Our discussion took place the day she returned from a meeting with President Bush to decide on the first Gulf war. She had every reason to cancel it, but the meeting took place in her study. I had never seen her in such a state. She was marching around the study saying, “You’ve no idea what a struggle it is putting backbone into him.” I said, “Prime Minister, come and sit next to me because I have some things I would like to discuss

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with you.” She kept talking about putting backbone into the American President in order to fight this great war. Finally, she took pity on me and asked, “What do you want?” I made the plea for the defence order and she said, “Fine. Anything else?” When I said no, she immediately got up and continued, “You’ve no idea the victory I’ve had today over this.” I was really rather excited to be this very small footnote in history.

Of course, courtesy dictated that whichever of the Wirral MPs had lobbied her would tell the others, but in my excitement I forgot to do so. About 36 hours later I saw David Hunt walking down the corridor and I remembered, so I began apologising. He said, “There’s no need to apologise, Frank. The relevant Secretaries of State have received a prime ministerial minute and it has been copied to their permanent secretaries.” There was a Prime Minister who was making history, for right or wrong—for right, I think—and who was extraordinarily wound up by the events that she had managed to bring about, and she had no staff with her, but before she went to bed that night she wrote that minute to implement what she had agreed. She was wonderful to lobby, because I knew within seconds whether she would do something or whether she thought it was a barmy idea, in which case there was no point discussing it further.

Let me make one last point. Towards the end of her time as Prime Minister, Mrs Thatcher was captured by a court on the Government Benches whose members made it difficult not only for many Government Back Benchers but particularly for someone such as me to see her. I wrote to the court and said that if they continued to block my chance of talking to her and lobbying her, I would kidnap her and tell her what they were doing—and would also lobby her. I got a note back late in the debate saying that the Prime Minister would see me at 10 o’clock. This is a good lesson for the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. She had a hugely impressive voting record. In my experience, she was one of the last out of the Lobby, and she was there for people to talk to—rather than going in, out and away to do what was thought to be more important business.

As she passed by, I said to her, “Prime Minister, should I follow you?” She said, “People do.” As there was no mirror in front of her, I have never worked out whether she was smiling. I hope she was. Following her is a challenge to us. Do we see her record as though it had been brought down from Mount Sinai on tablets of stone, or would she have recognised, as I have hinted in the few conversations I have had on this specific point, that there is now a new agenda and that whatever principles one has must be applied to it?

The Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister were right: to her, what mattered were ideas and whether one could defend one’s corner. I mourn her passing.

5.26 pm

Mrs Eleanor Laing (Epping Forest) (Con): Margaret Thatcher changed the world for women—for women across the world, for women in Britain and for women in politics and in Parliament. I cannot stand by and watch commentators say that Margaret Thatcher did nothing for women when I know, as many of my hon. Friends in the House and those around the country know, just how much of a difference her very being has made to women.

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In the first place, Margaret Thatcher’s great belief in freedom and the individual and the fact that her Governments brought freedom and choice to people who had never had it before made a huge difference to millions of women throughout Britain during her years as Prime Minister. We have heard different examples today of what happened to people’s individual lives in the 1980s, but overall there is no doubt whatsoever that bringing freedom, choice and opportunity—those were her watchwords—to young women of the 1980s transformed them into the women of the ’90s and of this century who are willing to take on the world.

As for women in politics and Parliament, Margaret Thatcher gave us encouragement and advice. I am fed up with hearing the media channels say that she did not want women around and that there was only one woman in her Cabinet while she was Prime Minister. That was not her fault: there were not enough women on these Benches with the experience and seniority to go into her Cabinet. She encouraged women, so that by the end of her premiership and when John Major became Prime Minister, there were plenty of women to go into the Cabinet. They would not have been there had they not had the encouragement and backing of Margaret Thatcher when she was Prime Minister.

Those of us on the Conservative Benches also know what she has done in later years. Just over a year ago, when she had supposedly withdrawn from public life but while, as many of us know, she was still extremely active in supporting what we were doing, she came to not one but two or three events that I can think of. Those events involved not just raising money to help women enter Parliament, but her very presence in a room of aspiring people. After a mere handshake from Margaret Thatcher, a young woman would leave an event saying, “I can do this”, whereas previously she had thought that she could not. Such was the power and personality of this great lady.

I can forgive female colleagues on the Opposition Benches for thinking that Margaret Thatcher did not encourage women because, of course, it goes without saying that she preferred to see Conservatives elected rather than Labour, or Liberal, female Members of Parliament. In her encouragement and advice, however, on a personal level she was much more like a mother than a Prime Minister. She would hold one’s hand and say, “Well my dear, what are you doing about this? What is going to happen about that?” She gave people true encouragement and confidence. Actually, I am wrong to stand here and say that she did that for women—she did it for everyone who had the slightest bit of Conservative blood in their body. She would make the very best of that and help them to realise just how much they could achieve. I do not mean just in politics; she did that for people throughout the country.

People thought that they did not have aspiration and opportunity because before Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister they did not have opportunities and were told that they should not, and could not, aspire. She gave everybody the confidence to make the very best of themselves—she certainly did that for my generation of women in the Conservative party, and she gave me personal advice that I have always valued and tried to live up to, not necessarily with the greatest results for

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which she might have hoped. She understood the difficulty that women experience in public life because they are trying to balance their duties to their families, their constituency and Parliament and their general duties. She understood that and made allowances for it. Again, the way she dealt with such matters was to give encouragement. It never occurred to her, of course, that women might need special pleading. Of course she did not want women-only shortlists; it simply never occurred to her that her female status was any hindrance at all, and indeed, that is because it was not.

The other great thing about Margaret Thatcher that no one has mentioned is that in everything she did in public life, and the many hours spent at the Dispatch Box, in Downing street and representing our country around the world, she was always, on every occasion, immaculate and elegant. Here was a lady who was tougher than any man, but she never lost her femininity.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Speaker: Order. I do not know why Members think the hon. Lady has finished. She has finished that paragraph.

Mrs Laing: I was pausing for effect, Mr Speaker, but I will conclude. As a result of Margaret Thatcher’s brilliance, resolve, determination, courage and example, no woman can ever be told that she cannot rise to any challenge. Margaret Thatcher made the world a better place.

5.34 pm

Mr Kevin Barron (Rother Valley) (Lab): I offer my condolences to Lady Thatcher’s family, and in particular to her children and grandchildren. Both Front-Bench speakers have said that she was not only the only woman Prime Minister of this country, but someone who rose to the top of a major political party when it was dominated by men, as it is still. The Prime Minister has said she broke through a big glass ceiling, and we should recognise that fact.

I add my thoughts to those of the hon. Member for Belfast South (Dr McDonnell). Today is the 15th anniversary of the Good Friday agreement. The House should acknowledge that Lady Thatcher’s initiative in the 1980s was the start of the peace process, for which many people have good reason to thank her today.

Lady Thatcher was a radical politician and will remain a controversial figure. She would have expected that her conviction politics would court controversy even at such a time. Many of her domestic policies caused great concern and harm to many people and communities. I entered the House in 1983, nine months before the start of the miners’ strike. I come from a mining background and represent a mining constituency. My overriding memory of the 12-month strike was not the violence that we saw on our television screens—I condemned the violence at the time—but the poverty and hardship that miners and their families went through for the best part of 12 months.

We know that the cause of the strike was the proposed pit closure programme and the consequent effect, particularly on male unemployment, which had been traditionally high in coal mining communities. I am not saying that the Government of the day were wholly to

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blame for the strike and its consequences, but I believe they had a responsibility to bring the dispute to an early end, which they did not meet.

On Saturday, I attended a march commemorating the closure of Maltby colliery—the coal mine I worked at as a young man. It was the sixth and last coal mine to close in the Rother Valley constituency. The bitterness that stems from the ’84-’85 strike is there among people even all these years later. Although tribute can and will be paid to Margaret Thatcher, other voices in the country ought to be heard.

5.37 pm

Mr Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con): It was on Monday, when I was in eastern Europe monitoring elections, that I heard the sad news of Margaret’s death. In a sense, it was appropriate that I was out in eastern Europe witnessing democracy in action. In my view, that would not have been possible but for the work Margaret Thatcher did in destroying communism and opening up eastern Europe to proper democracy.

We have heard brilliant tributes today, led by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, who encapsulated, as did the Leader of the Opposition, so many of the values we hold dear when we remember Margaret Thatcher. I was grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for reminding the House of the difference between consensus and conviction. That is the problem that many Government Members have—the coalition muddles consensus and conviction, which those of us who are conviction politicians find incredibly frustrating.

The theme I should like briefly to pursue is compassion, on which my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr Whittingdale) spoke so eloquently. Margaret Thatcher was a passionate Conservative, but she was also a compassionate Conservative. When I first met her in 1976—I was then chairman of Putney Conservatives—she visited an old people’s day centre in Putney, where I saw her in action. She spoke to every single person in the day centre sitting room. She, as leader of the Conservative party, knelt down in order to be able to converse meaningfully with those who could not speak to her easily. That, for me, was a demonstration of her humility and compassion.

People have spoken about the way in which Margaret Thatcher would write letters to colleagues who had been bereaved and so on. A few years ago, my wife was in hospital. The flowers from Margaret Thatcher arrived before my own, which was rather embarrassing. That was the extent to which she was on the ball with her generosity and kindness not only to colleagues, but to their wives.

I agreed with Margaret Thatcher on almost everything. The only big issue on which I disagreed with her fundamentally was her decision not to stand in the second ballot in 1990. If she had stood, I think that she would have won and that the course of history would have been different. I am sad that those of us who went into her study that evening to persuade her to change her mind were unsuccessful. It was typical of her that she sent special notes to all of us who had tried to persuade her to stay on. It was a humiliating experience for that fantastic Prime Minister. Having been in that study and seen her condition, I would not wish it on anybody. Somebody who had served her country with such distinction and who had been a global leader in

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bringing freedom to much of eastern Europe was humiliated by people whom she thought were her friends and colleagues. I thought and still think that that was intolerable. May that sort of thing never happen again.

In 1997, Margaret came and supported my election campaign in Christchurch, where we were trying to overturn the majority of about 16,000 that the Liberal Democrats had won in the 1993 by-election. That was her first outing in the campaign. She was confronted by the press because one of our colleagues who was standing in Tatton had suddenly hit the headlines. Margaret demonstrated her ability to deal with the press with a phrase or, as in this case, a very short sentence that could not result in any follow-up. When asked about Neil Hamilton, she said, “Nobody is perfect.” In those three words, she closed down the conversation, because she was not passing judgment on his case, but saying something that applies to all of us. That is an example of how she was able to deal with the press and choose words that were effective.

Later on the same visit, we went on a private visit to the Priory primary school in Christchurch, where Margaret demonstrated other attributes: the ability to listen and the ability to speak her mind. She said to a nine-year-old, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” He said, “I want to be a musician.” She paused and stared with her wonderful eyes at this young man and said, “And what else do you want to be?” That demonstrated that she did nothing for effect. When she asked somebody a question, she was willing to listen to the answer and make a comment. She gave that person the benefit of her views, whether they liked it or not. I hope that that individual is now a successful musician. If he is not, I hope that he has a back-up, which is what she was saying he ought to have.

It is a fantastic privilege to have this opportunity to pay tribute to, in my view, the greatest Prime Minister of all time. Sometimes one sits in the Chamber and it takes a long time to be called, but it has been a privilege to gather together today and listen to every contribution. If the debate goes on until 10 o’clock, as I hope it will, that will be some compensation for the loss of this great lady.

5.44 pm

Ms Gisela Stuart (Birmingham, Edgbaston) (Lab): When Nancy Astor left the House of Commons, she said “I will miss the House, but the House will not miss me.” I think that this House, and the other House, will probably miss Baroness Thatcher for longer than many another woman who has served in this place.

