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House of Commons

Wednesday 10 April 2013

The House met at half-past Two o’clock


[Mr Speaker in the Chair]

Tributes to Baroness Thatcher

2.35 pm

The Prime Minister (Mr David Cameron): I beg to move,

That this House has considered the matter of tributes to the right hon. Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven LG OM.

In the long history of this Parliament, Margaret Thatcher was our first—and, so far, our only—woman Prime Minister. She won three elections in a row, serving this country for a longer continuous period than any Prime Minister for more than 150 years. She defined, and she overcame, the great challenges of her age, and it is right that Parliament has been recalled to mark our respect. It is also right that next Wednesday Lady Thatcher’s coffin will be draped with the flag that she loved, placed on a gun carriage and taken to St Paul’s cathedral, and members of all three services will line the route. This will be a fitting salute to a great Prime Minister.

Today, we in the House of Commons are here to pay our own tributes to an extraordinary leader and an extraordinary woman. What she achieved—even before her three terms in office—was remarkable. Those of us who grew up when Margaret Thatcher was already in Downing street can sometimes fail to appreciate the thickness of the glass ceiling that she broke through—from a grocer’s shop in Grantham to the highest office in the land. At a time when it was difficult for a woman to become a Member of Parliament, almost inconceivable that one could lead the Conservative party and, by her own reckoning, virtually impossible that a woman could become Prime Minister, she did all three. It is also right to remember that she spent her whole premiership, and indeed much of her life, under direct personal threat from the IRA. She lost two of her closest friends and closest parliamentary colleagues, Airey Neave and Ian Gow, to terrorism. And, of course, she herself was only inches away from death in the Brighton bomb attack of 1984. Yet it was the measure of her leadership that she shook off the dust from that attack and just a few hours later gave an outstanding conference speech reminding us all why democracy must never give in to terror.

Margaret Thatcher was a woman of great contrasts. She could be incredibly formidable in argument yet wonderfully kind in private. In No. 10 Downing street today there are still people who worked with her as Prime Minister, and they talk of her fondly. One assistant tells of how when she got drenched in a downpour on a trip to Cornwall, Margaret Thatcher personally made sure she was looked after and found her a set of dry clothes—of course, she did always prefer dries to wets. [Laughter.] On another occasion, one assistant had put in a hand-written note to Mrs Thatcher to say, “Please can you re-sign this minute?” Unfortunately she had left

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off the hyphen, leaving a note that actually read, “Please can you resign this minute?”—to which the Prime Minister politely replied, “Thank you dear, but I’d rather not.”

Margaret Thatcher was faultlessly kind to her staff and utterly devoted to her family. For more than 50 years, Denis was always at her side, an invaluable confidant and friend. Of her, he said this:

“I have been married to one of the greatest women the world has ever produced. All I could produce—small as it may be—was love and loyalty.”

We know just how important the support of her family and friends was to Margaret, and I know that today everyone in this House will wish to send our most heartfelt condolences to her children, Carol and Mark, to her grandchildren and to her many, many loyal friends. She was always incredibly kind to me, and it was a huge honour to welcome her to Downing street shortly after I became Prime Minister—something that, when I started working for her in 1988, I never dreamed I would do.

As this day of tributes begins, I would like to acknowledge that there are Members in the House today from all parties who profoundly disagreed with Mrs Thatcher but who have come here today willing to pay their respects. Let me say this to those hon. Members: your generosity of spirit does you great credit and speaks more eloquently than any one person can of the strength and spirit of British statesmanship and British democracy.

Margaret Thatcher was a remarkable type of leader. She said very clearly, “I am not a consensus politician, but a conviction politician.” She could sum up those convictions, which were linked profoundly with her upbringing and values, in just a few short phrases: sound money; strong defence; liberty under the rule of law; you should not spend what you have not earned; Governments do not create wealth, but businesses do. The clarity of those convictions was applied with great courage to the problems of the age.

The scale of her achievements is apparent only when we look back to Britain in the 1970s. Successive Governments had failed to deal with what was beginning to be called the British disease: appalling industrial relations, poor productivity and persistently high inflation. Although it seems absurd today, the state had got so big that it owned our airports and airline, the phones in our houses, trucks on our roads, and even a removal company. The air was thick with defeatism. There was a sense that the role of Government was simply to manage decline. Margaret Thatcher rejected this defeatism. She had a clear view about what needed to change. Inflation was to be controlled not by incomes policies, but by monetary and fiscal discipline; industries were to be set free into the private sector; trade unions should be handed back to their members; and people should be able to buy their own council homes. Success in these endeavours was never assured. Her political story was one of a perpetual battle, in the country, in this place and sometimes even in her own Cabinet.

Of course, her career could have taken an entirely different path. In the late 1940s, before she entered politics, the then Margaret Roberts went for a job at ICI. The personnel department rejected her application and afterwards wrote:

“This woman is headstrong, obstinate and dangerously self-opinionated.”

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Even her closest friends would agree that she could be all those things, but the point is this: she used that conviction and resolve in the service of her country, and we are all the better for that.

Margaret Thatcher was also a great parliamentarian. She loved and respected this place and was for many years its finest debater. She was utterly fastidious in her preparations. I was a junior party researcher in the 1980s, and the trauma of preparation for Prime Minister’s questions is still seared into my memory. Twice a week it was as if the arms of a giant octopus shook every building in Whitehall for every analysis of every problem and every answer to every question. Her respect for Parliament was instilled in others. Early in her first Government, a junior Minister was seen running through the Lobby. His hair was dishevelled and he was carrying a heavy box and a full tray of papers under his arm. Another Member cried out, “Slow down. Rome wasn’t built in a day.” The Minister replied, “Yes, but Margaret Thatcher wasn’t the foreman on that job.”

As Tony Blair said this week—rightly, in my view—Margaret Thatcher was one of the very few leaders who changed the political landscape not only in their own country, but in the rest of the world. She was no starry-eyed internationalist, but again her approach was rooted in some simple and clear principles: strength abroad begins with strength at home; deterrence, not appeasement; and the importance of national sovereignty, which is why she fought so passionately for Britain’s interests in Europe and always believed that Britain should keep its own currency.

Above all, she believed to the core of her being that Britain stood for something in the world: for democracy, for the rule of law, for right over might. She loathed communism and believed in the invincible power of the human spirit to resist and ultimately defeat tyranny. She never forgot that Warsaw, Prague and Budapest were great European cities, capitals of free nations temporarily trapped behind the iron curtain.

Today, in different corners of the world, millions of people know that they owe their freedom, in part, to Margaret Thatcher—in Kuwait, which she helped free from Saddam’s jackboot; across eastern and central Europe; and, of course, in the Falkland Islands. A week from now, as people gather in London to lay Margaret Thatcher to rest, the sun will be rising over the Falklands, and because of her courage and because of the skill, bravery and sacrifice of our armed forces, it will rise again for freedom.

Much has been said about the battles that Margaret Thatcher fought. She certainly did not shy from the fight and that led to arguments, to conflict and, yes, even to division, but what is remarkable, looking back now, is how many of those arguments are no longer arguments at all. No one wants to return to strikes without a ballot. No one believes that large industrial companies should be owned by the state. The nuclear deterrent, NATO and the special relationship are widely accepted as the cornerstones of our security and defence policies. We argue—sometimes very passionately—in this House about tax, but none of us is arguing for a return to tax rates of 98%. So many of the principles that Lady Thatcher fought for are now part of the accepted political landscape of our country. As Winston

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Churchill once put it, there are some politicians who “make the weather”, and Margaret Thatcher was undoubtedly one of them.

In the Members’ Lobby of the House of Commons there are rightly four principal statues: Lloyd George, who gave us the beginnings of the welfare state; Winston Churchill, who gave us victory in war; Clement Attlee, who gave us the NHS; and Margaret Thatcher, who rescued our country from post-war decline. They say that cometh the hour, cometh the man. Well, in 1979 came the hour, and came the lady. She made the political weather. She made history. And let this be her epitaph: she made our country great again. I commend the motion to the House.

2.47 pm

Edward Miliband (Doncaster North) (Lab): I join the Prime Minister in commemorating the extraordinary life and unique contribution of Margaret Thatcher. I join him, too, in sending my deepest condolences to her children, Carol and Mark, the whole family and her many, many close friends.

Today is an opportunity for us to reflect on Margaret Thatcher’s personal achievements, her style of politics and her political legacy. As the Prime Minister said, the journey from being the child of a grocer to Downing street is an unlikely one, and it is particularly remarkable because she was the daughter, not the son, of a grocer. At each stage of her life, she broke the mould: a woman at Oxford when not a single woman in the university held a full professorship; a woman chemist when most people assumed scientists had to be men; a woman candidate for Parliament in 1950, against the opposition of some in her local party in Dartford, at the age of only 24; a woman MP in 1959 when just 4% of MPs in the whole of this House were women; the only woman in the Cabinet when she was appointed in 1970; and, of course, the first woman Prime Minister. It is no wonder she remarked as early as 1965 in a speech to the National Union of Townswomen’s Guilds conference:

“In politics if you want anything said, ask a man. If you want anything done, ask a woman.”

I am sure some people in this House—and no doubt many more in the country—will agree with that sentiment.

Having broken so many conventions as a woman, it cannot be a coincidence that she was someone who, in so many other areas of life, was willing to take on the established orthodoxies. Margaret Thatcher’s ability to overcome every obstacle in her path was just one measure of her personal strength, and that takes me to her style of politics. We can disagree with Margaret Thatcher, but it is important to understand the kind of political leader she was. What was unusual was that she sought to be rooted in people’s daily lives, but she also believed that ideology mattered. Not for her the contempt sometimes heaped on ideas and new thinking in political life, and while she never would have claimed to be, or wanted to be seen as, an intellectual, she believed and showed that ideas matter in politics.

In 1945, before the end of the war, she bought a copy of Friedrich Hayek’s “The Road to Serfdom”. There is even a story that she suggested that Conservative central office distribute it in the 1945 general election campaign. She said:

“It left a permanent mark on my own political character”,

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and nobody can grasp Margaret Thatcher’s achievements, and Thatcherism, without also appreciating the ideas that were its foundation and the way in which they departed from the prevailing consensus of the time. In typical homespun style on breakfast TV she said in 1995:

“Consensus doesn’t give you any direction. It is like mixing all the constituent ingredients together and not coming out with a cake…Democracy is about the people being given a choice.”

It was that approach which enabled her to define the politics of a whole generation, and influence the politics of generations to come.

The Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and I all came of age in the 1980s, when people defined their politics by being for or against what she was doing. It is fair to say that we took different paths. Thirty years on, the people of Britain still argue about her legacy. She was right to understand the sense of aspiration felt by people across the country, and she was right to recognise that our economy needed to change. She said in 1982:

“How absurd it will seem in a few years’ time that the state ran Pickfords removals and the Gleneagles Hotel.”

She was right. In foreign policy, she was right to defend the Falklands and bravely reach out to new leadership in the Soviet Union, and something often forgotten is that she was the first political leader in any major country to warn of the dangers of climate change, long before anyone thought of hugging a husky.

But it would be dishonest and not in keeping with the principles that Margaret Thatcher stood for not to be open with the House, even on this day, about the strong opinions and deep divisions there were, and are, over what she did. In mining areas such as the one I represent, communities felt angry and abandoned. Gay and lesbian people felt stigmatised by measures such as section 28, which today’s Conservative party has rightly repudiated. It was no accident that when the right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr Duncan Smith) became leader of the Conservative party, he wrote a pamphlet called, “There is Such a Thing as Society.” On the world stage, as the Prime Minister rightly said in 2006 when he was Leader of the Opposition, Margaret Thatcher made the wrong judgment about Nelson Mandela and about sanctions in South Africa.

Debates about Margaret Thatcher and what she represented will continue for many years to come, which is a mark of her significance as a political leader. She was someone with deep convictions and was willing to act on them. As she put it:

“Politics is more when you have convictions than a matter of multiple manoeuvrings to get through the problems of the day”.

As a person, nothing became her so much as the manner of her final years, which saw the loss of her beloved husband, Denis, and her struggle with illness. She bore both with the utmost dignity and courage—the same courage that she showed decades earlier after the atrocity of the Brighton bombing. I will always remember seeing her at the Cenotaph in frail health but determined to pay her respect to our troops and do her duty by the country.

Whatever one’s view of her, Margaret Thatcher was a unique and towering figure. I disagree with much of what she did, but I respect what her death means to the many, many people who admired her, and I honour her personal achievements. On previous occasions, we have

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come to this House to remember the extraordinary Prime Ministers who have served our nation. Today, we also remember a Prime Minister who defined her age.

2.54 pm

Mr John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): It is a pleasure to rise so soon after two such outstanding speeches. On behalf of the House, I pay tribute to both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, who captured the essence of Margaret Thatcher the woman, and the essence of Margaret Thatcher the politician and stateswoman. We are in their debt for getting our day off to such a superb start.

I wish to be brief, but I would like to put on record that Margaret Thatcher was the best boss I ever worked for. I was her chief policy adviser in the middle years and was subsequently able to advise and help her a bit as a Member of Parliament and a junior Minister.

