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Hon. Members : Where are they?

Mr. Rees : Perhaps they will pass through during the evening. During my almost 30 years in the House, many changes have taken place in the Labour party. I heard a story that we in the Labour party were the creatures of our constituency parties, and that our constituencies told us what to do. I tell the few Conservative Members here why the Thatcher Government fell. It was because 70, 80 or 90 youngsters in the House knew that they would lose their seats at the next election. At the same time, one reads that two Conservative Members will be carpeted, or perhaps worse, by their local constituency associations.

Is that democracy? It is exactly the point that they put to us. It is absolutely right to take the views of our constituency parties. I have been in the Labour party for over 50 years but, at the end of the day, a Member of

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Parliament must do what he wants and face the consequences later. If not, this place will not work. Deselection is a problem. It is a pity that the case of the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) was not put in the House. I have watched him on so many television shows. I have read about him in newspapers, but I have not heard it on the Floor of the House. I wish that he had been here to hear the arguments and the venom of the right hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley). We have heard the views of the right hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East (Sir G. Howe). He put forward a vicious argument. He should have been in the Chamber today.

Mr. Dalyell : He was here.

Mr. Rees : I did not see him. Perhaps he was standing at the gate of paradise.

I should like to see one thing changed. My right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) referred to it. A sordid matter has been much talked about in the past three or four years. It is the way in which civil servant press officers and others at No. 10 have not only briefed the press, quite properly, about Government policy, but have issued briefings against Cabinet Ministers. There was a straight briefing by civil servants that the then Leader of the House was whatever he was said to be.

Mr. Peter Shore (Bethnal Green and Stepney) : Semi-detached. And he was knifed.

Mr. Rees : Indeed, he was said to be semi-detached and he was knifed. There were other such cases. I hope that, when the Labour party comes to power, the press department at No. 10 will be divided into the straight civil service side and the political side. The political side should not be inside No. 10. There is plenty of room just across the road, in what was the Home Office. There must be a distinction between the two. Rumours are running around that two members of the kitchen Cabinet have been given peerages. Someone whispered to me that that is the only way in which the story of Westland will be kept quiet.

The major reason why the Government are electorally unpopular in my constituency is not Europe. That is not at the forefront of people's minds. For many of them, it is the bank rate and its effect on purchasing houses. But the poll tax is the reason why the Government are in disarray. It is not simply the tax in itself. It is a bad tax--even Adam Smith could see that. There is no relationship with the ability to pay. It is bureaucratic and expensive. But in my novel, "The Strange Death of the Thatcher Government", it will be shown that the way in which it was conceived was its problem. There was no consultation with local treasurers or local authorities.

Sir Eldon Griffiths indicated dissent.

Mr. Rees : Well, I have made my inquiries for my novel. It will be based not on fiction but on reality. It will be a new sort of novel. I know others have written such novels.

Mr. Graham : I am sure that my right hon. Friend's novel will place on record the fact that schools in Scotland can no longer give the school kids eye tests. The kids have to go elsewhere. Is that not an appalling indictment of any Government?

Mr. Rees : That is one of the effects of the poll tax. Certainly, local authority finance will have to be carefully

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examined in the wide sense. However, the poll tax must be scrapped. There can be no pussyfooting with the poll tax. It is a bad tax, and the Government have learnt the effect of it. A new Government would have to end it.

I could raise many other points, but many were raised earlier and I wish to be as brief as I promised. However, I feel that I must mention the crime rate. I am interested in the crime rate because, in 1979, the Conservative party issued many familiar pamphlets saying that the Conservative party was the party of law and order. They said that it would solve the problem of law and order.

The latest statistics of recorded crime published in July this year show that the rise of 15 per cent. in the first quarter of 1990 was the largest increase since 1857. The crime rate in Britain has gone up and up. There are two points to be made about that. It is said that the statistics on recorded crime do not tell the full story, but they did not tell the full story in 1979 either. If there are more policemen, there will be more recorded crime. One must also take into account the changed nature of society. For my money, I should like to see the causes of crime investigated and analysed more objectively than they are at the time of a general election.

Whatever else this brilliant Government did, they failed miserably on the crime rate. By surprise, they have fallen even though no Conservative Member who has spoken today seemed to believe that they did anything wrong. That is another story which people in our constituencies know.

