government wanted to cripple local government, and they have. The poll tax, the centralisation of the business rate and the punishment of Liverpool and Lambeth councillors were designed to take all power from local government and to put it in the hands of the Government who claimed that they did not believe in the role of the state.
Many people—I am one of them—feel strongly about the undermining of the trade unions, who now have fewer rights than their counterparts in eastern Europe, the tax cuts for the rich and the benefit cuts for the poor, the censorship of the media, the abuse practised by the security services, the restriction on civil liberties, the Falklands war and now the Government's readiness to send more troops, announced today, to the middle east to die for the control of oil. We are not alone in our concern about those issues because the message reaching Conservative Members has come from those who share that concern.
When we look back at the 1980s we see many victims of market forces. I do not share the general view that market forces are the basis of political liberty. Every time I see a homeless person living in a cardboard box in London I see that person as a victim of market forces. Every time I see a pensioner who cannot manage, I know that he is a victim of market forces. The sick who are waiting for medical treatment that they could receive quicker through private insurance are victims of those same market forces.
The Prime Minister is a great ideologue. Her strength was that she understood a certain view of life, and when she goes there will be a great ideological vacuum. It is no good saying that we shall run market forces better than she did because her whole philosophy was that one should measure the price of everything, but the value of nothing. We must replace that philosophy.
Mr. Gorbachev and Mr. Walesa must be more worried than anyone to discover that the Prime Minister on whom they have modelled their economic policy has collapsed at the very moment she had persuaded them that that was the way forward to political success. To put it crudely, the Berlin wall has fallen in London today and changes will be made which will go further than the Conservative party yet realises.
It is important to put on the record all those people who have been denounced in the past 10 years as loonies, extremists and as the "enemy within". They saw earlier than others the meaning behind the Government's policies. They include the miners and the miners' wives who fought against the injustice of closing pits and going for nuclear power and imported coal——
§ Mr. Benn
I shall not give way for the moment. They include the Greenham common women. I was in court when those women were charged with action likely to cause a breach of the peace. They were outside the camp 486 while inside were enough nuclear weapons to destroy humanity. They were the pioneers of the defeat of the Prime Minister.
§ Mr. Benn
Let me finish my list, then the hon. Gentleman can intervene and make a fool of himself.
What about the ambulance workers and the print workers at Wapping, the single-parent mothers, the greens and the people who came to Trafalgar square on 31 March for the poll tax demonstration? They reflect what the Henley candidate picked up and tried to use at a later stage to his advantage. The teachers and those who tried to defend the national health service were all grouped together as the enemy within. In fact, they were the first carriers of the message that the Tory party has finally got.
To put it in language that will be familiar to Conservative Members, the Labour party believes in the traditional values of society—in the idea that we have responsibilities one to another and that we are not just greedy all the time, looking out only for ourselves. Without being personal, the philosophy that has been propagated over the past 10 years has been wicked and evil. I am not talking about the qualities of the people who advocated those policies. But to set man against man, woman against woman and country against country and to build on nationalism and racism—we remember the warning about how we would be "swamped" by immigrants—and all the damage that has been done by the Conservatives has been disgraceful.
All that will have to be dealt with. It would be easy to repeal all their legislation. I have a measure called the Margaret Thatcher (Global Repeal) Bill which, if we got a majority, could go through both Houses in 24 hours. It would be easy to reverse the policies and replace the personalities—the process has begun—but the rotten values that have been propagated from the platform of political power in Britain during the past 10 years will be an infection—a virulent strain of right-wing capitalist thinking which it will take time to overcome.
I had an experience the other day which confirmed my view that the Prime Minister has not really changed the thinking or culture of the British people. I do not know how many hon. Members travel, as I do, on trains. I travel regularly on them and I see all the little business men with their calculators working out their cash flow forecasts and I see frowning people glaring at each other. They are Thatcherite trains—the trains of the competitive society.
On the way from Chesterfield the other day the train broke down and suddenly everything seemed to change. Somebody came into the carriage and said, "Would you like a cup of tea from my thermos?" People looked after each other's children, and after a young couple had been speaking to me for perhaps half an hour, I asked them, "Have you been married long?" They replied, "We met on the train." Another woman asked somebody, "Will you get off at Derby and phone my son in Swansea, because he will be worried?" By the time we got to London we were a socialist train.
One cannot change human nature. There is good and bad in everybody, and for 10 years the bad has been stimulated and the good denounced as lunatic, out of touch, cloud-cuckoo-land, extremist and militant. The Conservatives in power have been the cause of that. They do not quite yet know what has happened. They think that 487 they are witnessing the retirement of a popular headmistress under circumstances that some might regret. In fact, they have killed the source of their own philosophy and opened the way for different ideas.
We must now look to the 1990s and beyond. Most people have modest aspirations. They want useful work and a home to live in, and they would like good education for themselves and their children, with proper health care, decent pensions and peace and dignity when they are old. In a rich country—we are often told how rich we are—that should be available if the distribution of wealth were correct.
With that in mind, let us look at the world today. America, which has 2 per cent. of the world's population, uses 25 per cent. of the world's resources. For how long can that last? One does not need a Saddam Hussein or a Gaddafi to point out that maldistribution of wealth is the greatest source of international conflict. So we must look to a United Nations that is not just there to launch a war under American auspices, but is there to solve the problems that lead to war. It must help to redistribute the resources of the world.
I must speak about Europe because, after all, we are all Europeans. But I will not give up the right of the people whom I represent to decide the laws under which we are governed. I will not do that, and I have no right to do so. I only borrowed my powers from Chesterfield, and at the end of five years I must hand them back. It will be no good my saying, "I am handing back some of them. The rest I gave to Europe". I was going to say that I had given them to Jacques Delors, although I do not know why we always refer to him. I could say that I had given them to Leon Brittan or Bruce Millan. Why must we always concentrate on Frenchmen? I am not giving Leon Brittan, Helmut Kohl, Mr. Pöhl or anyone else those powers because they are not mine to give away.
In saying that, I am not being a nationalist. I am an internationalist. I believe in a Europe that co-operates in harmony. But we have no right to destroy democracy in Britain to build greater power for the bankers or anybody else in Europe. If people suggest that that argument does not spread across the Floor of the House, they must be living in a strange world.
We must shift the money from weapons to development. We must protect the planet from the dangers that are associated with nationalism, fundamentalism, particularism and racism, for those, combined with nuclear and chemical weapons, could destroy the human race. During this century, since the year 1900, humanity has been re-equipped with a new set of tools and, as a result, our institutions have been outdated.
There is the No Turning Back group—I believe that that was the battle cry of the Gadarene swine—but what has changed it all is a factor that cannot be measured on a "Newsnight" computer. With the events of today, there is a great influx of hope. People who saw no chance of a home, of a better pension or of decent health care have seen the light at the end of the tunnel. It is not the light of the little flickering candles of the three candidates. It is a different sort of light.
When I campaigned in the 1945 election, we never thought that we could win. Churchill, after all, was far more popular than the present Prime Minister. He had won the war single-handed smoking a big cigar and wearing a siren suit. Although we did not think that we 488 could beat him, we did. Mr. Attlee was a modest man—Churchill described him contemptuously as a modest man with a lot to be modest about—but we won.
I was at Transport house in London when the results came in. In those days there was no television, no computers and no polls to mislead us. The news was shown on an epidiascope; we wrote the results on a bit of smoked glass and flashed them up. Ministers fell like ninepins and out of the darkness from Northolt came the little man, Clement Attlee, and he became Prime Minister. That was achieved by hope.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) referred to the Norway debate on 7 and 8 May 1940. Chamberlain was the victor and two days later Churchill became Prime Minister. That was the verdict of Parliament on the 1930s. Five years later, after the war, when the people had a chance to decide, Churchill was out, there was a Labour Government and an attempt to build a better society.
We are going through that sequence again. Tonight the Government will win an overwhelming majority and in a few days from now, whoever of the three pygmies wins the leadership, he will not be able to deny the British people the hope that will be released by the defeat of the present Prime Minister. That hope will carry into power a Government who will face such massive problems that their radicalism will far exceed that to be found, at present, in our printed policy reviews.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)
Order. The wind-up speeches are expected to begin at 9 o'clock. Many hon. Members still wish to take part in the debate. I appeal once more for brief speeches, please.
§ 8.7 pm
§ Sir Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)
An agreeable feature of the House is that, despite the cataclysmic events of the last 72 hours, certain things remain the same.
In the 27 years that I have had the privilege to be here, I have heard an endless series of speeches from some of the heavyweights on the Opposition Benches. Today, the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) made a vintage Foot speech; the worst Chancellor of the Exchequer that the country has had since the war, the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), told us all about economic policy; and the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) made one of his speeches telling us about the future while dwelling on the achievements of Mr. Attlee in 1945.
An interesting feature has been that, with all those heavyweight speeches, there has been from the Opposition Benches only one lightweight, lousy speech that did not rise to the occasion, and that was the one made by the Leader of the Opposition. From what we heard today, it is clear that the Leader of the Opposition does not know what he is talking about.
I have been involved in four Conservative leadership contests. The first was when Harold Macmillan was replaced by Lord Home. I was in Blackpool and travelled down on a train—not a socialist train—with Mr. and Mrs. Rab Butler, Reggie Manningham-Buller, and a detective. When we set off from Blackpool, Rab was quite certain that, on his arrival in London, he would go on to become Prime Minister. Shortly after we arrived in London, I 489 heard from certain members of the then 1922 Executive Committee that he was not going to be Prime Minister—and nor was he.
One lesson that I learned from those events is that not only is a week a long time in politics, but 24 hours can be a very long time too. The second lesson that I have learnt from the various leadership contests in which I have been involved is that, although at the time they seem damaging, as well as fascinating and engage all our interests, in the long run they do nothing to damage the essential integrity of purpose and character or the electoral fortunes of the Conservative party.
The best demonstration of that is that, although we have had four leadership problems in the 27 years that I have been a Member of this House—with the exception of the two aberrant periods when Labour Governments were in power—the British people have chosen freely to install Conservative Governments. I believe that they will continue to do so.
Of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, I say only three things. First, I believe her to be and to have been the best and the finest thing that has happened to this country over the past 50 years.
§ Sir Eldon Griffiths
I did not.
