House Of Commons
Tuesday 15 June 1982
The House met at half-past Two o'clock
[MR. SPEAKER in the Chair]
Hong Kong And China Gas Company Plc Bill Lords
I understand that the Chairman of Ways and Means does not propose to move the private business set down for consideration today.
Oral Answers To Questions
National Health Service (Dispute)
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will make a statement on the effect on the National Health Service of the Confederation of Health Service Employees and National Union of Public Employees dispute.
The response to the three national 24-hour stoppages varied across the country. Overall, the effect on hospitals has been that, while doctors and the majority of nurses have maintained patient care, admissions in many districts were restricted to accident and emergencies only and patients were subjected to inconvenience and discomfort. In some instances, emergency cover was not provided.In addition to those one-day stoppages local action has disrupted administrative and hospital support services in some districts. All of that will have had an adverse effect on patients, which is why we strongly deplore the industrial action being taken.
I thank my right hon. Friend for his reply. Is he aware that I have recently had a meeting at Christchurch hospital with nurses and ancilliary workers who are angry and unhappy with the present position? Is my right hon. Friend aware that they are equally angry and unhappy about being unwillingly enrolled as some sort of stormtroopers in Arthur Scargill's anti-Government campaign? Will my right hon. Friend take note of that and also of the fact that one of the pleas put to me by the majority of those present was that the Government should start to look at alternative ways of funding the National Health Service?
We are not only looking at my hon. Friend's point about raising additional funds for the National Health Service, but taking action by selling surplus land.My hon. Friend's first point is of fundamental importance. The National Health Service should be warned that its pay dispute is being used for wider political purposes by people who have no interest in the Health Service. That will be deplored by the service and by the public, because patient care is suffering as a result.
How long will the Minister continue to deny that there is real justice in the health workers' claim? How long will the Government continue to believe that people should be paid between 7 and 14 per cent. more if they have industrial muscle, regardless of the merit of their case, while the nurses and health workers, whose cases have great merit, should be screwed down by the Government simply because they are believed not to have industrial muscle?
I am not sure whether it is part of the SDP's extraordinary incomes policy that Health Service workers should be paid 7 or 14 per cent. more. However, in the next few days I shall be having talks with the Royal College of Nursing. As I announced in the debate last week, Mr. Pat Lowry is opening communications between the unions and the Government. Talks on that are continuing.
Does the Secretary of State agree that this problem has been caused by his pig-headed attitude towards the Health Service? When will he recognise that there is not only a legitimate case, but that finances should be made available to meet the just claim that has been put forward by the Health Service workers?
Before the hon. Gentleman comes out with such generalisations, I hope that he will recognise that the Health Service unions' claim would cost about £750 million. I do not believe that that is realistic.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that there is, unfortunately, an appalling difference in the standard of service set by some employees in the National Health Service compared with the example and dedication of the British people in the South Atlantic?
We should not generalise on that. I should like to pay tribute to the nurses and the other staff who have remained at work in the Health Service while the industrial dispute has taken place.
Instead of deliberately trying to divide one set of Health Service workers from another, will the Secretary of State give a proper mandate to Mr. Pat Lowry and ask him to open negotiations with extra money on the table? If he were really interested in the patients, he would be prepared to do that now.
Because I do not believe for one moment that we can sub-contract the decision about how much the Government can afford to pay in this connection, I have asked for Mr. Lowry's help. Those talks are proceeding, and I hope that the hon. Lady will leave it at that.
Private Patients (Greenwich And Bexley)
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how much money was not collected from private patients using beds or out-patient services such as pathology and X-ray services in National Health Service hospitals of the Greenwich and Bexley area health authority during the financial year 1980–81; and what action has been taken by the Greenwich and Bexley area health authority to recover this money from the consultants who failed to identify these private patients.
It is not possible to say what charges for accommodation and services may not have been recovered from private patients by the former Greenwich and Bexley area health authority, but I agree with the implied criticism of that authority's arrangements for the management of private practice. I have taken steps to ensure that improved procedures are introduced and that the new health authorities will keep these under review to minimise the risk of loss of income.
As this was the second year running that those weaknesses occurred in that area health authority, is there not a case for trying to find out how much money was lost and then trying to collect it?
The auditor's second year's inquiry showed that the situation was improving. The former area treasurer resigned on the ground of ill-health, and a treasurer was installed by the regional health authority, which led to some improvement. We have discovered exactly what was wrong. It is simply not possible, because of the lack of records, to discover how much money was lost. The most important thing is that the new district health authorities are applying proper procedures, and we shall ensure that all charges are collected in future.
Will my hon. and learned Friend accept that, instead of spending a great deal of money on inquiring into the past, it would be far better for the district health authority, especially in Greenwich, to use what money it can to keep the Brook cardiac unit going and, if possible, to reopen the Eltham and Mottingham hospital?
I agree that it is pointless going back into the past when we know exactly what was wrong. That is fully set out in the statutory audit report. We have, therefore, taken steps to make sure that better procedures are applied by the new health authorities which have taken over from the now defunct area health authority in question. The Brook cardiac unit is a separate issue. I know of my hon. Friend's concern and I shall consider it carefully when I receive recommendations from the regional health authority.
Will the Minister give the House a guarantee that this practice has not been taking place in any other areas or districts, and that it will not happen in any areas or districts in the future?
In March of this year we issued a fresh circular setting out clear guidelines to all health authorities about the procedures that are to be followed, and with enough copies for them to be made available to all staff and consultants. I assure the hon. Gentleman that we are quite determined that the Health Service should recover proper charges, because the total of £52 million received by the NHS each year from private practice is a valuable contribution to our resources.
Industrial Injuries Scheme
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will make a statement on the Disablement Income Group's response to his White Paper on the future of the industrial injuries scheme.
The thoughtful comments of the Disablement Income Group are being closely studied. It gave a general welcome to the White Paper and supports most of the proposals that it contains. It has expressed reservations regarding three of the 13 main proposals, and of course those reservations will be taken into full account before any final decisions are taken.
Is the Minister aware that he has failed to reply to the Disablement Income Group's main charge that the proposed reduced earnings allowance flies in the face of the universally accepted case for a national disability income? I and the trade unions are deeply concerned. We fear that the proposals in the White Paper are a further attack on hard-won rights to social security benefits—for instance, the abolition of the injury benefit, the introduction of a 15-week waiting period for disablement benefit, and the abolition of the widows' industrial death benefit, to name but a few. Is the Minister—
Order. That is not a few. The hon. Gentleman has asked a long question.
I shall answer the first question. We recognise the problem and acknowledge the force of the DIG argument for a partial incapacity allowance. However, we cannot agree that an allowance for loss of earnings should be abolished. This is an important factor in compensating for the effects of industrial injuries and shows the difference of approach between the trade unions and the DIG, both of which the hon. Gentleman says that he represents today.
How, specifically, does the Minister respond to the Disablement Income Group's charge that abolishing the higher rates of constant attendance allowance will penalise the most severely disabled and make it yet more difficult for many of them to live at home? In view of the much higher costs of institutional care, is this not a silly and self-defeating proposal, as well as being inhumane? How does it square with the Conservative Party's pledge at the last election to single out the disabled for special help?
The proposal to abolish the constant attendance allowance must be seen in the general context of the package proposed in the White Paper. At present there are only 2,300 recipients of constant attendance allowance, against more than 250,000 in the main scheme's attendance allowance. It is administratively sensible to merge those, and, indeed, constant attendance allowance beneficiaries are likely to gain up to £48·30 a week by extra loss of earnings allowance.
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services for how many woman oral contraceptives were prescribed in the past 12 months.
Provisional figures suggest that oral contraceptives were prescribed for just over 2·8 million women in England in 1981.
Will my hon. and learned Friend say what percentage or number from that figure were prescribed for girls under the age of 16? Will he categorically deny the report attributed to him in the DailyMail of 1 May that he recommended the prescription of the contraceptive pill for girls under the age of 16 and that doctors do so without consulting their parents?