Let me say something about Margaret Thatcher and the representation of women. I do so as a Member of Parliament whose constituency has been represented by women for longer than any other constituency in the country—since 1953. The first of those women was Dame Edith Pitt. The then Conservative and Unionist party had to nominate her as the candidate because the local association had rebelled against the original nomination on the basis that it had a perfectly good candidate, albeit a woman, and the party caved in. When Dame Jill Knight was nominated in 1966, the Conservative association said “We have already tried a woman, so we will have a man now”, and she said “I will accept that argument, but only if it works both ways.” Of course, it did not.

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As the Prime Minister said, Margaret Thatcher broke through that glass ceiling. She kicked doors open. Indeed, she kicked doors open for Labour women, in a way that they perhaps did not entirely appreciate, because the trade unions had an enormously powerful role in candidate selections. It benefited us when the unions were forced to provide more openings for women, and when “one member one vote” and many similar changes came along, although Margaret Thatcher would not have thought of those developments in that way.

I do not think Margaret Thatcher realised that the problem was more systemic. Notwithstanding what was said by the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Mrs Laing), before the 1997 election there were more men called John than there were women MPs in the House of Commons. In May 1997, 121 women were elected, which meant that there were more women MPs in one intake than there had been in the entire history of Parliament. I do not think we are right to lay the blame for that at the door of Margaret Thatcher, because it was a reflection of the times. I think that if she had not been the way she was, she would not have been in the position that she was in.

I have asked myself why she is still so controversial. A few years ago, The House Magazine gave Denis Healey a lifetime achievement award, and it was Geoffrey Howe who presented him with it. Two old adversaries met in friendship at Speaker’s House. Denis Healey said “When you get to my age, there are no enemies any more; there are just people who are still alive with you.” Somehow, I do not think that Margaret Thatcher would have seen it in that way. She was fighting to the very end, and I think it was a sign of the times that she had to fight to the very end.

Whole generations have forgotten what 1979 was like. I came here from Germany in the 1970s. I know that Margaret Thatcher would not want us not to learn any lessons from the battles that she had fought—some lost, some won, and some which continue. I am thinking in particular of the role of the market. It is interesting that Margaret Thatcher considered that Hayek’s book “The Road to Serfdom” should be compulsory reading. Many Government Members, and probably even more of my hon. Friends, will be surprised to learn that I agree that it should be compulsory reading, as a reminder of the role of the market. [Hon. Members: “Come over to this side!”] No, it is not a question of “Come over to this side”.

Similar arguments have been advanced about the force of the market. It has been argued that it actually liberates. The market does not need to be made social, because it is already social. It challenges vested interests, and lets outsiders in. In Germany, that was a social democratic argument advanced by Ludwig Erhard, the father of the social market economy. One legacy of the entrenchment of Thatcherism in the ’80s that might have to be looked at now and in years to come is the polarisation of the argument with false options. We are boxing ourselves into corners, which will not be terribly beneficial to either side of the House. If we believe that markets are social and important—in everything Margaret Thatcher did, she realised that they could challenge the status quo, vested interests and outsiders, and bring them in—perhaps we should recognise that they are also socialist.

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After all she said, why then can I vividly remember the moment Margaret Thatcher left No. 10—Government Members have talked of tears—as being to me an enormous joy? I have been reflecting on why I felt so strongly. It took me back to the Kent miners’ strike in March 1985. I was in Essex, my children were small and I was listening to the radio about the end of that bitter, final strike. I was in tears, but could not work out why. I think it was because the people at the bottom were taking an enormous hit and suffering for the mistakes of people in power, whether people in government or the trade union representatives. The same thing is now happening again in parts of Europe. It would have been interesting to hear what Margaret Thatcher made of what is happening in the eurozone, where the people paying the price are not the politicians who took wrong choices or the people in power who made mistakes, but the generations of unemployed people.

That is what people associated with the Thatcher Government and what makes her Government that much more contentious. She is one of those few figures whose obituaries are not sufficiently balanced to reflect her achievements as well as her weaknesses, which she had—as she herself said, nobody is perfect. The reason for the insufficient balance is that polarisation. She was one of those public figures of whom it will take much longer for both sides to make a true assessment, but make no mistake—I think now of all the figures of Prime Ministers in the Lobby—she was one of the defining figures of the last century. The House should be proud that the first woman Prime Minister of this country will be honoured in the way I think she deserves to be honoured—as someone who served her country for longer than any other Prime Minister—and I think that the House is rightly doing that today.

5.52 pm

Sir Paul Beresford (Mole Valley) (Con): I shall be succinct, as I am surrounded by people anxious to speak. I congratulate the hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Ms Stuart). Her last paragraph or so was exactly right and expresses how I have felt for some considerable time. Since I became a councillor in 1979, Margaret Thatcher has been someone we have looked to—not always looked up to, but certainly looked to.

My hon. Friends the Members for Christchurch (Mr Chope) and for Maldon (Mr Whittingdale) touched on Margaret Thatcher’s compassion and understanding for the people at the bottom, the lowly people—an aspect of her character that does not often come out, but which they certainly brought out. I found out about that myself, when I was a lowly London councillor having trouble with English, my second language. I had come from New Zealand, where politicians were at the bottom of the pile and where, if someone wanted to contact the Prime Minister, they looked his phone number up in the Wellington phonebook—according to mythology, it is still there.

Here, to my amazement, a polite request to see the Prime Minister, explained, was generally accepted. In my day as a councillor, many of the meetings I had with the Prime Minister at my request—some were at hers—went through my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon, who, as he has explained, was her political adviser. When it was the other way around, I could picture his face

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grinning on the phone as he said, “The Prime Minister would like to see you”—pause—“today”—pause—“Well, at least as soon as you possibly can.”

I am sure that my hon. Friend will remember that the way to stimulate a conversation with Margaret Thatcher was to disagree. If somebody disagreed, her eyes lit up and she launched into the argument. If somebody had a proposition, or she had a proposition, she turned the discussion into a friendly argument. My hon. Friend used to sit to one side, but between us, like an umpire at Wimbledon, with his head moving from side to side, with a faint grin, and I would peer out of the corner of my eye to see if I was winning. In any discussion with Margaret Thatcher at that time, I had to be very well prepared, and I was never quite sure when starting an argument disagreeing with her whether she was actually disagreeing with me or testing my hypothesis.

Margaret Thatcher’s saying, “The lady’s not for turning”, has come up several times today. That might have been true at that particular time, but I found in practice that she would listen to an argument, particularly if there was a political aspect to it, and be prepared to change her position, if the argument was suitable and good enough. She must have done so, because she could not have won so many elections in a row had she had mural dyslexia and been inflexible or unable to see the point of an argument. I think that is why she used to spend time talking to all kinds of people, from Presidents through to business people and the little people, such as me. I remember Lord King telling my business partner and me that he was to see Margaret Thatcher and that he was going to tell her this, that and the other thing. We met him two days after the meeting and asked him how it went. “Oh”, he said, “Mrs Thatcher told me this, she told me that and she told me the other thing.” I felt good.

As many Members have said, Margaret Thatcher was also prepared to help with campaigning, if we felt it would be of benefit, which I found extraordinary and it provided a real insight into her ability to understand. In 1986, we had a small battle in Wandsworth. We went into an election with a majority of one out of a full council of 61. Her standing in the polls, if I remember correctly, was 19% or 20%. Being a great supporter of some of the things we were trying to do and had done, she offered to drop in on the campaign in support. This was politely declined, and equally politely our “Thank you, but no” was accepted. Do remember, however, that shortly afterwards, that 19% or 20% lifted to a win at the election that shortly followed. It also, regretfully, in a way, meant that we won and we went from a majority of one to a majority of 35. As ever, however, Margaret Thatcher, the Prime Minister, had the last say. I received another one of those phone calls from my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon—a summons to Downing street. I then had a session at which she picked my brains over what Wandsworth was doing, the election result and so on, followed by a request for an urgent formal report. My hon. Friend is a past master at quiet whispering in someone’s ear so that they do not miss the point, and as I left with him, he said, “Today is Tuesday. Can we have it by Friday?” I said, “Look, I’m awfully sorry John, but I’m going home to pick up my bags, and then I’m flying out for two weeks.” Exactly two weeks later I came back, opened the doors and dropped my

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cases, and as I dropped my cases, the phone rang. “Well”, he said, “Have you written it yet? It’s been two weeks. We want it. The Prime Minister particularly wants it.”

What I particularly enjoyed in discussions with Margaret Thatcher was that at the end of a discussion she generally had made up her mind, and I was told where I stood. That was extremely useful. On one visit, I sought an audience to explain that the then Inner London Education Authority was serving an education disservice on the children of London, including those in my own borough. My proposition was that the authority could and would provide a better education for inner-London children. I had no inkling of her thinking, but she immediately made it clear that I was pushing at an open door. Legislation followed, and even those who had once supported the ILEA recognised that it was a good move.

I came to this country and worked in east London. This country, as someone has already said, was the sick man of Europe. We were in a desperate state. Our balance of payments was appalling, we had gone to the IMF with hat in hand, and there were all the other things that many of us have mentioned. Margaret Thatcher’s arrival as Prime Minister could not have been any later, because we were on the edge; I just wish it had been sooner.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Speaker: Order. There is no formal time limit on Back-Bench contributions today, but I gently point out to the House that no fewer than 48 right hon. and hon. Members are still seeking to catch my eye. I know that Members will wish to tailor their contributions accordingly.

6 pm

Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): You were not in short trousers, Mr Speaker, but I think—because I checked your birth date—just starting your A-levels in 1979, when I got elected to the House of Commons on the same day as Mrs Thatcher became Prime Minister. You can imagine my astonishment when I came No. 1 in the list for the first Prime Minister’s questions, which meant I was going to ask her first question. Unfortunately, my predecessor, Curly Mallalieu, died that week, and I had to withdraw from that first Prime Minister’s questions. It took me a long time to get another question to the Prime Minister. Indeed, the next time I got a highly placed question, Willie Whitelaw was standing in for her. Eventually, on 15 April 1980, I said:

“Will the Prime Minister take time today to reflect on the mounting evidence emerging this week—not only from her Chancellor of the Exchequer—that her economic strategy is destroying Britain’s industrial base? Will she further consider a reversal of those policies which have led to a soaring inflation rate of 20 per cent., rising unemployment and crippling interest rates that will soon turn this country into a banana republic, both economically and diplomatically?”—[Official Report, 15 April 1980; Vol. 982, c. 1007.]

I mention that only because for a number of years I was a Back Bencher, and for a long time a shadow Minister, drilled to hate everything Mrs Thatcher stood for. Over those years, I came to respect Margaret Thatcher because she commanded the Dispatch Box and was a fantastic parliamentarian. However, we cannot pretend that people did not love and loathe her. In fact, the election results show that more people loved her than loathed her.

When I was at the London School of Economics, I studied with Michael Oakeshott and read Hayek, and I was very much influenced by both those gentlemen.

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Oakeshott took me through a wonderful study of Machiavelli’s “The Prince” and “Discourses”, which tell us that for a leader—a prince or Prime Minister—to survive, they have to be lucky. Mrs Thatcher was not only talented as a leader, but lucky. I was on the Opposition Benches knowing what a shambles the Opposition were. We spent more time fighting each other within the Labour party than we had time to fight the Government. It is not good for democracy to have such a weak Opposition as we had post 1979. Sometimes we stand up and say that Mrs Thatcher rolled over the mining communities, and she did. She caused great hardship. Terrible things happened to people in the mining communities, and the miners’ dispute should have ended much sooner than it did. My heart went out to the wives of miners selling things to raise money and trying to keep families together. I remember it very well. Although my constituency is not a mining constituency, it is very close to mining constituencies. I understand the people who loathed Mrs Thatcher, but I also understand that at that time those people were let down by the Opposition because we could not get our act together to defeat her.