Another intriguing matter will come into my novel. In the 1970s, documents were drawn up, copies of which have now been passed to me. Certain people said that the country was ungovernable. It is alleged that there were plots to deal with that position. The crime rate was said to be so high that something had to be done. My hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) also knows about the matter. People with no political nous believed that all the problems were due to the wicked Labour Government. It was not so. The crime rate is worse now than it was then.

I hope that in the present--to use the phrase used then--ungovernable state of the country the same dirty tricks will not be used against this Government. Dirty tricks may have been the reason for the strange death of the Thatcher Government, but they did not come from the lower end of the security services or from dissident politicians. The reason why the Government have fallen is the Conservative party itself and the behaviour in the past week of many people in the Government.

Many Conservative Members and members of the Government know what the last chapter of my book on why the Government fell will contain. The Prime Minister was stabbed in her political back by her own party, by members of her own Government. That should not be allowed to happen with a new leader. We must have a general election. I believe that we will have an election sooner rather than later as a result of what has happened. For my money, the sooner the better.

7.39 pm

Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North) : Of all the speeches that I have heard in this House, only one stands out in my memory. It was made by the then right hon. Member for

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Ebbw Vale--now the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot)--on the night the Labour Government fell, and it was one of the usual brilliant performances of that great orator. I remember particularly his remark that Lady Margaret was going out to battle with the Scotch armour bearer going before and her hand was in the hand of the boy David. I have found out that the greatest speeches in this House are usually made by the losers, and on that night the Labour Government fell.

Today, we heard a brilliant speech. No matter what anyone thinks of the Prime Minister, she was at her best today. She spoke with passion and with power. The cut and thrust was excellent. She replied to her critics. It was undoubtedly a difficult time for her, but she got full marks for her performance. I have many differences with the Prime Minister, but I pay tribute to her brilliance today. When history is written and all is revealed, as it will eventually be, her name will undoubtedly be embedded in it because she has been, in her own way, an outstanding Prime Minister. She has won three general elections and made a great change in this United Kingdom. That will never be forgotten.

Alas, Northern Ireland has had a sad history with the Prime Minister. We expected her to be a staunch, loyal Unionist who would never do what she did in the Anglo-Irish Agreement. It was unthinkable, especially as when the Irish Forum produced its report the previous year, she said, "Out, out, out." Yet she took her pen and signed away part of the sovereignty of Northern Ireland in that iniquitous diktat without any consultation whatever with the ordinary people of Northern Ireland. We were not consulted.

From that day, Margaret Thatcher was on the down hill. After that, she had trouble with her Cabinet and trouble on all sides. Day by day she adopted the attitude that she had adopted in Northern Ireland--that she could ignore the people and get away with it. But we cannot ignore the people.

Today, all those who were so strong in putting forward the Anglo-Irish Agreement have disappeared from politics, except one who is running for office. In the south of Ireland, the initiator of the agreement has gone and his replacement says that the agreement needs to be replaced and that articles 2 and 3 of the constitution need to be changed. We have a new President in the south of Ireland who resigned from the Irish Labour party on the issue of the agreement. Slowly but surely, the right of the people to express themselves will prevail. That is what is happening to the Anglo- Irish Agreement. How can I, at the end of tonight's debate, go into a Lobby and say that I have confidence in the Government? My conscience would not allow me to do so, because I should be flying in the face of the cries of orphans and widows from an agonised Ulster which would never be in its present plight but for that agreement. We have only to look at the figures. The Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed five years ago. That year, there were 54 killings. I remind the House that the number of killings was spiralling downwards before the agreement was signed. The following year, the number of killings increased to 61 and the next year to 93. The year after that, it was 93 again. Then it fell to 62, but this year, even before we are into December, there have been 71 killings.

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Peter Brooke) : I will ask the hon. Gentleman the same question

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that I asked the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis), who made a similar point in our debate on Monday night. Has the hon. Gentleman also noted the coincidence between the years to which he has referred and the years when the Provisional IRA received massive armaments from Gaddafi of Libya?

Rev. Ian Paisley : There may be some connection. I have great respect for the right hon. Gentleman as I have been in a series of talks with him and found him open and forthcoming, but it was claimed that the agreement would bring about peace, stability and reconciliation. The right hon. Gentleman stays in the Province, continually goes about it, meets the bereaved people and sees the security forces, so he knows that we do not have peace, stability or reconciliation. People are at loggerheads with each other. Five years ago we were told that peace would break out, but it has not. What is more, we were promised proper extradition from the Irish Republic and that those who committed atrocities would be brought back and judged properly. The right hon. Gentleman knows what a fiasco that promise has been.