In answer to my hon. Friend's first question, I cannot give any age breakdown for women who receive contraceptive advice, because GPs do not keep statistics on that basis. In answer to the second question, a sub-editor in the Daily Mail put a very racy headline on a speech of mine, saying that I was urging the pill for under-16s. I am glad to say that the text made it clear that I said that every effort should be made by doctors consulted by patients under 16 years of age to persuade them to involve their parents, before going on to give any advice.
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will make a statement on the response so far received to his consultative document on the death grant.
We have issued about 2,000 copies of the consultative document and have so far received replies from 31 organisations and 19 individuals commenting on the proposals.
As 10 weeks of the consultation period have now passed and there are only six weeks to go, will the Minister tell us how many of the 31 organisations and the 19 individuals supported any or all of the options put forward in the consultative paper?
Thirty-one of the correspondents would prefer a higher grant to be more widely available than in the proposals, eight are broadly in favour of one or other of the proposals, eight are non-committal, and three favour the abolition of the death grant.
Is the Minister aware that if the death grant had been index-linked, in the way that pensions are linked, the £30, even in the three years during which his party has been in Government, would now be £45? Surely there is good reason for making an immediate substantial award, which could always be clawed back in respect of people who can afford to die?
If it were index-linked, no doubt the contributions relating to it would also have to be index-linked.—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Because it is a contributory benefit under a national insurance scheme. This House is reluctant to increase national insurance contributions.
Even before all the representations on the consultative document have been received, will my hon. Friend say that the Government's preference is to change to a system in which there would be a substantially higher death grant, but payable particularly to those in need?
That is the whole thrust of the consultative document.
If the majority of the representations on the consultative document suggest that the Government should make an across-the-board substantial increase in the death grant, will the Government accept that?
The problem is that resources simply are not available to enable a substantial grant to be made to rich and poor alike.
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services when he will implement the advice of the Social Security Advisory Committee to update the £300 limit for supplementary benefit single payment.
We are carefully reviewing the recommendations in the committee's annual report, including the suggestion of raising the level of the £300 capital rule for single payments. We considered very carefully earlier this year the possibility of increasing it but decided at present to concentrate the available resources on other aspects of the scheme, including raising the overall capital limit for all supplementary benefit claimants.
Is my hon. Friend aware that a significant number of elderly people put a few hundred pounds aside for their funerals and, as a result, are not eligible to receive a single payment towards the cost of high fuel bills either this winter or next winter?
I am very much aware of that point. That factor is much in our minds in reconsidering the future of this part of the rule.
Is the Minister aware that the number of those who have been unemployed for more than a year is now approaching 1 million and that many of them have saved to try to help their pensions when they reach the age of 65? Having saved £2,000 or more, they now find that they are not entitled to supplementary benefit. Do the Government really intend to penalise thrift in this way? If not, when do they propose to do something about the matter?
This is a difficult problem, as all Members will recognise. We are dealing with the means-tested safety net scheme of supplementary benefit and it is inevitable that there should be some rule that prevents that form of help going to those who have more than a certain amount of capital. Obviously, there is room for argument about where that limit should be. We would all like to do more in some respects. What we have been able to do so far is to announce that that limit will rise from £2,000 to £2,500 in November. That is not as much as many people would like, but it is a step in a better direction.
When the increase in capital allowance for periodic payments is made, what justification will there be for making no increase in single payments? Why keep it at the present miserable £300?
The justification is that we have to choose between priorities, just as the hon. Gentleman would have to if he were in Government. We decided that the top priority was to raise the overall limit.
Aids For The Disabled (Spending)
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services for what reasons spending on aids for the disabled went down from £6·3 million in 1978–79 to £5·1 million in 1980–81.
The hon. Gentleman is referring to expenditure on aids by local authorities where the number of cases assisted increased over the period in question from 237,372 to 262,109, namely by 10 per cent.Over the same period expenditure on aids provided direct by the DHSS increased from £42,226,000 to £51,998,000, namely, by 23 per cent.
Are not the figures a disgrace, and do they not contradict the promise by the Tory Party at the general election that it would concentrate aid on those most in need? Is it not time that the hon. Gentleman resigned from his office in protest at such appalling figures?
I am not quite sure how the hon. Gentleman terms it a disgrace for more cases at a far larger expense overall to be assisted now than were assisted two years ago.
Will my hon. Friend confirm that in the International Year of Disabled People last year the Government were widely congratulated the efforts that they made on behalf of the disabled—
and that the aid has been continued beyond that year?
The International Year of Disabled People was an outstanding success and exceeded all expectations. Indeed, it was a matter for congratulation not merely from within Great Britain but internationally.
Will the hon. Gentleman explain why Ministers go on and on about this awful word "compassion", when many disabled people are being deprived of aid, despite the figures that he has quoted? Many are deprived of aid as a direct consequence of Government policy. What will the Minister do about that?
Not all the people who require help have yet received it, but it is our endeavour to try to fulfil the need as quickly as resources enable us to do so.
Does my hon. Friend agree that one way to aid the disabled without further expenditure from his Department would be for his Department to encourage the owners of public buildings to improve access for the disabled? Will my hon. Friend undertake to do that?
We are encouraging that all the time. A recent Private Member's Bill places obligations on developers and also on planning authorities.
Is it not true that in terms of cost effectiveness it would be far better to spend more money on aid?
I should like to spend all the money that could possibly be made available to me.
Chronically Sick And Disabled Persons (Telephones)
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what has been the change in the number of telephones installed under the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act between 1979 and 1981; and if he will make a statement.
In the year ending 31 March 1979 local authorities assisted with the installation of 16,884 telephones. For the year ending 31 March 1981 the figure was 8,949. However, the total number of telephones in respect of which rentals were being paid was 90,503. This is a matter for local authority decision in each case.
Does the Minister agree that this is a disgraceful state of affairs? It represents a 50 per cent. cut in the number of telephones that have been given to the disabled. Since it has been impressed on local authorities that to accept the need for a telephone and then to put a person on a long waiting list is unlawful, will the Minister now state that it is equally unlawful for local authorities to reassess the individuals and therefore to escape their responsibilities under the Act?
Local authorities are looking more carefully at whether individuals applying for this form of assistance really need it. However, over the same period local authorities have increased assistance with telephone rentals, and total expenditure on assistance with telephones fell to a far lesser degree. If unlawful waiting lists are referred to me, I shall look into them.
Will the Minister accept that the figures are deeply disquieting? With regard to help for disabled people from local authorities, will he say what action he is taking to improve his Department's procedures in the light of the Ombudsman's report about the case of Mrs. Palfrey.
The right hon. Gentleman should be careful about what he says about Mrs. Palfrey's case. If the reports in newspapers concerning his remarks are accurate, he has misunderstood the matter. Mrs. Palfrey's case was found to be ill-founded. There were delays in dealing with the matter which are being examined and for which regrets have been expressed. Nevertheless, the result would not have been changed in any way if there had been less pressure on the staff dealing with the case.
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many local authorities now charge the long term sick and disabled for home helps supplied under the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act.
Eighty-seven local authorities are known to have charged at least some of their clients for home helps during the financial year 1980–81. No information is held centrally about the numbers of long-term sick and disabled people who were charged for home helps nor about the particular statutory provision under which home helps were provided.
Is that not an appalling tax on the most needy and poorest members in our community? Did not the Government specifically ask local authorities not to charge when they stopped the Supplementary Benefits Commission from aiding those people in 1980? Were they not warned about this by my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) at the time?
Under legislation passed by the House, these are matters for determination by the local authorities. Nevertheless, the Government have made it clear time and again that in effecting economies they do not wish to see the local authorities disadvantaging the most vulnerable in our society.