Margaret Thatcher was that great figure because her private side was so different from her public side. Yes, many people beyond the House remember the woman who was so powerful in argument and so fierce in conviction, but those who worked with her closely saw someone who worked incredibly long hours with great energy and diligence because she was so keen to get it right.

Margaret Thatcher took a very wide range of advice. When people worked with her and put an idea to her, not only did they need to produce all the evidence and the facts and go over it many times, but they knew that person after person going to Downing street would be given it as a kind of test. They did not know that they were part of a running focus group, but one’s idea was in front of the guests, who were asked to shoot it down, because she was so desperately concerned never to use the power of the great office without proper thought. She was also keen to ensure that, before she did anything, she knew what the criticisms would be and what might go wrong with it, because she had tested it to destruction. There is a lot to recommend that approach to those who are making mighty decisions—they should spend time and take trouble, go to a wide range of advice, and ensure that something works well before it is put out there.

Margaret Thatcher came, in the middle of her period in office, to be the champion of wider ownership and wider participation. To me, that was her at her best—when she could reach out beyond the confines of the Conservative party, which she led so well in those days, and beyond the confines of her fairly solid 40% voting support, much more widely in the county. A Prime Minister can become a great national leader when their ideas resonate more widely, and when their ideas become popular with, or are taken up by, those who would normally oppose them.

That spirit of Margaret Thatcher—she had fought her way as a schoolgirl to Oxford, as an Oxford graduate to Parliament, and as a parliamentarian to the Cabinet—made her feel that opportunity was there for people. However, she recognised that it was very difficult, particularly for women and people from certain backgrounds, and always told us that it did not matter where people came from or who their mother and father were, and that what mattered was what people could contribute. That, surely, is a message that goes way beyond the confines of the Conservative party or the years of her supremacy in Parliament. We should all remember that.

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When we tried to produce policies to reflect that more generally, we came up with an idea. Owning a home had been the privilege of the richer part of society, but we wondered why everyone or practically everyone should not aspire to it. That is when the council house sale idea gathered momentum. Many Labour Members in the early days were very unhappy—debates on the policy remain—but an awful lot of Labour voters and even some Labour councillors decided it was a really good policy and joined us on it. It was one of those policies that reached out so much more widely.

We tried to extend the idea to the ownership of big and small businesses with a big programme of wider share ownership, and with the employee and public elements in the great privatisations. Margaret Thatcher was determined to try to get Britain to break out of the debilitating cycle of decline that we had witnessed under Labour and Conservative Governments in the post-war years.

I have just one fact that the House and those who are worried by the depressing number of jobs lost in the 1980s in the pits and steel industry might like to bear in mind. The newly nationalised coal industry in the early 1950s had 700,000 employees; by the time Margaret Thatcher came to office in 1979, only 235,000 of those jobs were left. There had been a massive haemorrhage of jobs throughout the post-war period. Similar figures could be adduced for rail, steel and the other commanding heights. It was that which drove her to say that there must be a better answer and a way of modernising the old industries and bringing in the new industries. One of her legacies is the modernisation of the car industry, which gathered momentum under the Labour Government and, more recently, under the coalition.

Margaret Thatcher’s other great triumph, as the Prime Minister mentioned, was to extend her argument to a much wider audience around the world. The ideas of empowerment, enfranchisement, participation, breaking up industries, allowing competition and new ideas, and allowing the public to be part of the process were exported and took off around the world. That lay behind much of the spirit of revolution in eastern Europe which led to the bringing down of the Berlin wall. If there is a single picture of the Thatcher legacy that I will remember, it is the tumbling of the Berlin wall and the realisation that the path of enterprise and freedom that has been adopted by all the democratic parties in this House is the right approach, and that tyranny and communism do not work.

We are discussing a great lady, a great stateswoman, a huge personal achievement and a very big achievement politically. At its best, it was an achievement that broke free from conservatism and party dogma, and which showed the world that there is a better way, a democratic way, a freedom-loving way.

3.1 pm

The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Nick Clegg): On behalf of the Liberal Democrats, I would like to pay tribute to Lady Thatcher. We send our sincere condolences to her family and friends, in particular to her children, Mark and Carol.

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Like all of us who are not members of the Conservative party and who disagreed with many of the things that Margaret Thatcher did, I have thought long and hard about what to say. I am a Sheffield MP—a city where the mere mention of her name even now elicits strong reactions. I would like to think that she would be pleased that she still provokes trepidation and uncertainty among the leaders of other parties, even when she is not here, eyeballing us across the House. The fact that those of us who are not from her party can shun the tenets of Thatcherism and yet respect Margaret Thatcher is part of what was so remarkable about her. It is in that spirit that I would like to make three short observations.

First, whether people liked or disliked her, it is impossible to deny the indelible imprint that Margaret Thatcher made on the nation and the wider world. She was among those very rare leaders who become a towering historical figure not as written in the history books, but while still in the prime of their political life. Whatever else is said about her, Margaret Thatcher created a paradigm. She set the parameters of economic, political and social debate for decades to come. She drew the lines on the political map that we are still navigating today.

Secondly, Margaret Thatcher was one of the most caricatured figures in modern British politics, yet she was easily one of the most complex. On the one hand, she is remembered as the eponymous ideologue, responsible for her own “-ism”. In reality, much of her politics was subtle and pragmatic, and she was sometimes driven by events. Margaret Thatcher was a staunch patriot who was much more comfortable reaching out across the Atlantic than across the channel. However, she participated in one of the most profound periods of European integration and was herself an architect of the single market. Although she was a Conservative to her core, leading a party that traditionally likes to conserve things, she held a deep aversion to the status quo. She was restive about the future, determined to use politics as a force for reform and never feared short-term disruption in pursuit of long-term change. In many ways a traditionalist, she was one of the most iconoclastic politicians of our age.

Margaret Thatcher was therefore far from the cardboard cut-out that is sometimes imagined. For me, the best tribute to her is not to consign her to being a simplified heroine or villain, but to remember her with all the nuance, unresolved complexity and paradox that she possessed.

Finally, there was an extraordinary, even unsettling directness about her political presence. I remember vividly, aged 20, reading that Margaret Thatcher had said that there was no such thing as society. I was dismayed. It was not the kind of thing that a wide-eyed, idealistic social anthropology undergraduate wanted to hear. With hindsight, what strikes me is that although I disagreed with the untempered individualism that those words implied, I never for a second thought that she was being cynical, striking a pose or taking a position for short-term effect.

You always knew, with Margaret Thatcher, that she believed what she said. It is interesting to reflect on how she would have reacted to today’s political culture of 24-hour news, pollsters and focus groups. She seemed blissfully indifferent to the popularity of what she said, entirely driven instead by the conviction of what she said. Somehow, her directness made you feel as if

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she were arguing directly with you—as if it were a clash of her convictions against yours. As a result, you somehow felt as if you knew her, even if you did not.

Whether she inspired or confronted, led or attacked, she did it all with uncluttered clarity. Her memory will no doubt continue to divide opinion and stir deep emotion, but as we as a nation say farewell to a figure who loomed so large, one thing is for sure: the memory of her will continue undimmed, strong and clear for years to come, in keeping with the unusual, unique character of Margaret Thatcher herself.

3.5 pm

Mr Nigel Dodds (Belfast North) (DUP): Let me begin, on behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends, by conveying our deepest sympathies to the family of Baroness Thatcher, to her children, and to her grandchildren. Let me also thank you, Mr. Speaker, for recalling Parliament. It is right that we, the representatives of the people of the United Kingdom, should meet in this Chamber that she dominated for so long to pay tribute, but also to reflect on her long period in office.

Baroness Thatcher was many things. As has been said, she was a pioneer. She was the first female leader of a major political party in the United Kingdom, and the first female Prime Minister. She did break that glass ceiling, but she also broke through the social barrier that stood in the way of anyone of that time and generation becoming the leader of a major political party. She was a woman of personal and political courage, a politician of formidable ability, and a stateswoman who transformed not only the United Kingdom but played an enormous role in changing, fundamentally, the world order.

Of course, there were many who disagreed with her. Even within her own party and among those of us who are Unionists in Northern Ireland there were those who disagreed with her on occasion, particularly in relation to the Anglo-Irish agreement. But whatever our views, people today, by and large, must accept, acknowledge and admire her as a politician and statesperson of conviction. The days of focus groups, the amorphous middle, the soft imaging—none of that would have suited her. How many times have we heard it said, during her lifetime and since, that, like her or loathe her, at least you knew where Maggie stood? People admire that in their politicians. It is something that people want to see.

Part of her attraction was that she was seen as taking on the vested interests and the political establishment. She was impatient of the old brigade, and prepared to shake things up. However, like all great human beings and all great politicians, she was a person of contradictions. Very often her rhetoric did not match her actions, and her instincts were blunted. She did become persuaded, on some issues, against her better judgment. On Europe, she is rightly lauded for the actions that she took in relation to, for instance, securing our rebate, for her stance against European federalism, for her Bruges speech, and for her stance in defence of our currency; yet she signed and implemented the Single European Act, which many see as the forerunner of the Maastricht agreement.

On Northern Ireland, again, she was full of contradictions. We in the Democratic Unionist party, and indeed the entire Unionist community in Northern Ireland in the 1980s, opposed the Anglo-Irish agreement,

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and many Conservative Members and others opposed it too. Once she had said that Ulster was as British as Finchley; once she had said, rightly, that it was “out, out, out” to a united Ireland, a federal Ireland or joint authority. Yet a year later, in 1985, she signed the Anglo-Irish agreement without any consultation with the Unionist community, and without its consent.

The reason many Unionists felt and spoke so strongly at that time, and why there remain many strong feelings about that era, is that they remembered her strong stance during the hunger strikes, when she had stood up in defence of democracy and against terrorism; they remembered how, as the Prime Minister and others mentioned, she had suffered the loss of close colleagues to terrorism; and they remembered how she herself, just a year before, had survived an IRA assassination attempt. Despite that, she was persuaded to the sign the Anglo-Irish agreement.

I am glad that in her later life, Margaret Thatcher came to recognise that the agreement was a mistake. Lord Powell, her former close adviser, said the other night on “Newsnight” that, as it is said of Mary Queen of Scots that the word “Calais” was inscribed on her heart, so he believed that the words “the Anglo-Irish agreement” would be inscribed on the heart of Margaret Thatcher, because she had become increasingly disillusioned with it. People say, “But was it not the template for what we now have in Ulster?” I say it was not, because we cannot base a future on exclusion. I say that as a Unionist in Northern Ireland, with all our history, because we must go forward with the inclusion of all communities. Today, there is little of the Anglo-Irish agreement left and instead we have a settlement that has been consulted on and has the consent and agreement of both communities in Northern Ireland. I am glad that we have that, as opposed to the previous approach.

I want to close by saying, yes, we had our disagreements with Margaret Thatcher, but she was, fundamentally, instinctively and truly, a great patriot, a great Unionist and a great Briton, and that is why we are right to pay tribute to her today, while recognising her faults and the divisions that exist—of course, there are divisions, but there were divisions long before Margaret Thatcher, and there will be divisions long after her in other eras. She is not unique in that sense. I heard today Gerry Adams and others talk about the legacy of Margaret Thatcher as if she and the British Government and the British state had created the violence in Northern Ireland. The fact is, of course, that the hunger strikers were in jail and had been convicted for terrorist acts long before she came to office.

Those on our streets in Belfast and elsewhere in the United Kingdom—in Glasgow, Bristol or wherever—engaging in the sort of ghoulish celebrations and obscene acts that appal the entire nation should think again of her words: she once said that she took great solace in those who hated her so much because she knew then that she was doing what was right and that they hated her for it.

We—especially those of us in Ulster—must remember Margaret Thatcher for the great things she did for our country, while not remembering her through rose-tinted spectacles. It is right, however, that we mark her life and period in office. Hers was an enormous contribution and an ever-lasting memorial to democracy and freedom in this country and across the world.

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3.13 pm

Sir Malcolm Rifkind (Kensington) (Con): I was privileged, along with the Minister without Portfolio, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke), to serve in Margaret Thatcher’s Government for the full 11 years of her term of office and to be in her Cabinet for almost half that time. It was never dull. Each day we saw political leadership and statesmanship of the highest order and a Prime Minister with remarkable personal qualities. It was sometimes said that she did not have a sense of humour, and it was true that there was very little wit in many of her speeches, but I recall on one occasion that she was asked, “Mrs Thatcher, do you believe in consensus?” To our surprise, we heard her saying, “Yes, I do believe in consensus; there should be a consensus behind my convictions.” I thought at the time that this was an extraordinary example of wit, but as the years have gone by I have realised that she was actually being deadly serious.

