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Mr. Radice : It is true that we need to choose our words carefully, but what has the Conservative party been doing over the past week?

Sir Bernard Braine : I am speaking as the Father of the House. I am speaking for myself and I shall express my own views. I am not here to engage in attacks upon the Opposition or on one part of the House or the other. I wish merely to draw the attention of some hon. Members to the gravity of what has been said and what may lie ahead for our people. That is my purpose and I shall not take too long in carrying it out.

Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Port Glasgow) : The right hon. Gentleman has referred to our soldiers and other service men who are stationed in the middle east. Given the growing threat of war in that troubled part of the world, does he agree that the House should debate the Gulf crisis in the very near future?

Sir Bernard Braine : We have already debated it, and I hope that we shall debate it again. I agree entirely with the hon. Gentleman about that.

I have been in Parliament for a long time. I have sat in this place under Mr. Speaker and five of his predecessors and also nine Prime Ministers. They were all good men who did their duty in their own way and left their mark on our national life. Some were struck down by illness before the time came to leave. Some lost an election and did not return. The truth is that ours is a hazardous calling. Looking back over the whole of my 40 years as a Member, this has to be--I speak solely for myself--the saddest day that I can recall. I did not think that what has happened over the past few days was inevitable. It has happened, however, and listening to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister earlier, it is my judgment that it should not have happened.

Given my great love for this place and its central role in our national life, in my experience my right hon. Friend, by any standard that one cares to apply, has been the greatest Prime Minister in peacetime this century. Neither David Lloyd George nor Winston Churchill, who provided such superb leadership after the beginning of two devastating world wars, would ever have been elected to their high office in peacetime. The historians among us know why and it is no part of my purpose to go into the details.

In the past decade my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has steered the United Kingdom from a state of

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relative decline--there is no argument about that--at the bottom of the European league to where we are today near the top. It is-- [Interruption.] There is no need to jeer. We know the facts. There is always imperfection in our society and in what we do. There are some occasions when we do not succeed, but if we compare the situation in which we found ourselves when my right hon. Friend became Prime Minister and that in which the vast majority of our people live today, there is no doubt that a transformation has taken place and that we owe a great deal to her achievements.

I think that the House knows that I have tended to be a specialist in foreign affairs. I have been to eastern Europe on many occasions. I have been also to the United States, Africa and Asia. In my travels I have become aware of the countless occasions on which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has earned respect for herself and enhanced the reputation of our country to a greater extent than I have known anyone else to do during all the years that I have sat in this place. Never let that be forgotten.

These are not my views alone. One would not have succeeded in remaining in the House after 12 general elections, in most of which my majority has increased and in some of which there was a swing to my party locally when the country elected a Labour Government, without knowing, or trying to know, what ordinary people think. One would not have otherwise been allowed the honour of representing the constituency without doing so. I have made myself aware of the thinking of ordinary people because in what we do here, and in the leaders that we choose, we have a distinct responsibility to those whom we represent.

I shall not speak for too long because I am aware that only a few of us will be able to speak our minds in this debate. All of us, however, have our private thoughts. I should like to say publicly, here in this Chamber, that despite what has happened in the Conservative party in recent weeks most of us are grateful to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister for her achievements at home and abroad, and for her untiring energy in the service of the nation. We are also grateful for her candour--an unexpected quality in politics--and her courage. In that context, let us remember what the young Winston Churchill said when he was asked, "What, Winston, is the greatest of the Christian virtues?". He replied, "Courage." When asked, "Why do you say that?", he answered, "Because it is the only one that guarantees the rest."

The verdict rests not with us but with history. My right hon. Friend need not fear what history will say about her.

6.40 pm

Mr. Denis Healey (Leeds, East) : It is always a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine). I fear that he and I are much of an age, and we have both been in the House for a fair time. I follow him in at least one of his comments. I have been privileged to be drawn in debate against the Prime Minister for some 16 years now, since she was a junior Treasury spokesman--and, if I may say so, a very able one. For anyone who has watched her for so long, it is a moving experience to see her leaving her position in such circumstances. I must confess that, during Prime Minister's Question Time and much of her speech in this debate, I thought that she

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showed her finest qualities, and I listened to her with sympathy and admiration. She has guts, and she has a degree of determination to which I fear that none of those who are now challenging her can lay claim. I agree very much with the right hon. Member for Castle Point on that point : she is a leader.