While no one particularly enjoys charging the disabled for home helps, is it not true that in present economic circumstances an alternative might have been to reduce the total number of home helps? Is it not arguable that that would have been of even greater disadvantage to the people to whom the questioner refers?
According to the figures published by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy there has been an increase in the number of hours provided by home helps.
Is it not the case that in successive questions on telephones and home helps we have seen that the cuts undertaken by the local authorities at the direction of the Government are harming the most vulnerable in our society? When will the Government do something about that?
I do not agree with the premises of the hon. Gentleman's question.
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether the long-term arrangements for nurses currently being negotiated have yet been settled.
Following my discussions with the nurses and midwives Whitley council on 17 March, a small working group under the chairmanship of my hon. and learned Friend the Minister for Health had its first meeting on 10 June. At that meeting it was agreed that the aim should be to have a new permanent arrangement in place in time for next year's pay settlement. However, it remains clear that a great deal of work needs to be done to develop the ideas that have been discussed so far and the next meeting will therefore be held shortly.
The nurses, physiotherapists and similar workers in the Health Service take no pleasure in these annual negotiations, and I am happy that my right hon. Friend is proceeding towards a long-term agreement. May I express the hope that it will be borne in mind that if there cannot be a permanent agreement for the long term, even a two, three or four-year agreement would be useful in saving this annual strife?
I entirely agree with the generality of my hon. Friend's remarks. We are seeking new permanent arrangements that will continue year after year. I do not think that anyone in the Health Service wants the annual strife that we have seen. We want something that is more sophisticated, more accurate and fairer than the Clegg Commision of last year.
Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that in the paper sent to the staff side organisations in February 1982 the Government laid the greatest stress on what they called the concept of affordability? Will he tell the House precisely what he means by that? Will he tell the House also why his hon. and learned Friend the Minister for Health gave strong hints at the meeting of 10 June to all the staff organisations to the effect that the special arrangements for pay for the police and the firemen were to be abolished?
I do not think that the hon. Gentleman has given an accurate description of what my hon. and learned Friend said. The hon. Gentleman must by now be aware that we have said that the new arrangement should have a number of elements. One element is the job position within the profession. Another element is comparability and a further element is what the nation can afford. That is why it is an improvement upon anything that has gone before.
I appreciate what my right hon. Friend has said, but will he accept that the nursing profession, especially the Royal College of Nursing and the paramedical staff, do not and will not go on strike, and for that reason they deserve to be treated as a special case? Will he give an assurance to the House that the special arrangement that he has mentioned today will definitely be implemented for the next financial year? Will he accept that many of his right hon. and hon. Friends would like to see it implemented during the present financial year?
I give the assurance that we shall do our utmost to have the new arrangement in position by April 1983. I am glad to repeat that assurance to my hon. Friend. I repeat also that we recognise the special position of nurses and, of course, that of the Royal College of Nursing.
Whatever the long-term arrangements that are being negotiated, which no doubt will be welcomed because they will replace the annual bargaining, will the right hon. Gentleman accept that the offer of 6 per cent. for nurses and 4 per cent. for other Health Service workers has been greeted with a sense of outrage, especially when senior civil servants and judges can get 18 per cent. without even asking for an increase? Health Service workers are being driven to take industrial action by the Government's parsimony. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that Health Service workers in the Airedale general hospital in my constituency welcome the support of Arthur Scargill and the miners in their struggle?
I know of very few who work in the National Health Service and who respect the interests of the service who welcome Mr. Scargill's intervention, which, from the point of view of the Health Service, is a disaster. It will result in a great deal of lost support within the Health Service.
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services, further to his answer on 9 March, Official Report, columns 714–15, whether he will give an explanation of the procedure to be followed in deciding which patient should receive a kidney transplant.
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services, further to his answer on 9 March, Official Report, columns 714–15, whether he will give an explanation of the procedure to be followed in deciding which patient should receive a kidney transplant.
The procedure is mainly designed to ensure that the best possible medical match is achieved between donor and recipient. When a kidney becomes available for transplant, it is tissue typed and the details are checked with patient records to obtain a list of suitable patients in priority order.
Will the Minister give an assurance that no priority will be given to private patients in the provision of kidney transplants? Will he give a further assurance that at least some consideration will be given to the 20,000 patients who are awaiting transplants? If the estimated cost is £70 million, will he put pressure on the Cabinet to allocate that sum, instead of spending billions of pounds on the Falklands dispute?
I can give the hon. Gentleman the first assurance that he seeks. No priority has been given to private patients and none will be given. Patient needs will be assessed on medical grounds alone. The major inhibition in reducing waiting lists is the shortage of kidney donors. The "Panorama" television programme on brain death did considerable harm in reducing the number of donors available. I am glad to say that the position is now recovering. We are as anxious as the hon. Gentleman to reduce waiting lists.
As there is an unmet need for kidney transplants approaching about 14,000, is it not unethical for kidneys specifically donated to the National Health Service to be made available to private patients? Will he give an absolute assurance that no private patient will ever receive a kidney transplant which, according to the criteria of allocation operated in the public sector, he would not get if he were not paying?
I hope that I have already made it clear that National Health Service kidneys are made available only to patients who are eligible for NHS treatment. Priority is determined on medical grounds alone. On the assumption that the procedure is being followed properly, and I have no evidence that it is not, no one should get priority in receiving a kidney transplant because he has opted for private treatment. On the other hand, there is no point in stopping patients opting for private treatment when they receive kidneys in the right priority order.
Does the hon. and learned Gentleman agree that the consultant who performs a kidney transplant in the private sector is not the most impartial person to decide which person on the common waiting list is the most suitable for an available kidney?
Kidneys, which are in short supply, are distributed largely by the United Kingdom transplant service. The tests that it applies to judge priority take no account of whether the patient will be a private patient or an NHS patient.
We welcome the Minister's assurance. Will he now give an undertaking that there will be a positive publicity campaign to tell the public how many people die unnecessarily every year when kidney donors could be found if only they could be encouraged to carry kidney donor cards?
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her support. The major problem is the reluctance of many medical people to begin the procedures for obtaining a donor kidney when they have a patient who, unfortunately, has died while in their hands.
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how much it would now cost to restore the 5 per cent. cut in invalidity benefit; and how many people would have their incomes increased by restoration of the cut.
The estimated net cost in 1982–83 of restoring the 5 per cent. cut in invalidity benefit is £50 million. The numbers of invalidity pensioners who would have their incomes increased by restoration is estimated to be 620,000.
The Minister will be aware that the 5 per cent. cut was introduced in lieu of taxation and that there are 600,000 currently suffering an adverse poll tax. Will he give a categoric assurance that the benefit will be restored in full and that the Government will not cheat as they did on unemployment benefit?
Yes. I can give that categoric assurance. Indeed, it has been given on many occasions by my right hon. and hon. Friends.
My hon. Friend has stated that the estimated cost of restoring the cut is only £50 million and that about 650,000 would enjoy the benefit of the restoration. Bearing in mind his personal interest in invalids, will he do his utmost to ensure that restoration takes place in the course of this year?
We estimate that the amount of tax that would be paid on bringing the benefit into tax would be rather higher than £50 million. It seems certain that almost all invalidity pensioners would pay tax if it were taxable.
When is it now proposed to tax invalidity benefit? Why has the timetable gone wrong?
As my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer said in his Budget Statement last year, implementation has been put off for 1982. No further date has yet been given. Obviously it is for my right hon. and learned Friend to give a date.
Nhs (Ancillary Workers)
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what is the average pay for ancillary workers in the National Health Service.
Average earnings are £104·17 a week for full-time men and £84 a week for full-time women. For staff working in London, earnings are increased by allowances of up to £13·68 a week.
Is the Secretary of State aware that those wages are about the same as those of building workers and almost as much as those of skilled workers in British Leyland?
Yes. During the past three years there is no question but that earnings have increased by about 50 per cent.