It was also said that Margaret Thatcher could be very intolerant of those who did not agree with her. That was also a parody of the truth. She was intolerant of people who were woolly and who argued that things could not be done because they would be unpopular or that it was too difficult, but when she met someone able to argue from a point of fact and whom she respected, she not only listened, but could change her mind. I was moved to the Foreign Office at the time of the Falklands, and she recalled Sir Anthony Parsons, our ambassador at the Security Council, to ask him how it was going at the United Nations. He had never met her before; he was a rather grand diplomat. When he started trying to report to her, she, not uncharacteristically, kept interrupting him, and he was not used to this. After the fourth interruption, he stopped and said, “Prime Minister, if you didn’t interrupt me so often, you might find that you didn’t need to.” She not only kept quiet but six months later appointed him her foreign policy adviser.

Of course she was a great leader of the Conservative party, but people are entitled to ask, “Was she actually a Conservative? Does not the word “Conservative” normally mean someone who is rather wedded to tradition, cautious of change, and unwilling to act too precipitately?” Yet she was the most radical Prime Minister of the past few generations. There is nevertheless a consistency between those two statements, because she had recognised that Britain had gone the wrong way—that it had taken the wrong path for 20 or 30 years, and that needed change. That is what made her a radical. Many hon. Members will know the great novel, “The Leopard”, by Giuseppe di Lampedusa, in which the hero says, “If you want things to stay the same, things will have to change.” That was very much her belief.

Having spent a lot of my time in the Foreign Office, I am conscious of the fact that diplomats in the Foreign Office were not her favourite Department. I went to see her when I was Defence Secretary some years later, after she had retired, and she said to me, “You know, Ministry of Defence, your problem is you’ve got no allies. The Foreign Office aren’t wet—they’re drenched.” When it came to the Foreign Office and to diplomats, she sometimes had a remarkable capacity to distance herself from the Government of which she was Prime Minister.

On one glorious occasion in which I was personally involved, we had a difficult negotiation getting a package of sanctions against South Africa. They did not include

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economic sanctions, but she was very unhappy that one of the proposals at the European Community Council was that we should withdraw our defence attachés. The Ministry of Defence did not mind, but it took an awful long time for Geoffrey Howe to persuade her to go along with this, and she was basically unconvinced but did go along with it. Some weeks later, we had a visit from the President of Mozambique, and I was asked to sit in on the meeting at Downing street. The President rebuked her for not doing enough against apartheid in South Africa. I will never forget her response. She bridled and said, “Mr President, that is simply not the case. We are refusing to sell arms to South Africa. We have initiated the Gleneagles agreement whereby we don’t have any sporting contact with South Africa. We’re using all diplomatic means to try and bring down apartheid.” “We, we, we”, she said—and then suddenly she stopped, pointed at me, and said, “They’ve decided to withdraw our defence attachés”, adding, “I don’t know what good that will do.” The President of Mozambique was rather bemused by what seemed to be happening.

Although she may have had mixed feelings about the Foreign Office, she actually owed it a great debt of gratitude, because one of her greatest triumphs—her relationship with Mr Gorbachev and what flowed from that—was a result of the diplomats in the Foreign Office spotting at a very early stage that the youngest new member of the politburo, Mikhail Gorbachev, was a man to try to cultivate, and she had the wisdom to accept their advice. We should not underestimate what followed from that, which was her persuading Ronald Reagan to accept her view that Gorbachev was a man with whom we could do business. Reagan would not have accepted that advice from most people, but coming from the Iron Lady, he said, “Well, if she believes that, then I can proceed on that basis.” The result was not only a remarkable set of initiatives but the end of the cold war and the liberation of eastern Europe without a shot being fired—a remarkable epitaph.

I do not intend to speak for too long, but I want to make one other point. One of the big issues that is relevant to the debates we have today is whether, in the relationship with the United States, British Prime Ministers always have to agree with the President or otherwise we risk that relationship. All I can say is that Margaret Thatcher had no doubt that the answer was, “No, you don’t have to.” On several occasions she had deep disagreements with Ronald Reagan, one of her closest friends. For example, when British companies had got contracts to help to build a Soviet oil pipeline in the early 1980s, the Americans threatened sanctions against those British companies, and Margaret Thatcher bitterly criticised them. I was sent off to Washington as a junior Minister to have meetings with Mr Kenneth Dam, the American deputy Secretary of State. We reached a compromise. The only thing we could not agree on was whether the compromise would be known as the Rifkind-Dam agreement or the Dam-Rifkind agreement.

Margaret Thatcher had openly and publicly disagreed with Reagan on the Reykjavik summit, when she felt that he was surrendering too many nuclear weapons without getting enough in return, but most important of all, she bitterly resented the invasion of Grenada. The House will recall that Grenada was invaded by the United States, which had forgotten, unfortunately, that Her Majesty was the Head of State of Grenada, and

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had not even informed the British Government of what it was about to do. Margaret Thatcher not only criticised it, but she went on the BBC World Service attacking the United States and saying that it could not behave like that. Some days later, Reagan recorded in his memoirs that he was sitting in the Oval office with some of his aides and he was told that the British Prime Minister was on the phone and would he take a call. Yes, he said, of course he would. She started berating him in a rather strident way down the telephone. It went on for only about a minute, but some of us who have been on the receiving end know how long that can feel. When she was in full flight, Reagan put his hand over the receiver so that she could not hear, turned to his aides and said, “Gee, isn’t she marvellous?” Far from resenting it, they appreciated that sometimes they got it wrong and even their closest allies were entitled to point it out.

I conclude by saying that Margaret Thatcher was someone who did not worry, as has already been remarked, about people being rude about her. The term “Iron Lady” was first coined by the Soviets as an insult. She, of course, took it on as a badge of pride. Denis Healey referred to her memorably as Attila the Hen. François Mitterrand famously said she had the eyes of Caligula and the lips of Marilyn Monroe. She took them all as compliments because she asked for no quarter and she certainly gave none.

Next week, I shall be at the funeral at St Paul’s. I was at Churchill’s funeral in St Paul’s—well, that is not quite the whole truth. I was an 18-year-old student who had hitchhiked down to London, spent the night on the pavement and watched the arrival at St Paul’s cathedral. We will honour the other great Prime Minister of the past 50, 60 or 70 years, Margaret Thatcher, in a similar way. That is something which not only we can be proud of and the country can be proud of, but the whole world has a debt to her, which it fully recognises as well.

3.22 pm

Angus Robertson (Moray) (SNP): Thank you, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity to make a brief contribution. It is right to acknowledge that Margaret Thatcher was one of the most formidable politicians of recent times. To her family, to her friends, to her colleagues, to her supporters, I extend the condolences of the Scottish National party and Plaid Cymru.

It would be wrong, however, not to put on record our profound disagreement with her socially and economically divisive policies, which were particularly opposed in Scotland and Wales. We will never forget, we will never forgive the poll tax being imposed on Scots a year before the rest of the UK. No country should have such policies imposed on it when they were rejected at the ballot box. The existence of the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh National Assembly follows this experience.

Margaret Thatcher will be remembered for a long time in Scotland and Wales. She helped remind us that we have a national consensus that values society, values solidarity and values community. For that at least, we can be grateful.

3.23 pm

Mr Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con): For those of us who worked with, loved and admired Mrs Thatcher, her death is immensely sad, but there is one small compensation: she leaves immensely vivid

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memories. So vigorous, energetic and decisive was her personality that she is unforgettable not just to those of us who worked with her, but to everybody in the country who was there at the time.

I first worked for Mrs Thatcher as a humble speech writer, long before I entered Parliament or became a Minister and eventually joined her Cabinet. My most personal memories conflict with the caricature that has been built up over time, as much by her friends as by her opponents. First, she was immensely kind. The less important someone was, the kinder she was to them. She gave her Ministers a pretty hard time, and quite right too. I remember an occasion on which she had returned from three days abroad, having had little sleep. I had been summoned, in my role as a minor cog in her speech-writing machine, to help with some speech. She tore a strip off the Chancellor of the Exchequer before noticing me. She saw that I was wearing a black tie and deduced that I had been to a funeral, and was immediately full of solicitude for me—in marked contrast to her tearing a strip off her senior Minister.

Mrs Thatcher could also be remarkably diplomatic, not least in how she handled those who worked for her. As a junior Treasury Minister, I once ventured to disagree with a policy of a Secretary of State, and we were both summoned to appear before her to argue our respective cases. I thought my arguments were overwhelmingly the better ones, but she summed up in favour of the Secretary of State. Subsequently, she sent me a private message saying, “Peter, I was impressed by your arguments but it would have been quite wrong for me to overrule a senior Minister in favour of a junior Minister on a matter that was not of paramount importance.” She was right.

Mrs Thatcher was also very cautious, again in contrast to the legend that she recklessly took on all comers. At the expense of a humiliating settlement with Arthur Scargill in her first Parliament, she deferred a confrontation in order to allow Nigel Lawson to build up coal stocks so that, should another confrontation arise—as indeed it did—the nation would not be held to ransom. Her trade union reforms were implemented progressively, step by step, and whenever she felt that she had bitten off enough for one Parliament, she would politely reject proposals for further reform, however much they appealed to her. However, once she was convinced that a policy was right in principle and workable in practice, and that it had been elaborated in detail—of which she had a masterly grasp while maintaining a focus on the central issues—she would push it through with unswerving tenacity.

It is probably not done on these occasions to face up to the criticisms that have been made of Mrs Thatcher, but she was never one to be limited by what was the done thing. I want to respond to the comments, made more in the media and also by the hon. Member for Moray (Angus Robertson), that she was deliberately harsh and divisive. It is said that she was harsh, but she made us face reality, and reality was harsh. Those who did not like facing reality projected their hatred of reality on to her. The human cost of facing up to reality would have been much less if previous Governments of both parties had not, for reasons of false analysis and cowardice, failed to deal with those realities earlier. If blame is due for the fact that any harshness materialised, it is due to her predecessors rather than to her. Those who hated reality, who hated being proved wrong and

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who hated seeing their illusions shattered transferred their hatred to her. Fortunately, she was big and strong enough to act as a lightning rod for their feelings.

A second adjective, “divisive”, was used of Margaret Thatcher this morning by the BBC in its headline news, which probably tells us more about the BBC than it does about her. She was described as a divisive leader. That is a strange epithet, because for any division to exist, there have to be two sides, yet no mention was made of those who opposed the changes that proved so necessary. It is stranger still when we consider that her greatest success was, by her own admission, to convert her opponents to her way of seeing things. Not a single one of the major measures she introduced was subsequently repealed or reversed by those who followed her. Indeed, she has the extraordinary achievement of uniting all parties in this House behind a new paradigm: before she came along the assumption was that all problems could best be solved by top-down direction and control of the state. She introduced the idea that quality and efficiency are most likely to follow if people are free to choose between alternatives. That is now, I am happy to say, a model adopted by other parties and, after a faltering start, was implemented by Tony Blair, even in the public services where she had to feared to step. Far from being harsh or divisive, she leaves a legacy that unites us all. It behoves us, on a day such as this, to remember that.

3.30 pm

Dr Alasdair McDonnell (Belfast South) (SDLP): I rise to sympathise with Baroness Thatcher’s family, friend and colleagues in this House and elsewhere. To them I offer my profound condolences.

I rise as a proud Irish nationalist in the proud tradition of O’Connell and Parnell, and in the positive political tradition of my predecessors John Hume, Seamus Mallon and Eddie McGrady. This is a solemn day and it is with solemnity and sincerity that I speak on behalf of democratic Irish nationalism.

I acknowledge the wide range of contributions across the House. It is clear from some of those testimonies that there was a side to Baroness Thatcher which those who knew her personally saw and for which they cherished her. I am not here to deny or counter those personal truths, but as a democratic Irish nationalist I must speak with sincerity and honesty about her political contribution and legacy. She always expected and respected candour. Not to register our differences with her politics and approach would be a dereliction of responsibility. Many have said, in earlier contributions, that in many ways Baroness Thatcher made a divisive political contribution and has left a divisive legacy in Britain. That, too, is the case in Ireland.

She was a formidable lady and a formidable politician, and only a formidable politician could have made the breakthrough she made—that cannot be denied. Neither can it be denied, however, that she caused great pain, hurt and distress in Northern Ireland. She was ill advised that the very deep political issue, driven by many injustices in Ireland, could be solved by military and security methods alone. Her policy and her approach to hunger strikes hardened and polarised moderate opinion, and demonstrated a lack of knowledge of the island of Ireland

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and our peoples. Her actions proved counter-productive to her own cause time and time again, handing the IRA political propaganda victory after political propaganda victory. The culture of collusion within the security service, and the licence it had from Government, was also a major problem. The fact that at the time concerns raised by the SDLP were rubbished and dismissed—they have subsequently been vindicated by de Silva and many police ombudsman reports—all served to harden and alienate further constitutional nationalist opinion. That has left many questions, much hurt and a legacy that remains to this day. A large part of that unfinished legacy is how we must deal with the past and help the many victims, not just in Ireland but on this side of the Irish sea as well. The quest for truth will go on.

Our difficulties and political differences did not stop on the shores of these islands. The SDLP not only held a different outlook on Europe, but opposed the resistance to challenging the apartheid regime in South Africa. We disagreed with the attitude towards the African National Congress, and opposed the criminalisation of Nelson Mandela. I note that in the past few days the ANC has displayed great humanity in its response to the death of Baroness Thatcher, and it is with that humanity that I join in solidarity.