There have been some very good and perceptive speeches. I agreed with one or two Government Members and did not agree with two or three of my colleagues. I have reflected on what Mrs Thatcher contributed, and I think it was this. What happened in 1979 was a colossal sea change in British politics, and we needed it. We needed something radical to happen to the untidy post-war shambles of a consensus, and Mrs Thatcher was it. It was not about Conservatism or Toryism. The people who said that it was Gladstonian, laissez-faire liberalism were absolutely right, as we know, because that blue liberalism was well known and understood in West Yorkshire. That is what she stood for, and it surprised everyone. Labour Members did not know how to handle it, and partly because of that she had three general election victories. We were trounced. We were a divided party and a divided Opposition, and we had a very long and tough time getting through it. Mrs Thatcher transformed the Labour party. We had to reform and change and get our act together, or we would have ceased to have the presence and power of a major party in our country. We must remember what Mrs Thatcher did for parliamentary democracy.

We are again overdue for a radical change in how we regard our parliamentary democracy. We need a voice in this Chamber—I do not know which party it will come from—that says that there are some deep inequities in our society. There are serious problems, different from those that Mrs Thatcher faced in 1979 and in the years of her prime ministership, but very deep. My right hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr Field) touched on some of them. There is the tragic decline of our great cities, many of them in the north and the midlands. That has happened all over the developed world—in the United States, we should look at what is happening in Detroit and Pittsburgh. There is something deeply wrong with how our societies are developing, and that is to do with a complex change in international capitalism, as Labour Members would call it, and the international structure of economics.

Something fundamental is happening that we have become a bit complacent about in all parts of this House. We will need somebody with the originality of

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Thatcher to get us to wake up to what is going on. If we are honest—I make this a constant theme in my speeches; I am sorry—most of us will admit that tiny numbers of people in our constituencies are actively involved in politics. We are in a democracy where only 65% voted at the last election and 6 million people did not even register to vote. The state of our parliamentary democracy is deplorable. We will need someone with a vision, perhaps based on a very different political view, who will say, “If we value this democracy we have got to shake it up.”

I have spoken today because I got to admire and quite like Mrs Thatcher, who, as some of my colleagues have said, could be very pleasant indeed. She would give someone a real roasting from the Dispatch Box if they made a comment, but out there in the corridor she would be very kind. That is the truth of the woman. She was phenomenal. She did things that I deplored; she did things I thought were wonderful. There is a balance, and over time we will judge how good it was. We are facing a challenge to our democracy, and we need a Thatcher-like—not the same as Thatcher—radical change that will again wake us up to the fact that our country faces challenges to which, at present, we have no answers.

6.9 pm

Mike Freer (Finchley and Golders Green) (Con): If I may, I shall speak briefly about my predecessor, the Member of Parliament for Finchley and Friern Barnet. Many people have talked about her role on the global or national stage. I wish to talk about the woman who represented Finchley for 33 years, the woman whom my party members remember never, ever as Maggie, but simply as Mrs T or, more fondly, “our Margaret”.

From the outset Finchley Conservatives knew they had a winner. One of my stalwarts, Derek Phillips, recounts how as a young Conservative he went into that selection meeting saying, “I’m not voting for a woman.” He came out having voted for that woman. He changed his mind in short order when she was clearly head and shoulders above the men, and from that day on, she remained head and shoulders above the men around her.

Much is said about Mrs Thatcher’s background. She is described, often disparagingly, as the grocer’s daughter and the housewife who knew the value of thrift and of living within one’s means, as if there was something wrong with that. For me, Mrs Thatcher illustrates clearly and sharply what shapes our views as Members of Parliament, whether it is ideology, background or our casework. It is probably a blend of all three.

Finchley and Friern Barnet was and is a suburban constituency. Mrs Thatcher would have seen at first hand how Government policies affected the lives of local families —families who had worked hard to buy their home or families who struggled to make ends meet, including the many pensioners in the constituency. When commentators describe her as driven by ideology, they fail to understand the woman. They fail to understand that the constituency was her touchstone.

As might be expected, Finchley has a wealth of memorabilia. I came across an election address dating back to 1974. I also searched for a photograph of one young Finchley student called John Bercow who, I am told, approached Mrs Thatcher at one of the hustings

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and was firmly told to go and join the Young Conservatives. You will be pleased to know, Mr Speaker, that no photographic evidence exists. I have searched.

If I may be forgiven for using a prop, I found an election address dating back to 1974. I shall highlight a few excerpts from it. Mrs Thatcher said in her local election address of 1974, 40 years ago:

“As a nation we must stop living on borrowed money. We must gradually reduce the debt over a period of three or four years.”

That sounds familiar. She went on to say:

“We must keep public spending within the capacity and willingness of our citizens to foot the bills.”

The address goes on to talk about helping first-time buyers with their deposits, of helping council tenants to buy their homes and of easing the rates burden. That was 40 years ago and some would say nothing has changed.

The day-to-day issues that faced Mrs Thatcher as a local constituency MP influenced her policies. Finchley was where she came to recharge her batteries. She knew that when she came to Finchley, she would leave the advisers behind and she would hear the unvarnished truth, as seen by her constituents and, equally importantly, by her supporters and her activists. One of her agents tells the story that within minutes of Mrs Thatcher returning to Downing street, the No.10 machine would be on the phone, demanding politely to know what she had been told in Finchley, because she had returned to Downing street full of vigour, demanding to know what was going on with this or that. Finchley brought home to her what needed to be done.

There is one incident that perhaps explains her drive to abolish the rates and introduce the community charge. This is an example of how I believe her constituency work shaped her policies. The rights and wrongs of the community charge are not for today, but the casework that Mrs Thatcher came across drove home the inequality of a household with several wage earners paying the same as a pensioner. She saw at first hand the struggle that many on low and fixed incomes had with the rates. One experience I will relate. I am told that one elderly resident came to see her in a state of distress. The resident had paid her rates in cash in an envelope to the town hall. The cash went astray. Mrs Thatcher knew the hardship that having to find the rates once had caused, let alone having to find them a second time to make up the cash that had gone astray. It is not commonly known that Mrs Thatcher quietly sent a cheque and paid the rates for that resident. She was far from the heartless caricature portrayed in the media and by her opponents.

Mrs Thatcher took enormous interest in her constituents, and her ability to remember their names and their concerns, often months after first meeting them, was truly astounding. In the early 1990s when I was a local councillor in Finchley, Mrs Thatcher came to a summer fete, which was held every year on a small council estate. She arrived bang on time, for she was a stickler for punctuality. She swept in, in the Jaguar. Out she came, as immaculate as ever. She ignored the local dignitaries such as humble councillors, went straight across to the organiser of the fete, whom I will call Mrs Smith, and said, “Now, dear, how did your daughter get on with her GCSEs? She sat them last year, didn’t she? Wasn’t she sitting seven?” I was completely bowled over by this. I spoke to her agent and asked if he made copious notes while no one was

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looking so that he could brief her before she arrived. I was firmly told, “No, she simply remembers.” That was the measure of the woman as a constituency MP.

Mrs Thatcher had an amazing knack of being able to put anyone at ease, usually because she knew that what was important to them had to be important to her. The dripping tap that the council would not repair was the most important thing to that constituent, and so it became the most important thing to Mrs T. There are countless examples of her warmth and her compassion. The devotion of those who worked with her and stayed with her after she was no longer the Prime Minister is testament to that. Many of her close protection officers chose to stay with her, rather than move up the ranks. One of them recently told me of a Christmas time at Chequers. He came back to the police mess room to find that Mrs Thatcher had been in. She had tidied up and decorated it with Christmas decorations. She had cleaned out the hearth, laid a fire and left a flask of coffee on the table for her police officers. That is the woman few people saw.

It was said by my noble Friend Baron Baker of Dorking that we shall not see the like of Mrs Thatcher again. Well, we probably will see a woman party leader. We probably will see a woman Prime Minister again. But will we see the intellect, the drive, the passion and the core beliefs to shape events, not bend to them? Will we see the whole package? I do not think so. “Our Margaret”, as my members remember her, was an outstanding constituency MP. Finchley is proud to have selected her, and we are grateful to the Thatcher family for lending her to us.

6.18 pm

Paul Flynn (Newport West) (Lab): Unwisely, I once put down a written question to Prime Minister Thatcher, asking her to list the failures of her premiership. The answer was disappointingly brief. Another MP tabled a question asking her to list the successes of her premiership. The answer cost £4,500 and filled 23 columns of Hansard. Modesty was never her prime virtue, but she had many virtues and I would rank her as one of the two best politicians of the last century. The other one was Clement Attlee. It is significant that, about an hour ago, Matthew Parris tweeted:

“Just come across a small, downpage Guardian piece from Oct 1967: ‘quiet funeral for Lord Attlee’.”

Prime Ministers are not made by the trappings of power, or by expensive funerals.

I should like to share a little story with hon. Members. It involves a cunning plot by the late Tony Banks, who had some power over the decisions about statues in the House as he chaired the Advisory Committee on Works of Art. He commissioned a statue of Mrs Thatcher that was of exactly the right dimensions to fit into one of the empty niches outside the Chamber in the Members’ Lobby. It was made of white marble. Unfortunately, however, it was decapitated. His cunning plan was to put that white marble statue there in the hope of having a bronze statue of another Prime Minister, who is possibly not held in the same respect today.

Margaret Thatcher was not like most politicians. We all pretend that we act on the basis of evidence, sense and reason, but most of us—apart from her and Clement Attlee—act on the basis of pressure, prejudice and perception. Those are the things that move us and

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determine what laws are passed in the House. She was a woman who knew about evidence, however. She knew about scientific evidence, and that is the reason that she was one of the first to embrace the green agenda.

I also believe, however, that Mrs Thatcher was very wrong in many of the things that she did, and my main reason for speaking today is to tell the House what happened to my constituents at that time. No one would question the need for greater financial discipline in the 1970s and into the 1980s; industries were in a mess. However, the great tragedy for Mrs Thatcher was one that befalls many leaders who stay long in office: she became surrounded by sycophants who praised her extravagantly—[Laughter.] We have heard a great deal of that today, and much of what has been said is entirely true, but there has also been a huge amount of hyperbole. When she was in charge, what followed was hubris, and hubris was followed by nemesis.

The way in which Mrs Thatcher treated heavy industry in this country involved pursuing a mission to discipline the industries and to make them profitable, but she did not know when to stop. I am thinking particularly of the industry that was the backbone of my city of Newport, the steel industry, which is now a pale shadow of its former self. I am afraid that she did not fight for heavy industry in the same way that she fought for the farming industry or for the financial industry, and that had terrible results. Many of the people in my constituency who had devoted their lives to the steel industry had special skills. They defined themselves as steelworkers, but suddenly their skills were redundant. Those people were no longer important; they were robbed of that scrap of dignity around which we all need to build our lives. She went too far, and we all know the result.

There is great respect for Margaret Thatcher as a political personality, and history will judge her as a great Prime Minister. Many of her attributes that have been described today will be seen by most people here as great virtues. Her role was to alter the appearance and persona of England—rather than Wales or Scotland —in the world, but there has been a cost to that. The cost of punching above our weight militarily is that we spend beyond our interests and we die beyond our responsibilities.