Is the Minister aware that many ancillary workers are still extremely badly paid? Why does he insist on offering a long-term arrangement implicitly only to nurses and other similar groups in the NHS? Does he agree that the best approach is to get all Health Service workers to accept that, in return for a "no-strike" undertaking, they will receive proper and regular special treatment to keep their pay up with those outside?
If the hon. Gentleman had listened to what I said in the debate on this matter last week, he would have heard me give almost exactly the assurance for which he now asks. I am quite prepared to discuss new, permanent arrangements for other NHS staff.
The Minister gave the statistics for "a week"? How many hours is that? Does he agree that he is including overtime, which means that it is often a week and a half or 50 to 60 hours? Does he agree that figures are gross and that they take no account of compulsory superannuation deductions or income tax? Will he give the income for a basic 37–40-hour week?
I have already given the average earnings figures. I shall give the hon. Gentleman the overtime figures, which he has grossly exaggerated. The average overtime worked by a male ancilliary is 5½ hours a week and that of a woman is 1½ hours a week.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that workers carrying out general duties in the Health Service take twice the share of the cake of total expenditure as they do in the United States? Will my right hon. Friend take steps to increase the provision of private facilities to carry out those services, as opposed to the overwhelming percentage now being carried out by the public sector?
My hon. Friend knows that we are examing that area of policy. He also knows that we have not cut NHS finance. We have increased spending on it by 6 per cent. in real terms. We now spend more than £12 billion a year on it.
Is the Minister aware that many ancillary workers will resent the fact that he has used figures that have been twisted to provide the Government with a stronger case? Is he aware that many ancillary workers will resent that, especially as they know that many of them take only half of the sum that he quoted in net pay? Is he also aware that they will deeply resent the fact that the hon. Member for Chorley (Mr. Dover), who raised the matter, is the same hon. Member who was not satisfied with his parliamentary salary and wanted to keep his local government salary as well when he came to the House?
I published the average earnings of ancillaries some weeks ago. They have not been challenged by any reputable body or person.
Nhs (Hospital Beds)
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what is the latest figure for unopened new beds in National Health Service hospitals; and what action is proposed to bring them into use.
In March this year 934 new beds in seven NHS hospitals were unopened. These beds are being progressively brought into use as resources permit. Continuing delays in commissioning new beds will be discussed with regional health authority chairmen at annual review meetings.
Irrespective of past poor planning, which created the problem, does my hon. and learned Friend agree that the beds remaining unopened represent a serious waste of national resources? Will he ensure that the beds are opened by the end of 1983?
The problem is entirely the result of poor planning and unrealistic resource expectations. We are solving that. When the Comptroller and Auditor General produced a report on the matter he revealed that there were 3,434 unopened beds in 1979–80. We have reduced that figure to 934 and hope to eliminate the problem.
Does the Minister agree that it is disgraceful that there are still 1,000 beds that are not being used in the Health Service, at a time when the Government are encouraging private clinics, such as the Yorkshire clinic, which is near my constituency, to open and thus draw resources from the NHS? Does he agree that the Government's first priority should be to ensure a decent National Health Service for the use of all?
It is a waste. It is as a result of poor planning. We are putting increased resources into the NHS. By next year we shall have increased spending on the NHS in real terms by 6 per cent. as compared with when we came into office. That is helping to eliminate the problem of wasted unopened beds in new hospitals.
asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 15 June.
This morning I presided at a meeting of the Cabinet and had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House, I shall have further meetings later today, including one with the President of Bangladesh.
In the light of the most welcome news from the Falklands, does my right hon. Friend agree that we should praise and give thanks for the skill, courage and sacrifice of the members of the task force who succeeded so brilliantly in an exercise that was fraught with hazard? Does she agree that it is a fine moment for our country? Does she further agree that it demonstrates that wherever British power can reach, nobody should embark upon aggression?
I thank my hon. Friend for his comments. I entirely agree with him. We cannot say enough about how wonderful our Armed Forces and Merchant Marine have been. We salute them all. I hope, as my hon. Friend said, that we have once again restored Britain's dominance and let every nation know that British sovereign territory will be well and truly defended and that we shall never again be the victim of aggression.
Does the welcome ceasefire apply only to hostilities in the Falkland Islands or to all hostilities with Argentina?
I shall have something to say about that in my statement. We are endeavouring to achieve a complete ceasefire with Argentina.
Now that the Argentine aggression has been so brilliantly and successfully dealt with, will my right hon. Friend turn her full attention to the Israeli aggression in Lebanon? Does she agree that it is intolerable that Israeli armed forces, in their determination to exterminate the Palestinians, should continue to devastate Beirut and slaughter thousands of civilians?
We have made clear to everyone, and to all countries, our horror at what has happened in the Lebanon, our insistence that Israeli forces withdraw and that Lebanon be free to continue her own life in her own way, within her own securely defended borders.
I do not wish to detract from the proud achievement of the task force in the Falkland Islands conflict, but will the Prime Minister now turn her attention to another serious problem facing Britain? Will she show the same determination as our boys demonstrated in the Falklands conflict with regard to unemployment? When will she vanquish the problem of 3 million unemployed?
We are addressing our minds to that very problem. Not only are we doing that here, but we did it at the economic conference at Versailles. So much depends on our continuing with policies to reduce inflation, to reduce the budget deficit, to ensure that new technology is introduced into industry, to ensure that wages are lower for the time being than the present rate of inflation and to ensure that unit costs are kept down. If we do all that, we shall be well on the way to being able to benefit from an increase in world trade.
asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 15 June.
I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply that I gave earlier this afternoon.
Is the Prime Minister aware that tomorrow 26,000 Welsh miners will be on strike in support of the National Health Service workers' 12 per cent. pay claim and that thousands of people in Wales will be marching in support of the health workers? Will she intervene to try to persuade the Minister responsible to have a joint agreement whereby the health workers receive the compassionate and caring treatment that a Labour Government would have shown?
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services has just spent about 40 minutes answering questions on the National Health Service. For my part, I find it very ironic indeed that, just when we are celebrating the victory of our Armed Forces, other people are on strike.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the sad events in the Lebanon in recent weeks have clearly shown the impotence of United Nations peacekeeping forces and that when consideration is given to the security of British territory in the future that must be borne very much in mind?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that point. It is clear that those forces cannot be effective for peacekeeping in the Lebanon. The same happened in Cyprus. This means that we must continue to make our own arrangements to maintain our own security.
In celebrating yesterday's events with the whole House and indeed the country, will the Prime Minister spare time today to give thought to the 35,000 widows whose total income is less than £40 per week and who have been brought into tax since the Government came to office?
We are all very conscious of the problems of those widows and we should like to reduce taxation, but we cannot do that so long as we have colossally increased expenditure. Therefore, we must keep an eye on expenditure as well.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the liberation of the Falkland Islands has shown that, although we must be grateful for international support and cooperation, which is always essential, this nation must always retain the freedom, resources and resolve to act independently in defence of the principles for which we stand?
I entirely agree. We must have the capacity to act independently. I agree with my hon. Friend that we need both the power to act and the will to see it through.
We shall have the opportunity to put further questions to the right hon. Lady about the Falkland Islands when she makes a fresh statement on the subject in a few minutes' time. Will she tell us now about the engagement for which I believe she is leaving tonight or tomorrow—the United Nation's special session on disarmament in New York? Does she agree that events both in the South Atlantic and in the Middle East make all the more necessary the effort to ensure that that disarmament conference is successful? Will she use all the strength of the British Government to try to get serious measures passed? Does she agree that the recent war, and particularly the use of certain weapons by the Argentines, make all the more necessary a concerted effort at the United Nations to stop the obscenity of traffic in arms, as a result of which some of our Service men were killed by weapons that we had sold to the Argentines?