We can deal with many difficulties and differences, but history has shown that the signing of the Anglo-Irish agreement, by Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister and Garret FitzGerald as Taoiseach, was a pivotal and defining moment in our shared history. Indeed, it was a pivotal moment in changing the direction of our relationships in these islands. It was the first significant agreement between Ireland and Britain since the treaty of 1921, and it laid the foundations for the peace process and much of the progress that has taken place in the past 27 years. It changed for ever relationships between our two countries and was the foundation of many of the positive changes we have experienced since.

It is poignant that today is the 15th anniversary of the signing of the Belfast agreement—the Good Friday agreement. That effort involved building layers upon layers of understanding, and moving on from that agreement over the past 15 years has involved building more layers of understanding, but we have to agree that the bedrock and the foundation for all that has been achieved was the Anglo-Irish agreement in 1985. The signing of that agreement showed that, as some said earlier, at times Baroness Thatcher did listen to good advice from her advisers. She also listened to her friends—formidable friends such as US President Ronald Reagan; but just as Prime Minister Thatcher might not have recognised the malignant hardening and polarising effect of her policy and attitude towards hunger strikes, she may not have appreciated or recognised the potential benign and long-term softening effect on future relationships of her commitment in that Anglo-Irish agreement.

In placing our problem in these islands in a British-Irish context, the Anglo-Irish agreement challenged the traditional Unionist mindset and equipped political constitutional nationalism to make an even more compelling case against violence to those engaged in violence. Indeed, I believe it laid the foundation for stopping the violence in Ireland. At that stage, the pages were turned to a new history—the beginning of a new history in Northern Ireland, and with it a new history for these islands as a whole. The benefits of the Anglo-Irish and Good Friday

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agreements are being reaped today by the peoples of Britain and Ireland, who continue to benefit from the positive engagement that started with and continues to flow from Baroness Thatcher’s signing of the Anglo-Irish agreement. Baroness Thatcher may not have recognised the full effect of that moment in history, but it is right that I on behalf of Irish nationalism recognise it today, just as the SDLP recognised it at the time of the passing of Dr Garret FitzGerald.

I join others across the House, the President of Ireland and the Irish Government in extending my sympathies to the children and family of Baroness Thatcher, and to her friends not just in Britain but across the world. Baroness Thatcher enjoyed confronting political challenges; her legacy may be divisive but she herself did not shirk from that in life. As an Irish nationalist in the democratic non-violent tradition, I will not be dishonourable, but neither can I be dishonest in not commenting on that legacy.

3.38 pm

Conor Burns (Bournemouth West) (Con): Monday was the day we had all been dreading in recent months and years. Much has been written about the state of Lady Thatcher’s health in recent years. You will remember, Mr Speaker, only 18 months ago hosting her in your state rooms when she came to support me at an occasion that turned out to be one of her last visits to the Palace of Westminster. May I say, Mr Speaker, that she was grateful for your support and kindness to her on that occasion?

Lady Thatcher came back from so many health scares that we thought she would go on for ever. In the words of the poem:

“If I had thought thou couldst have died,

I might not weep for thee;

But I forgot, when by thy side,

That thou couldst mortal be.”

As I watched the television coverage about this remarkable lady, I felt a deep sense of personal loss. Some of us have lost a dear friend, who in my case was not only a friend but a mentor and protectress—someone I loved and cared for very deeply.

I first met Margaret Thatcher back in 1992, when she came to support my hon. Friend and neighbour the Member for Christchurch (Mr Chope) in Southampton, Itchen, his then constituency. Over the years, she was enormously supportive of my efforts to get elected to this place. I remember that in 2001, she came to support me in Eastleigh. We took her to a health club in a visit covered live on Sky News. The chief executive of the entire group had come to welcome her. She announced to him, “These places are a complete waste of time—up and down stairs keeps me fit!”

In 2002, I had what must have been the unique privilege of welcoming Ted Heath and Margaret Thatcher to Eastleigh in the same month. When Ted was coming, I warned the people in my association, “For goodness’ sake, don’t put out the Thatcher-Tebbit fliers!” Well, they did. Ted reached for one of them, looked at it and said to me, “What on earth are you doing with those two?” I said, “Well, they agreed to come.” He then said what I suppose for him was a grudging compliment—“I

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suppose that is something of a coup.” Margaret came down to Eastleigh again in 2005; alas, it was not to be, and Chris Huhne won.

In January 2010, in the run-up to the general election, Lady Thatcher came to what turned out to be the last dinner she ever had outside her home or the Ritz. She came to do an event for me and another candidate which we had given the rather novel title “Women, for men to win”. Ann Widdecombe was the guest speaker and Margaret was the guest of honour.

In recent years, I spent almost every Sunday evening with Lady Thatcher; on my way to Chester square to see her, I often bumped into you, Mr Speaker, when you were returning from the gym. We had great conversations on those Sundays. They ranged very much depending on how she was on a particular day. If we were in good form, we would go through the papers. I remember last November showing her a poll in The Sunday Telegraph that showed the Conservatives 9% behind the Labour party. She asked when the next election was, so I said that there was a little over two years to go. She said, “That’s not far enough behind at this stage!” I texted that information to the Prime Minister from the living room of Chester square; I do not know whether it cheered up his Sunday evening at Chequers, but I am sure it reduced my prospects of promotion.

On one occasion, I took a taxi from here to Chester square to see Lady Thatcher on a particularly wet and awful evening. The taxi driver said, “Which end of the square do you want, guv?” I said, “The house with the policeman outside.” “Maggie Thatcher’s, guv?” “That’s right.” “What you doin’ there, then?” “I’m going to have a drink with her—she’s a friend of mine.” “What d’you do then?” “I’m a Tory MP.” As we pulled up, I went to pay the driver, but he refused to take the fare. I apologise in advance to the Prime Minister for repeating this story, but the driver said, “Your fare tonight, guv, is you go in there and you tell ’er from me that we ain’t had a good’un since!” I imparted that message to Margaret, who looked at me and said, “Well, he’s quite right.” I was then on the receiving end of a lecture about how he probably had a wife and child to support, how I should have paid him and how it was monstrous that I had not.

One of the things we used to talk about was her time in office and some of her remarkable achievements. Quite recently, towards the end of last year, I remember saying to her, “You must have made mistakes.” She said, “I suppose I must have done.” I said, “Can you think of any specific examples?” She replied, “Well, they usually happened when I didn’t get my own way.”

Much has been made in the media about the controversial nature of Margaret Thatcher as a politician and of her premiership. We should not shy away from that today, and nor should we on the Conservative Benches be afraid to talk about that. That would be to betray who she was: she was a robust, principled, confrontational character. Yes, she divided; yes, she pursued her policies with vigour and persistence. She believed, as she said to me, that politics at its purest is philosophy in action. She believed in the battle of ideas—something that we would welcome returning to domestic politics today.

If I may say so to the Deputy Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher was not a Tory at all. In fact, she proudly stated that she was a laissez-faire Gladstonian economic

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liberal—in the proudest traditions, and I say it as one myself, of the Gladstonian Liberal party. She would have welcomed that.

In some ways, the protests are the greatest compliment that could be paid to Margaret Thatcher. Even in death, the left have to argue against her. She would take great pride in these protests. She would not get angry about them; she would regard them as utterly and completely absurd. All I would say to those engaged in those protests is that they should look at how gracious she always was in what she said whenever her political foes departed the scene—most recently in the statement she issued about Michael Foot.

Her enduring legacy is not just in what she achieved and the fact that the Labour party has not reversed much of it. Her true legacy lies here on these Benches and in those who are coming up behind us. After the 2010 general election, I had the honour of organising a small number of receptions to introduce her to new colleagues. She drew great solace and comfort from the number of those colleagues who told her that they were in Parliament because of her inspiration and because of what she believed and did. Only two years ago, Tony Abbott, as the aspirant Prime Minister of Australia, asked to come to see her and told her that his philosophy was informed by watching what she had done when he was at university. While she was divisive to some degree, controversial certainly, she was an inspiration to many people way beyond these shores.

I would like to end by quoting what she said in the closing pages of the second volume of her memoirs—the last authentic book that she published. She reflected on a visit to Warsaw in 1993 and wrote movingly about attending mass at the Church of the Holy Cross:

“Every nook and cranny was packed and the choral singing of unfamiliar Polish hymns was all the more uplifting because I could not understand the verses: it forced me to try to imagine…what the congregation was asking of God.

Foreign though this experience was, it also gave me a comforting feeling that I was but one soul among many in a fellowship of believers that crossed nations and denominations.

When the priest rose to give the sermon, however, I had the sense that I had suddenly become the centre of attention. Heads turned and people smiled at me. As the priest began, someone translated his words.

He recalled that during the dark days of communism they had been aware of voices from the outside world, offering hope of a different and better life. The voices were many, often eloquent, and all were welcome to a people starved so long of truth as well as freedom.

But Poles had come to identify with one voice in particular—my own. Even when that voice had been relayed through the distorting loud-speaker of the Soviet propaganda, they had heard through the distortions the message of truth and hope.

Well, communism had fallen and a new democratic order had replaced it. But they had not fully felt the change nor truly believed in its reality until today when they finally saw me in their own church.

The priest finished his sermon and the service continued. But the kindness of the priest and the parishioners had not been exhausted. At the end of Mass, I was invited to stand in front of the Altar. When I did so, lines of children presented me with little bouquets while their mothers and fathers applauded.”

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The final paragraph of Lady Thatcher’s memoir reads thus:

“Of course no human mind nor any conceivable computer can calculate the sum total of my career in politics in terms of happiness, achievement and virtue, nor indeed their opposites. It follows therefore that the full accounting of how my political work affected the lives of others is something that we will only know on Judgement Day. It is an awesome and unsettling thought. But it comforts me that when I stand up to hear the verdict, I will at least have the people of the Church of the Holy Cross in Warsaw in court as character witnesses.”

3.50 pm

Sir Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton) (Lab): I join in paying tribute to my old adversary, Margaret Thatcher. For many, of course, Margaret Thatcher was synonymous with “milk-snatcher,” and it would be idle to pretend that to us in the Labour party, and to millions of our supporters, many of her policies were other than anathema. But Margaret was much more complex than that, both as a politician and as a person, and her international significance was emphasised quite recently when, almost 24 years after she had stopped being Prime Minister, an actress in Hollywood could win the “best actress” Oscar for portraying her almost as well as she used to portray herself.

I served in the shadow Cabinet for 10 years when Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister. I saw her in action, and I often opposed her in action. After she left office—or rather, was ousted from office by some of her colleagues—I had contact with her from time to time.

Of course, as a Labour Member of Parliament, I deplored many of the drastic changes that she made in society. I was Labour’s Front-Bench spokesman during the coal strike, which she provoked, prepared for and won, although she was greatly helped by the stupid approach of Arthur Scargill, who destroyed the once almost revered National Union of Mineworkers by refusing to hold a strike ballot—a victory for her—just as Michael Foot, who has been mentioned this afternoon, contributed very significantly indeed to her greatest election victory in 1983.

It was my job to oppose her right-to-buy legislation, whose impact on the availability of social housing persists to this day, which is quite a charge sheet, not to mention the blunders that finished her off: the poll tax and “no, no, no” to Europe. But after all, she was a Tory Prime Minister and was not elected to implement policies that I or my constituents favoured. Unlike Winston Churchill, Harold Macmillan or Ted Heath, she broke the post-war consensus; that was her objective, and that was her achievement.

In personal relationships, and in some policy areas, Margaret Thatcher could be more than civilized—indeed, punctilious and cordial. I was a junior Housing Minister when she was shadow Environment Secretary, and I recall an occasion when one of her Front-Bench spokesmen violated the kind of across-the-Floor Front-Bench deal on which the functioning of this House depends. It was Margaret who sought me out to apologise and to say that she knew nothing about it, and would have stopped it had she known.

After she became Prime Minister, she baulked at railway privatisation. It was imposed by John Major, and its messy consequences we suffer to this day. Although she won her second and third elections with enormous

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majorities, she was always accessible. She announced that any Member of Parliament with employment problems in his or her constituency could come and see her at No. 10, and I availed myself of that offer when a computer multilayer board factory in my constituency was at hazard. We met in the Prime Minister’s study in 10 Downing street and I explained the problem. “But how are we to save it?” she asked. I suggested that it could be taken over by the National Enterprise Board, which had been created by Labour. Kenneth Baker, the junior Minister responsible for this policy area, was present, so she turned to him and asked plaintively, “Kenneth, what did I do with the National Enterprise Board?” I am sorry to say that the factory is now a blood transfusion centre, but, still, she meant well.

Margaret Thatcher was brave. In the parliamentary week following the Brighton bombing, in which terrorists tried to kill her and her entire Cabinet—and British democracy, by seeking to do so—she came here; she was present, bright and perky in the House of Commons, for the Government statement, to which I responded. She was also absolutely right on a considerable number of foreign policy issues. Against timorous nerve-trembling on both sides of the House and attempted international interference, she was utterly determined that the people of the Falkland Islands, who wanted to be British and who still want to be British today, should not be the victims of a fascist dictator. How some Labour Members of Parliament could actually want to water down a response to an aggressive fascist dictator, I could not understand then and I still do not understand today.