It is a little sad to find the Prime Minister compelled to leave office against her will, not because the country has been given a chance to express its views about her--as I believe that it should--but by colleagues --some sychophants, some hypocrites--who up to 24 hours ago were publicly professing their undying loyalty to her. I think that the right hon. Member for Castle Point will agree that is somewhat distasteful to witness. They have decided to throw her out because at the moment she is the best and most convenient scapegoat for the failure of the Government's collective policies. I shall miss her, as I think we all will, whether she goes to Brussels as the first chairman of the European central bank--which seems to be her preference--or, as suggested by one of her hon. Friends, to Pasadena as the governor of California.

However, I am bound to say that the Prime Minister leaves behind her a very sad legacy. I must comment a little on some of the claims that she made in her speech about that legacy. The fact is that even the Chancellor has admitted that our economy is now in deep recession. Unemployment has been rising for the past six months, and we are told by the Chancellor that it will rise faster for at least another 12. Inflation has been rising for more than 12 months, and--according to the Government's preferred measure-- is now running at twice the level achieved by our partners in the exchange rate mechanism which we have just joined.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster) : Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he is entirely mistaken in saying that the Chancellor said that we were in deep recession? He said no such thing ; he said that, if there was a recession, it would be shallow, not deep.

Mr. Healey : "Shallow" is a word that I am quite prepared to use about the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Perhaps it would have been fairer to say that the phrase "deep recession" was used a fortnight ago by the Association of British Chambers of Commerce, which works at the coalface and, I suspect, knows a little bit more about what is happening than some of the Chancellor's advisers in the Treasury. Bankruptcies are now at a 10- year high, and only this week the Government published figures showing that the decline in output in the last quarter had been the steepest for the past 10 years. Meanwhile, our social and economic infrastructure is collapsing. Anyone who meets teachers, nurses, consultants or university lecturers knows that demoralisation in the professions connected with education and health has never been so serious, and it will take many years to repair.

The CBI has pointed out that we have the worst transport system in Europe, and anyone who--unlike Conservative Members--travels on London tube trains or buses will know how true that is. I never thought that I would live to see the day when Britain would be performing worse than Italy on output, inflation and balance of payments, and when London--to the disgrace of this Government--would be a dirtier city than Milan.

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Moreover, all that has happened in a decade when Britain has had the once-in-a-lifetime--in fact, once-in-history-- advantages of North sea oil, which gave the Government an extra £70,000 million in revenue in their first 10 years and £100,000 million in assistance to the balance of payments. In spite of that, we now have the biggest balance of payments deficit among the larger countries in the developed world.

Mr. Sayeed : Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Healey : I shall give way in a moment. I always enjoy giving way to the hon. Gentleman because he is so helpful.

The Government have also enjoyed £27 billion in extra revenue as a result of cuts in public benefits. Now I give way, with pleasure, to the hon. Member for Bristol, East (Mr. Sayeed).

Mr. Sayeed : When the right hon. Gentleman gave way last, he admitted that he had made a mistake. [Laughter.] Perhaps I should rephrase that.

Does the right hon. Gentleman feel, even now, a sense of shame about the time when, as Chancellor, he had to go cap in hand to the International Monetary Fund?

Mr. Healey : To be quite honest, I do not. I am often criticised for having gone to the IMF, but let me give the hon. Gentleman the facts. In 1976, I borrowed £2.5 billion from the IMF at an interest rate of between 4 and 5 per cent. ; I paid it all back by 1979. Last year alone, this Government borrowed £19 billion from the financial markets at interest rates four or five times as high. According to the Chancellor, this year they will be borrowing £15 billion from the financial markets at interest rates 3.5 times higher than the rates that I incurred. I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving me an opportunity to say that. However, I confess that I did slip the hon. Gentleman a pony, and he has performed the necessary service with exquisite aplomb.