In my period in the House, I have formed the conclusion that we shall not, in my lifetime, see my right hon. Friend's equal again.
§ Mr. Skinner
The hon. Gentleman stabbed the Prime Minister in the back this morning in a letter to The Times.
§ Sir Eldon Griffiths
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to follow the request of the Chair and to be brief.
Secondly, I believe that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, characteristically, did the right thing at the right time. After the speech of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Sir G. Howe) and after the withholding of support in the first round of the ballot by 152 members of the 1922 Committee, it was inevitable that my right hon. Friend should make room at the top so that someone else could emerge. She did the right thing, the inevitable thing, and she did it with grace, courage and dignity.
We now have the prospect of three of my right hon. Friends being candidates to follow my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. Each of them is well equipped to achieve the two priorities that my right hon. Friend mentioned in her statement of resignation. She spoke first of the need for unity in our party and secondly of the need to win the next election. Any of my three right hon. Friends whose names are now in contention could reunite our party quickly. I believe that they will review and improve the poll tax and get on top of inflation. I make this prediction too—they will put our party in a position to win the next election.
The primary reason for the motion of no confidence is that, deep down, the Leader of the Opposition——
§ Sir Eldon Griffiths
If the hon. Gentleman does not mind, I shall not give way, because I have given an undertaking to conclude shortly.
Deep down, the Leader of the Opposition knows in his bones that he is not going to win.
I should like to touch briefly on two matters that are high on the Government's agenda. The first is the Gulf. I have a stepson who is on HMS Cardiff in the Gulf. It is his third trip, and I am proud of him. I also represent the constituency from which much of the Tornado force and many of the American F111s left for Saudi Arabia. Obviously, therefore, I have an interest. I very much welcome the statement today by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence, but I should like to ask a couple of questions which require a response.
First, why, so far, has no British aircraft carrier been deployed in that area when we have citizens at risk and smaller vessels that require air cover? Although the United States fleet is well able to provide all that, I should like to know why the Royal Navy has not so far seen fit to deploy one of its aircraft carriers. I cannot think what else these ships are doing or where else in the world there is a more important place for one of them to be.
Secondly, it is important that our troops out there have better access to telephones so that they can speak to their dependants back home. The American army out there is strong—it numbers between 300,000 and 400,000 people—but the United States is providing free telephone calls, not only for the troops to call home, but for the dependants at home to telephone the troops in Saudi Arabia. We should do no less for our own service men.
Thirdly, it cannot be right that so many of our troops out there are worried about the community charge which continues to be levied on their dependent families back home. I am well aware of the six-month rule, but, because many of our troops hope not to be out there for as long as that, I hope that the Government will do more to remove the community charge that is levied on our service men, and will do so as a matter of morale.
The most important point about the Gulf is that we are now standing shoulder to shoulder with our American and other allies to achieve the result that the United Nations has demanded of Saddam Hussein. To those Opposition Members who have said today that we should not deploy those troops, I say that one clear lesson has emerged from the cold war. In Europe, we prepared for war in order to secure peace. That strategy has paid off. The Soviet Union has come to the conference table. We now have a new security situation in Europe and a new prospect of peace because of the strength of the alliance. Surely that strategy must also apply in the Gulf. It is the strength of the allied forces that have been sent there and their ability to wage war, if need be, on which we can pin most of our hopes for a peaceful settlement.
I turn in conclusion to the economy. I believe that across the world we are about to see an economic blizzard. We can see the signs developing in parts of the United States, with the failure of the President and Congress to achieve a settled budget, the inability of the United States to overcome the overhang of its deficits, and the downward turn in American investment and production. For the first time, the great economic machine in Japan is 491 also beginning to pause and perhaps to move backwards. There is great nervousness about the fall in real estate prices in Tokyo and the falls on the Tokyo stock exchange.
Germany, too, has the beginnings of economic problems. The right hon. Member for Chesterfield and one of my hon. Friends have referred to the problems in the German economy, which is overstretched by the need to refurbish, rewire and rebuild the economies of eastern Europe.
All these are signs that an economic blizzard could confront the entire world, including this country.
There has seldom been a time when we had greater need for effective and modern government at the centre of our affairs. It is the duty of our party, first and foremost and as rapidly as possible, to agree a new leader, to install a new and effective Cabinet, to set out policies and to proceed to manage our national affairs and our part in the emerging world order so that we can safeguard our people from the ultimate disaster, which would be the return of a Labour Government.
§ Mr. Giles Radice (Durham, North)
The circumstances that have led to the resignation of the Prime Minister have been rather like the unrolling of a Greek tragedy. Ever since that fateful Tuesday when the right hon. Lady went ape in the House on her return from Rome, events have led almost inexorably to her political demise. The resignation and then the powerful resignation statement to this House by the right hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East (Sir G. Howe); the astonishing result—very bad for the Conservatives—of the Bradford by-election—I pay tribute in passing to my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, North (Mr. Rooney) for his excellent maiden speech; then the official announcement by the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) that he would stand against the Prime Minister; then the evasive reply last weekend by the Foreign Secretary about whether he would stand in the second ballot; and then the result on Tuesday in which the Prime Minister failed to win a first ballot victory; and finally yesterday, the coup de grace, a palace coup by the majority of the Cabinet against the Prime Minister—this was the sequence of events. I knew something was up last night when I heard two members of the Cabinet, ostensibly the Prime Minister's loyalist supporters, openly discussing in the No Lobby how best to remove her—[HON. MEMBERS: "Name them."] I shall not. Surely this was a classic example ofwhere two or three are gathered together in my name".If I had not heard or seen this, I would not have believed it.
It has all been more extraordinary than any soap opera. The right hon. Lady was brought down for her refusal to consult her colleagues and because of the way in which she ran her Cabinet. She was brought down because of her views on Europe, and above all she was brought down because of her Government's unpopularity. The Tory party wanted to save its skin, so it ditched the Prime Minister. There is nothing so disloyal as the Tory party in a funk, as we have clearly seen today.
Whatever one feels about the Prime Minister, she is undoubtedly one of the biggest trees in the Westminster jungle. She is rumoured to have said that she is the only man in her Cabinet. I see her point. She has certainly 492 dominated and often ignored her colleagues over a great many years. We have the testimony of the right hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East on that point.
After the career of the right hon. Lady no one will ever be able to say again that a woman is not capable of holding the top job in politics. We all, whatever our views, owe her that debt. I hope to see another lady as Prime Minister, but a lady from the Opposition this time, and I hope that it will happen before my political career is over.
§ Mr. Radice
There may be a vacancy in the hon. Gentleman's party: there is none in ours.
Future historians will give the right hon. Lady credit for her personal success. I suspect, however, that they will be much less impressed by her achievements or by the enduring nature of her legacy. For all its political success in the 1980s, a success which owed as much to divisions among the Opposition as to the merits of the Thatcherite approach, the truth is that Thatcherism is a remarkably limited political approach.
Let us consider the record. On the economic front, it is true that North sea oil permitted a number of years of economic growth, but the massive current account deficit, the big trade imbalance in manufactured goods, high inflation, rising unemployment and the approach of recession all underline the fact that we have severe economic and industrial difficulties. What is more, after 11 years, the right hon. Lady and the Government do not begin to have convincing solutions to crucial problems for Britain's future, such as the weakness of our high-technology industries, our poor performance in civil research and development and, above all, our wholly inadequate system of education and training.
The Prime Minister's approach to welfare and public services is deeply flawed. It is one thing, and perfectly correct, to stress the need for value for money; it is quite another to argue, as the right hon. Lady consistently has, for reducing public spending whatever the circumstances, to attack welfare benefits as encouraging dependency and to support market solutions, opting out and privatisation as a matter of principle. The rundown of our health and education services, the cuts in welfare benefits and the deterioriation in our public services all demonstrate the paucity of social Thatcherism.
Perhaps the most glaring indictment of Thatcherite Conservatism is its failure to create one nation. Throughout her years in power, the right hon. Lady has shown little concern for bringing people together. In part, that is because of her temperament—she has little magnanimity in her make-up. To the Prime Minister, anyone who is not for her is against her. She barely recognises the right of the Opposition to oppose her, and she certainly does not recognise the right of anyone in her Cabinet or in Europe to a point of view different from her own.
It is not only a question of personal attributes, however. There is a more fundamental philosophical flaw in the Thatcherite approach. The competitive individualism that has been so characteristic of Thatcherism is so unbalanced that it hardly recognises one person's obligation to another, or the existence of society. So it is not surprising 493 that it has nothing to say to the unemployed or the sick, to the inner cities or the ethnic minorities, or to the whole northern part of the British Isles.
Thatcherism has proved wholly incapable of uniting the country, yet strangely it is Thatcherism which all the candidates in the second round propose to carry on. Even the right hon. Member for Henley, who has tried skilfully to distance himself from many aspects of the Tory record, assures us—as he did on Sunday in the "On the Record" programme—that he is building on Thatcherism and carrying it on into the next decade.
This country needs not the continuation of Thatcherism but its demise. That is why we need a new, Labour Government who, inspired by a more generous, humane and creative approach, will start to address the agenda of the 1990s.
§ Mr. Richard Alexander (Newark)
It is a privilege to take part in this historic debate. None of us who serve in Parliament, regardless of our party, will ever forget how we learned of today's announcement with shock. Tory Members learned of it with sadness because a distinguished parliamentarian has told us of her intention to give up her high office. It would be unfortunate, however, if we treated today's debate as though it were an obituary. Most hon. Members were in the House for my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's speech. They know that if she had not given up her intention to stay on she would probably have been successful in the next round. Even though my right hon. Friend has resigned, a great politician is still available to give great service to this country.
Some Opposition Members have given us a slanted view of history. Some have said that on Tuesday she was defeated by her own party, but those of us who saw the figures know that that is not so—she won the election by a handsome majority.
§ Mr. Alexander
I proudly voted for the Prime Minister. I am quite happy to answer oafish challenges by Opposition Members who are trying to upstage me by suggesting that I was disloyal.
I have referred to the Opposition's version of history. We heard a version of the history of the last 11 years in the speech of the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn), who presented a completely slanted view and then promptly left the House, leaving hon. Members to chew over his speech. There is another view of those 11 years, and that is why the motion should be rejected.