When Saddam Hussein seized Kuwait, she was actively part of the preparations to oust him by force. I was shadow Foreign Secretary at this time and had to seek to carry with me our Back Benchers, some of whom were spineless—[Interruption.] I am here to try to obtain a consensus. In the debate, I therefore told the House that Labour policy was based not on supporting the United Kingdom Government, but on implementing United Nations Security Council resolutions. She knew what I was up to, and she dug the Foreign Secretary in the ribs with her elbow and smiled a wry smile. She was also much more far-sighted than most United Kingdom Prime Ministers about rightward trends in Israel and in the middle east. When, as shadow Foreign Secretary, I visited Morocco, I was told by the United Kingdom ambassador there that she had given him a direct instruction to approach the leaders of the then substantial Moroccan Jewish community and urge them to exhort the sizeable number of Moroccan Jewish immigrants in Israel to vote Labour—Shimon Peres—in a forthcoming election.

Until her final debacle, she generally found ways of getting her own way. There had been a Lionel Bart musical called “Maggie May” and the saying went, “Others may not, but Maggie may”, and that was very much her watchword. I saw her from time to time after she had left office. On one occasion I attended a social event and when I came in she bustled over to me. I had recently had published in a newspaper an article about protecting children from pornography on TV and videos. She told me how much she admired the article and said, “I carry it with me everywhere in my handbag.” To be part of the contents of Margaret’s handbag—what greater apotheosis could one possibly hope for, Mr Speaker?

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3.59 pm

Sir Gerald Howarth (Aldershot) (Con): This is a sad day for those of us who were privileged to serve as either officers or, in my case, foot soldiers in Margaret Thatcher’s great army, but as the Leader of the Opposition said, in what I thought was a very generous speech, it is also an opportunity for the nation to pause, reflect and recall the extraordinary achievements she secured in just 11 years.

Many of my colleagues are too young to remember what Britain was like when Margaret Thatcher won the 1979 election, but we older ones can remember the rubbish piled up in the streets, corpses being left unburied and industry being held to ransom by the likes of Red Robbo. Britain was basically a basket-case. The then Chancellor of the Exchequer was recalled from an aeroplane at Heathrow to come and answer to the International Monetary Fund.

Margaret Thatcher arrived as a new breed; not just a woman, but, as the Prime Minister said, a conviction politician who was driven by a belief that Britain, and the British people themselves, deserved better. She did not need a focus group to decide what she believed in. She was driven by a set of clear Conservative principles, underpinned by a fundamental belief that it was free enterprise that would deliver the prosperity she so craved for our people in the aftermath of the second world war and the malaise to which the Prime Minister referred.

When I became a shadow Minister in 2002, I received a hand-written note congratulating me and advising me, “Know your facts.” In that spirit, I wish to remind the House of a couple of facts. Margaret Thatcher believed in sound money, as the Prime Minister said, and in her time public sector borrowing fell from 4.1% to 1% of GDP. The national debt was cut from 43.6% to 26.7% of GDP. She took on the trade union barons and restored the trade unions to their members. It is interesting to look at the figures: in 1979, 29.8 million days were lost to industrial action, or strikes, but that figure was cut to 2 million by the time she left office, and last year it was fewer than 250,000. Such has been the change that this divisive woman wrought to industrial relations in our country.

She also abolished exchange controls. In about 1972 I went on a demonstration outside the Bank of England—I was running the Society for Individual Freedom at the time—and I held a placard that read, “End Exchange Controls”. I did not really understand what it was all about, because I had not yet embarked on my banking career, but I had a vague notion that it was some sort of ghastly second world war regulation. The first thing Geoffrey Howe did after becoming Chancellor of the Exchequer was abolish exchange controls. For those of our young people who do not understand what I am talking about, as I did not then, let me explain. In those days, when we went abroad we were allowed to take 30 quid out of the country, and our passports had to be stamped to show that we were entitled to do so. It is important that we take this opportunity to remind people of the changes that have been wrought. I was working in a bank at the time. I took all the regulations relating to exchange controls off the shelves and have them at home to remind myself, and anybody else who might need to, of the iniquity of exchange controls.

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She also ended the party line. I do not mean the line that we are so privileged to receive from central office every morning. Again, I remind those who are a little younger that the party line, which we had at home, meant that a telephone, which was graciously provided by something called the General Post Office, could not be used if a neighbour who shared the line was already using it. I remember in the late 1990s all the smart, Armani-suited new Labour types clutching their mobile phones. Those friends and comrades should not forget that had it not been for us privatising the telecommunications industry, they would not have had their mobile phones. [Interruption.] The shadow Chancellor can try to phone a friend, but the trouble is that he has not got one. I am sorry—that was a bit divisive.

We have heard of her other domestic achievements, but of course she did not do everything. I, my right hon. Friends the Members for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr Lilley) and for Wokingham (Mr Redwood) and many others in the No Turning Back group urged her to go further and faster—we were called the “Don’t Turn Your Back” group for some obscure reason. I remember that we proposed to her a system in education whereby the money followed the pupil. At an NTB dinner, she told us, “Grow up boys and be your age. We can’t possibly do anything like that.” We were all crestfallen and went home very disappointed that the Prime Minister had not listened. Come the general election in 1987, we were out canvassing all day long and would turn on the telly at night to see what was going on at the centre. There was the press conference, with the Prime Minister in the middle and Ken Baker to her side. She said, “We’ve got this new idea about education. The money follows the pupil.” That was what we had proposed to her and she had told us to grow up and that we could not possibly do anything like that. That was the art of Margaret Thatcher’s political argument, of which the Prime Minister spoke: she challenged people and made sure that they got their facts right. She challenged that proposal and found that it was a policy worth pursuing.

Abroad, of course, she forged that close relationship with Ronald Reagan and the United States. I heard the story that my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kensington (Sir Malcolm Rifkind) mentioned about Ronald Reagan from Bob Tuttle, the former American ambassador. It is absolutely right that they really did admire her. She was no poodle of the United States, however. She challenged them and that is what they admired about her.

She ended the cold war and it is terribly important to understand that at that time we all felt a sense of potential nuclear holocaust. Together with Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, she made the world a better place and liberated millions of eastern Europeans who had been subjected to tyranny. This divisive lady was responsible for introducing harmony across the iron curtain.

Her will to recover the Falkland Islands is now legendary and I wear my Falkland Islands tie with pride today as a symbol of Margaret Thatcher’s determination.

That extraordinary engendering of a new respect across the world for the United Kingdom had commercial advantage. One of the biggest deals we have ever done was the al-Yamamah defence deal with the Kingdom of

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Saudi Arabia, which today is worth tens of billions of pounds, sustaining high-tech jobs across the United Kingdom. She played a huge part in that. When she went there, she observed all the courtesies of the Arab world—a long dress, long sleeves and a scarf—but I am quite sure that when she flashed her eyes at King Fahd it was all a done deal.

We have heard about the liberation of Kuwait and the winning of the EU rebate. In the latter case, again, she had a simple message for the country. That was one of her secrets. Members might remember Robin Day interviewed her and gave a great spiel about how her belligerence and her determination to get the rebate would put off our European partners. She paused and said, “But Robin, it’s our money. We want it back.” To date, we have had £75 billion back, so let no one deny her the pomp and circumstance of next week’s funeral.

Of course, she did fall out over Europe, and she did sign the Single European Act, as the right hon. Member for Belfast North (Mr Dodds) mentioned. I did not sign it—I was not a Minister—but I did vote against it on Third Reading. When I became her Parliamentary Private Secretary, I said to her, “A lot of people in the House are saying, Margaret, that your belligerence on Europe is hardly justified when you signed the Single European Act.” She said to me, “Yes, I did sign it, but I understood it to apply solely to the single market in goods and services. I was assured that it would not be extended to working time and other areas. The fact that I was betrayed is why I feel so passionately about it.”

She was a fervent patriot. She profoundly believed in this country; she loved this country and she did not wish to sign up to a united states of Europe—neither do I, nor do my right hon. and hon. Friends on this side of the House. Of course, we were not alone in that. I remember a conversation in the Lobby that was not seen by any of the media involving me, Mrs Thatcher, as she then was, Tony Benn and the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr Skinner). It was absolutely marvellous to hear the entire expression of unity about how evil, as it were, the common market was in the way it was trying to drive a united states of Europe.

Margaret Thatcher lost office and I was her Parliamentary Private Secretary after that. She was angry; people around the world could not understand it and it is important to remember that she was never beaten by the British people. She was never even beaten by the Conservative party—54% of us voted for her, but that was four votes short of the majority required. I think that the Conservative party, and the country, suffered as a consequence of that, and I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on doing all he can to try to revive those Thatcherite principles that did so much to revive our country in the 1980s.

I will tell one wonderful story, and then I will wind up my remarks. I went to see Margaret Thatcher after I lost my seat in Staffordshire in 1992 and asked her, “What are you doing this weekend, Margaret?” She said, “Well, I’m going to Paris. I am going to have dinner with President Mitterrand.” I asked, “What are you going to say?”, and she said, “I am going to tell him that if France signs the Maastricht treaty, France est mort.” I said, “I think actually that it’s ‘La France’”. She said, “Yes. La France est mort.” I said, “Well, because it’s ‘La France’, you have to say ‘morte’” She went round the room saying, “La France est morte. La France est

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morte”, and that weekend she went off to dinner with President Mitterrand. In my view it is no coincidence that on Monday morning, President Mitterrand announced that France would hold a referendum on the Maastricht treaty. The eyes of Caligula and the mouth of Marilyn Monroe, perhaps.

After losing my seat in 1992 in Cannock and Burntwood, I was told that if I did not distance myself from Margaret Thatcher, I would never get a seat again. However, I had a wonderful letter from Enoch Powell who said, “My Dear Gerald, Hard luck but be of good cheer. Fidelity to persons or to principles is seldom unrewarded.” Thank you to the people of Aldershot who rewarded me by offering me the first seat that came up after the 1992 general election, which I think rather worried No. 10 at the time. I have not changed my principles; I have been a supporter of Margaret Thatcher from the very first time she put her name forward to be leader of our party and I do not regret that. I think she has been the salvation of the nation, and that she restored our position in the world.

None of us can forget Margaret Thatcher’s extraordinary elegance. I remember coming to the Chamber at about 4 o’clock in the morning during an all-night sitting—none of you lot know what an all-night sitting is about, but we used to have them regularly. It was 4 o’clock in the morning, people had had a bit to drink and, for us chaps, there was a bit of stubble and it was really pretty unpleasant. I was sitting on the Front Bench wondering when this purgatory was going end, and then there was a frisson at the back of the Chair. All of a sudden, in walked the Prime Minister, not a hair out of place, hand bag there, smiling. We sort of slid up the Bench and looked at the Prime Minister, saying, “Here I am.” She was an inspiration to us all and she inspired huge loyalty. When I asked Bob Kingston, her personal protection officer, what it was like working for her, he said, “I would catch bullets between my teeth to save that woman.”

The soldiers whom Margaret Thatcher so admired reciprocated and admired her. I was at the Painted Hall for the 25th anniversary of the Falklands campaign. A lot of people who had been injured, either mentally or physically, were there. When Margaret Thatcher got up to leave, there was the most astonishing roar from men who had been maimed, cheering their warrior leader who had instructed them to go into battle and they wanted to pay tribute to her.

As people have said, Margaret Thatcher showed immense kindness. In my case, when Neil Hamilton and I faced extinction after we were defamed by the BBC “Panorama” programme, it took a bit of time to see the chairman of the party—who happened to be Norman Tebbit—but only a couple of days to see the Prime Minister. She listened for 25 minutes and at the end she turned to the Chief Whip, John Wakeham, and said, “These are members of our party in good standing. Please ensure that they get the necessary support.” We got that support. We won our libel action and the director general of the BBC was fired, and as a result of Margaret Thatcher’s kindness, we were able to resume our political careers.

I will close by quoting Enoch Powell, who, at the time of the Falklands campaign, made an interesting observation. Before the campaign, he had said that the Iron Lady would be tested, but on 17 June 1982, he said this to the Prime Minister:

“Is the right hon. Lady aware that the report has now been received from the public analyst on a certain substance recently

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subjected to analysis and that I have obtained a copy of the report? It shows that the substance under test consisted of ferrous matter of the highest quality, that it is of exceptional tensile strength, is highly resistant to wear and tear and to stress, and may be used with advantage for all national purposes?”—[

Official Report

, 17 June 1982; Vol. 25, c. 1082.]

What advantage the nation had in the leadership of Margaret Thatcher, the greatest peacetime Prime Minister this nation has ever seen. Next week, we will have our opportunity to give her the send-off she so fully deserves for her selfless sacrifice to the nation.

4.15 pm

Mr Michael Meacher (Oldham West and Royton) (Lab): I very much endorse the measured and dignified remarks of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition. I should like briefly to add to them in two ways. First and most importantly, I want to be a voice for my constituents, and secondly I want to speak as someone who has been a Member of the House from the very start, when Margaret Thatcher became Conservative party leader, and who was here when she was Prime Minister.