There are two deaths that we should be talking about today. Of course we should be talking about Mrs Thatcher, but we should also mention Lance Corporal Jamie Webb of 1st Battalion the Mercian Regiment. He was 24, and he died on 25 March. He was repatriated to this country last Thursday. I do not know whether anyone saw any publicity about that, or whether any attention was paid to the event. He was the 441st of our soldiers to die in the Afghan war. I have visited Brize Norton and seen the sensitively conceived arrangements there. I cannot think of any way in which they could bring greater comfort to the bereaved families of those who have fallen in the name of this country, but I am afraid that the way in which the processions now take place has been designed to avoid drawing attention to these tragedies. Today, along with that of Margaret Thatcher, we should remember the names of the 441 who died for their country, one of whom was Jamie Webb. We should remember their sacrifice and reflect on the fact that the spirit that leads us to punch above our weight often has tragic consequences.

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6.26 pm

Simon Hughes (Bermondsey and Old Southwark) (LD): It is a privilege to be here today to pay tribute to Margaret Thatcher, both personally and on behalf of party colleagues and the many of my constituents who will wish to pass on their condolences, through the Prime Minister, to her family and extended family and to her close friends and all those in the Conservative party who worked with her.

Two themes have emerged today. The first has been a wish to express our condolences and sympathy. The second has been an expression of admiration and respect from across the House, irrespective of party, for someone who was one of the dominant political figures not only in this country but in the democratic politics of the western world in the last century. She was one of the strongest and most determined leaders that our country has ever known.

Like my late mother, Mrs Thatcher was born in the great and productive county of Lincolnshire. Given that she also had the same birthday as my dad—13 October—it was not surprising that we followed her career with greater than usual interest once she entered the Heath Cabinet. As has already been mentioned, she set many examples to follow. She set an example to young people by first standing for Parliament at the age of 24, and to people who do not succeed the first time, in that it took three goes before she got here. She then became her party’s leader before she was 50. I remember hearing the news of her election as leader, and of Ted Heath’s defeat, when I was standing at the railway station in Bruges during my year as a postgraduate student at the College of Europe. It was clear that that was a significant moment in British political history. It also caused a bit of a dispute in our family. My dad was not keen, but my mum was more admiring.

Through her efforts, Margaret Thatcher changed the place of women in British public life and politics. Let us check the figures. Before she was elected, there had been no general election with more than 200 female candidates, or more than 30 elected women MPs. In the general election of 1992, when she stood down, there were 571 female candidates, and 60 women were elected to this place. The numbers have risen significantly since then. She would not have argued that there was a direct cause and effect, but I am sure that there was one, and thank God for that. It was also significant that, through her election, a scientist became a British party leader and Prime Minister. Her forensic skills and scientific interests were evident, and I am sure that her interest in and worries about climate change stemmed from that.

Margaret Thatcher winning the 1979 election was clearly another defining moment in our history. I hope that colleagues on the Opposition Benches will not try to airbrush the fact that, before that, this country had been through a dire few years economically. It had not been a happy time. We had had to go to the international community for financial rescue, the lights had been going out in the early part of the decade, and we had been working only three days a week. So it was not as though the 1970s were halcyon days. She then delivered three election victories, two of which had majorities of more than 100, always with 13 million or more votes, and always with more than 42% of the electorate supporting her. I noticed—I pay tribute to her successor in Finchley, the hon. Member for Finchley and Golders Green

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(Mike Freer)—that in her last election she received her highest ever vote, which is a testimony to the way she was respected in her north London constituency.

I first came to this House when she was Prime Minister, in a by-election in 1983. I always believed that all Prime Ministers and Governments do many good things, but do not do everything right—some clearly right, some clearly wrong. I came here as a member of the broader Christian church, as she did, and I realised I would have a difficulty from the beginning. Christians and people of other faiths are called to love everybody, but sometimes loving Mrs T was a bit difficult from the Opposition Benches.

She was clearly right in her attitude towards the Falklands—absolutely right to be determined to recapture the Falklands for Britain. She was clearly courageous beyond expectation in her determination not to be blown off course by the despicable IRA bomb in Brighton in 1984, and she was almost unbelievably successful in her work to bring down the iron curtain.

After she died this week, I worked out that I had engaged with her across the House on 19 occasions between 1983 and her final debate in November 1990. I was able to thank her for supporting work on the Rose theatre, which had been excavated—she did have an interest in culture and the arts. On a few occasions, I had to have a strong go at her with regard to London matters. There was a need to reform London government, but abolishing the Greater London council was absolutely not the way to go. There was a need to mobilise the docklands and urban areas for regeneration, but having no democratic participation was not the way to go. Then there were other issues that were good ideas in part, but often left some things worse off than before. Giving people the right to buy their own council homes was popular and in many ways a good idea, but not giving councils the power to decide whether they wanted to use that power was wrong. Not to make the discounts reflect accurately the length of time someone had been in a home was inappropriate. Not guaranteeing that all the moneys went back to councils was extremely unhelpful, and is one cause of the shortage of social and affordable housing today.

Mrs Thatcher was right to take on the trade unions, which had become over-mighty in the 1970s, but she was wrong to do so in a way that decimated much of manufacturing industry, not just in our coal mines but in other places, such as south Wales. She was right to work, as she did successfully, to bring down the inflation rate from 13% in 1979 to 5% or less in five of the next 10 years. However, presiding over unemployment going up from 4% to more than 9% was not a price worth paying and it had serious, adverse consequences. Although pensioners were better off in terms of the amount of money they had in their retirement, many never forgave her for breaking the link with earnings.

In her very last speech I put it to her that, sadly, she had left the gap between the rich and the poor much wider. I have to say that the gap continued under the Labour Government. She accused me of saying that we would rather the poor were poorer provided the rich were less rich. That was never our view. We needed a fairer society and sadly we did not get one.

I referred to Bruges at the beginning of my speech and I want to end with the Bruges speech she made 25 years ago. It bears re-reading, as I am sure the Prime

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Minister has on more than one occasion. I end with exact quotes from the speech she gave to the college at which I had been privileged to be a student:

“Our destiny is in Europe, as part of the Community. That is not to say that our future lies only in Europe…The Community is not an end in itself…The European Community is a practical means by which Europe can ensure the future prosperity and security of its people in a world in which there are many other powerful nations and groups of nations…Certainly we want to see Europe more united and with a greater sense of common purpose…I want to see us work more closely…Europe is stronger when we do so, whether it be in trade, in defence or in our relations with the rest of the world…But it must be in a way which preserves the different traditions…for these have been the source of Europe’s vitality through the centuries.”

We are proud of her patriotism and give thanks for it. She will be respected throughout the whole of the rest of our political lives.

6.34 pm

Mr David Lammy (Tottenham) (Lab): I am grateful for the opportunity to pay tribute to Baroness Thatcher and to associate myself with the remarks of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. It is an incredibly long way from Broadwater Farm, via the Bar, to being here as a Member of Parliament. I think it is an even longer way to go from a grocer’s shop in Grantham, through Oxbridge and the Bar, to leading one’s country as a woman. For that single reason alone, it is appropriate that we come together to pay tribute to Margaret Thatcher.

I look at her legacy from the vantage point of being a young person growing up in Tottenham, with a single parent occasionally reliant on the state and on benefits, during a difficult time for our country. It would certainly be the case that for most of my youth Margaret Thatcher was not somebody I admired, and there were occasions when I actually felt quite scared by much of what she said and what her Government seemed to do. Some 25 or 30 years later, I feel slightly differently. My political generation, which includes the leaders of our political parties, coincides with a period in politics of 24-hour media, presentation, soundbite, spin and polling. All of us in this House have met politicians who seem to not really know their own mind. We have met politicians who say one thing one minute and then, when they have met someone else, seem to say the last thing they heard. Some of us have even met party leaders like that. In that context, I have tremendous respect for someone with conviction and courage, someone who is willing to stand their ground and who is clear on their values. At this time in our history, when things are so hard and there is so much deep concern about our political class, we could do with more conviction from all parts of this House.

I said that I was basing my remarks on growing up in Tottenham, but for the second part of my youth I spent seven years in Peterborough. There, I came across a different kind of working class attitude to Margaret Thatcher. These were people who had left London and gone to a new town. They were making their way and wanted to forge ahead. They were enjoying holidays and owning their homes for the first time. I would go around to their small houses and on their coffee tables they would have the “Tell Sid” brochure, so keen were they to take part in the experiment of buying shares in British Gas. I have to say that my mum got one

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of those brochures for her coffee table, but that was just to appear as though she was able to buy shares in British Gas.

There were two quiet revolutions of the 20th century that have given us the country and world we have today. The social liberal revolution of the 1960s is perhaps best personified by the quest for freedom and human rights that we associate with another great elder statesman, Nelson Mandela.

The second liberal revolution must most definitely be the economic liberal revolution of the 1980s. Margaret Thatcher was obviously at its epicentre, and for that reason she is a giant figure in our history, and it is right that our country comes together to pay her due respect. However—[Interruption.] I am afraid there is a big however, because we also live with the consequences of a hyper-individualised society—consequences that we see in materialism, consumerism, over-corporatism and a sense that unemployment is fine and that those on benefits can fend for themselves. I remind the House that for people in Handsworth, Brixton, Tottenham, St Pauls in Bristol, Moss Side in Manchester and Chapeltown in Leeds, it was a desperate time, with tremendous suffering, and we stand in solidarity with colleagues in the north, particularly in our mining towns and former steelworks, who bear the scars today of that period of social adjustment.

No one has mentioned the Commonwealth, which is an important institution. Despite the advice of Rajiv Gandhi, Oliver Tambo and others who urged economic sanctions, Margaret Thatcher said, “No, I will go it alone.” That is a great scar on the history of the Commonwealth.

The history will be chequered for many years. It is right that we pay tribute, but it is also right that we reflect on young people growing up at that time, particularly in our tower blocks and estates, and the suffering they are still going through—not a feral underclass, but workless poor. It began in that period and today it still continues for successive generations.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Speaker: Order. If everyone is to get in, speeches of no more than four minutes will be required. I appeal to hon. and right hon. Members to help me to help them.

6.42 pm

Mr Charles Walker (Broxbourne) (Con): I shall try to be brief, Mr Speaker.

I did not know Lady Thatcher. I met her on a few occasions, but I admired her from afar. I rise to pay my respects and to pass on the respects of many tens of thousands of my constituents who would want me to be here today. She was a great woman, a great Prime Minister and she had love of this country emblazoned on her heart.

6.43 pm

Mr David Anderson (Blaydon) (Lab): As a former coal miner who became a care worker in the 1980s, looking after frail elderly people—particularly frail elderly

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women suffering from dementia, incontinence and the inability to bathe and dress themselves—I have nothing but empathy for the family of Margaret Thatcher. They will feel an immense sense of loss that will almost certainly be tinged with a sense of relief. They will feel guilty about that relief, but they should not; it is a normal, healthy attitude when a loved one has been brought low by the reality of our mortality.

As a former miner and trade union leader and as the Member for a constituency whose history was built on the hard work of ordinary men and women, it would be remiss of me not to record the reality of life for people in such constituencies because of policies promoted by Margaret Thatcher. She came to power promising to bring harmony where there was discord. I can safely say that in mining communities up and down the country she brought the opposite. Most mining areas were stable, secure and safe communities where we worked hard and played hard. We did not complain about the difficult conditions in which we worked. All we asked for was the chance to carry on doing that work.

We had built communities over decades, in some cases over centuries, and they had stood the test of time. We built sports centres, swimming pools and cricket and football clubs. We built libraries and developed brass bands, and we ran art classes that gained international fame. That was part and parcel of our culture, but none of it seemed to matter to Margaret Thatcher. She believed that we were no longer any use to the nation because we were deemed “uneconomic”.