In the past 11 years Britain's economy has been transformed, as those of us who were adults in 1979 will appreciate. Even our strong critic in the CBI, the director-general, said recently that the 1970s was an era of relative economic decline and social disintegration and that we were entering the 1990s with the economy in incomparably better shape than at any time in our history.
Let us look at some of the Government's achievements. Almost 400,000 new businesses have been created and every week more new businesses are created than those which fail. There are fewer strikes than at any time in our history, and many fewer than in the halcyon days of the 494 Labour Government portrayed by some Opposition Members. There are more people in work than ever before and more investment by Japanese, American and German companies. They do not invest here because they can buy us up at knockdown prices. They cannot and are not doing that. They are investing not because of more Government handouts, such as those that were available under the Labour Government, but because over the past 11 years Britain has become wedded to free enterprise and now has sensible industrial relations. Britain has been transformed and people find it worth coming here, being part of Britain and investing in it.
When we start our new era, as we are bound to do, whichever leader of my party takes office, we shall have a firm look at the policy that has caused our constituents and the Opposition most distress—some aspects of the community charge. I voted for the community charge and I think that I would vote for it again because an element of personal responsibility for the services that one uses is important. The concept is right. However, over the past few months I have talked to constituents and have seen the results of the community charge. I have seen that for an older, perhaps retired couple with a small amount of capital and a small income, and for a young couple where the wife cannot go out to work because of the ages of the children, the charge is a burden. It is unfortunate that in their declining years people find that education is part of their community charge burden. I know that there is a down side to removing the cost of education from the community charge and transferring responsibility and direction from county hall to the Department of Education and Science, but it is the price that we shall have to pay if we are to make more sense, create more fairness and make the charge relate more to ability to pay.
The exaggerated comments of Opposition Members did not contribute much to our debate. The Leader of the Opposition said that my party was riddled with dissent. That is not so. We have disagreements about the speed of integration with Europe, but I cannot think of many major items of policy on which we are riddled with dissent. If that were so, we would have heard about it and we would be talking about it in the Lobby . We shall be united on the vote at the end of this debate.
The Opposition need a policy if they are to appear credible but they have not outlined one in the debate. We have heard whining and have been given a distorted view of history and nothing else. The motion is the Opposition's fox and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's announcement has been instrumental in shooting it. The motion is bogus and unwanted and I urge my hon. Friends to reject it.
§ Mr. Denis Howell (Birmingham, Small Heath)
My right hon. Friends the Members for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) and for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) made brilliant speeches and it is a privilege to speak in a debate in which they have participated. It was said of Charles I that nothing so became him in this life as the manner of his passing. If I am wrong on that, I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent will correct me. The same can certainly be said of the Prime Minister because she has also lost her head. Charles I lost his cause, 495 which was the destruction of Parliament. After the Prime Minister has gone, we may perhaps re-establish the democratic virtues of Parliament.
Whoever wins the Conservative contest should make a move to end the corruption of public life from which Britain has suffered for the past 10 years. The most corrupt question in that time was, "Is he one of us?" That question has got rid of people on sports councils, water authorities, countryside commissions, nature conservancy boards and health authorities. I hope that we shall see principle re-established and that people who have a contribution to make to the great institutions of the nation will be allowed to do so, even if we do not agree with their views. That is one of my great hopes.
I was appalled to hear the Prime Minister defending the Government's record on pensions, saying that everyone is better off and that she wanted the poor to be poorer. We should take a few minutes in this debate to discuss the morality and ethics of the Government. Any Government who take pleasure in impoverishing the worst off are a Government with no claim to decency or morality. I represent the centre of the city of Birmingham and I see acute poverty. After 10 years of Conservative government, my constituency has the highest infant mortality in Europe—23 deaths per 1,000 live births. That is a disgrace to us all, but especially to the Government who have presided over such a situation.
The official measurement of poverty is those on 100 per cent. of benefit levels. In the past 10 years, the number of people living at or below that level has increased by nearly 10 per cent.—from 22 to 30 per cent. Worst off of all are the pensioners. I am glad that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition mentioned a factor which I hope will become part of our general election campaign—that if we had signed the social contract and then observed it, every married pensioner couple would be £,13.50 per week better off and every single pensioner £10 per week better off. Breaking the link between earnings and pensions was a dastardly thing to do, as these figures show. Figures such as those must be given in this debate.
The poll tax is a great evil. It is a bureaucratic nightmare which costs an enormous amount to administer. Even if the poll tax itself decreases, that cost will remain. We all know that local authorities cannot get the software to administer the charge, and we know that collection charges have doubled. In Birmingham alone, the staff of 250 needed to collect the rates has increased to 550 for collecting the poll tax. Other aspects of the poll tax are equally nonsensical. People move, from Bradford to Birmingham or from Birmingham to other places, and we do not have the facilities to trace them and ensure that they meet their obligations. That it is both a lunatic and immoral tax is shown by the fact that pensioners, single parents and other poor people have to pay the same as those who are affluent.
Another example of the Government's attitude is their treatment of the health service. Birmingham is almost completely united against plans to reorganise hospital provision in the city. Yet the 10 out of 12 Birmingham Members of Parliament, the entire city council, the 250,000 or more who have signed the petition against the closing of some of our hospitals, particularly the general hospital, have all been ignored. When I spoke to the new Secretary of State yesterday to ask whether he intended to confirm plans to close the general hospitals as such a move would be disgraceful and result in some of his colleagues 496 losing their seats because the closure would be a major general election issue, he told me that he had either to approve it now or to postpone approval until after the general election. That is another example of corruption in Government. The case has not been decided on its merits.
In their attempts to rebuild the hospital on the Queen Elizabeth site, the Government have forgotten that the trustees for the site have given Birmingham city council the right of veto over any building on the site that would be left if the Queen Elizabeth hospital were knocked down. The leader of the council, Councillor Sir Richard Knowles, has authorised me to say that in no circumstances would a Labour council—nor, I trust, would a Conservative council—agree to any plans for buildings on that site. The Conservative party may not like it, but I predict that Birmingham Members will lose their seats on that issue.
There has been a downturn in the economy of the west midlands. I am fed up with hearing Ministers say that the Government will get inflation down because they have done it before. Who put it up? Who has presided over a high rate of inflation? Who put up gas, electricity and water charges? Who imposed the poll tax? Who is responsible for those policies, which have led to increased costs and inevitably to increased mortgage charges?
We are locked into a ridiculous situation which worries hon. Members representing midlands constituencies. We went into the ERM too late and, as the chamber of commerce and the Engineering Employers Federation have told me, at a rate which is far too high and will affect future orders. I will not bore the House, but I have all the statistics here about the future of export orders, about which we should all be concerned. They show a downturn in orders and deliveries, not just for the construction and manufacturing industries—we are used to that—but for a whole range of goods.
In terms of morality and practicality, the day the Government go to the next election, which will be not a day to soon, they will be replaced by a Government with higher standards of ethics and business practice. That is what the nation needs.
§ Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)
As a former Member for the great city of Bradford, I congratulate the newly elected Member for Bradford, North (Mr. Rooney) on an excellent maiden speech. He is honoured to serve in the House for the Bradford, North constituency, and I am sure that Conservative Members will have taken the lessons that are to be learned from his election. I am sure that the hon. Member will recall the outstanding public service of his predecessors—Geoffrey Lawler and Sir William Taylor from the Conservative party, and my friend Ben Ford from the Labour party. We all mourn the recent passing of Pat Wall.
The Leader of the Opposition said that there were no innocents on the Government Benches. No one on these Benches who has endured the political agony of these past days would wish ever to go through them again. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has demonstrated for years an example of courage, indomitable endurance and rigorous intellectual self-discipline which few of us could even emulate, let alone match. All of us and our constituents owe my right hon. Friend a debt of gratitude. She has entrusted us, her right hon. and hon. Friends, with the challenge of how best we can build on her 497 Government's manifold achievements of the 1980s. It will be a formidable task, but I believe that her party will be worthy of the torch which she has passed on.
To be worthy, we must not fight yesterday's battles or indulge in recriminations over the past. In recent years, the Government, with the support of the British people, have overcome the abuse of monopoly trade union power. I do not believe that any reasonable person would like to see the clock put back to closed shops and intimidatory mass picketing. Even the right to buy council houses is accepted now by the Labour party, albeit with some reluctance, perhaps, in some quarters. I suspect that most Opposition Members of the more pragmatic Labour party of today realise that the British people will not readily accept the reimposition of a clause 4 nationalisation programme. The Labour party's policy pronouncements, such as they are, seem to demonstrate that.
The Leader of the Opposition asked, "Who could ever trust the Tory party again?" If we could not adapt our policies to the issues which confront us now, we would not be worthy of public confidence. We all recognise in our hearts of hearts what they are—the despoiling of the environment, the continued and lamentable decay of our inner cities and the detested and often flouted system of local government finance, a political albatross if ever there was one. We all know to what I am referring—the dreaded poll tax.
There is a need to find a better and more efficient way of funding an increasingly centralised pattern of state education. Above all, there is the necessity to translate our vision of Europe, constructively and positively, into one which is understood and eventually shared by our Community partners. This will require give and take, effort and imagination and much political sensitivity on our part.
The process of making our continent more prosperous, secure and universally democratic and free is a many-faceted one. The breakdown of the inhumane, ideological and physical divisions of our continent has undoubtedly owed much to a strong western defence. I hope that we in the United Kingdom will imaginatively help to forge through the Western European Union a stronger European element in our Atlantic alliance as the arms control process and Gulf commitments will necessarily diminish the American military presence in Europe, upon which we have relied for so long.
We should not forget that the European Community has proved a powerful magnet for the democratising countries of central and eastern Europe, which badly need the prosperity which perhaps we have come to take for granted here and elsewhere in the EEC.
There are other aspects of European policy that are important. The Council of Europe is an invaluable bridge between east and west. I hope, now that Hungary has joined as a full member, the other countries of central and eastern Europe will follow suit, and that the successor to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will take the earliest opportunity to address the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe.
The European Community's economic and monetary union is an objective worth pursuing. If we wish the British means of securing it to carry conviction, however, we cannot always be the wet blanket, the little Johnnie 498 permanently out of step. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer understands this, as does my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. I hope that they will continue their good work in their present positions as avoiding isolation must surely be a prime objective of British diplomacy. Continuity of purpose too will be essential if the Government are to carry credibility in future. I urge the House to reject the motion.