I am not certain whether I shall be going to New York tomorrow, or possibly later, if it can be arranged. The disarmament conference is in no way a negotiating forum. Negotiations must be carried on elsewhere. I entirely agree that we should like to have security with a lower level of arms, but that lower level must be capable of being verified. The whole world is learning the lesson that unilateral disarmament leads to weakness and liability to attack by the strong, as it always has. Unilateral disarmament of all kinds leads to weakness and liability to be attacked on the part of the nation that undertakes it. Therefore, we need a proper balance of arms, which is what we are trying to obtain.
As the victory in the South Atlantic was made possible by the supreme sacrifice made by our courageous Service men and merchant seamen, will the Prime Minister as quickly as possible promote a memorial to those gallant men, who epitomise all that is best in our nation?
Of course we shall consider that. I think that what they have achieved is their own best memorial. Indeed, none could better it.
asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 15 June.
I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply that I gave some moments ago.
When the Prime Minister visits the United Nations, will she bear in mind the magnificent demonstration by nearly 1 million people in the United States and by 250,000 people in this country against nuclear weapons? Will she bear in mind that millions of people are sick and tired of Government representatives talking about disarmament at the United Nations while constantly building up stockpiles of nuclear weapons, as the Government are doing with Trident? Does she agree that unilateral disarmament by this country would strengthen the United Nations non-proliferation treaty and set an example to the majority of the nations of the world that do not possess nuclear weapons and whom we do not wish to see imitate our possession of such weapons?
I have listened to all that, but the fact is that the two major nuclear powers have not gone to war against each other—because, I believe, nuclear weapons are achieving their purpose as a deterrent that makes the prospect of war too horrific. It is noteworthy that, since the last world war, there have been 140 conventional wars, fought with ordinary weapons, which are themselves horrific, and that nuclear weapons have been a deterrent to war. I therefore believe that we should keep them.
In the light of today's marvellous news, will my right hon. Friend study the precedent set by the Prime Minister and the Monarch in May 1940 and consider the designation of a Sunday very soon as a national day of prayer and thanksgiving for our success in freeing the Falkland Islands?
Give over. "Grovelling Gardiner."
Of course we shall consider that, but I believe that throughout our land this day and the coming Sunday everywhere there will be thanksgiving.
Will the right hon. Lady give an absolute assurance that neither she nor No. 10 will in any way obstruct the promised inquiry into the events leading up to the invasion of the Falkland Islands and that the determination of the truth will be paramount, so that the British people may learn what actually happened, as against what the House was told happened?
Yes, Sir. I shall shortly be writing to the Leader of the Opposition about the proposed form of the inquiry. I am certain that it needs to go back far further than the events leading up to the conflict.
Did my right hon. Friend notice that when the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) listed the places where there had been CND marches and demonstrations he did not mention Moscow? Does my right hon. Friend draw any conclusions from that?
Yes, and I believe that I draw the same conclusion as my hon. Friend—that this is a free country in which people can march, but that to remain free we need sturdy and sure defences, including a nuclear deterrent.
Order. The hon. Gentleman should be allowed to ask his question, because I hope to move on to the next business at 3.30 pm.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for your protection. As British military abilities have once again rescued British politicians from their failures, will the right hon. Gentleman—[Laughter.] She likes that, she is the gentleman. Will the right hon. Lady contemplate today whether this is not the right time to offer the Argentines a reasonable involvement in the future of the Falkland Islands to prevent a continuing war on our naval and supply communications for the Falkland Islands?
With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a statement on the Falkland Islands.Early this morning in Port Stanley, 74 days after the Falkland Islands were invaded, General Moore accepted from General Menendez the surrender of all the Argentine forces in East and West Falkland together with their arms and equipment. In a message to the Commander-in-Chief Fleet, General Moore reported:
General Menendez has surrendered some 11,000 men in Port Stanley and some 2,000 in West Falkland. In addition, we had already captured and were holding elsewhere on the islands 1,800 prisoners, making in all some 15,000 prisoners of war now in our hands. The advance of our forces in the last few days is the culmination of a determined military effort to compel the Argentine Government to withdraw their forces from the Falkland Islands. On the night of Friday 11 June, men of 42 and 45 Commandos and the 3rd Battalion the Parachute Regiment, supported by elements of the Royal Artillery and Royal Engineers, mounted an attack on Argentine positions on Mount Harriet, Two Sisters and Mount Longdon. They secured all their objectives, and during the next day consolidated their positions in the face of continuing resistance. I regret to inform the House that five Royal Marines, 18 Paratroopers and two Royal Engineers lost their lives in those engagements. Their families are being informed. Seventy-two Marines and Paratroopers were wounded. We have no details of Argentine casualties. Hundreds of prisoners and large quantities of equipment were taken in these operations. The land operations were supported by Harrier attacks and naval gunfire from ships of the task force which made a major contribution to the success of our troops. In the course of the bombardment, however, HMS "Glamorgan" was hit by enemy fire. We now know that 13 of the crew died in this attack or are missing. Throughout Sunday 13 June, the 3rd Commando Brigade maintained pressure on the enemy from its newly secured forward positions. Meanwhile, men of the 5th Infantry Brigade undertook reconnaissance missions in preparation for the next phase of the operations. HMS "Hermes" flew her one-thousandth Sea Harrier mission since leaving the United Kingdom. The Argentines mounted two air raids that day. The first was turned back by Harriers of the task force before it could reach the Falklands. In the second raid A4 aircraft made an unsuccessful bombing run and one Mirage aircraft was shot down. During the night of Sunday 13 June the second phase of the operations commenced. The 2nd Battalion the Parachute Regiment secured Wireless Ridge and the 2nd Battalion the Scots Guards took Tumbledown Mountain by first light on Monday 14 June. The 1st/7th Gurkhas advanced on Mount William, and the Welsh Guards on Sapper Hill. At 2 pm London time large numbers of Argentine troops were reported to be retreating from Mount William, Sapper Hill and Moody Brook in the direction of Port Stanley. British forces pressed forward to the outskirts of Port Stanley. Large numbers of Argentines threw down their weapons and surrendered. At 4 o'clock the Argentine garrison indicated its willingness to talk. Orders were given to our forces to fire only in self-defence. Shortly before 5 o'clock a white flag appeared over Port Stanley. Initial contact was made with the enemy by radio. By midnight General Moore and General Menendez were talking. The surrender of all the Argentine forces of East and West Falkland was agreed at 1 am today London time. Some of our forces are proceeding to West Falkland to organise the surrender of the Argentine forces there. We are now tackling urgently the immense practical problems of dealing with the Argentine prisoners on the islands. The weather conditions are severe, permanent accommodation is very limited, and much of the temporary accommodation which we had hoped to use was lost when the "Atlantic Conveyer" was sunk on 25 May. We have already repatriated to Argentina almost 1,400 prisoners, and the further 15,000 now in our custody are substantially more than we had expected. With the help of the International Red Cross, we are taking urgent steps to safeguard these prisoners and hope to evacuate them as soon as possible from the islands, in accordance with our responsibilities under the Geneva Convention. This is a formidable task. We have today sent to the Argentine Government, through the Swiss Government, a message seeking confirmation that Argentina, like Britain, considers all hostilities between us in the South Atlantic—and not only on the islands themselves—to be at an end. It is important that this should be established with clarity and without delay. We must now bring life in the islands back to normal as quickly as possible, despite the difficult conditions and the onset of the Antarctic winter. Mines must be removed; the water supply in Stanley is not working and there will be other urgent tasks of repair and reconstruction. Mr. Rex Hunt and members of the Islands Council at present in this country will return as soon as possible. Mr. Hunt will concentrate on civilian matters. General Moore will be responsible for military matters. They will in effect act as civil and military commissioners and will, of course, work in the closest co-operation. After all that has been suffered it is too early to look much beyond the beginning of the return to normal life. In due course the islanders will be able to consider and express their views about the future. When the time is right we can discuss with them ways of giving their elected representatives an expanded role in the government of the islands."The Falkland Islands are once more under the Government desired by their inhabitants. God Save the Queen."