It was interesting that when the Prime Minister recounted her past achievements she did not mention the Anglo-Irish Agreement. Today, the right hon. Gentleman has said that the Government will consider a replacement for the agreement if it is possible. I trust that that policy will be pursued with great eagerness and dedication by all concerned because from the Province there comes today a cry for help.

Some hon. Members may think that Protestant paramilitaries, so called and wrongly called so, and the security forces are responsible in large measure for those who are killed. That is not so. Of all the murders of the past five years, 74.5 per cent. were slaughtered by the Irish Republican Army. One hundred and nineteen--41 per cent.--were Roman Catholics. At a recent conference, the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume), who is not present, pointed out that the IRA was responsible for killing more of its own people and co-religionists than anyone else in Northern Ireland. Those are the facts. The Unionists disagreed greatly with the Prime Minister on the further issue that Sunday should be a special day. The House knows what happened on that. The votes from Northern Ireland stopped the legislation going through the House. There was a division between the Prime Minister and the Ulster Unionists--a division which united my party and the Ulster Unionist party. We fought on a common manifesto and pledged to the people that we had no other option but to go against the Government on that policy. Tonight my hon. Friends and I will do so again because of our convictions.

I largely agree with the Prime Minister about Europe. I have not sat in all the elected Parliaments of Europe, with the largest vote recorded for any member of any party in Europe, not to understand what is going on in Europe. I do not want this House to become a county council with Mr. Delors telling us that 80 per cent. of our Acts of Parliament will be passed by bureaucrats in Brussels. That is not British democracy. The hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) should be heeded when he tells us to find out what 1992 is really about--the single market. There are many things over which the House will have no power. Tonight the House must reconsider that issue. The Prime Minister has been right in her attitude. In Europe, I find that it is all right to be a Frenchman and fight for

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France, it is all right to be a German and fight for Germany, but to be a Britisher and fight for this United Kingdom is apparently wrong.

7.50 pm

Mr. Tony Benn (Chesterfield) : This debate is long overdue. It gives the House an opportunity to look back over a decade of Conservative Government. What has emerged--I am not sure whether Conservative Members realise this--is that the Conservatives have had strong messages from their supporters and from the electors suggesting that they cannot win with the leader who they have so loyally supported. We shall vote for a motion of no confidence, but the Conservative party has already had its motion of no confidence. I do not believe that we should attach that motion to the personality of the Prime Minister because it is the policies that she has pursued, not her style, which have led to the message from the British people. I do not believe in scapegoats and it is important that we should understand that every present and former member of the Cabinet, every Conservative Member of Parliament who has trooped through the Lobby night after night after night in support of those policies, every newspaper that has supported the Government and every voter who voted for them share responsibility for the current situation.

So much has been said about the past that I want to speak about the future, but it would be wrong to let the motion of censure go by without touching on some of the damage that has been done in the past decade. I must admit that the mechanical recitation of statistics does not get near the real world.

One important point about which we rarely hear is that Britain has spent far too much money on defence and not enough on its industrial development. There is the illusion that the only reason for change in eastern Europe is Britain's possession of a nuclear weapon. Is it honestly believed by any serious person that there would have been no demand for liberty in Poland, Hungary and the Soviet Union unless we had had a nuclear weapon from the United States? But the price we paid for that high defence expenditure has crippled our capacity to make and sell what is needed.

Despite the fact that we have been told that this is an entrepreneurial society, Britain has an utter contempt for skill. If one talks to people who dig coal and drive trains, or to doctors, nurses, dentists or toolmakers, one discovers that no one in Britain is interested in them. The whole of the so-called entrepreneurial society is focused on the City news that we get in every bulletin which tells us what has happened to £ sterling to three decimal points against the basket of European currencies. Skill is what built this country's strength, but it has been treated with contempt. I must confess that the auctioning of public assets, particularly the latest disgusting Frankenstein advertisement, told me more about the mentality of the Ministers who devised those schemes than the sales themselves. Those assets were built up by the labour of those who work in the electricity industry and by the taxpayer who invested in the equipment. Those assets are now to be auctioned at half their value to make a profit for a tax cut for the rich before the next general election. If Ministers were local councillors they would be before the courts for wilful misconduct, but because they are Ministers and because some of them later go on to the boards of the companies

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they privatised, they are treated as business men who know better how to handle those companies as members of the board of directors than allegedly they did as the Ministers responsible.