§ Mr. Stuart Bell (Middlesbrough)
In the three minutes available to me, I wish to place on record a personal appreciation of the Prime Minister. At the height of the Cleveland child abuse crisis, the right hon. Lady agreed with the then Minister for Health that there should be a judicial inquiry. She was kind enough to raise with me the progress of that inquiry when she visited Middlesbrough in the autumn of 1987. She raised it again with me on another occasion when we met. Along with my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, the Prime Minister at all times took an interest in what was happening at the inquiry. She came to the House to support the then Minister for Health when he announced the findings of the inquiry. She was instrumental in ensuring that the Children Bill was part of the legislative programme for 1989, and that measure is now on the statute book.
We now have legislation that seeks to achieve the right balance between children under threat and families which may be involved in allegations. We have appropriate guidelines for doctors, social workers and police officers. We have multi-disciplinary proceedings and a more rapid family court procedure to ensure that the interests of children do not suffer as a result of legal proceedings. The Prime Minister's role should not go unsung and I place on record my appreciation, that of the parents who were caught up in the dispute and that of the children for her interest and role in these matters.
We should not, however, allow to enter into the political folklore the sentiment that the Prime Minister was the greatest peacetime Prime Minister this century. That role falls to Clement Attlee in the years from 1945 to 1951. The Prime Minister was never a "One Nation" Tory; she was a "Two Nations" Tory. She could never reconcile the variety of interests, pressures and demands of society.
In one of the asides for which she became famous—referred to by my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn)—she said in 1976, as Leader of the Opposition, that this country would be swamped by members of a foreign culture.
In 1979, the right hon. Lady discarded the policy that had guided all the western nations throughout the 1970s—that of trying to keep down inflation and unemployment—by making the attack on inflation the only attack. Consequently, unemployment rose beyond 2 million to 3 million. Although we got inflation down, the unemployed saw their prospects and those of their families sadly diminish. Inflation has not been defeated; it is returning, because the Prime Minister did not follow the advice of her Chancellor and her Foreign Secretary when they asked her to enter the exchange rate mechanism. History will not be kind to the Prime Minister; it will be more cruel than it looks now.
499 I commend the motion to the House. As was said by the Evening Standard—a Conservative paper—there should be an immediate election on the basis of the Government's policies and their politics.
§ 9 pm
§ Mr. Roy Hattersley (Birmingham, Sparkbrook)
I begin by offering my sincere congratulations to my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, North (Mr. Rooney), who made a maiden speech of amazing confidence, admirable lucidity and enviable certainty. When I briefly worked for him in Bradford a month ago, I knew that he was good, although I must confess that I did not realise that he was that good. It is the habit of Front-Bench spokesmen to tell maiden speakers how much the House looks forward to hearing them in the future. I not only look forward to hearing my hon. Friend many times, but have no doubt that we will hear from him many times—and, as far as I am concerned, the more often the better.
I have disagreed with most of what the Prime Minister has done since I shadowed her when she was Secretary of State for Education and Science nearly 20 years ago. Notwithstanding that—and notwithstanding her absence from the wind-up tonight—I gladly acknowledge her extraordinary achievement, that of leading her party to victory in three consecutive general elections. Nothing that happens now, and nothing that has happened today, can tarnish that record.
Nothing, moreover, can tarnish the other element in the Prime Minister's conduct, which we saw when she first led her party, and have seen again today. The Prime Minister remained in character to the last. Indeed, she was so much in character when she spoke this afternoon that many hon. Members on both sides of the House will be forced to ask themselves what went wrong. After 11 years of such unqualified success, unique popularity and achievement piled on achievement, why did her own party remove her from leadership?
One possible explanation is that some of her colleagues—perhaps some Cabinet members as well as some Back Benchers—began to examine the Prime Minister's statistics and check up on the claims that she makes about her record, her achievements and the years of unmitigated success.
Today she said that, during her 11 years, the tax bill had fallen. That is wrong: it has risen from 34 to 37 per cent. of national income. Today she said that everyone was better off than in 1979; that too is wrong. The least well-paid 10 per cent. of the population are, in real terms, 5.7 per cent. worse off than they were when she came to power. Today she said that, during her eleven and a half years, Britain had moved up the European growth league. That is wrong. We have moved down. In 1978, in the last year of a Labour Government, we stood second, with 3.7 per cent. annual growth; today after eleven and a half years of her Administration, we stand fourth with 0.9 per cent.
I could give other examples of how the right hon. Lady, during 11 years at the Dispatch Box, has been at best selective in her choice of figures, and at worst has simply given the House the wrong information. That is what happened today, and it is right that her valedictory address should contain all the flaws and blemishes that we have 500 come to expect—too much certainty, not enough fact and a reckless disregard for the evidence that everyone knows to be the truth.
The other characteristic that we saw again today, and which we constantly and regularly witnessed during the past 11 years, was the Prime Minister's propensity for blaming everybody except herself. I well remember that, when the economy was set back and turned back, the Prime Minister extraordinarily announced that it was the Chancellor who had made the errors of shadowing the deutschmark and of overestimating the disadvantages of the stock exchange collapse. The idea that the right hon. Lady had any part in that, that she had anything to do with it, that she had even known that it was happening, apparently never passed through her mind.
I do not complain tonight about the Prime Minister blaming everyone except herself, because I want to talk not about the Prime Minister, but about the Administration that she led and has now left. Tonight, we shall vote on a motion of no confidence in the Government as a whole. That motion carries with it our condemnation of those Back Benchers who have supported and sustained the Government for so long. I have absolutely no doubt that next week those same Back Benchers will be whispering that they never really supported the Prime Minister, that they never really agreed with her policies, and that they had never wanted her to stay for so long. The Prime Minister was popular with Members from marginal constituencies only for as long as they believed that she would help them to hold their seats.
This week, we have witnessed a mass evacuation from a sinking ship with, appropriately enough, the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie) the first over the side and swimming for the shore. It is enormously important that we put into perspective the reason why the 1922 Committee originally and, we are told, the Cabinet this morning turned against the Prime Minister. She has not been rejected because of the record balance of trade deficit or the astronomical interest rates. She has not been removed from office for the freezing of child benefit or the failing to link increases in pension to national earnings. She was not told to go because of the young unemployed sleeping in shop doorways, or the damage that the Government have done to the national health service. She was not even destroyed by the poll tax—which was reasonable, because every Conservative Member believes in it. Even the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) voted for a poll tax in Scotland.
One of the things to which I look forward during the next week or so is the right hon. Gentleman, in one of his numerous—some would say endless—television broadcasts, explaining exactly when he changed his mind and why. He will go down in history as the senior politician who changed his mind most often in one year. As he explains to his hon. Friends, as he will no doubt try to do, why there have been conceivable circumstances in which he would stand against the Prime Minister, he must also explain when the great conversion against the poll tax came about. My view is that it was at the time that the right hon. Gentleman decided that he had a real chance of a decent vote in the Conservative leadership stakes.
It is important to remember—and it is the object and the purpose of our no-confidence motion tonight—that Conservative Members still support the discredited policies on which the Prime Minister led them, and on which she would have had them fight the next general 501 election. Of course Conservative Members will vote against our motion tonight, but by doing so they will demonstrate their continued affection for the poll tax, their agreement to the freezing of child benefit, and their belief that pensions should not be increased in line with national earnings. They will be voting for the policies that produced the highest interest rates and the worst balance of payments figures in our history.
What the Conservative party really wants is a new leader who can save its skin without changing the discredited policies, but that cannot happen. The wrapping may be changed but the contents of the package will be the same garbage as before. Whether it is tied up with Finchley barbed wire or tarnished Henley tinsel, or for that matter with an old Etonian tie, nobody will believe that it has changed. With one possible exception, Europe, to which I shall turn in a moment, the old discredited policies will remain.
Only one thing about the Tory party has radically changed during the past 11 years. When I first entered the House 25 years ago, the Conservative party did its dirty work in private. Now it is bleeding to death in public. It has been mortally wounded in a civil war fought not over great principles but over personalities and a greed for power.
We have been told time after time during this debate, and by Tories who commented on this debate before it began, that Conservative Members will all be in the same Lobby at 10 o'clock tonight. I am sure that they will.
§ Mr. Skinner
They will be in the same Lobby tonight, because, unlike on Tuesday when it was a private vote and they stabbed the Prime Minister in the back, tonight there will be a recorded vote. That is why they will turn back to the Prime Minister tonight.
§ Mr. Hattersley
My hon. Friend—I do not begrudge him it—takes the words out of my mouth. Conservative Members will be slapping each other on the back tonight and stabbing each other in the back tomorrow. I think, on reflection, that that is a rather better formulation of my hon. Friend's point.
Of course, if Conservatives do so, there will be the usual heavy helping of mass hypocrisy. At 10.33 am precisely, on London Broadcasting Company's radio, the Prime Minister was mourned with this comment:
I am very sad to see such a distinguished career come to an end.Believe it or not, those were the words of the right hon. Member for Henley. The uninitiated listener would not know that he had been devoting his time and considerable fortune during the past four years to bringing that career to a dead stop at the first opportunity. Yet when it seemed expedient, the right hon. Member for Henley—I use the words again because it is difficult to imagine that he really said them, but I assure the House that he did—said :
I am very sad to see such a distinguished career come to an end.There is a man to trust. There is a man on whom the nation can rely. There is a man on whom I at least am not prepared to turn my back.
Many of the Prime Minister's supporters have been franker about their attitudes to her future. They have described her critics as "misanthropists and malcontents". They have described her opponents as "junk". They have 502 described her opponents and critics as "sickeningly disloyal". Today, the hon. Member for Maidstone (Miss Widdecombe) called the Tory party "Mad, quite mad." The Minister of State for Defence Procurement denounced the 150 people who turned out a Prime Minister elected by 3 million. The hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) was "disgusted" and "horrified" and spoke of "political suicide". That was just on one programme.
