Confidence in Her Majesty's Government

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:26 pm on 22nd November 1990.

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Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South and Morley 7:26 pm, 22nd November 1990

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

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 The coal industry was out of date and non-technological, and had been in private hands.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

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

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