On what basis was that case made? I believe that the main reason why the United Kingdom coal industry was classed as uneconomic was that we insisted on running safe coal mines, unlike those in the rest of the world. Our history was longer than that of other coal industries. It was littered with numerous examples of avoidable deaths, and we as a country agreed to invest in the best quality equipment in the world and in training people to produce coal as safely as possible. One of the great disgraces in this country is that we import more than 50 million tonnes of coal a year from countries where men are killed in their thousands, yet we closed down an industry that was the safest and most technically advanced in the world. There is still blood on the coal that is burned in British power stations, but it is American blood, Russian blood, Chinese blood or Colombian blood, so that is okay. Well, it should not be okay. As a country, we have millions of tons of coal beneath our feet.

The other area where the so-called economic justification falls down was in the failure of Margaret Thatcher and her Governments to take into account the social cost in communities such as mine, where there was no alternative employment for people who were losing their jobs, and particularly for their children. The village where I lived had seen coal mining for almost two centuries. In a matter of months after closure, we were gripped by a wave of petty crime—burglary and car crime—mostly related to drugs. We have never recovered from it. When someone wakes in the middle of the night and goes downstairs because their home is being burgled, and finds out the next day that it was the son of one of their best friends, it puts into perspective a community that was built on reliance and taking care of each other. That takes a lot of recovering from.

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The situation was compounded by the crass decision in 1988 to sell off houses owned by the National Coal Board to private landlords. They brought in people from outside the area who had no respect for the community or for the houses they were given. Twenty years later, houses that were sold to private landlords for £4,000 were bought back by the council for £60,000 of public money, only for them to be pulled down because of the failure of the policy agreed as part and parcel of the decision to ruin the coal industry in this country.

Over the last 48 hours, a lot has been said about the harsh nature of some of the responses to the news of Mrs Thatcher’s death, but the House needs to understand the reason. Before, during and ever since the attack on the coal industry and the people in it, Governments of both colours were warned of the impact of the policy. We have seen the reaction of people whose frustration is heartfelt. They have lost their sense of place in society. They are being made to feel worthless. They are being cast aside like a pair of worn-out pit boots. They have seen their community fall apart and their children’s opportunities disappear. They are not being listened to, and sadly some of that has boiled over this week.

After today’s debate those people may never be listened to again, and Mrs Thatcher’s lack of empathy, her intransigence, her failure to see the other side and her refusal to even look at the other side has left them bitter and resentful. They are hitting out in a way that is uncharacteristic of miners and their communities. Her accusation that the enemy within was in the mining areas of this country still rankles. I was not an enemy within. My hon. Friends the Members for Midlothian (Mr Hamilton), for Wansbeck (Ian Lavery), for Blyth Valley (Mr Campbell), and for Lanark and Hamilton East (Mr Hood) were not the enemy within. Nor were people like Joe Green, who died on the picket line at Ferry Bridge in Yorkshire, David Jones who was killed at Ollerton colliery, Terry Leaves and Jimmy Jones who were killed in south Wales, or three young boys—Darren Holmes, aged 15, Paul Holmes, aged 14, and Paul Womersley, aged 14—who died scavenging for coal to try to keep their families warm.

It is understandable that people feel bitter that we are here today to remember the legacy of Mrs Thatcher. All we wanted was the right to work, not just for ourselves but for our kids. It was taken away. The funeral next week will take place 20 years to the day since Easington colliery was closed. Please do not blame the people in my part of the world if they choose that day to pay a tribute very different from that being paid in the House today.

6.49 pm

Mr Andrew Tyrie (Chichester) (Con): We can see, from the speeches of the hon. Member for Blaydon (Mr Anderson) and others, the deep emotions that Margaret Thatcher still inspires.

So many us from the Government side are still here for this debate simply because Mrs Thatcher was the inspiration for our going into politics in the first place. There was her sense of public service and duty and her conviction that even the toughest task, including Britain’s ungovernability, could be tackled. There was her conviction that the state had lost sight of its essential role of protecting our freedoms, that it was encroaching on them and that it had to be rolled back. Above all, there

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was her patriotism—she wanted to restore pride in our country and others’ respect for it. As far as the last century is concerned, she will come to be seen as the greatest standard bearer for freedom that the House has produced.

My first meaningful encounter with Margaret Thatcher took place at 7.15 am in a windowless back room in Conservative central office just before a press conference during the 1984 European elections. Having been at central office for only a few months, I was unnerved to find myself placed opposite her. She had, it seemed, read all the extensive briefing that we had prepared for her. She fixed me with a stare. Her first question identified an apparent contradiction in the briefing. Before I had time to admit that I did not know the answer, Geoffrey Howe, who was sitting next to me and did, saved me by replying.

Margaret Thatcher was kind enough to add me to a lunch party at Chequers after those elections. No doubt identifying me as the junior man, she told me to sit next to her for lunch. Within minutes, she announced to the table that I was far too thin and insisted on overseeing my consumption of two puddings.

I met Mrs Thatcher sporadically over the following few years. I was at the Treasury, with a ringside seat for the Thatcher-Lawson row, the rights and wrongs of which—and there were both—are for another day. More generally, I had a chance to observe several of her well-known traits. At the heart of her approach was her instinctive understanding that the restoration of prosperity depended on supply-side reform: breaking down the entrenched privileges—of the professions as much as of the trade unions; simplifying and reducing taxes; cutting back the tangle of regulation; and enhancing individual opportunity and aspiration. She wanted to break with the consensus of an over-mighty state and a dependent people.

Some have been arguing recently that Mrs Thatcher’s reforms are responsible for the failings of the banks today. I doubt that. Whatever the merits of the prudential regulation that came with the big bang in the ’80s, those rules were no longer in place when the crisis broke five years ago; they had been replaced by another set of rules put there in the 1990s in both the US and the UK. In any case, the notion that Mrs Thatcher, who cared most of all about the consumer and the taxpayer, would be an apologist for the banks, is implausible. She would have found the abuse of market power by some bank leaderships for their own gain at the expense of the rest of us every bit as deplorable as the behaviour of trade union leaders.

Most of Mrs Thatcher’s legacy on the supply side survives, although her supply-side reforms were, to some degree, reversed by the last Government. Perhaps I should take this opportunity to say that, in my view, the importance of the supply side is still not yet fully recognised by this Administration.

It has been said today that Mrs Thatcher’s judgment faltered at the end, and there was perhaps a touch of that hubris that always lurks in No.10’s bunker after a long stay. The pain of her reforms still lingers. Over the longer view, none of that, I think, will detract from her legacy. What will linger in the memory is the single most extraordinary achievement of any leader in the post-war era—that of turning a failing country and a basket-case economy into a country that had recovered its self-respect and had a future.

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6.54 pm

Geraint Davies (Swansea West) (Lab/Co-op): I speak as one who was a 14-year-old schoolboy in south Wales when Margaret Thatcher became party leader and as a representative of the Swansea West constituency. Mrs Thatcher was obviously a person of steely determination and focus who cared not about the ebb and flow of opinion or focus groups, but about her strategic vision to deliver change, and that is good. However, she should be judged on her own terms—on whether she did deliver harmony where there was discord and hope where there was despair. Certainly in south Wales, she failed on those two counts. On whether she delivered a better Britain, she did for some and did not for others.

Her leadership was born in the economic and political trauma of the 1970s. Inflation peaked at 25% thanks to oil price increases, the miners’ strike got rid of Ted Heath and then the Labour Government were held together by a Lib-Lab pact that tried to bring down inflation through pay relationships with the trade unions; it had some success approaching 1978.

According to my predecessor Alan Williams, a former Father of the House, Callaghan said, “I think we can have another round of pay restraint—the unions won’t want Margaret Thatcher as the new Prime Minister.” How wrong he was. We had the coldest winter for 16 years, strikes lasted until February 1979 and an election was called after a vote of no confidence. Saatchi’s then brought forward “Labour isn’t working” and delivered Margaret Thatcher. That was a cruel irony, because unemployment went up from 1.5 million to 3.2 million between 1979 and 1983. That was the human cost of bringing inflation down by 4%. That certainly did not deliver harmony at all.

Mrs Thatcher was deeply unpopular then. The Labour left was split and the SDP broke away in 1981. In 1983, the SDP-Liberal Alliance got 25% of the vote to Labour’s 28%. Had it not been for that and the Falklands war, Mrs Thatcher might not have won in 1983. When she did, her first focus was to settle scores with the miners who had brought down Ted Heath. She built the coal stocks up in the winters of ’83 and ’84 and announced that there would be closures and that the National Coal Board would be privatised and sold off. Scargill, of course, fell into the bear trap. He did not hold a vote, there was a 12-month strike—a third of the pits were still working—and a great mining industry was destroyed. As has already been described, we are currently consuming 50 million tonnes of coal a year. but there is no coal industry. Near my constituency, there is the Tower colliery, a co-operative through which the miners bought their own mine, and it operated successfully for 10 years. But communities have been left on their own in despair without support. That is the politics not of hope but of fear, as Nye Bevan put it.

Economic Thatcherism is a matter not just of using unemployment to keep down wages and unions, but of mass privatisation. Crucially, the proceeds of that privatisation—the £70 billion, alongside the £80 billion from oil—were not used as they should have been: to renew our industrial infrastructure, our hospitals, our transport and our schools. The legacy was one of squandering instead: we ended up in a situation where money was being used to keep people on the dole and to

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provide tax breaks. We ended up with an unmanaged oil system where high exchange rates meant that manufacturing was declining much faster than it should have been.

Ultimately, Mrs Thatcher got re-elected through the Lawson bubble that burst. In the final chapter, while the rich were getting richer, she wanted the poor and the rich to pay the same tax for local services: the poll tax. As we saw the grey smoke emerge from the violent protests in London, the grey suits went round Lady Thatcher and wanted to elect a grey leader—John Major, who, of course, managed to get in. Then, naturally, everything broke down and afterwards we got a new Government who reinvested the proceeds of growth in new schools, hospitals and opportunity. I fear that some of Thatcher’s legacy will involve going back and claiming that everything she did was right. What she did not do, however, was to deliver what she should have delivered—harmony and unity, a future that works and a future that cares, rather than a divided nation. I very much hope that we will not continue to press along the road of division and austerity, but will build a new future.

7 pm

Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): Margaret Thatcher was my political inspiration. I only wish that I had been here in Parliament when she was Prime Minister, as it would have been a rare treat indeed to be on these Benches and able to support a Government with whom I agreed from time to time.

My earliest political memory was of the Falklands war of 1982. I was 10 years old and remember coming home from school to see what was going on over in the Falklands. It was during that crisis that I built up my admiration for Margaret Thatcher. I was born in Doncaster and was brought up in Doncaster North, the constituency of the Leader of the Opposition. As he made clear, it was a strong mining community. My father was involved with the local Conservative party—there are not many Conservatives in Doncaster—and as soon as I was old enough to deliver leaflets and knock on doors, my father had me out delivering leaflets and knocking on doors. I loved elections—we never used to win any, but I still loved them.

People have often said to me that it must have been incredibly difficult going around mining communities in the mid to late-1980s supporting Margaret Thatcher and a Conservative Government. It was not difficult at all. I believed in Margaret Thatcher to my core, and when we believed in somebody in the way I believed in Margaret Thatcher it was not difficult to go knocking on doors to support the great things she did for this country. It was not Margaret Thatcher who ruined those mining communities; it was Arthur Scargill who ruined them—and let no one forget that.

Margaret Thatcher was a conviction politician. She believed that politics was all about trying to persuade people of what she believed in rather than just telling people what she thought they wanted to hear. That is the kind of politics that I believe in. She did not need focus groups or opinion polls to tell her what to believe. She was instinctively in tune with the British public.