In this debate, the right hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow), the chairman of the 1922 Committee, said that the anger will be very slow to fade. The right hon. Member for—[HON. MEMBERS: "Cirencester and Tewkesbury."] The right hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley)——
§ Mr. Peter Bottomley (Eltham)
It is the joined-up writing of the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook, (Mr. Hattersley).
§ The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. John MacGregor)
Somebody else wrote his speech.
§ Mr. Hattersley
If the Leader of the House would like a souvenir of this occasion, he may have a page of my notes with the greatest of pleasure.
The right hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury spoke of "shameful betrayal", a backlash already being felt in the constituencies and wounds that will not wound easily. [HON. MEMBERS: "Heal". I can see that, between us, we are determined to make these words memorable.
A comment on that attitude was made by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury the day before yesterday:We won't deserve to win unless we have got ourselves together.That was before some of the comments on the Prime Minister's passing that I have just reported to the House. The Chief Secretary insists that the Tory party will not deserve to win until it gets itself together. He is right in every detail: it will not get its act together, it will not deserve to win and it will not win.
It will not win because it is bound together only by hope of office and dislike of the Labour party. Great political parties must have something in which they want to believe, rather than the hope of their members hanging on to individual seats. [Interruption.] I notice that the main derision of that point is coming from an hon. Gentleman who was elected as a Labour Member of Parliament.
§ Mr. Douglas
Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that he was one of 69 Labour Members who voted for Britain's entry into the Common Market? Does he recall the unity of the Labour party then?
§ Mr. Hattersley
My ex-hon. Friend reminds me that I was one of the Labour Members who broke the Whip on our entry into the European Community. I was going to confess to that in a moment, but I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has established that my record on Europe and my enthusiasm for Community membership goes back a long time.
Before dealing with that, I want to express, still in her absence, my regrets about the feelings that the Prime Minister must have had when she was sitting in the palace of Versailles on Monday night. No doubt she was thinking, "Apres moi le deluge," which when translated means, "One of my successors will almost certainly be a 503 wet." She must have known, as Conservative Members know, that the Administration that she bequeaths, and which will be inherited by I do not know whom, will be torn apart by personal animosities and one real issue, which, for reasons that I do not pretend to understand, has destroyed and damaged party after party—Britain's place in Europe.
The battle within the Tory party will be between two types of extremists—the little Englanders and those who have a fanatical enthusiasm for the drive towards European integration. In my view, that is an irrational and damaging enthusiasm that should be balanced against the practicalities of Britain's position in the Community. Meanwhile, the sensible, practical and moderate course will be followed by the Labour party.
§ Mr. Hattersley
I would not agree for a moment, although the figure of six times is clearly being issued by Conservative central office, as it has been quoted by weaker-minded Conservative Members in this debate.
I have held a view on Europe not simply since the treaty of Rome but going back to the treaty of Messina: I believe that Britain should be one of the foundation members of the Community. I have held those views consistently, and I hold them still. I offer my opinions on where the Labour party should be, and is, in my capacity as a European of unshakeable conviction and unshakeable certainty.
§ Mr. Hattersley
No, I am going to continue with my speech.
I make our position absolutely clear—not my position, but that of the Labour party: we shall neither slavishly support every European initiative, nor oppose every proposed improvement merely because it comes from the Community. We shall consider our future in Europe without the ideological blinkers which have prejudiced every reaction by the Government. We shall pursue those policies that are beneficial to Britain. That is bound to mean that we shall seek co-operation, rather than conflict, with our partners.
I shall give an example. It is absurd that we have stood out against the social charter and its action programme, with the enormous benefits that they offer to all employees, especially to working women. It is equally absurd—I want to meet this argument head on, as best I can—to suggest that the test for Europe is whether a party or an individual is in favour of an immediate single currency and an immediate central bank——
§ Mr. Hattersley
The hon. Gentleman has been on the losing side so often this week that I should have thought he would have shown a little humility.
§ Mr. Hattersley
I repeat that I have never wavered in my view that Britain's future ought to lie in the Community, and in co-operation with it. I also repeat that the idea that we should say yes to a single currency or to a central bank is preposterous. All those Conservative 504 Members who want an instant answer to that question had better not vote for the right hon. Member for Henley next Tuesday——
§ Mr. Hattersley
I hope, Mr. Speaker, that you will accept my assurance that I did not put the hon. Member up to that.
On television on Sunday, the right hon. Member for Henley said:The major issues—like the creation of a powerful Central European bank, like the issue of a single currency—are not on the agenda today—Very sensible. It is preposterous that the argument should centre around that. What it centres around is whether we work with our partners and the other countries in Europe in Britain's best interests, or if, to pursue a cricketing metaphor—perhaps the last of this era—every time we are not allowed to be captain, opening bowler and wicket keeper, we take our bat away. That is no way to treat the Community.
§ Mr. Hattersley
I want to repeat that, when we come to office—as we soon shall—we will take a pragmatic, practical and sensible view of the best interests of this country in Europe. I also want to make it clear that, when we come to office, we shall abolish the poll tax. We shall replace it with a property-based tax, which also takes account of a family's ability to pay.
On Tuesday, The Times supported the Prime Minister. It supported her yesterday, but was not quite so sure this morning—there was some doubt about who Mr. Murdoch will have to do business with in future, and therefore a little hedging of the bets, as deals were still on the table. The Times on Tuesday described the poll tax asthe single most stupid act of the present Government".It went on to say of the right hon. Member for Henley:His weakness—and it is a core weakness—is that he has shown neither intellectual rigour nor political courage in showing his colleagues a way out.The leader article continued:To its credit, the Labour party has done so".
§ Mr. Hattersley
No, I shall not give way again. I have six minutes left and I propose to take every one.
At least we know that the right hon. Member for Henley is sort of thinking about the poll tax.
§ Mr. Hattersley
He has written some half-thought-out ideas on the back of an envelope. We know that he is thinking of a possible review——
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Lady knows that, if the right hon. Gentleman does not give way, she must resume her seat.
§ Mr. Hattersley
We recorded and noted that the right hon. Member for Henley promised a review and a re-examination. He then promised to switch some local government expenditure to national Government, without thinking about whether it would increase the tax bill. 505 When I shadowed him at the Department of the Environment, his obsession was with switching national expenditure to local government. In the past month or two, he has changed his mind.
At least the right hon. Gentleman has given us half-thought-out ideas on where he stands on the crucial domestic political issue. I hope that, in the next four or five days, we shall hear where the other contenders for high office stand on the issue. What does the Foreign Secretary think about the poll tax? If he were here, I would offer to give way to him so that he could reveal to an anxious nation how he would alter it.
§ Mr. Hattersley
No. The hon. Lady is not Foreign Secretary and nor is she likely to be, so I shall not give way.
§ Mr. Hattersley
I chose the poll tax as one of my examples because it epitomises all that is wrong with the Government. It takes from the poor and gives to the rich. It divides the nation. Its collection costs make it inefficient as well as callous. It has come to symbolise all that was worst in the past 11 years, and it will go on to typify all that is bad in the dying months of the Government.
The same pattern appears time after time. In education, funds are diverted to and concentrated on the city technology colleges, the contracted-out schools and the independent schools, while the generality of education, on which most families rely, is neglected. The same applies to the health service. Tax concessions are given to elderly people who want to take up private medicine but in the general health service, on which most families rely, wards and hospitals are closed.
The same applies to policies affecting black and Asian Britons. We hear great protestations about the need to support the family and endorse family virtues, as long as those families are not black or Asian families who are divided and kept permanently apart.
The philosophy of the past 11 years has divided the country. It has been the philosophy of the weakest to the wall, the devil take the hindmost and every man for himself. The country has grown tired of that philosophy and contemptuous of the people who advocate it. That is why whoever leads the Tory party at the next election will lead it to defeat. What the nation wants now is not conflict but co-operation. What the British people want now is not confrontation but concessions. They want a kinder, gentler and more understanding Government. They want the nation to work together. That is one thing that the Prime Minister has never been able to propose because she is incapable of understanding it.
My final word is this. At the beginning of the policy document which the Labour party put to the nation six months ago, we talked about an Administration who crushed dissent, were intolerant of criticism, bribed newspapers and bullied broadcasters and by every criterion were exactly the elective dictatorship against which Lord Hailsham warned us before he became the right hon. Lady's Lord Chancellor and a member of such an elective dictatorship. Belatedly, a few members of the 506 Cabinet have realised the parliamentary tyranny for which the right hon. Lady was responsible. They have overturned her for that reason, and we shall overturn them for supporting her for so long.
§ The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. John MacGregor)
We reject this motion outright, not just because everyone on this side of the House has confidence in the policies which have produced the very many successes for this country of the past decade—and will go on doing so—but because we wish to underline, as did my right hon. and hon. Friends who have spoken today, and to record our gratitude to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister for her immense achievements during her outstanding 11 years of leadership.
During those 11 years, our economy has been transformed from being what was widely known as the sick man of Europe to one of substantial growth, prosperity, investment and underlying economic strength. It has been my right hon. Friend's unwavering consistency of approach and belief which has taken us away from the dark days of the late 1970s and away, too, from the constant emphasis on state intervention, subsidy and control, and has restored a spirit of intitiative, self-reliance and enterprise in this country.
As everyone recognises, my right hon. Friend has made a remarkable and powerfully positive contribution internationally, from the development of the European Community to the ending of the cold war and the rebirth of freedom and democracy in eastern Europe and elsewhere, and in many other ways. My right hon. Friend's world status and reputation are immediately obvious to anyone who travels beyond our shores. As we as colleagues have so often seen, in tackling all the many difficult issues which confront a Prime Minister on a day-to-day and even an hour-to-hour basis, my right hon. Friend has always shown courage, generosity, clear-sightedness and a great capacity to grasp and make decisions on the most complex issues, but above and through it all a clear vision of the way ahead for this country and its people, and of the values and principles that she most sought to advance.
§ Mr. MacGregor
I ask the hon. Gentleman to let me finish this passage, please.
This morning my noble and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor said of the Prime Minister:Your place in our country's history is already assured.There can be no doubt about that. Her place will be that of one of the great Prime Ministers. I should like to add that not only has she been a great Prime Minister but, as the House has seen again this afternoon, she is a great lady.
§ Mr. Healey
We are all impressed by the glowing encomium that the right hon. Gentleman is offering to the Prime Minister. If she really is such a paragon of political, moral and national virtue, why the hell has he ditched her?