The Prime Minister came to office with one slogan on her flag--we must not live on tick. Conservative Members are looking at me with bemused fascination, and I do not blame them. The increase in living standards enjoyed by some people, especially during 1988 and last year, was entirely financed by borrowing. Personal borrowing has been higher than at any time in our history, and as a result of the Chancellor's necessary measures, a number of families now face the possibility of dispossession because they can no longer pay their mortgages on the houses which, thanks to the Government, they have bought.

Company borrowing has never been so high. It has doubled during the past year, as the Leader of the House, who was a distinguished--or at any rate a junior--Treasury Minister must recall. Even the public sector borrowing requirement is mounting month by month, despite the fact that the Government's revenues have enjoyed colossal and unprecedented assistance from North sea oil.

One consequence of that excessive borrowing is not only that we must finance our deficit from the financial markets at mediaeval interest rates, but--according to The Economist --40 per cent. of British industry will be owned by foreigners by 1995 if we continue in that way. That is only another five years. I do not believe that the record that I have described is one of which any Conservative Member could be proud.

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I have concentrated on issues on which the whole of the Conservative party has been united since it took office. I have not mentioned the poll tax--although I could have had a great deal of fun with that--and I have not mentioned its divisions on Europe. The economic and social policies that have resulted in the disaster that I have described were supported by every challenger to the Prime Minister, including the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine)--

Mr. Skinner : Gary Glitter.

Mr. Healey : With great respect to my hon. Friend, whom I dearly love, he is not right--the right hon. Gentleman is Flash Gordon. Many of us remember with affection the late Lord Kilmuir--previously Sir David Maxwell Fyfe--of whom it was once said, "There is nothing more like death in life than Sir David Maxwell Fyfe." When he went to the Lords, he told a wondering world that loyalty was the Conservative party's secret weapon. The trouble is that, as has been shown during recent weeks, the loyalty of the Tory party is similar to that of Colonel Nasser's generals, of whom it was said that they would be 1,000 per cent. loyal until the day for treachery arrived. Now, it could more fairly be said that disloyalty is the Conservative party's public weapon. It has been a distasteful fight during the past few days.

I must tell Conservative Members that gutless opportunists have every right to choose an appropriate representative, and they may well exercise that right next Tuesday. However, they have no right to foist their choice on the people of this country as Prime Minister. Our people must be given their right to choose their Prime Minister, and the sooner the better.

6.56 pm

Mr. William Cash (Stafford) : Today, we have heard one of the most magnificent speeches from a Prime Minister that has been heard in decades. At the end of my right hon. Friend's speech, I was tempted to remind the House of the events of 1938-39, and to say to my right hon. Friend, "In the name of God, stay." Unfortunately, that is not to be. Nevertheless, it is within our grasp and our ability to pay tribute to her work during the past 11 years, and before that as Leader of the Opposition. She outlined in her speech her many achievements, which I do not need to repeat because the points have been well made and they are true. It is also true that, as Disraeli said :

"The Tory party, unless it is a national party, is nothing." On the question of Europe, for which my right hon. Friend suffered so much, there is no doubt that she has been proved right and that she will be proved right again. She has done the right thing for the right reasons.

For 20 years, first by stealth and then by sleight of hand, a web has been woven over the subject of Europe. It was a web of deceit to cover what was actually being done. I make no bones about the fact that I want the European Community to work. I voted for the Single European Act and I want the House to preserve the maximum influence possible over the conduct of our affairs in the European Community. That is precisely what my right hon. Friend sought. That is the true position. She wanted to ensure that we played an active part in the Community, but that we did not lose the essential sovereignty of the House in the bargain.

