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Prime Minister (Engagements)

Volume 975: debated on Tuesday 11 December 1979

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asked the Prime Minister what are her official engagements for 11 December.

Will the Prime Minister find time today to tell us whether she had any thing to do with the fact that the Home Secretary chickened out of the opening of the British Youth Council's exhibition on racial harmony? Is not the Prime Minister ashamed of her statement that this country is being swamped by immigrants, or is she still proud to be the head of a Government who practise racial and sexual discrimination?

The Home Secretary never chickens out of anything, as the hon. Gentleman knows full well. That was a very cheap observation. This Government fought an election on our immigration policy and we shall implement it.

Can my right hon. Friend find time today to explain why it was possible to freeze Rhodesian assets for 14 years, but today apparently it is not possible to freeze Iranian assets in this country?

My hon. Friend should put that question to the Attorney-General. In general, I can tell him that we can put a blockage on assets when there is likely to be a haemorrhage of those assets out of this country, and therefore sterling itself is in danger.

When the Prime Minister consults her colleagues, will she take the opportunity to clarify the Government's attitude to the Bill of Rights which was introduced by Liberals in another place and which has passed all its stages in that place? Has she noticed that Lord Denning has added his voice to those who want to see that Bill enacted?

There are many hon. Members who would wish to have a Bill of Rights. The question is whether one could ever entrench such a Bill in our constitution. It is doubtful whether, having the doctrine of parliamentary supremacy, we could ever entrench a Bill of Rights in this country. In theory it is possible to entrench it by a referendum, but I do not believe that under our con- stitution we could be certain that it would stay there.

May I ask the Prime Minister about the departure today of Lord Soames, which I think goes beyond even the responsibility of the Lord Privy Seal as the departmental Minister? Is it the case that no assurance has yet been received from the parties concerned that they will place themselves under the control of Lord Soames? If that is so—and I understand that that is the case—what instruction has been given to Lord Soames by the Prime Minister or the Secretary of State, as the country which he will be responsible for governing is at civil war, in the event of an outbreak of hostilities between the two contending factions?

Lord Soames is leaving a little later this afternoon for Rhodesia. The Salisbury Administration have agreed to accept the executive and legislative authority of the Governor. The Patriotic Front has been informed that Lord Soames is going but it has not yet accepted his authority. It is hoped that it will do so within a few days. A document on the details of implementing the ceasefire was laid before those concerned at Lancaster House at 2 o'clock this afternoon. Beyond that, no specific instructions have been given to Lord Soames, other than to restore the country to legality, prepare to implement the ceasefire agreement and to prepare for the election.

Is the Prime Minister aware that we have serious reservations about the decision to send Lord Soames today? We can see the advantage of having the Governor in place as soon as there is a ceasefire so that he can begin to implement the agreement, but surely the Prime Minister is placing him in a position of exceptional difficulty, when only one of the two parties has accepted the ceasefire, if there is an outbreak of hostilities. I understand that he needs discretion, but he must have some general instructions about the way to conduct himself if, for example, General Walls orders another excursion into the surrounding territories. This question could involve this country being held responsible by the world for what takes place. We therefore have the gravest reservations. I ask the right hon. Lady for one guarantee. Will she guarantee that no British troops will be sent until a ceasefire has been accepted by all the parties?

With regard to the last question, "Yes". With regard to the earlier question, the right hon. Gentleman referred to what would happen if General Walls ordered an excursion beyond the country's boundaries. I tried to say to the right hon. Gentleman earlier that the Salisbury Administration accept the Governor's authority, so that would not arise.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the urgency of the matter I wonder whether you have been asked by the Prime Minister whether she can make a statement on Question Q5, in relation to Urenco?

I am afraid that I have had no such request. Statement, the Lord Privy Seal.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is this the moment when I could raise a Standing Order No. 9 application?

Applications under Standing Order No. 9 always follow statements. Statement, the Lord Privy Seal.