§ Mr. MacGregor
I am coming to the right hon. Gentleman's point. I was only going to say that I wanted to return to the point that he made in his speech this afternoon, and I shall do so. We have invented for ourselves a complex electoral system which requires re-examination, at least for when we are in government. I do not wish to elaborate on that point now, but we must ask ourselves whether we are not setting the leader of our party a test in mid-term which is more severe than any Prime Minister should be subjected to. We need to address that point.
I know that the Prime Minister likes us to get down to business, so I will get down to the debate. However, I know that all Conservative Members—and, I suspect, many other Members—would want me to pay that tribute to my right hon. Friend and would support it wholeheartedly.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Bradford, North (Mr. Rooney) on making his maiden speech so soon. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) said, it is always a daunting experience, but the hon. Gentleman overcame it calmly. His speech was a little contentious and he will therefore understand why I cannot agree with much of it. He will also understand why I take issue with him on the city technology college, which I am sure will be an important contribution to raising educational standards in Bradford's inner-city area and will also prove extremely popular with parents.
I shall make just three comments on the opening speech of the Leader of the Opposition. He criticised the Government for not building and strengthening our economy—at a time when employment is at an all-time high, private sector investment has increased by 45 per cent. in the three years to 1989, capital investment is running at £30 billion this year and increasing next year and private sector investment on training amounts to more than £20 billion. The facts simply belie his criticism, but the right hon. Gentleman has never been interested in facts.
The right hon. Gentleman talked about the so-called fundamental conflicts in our party about Britain's position in Europe, but the real conflict is in his own party, where there is even a conflict as to whether Britain should be a member of the Community. The right hon. Gentleman had the gall to argue that we do not have the policies to enable us to receive benefit from the Community. I remind him that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister renegotiated the repayment of nearly £10 billion to this country to put right the results of the deals that the Labour Government had done. That repayment is an obvious example of benefit to this country.
The two most entertaining and listened-to Opposition speeches today were made by right hon. Gentlemen who, if they will forgive my saying so, are both over the age of 70. That speaks volumes for the future of the Labour party.
§ Mr. MacGregor
A good deal younger.
As a number of my right hon. and hon. Friends have already said, the conventional forces in Europe treaty signed on Monday and the CSCE final document signed by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister yesterday are 508 eloquent witness to the success of the Government's conduct of foreign affairs. The prospects for peace and for human rights in Europe are now better than at any time for generations. For the first time, through the CFE treaty, there will be a balance of forces in Europe, and massive numbers of Soviet tanks, planes and artillery will be scrapped. The countries of NATO have joined with the Soviet Union and eastern Europe to make it clear that we no longer regard each other as adversaries.
Anyone who reads the full text of the charter for a new Europe will find that it is not only an eloquent summary of the principles of a free and democratic society, but a notable acceptance of the benefits of free market economies and an outright rejection of socialist ones. That is a triumph, for this country and for our children, and the Government are proud to have played our part, under the courageous and clear-sighted leadership of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.
§ Ms. Hilary Armstrong (Durham, North-West)
If foreign affairs are so important, why is not the Foreign Secretary or neither of the two other people seeking to lead the Government present in the Chamber to defend that Government?
§ Mr. MacGregor
I assure the hon. Lady that we shall all be defending the Government in the Lobby later. It is interesting to note how the triumph came about, first, because in the 1980s we and others in the west maintained strong defences and the nuclear deterrent. The Soviet Union realised that military domination was impossible. Secondly, the spectacular success of free enterprise economies in the west acted as a beacon for the oppressed peoples of eastern Europe, and persuaded the Soviet Union that it could not compete economically, still less dominate, on the basis of centralised, totalitarian planning. Thirdly, as my right hon. Friend has made clear many times, that triumph was attained because of the courage and vision of President Gorbachev. Against the odds, the Soviet Union produced a leader to meet the moment. The country will remember, however, as do our friends and allies throughout the world, that it was our Government and our Prime Minister who first recognised that, in my right hon. Friend's memorable words, President Gorbachev was a man "with whom we can do business".
Fourthly, because of the united support of Governments and people in the west, in accordance with the Helsinki agreements, it was a triumph for all those in the Soviet Union and eastern European countries who stood up for basic human rights and freedoms long before it was safe, let alone acceptable, to do so.
We are today defending the record of the Government. We have stood consistently for strong defence, for the cause of freedom and for individual liberty. There is not a shred of justification for censure of the Government's record on defence and international affairs. The Labour party has welcomed the successful outcome of the CSCE summit. Even Opposition Members realised that they could do no other, but let us examine their record——
§ Mr. MacGregor
Let us examine the record of Labour Members on the policies that helped to make that possible. First, they consistently opposed our staunch and resolute stand on nuclear weapons. They were wrong. The response 509 of the Leader of the Opposition to the question from my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, East (Mr. Sayeed) about the right hon. Gentleman's membership of CND had the merit of being short, but it showed how wrong he has been throughout on that matter.
§ Sir Jim Spicer
Might it be possible at some point to place on record the names of those who spoke at the CND rally in Trafalgar square in October 1983, calling for no deployment of Polaris weapons and saying that if Polaris came it would be the end of peace?
§ Mr. MacGregor
My hon. Friend is right. It is worth recalling that it was, in part, our determination to have cruise and Pershing missiles which enabled us to get to the point of the treaty this week.
§ Mr. MacGregor
I will not give way again. The hon. Member for Sparkbrook gave way about as many times as I have.
In their hearts, Opposition Members dislike, distrust and sometimes despise the free enterprise economy for which my hon. Friends and I stand. In that, too, they have been wrong. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I think that the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) is indicating that he cannot hear what the Minister is saying. That is largely because there is so much chatter going on. I appeal to the House to listen in silence.
§ Mr. MacGregor
Consider the criticisms of Opposition Members of our privatisation policies in that respect. The leaders of the emerging free market economies in eastern Europe think differently. Above all, privatisation is seen throughout the world as the symbol of the successful economic policy that the British Government have pursued. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, we know the judgment of the rest of the world on our record.
Next—I believe this to be the most important point in that context—in the words of the Opposition defence spokesman, the Opposition condemned my right hon. Friend's proposals for a continuing NATO out-of-area role as "post-imperialist fantasy". That was just six weeks before Saddam Hussein invaded the Gulf. They were wrong again—blindly and dangerously wrong.
§ Ms. Short
We understand that the Prime Minister's strengths are also her weaknesses. Her arrogance and strength are part and parcel of her problem. In this period of history, when we are talking about the Soviet Union and eastern Europe, it is tasteless for the Prime Minister to claim this historic change or for the right hon. Gentleman to claim it for her. Stalin created an indefensible system which had to crumble. It is not her work but history working through Europe and Mr. Gorbachev. It is no creation of the Prime Minister.
§ Mr. MacGregor
The hon. Lady is a bad reader of history. She should understand that it was because of the strength of our defences that we reached the position of dialogue. It was because of the discussions with President Gorbachev that my right hon. Friend and many others were able to establish a dialogue, which saw the changes taking place in the Soviet Union and elsewhere. The insistence that we placed on human rights and freedoms, and on the principles and benefits of a free economy, led to the charter for a new Europe being signed this week. History will show that it is the policies that we have pursued consistently as a Government which have brought about this week's notable achievement.
Much has been said about social policies. I should like to say a word about that issue now because there has not yet been an opportunity to respond to those points. The first and most important point is that the economic success and, yes, the economic growth which the Government's policies have made possible have provided a sound basis for the social policies that we have pursued. The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook talked about economic growth and economic growth leagues. As he knows, he was selective in choosing one year and comparing it with just one other——
§ Mr. Hattersley
On the contrary, I took the period that the Prime Minister took and simply corrected her figures.
§ Mr. MacGregor
The right hon. Gentleman took two years, but we should take a period as a whole. Taking a five-year period, in real terms the economic growth under the last Labour Government was about 10 per cent., whereas in the past five years of this Government economic growth has been running at over 20 per cent. That is a clear illustration that economic growth is much better now than in the second half of the 1970s. That economic success has made possible the social policies that we have pursued. I ask the House to look at the emphasis that we have consistently placed when determining our priorities for public spending on protecting the most vulnerable groups in our society.
Next year, £32 billion will be spent on the national health service—50 per cent. more in real terms than the Labour Government spent in their last year in office. Let us also consider our policies on social security, which is the front line in protecting those least able to care for themselves without help. Again, the ability to help effectively comes only from a strong economy. From next year, we shall be spending £63 billion per year on social security—41 per cent. more in real terms than when Labour left office. Those are big numbers, and they represent an even bigger achievement. Furthermore, support for people in residential care and nursing homes has trebled per head in real terms since 1979, from £20 million in 1979 to £1.1 billion in 1989–90.
We have also protected pensioners, not only by increasing the old age pension, but by extending freedom of choice to pensioners. Personal pensions give people power to save for retirement in whichever way suits them best. More than 4 million people have taken out personal pensions in the past two years. Our economic policies have enabled pensioners' incomes from savings to more than double. Under Labour, the value of their savings fell.
One of the most important points to note is that spending on benefits for long-term sick and disabled people has doubled in real terms since 1979. We are 511 introducing new benefits and making improvements in existing benefits specifically to help disabled people further. Yesterday the House gave a Second Reading to the Disability Living Allowance and Disability Working Allowance Bill. Those new allowances will help to provide help for more than 300,000 people at a cost of £325 million by 1993–94.
Our record on social policies and on caring is second to none. It has been achieved by successful economic policies. That is why, on every front, it is right to say that we should be regarded more favourably than the Labour party when it was in power.
§ Mr. MacGregor
No, I have said that I shall riot give way again.
The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook also referred to Europe. No one who looks at the facts can be in any doubt that the Conservative party is the party that is united on Europe—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. MacGregor
I have no doubt about that whatsoever. The vast majority of Conservative Members have always been wholeheartedly committed to our full participation in the European Community. We have long recognised, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said in her Guildhall speech, that our destiny lies in Europe. The Labour party continues to duck a straight question: how many Opposition Members would unite behind the new pro-European facade erected by the Leader of the Opposition?
