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Prime Minister (Engagements)

Volume 984: debated on Tuesday 6 May 1980

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Q1.

In addition to my duties in this House, I shall be having meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. Later this afternoon I shall visit the Yugoslav embassy to sign the Book of Condolence for President Tito. This evening I hope to have an Audience of Her Majesty The Queen.

Has the Prime Minister found time to reflect on the hammering that the Tories deservedly got in last week's local elections, especially in Scotland where Labour now controls 25 district councils? In view of the Tories' stated belief in the freedom of local authorities, and the fact that Labour councillors were elected on manifestos opposed to the Tory cuts in essential spending and to the legislation on the compulsory selling of council houses, will the Prime Minister now abandon these proposals, otherwise she will face massive confrontation from the elected representatives of the people?

The most notable thing in Scotland was the collapse of the Scottish National Party vote.

On the question of the Labour Party's performance in the local elections in England—my goodness, the Labour Party must have been very disappointed with it.

Will my right hon. Friend assure the House that those who work in the public service and who indulge in the political strike on 14 May will not be paid for that day?

I do not imagine that anyone who goes on strike will be paid for the services which will not be rendered that day. However, I hope that people will not go on strike.

Will the Prime Minister consider some time today whether, when she attends Marshal Tito's funeral—and we all regret his death—she will take the opportunity to have talks with President Brezhnev about the world situation and the need to restrict armaments, particularly the nuclear armaments build-up?

I am going to the funeral primarily to pay tribute to President Tito. There will be time for a few bilateral conversations, but not many. These have not yet been fixed.

Has my right hon. Friend had a chance to read the first leader in The Times newspaper, pointing out how Communism has subverted democracy throughout the world? In this light, has she reflected on the payment of £5,000 to the Communist paper, the Morning Star? Will she, as leader of one great party that won many millions of votes from trade union members in the last election, comment on this? Does she think that there is any prospect of the leader of the other major party, which also won many millions of union votes, commenting on the same matter?

I believe that Communism and true democracy are totally incompatible. I believe that that subscription will cause great concern to many members of the Transport and General Workers Union, who would not dream of approving it themselves.

Does the Prime Minister support the comments of the Secretary of State for the Environment to the effect that local authorities should operate within the law? Since part of that law is the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act, which is now being flouted by some authorities will she join me in condemning those local authorities and asking the Law Officers of the Crown to take legal action against them?

I am sure that if the local authorities were in breach of the law, action would be taken against them, but that is a matter for the Attorney-General and not for me. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, I fully support my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for the Environment, and that position is reciprocal.

Q2.

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 6 May.

Will my right hon. Friend not agree that one of the major changes of the last few months is the new respect in which Britain is now held by the rest of the world, based on the increasing competence, sensitivity, and determination now abounding in Britain, which was shown especially by yesterday's events and by all those involved in them? Will she also agree that, after a long period of time, everyone in this country can now once again hold up his head and say how proud he is to be British?

I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. I should like to say one word about events yesterday. It was, I believe, a brilliant operation, carried out by the Special Air Service with courage and confidence. I agree with my hon. Friend that the performance both of the police and the SAS made hon. Members on both sides of the House proud to be British.

May I also congratulate all those who had the skill to plan this operation and the courage of those who carried it out? I express our gratitude at the fact that they succeeded and our sympathy for those who lost their lives. In view of the exchange of correspondence with President Bani-Sadr, does the Prime Minister propose to send him a message to inform him that it is the responsibility of all Governments, including his Government, to resume control of the situation in Tehran and to secure the release of the American hostages and their return to the United States?

I sent a message to President Bani-Sadr right at the beginning, defining what I understand and believe to be the legal responsibilities of each and every Government to look after the safety of diplomats on their territory. I believe that the way the operation was carried out in this country will have an effect on the future position of American hostages in Iran. I have replied to President Bani-Sadr. We should now consider how we can turn this superb operation in Britain to best advantage for the American hostages.

Will the Prime Minister say what advice the Government are now giving to British industry regarding trade with Iran?

The Foreign Ministers met yesterday and again today to give further detailed consideration to the communiqué that they issued previously regarding sanctions and Iran. The position will remain as it is at present until it is changed.

Did the Prime Minister hear the reports on the BBC this morning concerning the massacre of schoolchildren in Kabul by Soviet forces? If these reports are true, can they be circulated to every athlete who proposes to attend the Olympic Games?

I am not in a position either to confirm or deny that report. I hope that British athletes will not go to Moscow so long as Soviet troops are holding down an independent country by force, and atrocities are being committed.