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Prime Minister (Engagements)

Volume 984: debated on Thursday 8 May 1980

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asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 8 May.

I have been asked to reply.

My right hon. Friend is attending the funeral of President Tito in Belgrade.

I am very grateful to the Home Secretary for answering on behalf of the Prime Minister, who, properly, is attending the funeral. However, has the Home Secretary noticed that President Carter has not deigned to attend the funeral? As it is the duty of an ally to give counsel as well as slavish help, will the right hon. Gentleman make representations, through the Prime Minister, to President Carter to the effect that it is time that he came out of purdah and, through his new Secretary of State, attempted to enter into discussions with the Soviet Union and other countries to solve the difficult foreign affairs problems that are emerging?

Having regard to a High Court judgment yesterday, will my right hon. Friend seek an official engagement today with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to ask whether the Leader of the Opposition will now withdraw his and his party's support for the so-called day of inaction on 14 May?

I have not actually noticed that the Leader of the Opposition's support has been very marked up to now. He has been very silent on this matter. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, however, has been quite clear. What I should have thought was evident to everyone was that next Wednesday those who wish to go to their jobs have the absolute right to do so. In their interests, for them and their colleagues, for their jobs and this country in the future, I hope that they will decide to do so.

Will the right hon. Gentleman take account of the fact that there were two important court decisions yesterday? On the first one, about the day of action, what the judge himself said, whatever views may be held about the particular decision, was that each trade unionist must appreciate that choice to work—[Interruption.]

I was coming to the question, Mr. Speaker. I was asking whether the right hon. Gentleman was aware of the fact that the judgment that was given by the judge fully supports the choice of any trade unionist or citizen of this country to decide for himself what he shall do on 14 May. Whatever criticisms may be made by Conservative Members on this matter, that is the fact that stands.

Will the right hon. Gentleman also take account of the fact that in the other court judgment yesterday there was, as many of us believe, a verdict given which could involve a very serious infringement of the freedom of the press? Since I should have thought that this is a matter that would fall within the right hon. Gentleman's province, will he take account of that judgment, and if in fact Lord Denning's judgment—[Interruption.]

If Lord Denning's judgment is upheld—which would be quite a rarity on these occasions—[HON. MEMBERS: " Oh."]. If his judgment is upheld, will the right hon. Gentleman undertake to review the law and bring forward proposals which would forbid any such infringement of the rights or the freedoms of the press?

As Home Secretary I have learnt that it is unwise, when I am answering for the Prime Minister, in any way to comment on matters that are still subject to the due process of law. Therefore, I do not intend to do so. I listened to the right hon. Gentleman on the radio. I am sorry that he found it necessary to wriggle about the law as much in the House as he did on the radio. Nothing that he has said invalidates the perfectly proper point that I made about the right of everyone who wishes to go to his or her job on Wednesday to do so.

As the right hon. Gentleman is saying, on the second court case, that he does not want to make any comment, why is he so eager to comment on the first case?

I did not make a comment. I said that nothing in the judgment invalidated the right of those who wish to go to work to do so. That is the case, and that is what I said.

In the course of the day will my right hon. Friend consider the position of the surviving Iranian terrorist once the due processes of law have taken place? Accepting that there is no extradition treaty between Britain and Iran, does he nevertheless agree that it might be more appropriate to hand the gentleman over to the Iranian authorities—

Order. The case is sub judice. It is not for us to seek to influence the judgment of the courts.

What is the right hon. Gentleman advising the unemployed to do next Wednesday?

If those who have jobs to go to on Wednesday decide not to go to work, they are likely to put more of their colleagues in the difficult position of the unemployed in future.

Does the right hon. Gentleman envisage that large employers, including the nationalised industries, might take action for breach of contract, or inducement to breach of contract, following yesterday's judgment?

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, since the successful events of last weekend, there has been a great resurgence of patriotism throughout the nation? Is he further aware that although much of that is due to the magnificent actions of the police and the Army, a great deal is also due to the leadership of the Prime Minister?