I remember from when I was working at Asda that the best retailers were the ones who instinctively knew what the customers wanted without having to go to a focus group to ask. The worst chief executives of retailers

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were the ones who always had to be told what the focus groups were telling them and what the opinion polls were telling them. For me, it is exactly the same with political leaders. The best political leaders such as Margaret Thatcher instinctively know what the public want and where they are—they do not need opinion polls—and the worst political leaders are those who have to rely on those polls because they know no better themselves.

Too often, politicians in this country try to be popular. My advice would be, “If you want to be popular, don’t be a politician” because of the inevitable consequence that they will become unpopular. Popularity in politics will always be a temporary thing. One thing that can last for ever in politics, however, is respect. Even if not popular, a politician can still be respected, and Margaret Thatcher was one of those politicians. She was a Marmite politician: people either loved her or hated her, but she was universally respected, even among her political foes, because she knew what she believed in, she stood up for it and she delivered it to people. Whether people agreed with her or not, they trusted in her as a politician because she was doing what she thought was genuinely the right thing to do. We need more politicians like that.

Margaret Thatcher won three general elections on the trot, and the best way to sum up her achievement is to recognise that more people voted Conservative in her third general election than they had done the first time she won in 1979. That is a remarkable achievement showing how she built support over those eight years. Tony Blair, on the other hand, won three general elections but lost 4 million voters between the last and the first election. That goes to show the difference in calibre between those two politicians who might otherwise be closely compared.

Margaret Thatcher was voted out by her own party. This occasion gives me the opportunity to put on record my utter contempt for those in our party—people who were not fit to lick her boots—who ousted her in 1990. That did an awful lot of damage—but not just to the country, as it did long-term damage to the Conservative party as well.

Anyone wanting to sum up Mrs Thatcher should look at her final performance from the Dispatch Box as Prime Minister. It was one of the finest performances that has ever been seen in Parliament. I am delighted that the right hon. Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark (Simon Hughes) was in his place to speak today. He will remember, probably quite painfully, how she wiped the floor with him when he intervened—[Interruption.] I think it was Michael Carttiss who said from the Conservative Benches that she could wipe the floor with the lot of them, and that was absolutely true—she could. During that debate, I wonder how many Conservative Members wondered, “Oh, Lord, what have we done?” They got rid of the greatest Prime Minister this country has ever seen. There will never be another like her. It is a privilege to speak in this debate and to hear some of the great stories that help us to find the true Margaret Thatcher—one I will for ever admire.

7.5 pm

Wayne David (Caerphilly) (Lab): I believe we should all show respect to Mrs Thatcher, this country’s first woman Prime Minister. As Prime Minister of this country, she undoubtedly achieved things in which all of us, on both sides of the House, can share a pride. Most notably,

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she signed the Good Friday agreement, and under her leadership this country liberated the Falklands and encouraged the freedom of the peoples of eastern Europe. Let it be said, too, that she played a key part in the development of Britain’s role in Europe and the single market. The young Margaret Thatcher was a good European. We should acknowledge too, if not to celebrate it on the Labour Benches, that Mrs Thatcher won three consecutive general elections. There were and still are many people who admired her undoubted strength and resolve, which she had in abundance.

To show respect, of course, does not necessarily mean that we have to be in agreement. It is worth remembering that many people throughout the length and breadth of this country suffered because of Thatcher’s ideology and the policies she pursued. It is important for us all to recognise that—and no part of the United Kingdom suffered more than the valleys of south Wales.

I was born and brought up in a largely mining community—Cefn Cribwr, near Bridgend. Both my grandfathers were miners and both knew from first-hand experience how difficult and dangerous coal mining was. Like so many of my generation in south Wales, the miners’ strike of 1984-85 left an indelible mark on me. Let me be clear: the tactics of Arthur Scargill were wrong and played into the hands of the Government; but it was wrong, too, that the Government gave the impression of relishing the opportunity to mobilise the state against working people who were trying to defend their jobs, their families and their communities. In our country, no opponents should ever be described as “the enemy within”.

During that long year of the miners’ strike, there was undoubtedly real hardship. In my own village, we organised a support group and raised hundreds of pounds to help miners’ families. The same happened throughout south Wales. If the hardship of the strike was bad, what happened afterwards was truly awful. Within months of the end of the strike, nearly all the remaining collieries in south Wales were closed. Nowhere was worse hit than the Rhymney valley, the greater part of which I now have the privilege to represent. Two of the biggest collieries in south Wales were within the Rhymney valley—Bedwas and Penallta. Each employed more than 600 men. Bedwas was closed literally weeks after the strike and Penallta followed suit a couple of years later.

Those closures were body blows to the valley. Closing the collieries was bad, but what made things worse was the absence of any real attempt to provide alternative employment or even training for those made unemployed. There was, it is true, a much heralded “valleys initiative” but that, like so many other Government initiatives of the time, was all hype and little substance. In the aftermath of the miners’ strike, unemployment rocketed, and so did economic inactivity.

Today, many of the scars of the 1980s are still with us. After 1997, we saw more enlightened and interventionist policies pursued, but we are still nevertheless grappling with the country’s historic legacy. In large part because of what happened during the 1980s, unemployment and economic inactivity in the south Wales valleys are still above the UK average, and poverty and deprivation are still a scourge.

I do not believe that the huge social fracture in the south Wales valleys was the result of any individual’s spite or malice; but it was the result of adherence to

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monetarist economic theory—a theory which elevated individuals above the community, which put short-term profit before long-term prosperity, and which made people subservient to uncontrolled market forces.

Many Conservative Members genuinely believe that Mrs Thatcher achieved many great things. They are entitled to that view. Undoubtedly Mrs Thatcher did some things that we can all take pride in; but for my constituents, and for many ordinary people throughout south Wales, Mrs Thatcher has left a legacy which they will not celebrate and which they will never forget.

7.10 pm

Mr Bernard Jenkin (Harwich and North Essex) (Con): The House has already heard much about Margaret Thatcher as a huge political figure—the iron lady who dominated British politics and world politics—but my wife and I grew to know her after she retired from the House of Commons. We came to know someone who was far from the arrogant or heartless figure portrayed by her adversaries. She was someone who must have forced herself to be strong, to hide any self-doubt, to deny herself any weakness, in order to live up to an ideal of herself. She was anything but arrogant.

I do not know how many times we saw her reject the adulation that was so often heaped upon her. She felt undeserving of such praise and standing ovations. She would say how she could never have achieved anything on her own, that her Governments were a team effort in which many played their part. This was genuine humility, not arrogance. And we have read and heard so much about her acts of personal kindness.

It was her passion for the truth that made her such a dangerous adversary in argument—a danger which she harboured long into old age—and she loved a good spat. She met some bright young candidates before the 1992 election—me included—[Interruption.] I beg your pardon. Two now serve as senior Ministers of state. As they tried to justify UK membership of the exchange rate mechanism, she scorned the one who had worked closely in her Government with heavy inflection. “Oh,” she said, “I am so disappointed with you.” She listened to the other, who argued that the exit from the exchange rate mechanism would involve too much loss of face for the Government. She retorted: “Loss of face? What is loss of face compared to the loss of 350,000 jobs? If you think that, you’re a fool. There’s the door!” Not an easy introduction for an aspiring candidate.

What we miss from politics today is her certainty, her seriousness, her clarity of principle, her fusion of the practical with her sense of moral purpose. Those who disagreed with her undoubtedly felt that to be arrogance on her part, but she felt she was a guardian of greater truths and principles, which were far more important than her mere self. This, with her formidable intellect, gave her an extraordinary prescience about the world. How right she was about the exchange rate mechanism, and about the Maastricht treaty and monetary union. I would caution those who try to use her name in support of the EU, as it has become, as though she would ever have put her name to the Lisbon treaty or anything like it.

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Another myth that this debate helpfully dispels is that she had no sense of humour. When she arrived in Essex in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr Whittingdale) for the 1992 election campaign, a junior reporter from the Essex County Standard breathlessly caught up with her hectic pace and asked, in front of 200 other journalists, “Do you agree that the Conservative campaign is lacking in oomph?” Mrs T retorted, with heavy irony, “That’s what I’m here for, dear.”

She will always be revered as a woman of principle with iron determination, even by those who disagree with her. Her premiership was about restoring national self-belief, something few can deny she achieved, and that is what we must now do for ourselves. It has become an axiom in the coverage of reaction to Margaret Thatcher’s death that she was divisive, which ignores the fact that the UK was already bitterly divided. We need to hear about the scars that industrial decline has left in many constituencies represented on the Opposition Benches, but that should not detract from her achievements; nor should she be blamed personally for what was, in many respects, an inevitable transition of economics.

We should regard some of the more unseemly reactions to her death as a backhanded tribute to her, a reminder of the attitudes she had to overcome in order to achieve what she did, but let the argument about her legacy be based on the facts and not the myths which her opponents would prefer to believe. Spending on health, education, pensions and welfare continually increased under her premiership. The number of people in work increased by 1.8 million. Manufacturing output was significantly higher when she left office than when she was first elected. Wider home ownership and share ownership spread wealth more widely than ever before; social mobility was greatly increased. The incomes of every section of society, including the poorest, increased in real terms. Income taxes paid by the richest 1% of the population increased from 11% to 15% of the total tax take.

As she grew older, we regarded Lady T less and less as a former Prime Minister, more and more as a favourite aunt or grandmother. Sometimes it was hard to believe that this small, frail lady had once held the world in the palm of her hand. The whole nation will be for ever in her debt.

7.16 pm

Mike Gapes (Ilford South) (Lab/Co-op): Thinking about what to say today, I looked at my bookcase, and I came across three publications from the 1980s: “Thatcher’s Britain: A Guide to the Ruins,” to which I contributed in 1983, “Breaking the Nation,” published in 1985, and the Fabian Society’s pamphlet “ABC of Thatcherism,” published in 1989. I do not have time, in four minutes, to quote any of them, but they are well worth reading, although they may be out of print.

I was the parliamentary candidate in 1983 in Ilford North. We had huge, enthusiastic meetings for the Labour party during that campaign, but because of the split in our party, the SDP and the divisions, we had a terrible defeat. The lessons for Oppositions to draw from that period are that it is essential to preserve party unity, and essential to recognise that enthusiasm for one’s party and hatred for the other side is not necessarily a guarantee of a victory.

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In February 1990, the opinion polls in this country put the Labour party at 56%, under Neil Kinnock, and the Conservatives at 23% under Margaret Thatcher. We know what the Conservative party did in its ruthless manner, which has been mentioned by previous contributors to the debate, but there is a lesson there for all of us in opposition: you cannot count your chickens about what the position might be in two years’ time.

In the brief time remaining, I want to say a few words about foreign policy. Mrs Thatcher was absolutely right to sign the Single European Act. She was absolutely right to be in favour of enlargement of the European Union. The consequences of those policies have influenced the politics of this country ever since. That is why we have free movement of people in the European Union. That is why we have the current debate about immigration policy. A lot of that is to do with economic decisions taken at that time. It is well worth our thinking through the consequences for the future.

On other foreign policy issues Mrs Thatcher was wrong. We have heard about South Africa and her attitude to Nelson Mandela, and I am very pleased that Nelson Mandela is still with us today, in this world, and I hope he carries on living for a decent period of time, so that he is able to understand more about the changes that have taken place in this country since the days of Margaret Thatcher, because one thing she did was to cut the overseas development budget. It went down to 0.26% of GDP, yet this coalition—I praise them for it—has kept to Labour’s pledge of funding at 0.7% of GDP, which shows that what is being done in the world today is very different from what she did in government.