Local government has been crippled. Across the river is the county hall of London county council--the seat of government of the greatest city in the world. It is empty and is to be sold because the Government wanted to cripple local government, and they have. The poll tax, the centralisation of the business rate and the punishment of Liverpool and Lambeth councillors were designed to take all power from local government and to put it in the hands of the Government who claimed that they did not believe in the role of the state. Many people--I am one of them--feel strongly about the undermining of the trade unions, who now have fewer rights than their counterparts in eastern Europe, the tax cuts for the rich and the benefit cuts for the poor, the censorship of the media, the abuse practised by the security services, the restriction on civil liberties, the Falklands war and now the Government's readiness to send more troops, announced today, to the middle east to die for the control of oil. We are not alone in our concern about those issues because the message reaching Conservative Members has come from those who share that concern. When we look back at the 1980s we see many victims of market forces. I do not share the general view that market forces are the basis of political liberty. Every time I see a homeless person living in a cardboard box in London I see that person as a victim of market forces. Every time I see a pensioner who cannot manage, I know that he is a victim of market forces. The sick who are waiting for medical treatment that they could receive quicker through private insurance are victims of those same market forces.

The Prime Minister is a great ideologue. Her strength was that she understood a certain view of life, and when she goes there will be a great ideological vacuum. It is no good saying that we shall run market forces better than she did because her whole philosophy was that one should measure the price of everything, but the value of nothing. We must replace that philosophy.

Mr. Gorbachev and Mr. Walesa must be more worried than anyone to discover that the Prime Minister on whom they have modelled their economic policy has collapsed at the very moment she had persuaded them that that was the way forward to political success. To put it crudely, the Berlin wall has fallen in London today and changes will be made which will go further than the Conservative party yet realises.

It is important to put on the record all those people who have been denounced in the past 10 years as loonies, extremists and as the "enemy within". They saw earlier than others the meaning behind the Government's policies. They include the miners and the miners' wives who fought against the injustice of closing pits and going for nuclear power and imported coal --

Mr. Nicholas Bennett (Pembroke) rose --

Mr. Benn : I shall not give way for the moment. They include the Greenham common women. I was in court when those women were charged with action likely to cause a breach of the peace. They were outside the camp

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while inside were enough nuclear weapons to destroy humanity. They were the pioneers of the defeat of the Prime Minister.

Mr. Bennett rose --

Mr. Benn : Let me finish my list, then the hon. Gentleman can intervene and make a fool of himself.

What about the ambulance workers and the print workers at Wapping, the single-parent mothers, the greens and the people who came to Trafalgar square on 31 March for the poll tax demonstration? They reflect what the Henley candidate picked up and tried to use at a later stage to his advantage. The teachers and those who tried to defend the national health service were all grouped together as the enemy within. In fact, they were the first carriers of the message that the Tory party has finally got.

To put it in language that will be familiar to Conservative Members, the Labour party believes in the traditional values of society--in the idea that we have responsibilities one to another and that we are not just greedy all the time, looking out only for ourselves. Without being personal, the philosophy that has been propagated over the past 10 years has been wicked and evil. I am not talking about the qualities of the people who advocated those policies. But to set man against man, woman against woman and country against country and to build on nationalism and racism--we remember the warning about how we would be "swamped" by immigrants--and all the damage that has been done by the Conservatives has been disgraceful.

All that will have to be dealt with. It would be easy to repeal all their legislation. I have a measure called the Margaret Thatcher (Global Repeal) Bill which, if we got a majority, could go through both Houses in 24 hours. It would be easy to reverse the policies and replace the personalities--the process has begun--but the rotten values that have been propagated from the platform of political power in Britain during the past 10 years will be an infection--a virulent strain of right-wing capitalist thinking which it will take time to overcome.