The nominated ones?
We shall uphold our commitment to the security of the islands; if necessary, we shall do this alone. But I do not exclude the possibility of associating other countries with their security. Our purpose is that the Falkland Islands should never again be a victim of unprovoked aggression.Recognising the need for economic development, I have asked Lord Shackleton to update his 1976 report on the economic potential of the islands. He has agreed to do this as a matter of urgency. I am most grateful to him. The House will join me, Mr. Speaker, in expressing our deep sense of loss over those who have died, and our sorrow for their families. The final details will not become clear for a few days yet, but we know that some 250 British Service men and civilians have been killed. They died that others may live in freedom and justice. The battle of the Falklands was a remarkable military operation, boldly planned, bravely executed, and brilliantly accomplished. We owe an enormous debt to the British forces and to the Merchant Marine. We honour them all. They have been supported by a people united in defence of our way of life and of our sovereign territory.
The Opposition at once wish to join in the thanks and congratulations that the right hon. Lady has given to the Service men and their commanders on the way in which they have discharged their duties throughout these dangerous weeks. We wish that to be emphasised at the outset.The relief that the House felt and expressed last night when it first heard the news derived partly from the belief that we had been able to avoid not merely the hideousness of a bloody battle at Port Stanley but also the consequences of such a battle. That sense of relief was rightly expressed, and we wish to express it once again. Even so, as the right hon. Lady emphasised in her final remarks, there have been severe casualties for this country that affect some of our great naval ports such as Plymouth and Portsmouth. There have been severe casualties affecting other places as well. In addition, there have been severe casualties among the Argentine forces. I am sure that we are all concerned about them, too. However, the sense of relief is very great, and we are all grateful for the fact that the bloodshed is now coming to an end. I hope that we shall have a further statement soon on the casualties when the right hon. Lady has received the further details to which she referred. In the meantime, we extend our deep sympathy to all the families who have suffered the consequences of the casualties and express our determination—I hope, the determination of the House of Commons—that proper ways should be found to assist those families and those who have been afflicted by what has happened. I do not expect the right hon. Lady to deal now with questions about the future, nor do I think that this is the best time to do so. There is bound to be an interval during which we shall deal with the immediate position on the islands, and that interval is bound to mean that normal operations cannot be envisaged. However, it would be right for the right hon. Lady at an early date to express a view about the future. I do not say that she should describe the whole future, but she should give some commitments about it. In our view, it is not possible for the British Government to contemplate that over the years ahead they alone can deal with these matters. The right hon. Lady said in her statement "I do not exclude the possibility of associating other countries with their security". That is a modest statement of the requirement. I believe that she will have to go considerably further than that, in the interests of the islanders and of the security of the islands. I do not believe that it is possible for the Government to exclude much greater consultations with other countries. Indeed, we are bound to do so under the resolutions that we have signed. I therefore hope that the Prime Minister will now give an absolute assurance that we shall be prepared to consult other nations according to our commitments under the United Nations charter to ensure that we provide for future arrangements. I hope that we shall not exclude the possibility of the trusteeship that was discussed earlier. [Interruption.] Those hon. Members who wish to exclude that possibility ought to look at some of the changes in the Government's policy that have occurred during this period. The more they examine them, the more I believe that justice will be seen in the case that we have persistently put throughout these discussions. Even if the Prime Minister will not give a detailed commitment now, I hope that she will say that she intends to carry out to the full, in the spirit and the letter, the resolution that she and her Government proposed at the United Nations in the name of this country. I do not know whether the right hon. Lady is shaking her head, but it would be a breach of faith if she were to abandon that commitment. I therefore hope that she will reiterate our allegiance on these questions. All these matters will later have to be examined afresh, including the investigation of how the original crisis arose. Much the best course for the Government is to recognise the commitment that they have made in these international obligations and to say that they will uphold them as determinedly as we have upheld the rights of British territory.
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for what he said about our Armed Forces. We mourn the loss of those who were killed and we are dedicated to the cause for which they gave their lives.As to the United Nations resolution, the withdrawal by the Argentines was not honoured and our forces had to go there because they would not withdraw. Indeed, they had to recover and recapture British territory. I cannot agree with the right hon. Gentleman that those men risked their lives in any way to have a United Nations trusteeship. They risked their lives to defend British sovereign territory, the British way of life and the rights of British people to determine their own future.
Will the Prime Minister consider allowing the House a special opportunity to pay tribute to our forces after they have returned? I think that that would be appropriate.Is the right hon. Lady aware that at lunch time the BBC carried allegedly authoritative reports about the form of inquiry in which she would invite the other party leaders to participate? However, she mentioned nothing about that in her statement. Without going into the form of that inquiry, will she give an undertaking that it will be strong enough to include not just the matters leading up to the invasion but such questions as the sale of arms to Argentina and the defence policy decisions that affect the equipment and operation of our Navy?
During Question Time, I referred to the form of inquiry and said that I would shortly be writing to Opposition leaders. I do not believe that the form of the inquiry should be anything like as wide as the right hon. Gentleman suggests, otherwise it would never report. I do not believe that it is the general wish to have the inquiry as wide as that. That is a totally different kind of review from the one on which I thought we were agreed. However, I shall be writing shortly to the right hon. Gentleman about the matter. Surely today is a day for congratulation and celebration and not for post-mortems.
Order. Exceptionally, I propose to allow questions on the statement to continue for another half an hour, which will be a very good run for the House.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the House and the nation will have noted with particular approval the sentence in her statement that indicated that we shall not again allow the Falkland Islands to be the subject of unprovoked aggression? In the meantime, is it not possible to say something about the local inhabitants of Port Stanley and West Falkland? I am sure that many people would be grateful for information on that subject.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for what he said about defending the Falkland Islands so that they are never again the victim of aggression. At present, information about the civilian population is sketchy because of appalling weather and the fact that there were only a few hours of daylight before I came to the House. Initial indications are that the islanders are thrilled to see our forces and that in general they are safe and well, but we have no further details.
Will the Government be careful to ensure that nothing is done or said in the coming days that could be an obstacle to our securing, both in the Falkland Islands and in Britain, compensation and satisfaction for the loss and damage that have been suffered as a result of this unprovoked aggression?
I shall try to refrain from saying anything that will prejudice that, but I must point out that we are not seeking compensation. We went to recapture the islands, to restore British sovereignty, which had not been lost because of the invasion, and to restore British administration. That was our objective, and I believe that we have achieved it.
I wish to express our congratulations to the right hon. Lady and sympathy to the relatives of those who were killed. Will the Prime Minister confirm that it is not the intention to return all the Argentine military until Argentina has confirmed that all hostilities in the South Atlantic have ended? When considering the association that might be developed with other countries for the long-term development of the Falkland Islands, and before making any final decision—it is too early to reach a firm conclusion about how we should handle the future—will the right hon. Lady consult the United States of America, which has been one of our most loyal allies and which has great interest in the Organisation of American States?
It was precisely because we believed that we should not return all the prisoners of war until we were certain that we had achieved a cessation of hostilities with the mainland of Argentina that I said that "we hope" to evacuate the prisoners of war. We must send back a considerable number, but we should withhold some, especially the officers and commanders, until we have achieved a ceasefire with the mainland.As to the long-term future, as the right hon. Gentleman said, we are talking about British sovereign territory and British people. Many people will be interested in the future of the islands, but we must consult the people and then make the best possible arrangements that we can for them. I recognise that that will need the friendliness of other States in the region. It would not be wise to go beyond that now.
Following the successful outcome of the campaign, which would not have been possible without the supreme valour displayed by our forces nor without the steady and resolute leadership shown from the start by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, will she say whether, in attempting to tackle some of the enormous and immediate logistical problems, especially the shortage of water, it would be practicable to turn to Uruguay, Chile or other Latin American countries for help?