One other thing that Mrs Thatcher got wrong was her attitude to the unification of Germany. She was vehemently against it, but as a result of that unification, and at great cost to the Germans in the west, we have seen the peaceful transformation of central and eastern Europe, as well as the enlargement of the European Union and the end of communism in our continent. Those fantastic achievements could not have been achieved without the support of Margaret Thatcher but, above all, the man responsible was Mikhail Gorbachev, whom she recognised as a man she could do business with. As we heard, she should be praised for that, because she convinced Reagan, although she sometimes tried to rein Reagan back when she was wrong to do so, as at the Reykjavik negotiation, where he was ahead of his time and ahead of the world today in aspiring to a world without nuclear weapons.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. May I just appeal to everyone to be brief, so that nobody misses out? Hon. Members have spent a lot of time waiting on the Benches.

7.20 pm

Miss Anne McIntosh (Thirsk and Malton) (Con): I rise to pay a personal tribute to a very great lady. Baroness Thatcher broke the mould in three distinct ways: she showed the way to women coming after her and showed us that we should aim high; by her example, she opened the door to meritocracy, not political aristocracy; and she spread democracy across Europe and the wider world.

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I have cause to be personally grateful to Margaret Thatcher, having fought my first general election in 1987. Of course, we were all offered our treasured photograph with Lady Thatcher, and mine still stands on the mantelpiece in the family home. We were then granted a couple of words with the great lady. She put her arm around me and said, “Now my dear, where do you work at the moment?” I had to tell her that I worked in Europe, but I softened the blow by saying that I did work for the Conservatives in the European Parliament.

I lost that election, but in 1989 I was elected as MEP for Essex North East, which included the town of Colchester. Margaret Thatcher started her working life as a chemist in Colchester and I believe that for a while we were both Essex girls, though perhaps not at the same time. Her sister then also settled in north Essex and I was delighted to make her acquaintance. My abiding memories of my time in the European Parliament are the speech she made while President of the Council of Ministers, which had wild interruptions from Ian Paisley senior, as we have come to know him, and the overtures she made to Mikhail Gorbachev. I was in Berlin, attending a European Parliament Committee on Legal Affairs meeting, on the day the wall fell, and that will be one of my lifelong memories. That presaged the move for cities such as Warsaw, Prague and Budapest to join the European Union. I am delighted that it was her foresight that encouraged many of us politicians and Conservative party agents to go those major cities in central and eastern Europe, and the Baltic states, to explain how political parties were formed and how political elections were fought.

Margaret Thatcher opened up the single European market, allowing British companies to compete in areas such as transport, insurance and financial services. It is difficult to believe now that at that time it was impossible to obtain a cheap air ticket without staying over on the Saturday night. By opening up aviation to a new generation of air travellers, particularly the young, political ideas were allowed to flow more freely.

More than anything, I have fond memories of the inspiration and aspiration that Margaret Thatcher gave to so many of us. As many hon. Members have said, she allowed people choice to better themselves. She allowed many to buy their council houses and own property for the first time, and she allowed many to own shares in previously nationalised companies that had just been privatised. In short, people now living in Thirsk, Malton, Filey, Pickering and Easingwold, and elsewhere across North Yorkshire and the rest of Britain, have a better choice and a better life because of her premiership.

Who would have thought that less than 100 years after women gained the vote, the Conservative party would have been the one that returned the first lady Prime Minister? She gave people such as me and my generation—Thatcher’s children—the confidence to seek a career in public life.

7.24 pm

Chi Onwurah (Newcastle upon Tyne Central) (Lab): I did not intend to speak in this debate because, unlike many here, I did not know Margaret Thatcher personally and I have no desire to intrude on personal grief, particularly that of family and friends who have suffered a great loss. However, this has become a public debate

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on Mrs Thatcher’s legacy and having heard so much about how much she welcomed different views, I think it is appropriate to give the House the views of some of my constituents and of my home city of Newcastle.

Words cannot express the almost visceral dislike with which some of my constituents regard Mrs Thatcher, so I shall not attempt to express it. Instead, I shall speak briefly about her impact on my life and on the north-east. Just as Mrs Thatcher was a child of Grantham, I was a child of Newcastle, although this was in a council flat rather than a grocer’s. Just as she grew up always knowing that she wanted to be a politician, I grew up always knowing that I wanted to be an engineer. I grew up in a city and a region that valued engineering—making and building things. It was the birthplace of the railways, and it was the powerhouse of the country, with the coal beneath our feet, the steelyards and the great ships being launched from Wallsend and Sunderland.

When I was accepted to study engineering at Imperial college it was the proudest day of my life—until my election of course. So hon. Members can imagine how my heart sank when the Prime Minister of our country said, not long after, that engineering and manufacturing were the past, that the future was services and that the world would be our workshop while we would keep our hands clean. I had no desire to keep my hands clean. I had already seen what that policy was doing to the north -east: the unemployment; the communities devastated; and the lives of men and women robbed of meaning and pride. The statistics speak for themselves: between 1979 and 1987, the level of employment in the north fell by 1.3 million; 97 mines had been closed by 1992; Sunderland, the largest shipbuilding town in the world, no longer built ships; and Consett had lost the industry that had been a part of its fabric and identity for more than 140 years. I ask Conservative Members to contrast the huge bail-out that a Labour Government offered the financial services sector to protect jobs and investment with the brutal, bone-crushing and soul-destroying destruction that Margaret Thatcher’s Government offered the shipbuilding, steel and mining industries, losing those very skills which we now need so very much.

There are those who say, “It was all part of the harsh reality of the new global order”, but that is not true. Change was necessary, but it is the Government’s job to protect communities from the impact of change. That change could have been managed; there could have been a transition and that could have been invested in. There was another way, and Nissan, which has been mentioned, provides an example of that. It is a great private sector success story that has been enabled by the support and investment of central Government, local authorities and the unions. The 2008 intervention by the previous Government through the car scrappage scheme and bringing forward training enabled Nissan to go through a difficult period and showed that intelligent active government is possible.

Mrs Thatcher’s most meaningful legacy in the north-east is the unemployment across the region, but I would not like to close my remarks without paying her tribute. We have heard how she fought hard and tenaciously for the people she thought she represented. My tribute to her will be to continue to fight for the people I represent.

Several hon. Members rose

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Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. We are now down to only Government Members. Let us keep an orderly line. Everybody will get in, but they must keep it short and aim to speak for three minutes, and no more than four.

7.30 pm

Mr William Cash (Stone) (Con): I spoke in the conference motion on 22 November 1990, by which time Margaret Thatcher had decided not to stand again, and in circumstances that I do not believe any other Prime Minister, certainly of her stature, ever experienced. The irony of her going is that, unlike other Prime Ministers, who continued in office until a departure of their choosing, she lived out her retirement in the certain knowledge that on the issue that primarily brought about her fall —that of Europe—she had been right. They put her in a dungeon downstairs, underneath this Chamber. I went down there. She was dressed in black. She was traumatised. It was a disgrace. I do not know how it happened, but it was appalling to witness.

The event that precipitated her fall was the personal statement by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, now the right hon. Lord Howe of Aberavon. I do not doubt his sincerity, but I challenge anybody to go through that speech and agree with a single word of it. There was a complete commitment to the exchange rate mechanism. There was the issue of economic and monetary union. There was this and that, but she was turfed out of office for no other reason than that they disagreed with her on Europe. Others have said that it was because of the poll tax or because they feared losing their seats, but it was not; it was because of that one main issue.

There is much more that I would like to say, but I will not. I will simply say, in conclusion, that in my judgment there will not be a Prime Minister of her stature for decades to come. I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister for his veto and for his Bloomberg speech on the five principles, but I also say that Margaret Thatcher, as Prime Minister, was the greatest defender of our freedom. She understood the European issue. She stood up for the freedom of people in this country and in eastern and central Europe. She was a great Prime Minister and I pay tribute to her.

7.33 pm

Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (The Cotswolds) (Con): It is an honour to be called to speak on behalf of my constituents on this very sad day. In paying tribute to Margaret Thatcher, I would also like to pay tribute to someone who has hardly been mentioned in the debate: her late husband, Denis. There is no doubt that, without Denis, Margaret Thatcher would not have achieved all that she did. She was not only a great wife, but a great mother to her two children, and I send them my condolences today.

Margaret Thatcher was probably this country’s greatest peacetime Prime Minister. That is why I and a number of colleagues are here in the House today. We were inspired by Margaret Thatcher. There has been a certain amount of revisionism by one or two Opposition Members today about the malaise of the 1970s, but if they look at what really happened and at the mess this country was in when she took over in 1979, they will see the huge achievement she brought to this country.

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She brought a huge achievement not only to this country, but to the world. She overcame what Winston Churchill foresaw when he made his famous speech at Westminster college, Missouri, and talked about the descent of the iron curtain across the continent of Europe. She saw that and went ahead with her great friend and ally, Ronald Reagan, to form a united front against what he called the “evil empire.” We saw the breakdown of the iron curtain, and the people of Warsaw, Budapest, Bucharest, Tallinn and many other European capitals have a lasting reason to be incredibly grateful to her. I do an awful lot of work for the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, which works to build democracy around the world, an initiative that Margaret Thatcher started, for which I am extremely grateful.

The second time I encountered her was at the Conservative party conference in 1984. We were woken by an enormous bang just before 3 o’clock in the morning. It was, of course, the Brighton bomb. She came to the conference with fortitude and said that this nation’s will would never be broken by terrorism, and that led to the solution in Northern Ireland.

It was the grocer’s daughter from Grantham who broke the glass ceiling, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said, and proved that in this country someone can rise right from the bottom to the top, and that if they work hard and do the right thing, they can rise to the maximum of their ability. She found people who had been in unfortunate circumstances but who, through hard work, had formed businesses and got to the top in this country. We saw a property-owning democracy in this country. Many of the formerly nationalised industries were sold off under her watch and put into the private sector, where they are now flourishing as worldwide businesses. That social movement in this country is one of her huge legacies.

She made this country believe in itself after the Falklands war. Many people had said it could not be done, but she took the risk and we recaptured the Falklands, and I am delighted that a few days ago 98% of the Falkland Islanders voted to remain with this country—[Interruption.] It was 99%. I think that only three people voted against.

Politicians of Margaret Thatcher’s stature come about only once in a generation. She was the greatest peacetime Prime Minister.

7.36 pm

Dr Julian Lewis (New Forest East) (Con): It is a shock for those of us who are old enough to have been politically active in the 1970s and ’80s to realise that a 40-year-old MP today was just four years old when Soviet deployment of deadly SS-20 missiles began in 1977. At the same time, here at home, Labour MPs, including a sitting Cabinet Minister, were being deselected in their constituencies by Marxist and militant infiltrators. I am pleased that the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman) rightly acknowledged that it was Margaret Thatcher who saved the Labour party by forcing it to expel the extremists and return to moderation.

To that I will add another short list that others could undoubtedly extend. Margaret Thatcher gave the unions back to their members by making postal ballots for trade union elections compulsory. She freed the Falklands and, indirectly, caused the downfall of dictatorship in

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Argentina—something that President Kirchner would do well to remember. She secured the future of Britain’s Trident nuclear deterrent, as I trust my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition will continue to do, despite the blandishments of the absent Liberal Democrats. She insisted on the deployment of NATO cruise missiles, without which the hard-line grip on the Kremlin would undoubtedly have lasted longer. She worked with Presidents Reagan and Gorbachev to secure the intermediate-range nuclear forces treaty of 1987, which eliminated cruise missiles, the Pershing missiles and the Soviet SS-20s, paving the way for what happened two years later.

No one did more than Margaret Thatcher to bury the far left at home and defeat totalitarian leftist extremism abroad. The history of freedom is in her debt, as are we all.

7.38 pm

Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con): I rise to pay tribute to Lady Thatcher and offer my condolences to her family and close friends. I would like to put on the record my thanks to all her loyal staff over so many years, not least Crawfie and Mark Worthington, her dedicated chief of staff right up to the very end, who is no doubt working on her behalf as we speak.