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The reason is simple. Underneath all the paraphernalia about the central bank, the technicalities of which we need not go into, the fact is that such a bank would prevent hon. Members and those whom they represent from forming a proper judgment about the economic and social priorities that they wish for themselves and their children. My right hon. Friend was right in the view that she took because at the intergovernmental conference that is about to take place the amendments, which would have effect in 1994 or 2000--the date is less important than the content--are what matter. I challenge any contender to say before the House that he would have agreed to a date without the policy or programme attached to it. To pre-empt the intergovernmental conference at the Rome summit was unthinkable. Furthermore, if the alleged goals were accepted by Parliament--a sort of automatic progression or historical inevitability-- why are we to be presented with treaty amendments? The fact is that those matters have not been settled and that is what the future debate is all about.

My right hon. Friend, with her integrity, set out that case and she has paid a heavy price for doing so. She told people the truth and, as Churchill said, when the British people are told the truth they will respond. My right hon. Friend has paid the penalty for telling the truth which in this context was regarded as unforgiveable. The Conservative party must find the centre of gravity on the European question. There is a centre of gravity and we will find it. We will have our debates and we will make our decisions about the next leader. Of one thing I am sure, and that is that we will reunite, put all these tragedies behind us and discover a policy on Europe which the Conservative party will be able to endorse.

7.2 pm

Mrs. Margaret Ewing (Moray) : I speak on behalf not only of my colleagues in the Scottish National party but of my hon. Friends in Plaid Cymru. We shall all be in the Lobby tonight supporting the motion of no confidence. That will come as no surprise to hon. Members as our parties have a clear ideological dispute with the Conservative party and its Government, not the least aspect of which has been the Government's resolute determination to turn their face against the possibility of a constitutional change which recognises the rights and sovereignty of the people of Scotland and Wales. Scotland is perhaps unique in Europe in that it has two Parliament buildings but no Government of its own.

During the "Thatcher years", as they will be described, we have seen the results of the Tory party's policies in Scotland--policies which are alien to our tradition of social justice and caring. We see the national health service in crisis, with disillusioned doctors and disappointed nurses wondering whether they will have job opportunities in the careers that they have chosen.

We see our proud universities, with their ancient traditions, facing a real cash crisis, wondering whether they will be able to continue to offer the courses that they wish to our young people and to those who wish to return to education later in life.

We see our steel industry, its workers and its dependent communities, being sold down the river on the altar of privatisation so dearly loved by the Prime Minister.

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Scotland has been earmarked as a possible site for a nuclear dump. Yet in the area chosen in the highlands and islands of Scotland, the democratically elected Members of Parliament have made it clear at all levels of government--in the district and regions, and in this Parliament and the European Parliament--that we are clearly opposed to such a project going ahead because it would result in the destruction of the area's basic industries, which depend on the perception of a clean environment--fishing, agriculture, tourism and the whisky industry. The people of that area clearly do not want a nuclear dump at Dounreay, yet the Government are wishing it upon us.

We also continue to see the loss of Scotland's life blood as our youngest, brightest and best leave Scotland to seek opportunities elsewhere. No nation can face the prospect of losing its life blood, which has continued under the Thatcher Administration.

I could spend the rest of the evening embroidering a tapestry of the devastation, despair, despondency and disillusionment wrought in the past 11 years in my nation of Scotland, but my colleagues and I wish to concentrate on one particular issue.

Our amendment, which has not been selected, draws attention to the poll tax, which is surely germane to the situation in which we find ourselves. It has always been seen as one of the most socially unjust taxes, and it is one which I would describe as immoral. The Prime Minister must recognise that her stubborn insistence on implementation of the poll tax has become her domestic Belgrano. Only now are people beginning to address the key issue of the poll tax. We in Scotland have been warning for several years of the implications of that tax and how it would affect us.

One of the great sadnesses must be that not only the Prime Minister but the Leader of the Opposition have judged the poll tax only on how it will affect their personal and political futures. The Prime Minister has realised that her adherence to the policy has cost not only 11 seats in Scotland at the last general election and more at the next general election, but the support of those English Members of Parliament who so happily voted for the poll tax in Scotland but are now realising its implications for their own constituencies. It has taken a long time for democratic reality to dawn on those people.

Meanwhile, the Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues have not fought against the poll tax with the adherence that they should have. They clearly saw it as the key to No. 10. The "stop it" campaign, so gladly launched by the Labour party in Scotland and endorsed by the Leader of the Opposition, soon became the "stump up" campaign.