I had an experience the other day which confirmed my view that the Prime Minister has not really changed the thinking or culture of the British people. I do not know how many hon. Members travel, as I do, on trains. I travel regularly on them and I see all the little business men with their calculators working out their cash flow forecasts and I see frowning people glaring at each other. They are Thatcherite trains--the trains of the competitive society. On the way from Chesterfield the other day the train broke down and suddenly everything seemed to change. Somebody came into the carriage and said, "Would you like a cup of tea from my thermos?" People looked after each other's children, and after a young couple had been speaking to me for perhaps half an hour, I asked them, "Have you been married long?" They replied, "We met on the train." Another woman asked somebody, "Will you get off at Derby and phone my son in Swansea, because he will be worried?" By the time we got to London we were a socialist train.

One cannot change human nature. There is good and bad in everybody, and for 10 years the bad has been stimulated and the good denounced as lunatic, out of touch, cloud-cuckoo-land, extremist and militant. The Conservatives in power have been the cause of that. They do not quite yet know what has happened. They think that

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they are witnessing the retirement of a popular headmistress under circumstances that some might regret. In fact, they have killed the source of their own philosophy and opened the way for different ideas.

We must now look to the 1990s and beyond. Most people have modest aspirations. They want useful work and a home to live in, and they would like good education for themselves and their children, with proper health care, decent pensions and peace and dignity when they are old. In a rich country--we are often told how rich we are--that should be available if the distribution of wealth were correct. With that in mind, let us look at the world today. America, which has 2 per cent. of the world's population, uses 25 per cent. of the world's resources. For how long can that last? One does not need a Saddam Hussein or a Gaddafi to point out that maldistribution of wealth is the greatest source of international conflict. So we must look to a United Nations that is not just there to launch a war under American auspices, but is there to solve the problems that lead to war. It must help to redistribute the resources of the world. I must speak about Europe because, after all, we are all Europeans. But I will not give up the right of the people whom I represent to decide the laws under which we are governed. I will not do that, and I have no right to do so. I only borrowed my powers from Chesterfield, and at the end of five years I must hand them back. It will be no good my saying, "I am handing back some of them. The rest I gave to Europe". I was going to say that I had given them to Jacques Delors, although I do not know why we always refer to him. I could say that I had given them to Leon Brittan or Bruce Millan. Why must we always concentrate on Frenchmen? I am not giving Leon Brittan, Helmut Kohl, Mr. Po"hl or anyone else those powers because they are not mine to give away.

In saying that, I am not being a nationalist. I am an internationalist. I believe in a Europe that co-operates in harmony. But we have no right to destroy democracy in Britain to build greater power for the bankers or anybody else in Europe. If people suggest that that argument does not spread across the Floor of the House, they must be living in a strange world.

We must shift the money from weapons to development. We must protect the planet from the dangers that are associated with nationalism, fundamentalism, particularism and racism, for those, combined with nuclear and chemical weapons, could destroy the human race. During this century, since the year 1900, humanity has been re-equipped with a new set of tools and, as a result, our institutions have been outdated.

There is the No Turning Back group--I believe that that was the battle cry of the Gadarene swine--but what has changed it all is a factor that cannot be measured on a "Newsnight" computer. With the events of today, there is a great influx of hope. People who saw no chance of a home, of a better pension or of decent health care have seen the light at the end of the tunnel. It is not the light of the little flickering candles of the three candidates. It is a different sort of light.

When I campaigned in the 1945 election, we never thought that we could win. Churchill, after all, was far more popular than the present Prime Minister. He had won the war single-handed smoking a big cigar and wearing a siren suit. Although we did not think that we

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could beat him, we did. Mr. Attlee was a modest man--Churchill described him contemptuously as a modest man with a lot to be modest about--but we won.

I was at Transport house in London when the results came in. In those days there was no television, no computers and no polls to mislead us. The news was shown on an epidiascope ; we wrote the results on a bit of smoked glass and flashed them up. Ministers fell like ninepins and out of the darkness from Northolt came the little man, Clement Attlee, and he became Prime Minister. That was achieved by hope.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) referred to the Norway debate on 7 and 8 May 1940. Chamberlain was the victor and two days later Churchill became Prime Minister. That was the verdict of Parliament on the 1930s. Five years later, after the war, when the people had a chance to decide, Churchill was out, there was a Labour Government and an attempt to build a better society.

We are going through that sequence again. Tonight the Government will win an overwhelming majority and in a few days from now, whoever of the three pygmies wins the leadership, he will not be able to deny the British people the hope that will be released by the defeat of the present Prime Minister. That hope will carry into power a Government who will face such massive problems that their radicalism will far exceed that to be found, at present, in our printed policy reviews.