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. We wish to have help with the logistical problems from wherever we can get it, but few places are near and therefore we had to prepare for some of those matters in the supplies and provisions that we sent down with the task force. We shall be all right for water. If we cannot return some prisoners, we shall need some help with food and transport, but I believe that the United States of America will be prepared to help with some of those matters.
Apart from the inquiry, will the Prime Minister publish the full text of all the exchanges that took place with the United Nations, Argentina and the Americans so that we may see what happened and a full analysis of the costs in life, equipment and money in this tragic and unnecessary war, which the world knows very well will not provide an answer to the problem of the future of the Falkland Islands? Does she agree that in the end there must be negotiations, and will she say with whom and when she will be ready to enter into such negotiations?
The texts of all the negotiations are not mine to publish. We entered into the negotiations in confidence and I do not believe in breaking a confidence. I do not intend to negotiate on the sovereignty of the islands in any way, except with those who live there. That is my fervent belief. The right hon. Gentleman called it an unnecessary war. Tragic it may have been, but may I point out to him that he would not enjoy the freedom of speech that he put to such excellent use unless people had been prepared to fight for it.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the nation owes this signal victory not only to the skill and courage of British forces but to her resolute leadership during the critical weeks? Is she further aware that the entire House will wish to be associated with the tribute that she paid to those who will not return from the South Atlantic? Will she associate us with her condolences to the families of those involved, whose grief the entire nation shares?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. Every hon. Member would wish to pay tribute to those who lost their lives, to those who have been injured and to the families without whose support they could never have done such a wonderful job.
Now that the war is almost over, will the right hon. Lady invite The Times to purchase the copyright of Oriana Fallaci's splendid interview with General Galtieri? It would be some recompense if The Times made such a purchase and presented the copyright to the British Government, because, after all, it took money from the Argentines to print 7,000 words of Argentine propaganda before most of our fellow citizens died.
That is not a matter for me. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman's message will have been heard by those who are in possession of the copyright. I can say only that it was a remarkable interview by a very remarkable journalist.
Both I and the people of Northern Ireland salute the memory of those who gave their lives in defence of sovereign British territory and of freedom. I wish to remind the Prime Minister that at Question Time a few weeks ago I asked whether she abided by two principles—first, the right to defend sovereign British territory and, secondly, the upholding of the wishes of those who live in that territory. I congratulate her on the fact that in this instance she has been guided by those two principles, but I remind her that yesterday— [HON. MEMBERS: "Question".]—Ulster mourned its dead is another young police officer was carried to his grave in the same fight for freedom. I urge the Prime Minister to tell Mr. Haughey that the sovereignty of Northern Ireland cannot be challenged by him or by anyone else and that the majority of Ulster people will be allowed to decide their destiny.
I believe in both the principles enunciated by the hon. Gentleman. We shall continue to uphold them and I wish to take this opportunity to pay tribute to all the security forces, the police, the Armed Forces and the Ulster Defence Regiment, who have done wonderful things in Northern Ireland and who are upholding the law and liberties in the same way as those who went to the Falkland Islands.
I appreciate the Prime Minister's comments and satisfaction today, but does she agree with the view of Secretary Haig that a strictly military outcome cannot endure for all time?
I am a little at a loss about the question. We went to recapture what was ours. We had to do it by military means because the Argentines would not leave peacefully. We condemned their military adventurism. We were perfectly right to repossess what was already ours and to look after and defend British subjects. That is not a military solution. That is repossessing what we should never have lost.
Leaving aside Gibraltar, where independence is specifically ruled out by the Treaty of Utrecht, is not it not the case that the option open to every British dependency since the war has been independence within the Commonwealth? That is enshrined in the United Nations charter and there is nothing in the charter about size and population. Therefore, will my right hon. Friend say whether, if the islanders choose independence, the British Government will be prepared, on their own, or with whatever friends they can muster, to provide the necessary guarantees so that people nurtured in the British traditions of democracy and self-fulfilment may have it?
There are probably three choices within the British Commonwealth—independence, associated status, or self-government. A territory with as small a population as the Falklands would have to have its security guaranteed, whichever of the three it wished to follow. I think that it is too early to say what the islanders would wish to do. We shall discuss with them under what I would call the ordinary British right of self-determination.
Now that the hostilities are over, and we know how many of the British forces gave their lives in repossessing the Falkland Islands, will the Prime Minister consider the views of their relations about bringing the bodies back to Britain for burial, especially in the light of the distressing sight, for relations, of the inevitable mass burial at Goose Green and Darwin shown on television last night? If the relatives wish the bodies to be returnee to the United Kingdom, will she be prepared to arrange for that?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the way in which he has raised this subject, and for his realisation that immediate burial is inevitable. Afterwards, under the normal traditional rules, these people receive a burial, usually locally, and the graves are looked after in perpetuity by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Before we decide what should be done in the case of deaths in the Falklands, we shall be considering the views of the relatives.
Apart from my expression of admiration for the sacrifices of the three Services, may I ask right hon. Friend whether she can confirm the tremendous price paid by the Royal Fleet Auxiliary? The three Armed Services are frequently mentioned, but the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, through "Sir Tristram" and "Sir Galahad", as two examples, has paid a tremendous price. What it has done for the country should be recognised from the top.
The Royal Fleet Auxiliary paid a tremendous price, but neither my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) nor I would wish to single out any particular sacrifice. Each and every one contributed to the successful accomplishment of our objectives. We mourn each and every one in the same way as any other.
Apart from the appalling loss of life, can the Prime Minister tell us how and when the Government propose to tell the House of the full cost of the operation, the cost of garrisoning and maintaining the islands in perpetuity, and what increases in taxes or cuts in social and other services will be necessary to pay for all these costs?
Of course we shall tell the House. Under the ordinary rules of Supply expenditure, we shall have to tell the House. I hope that the hon. Member thinks that the money spent is worthwhile.
Can my right hon. Friend tell the House whether the arrangements for the Argentine surrender include the surrender of the Argentine mission on Southern Thule, in the South Sandwich group, which has been illegally occupied by Argentine troops since 1976? As I learnt when I was in the Falkland Islands, that is a source of continuing concern to the people who live there.
We would wish to arrange for the surrender of not only the Argentines in the Falkland Islands but any Argentines left on the dependencies as well, including Southern Thule.
As the Prime Minister has told an American television audience that she will retain aircraft, Rapiers, submarines and ships in the South Atlantic, will she make some estimate, for our benefit, of how that will be paid for by the British people?
If necessary, we have to defend the Falkland Islands alone. We are talking about the lives of British subjects who expect to have the same rights as those that we enjoy. I do not believe that the hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Allaun) would wish them to have any less. It will mean allocating some of our defence equipment to that region, but the NATO defences are not wholly exclusive in the sense that the defence of NATO is affected by what goes on beyond its borders. I should be amazed if the hon. Gentleman, who also makes good use of his freedom, would begrudge the cash necessary, and thereby deny it to those people.
Did the Prime Minister note the comment of a captain in the 2nd Parachute Battalion after the liberation of Goose Green that we were fighting not for principles but for people? Does my right hon. Friend agree that those who have sacrificed their lives in these battles, besides the brilliant achievements, to which tribute has already been paid, made that sacrifice—this is a source of pride to the whole country—so that British families shall be delivered from oppression no matter how far away or how few in number they may be?
We do our best to uphold the beliefs spoken of by my hon. Friend. I agree with the person who said in Goose Green that we were fighting for people, but people must have principles by which to live. They have to be governed by fair principles because liberty and justice are the only things that give life its dignity and meaning. We shall try to uphold those on the part of our citizens wherever they look to us for their defence.
Does the Prime Minister agree about the insensitivity of the statement made—I am not sure who made it—about burial in a mass grave of 21 of those who died in the Falklands? Does she also agree that, even if the bodies are reburied dirty, some assistance should be given to the families of those Service men who died there, bearing in mind that the families have 8,000 miles to travel if they want to pay tribute to their relatives who have died in this conflict?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising that point. If those Service men find their permanent resting place in the Falklands in a Commonwealth grave, it is customary to pay for the families to go to see the grave.