Mr. George Foulkes (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley) : Does the hon. Lady recall the Second Reading of the poll tax Bill for Scotland, against which both she and I voted? Will she explain why she was not present?

Mrs. Ewing : I do not want to launch into a history lesson, but I was not present. Throughout the year, my colleagues had clearly stated our opposition to the poll tax. I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has attended this debate--

Mr. Foulkes rose --

Mrs. Ewing : With my natural courtesy, I give way to him again.

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Mr. Foulkes : The hon. Lady, who is indeed naturally courteous, will recall that the person who is now her hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas) was supposed to be here on Second Reading, but for all his ranting and raving about the poll tax subsequently was not present to vote against the Second Reading of the poll tax Bill for Scotland. Does that not show him for the hypocrite that he is?

Mr. Speaker : Order. Policies can be hypocritical, but not individual Members.

Mr. Foulkes : In that case, does it not expose him?

Mr. Speaker : No--the hon. Gentleman must withdraw the word "hypocrite".

Mr. Foulkes : Absolutely.

Mr. Douglas : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I was absent because I was a member of the Select Committee on Defence and was paired.

Mr. Speaker : Order. No point of order arises.

Mrs. Ewing : The record of my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas) in opposing the poll tax is beyond dispute. I am surprised that the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) is taking that stance.

The reality is that Labour Members have guilty consciences. Only those of us who have taken a strong, principled stance--in Scotland for an extra year--have sought to protect the poor and to offer a shield for the most vulnerable in our society. Our actions struck the hole in the bows of the flagship of the Prime Minister's third term and began the inevitable sinking of it, taking her with it. Mrs. Maria Fyfe (Glasgow, Maryhill) rose --

Mrs. Ewing : I will give way when I have finished this point. Whatever the candidates for the leadership of the Conservative party--none of whom is present tonight--may say, we have made it clear that we do not want any amendment of the poll tax ; we want it abandoned, and replaced by a local income tax, to which my party has adhered for more than 20 years.

Mrs. Fyfe : Given the hon. Lady's entirely justified criticisms of the Tory Government and her reference to the launching of the poll tax flagship, do she and her colleagues not regret voting the Tory Government in 11 years ago?

Mrs. Ewing : The hon. Lady, who was not a Member in 1979, may not be aware that the then Labour Administration--this can be confirmed by senior Labour Members who have written about it in their memoirs were not prepared to make constitutional change for Scotland a matter of confidence. They would not exercise a three-line Whip and broke their election manifesto. I have no regret about bringing down a Government who did not fulfil their manifesto commitments. Perhaps the hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mrs. Fyfe) has more regrets about the failure of the committee of 100, of which she was a member, to stand up for the poor people of Scotland. I salute the people of Scotland for their dignity, their pride and their determination. By their principled stance, they have brought about the Tory leadership crisis and exposed Labour's weakness.

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By resigning now, the Prime Minister may have salvaged some of her reputation, but nothing can hide the abysmal judgment and disgraceful role of the Leader of the Opposition and the Labour party in trying to throw her the lifebelt of their motion, which was tabled before voting had finished on Tuesday when it was evident even to the most junior Member that the Prime Minister was finished. It is a sign of the Labour party's desperation that it tried to keep her in office and provided the Conservative party with an opportunity not to show unity but at least to show some solidarity.

I will highlight the Labour party's desperation by quoting comments given by three Labour Members in the past few weeks. In the West Highland Free Press on 9 November, the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson) said :

"It is more certain than ever that it is in the Labour Party's interests that the lady should stay exactly where she is--for a few months!"

Appearing on "Behind the Lines" on 19 November, the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) said :

"It is in the Labour party's interests for Thatcher to stay. I am praying for Thatcher to win."

The hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin) said at Prime Minister's Question Time :

"May I wish the Prime Minister well in her current difficulty? Although I cannot speak for Conservative Members, many Opposition Members are rooting for her." [ Official Report, 14 November 1990 ; Vol. 180, c. 447.]