Almost everyone agrees that, in 1979, Britain was set on a course that could not go on. It demanded radical change. At times of deep crisis, the whole country rallies behind a unifying leader, whether it is Churchill in wartime or Attlee in peacetime—the latter constructed a peace that broke with the despair of the 1930s. Mrs Thatcher was a very different kind of leader. She was someone who took the fight to her opponents, and who deployed a scorched earth policy to destroy them. That polarised the country, which is why, even today, she is lionised in the south, as we have heard repeatedly this afternoon, but remembered with a very different memorial in the north.

The task in 1979 certainly required a dominant personality to shake this country out of its somnolent conservatism—all hon. Members agree on that. Whatever else Mrs Thatcher was, she was certainly a dominant figure. She dominated, or came to dominate, her Cabinet, and she dominated her party and the country. Her influence was felt across much of the world.

In that context, I recall a story I recently heard while sharing a platform with my very good friend John Gummer, who is now Lord Deben. When he was Secretary of State for the Environment in the 1980s, he complained that he could not get his Department to take climate change seriously. He rang Mrs Thatcher to ensure that he had the necessary support. When he explained the situation, she said to him, “John, you really shouldn’t worry. There are two persons in the Cabinet who are committed over climate change—you and me, so we are in a majority.”

Dominance, however, should always have a counterpart in concern for the victims of radical change. One should never destroy without then building up again. Too many industries and too many working class communities across the north were laid waste during those years without an alternative and better future being constructed to replace what was lost. Many of those communities are still desolated today.

In Oldham, the textile industry was wiped out, and a swathe of the country’s finest engineering companies were simply swept away. Yes, Labour Members agree that change, and even painful change, is often necessary,

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but we also believe that it should not be bought at the price of tripling unemployment, tripling child poverty and an unacceptable increase in inequality, which is still with us today.

My office in Oldham has received dozens of phone calls and e-mails on this matter from my constituents, as I am sure have the offices of many other Members. I will quote the exact words of one e-mail:

“Despite what her supporters think, a lot of today’s problems result from her policies…the destruction of our manufacturing base, lack of investment in social housing following the sale of council homes, deregulating the banking industry, privatised industries profiteering at our expense. We are still living with the consequences.”

My constituent went on:

“I’m sure a large percentage of the population who lived through her years in power will feel the same”.

She ended:

“I hope that my views will be represented in Parliament”.

Lady Thatcher will undoubtedly be remembered as a leader of great conviction. However, in my view, greatness has to be tempered with generosity and magnanimity if one is to earn a permanent place in the heart of this nation. I conclude by saying simply that the unwavering conviction that Lady Thatcher possessed so magnificently sets an example for every generation in confronting the problems that challenge them. This generation is confronted by very different problems: the straitjacket of prolonged austerity, the lack of accountability in corporate power, the over-dominance of finance, a grossly unjust system of remuneration and the destruction of the public realm. I say genuinely and forcefully that it is to Lady Thatcher’s credit that she has shown that we should not be daunted by problems of that scale and magnitude, but should tackle them head-on and overcome them with the same flame of conviction and resolution that remains her greatest memorial.

4.22 pm

Mrs Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham) (Con): The legion of tributes today, the international response and even the distasteful celebrations of her sad death mark out Margaret Thatcher from all other politicians in this country. The remarkable fact that she was only the second woman on the Conservative Benches to serve at Cabinet level makes her achievements even more impressive.

Margaret Thatcher was a woman of great contrasts. It may be said that she bestrode the world stage like a colossus, but she was also capable of great empathy and compassion. She was not only a politician, but proud of her role as daughter, wife, mother and grandmother. Our thoughts in this House should be with her family and close relatives today.

I came into this House just as Margaret Thatcher left, so it is a great sadness that I never got to serve on these green Benches alongside her. For me, she was a cross between my mother and my headmistress. She was a woman to be loved and admired, but also to be feared. She was a woman to hold up as an example for others, but who would expect people to follow her.

For someone with a reputation of wanting to be the only woman in the Cabinet room, I found Margaret Thatcher both inspiring and personally encouraging to

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other women, particularly those who wanted to enter politics. As a direct result of her comments to me back in 1979, when I sat next to her at a dinner, I believed that I, too, could serve my country as an MP. From some of the speeches that we have heard today and from some that will follow, we will know that she had that effect on many people and empowered them to achieve their potential.

It was Margaret Thatcher’s clearly defined philosophy and stubborn adherence to her own beliefs that fashioned the opinions both of her admirers and her detractors. My predecessor in Chesham and Amersham was one such detractor—he entitled his book on the Thatcher years “Dancing with Dogma”, to reflect her often intractable views and approach—but even he praised her attention to detail and her mastery of the brief, while perhaps not admiring her footwork on the political dance floor.

Although, almost unbelievably, she had moments of self-doubt, she reserved those for the private arena, mostly to be shared with her devoted and doted-on Denis. On public platforms she always appeared sure-footed, and brave with it.

Politics takes no prisoner, man or woman, and being Prime Minister is no sinecure. I think that, as an individual, she was braver than many men. She took on the vested interests, the dictators and the misogynists, and triumphed. She engineered the end of a cold war, and, against all odds, won a distant one; she curtailed the powers of the unelected unions, and restored it to elected representatives; she removed the dead hand of the state from enterprise, and helped people to improve their lot and their lives through hard work and home ownership; and she established the United Kingdom’s ground, quite clearly and uniquely, in a Europe that had its own grandiose ambitions to usurp our British sovereignty. Any one of those feats would have been enough to mark out an individual, but they, and many more, reflect a politician of substance whose like we may not see again in our lifetimes.

She will be missed in very many different ways by all who knew her, but especially by those who received her encouragement, kindness and protection. She has left an indelible impression on this country and on countries abroad, and on all future generations.

4.26 pm

Ms Diane Abbott (Hackney North and Stoke Newington) (Lab): I am very glad to have an opportunity to speak in this historic debate. It would be wrong not to pay tribute to Britain’s first woman Prime Minister.

I entered Parliament in 1987, when Mrs Thatcher was still Prime Minister in all her pomp and glory, and it is fair to say that she was a remarkable parliamentary phenomenon. She believed in Parliament as the cockpit of political debate, in a way that is perhaps not fashionable today, and she was often the leading lady—whether we agreed with her or not—in some of Parliament’s most momentous occasions.

The House will not be surprised to hear that I did not agree with many of the things for which she stood. However, I rose this afternoon not to challenge her beliefs, but to remind the House very gently that, even after all the years that have passed since she stood down as leader of her party, there are still millions of people who felt themselves to be on the wrong side of the

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titanic battles that she fought. Whether they are people who felt that the poll tax had been imposed on them wrongly, whether they are young people who were caught up in the difficult relationships between police and communities in our inner cities, whether they are people who were dismayed by her unwillingness to impose economic sanctions on South Africa and by her insistence on calling the African National Congress a terrorist organisation, or whether they are people—and I mean communities—who were caught up in the miners’ strike, there are still people living today who felt themselves to be on the wrong side of those titanic struggles, and the House should not make it appear that their voice cannot be heard.

Many Members from mining communities are present today, and they will have their say, but let me quote from another Conservative leader, Harold Macmillan. In his first speech in the House of Lords as Lord Stockton, he said:

“Although…I cannot interfere…it breaks my heart to see what is happening in our country today. A terrible strike is being carried on by the best men in the world. They beat the Kaiser’s army and they beat Hitler’s army. They never gave in.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 13 November 1984; Vol. 457, c. 240.]

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the titanic political struggles that she fought—Conservative Members have spoken about them at length—let us remember that in their hearts some of those communities never gave in and deserve to have a voice in the House this afternoon. I am happy to pay tribute to her historic significance and her historic role, and I know that history is written by victors, but those of us who came of age in the Thatcher era know that there was another side to the glories that Government Members have spoken about.

4.30 pm

Sir Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con): I first met Margaret Thatcher when she was Secretary of State for Education and I was a student at Sussex university who was active in student politics. From that, I became Margaret Thatcher’s personal aide and research assistant in the October 1974 general election. The Conservative party was in opposition and Margaret was a member of the shadow Cabinet as shadow housing and planning Minister. In those days, Members of Parliament did not have numbers of research assistants—they had just a single House of Commons secretary—so the core campaign team in Finchley was small: Mrs Thatcher’s secretary, Alison Ward, now Lady Wakeham, her agent and me. What struck me first about working for Margaret Thatcher was her prodigious work ethic, her indefatigable determination to analyse and understand any brief that she was given and the considerable attention she paid to the last detail. I think that that was helped by the combination of her training both as a research chemist and, for a while, an extremely able junior at the tax Bar.

Working for Margaret and producing research briefings for her, I knew that I had to be ready and able to deal with any of the supplementary questions that she might ask—or, at the very least, know who could provide those detailed answers. The simple fact was that at any meeting—I suspect that this was the case throughout her time as leader of the party and as Prime Minister—Margaret was always the best-prepared person in the room, because invariably she had taken the time and effort to ensure that she was the best briefed.

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When writing speeches for Margaret in the October 1974 general election, we used two books for primary source material. The first, which has already been mentioned, was F. A. Hayek’s “The Constitution of Liberty”, and the other was a book written and published in the 1930s called “A Time for Greatness”. To my shame, I cannot now remember the author’s name, but I well recall that Margaret’s reflection of these two books was along these lines: if the state takes all in taxation and spends all, we all become slaves of the state.

Margaret Thatcher was also incredibly kind, particularly to those who worked for her. Of course, she revelled in the Iron Lady sobriquet given to her by the Russians and others—it was a badge of respect for her steadfastness and determination—but there was also a much softer and more caring side to her. Perhaps I can give one example with which I think every Member could empathise. One of my intake, Patrick Nicholls, was a very effective junior Minister, but had had to resign from office following a road traffic offence. Not surprisingly, he was cross with himself and very frustrated, and thought he had let people down.

One evening, Patrick had a telephone call from his Whip, telling him to be in the Division Lobby at five to 10, shortly before the 10 o’clock vote. Patrick asked why and was told simply to be there. Patrick arrived, as instructed, at five to 10, and shortly afterwards Margaret Thatcher walked in, put her arm through his and said, “How are things going, Patrick? How are you?” As the Division bell rang and as the Lobby filled with parliamentary colleagues, the Prime Minister slowly walked through the Lobby, arm in arm with Patrick, chatting to him all the way—a kind and clear gesture of support for someone who had been a hard-working junior Minister and who continued to be an extremely hard-working and loyal Back Bencher.

Margaret also had a great sense of humour. In the 1983 general election, another of our intake, Jeremy Hanley, won Richmond with a majority of just 74 votes. The day after the general election, Margaret, the Prime Minister, telephoned Jeremy to congratulate him on winning Richmond. The Conservative vote in the constituency had been about 21,000. The conversation went like this. Jeremy: “Thank you very much, Prime Minister, for getting me the 74 votes that I needed.” Prime Minister: “Jeremy, I got you the 21,000 votes—you just got the 74.” Indeed, I often think there were two Margaret Thatchers: the real Margaret Thatcher for those who knew and worked with her and the caricature Margaret Thatcher of some press commentators, satirists and political opponents.

During the winter of 1974-75, I gave some help to Airey Neave in the Conservative leadership campaign. When Margaret became leader of the Conservative party, I joined her private office for a while as the personal link between her and the Britain in Europe campaign that was going on as a consequence of the EU referendum. I therefore had a good opportunity to see how Margaret worked, in the early part of her leadership, with parliamentary colleagues and advisers. Yes, Margaret Thatcher was certainly a person of robust views. She liked a good discussion—robust argument, even—but she was always willing to listen and heed the views of others. There were, I suspect, countless occasions when having heard the arguments—having heard the advice of Willie Whitelaw, or, on more personal matters, heeded the good counsel of Denis—Margaret would accept

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other people’s contributions and advice, perhaps saying something like, “All right, we’ll do it your way, but you had better get it right.”

It is also a caricature to portray Margaret Thatcher as simply anti-European. I have in my desk at home the originals of a number of speeches that she gave in her constituency and elsewhere during the 1975 EU referendum campaign—speeches clearly amended and corrected in her own very distinctive cursive handwriting. Margaret campaigned wholeheartedly for a “yes to Europe” result in the referendum. As those speeches demonstrate, she clearly believed in a strong Europe being a counterweight to the then Soviet Union and a strong partner to the United States. She clearly undoubtedly believed in a Europe of nation states. She strongly believed in ensuring the speediest possible creation of the European single market and was always extremely frustrated by other member states that sought to frustrate the further creation of a single market for their own particular nationalist interests.