Can my right hon. Friend give an assurance that arrangements will be made to look after the families of the Chinese citizens from Hong Kong who were killed in the attack at Bluff Cove?
I thank my hon. Friend for raising that point. We recognise that we also have a duty to those people, because they died in serving our cause. We shall make arrangements accordingly.
Does the Prime Minister's statement today mean that under her kind of leadership in the future there will be no participatory role for a saner and more civilised Argentine Government in any international system for guaranteeing the peace in that part of the South Atlantic? Is it not unrealistic, in view of the geographical factors, to think that we can carry on as a colonial Power on those distant shores?
This is British sovereign territory.
We know that.
I know that the hon. Gentleman knows that. I am amazed at how he manages to ignore it in his every question. This is British sovereign territory and they are British people. We need the friendliness of neighbouring States. We do not negotiate sovereignty with them.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that resolution 502 of the Security Council was implemented not by the United Nations but by the valour and courage of Her Majesty's Forces and by the determination of my right hon. Friend herself? Is there not a lesson there for the whole House to learn?
I agree wholly with what my hon. Friend has said. No attempt was made by the Argentines to implement resolution 502.
Will the Prime Minister not close her mind completely to some discussion, under the auspices of the United Nations, on the ultimate sovereignty of the islands? Is it not a profound anachronism in 1982 for any State to have sovereign territory 8,000 miles away? Did the Prime Minister weigh the question of sovereignty when, together with the United States of America, she cleared out 1,400 people—who were not given the chance to say a word—from Diego Garcia to make it into a nuclear base? Is it not a fact that the new Government in Mauritius are demanding that the Americans get off that island and that the 1,400 people return? Is not the question of sovereignty at the basis of all that? Does it not have the seeds of future conflict if we do not act democratically? What would the right hon. Lady say if a powerful Argentina had taken the Shetland Lands? Would we tolerate that?
There is one principle—that territorial sovereignty be respected.
Not in Diego Garcia.
Diego Garcia was taken by arrangement with Mauritius. A sum of £3 million in compensation was taken by arrangement and agreement, fully in accordance with the law. We either uphold territorial sovereignty and international law or we have international anarchy.
Does my right hon. Friend realise that nobody in the House could rise to speak without paying tribute to probably the greatest victory in the history of an army at the end of an 8,000 mile supply line? That achievement is unbelievable. Will my right hon. Friend make it clear that she will resist the siren voices of politicians on both sides of the House or among the media, and that she will make no further statement about the future of the Falkland Islands for at least six months? The dust must be allowed to settle. We must get the people back there. Let us not have the Government permanently being asked what they are doing about the future of the islands. There must be peace there first.
I agree with my hon. Friend that this was a great military victory that will go down in the history books. I believe that the brilliance with which it was planned and executed is unequalled. It will take some considerable time for the islanders to settle down, for us to see what development possibilities there are, and to get security for the Falkland Islands. I believe that it will take at least six months. I should not be surprised if it took a good deal longer.
Since this country had the support of most international opinion in resisting aggression, is it not equally important to keep the same support on the question of the future of the Falkland Islands? Why is the Prime Minister ruling out completely the possibility of United Nations trusteeship? Can there be no change in the territorial status of the Falkland Islands?
The only change in the territorial status of the Falkland Islands that one would consider would be one arranged in conjunction and discussion with the people of the Falkland Islands. That is the way that we have gone about looking after those many territories and colonies that have previously been within our own trusteeship. I believe that that is the way that we should continue to act.
Will full provision be made from public funds for those who have lost their homes, their stock-in-trade and their personal possessions in the conflict in a more full and generous manner than the war damage compensation—to which the Falkland Islanders contributed generously in taxation during the war—was paid to persons in the United Kingdom who lost their homes or property through enemy action?
May I look at that question, Mr. Speaker, before answering? I am not certain what insurance arrangements were made by the Falkland Islanders and how they would operate in conjunction with war damage. It is our intention to be generous in these matters.
I have not heard anything about the Gurkhas. Can the Prime Minister tell us whether any of them lost their lives or were wounded? Will we treat the Gurkhas, who serve for less pay than our men, as generously as we shall treat our own people?
I mentioned the Gurkhas. The 1st/7th Gurkhas advanced on Mount William and played a prominent part in the final, crucial stages of the battle. We do not yet have full casualty lists, and that is why I have not been able to give the figures. I gladly pay full tribute to those excellent fighting men the Gurkhas.
Will my right hon. Friend consider requesting the Government of the United States of America to assist with the return of Argentine prisoners of war to Argentina in view of the enormous numbers involved?
We shall have to get help if necessary. First, I want to know whether we can achieve a full cessation of hostilities with the mainland. We have a number of our own ships there. I believe that we could possibly get some of them back faster in our own ships than we could by either chartering ships or securing ships from other nations because of the time that it would take to get there. We might require help with something like Hercules aircraft.
Can the Prime Minister say whether, since the Argentine invasion, the British Government requested from the American Government, on a purchase or lease basis, some of the aerial reconnaissance aircraft, the AWACS?
I do not give details of help received from the Government of the United States of America. I can say only that it has been splendid. I believe that we have had everything that we have asked for. AWACS aircraft need somewhere to land, and we do not have anywhere.
Does my right hon. Friend accept that the task force, the Services and our maritime marine have proved themselves to be the finest and the most professional in the world as well as being the most compassionate, that her leadership has inspired our nation and that her assurance about the long-term security of the Falkland Islands is much appreciated because of the growing strategic importance of that area to the peace of the world?
I agree with my hon. Friend that the Falkland Islands have a strategic importance, not only in shipping terms because of the shipping lanes but because they are the entrance to the Antarctic, which I believe will become more important. I agree with my hon. Friend about our Armed Forces. Their professionalism has been remarked upon wherever they serve in the world.
Will fresh representations now be made about the three British journalists who were detained at the beginning of the incident? They were engaged in carrying out their proper duties. There may also be some British prisoners who will be part of the discussions. In the light of the right hon. Lady's replies about resolution 502 and any participation of the United Nations, is it not a fact that, despite the great military achievement—everybody acknowledges that—we had considerable international support, both from the United States of America and from other countries, at the United Nations and in practical terms?Were we not glad enough to have that support when we were dealing with some of the problems? Does not the Prime Minister recognise that that international support could be needed in future? Does she accept that we shall have to go to the United Nations and argue our case in the coming months? Is she not, therefore, unwise to resist that approach to the problem? She will have to return to it in the end, and she might as well acknowledge that now.
I have no further news about the three journalists. Representations are made through the Swiss embassy, which represents our interests in Argentina. We shall, of course, make fresh inquiries. There are also a few of our British prisoners of war. We hope that they will be returned, as we have returned so many Argentine prisoners of war. The earlier prisoners from the Falklands were repatriated to this country.I repeat that resolution 502 was not honoured by the Argentines. We have had to secure the withdrawal without resolution 502. Because it was not honoured, we do not need to negotiate in any way with the United Nations or anyone else about British sovereignty of the islands. I make that absolutely clear. For years, under the non-self-governing territories article of the United Nations charter, we have reported about the increasing provision for representation of the people in the government of their own territory. That we shall continue to do.
The right hon. Lady will have to speak in a different tone if she is to have any successful discussions in New York and elsewhere in the coming months. The right hon. Lady continues to miss the point about resolution 502. Partly because of the passage of that resolution, we received material military and other support from the Americans. Partly because of the passage of that resolution, we obtained economic support from elsewhere. For the right hon. Lady to suggest that she does not need international support to solve the problem is an absurdity and will be proved to be so in the months ahead.
As I did not say that, will the right hon. Gentleman kindly withdraw his remarks?
Lebanon (Israeli Action)