In the light of that, one must query whether the Leader of the Opposition is serious. Today, he rightly called for a general election--a view which I endorse. The general technique of the Labour party, particularly during by- elections and because of the abysmal standards of its candidates, is to have media hype and to hide its candidate. After today's pathetic performance, the right hon. Gentleman should be taken away and hidden from the electorate. He should be hiding, because if he cannot do better than that he will be in for a hiding.

7.16 pm

Sir Patrick McNair-Wilson (New Forest) : The resigniation of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is a sad occasion for many Conservative Members. Perhaps more than any other Conservative Prime Minister since the war, she has achieved fundamental and radical changes and did more to dismantle the socialist edifice.

Between 1945 and 1979, Britain was governed for 17 years by socialists and for 17 years by Conservatives. During those 17 socialist years--I became an hon. Member in 1964--we had the capture of the commanding heights and the establishment of a socialist state. Sadly, during the 17 years of Conservative rule, we tried to manage a socialist economy.

When my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister came on the scene in 1979, many of us who had longed to see it before began to see the dismantlement of that edifice and the rolling back of the socialist frontier. She may be remembered by my party for all the things that she did, but she will be remembered by the Labour party because as a result of her changes it has decided to run away from socialism. It knows that it is unelectable on the policies that it used to regard as sacrosanct. If it is any consolation to my right hon. Friend, she has been fatally wounded by a flash in the pan. Conservative Members and the country will miss her because we shall not see her like again in the foreseeable future.

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Two great issues are facing Britain. The first is the economy, which is coming right. There is no doubt that had the Opposition had to face the 1987 crash, they would have poured money into the economy, too.

I was born in 1929, when the American banking system immediately responded to the great crash by reducing available liquidity by one quarter. Everyone in the House at the time of the 1987 crash declared--as did all the opinion -formers outside--that we should fill the hole in the world economy with credit. It is perfectly true that the British economy was stronger than many might have imagined, and that by filling the hole with credit we overheated the system. However, fine-tuning an economy--as the Opposition know better than anyone else--is extremely difficult. The economy had to be controlled and cooled down. During the next 12 months we shall see the fruits of those policies. My sadness is that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will not be leading the party to benefit from those successful policies.

Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Port Glasgow) : The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. The Prime Minister will be remembered for many things, but, above all, she will be remembered for the ignominious defeat that she has suffered in the past two days.

Sir Patrick McNair-Wilson : I would not quarrel with that description of what has happened to my right hon. Friend. I am deeply saddened that something has been manufactured to take her away from the world stage and the stage here.

The second issue is our relationship with Europe. I regard it as more important than management of the domestic economy, as mistakes in the domestic economy can be corrected, but the mistakes that we could make in our relationship with Europe could be irreparable. When I came into the House in 1964, the Opposition were lamenting the existence of what they laughingly called the gnomes of Zurich, who were destroying their ability to manage their affairs. I remember Lord Wilson standing at the Dispatch Box explaining to the House that, although Britain's economy had underlying strength, a crisis of confidence was affecting our currency. That terrible crisis dogged the Labour Government until they were eventually put out of office in 1970. One of the problems which made that crisis so difficult to solve was the effect of a tightly fixed exchange rate, under the Bretton Woods system, and our subsequent problems with expanding the economy. I remember many occasions on which the Labour Government had to cut hospital and other welfare programmes because of those financial constraints.

If we are not careful we shall be on the threshold of a situation where the gnomes of Zurich will look like pixies--we shall be run by a central bank which is effectively beyond our control, and we shall have surrendered our money supply. My right hon. Friend has fought passionately, throughout her period in office, to get a relationship with Europe which gives us, and the other nations, the freedom to manage our affairs without such constraints.

We are now members of the European exchange rate mechanism. Thank goodness sterling can operate within a

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12 per cent. band. If anyone believes that we can solve our problems by bringing the band down to 4.5 per cent., I can assure them that they are 100 per cent. wrong.