Let us examine the record. The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook fairly said that he has always been strongly in favour of Britain's membership of the Community——as I have been from my earliest days in politics. I grant the right hon. Gentleman that, but he knows the difficulties that he has always faced in the Labour party. The Labour party has changed its mind no fewer than six times in the past 30 years—six times in the political lifetime of the right hon. Gentleman. The Labour party supported membership of the Community in 1962 and opposed it in 1964. It was for membership again in 1966, and against it in 1971, for membership in 1975, and against it in 1983. Now, to judge from the facade, it is for membership again in 1990. With that track record the Labour party is likely to be against Europe in time for 1992, for it in 1994, against it in 1999 and for it again in 2003 when the Labour party will celebrate 20 years in opposition.
In debates on the European Community the Opposition have never wanted to go into detail about their policies because there are grave divisions not only of principle but also of detail within the party.
§ Mr. Richard Tracey (Surbiton)
My right hon. Friend and I have challenged the Leader of the Opposition several times over the speech that he made three years ago when he said that the single market would be an abdication of responsibility and an apology for action. We have not yet received an answer. Will my right hon. Friend challenge him again?
§ Mr. MacGregor
I made exactly the same point in my speech on the Queen's Speech, but we have still not had an answer from the right hon. Gentleman. That is because he does not understand that it has been this Government and 512 this party who have led the way in the European Community on the single market and his party which has opposed what we have been doing, just as his party supports the social charter which will do so much harm to jobs and our economic strength while it is we who have drawn attention to its deficiencies.
The Labour party has made it clear that it believes in the European monetary system, although it says:We believe that the European Monetary System, as at present constituted, suffers from too great an emphasis on deflationary measures as a means of achieving monetary targets and that it imposes obligations which are not symmetrical.So much for the Opposition's claim to support sensible fiscal and monetary policies. They would support entry to the ERM on the very basis which would destroy the benefits that we shall gain from it.
In a previous no-confidence debate, the speech by the proposer of the motion contained the following passage:The Government have doubled prices, doubled dole queues, doubled debt, diminished our defences and undermined public respect and confidence in the law. There has been a failure not only of policies but of the whole philosophy on which they are based—the philosophy which elevates the State, dwarfs the individual and enlarges the bureaucracy. Across the Western world the tide is turning against that, and soon the same thing will happen here."— [Official Report, 28 March 1979; Vol. 965, c. 740.]The speaker was my right hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher). It was that speech which led to the end of those policies and that catalogue of disasters. There will be a wholly different outcome to tonight's debate, for we are determined never to see those Labour policies foisted on our nation again.
It is this Government who have secured sustained economic growth in the 1980s greater in sum than that of nearly all other major European countries. It is this Government who have enabled net income for the average family to rise by two-thirds after inflation, compared with a real fall of nearly a fifth in the five years before we took office. It is this Government who have revived private enterprise and respect for success and profits, through privatisation and our fiscal, economic and industrial policies—in contrast to the emphasis on interference, re-nationalisation and new state controls peddled by the Labour party.
It is this Government who have restored international confidence in our economy, so that emergency recourse to the International Monetary Fund is now only a sad and unlamented memory. The right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) did not have a distinguished career as Chancellor or as a Treasury Minister. By making an entertaining speech today he managed to indulge in a shameless piece of bluff about that episode in response to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, East. The right hon. Gentleman compared the £2.5 billion that he had to borrow from the International Monetary Fund with the £19 billion that he said we borrowed on capital markets about a year ago. He forgot to mention that the PSBR had to be financed at that time, thus causing him to go for additional borrowing from the IMF. That borrowing caused the collapse and the savage reductions in expenditure to enable him to repay the IMF money and caused great damage to our economy.
§ Mr. Healey
The House will recall that the right hon. Gentleman said that before he finished his winding-up speech he would tell us why he and his colleagues have ditched the Prime Minister. He has only five minutes to go. 513 Before he is completely drowned in the entrails of his word processor, perhaps he will deal with the question that he promised to answer.
§ Mr. MacGregor
I told the right hon. Gentleman that I would respond to a point that he made. I shall continue with the interesting issue of the state into which the right hon. Gentleman got our economy. Taking account of the growth in GDP, the public sector borrowing requirement in that year was equivalent as a proportion of GDP to about £50 billion today. The Government have pursued good financial and spending policies, thus enabling national debt to be repaid rather than being massively increased as it was during the right hon. Gentleman's time in office.
Through the creation of extra wealth, the Government have enabled spending on the priority areas to increase substantially after inflation. Spending on health has increased by nearly 50 per cent. and on schools by more than 40 per cent. per pupil. We have doubled spending on the disabled and on law and order, including the police and dealing with crime, and it is this Government who have seen the total income of pensioners increase by 31 per cent. in real terms since 1979. We have spread ownership on a substantially wider scale than ever before. More than 1.5 million council tenants have been enabled to buy their own homes, increasing home ownership——
§ Mr. MacGregor
I am making it clear why it is right to reject the motion. The Government have increased home ownership by a quarter, so that over two thirds of homes in Great Britain are now owner-occupied. We have more than trebled the number of shareholders since 1979 and have revolutionised the extent to which so many of our citizens now have substantial personal or occupational pensions.
The Government have seen the creation of 400,000 new businesses and many more people in self-employment. We have done all of that in the face, usually, of outright hostility from the Opposition. We have extended personal choice and have given power back to the people in the choice and variety of schools, medical treatment and income tax, so that people can choose to spend what they have earned rather than have the state spend it for them. All of that is in contrast with the Labour party's usually total opposition to such measures or, in some cases, half-baked skin-deep conversion to them. We have created the conditions for employment to be at an all-time high—3.75 million new jobs since 1983—and we have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the European Community. We have introduced the toughest controls on industrial pollution anywhere in Europe, and have put in place the biggest ever investment programme in water quality. We are keeping our defences strong, and that has helped to bring about the collapse of communism.—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why has she gone?"] It is this Government who have so changed the map of political ideas and attitudes in this country that the Labour party has had to 514 abandon practically all of its previous baggage—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] This is a party united on all these great issues and policies, as the Opposition are not—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"]
§ Mr. Derek Foster (Bishop Auckland)
rose in his place, and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.
§ Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.
§ Question put accordingly:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 247, Noes 367.518
|Division No. 9]||[10 pm|
|Abbott, Ms Diane||Dobson, Frank|
|Allen, Graham||Doran, Frank|
|Anderson, Donald||Douglas, Dick|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Duffy, A. E. P.|
|Armstrong, Hilary||Dunnachie, Jimmy|
|Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy||Eadie, Alexander|
|Ashley, Rt Hon Jack||Eastham, Ken|
|Ashton, Joe||Evans, John (St Helens N)|
|Banks, Tony (Newham NW)||Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E)|
|Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)||Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)|
|Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich)||Fatchett, Derek|
|Barron, Kevin||Field, Frank (Birkenhead)|
|Battle, John||Fisher, Mark|
|Beckett, Margaret||Flannery, Martin|
|Beith, A. J.||Flynn, Paul|
|Bell, Stuart||Foot, Rt Hon Michael|
|Bellotti, David||Foster, Derek|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||Foulkes, George|
|Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)||Fraser, John|
|Benton, Joseph||Fyfe, Maria|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Galbraith, Sam|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Galloway, George|
|Blair, Tony||Garrett, John (Norwich South)|
|Blunkett, David||Garrett, Ted (Wallsend)|
|Boateng, Paul||George, Bruce|
|Boyes, Roland||Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John|
|Bradley, Keith||Godman, Dr Norman A.|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Gordon, Mildred|
|Brown, Gordon (D'mline E)||Gould, Bryan|
|Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)||Graham, Thomas|
|Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)||Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)|
|Buckley, George J.||Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)|
|Caborn, Richard||Grocott, Bruce|
|Callaghan, Jim||Hardy, Peter|
|Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)||Harman, Ms Harriet|
|Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)||Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy|
|Campbell-Savours, D. N.||Heal, Mrs Sylvia|
|Canavan, Dennis||Healey, Rt Hon Denis|
|Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)||Henderson, Doug|
|Cartwright, John||Hinchliffe, David|
|Clark, Dr David (S Shields)||Hoey, Ms Kate (Vauxhall)|
|Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)||Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)|
|Clay, Bob||Home Robertson, John|
|Clelland, David||Hood, Jimmy|
|Clwyd, Mrs Ann||Howarth, George (Knowsley N)|
|Cohen, Harry||Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)|
|Coleman, Donald||Howells, Geraint|
|Cook, Robin (Livingston)||Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)|
|Corbett, Robin||Hoyle, Doug|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||Hughes, John (Coventry NE)|
|Cousins, Jim||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)|
|Cox, Tom||Hughes, Roy (Newport E)|
|Crowther, Stan||Hughes, Simon (Southwark)|
|Cryer, Bob||Hume, John|
|Cummings, John||Illsley, Eric|
|Cunliffe, Lawrence||Ingram, Adam|
|Cunningham, Dr John||Janner, Greville|
|Dalyell, Tam||Johnston, Sir Russell|
|Darling, Alistair||Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)|
|Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)||Jones, Ieuan (Ynys Môn)|
|Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)||Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)|
|Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'I)||Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald|
|Dewar, Donald||Kennedy, Charles|
|Dixon, Don||Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil|
|Kirkwood, Archy||Quin, Ms Joyce|
|Lambie, David||Radice, Giles|
|Lamond, James||Randall, Stuart|
|Leadbitter, Ted||Redmond, Martin|
|Leighton, Ron||Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn|
|Lestor, Joan (Eccles)||Reid, Dr John|
|Lewis, Terry||Richardson, Jo|
|Litherland, Robert||Robertson, George|
|Livingstone, Ken||Robinson, Geoffrey|
|Livsey, Richard||Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)|
|Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)||Rogers, Allan|