Several Hon. Members rose--

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean) : Order. The wind-up speeches are expected to begin at 9 o'clock. Many hon. Members still wish to take part in the debate. I appeal once more for brief speeches, please.

8.7 pm

Sir Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds) : An agreeable feature of the House is that, despite the cataclysmic events of the last 72 hours, certain things remain the same.

In the 27 years that I have had the privilege to be here, I have heard an endless series of speeches from some of the heavyweights on the Opposition Benches. Today, the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) made a vintage Foot speech ; the worst Chancellor of the Exchequer that the country has had since the war, the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), told us all about economic policy ; and the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) made one of his speeches telling us about the future while dwelling on the achievements of Mr. Attlee in 1945.

An interesting feature has been that, with all those heavyweight speeches, there has been from the Opposition Benches only one lightweight, lousy speech that did not rise to the occasion, and that was the one made by the Leader of the Opposition. From what we heard today, it is clear that the Leader of the Opposition does not know what he is talking about.

I have been involved in four Conservative leadership contests. The first was when Harold Macmillan was replaced by Lord Home. I was in Blackpool and travelled down on a train--not a socialist train--with Mr. and Mrs. Rab Butler, Reggie Manningham-Buller, and a detective. When we set off from Blackpool, Rab was quite certain that, on his arrival in London, he would go on to become Prime Minister. Shortly after we arrived in London, I

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heard from certain members of the then 1922 Executive Committee that he was not going to be Prime Minister--and nor was he. One lesson that I learned from those events is that not only is a week a long time in politics, but 24 hours can be a very long time too. The second lesson that I have learnt from the various leadership contests in which I have been involved is that, although at the time they seem damaging, as well as fascinating and engage all our interests, in the long run they do nothing to damage the essential integrity of purpose and character or the electoral fortunes of the Conservative party.

The best demonstration of that is that, although we have had four leadership problems in the 27 years that I have been a Member of this House --with the exception of the two aberrant periods when Labour Governments were in power--the British people have chosen freely to install Conservative Governments. I believe that they will continue to do so.

Of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, I say only three things. First, I believe her to be and to have been the best and the finest thing that has happened to this country over the past 50 years.

Mr. Terry Lewis (Worsley) : You came back from America to stab her in the back.

Sir Eldon Griffiths : I did not.

In my period in the House, I have formed the conclusion that we shall not, in my lifetime, see my right hon. Friend's equal again. Mr. Skinner rose--

Sir Eldon Griffiths : No, I shall not give way. You, Mr. Deputy Speaker, have asked us to be brief.

Mr. Skinner : The hon. Gentleman stabbed the Prime Minister in the back this morning in a letter to The Times.

Sir Eldon Griffiths : Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to follow the request of the Chair and to be brief.

Secondly, I believe that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, characteristically, did the right thing at the right time. After the speech of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Sir G. Howe) and after the withholding of support in the first round of the ballot by 152 members of the 1922 Committee, it was inevitable that my right hon. Friend should make room at the top so that someone else could emerge. She did the right thing, the inevitable thing, and she did it with grace, courage and dignity. We now have the prospect of three of my right hon. Friends being candidates to follow my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. Each of them is well equipped to achieve the two priorities that my right hon. Friend mentioned in her statement of resignation. She spoke first of the need for unity in our party and secondly of the need to win the next election. Any of my three right hon. Friends whose names are now in contention could reunite our party quickly. I believe that they will review and improve the poll tax and get on top of inflation. I make this prediction too--they will put our party in a position to win the next election.

The primary reason for the motion of no confidence is that, deep down, the Leader of the Opposition--

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Mr. Lewis rose--

Sir Eldon Griffiths : If the hon. Gentleman does not mind, I shall not give way, because I have given an undertaking to conclude shortly.

Deep down, the Leader of the Opposition knows in his bones that he is not going to win.

I should like to touch briefly on two matters that are high on the Government's agenda. The first is the Gulf. I have a stepson who is on HMS Cardiff in the Gulf. It is his third trip, and I am proud of him. I also represent the constituency from which much of the Tornado force and many of the American F111s left for Saudi Arabia. Obviously, therefore, I have an interest. I very much welcome the statement today by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence, but I should like to ask a couple of questions which require a response. First, why, so far, has no British aircraft carrier been deployed in that area when we have citizens at risk and smaller vessels that require air cover? Although the United States fleet is well able to provide all that, I should like to know why the Royal Navy has not so far seen fit to deploy one of its aircraft carriers. I cannot think what else these ships are doing or where else in the world there is a more important place for one of them to be.