Next month, after the German elections, hon. Members will witness one of the most significant economic events--the German economy bearing the full brunt of the cost of repairing the east. German interest rates will begin to move up, and we shall witness their effect upon the entire Community economy. My prediction is that the standard of living in the Community will start to fall during the next five years.

If, as a nation, we are not free to manage our domestic economy, we will fall along with other European nations. I am convinced that my right hon. Friend was correct to be prudent and careful. In the future there will be two super states--the United States and Germany. Many of the other European countries are scrambling about, trying to lock Germany into institutions in the belief that that will control her ambitions and power. I very much doubt it.

My family have had a home in continental Europe for many years. Anyone who believes that Europe is some glorious, united Utopia knows nothing about it. Going to Europe and living the gilded life in huge hotels, attending conferences, is not the same as talking to ordinary people.

I am convinced that my right hon. Friend's greatest contribution to the nation--quite apart from what she may have done for the domestic economy-- was putting the brake on any rash moves across Europe and European monetary union. To some extent, we lose in the translation. The French call the single currency "monnaie unique"--something completely unique. They do not want it and will probably fight against it. The only difference between the French and ourselves is that they have the happy habit of joining things, and, if they do not like them, starting to sabotage them. Sadly, we play by different rules.

Mr. Thomas Graham (Renfrew, West and Inverclyde) rose--

Sir Patrick McNair-Wilson : I am coming to the end of my remarks. My right hon. Friend has played a significant role in maintaining our ability to manage our economy, and therefore our national state. To lose that now-- to give it away--would be a tragedy after such a brilliant career.

7.26 pm

Mr. Merlyn Rees (Morley and Leeds, South) : I have always wanted to write a novel.

Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East) : Why not?

Mr. Rees : My hon. Friend is right. I have been sitting here since the beginning of the debate. Successive Conservative Members have said that the Prime Minister is brilliant and that today is the saddest day of their lives. I understand that, but what they all forget is that more than 40 per cent. of them voted in the first ballot to ensure that the Prime Minister could not last. If that is true, I think that I have a title for my novel-- "The Strange Death of the Thatcher Government." The realities have not been accepted by the bit players in the event.

Mr. Robert Litherland (Manchester, Central) : Is it a whodunnit?

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Mr. Rees : I will tell hon. Members "whodunnit". It happened yesterday afternoon, when it was made clear to the Prime Minister that she would not win the next ballot. If Opposition Members and Scottish nationalists have been saying that we wanted the Prime Minister to stay, it was not because we loved her policies but because, in the past year, from by-elections, local elections and Euro-elections, we realised that the electorate did not think her policies brilliant. The electorate, not hon. Members, decide who forms the Government. That is what the system is all about. That is why I have to tell the Scottish nationalists what I said on local radio this morning--that I do not know what will happen, but that I shall be sorry that the Prime Minister will not lead the Conservative party at the next general election, because that would be good for us, at least in Yorkshire.

I want to speak of some of the myths which arise in "The Strange Death of the Thatcher Government"--the socialist economy and the welfare state. Decaying industry was taken over in 1945. The coal industry was out of date and non-technological, and had been in private hands. Nearly every hon. Member agreed that that was the reality. The Churchill and Macmillan Governments made no attempt to alter the situation. Indeed, Macmillan had advocated that arrangement in the 1930s. To equate the 1987 crash with the 1929 crash is really stretching the truth.

I remind the hon. Member for New Forest (Sir P. McNair-Wilson) that in 1973 the Conservative Government were defeated because of the oil crisis. There was another oil crisis in 1979. If events in the Gulf develop as many people suggest, there will be another oil crisis soon. That cannot be ignored. The Government would have to take steps to deal with it.

I am glad that we have had this debate today. I would have been more glad if I could see more Government supporters in the House. I would much prefer to have a debate in the House than on television on programmes such as "Newsnight", in the press and in editorials. The House is the place which decides what happens and it is where the debate should take place. I am glad that the Prime Minister spoke, although on several occasions this morning I thought that she would not. It was in this House, if not in the Chamber, that the coup de grace took place. I am sorry that there are not many Conservative Members present.

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