Ironically, I think that this is where her frustration may have started with some of the workings of the European Union. Prior to the Single European Act in the mid-1980s, every EU member state had, in effect, a veto on any issue of any importance. This meant that the EU Commission or the President of the Council of Ministers, when wishing to get business through had, importantly, to negotiate with and square any member states that they thought would veto a particular proposal. That meant that any single member state could veto advances in the single market. It was therefore decided, in the Single European Act, to move to a system of weighted qualified majority voting. This, overnight, fundamentally changed the way in which the Council of Ministers and the Commission worked, because now all they needed to do was to secure the support of sufficient member states to get a majority vote. They would therefore start with the member states they considered the most supportive of a proposal and work on them until they got a qualified majority, and if, at the end, there were some member states on the other side of the argument, they were not necessarily particularly concerned. This change meant that while Margaret had succeeded in making the single market work much better, she was no longer able as easily to threaten to exercise a UK veto, and I think in time she found that very frustrating.

I felt enormously privileged to have been appointed even a junior Minister in a Government led by Margaret Thatcher. I was sent to the Department of Energy to help support John Wakeham with electricity privatisation. With the clarity and grip that she had had way back when I first worked for her in 1974, she explained clearly and succinctly exactly what she expected the Department to achieve in respect of not just electricity privatisation, but the future of the coal industry and nuclear power.

Now, there are those who say that Margaret was divisive. To them I would simply observe that Margaret Thatcher was a democrat, and a democrat who won three general elections in a row with increased majorities. I was elected in 1983 when Margaret secured a majority of 144 in the Commons. I do not think any of us who were elected in June 1983 were in any doubt that we owed our election to Margaret Thatcher and the affection

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in which she was held by huge numbers of voters. This, for me, is best recalled in a single soundbite in Banbury market. One of the television stations had come to do some vox pop on the election in Banbury. They went up to a chap who ran the fruit and veg stall. “What do you think about the general election?” they asked. “I don’t know much about politics,” said the guy, “but this I do know: No. 10—Maggie’s den.”

It was very cruel that Margaret Thatcher should have been so unwell for the last years of her life. I first realised that something was not quite right a number of years ago when Margaret was speaking at a fundraising dinner for Somerville college. Lady Thatcher, as she then was, was making a bravura speech, clearly setting out the thoughts and principles that had guided her throughout public life, but she was finding it difficult to bring the speech to a conclusion. I suspect that those of us there who knew her must have suspected that all was not well, and so it sadly proved to be. In passing, it is important to recall how proud Margaret was of having been made an honorary fellow of Somerville, the college which had set her on the path to becoming the UK’s first woman Prime Minister, and also how sad she was that she was never awarded an honorary degree by Oxford.

It is all ancient history and in many ways water under the bridge, but as an Oxfordshire MP I always thought it reflected badly on the image and reputation of Oxford university that it had not felt able to recognise Margaret’s unquestionable and outstanding achievements in politics and public life. Somerville established a number of fellowships in law and chemistry in honour of Margaret Thatcher, and I suspect that if anyone wanted to make a bequest in Margaret’s memory, Somerville is one of the institutions that she would want to see flourish.

Margaret is now at peace and, I am confident, reunited with Denis who, notwithstanding the Private Eye caricature, was a man of good counsel and sound judgment, and a towering column of support and strength for Margaret, a thoroughly decent man. If I were allowed just one image or one memory of Margaret, it would be standing in the Winter Gardens in Blackpool in the 1980 Conservative party conference, listening to her conference speech when she said electrically,

“I have only one thing to say. You turn if you want to. The lady’s not for turning.”

4.43 pm

Mr David Winnick (Walsall North) (Lab): I do not doubt for one moment that Lady Thatcher was kind and considerate in her dealings with those who worked for her. Indeed, I would be surprised if that were not the position. No doubt some of her Cabinet colleagues would have appreciated, at least in the later stages, the same consideration. However, it would be wrong and hypocritical if the views that we expressed at the time—strong views about the policies pursued by Mrs Thatcher’s Government from 1979 to when she left office—were not mentioned today.

It is right and understandable that those who support her have spoken and will, I am sure, continue to speak in this debate, but the House is a place where opinion should be expressed freely, even if it is controversial, and those of us who so strongly disagreed with the policies pursued by Lady Thatcher should make our views clear today. It is more political than personal. Of course I

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regret, like everyone else, the passing of Lady Thatcher. I recognise that by becoming the first female Prime Minister in Britain, she made history, and that cannot be disputed. However, we have to remember what was done during the 11 years—or, to be exact, as she always was, the 11 and a half years—of her premiership in No. 10 Downing street and the way in which those policies were carried out. It was my view, and that of those on the Opposition Benches at the time, that those policies were highly damaging and that they caused immense pain and suffering to ordinary people.

I therefore believe that it is right that, while tributes are being paid to the life of Lady Thatcher, we should not forget what happened at that time. Those of us who were here in the House of Commons used every opportunity to protest on behalf of our constituents who were the victims of those policies, and we were not wrong to do so. This is not so much about Lady Thatcher herself as about the way in which, once the election had been won in 1979, it was decided to pursue policies that almost immediately—certainly within a year or two—caused the outcomes that I have mentioned.

In April to June 1979, the rate of unemployment was just over 5%. In March to May 1984, it was just under 12% and well over 3 million. Those are the percentages, but what did they mean in human terms for the men and women who were made redundant? As we said at the time, many of those people had worked all their lives since leaving school. When they were made redundant in their 50s, they discovered how unlikely it was that they would ever work again. We have to understand the human cost of the policies that have been praised today.

In 1979, 14% of children lived in relative poverty—that was bad enough; the fact that any children were living in poverty was to be deplored—but by 1991, 31% lived in such poverty. Are we really saying that those policies that Conservative Members have been praising today were unrelated to those children living in such poverty and deprivation? The fact that they were living in those conditions should certainly be deplored by Opposition Members.

I have heard it argued many times, not least today, that the policies undertaken by the Thatcher Government were almost inevitable, and that whoever had formed the Government of the day would have had to pursue policies of deindustrialisation involving the closing of factories, foundries and coal mines. But even if we accept that some of that was inevitable, the unfortunate thing was what I can only describe as the indifference to and, at times, brutal contempt for, those who had lost their jobs.

David Morris (Morecambe and Lunesdale) (Con): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr Winnick: In a moment.

It almost seemed that, instead of offering support and understanding what that meant to the many people involved, the Government of the day blamed those people who were made redundant. It was as though it was their fault, and it was suggested that if only they had got on their bikes, as Lord Tebbit said his dad had done, they would have found work. That is what I mean by indifference and brutal contempt for people who, through no fault of their own, found themselves in circumstances that none of us would want. Does the hon. Gentleman still wish to intervene on me?

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David Morris: I note that the hon. Gentleman would not give way to me a moment ago. I was made redundant at the time he was describing. I set up my own business thanks to Thatcherism, I made a success of it and here I am now, preaching it forward.

Mr Winnick: Does that not prove the point? So many people were not in a position to do what the hon. Gentleman did. What he said very much expresses Thatcherism. He says, “I was made redundant. I found another job. Here I am today.” What about all the others who were not in a position to do that? What about all the others I have mentioned––those in their 50s, who were never able to work again because, as they grew older, employers said that they were too near retirement age? My point could not be better illustrated, and I thank the hon. Gentleman for doing it.

In the black country and the west midlands, we were devastated by the two major recessions that occurred during the 1980s. My hon. Friend the Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) referred to the terrible hardship suffered by mining communities. Many of us believe that the miners were treated with utter contempt. However much it could be said that Arthur Scargill played into Lady Thatcher’s hands, the manner in which the miners were treated is not likely to be forgotten by the communities involved. It is right and proper that that is said today, when tributes are being paid to the former Prime Minister.

Let me also just say this: mention was made, by the Prime Minister and others, of the fact that Lady Thatcher had a commitment to parliamentary democracy. I do not doubt that for one moment. She was long a Member of this House—32 years—and then went to the House of Lords, where she played an active role. It could be said that a certain Mr Gorbachev had a role to play in what happened in eastern Europe by the manner in which he made it perfectly clear, particularly to the East Germans, that the Russians would no longer, in any circumstances, bolster regimes that were totally discredited.

I do not want to dispute in any way the extent to which Lady Thatcher made a contribution in relation to eastern Europe. However, it is unfortunate, is it not, that she was so totally unsympathetic to the fight against apartheid in South Africa. To describe the African National Congress as a terrorist organisation and Nelson Mandela as a terrorist cannot be justified under any circumstances. I remember when Nelson Mandela came to Westminster Hall as a very distinguished visitor––as President of South Africa. We paid tribute to him and listened keenly to what he said. I could not but notice that in the front row listening to him was Lady Thatcher. I hope that by then she had realised that she had taken the wrong line on apartheid. We should not be concerned about freedom just in Europe, but in South Africa and Latin America. I was never a fan of Pinochet, a professional mass murderer.

Lady Thatcher was a divisive figure, and she would not for one moment have argued otherwise. One thing on which we can agree in this House is that “consensus” was not her favourite word. The Prime Minister mentioned former Prime Ministers. Of the two Prime Ministers who have made the greatest impression since 1945, in my view, and in the view of those on the Opposition Benches, Clement Attlee’s tremendous changes—the national health service, national insurance and the like—made Britain a far more civilised country. The other

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figure, to whom we are paying tribute today, is Lady Thatcher. She believed that much of what occurred post-1945 was wrong and should be undermined. My view remains that what the Attlee Government set out to do was absolutely right, and that what Lady Thatcher set out to do—undermine many of the changes brought about immediately after the second world war—was wrong. I know which side I am on.

4.54 pm

Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): Today, the House of Commons rightly pays tribute to a great Prime Minister and a great parliamentarian. We who sit as Conservative Members of Parliament salute one of the most successful and influential leaders of our party. Those of us who were privileged enough to know her and to work for her remember an inspiring figure, but also a warm and compassionate person who inspired tremendous loyalty among her staff.

I was 15 when Margaret Thatcher became leader of my party and like so many of my generation and those that followed, I was influenced in my politically formative years by her exposition of ideas and beliefs developed with Keith Joseph and the Centre for Policy Studies. That clear articulation of an ideological philosophy attracted me to become involved in Conservative politics. Three years later, I was lucky enough to meet her for the first time when I began to work for the Conservative party. I was in her office on the day Airey Neave was killed, and some years later I was working for her in Downing street on the day that Ian Gow was assassinated —two terrible blows to her personally.

Margaret Thatcher was a controversial and sometimes divisive figure. It was inevitable given the scale of the challenges she and her Government faced. She had to make difficult and unpopular decisions, but her conviction and strength of purpose enabled her to achieve what she did, often in the face of enormous opposition. She confronted opposition right from the start of her career. The Leader of the Opposition referred to her time at Oxford. She became active in the Oxford University Conservative Association––indeed, its president––because women were not allowed to participate in the Oxford Union. Once she became leader of our party, she confronted huge opposition within our own ranks. Many people resented her background, from a middle-class family in Grantham; they resented her sex and they also resented her ideological certainty. All those things were novel for the Conservative party at that time.

Lady Thatcher’s strength of purpose allowed her to confront our country’s enemies. We have referred to General Galtieri and the invasion of the Falkland Islands. She played a role in persuading George Bush that she must confront Saddam Hussein when he invaded and occupied Kuwait, and, with Ronald Reagan and Gorbachev, in bringing about the end of communism. She was also a pragmatist and a realist. She was responsible for the Lancaster House agreement, which ended white rule in Rhodesia and ushered in black majority government. She negotiated the hand-back of Hong Kong to the Chinese, and as we have heard, she signed the Anglo-Irish agreement.

I first worked for Margaret Thatcher directly during the two general election campaigns of 1983 and 1987 when I accompanied her on her tour of the country. It

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was my first experience of her punishing work load, her extraordinary attention to detail and her occasionally somewhat unreasonable demands. I also saw at first hand her instinctive feel for the aspirations and beliefs of the people of Britain. It was her identification with those people that allowed her to articulate so clearly what they wanted and that delivered successive general election majorities for the Conservative party of 144 and 102—some of us might think that those were the days.

In 1988, Margaret Thatcher asked me to become her political secretary in Downing street. I saw then her huge respect for Parliament itself. She occupied the position of Prime Minister, but she never forgot that she was also the Member of Parliament for Finchley and she believed that it was her duty to come here not just to speak but to vote—to go through the Division Lobby on behalf of her constituents. I used to help her with preparation for Prime Minister’s questions, which in those days lasted for just 15 minutes and took place twice a week. She used to spend six or seven hours preparing for that 15-minute session. We used to go through briefs from every Department across Whitehall, which set out the exposition of the Government’s policy and the line to take. Sometimes, she did not think it was very good and I would be sent to ring the Minister’s private secretary to tell him that the Prime Minister did not like a particular line. Occasionally, she strode across the study, took the phone from my hand and told the private secretary that not only did she not like the line to take but that she did not even like the policy either. Every now and again, she had a remarkable ability to distance herself somehow from the policies of the Government of which she was also leader.

I would like to set right one or two misconceptions. I listened carefully to the hon. Member for Walsall North (Mr Winnick). Although Margaret Thatcher opposed economic sanctions against South Africa, she fiercely opposed apartheid. She argued with the South African Government that they should release Nelson Mandela from prison; that was recognised by Nelson Mandela, if not by the hon. Gentleman.