Secondly, it is important that our troops out there have better access to telephones so that they can speak to their dependants back home. The American army out there is strong--it numbers between 300, 000 and 400,000 people--but the United States is providing free telephone calls, not only for the troops to call home, but for the dependants at home to telephone the troops in Saudi Arabia. We should do no less for our own service men.

Thirdly, it cannot be right that so many of our troops out there are worried about the community charge which continues to be levied on their dependent families back home. I am well aware of the six-month rule, but, because many of our troops hope not to be out there for as long as that, I hope that the Government will do more to remove the community charge that is levied on our service men, and will do so as a matter of morale.

The most important point about the Gulf is that we are now standing shoulder to shoulder with our American and other allies to achieve the result that the United Nations has demanded of Saddam Hussein. To those Opposition Members who have said today that we should not deploy those troops, I say that one clear lesson has emerged from the cold war. In Europe, we prepared for war in order to secure peace. That strategy has paid off. The Soviet Union has come to the conference table. We now have a new security situation in Europe and a new prospect of peace because of the strength of the alliance. Surely that strategy must also apply in the Gulf. It is the strength of the allied forces that have been sent there and their ability to wage war, if need be, on which we can pin most of our hopes for a peaceful settlement.

I turn in conclusion to the economy. I believe that across the world we are about to see an economic blizzard. We can see the signs developing in parts of the United States, with the failure of the President and Congress to achieve a settled budget, the inability of the United States to overcome the overhang of its deficits, and the downward turn in American investment and production. For the first time, the great economic machine in Japan is

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also beginning to pause and perhaps to move backwards. There is great nervousness about the fall in real estate prices in Tokyo and the falls on the Tokyo stock exchange.

Germany, too, has the beginnings of economic problems. The right hon. Member for Chesterfield and one of my hon. Friends have referred to the problems in the German economy, which is overstretched by the need to refurbish, rewire and rebuild the economies of eastern Europe.

All these are signs that an economic blizzard could confront the entire world, including this country.

There has seldom been a time when we had greater need for effective and modern government at the centre of our affairs. It is the duty of our party, first and foremost and as rapidly as possible, to agree a new leader, to install a new and effective Cabinet, to set out policies and to proceed to manage our national affairs and our part in the emerging world order so that we can safeguard our people from the ultimate disaster, which would be the return of a Labour Government.

8.19 pm

Mr. Giles Radice (Durham, North) : The circumstances that have led to the resignation of the Prime Minister have been rather like the unrolling of a Greek tragedy. Ever since that fateful Tuesday when the right hon. Lady went ape in the House on her return from Rome, events have led almost inexorably to her political demise. The resignation and then the powerful resignation statement to this House by the right hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East (Sir G. Howe) ; the astonishing result--very bad for the Conservatives--of the Bradford by-election--I pay tribute in passing to my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, North (Mr. Rooney) for his excellent maiden speech ; then the official announcement by the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) that he would stand against the Prime Minister ; then the evasive reply last weekend by the Foreign Secretary about whether he would stand in the second ballot ; and then the result on Tuesday in which the Prime Minister failed to win a first ballot victory ; and finally yesterday, the coup de grace, a palace coup by the majority of the Cabinet against the Prime Minister--this was the sequence of events. I knew something was up last night when I heard two members of the Cabinet, ostensibly the Prime Minister's loyalist supporters, openly discussing in the No Lobby how best to remove her--[ Hon. Members :-- "Name them."] I shall not. Surely this was a classic example of

"where two or three are gathered together in my name".

If I had not heard or seen this, I would not have believed it. It has all been more extraordinary than any soap opera. The right hon. Lady was brought down for her refusal to consult her colleagues and because of the way in which she ran her Cabinet. She was brought down because of her views on Europe, and above all she was brought down because of her Government's unpopularity. The Tory party wanted to save its skin, so it ditched the Prime Minister. There is nothing so disloyal as the Tory party in a funk, as we have clearly seen today.

Whatever one feels about the Prime Minister, she is undoubtedly one of the biggest trees in the Westminster jungle. She is rumoured to have said that she is the only man in her Cabinet. I see her point. She has certainly

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