|Lofthouse, Geoffrey||Rooker, Jeff|
|Loyden, Eddie||Rooney, Terence|
|McAllion, John||Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)|
|McAvoy, Thomas||Rowlands, Ted|
|McCartney, Ian||Ruddock, Joan|
|Macdonald, Calum A.||Salmond, Alex|
|McFall, John||Sedgemore, Brian|
|McGrady, Eddie||Sheerman, Barry|
|McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)||Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert|
|McKelvey, William||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|McLeish, Henry||Short, Clare|
|Maclennan, Robert||Sillars, Jim|
|McNamara, Kevin||Skinner, Dennis|
|McWilliam, John||Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)|
|Madden, Max||Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)|
|Mahon, Mrs Alice||Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)|
|Mallon, Seamus||Smith, J. P. (Vale of Glam)|
|Marek, Dr John||Snape, Peter|
|Marshall, David (Shettleston)||Soley, Clive|
|Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)||Spearing, Nigel|
|Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)||Steel, Rt Hon Sir David|
|Martlew, Eric||Steinberg, Gerry|
|Maxton, John||Stott, Roger|
|Meacher, Michael||Strang, Gavin|
|Meale, Alan||Straw, Jack|
|Michael, Alun||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)|
|Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)||Taylor, Matthew (Truro)|
|Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)||Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)|
|Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)||Turner, Dennis|
|Moonie, Dr Lewis||Vaz, Keith|
|Morgan, Rhodri||Wallace, James|
|Morley, Elliot||Walley, Joan|
|Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)||Wardell, Gareth (Gower)|
|Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)||Wareing, Robert N.|
|Mowlam, Marjorie||Watson, Mike (Glasgow, C)|
|Mullin, Chris||Welsh, Andrew (Angus E)|
|Murphy, Paul||Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)|
|Nellist, Dave||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon||Williams, Rt Hon Alan|
|O'Brien, William||Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)|
|O'Hara, Edward||Wilson, Brian|
|O'Neill, Martin||Winnick, David|
|Orme, Rt Hon Stanley||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Paisley, Rev Ian||Worthington, Tony|
|Parry, Robert||Wray, Jimmy|
|Patchett, Terry||Young, David (Bolton SE)|
|Pike, Peter L.||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Powell, Ray (Ogmore)||Mr. Frank Haynes and|
|Prescott, John||Mrs. Llin Golding.|
|Adley, Robert||Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Baldry, Tony|
|Alexander, Richard||Banks, Robert (Harrogate)|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael||Batiste, Spencer|
|Allason, Rupert||Beaumont-Dark, Anthony|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Bellingham, Henry|
|Amess, David||Bendall, Vivian|
|Amos, Alan||Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)|
|Arbuthnot, James||Benyon, W.|
|Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)||Bevan, David Gilroy|
|Arnold, Sir Thomas||Biffen, Rt Hon John|
|Ashby, David||Blackburn, Dr John G.|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter|
|Atkins, Robert||Body, Sir Richard|
|Atkinson, David||Bonsor, Sir Nicholas|
|Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)||Boscawen, Hon Robert|
|Boswell, Tim||Fry, Peter|
|Bottomley, Peter||Gale, Roger|
|Bottomley, Mrs Virginia||Gardiner, George|
|Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n)||Garel-Jones, Tristan|
|Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)||Gill, Christopher|
|Bowis, John||Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian|
|Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes||Glyn, Dr Sir Alan|
|Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard||Goodhart, Sir Philip|
|Brandon-Bravo, Martin||Goodlad, Alastair|
|Brazier, Julian||Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles|
|Bright, Graham||Gorman, Mrs Teresa|
|Brooke, Rt Hon Peter||Gorst, John|
|Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)||Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)|
|Browne, John (Winchester)||Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)|
|Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)||Greenway, John (Ryedale)|
|Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick||Gregory, Conal|
|Buck, Sir Antony||Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E')|
|Budgen, Nicholas||Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)|
|Burns, Simon||Grist, Ian|
|Burt, Alistair||Ground, Patrick|
|Butcher, John||Grylls, Michael|
|Butler, Chris||Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn|
|Butterfill, John||Hague, William|
|Carlisle, John, (Luton N)||Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)|
|Carrington, Matthew||Hampson, Dr Keith|
|Carttiss, Michael||Hanley, Jeremy|
|Cash, William||Hannam, John|
|Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda||Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')|
|Channon, Rt Hon Paul||Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)|
|Chapman, Sydney||Harris, David|
|Chope, Christopher||Haselhurst, Alan|
|Churchill, Mr||Hawkins, Christopher|
|Clark, Hon Alan (Plym'th S'n)||Hayes, Jerry|
|Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)||Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney|
|Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)||Hayward, Robert|
|Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)||Heath, Rt Hon Edward|
|Colvin, Michael||Heathcoat-Amory, David|
|Conway, Derek||Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael|
|Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)||Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)|
|Coombs, Simon (Swindon)||Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)|
|Cope, Rt Hon John||Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.|
|Cormack, Patrick||Hill, James|
|Couchman, James||Hind, Kenneth|
|Cran, James||Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)|
|Critchley, Julian||Holt, Richard|
|Currie, Mrs Edwina||Hordern, Sir Peter|
|Curry, David||Howard, Rt Hon Michael|
|Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)||Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)|
|Davis, David (Boothferry)||Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)|
|Day, Stephen||Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey|
|Devlin, Tim||Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)|
|Dickens, Geoffrey||Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)|
|Dicks, Terry||Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)|
|Dorrell, Stephen||Hunt, David (Wirral W)|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)|
|Dover, Den||Hunter, Andrew|
|Dunn, Bob||Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas|
|Durant, Tony||Irvine, Michael|
|Dykes, Hugh||Irving, Sir Charles|
|Eggar, Tim||Jack, Michael|
|Emery, Sir Peter||Jackson, Robert|
|Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)||Janman, Tim|
|Evennett, David||Jessel, Toby|
|Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas||Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey|
|Fallon, Michael||Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)|
|Favell, Tony||Jones, Robert B (Herts W)|
|Fenner, Dame Peggy||Jopling, Rt Hon Michael|
|Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)||Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine|
|Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey||Key, Robert|
|Fishburn, John Dudley||Kilfedder, James|
|Fookes, Dame Janet||King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)|
|Forman, Nigel||King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)|
|Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)||Kirkhope, Timothy|
|Forth, Eric||Knapman, Roger|
|Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman||Knight, Greg (Derby North)|
|Fox, Sir Marcus||Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)|
|Franks, Cecil||Knowles, Michael|
|Freeman, Roger||Knox, David|
|French, Douglas||Lamont, Rt Hon Norman|
|Lang, Ian||Moore, Rt Hon John|
|Latham, Michael||Morris, M (N'hampton S)|
|Lawrence, Ivan||Morrison, Sir Charles|
|Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel||Morrison, Rt Hon P (Chester)|
|Lee, John (Pendle)||Moss, Malcolm|
|Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)||Mudd, David|
|Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark||Neale, Gerrard|
|Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)||Needham, Richard|
|Lilley, Peter||Nelson, Anthony|
|Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)||Neubert, Michael|
|Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)||Newton, Rt Hon Tony|
|Lord, Michael||Nicholls, Patrick|
|Luce, Rt Hon Richard||Nicholson, David (Taunton)|
|Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas||Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)|
|McCrindle, Sir Robert||Norris, Steve|
|Macfarlane, Sir Neil||Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley|
|MacGregor, Rt Hon John||Oppenheim, Phillip|
|MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)||Page, Richard|
|Maclean, David||Paice, James|
|McLoughlin, Patrick||Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil|
|McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick||Patnick, Irvine|
|Madel, David||Patten, Rt Hon Chris (Bath)|
|Major, Rt Hon John||Patten, Rt Hon John|
|Malins, Humfrey||Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey|
|Mans, Keith||Pawsey, James|
|Maples, John||Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth|
|Marland, Paul||Porter, Barry (Wirral S)|
|Marlow, Tony||Porter, David (Waveney)|
|Marshall, John (Hendon S)||Portillo, Michael|
|Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)||Powell, William (Corby)|
|Martin, David (Portsmouth S)||Price, Sir David|
|Mates, Michael||Raffan, Keith|
|Maude, Hon Francis||Raison, Rt Hon Timothy|
|Mawhinney, Dr Brian||Rathbone, Tim|
|Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin||Redwood, John|
|Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick||Renton, Rt Hon Tim|
|Mellor, David||Rhodes James, Robert|
|Meyer, Sir Anthony||Riddick, Graham|
|Miller, Sir Hal||Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas|
|Mills, Iain||Ridsdale, Sir Julian|
|Miscampbell, Norman||Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm|
|Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)||Roberts, Sir Wyn (Conwy)|
|Mitchell, Sir David||Roe, Mrs Marion|
|Moate, Roger||Rossi, Sir Hugh|
|Monro, Sir Hector||Rost, Peter|
|Montgomery, Sir Fergus||Rowe, Andrew|
|Rumbold, Mrs Angela||Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)|
|Ryder, Richard||Thorne, Neil|
|Sackville, Hon Tom||Thornton, Malcolm|
|Sainsbury, Hon Tim||Thurnham, Peter|
|Sayeed, Jonathan||Townend, John (Bridlington)|
|Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas||Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)|
|Shaw, David (Dover)||Tracey, Richard|
|Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)||Tredinnick, David|
|Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')||Trippier, David|
|Shelton, Sir William||Trotter, Neville|
|Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)||Vaughan, Sir Gerard|
|Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)||Viggers, Peter|
|Shersby, Michael||Waddington, Rt Hon David|
|Sims, Roger||Wakeham, Rt Hon John|
|Skeet, Sir Trevor||Waldegrave, Rt Hon William|
|Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)||Walden, George|
|Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)||Walker, Bill (T'side North)|
|Soames, Hon Nicholas||Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)|
|Speed, Keith||Waller, Gary|
|Speller, Tony||Walters, Sir Dennis|
|Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)||Ward, John|
|Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)||Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)|
|Squire, Robin||Warren, Kenneth|
|Stanbrook, Ivor||Watts, John|
|Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John||Wells, Bowen|
|Steen, Anthony||Wheeler, Sir John|
|Stern, Michael||Whitney, Ray|
|Stevens, Lewis||Widdecombe, Ann|
|Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)||Wilkinson, John|
|Stewart, Rt Hon Ian (Herts N)||Wilshire, David|
|Stokes, Sir John||Winterton, Mrs Ann|
|Stradling Thomas, Sir John||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Sumberg, David||Wolfson, Mark|
|Summerson, Hugo||Wood, Timothy|
|Tapsell, Sir Peter||Woodcock, Dr. Mike|
|Taylor, Ian (Esher)||Yeo, Tim|
|Taylor, John M (Solihull)||Younger, Rt Hon George|
|Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)|
|Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Temple-Morris, Peter||Sir George Young and|
|Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret||Mr. David Lightbown.|
|Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)|
§ Questions accordingly negatived