I would also say to the leader of the Liberal Democrats, who I am sorry to say is no longer here, that, yes, Margaret Thatcher did say that there was no such thing as society, but she went on to say that there are families and communities. She set out the fact that if individuals see people less well off or in need, they bear a personal and moral responsibility not just to let society—some amorphous body—take responsibility, but to act themselves. People claiming now that she said that there was no such thing as society is an appalling twisting of her message.

I also saw at first hand her immense personal kindness and compassion. As has been said, those were often shown to the most junior members of her staff. On the famous occasion when the waitress spilt the soup on Geoffrey Howe, it was not Geoffrey Howe whom Margaret Thatcher worried about, but the waitress. She always insisted that she could never be late—particularly to funerals, to which, sadly, I used to accompany her occasionally. We used to sit in lay-bys for 15 or 20 minutes; we would have set off early in case there was heavy traffic because she could not allow herself to be late.

I know that both Government and Opposition Members received personal handwritten letters from Margaret Thatcher when they experienced a tragedy in their private

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lives or with their families. She had enormous compassion. If ever she found out that somebody was alone at Christmas, she would always say that they should come and spend it at Chequers with her. Ronnie Millar, the playwright, told me that he would spend many months trying to think of excuses why he would be busy, because being with Margaret Thatcher at Christmas might not be the most relaxing way to spend it.

After Margaret stood down as Prime Minister, she came on several occasions to support me in Essex. Essex has always been Thatcher country. When she came to my constituency of Maldon at the election in which I first stood as candidate, after she had stood down as Prime Minister, the pavements had crowds four or five deep of people who had turned out to see her. Not all were supporters of hers or of mine, but they wanted to be there because they recognised that she played such a hugely important role in their lives and the life of their country.

Even today, when I occasionally meet parliamentarians, and sometimes even leaders, from different countries, if I say to them that I served as Margaret Thatcher’s political secretary, that lights their interest; in many ways, it is what I am most proud of. It was a privilege to know her and an even greater privilege to have worked for someone who was one of the greatest Prime Ministers this country has ever had.

5.3 pm

Glenda Jackson (Hampstead and Kilburn) (Lab): It is hardly a surprise that Baroness Thatcher was careless over the soup being poured over Lord Howe, given that she was perfectly prepared to send him out to the wicket with a broken bat.

When I made my maiden speech in this Chamber, a little over two decades ago, Margaret Thatcher had been elevated to the other place but Thatcherism was still wreaking, and had wrought for the previous decade, the most heinous social, economic and spiritual damage upon this country, upon my constituency and upon my constituents. Our local hospitals were running on empty. Patients were staying on trolleys in corridors. I tremble to think what the death rate among pensioners would have been this winter if that version of Thatcherism had been fully up and running this year. Our schools, parents, teachers, governors, even pupils, seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time fundraising in order to be able to provide basic materials such as paper and pencils. The plaster on our classroom walls was kept in place by pupils’ art work and miles and miles of sellotape. Our school libraries were dominated by empty shelves and very few books; the books that were there were held together by the ubiquitous sellotape, and off-cuts from teachers’ wallpaper were used to bind those volumes so that they could at least hang together.

By far the most dramatic and heinous demonstration of Thatcherism was certainly seen not only in London, but across the whole country in metropolitan areas where every single night, every single shop doorway became the bedroom, the living room and the bathroom for the homeless. They grew in their thousands, and many of those homeless people had been thrown out on to the streets as a result of the closure of the long-term mental hospitals. We were told it was going to be called —it was called—“care in the community”, but what it was in effect was no care in the community at all.

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I was interested to hear about Baroness Thatcher’s willingness to invite those who had nowhere to go for Christmas; it is a pity that she did not start building more and more social housing, after she entered into the right to buy, so that there might have been fewer homeless people than there were. As a friend of mine said, during her era, London became a city that Hogarth would have recognised—and, indeed, he would.

In coming to the basis of Thatcherism, I come to the spiritual part of what I regard as the desperately wrong track down which Thatcherism took this country. We were told that everything I had been taught to regard as a vice—and I still regard them as vices—was, in fact, under Thatcherism, a virtue: greed, selfishness, no care for the weaker, sharp elbows, sharp knees, all these were the way forward. We have heard much, and will continue to hear over next week, about the barriers that were broken down by Thatcherism, the establishment that was destroyed.

What we have heard, with the words circling around like stars, is that Thatcher created an aspirational society. It aspired for things. One former Prime Minister who had himself been elevated to the House of Lords, spoke about selling off the family silver and people knowing in those years the price of everything and the value of nothing. What concerns me is that I am beginning to see what might be the re-emergence of that total traducing of what I regard as the spiritual basis of this country where we do care about society, where we do believe in communities, where we do not leave people and walk by on the other side. That is not happening now, but if we go back to the heyday of that era, I fear that we will see replicated yet again the extraordinary human damage from which we as a nation have suffered and the talent that has been totally wasted because of the inability genuinely to see the individual value of every single human being.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) referred to the fact that although she had differed from Lady Thatcher in her policies, she felt duty bound to come here to pay tribute to the first woman Prime Minister this country had produced. I am of a generation that was raised by women, as the men had all gone to war to defend our freedoms. They did not just run a Government; they ran a country. The women whom I knew, who raised me and millions of people like me, who ran our factories and our businesses, and who put out the fires when the bombs dropped, would not have recognised their definition of womanliness as incorporating an iconic model of Margaret Thatcher. To pay tribute to the first Prime Minister denoted by female gender, okay; but a woman? Not on my terms.

Sir Tony Baldry: On a point of order, Mr Speaker. The conventions of the House in respect of those rare occasions on which the House chooses to make tributes to a person who is deceased are well established. This is not, and has never been, a general debate on the memory of the person who is deceased, but an opportunity for tributes. It is not an opportunity for hon. Members to denigrate the memory of the person .

Mr Speaker: The hon. Gentleman will resume his seat. I am grateful to him for his—I use the term advisedly —attempted point of order. Let me be explicit for the benefit both of the hon. Gentleman and of the House.

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All hon. and right hon. Members take responsibility for what they say in this place. The responsibility of the Chair is to ensure that nothing unparliamentary occurs. Let me assure the hon. Gentleman, for the avoidance of doubt, that nothing unparliamentary has occurred. We are debating a motion that says that this House has considered the matter of tributes to the Baroness Thatcher. That is what we are doing, and nothing has got in the way of that.

5.11 pm

Mr Graham Brady (Altrincham and Sale West) (Con): Thank you for your advice, Mr Speaker. We have had some warm and dignified tributes from both sides of the House, led admirably by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. I hope that we can now return to tributes in that spirit.

Briefly, I want to pay tribute in three different ways. As chairman of the 1922 committee, I want to pay tribute on behalf of Conservative Back Benchers present and past, although I note from the number of colleagues who are standing to make their own contributions that they may well speak for themselves in due course. Like many others, I want to pay a personal tribute. I also want to pay tribute especially as a northern Conservative MP, who now represents the constituency in which I grew up in the 1980s, perhaps answering and responding to the points that were made by the right hon. Member for Oldham West and Royton (Mr Meacher).

On behalf of the 1922 committee, I pay tribute to a leader and Prime Minister who achieved so much—three stunning election victories; turning around a moribund economy; ending decades of decline. She restored our national pride—from being the sick man of Europe, only good at making jokes about ourselves, which I remember as a boy,

I pay tribute to Margaret Thatcher for the inspirational leadership that she gave to the Conservative party; for inspiring Conservative supporters around the country; and most of all, for inspiring millions of people who had never before realised that they were Conservatives. Lady Thatcher’s strength, conviction, patriotism and clarity won her the respect of friends and fair-minded critics alike. Perhaps most remarkable was her popularity not only in this country but overseas, and the lasting legacy of freedom, democracy and prosperity, which we have heard about from many colleagues, that she leaves as a leader who helped to win the cold war and who inspired the people of eastern Europe to fight for their own freedom. Her legacy in this country and beyond will always be remembered with pride by our party.

As with so many hon. Members of my age, my tribute is also intensely personal. Growing up under Margaret Thatcher’s governance, it was impossible to be agnostic about politics. Her message was one of opportunity. Whatever your background, you could progress by merit and hard work. Had I not taken that message to heart, I, like so many other Conservative Members—and perhaps, from a different perspective, like quite a few Opposition Members—would not be here in Parliament today.

The last part of my brief tribute to Lady Thatcher is that of a northern Member of Parliament, and it is to address a myth that is in danger of taking hold. My

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hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr Whittingdale) addressed some other myths that have been spread recently. It is true that the restructuring of our economy in the early 1980s hit parts of the north hard, because a concentration of heavy industry and mining had become uncompetitive and uneconomic, but many metropolitan journalists fall into peddling an easy fallacy, suggesting that the north was uniformly hostile to the message of Lady Thatcher—we were not. Many Labour Members will recall that the seats they now represent returned Conservative Members who supported Margaret Thatcher’s strong defence, modernisation of the economy, determination to extend opportunity, and spreading of wealth and home ownership to their constituents. Many of those seats across the north returned Labour Members only after Tony Blair embraced the free market, low-tax message of Margaret Thatcher.

We are here to remember a truly remarkable lady, who influenced all our lives, transformed our country and helped to bring freedom to others, and who most of all was unwavering in doing what she believed to be right. We should honour her memory.

5.16 pm

Mr Frank Field (Birkenhead) (Lab): David Sheppard was a left-wing Bishop of Liverpool, who was much admired and also loved. In one volume of his autobiography, he recalls his meetings with Mrs Thatcher—or, rather, the lead-up to those meetings. He recalls the state he would be in—the feeling of illness as the dreaded hour approached. On one occasion, I asked her, a year before she would appoint a new archbishop, whether she would appoint David Sheppard if his name was one of the two on the list that came to her from the royal commission. Her reply was immediate: “Yes, of course.” I was slightly staggered by that response, so I asked why. She said, “He always tells me to my face what he thinks and we always have a good argument.” It therefore seems proper that in the tributes we pay to this extraordinary person we should follow her example and not be frightened of argument or even of division—we mock her if we are frightened of that.

The Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition made powerful speeches about the way in which Mrs Thatcher has shaped the world in which all of us live, and I would just extend that in two ways. The world in which all of us and all of our constituents live has been shaped by Clement Attlee and Margaret Thatcher. The danger for both those people, who brought an ideology into politics and saw it operated, was that some of their supporters might think that just preaching the ideology was enough, rather than also responding to what the real world was teaching them. The right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr Redwood) talked about the sale of council houses—all of us in this debate sometimes give a slant to history. There were people in the Labour party who also wanted to sell council houses, and the record shows that both the Wilson and Callaghan Governments looked at the idea—the problem was that the civil servants told them that it was not doable. So one of the lessons about Mrs Thatcher is that one should not necessarily take the advice of the civil service if one actually wants to see radical politics.

However, Mrs Thatcher was not uncritical of her own record. On one occasion I asked her, “Mrs T, what was your greatest disappointment in government?” Again

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as though she had thought long and hard beforehand about it, she said, “I cut taxes and I thought we would get a giving society, and we haven’t.” She thought we would, by low taxation, see that extraordinary culture in America whereby people make fortunes and want, perhaps publicly, to declare what they are doing with them. That had not taken root here. I think we should look critically at her record. Of course, it is wrong of us to assume we know what Mrs T would be saying if she were listening to this debate, but I think she would want us to get on to what the differences were and how we take the debate forward.

I want to mention three areas where we are still grappling with her legacy, and with which Members on both Front Benches have not managed to come to terms. First, there is the great question of riches. She was not satisfied with the results of her Government, so should we be? Secondly, despite all the gains that the market economy has given this country, there are clearly some areas—part of my constituency is one of them—that its powers cannot reach. We have not come up with policies that can move those areas back to full employment. How do we raise demand in those areas specifically, and how do we ensure that the supply side, to which most of us are now committed, can also take effect through our schools?

The third big area is a problem in our country that she thought she had solved but that now appears in a different guise. We have mentioned, even quite properly on the Opposition Benches, that one of her great struggles was to bring the trade unions within the law decided by this House—not the law that they thought they would abide by. I have been perplexed by some of the recent newspaper coverage of her stewardship, much of which has stated that the country was previously ungovernable. It was governable all right, but not from here and not by the Government elected by the people.

What would Mrs Thatcher say about a global economy, part of which she was so responsible for creating, in which great world companies can choose whether or not they pay taxes and whether giving a donation to the Treasury might be an adequate performance of their duties instead? I would be very surprised if she did not see that as a challenge to our authority, and one with which we need to grapple. All three areas are part of the current agenda for our politics, and that is part of her legacy. I wonder whether she, if still in power, would not be tackling that in a more resolute way than we are currently.

I would like to end with two comments about Mrs Thatcher. We have talked about the power and force of her personality, but she was also brilliant on detail, and that was part of her power in Whitehall. I once had to see her to discuss a defence order for Cammell Laird. Indeed, my relationship with her began after the second meeting I had as MP for Birkenhead, when the shop stewards said, “Cut out all this old stuff. We want a cross-party group and we want you to lead it. We want all the parties in the Wirral lobbying for orders.” That was the beginning of my friendship with her.