For me personally, and for millions of people in this country, Margaret Thatcher was an inspiration. She was also an inspiration to people all over the world. At home, she was the personification—the epitome—of aspiration. She rightly reminded us that whatever a person’s background—whatever their race, religion, gender or sexuality—if they worked and studied hard they could get on and succeed. No mountain was too high to climb and no dream was too ambitious to fulfil.

She was also right to believe in sound money, as the Prime Minister pointed out earlier, and in strong defence, and to believe that the state should have a strong role, but not a domineering role or a nanny role. She was right to believe in the power of the individual to win, whatever obstacles were put in their way by their background or their circumstances, and to believe that Britain still had a vital role to play in the world.

For millions abroad, she was a torchbearer for liberty, freedom and democracy. She gave hope to the hopeless. She gave courage to the disheartened at home and abroad. For millions in the grip of the Soviet Union, she was the Iron Lady, prepared to stand up against oppression, tyranny and opposition. The same oppression reigns over North Korea and Iran today, and we must show the same resolve.

Margaret Thatcher governed for all and led for all. She was a conviction politician and not, as we have heard from some on the Opposition Benches, a prejudice politician. Perhaps the best tribute we can give Lady Thatcher today is to join in her unending belief that Britain’s best days are yet to come. I join my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in paying tribute to Lady Thatcher and saying that she was a great Prime Minister, a great leader and a great Briton. She was Mrs Aspiration.

7.41 pm

Mr John Baron (Basildon and Billericay) (Con): Margaret Thatcher was once asked who wore the trousers in her household. It was at the height of her power, and she

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retorted quickly, “I do, but I also wash and iron them.” It made a good impression and reminded everybody of the fact that she was a very humble person with great humility. Many colleagues on both sides of the House who are more eloquent than I am have testified to her many qualities and achievements, her strength of character, her belief in conviction politics and her belief in freedom, democracy and opportunity.

I would like, if I may, to focus on one accusation levelled against her by both Opposition Members in this debate and by the media more generally, which is that she was a divisive figure. If those who levy that charge mean that she intentionally went out to create division, conflict or whatever else, I disagree. If they mean, however, that she, through her policies and convictions, forced people to face the facts and to face what was obvious, I wholeheartedly concur.

I am honoured to take part in this tribute debate—we have heard some great speeches today—but there is a danger that we will forget just how bad the economic situation was in the 1960s and 1970s, as well as what she had to tackle and to deal with to bring this country round. We forget that for the best part of two decades successive Governments had pursued inflationary policies to try to gain full employment or something near to it. The unions had become all-powerful and they could not be tamed, with successive wild-cat strikes. All sorts of economic chaos resulted. We had Chancellors going to the IMF cap in hand, the three-day week, the lights turned off, the rubbish piled high in the streets and the bodies not being buried in cemeteries.

If I can add anything of value to this debate, looking at the age profile of many of my colleagues, it is that having lived through the 1970s I can testify to what it was like. It was absolutely dire—[Hon. Members: “It was horrible.”] As my colleagues say, it was horrible. The atmosphere was full of pessimism. There was no hope and no aspiration. We were the sick man of Europe. She, through her policies, her conviction and her belief in aspiration, opportunity, kicking back Government controls and reducing Government spending, brought this country around. If testimony is required to how successful she was, we need only to look at the fact that very few of her major policies—I can hardly think of any—were reversed by the Governments who succeeded hers. Perhaps her greatest legacy is that she converted the Labour party from a party that was doing no good for this country, in the sense that it was pursuing extreme left-wing policies, and dragged it kicking and screaming to the centre of the political landscape.

In conclusion, she once said that it is no use being someone in politics, one has to do something with politics. That will be her lasting legacy and this country will ever be grateful for that approach.

7.45 pm

Mr Nick Gibb (Bognor Regis and Littlehampton) (Con): Many in this House can speak more eloquently about Lady Thatcher as a person than I can, particularly my hon. Friends the Members for Bournemouth West (Conor Burns) and for Maldon (Mr Whittingdale), who made moving speeches. To me, Lady Thatcher was a more distant figure whom I met at party events and as

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a parliamentary candidate hoping for a photograph with her for the elections. Whenever I met her, I always found her kind, supportive and interested in how I was getting on.

As a student, when I was a member of the national committee of the Federation of Conservative Students, we met Mrs Thatcher in Downing street. I was writing a pamphlet calling for the end to the National Union of Students’ closed shop and urged her to include it in her trade union reforms. I remember her looking at me straight in the eyes and saying, “I’m glad to see you’re coming round to my way of thinking”. I was, of course, as were large parts of our nation and many other nations across the globe.

Others have talked about Lady Thatcher’s role in ending the cold war, her part in bringing freedom and prosperity to the former Soviet empire and the positive lasting legacy of her speech to the College of Europe in Bruges, but it is her role in turning around Britain and restoring our economy, which benefited many millions of people in this country, that I believe is so important. Lady Thatcher provided leadership to a cause and to a country. She led the battle of ideas with the idea that an overweening state crowds out the private sector and free enterprise and the innovation that comes with them; the idea that tax rates of 83% and 98% stifle initiative—a battle she won so convincingly that no subsequent Government have dared even to contemplate raising rates to such levels; and the idea that the money supply was key to controlling inflation, which was again a battle that she won so convincingly that it was a Labour Government who established the Monetary Policy Committee. She fought the battle of ideas with courage and, in doing so, inspired a generation.

I was 14 when Mrs Thatcher became the leader of the Conservative party and it was her leadership, her articulation of ideas and her determination to do the right thing that inspired me—and many others—to take an interest in politics. Her economic reforms resulted in GDP per head rising in real terms from £7,700 in 1979 to more than £10,000 by 1990. The wealth that that created did not did not just go to champagne bars in the City. It resulted, for example, in the proportion of houses with central heating rising from just 54% in 1979 to more than 80% by 1991 and in the proportion of owner-occupied housing rising from 55% to 66% by 1990. She truly was a transformational leader—a leader who changed this nation for the good and for good—yet the hostility to her from the left and, indeed, from some on the Conservative side of the House was remorseless. She stood up to that hostility because she believed she was right, and she was right.

As a newly selected parliamentary candidate all set to fight the Labour stronghold of Stoke-on-Trent Central, I was devastated when in November 1990 Conservative Members of Parliament deposed her as the leader of our party. To this day I wish my party had not done so, but as Cecil Parkinson, another great statesman of the 1980s for whom the battle of ideas was always the spur, said:

“Her ideas and vision live on.”

He was right, too: her ideas, her vision and her achievements will always live on.

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7.49 pm

Andrew Rosindell (Romford) (Con): It is an honour to rise today to pay tribute to someone whom I have always believed to be our greatest peacetime Prime Minister, and one of the finest—if not the finest—political leaders of the Conservative party, whom many of us know to have been a compassionate and kind human being. Lady Thatcher had courage, determination and principle, but she had patriotism deep inside her. She loved this country; she was inspired by standing up for Britain and she showed that in and out of office and wore it with pride. She wore the Union flag regularly on her jacket, and when the chips were down and it mattered most, her instincts were always to put the interests of our country first. In no better example was that tested than when Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands in 1982. I wonder whether those islands would be free today had she not been our Prime Minister.

She was a kind person who treated everyone as an equal. She was humble, and good in many ways that the public never got to see. She had a Christian upbringing and throughout her time as Prime Minister, and throughout her life, she upheld those Christian values. She supported the Queen and our constitution. When the Queen and the royal family had a difficult period in the early ‘90s, she was on the television and in the media making it clear that the country should unite behind Her Majesty. She understood what it was to stand up for Britain and why it was so important to do so.

Margaret Thatcher showed bulldog spirit as well as compassion for the British people and people across the world. She fought for freedom for the people of eastern Europe, and the people of Latin America were free because she defeated the dictatorship in Argentina. She liked younger people and encouraged the next generation. Many of us here today from the Prime Minister downwards were inspired by Lady Thatcher. It is her legacy that we inherit and that we must protect, uphold and advance still further. We must fight to put the interests of our country first, as Lady Thatcher always did and would have continued to do had she remained in office for longer.

7.52 pm

Daniel Kawczynski (Shrewsbury and Atcham) (Con): When I was first selected as the parliamentary candidate for Shrewsbury in 2002, I was asked by the Conservative Women’s Organisation to come to the Conservative social club. There was a huge portrait of Margaret Thatcher and a seating plan of the dinner from when she came to Shrewsbury in 1981. All the ladies—Mrs Elaine Weston and others—spoke to me in glowing terms and with tremendous respect about their enormous pride that Margaret Thatcher had visited Shrewsbury. Although 20 years had passed since that occasion, they could recount almost every single aspect of her trip to Shrewsbury, such was their profound love and admiration for this lady. Others have spoken about conviction politics, but when politicians are generally not seen in a good light, we can all learn a great deal from the tremendous respect that this lady generated among millions of people in our country.

When I was first elected to Parliament in 2005, I remember being invited to have dinner with Margaret Thatcher at the Carlton club. Sitting next to her at dinner, I was absolutely mesmerised. My heart was

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beating very, very strongly, and it was one of the most fascinating experiences of my life. Afterwards, when photographs of us were taken, I remember towering over her because of my height of 6 feet 9 inches, but thinking how she towered over me in every other respect.

As somebody of Polish origin, I can say that Margaret Thatcher’s visit to the shipyards at Gdansk in 1988 was transformational and gave the people of Poland great hope that there was the possibility of defeating communism. Nobody did more to give the people of eastern Europe that tremendous hope that a better day would come. I remember visiting my beloved grandfather who was a great Polish patriot. Late at night, we listened to the BBC World Service—of course, it was illegal to do so —very quietly and with the curtains drawn so that nobody would hear us. I remember tears swelling in my grandfather’s eyes, such was the tremendous hope that she gave through those broadcasts to those imprisoned people living behind the iron curtain.

Finally, I remember being chairman of the university of Stirling Conservative association in 1992. Our local MP was Michael Forsyth and we were told that we would lose all our seats in Scotland in 1992, and that we would lose Stirling. I was desperately upset and spent the election going up lamp posts putting up “Vote Conservative” signs because I was so tall the socialists could not pull them down. I was so disheartened because I felt that Neil Kinnock was so left-wing that if that man got into office he would destroy everything that my heroine had built up for this country.

My first chance to meet Margaret Thatcher was when she came to speak at a nearby rally. She gave me hope, and the next day I went with my best friend to the bookies. I had only £700 left until I started my summer job, and I put £500 on the Tories to win with a majority of more than 20. Thanks to Margaret Thatcher, I made the best investment of my life.

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans): So the drinks are on Daniel after this debate.

7.56 pm

Mr Lee Scott (Ilford North) (Con): I start by putting on the record my condolences, as well as those of my family, Ilford North Conservative association and the many constituents, not only from the Conservative party but from all political parties, who have e-mailed me to offer condolence to Baroness Thatcher’s children and grandchildren. It is worth remembering today on all sides of the House, and indeed outside the House, that we are talking not only about this country’s greatest peacetime Prime Minister, but about a mother and a grandmother. Perhaps we should all show the respect deserved by the memory of a great woman both inside and outside this House.

I will say a few brief words about my memories of Margaret Thatcher. I met her on four or five occasions, the first of which was in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Romford (Andrew Rosindell). I said to her at the time that I was a bit concerned about my desire to be a Member of Parliament. I left school aged 15 and did not have many qualifications, but I had a desire to work and help people. She said to me, “If you have the desire to do it and want to work and help people, then do it.” She inspired me to be here today

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and, like many Members from across the House, I can honestly say that I would not necessarily be here today if it were not for Margaret Thatcher. She will always have my gratitude for that.

On other occasions, when Margaret Thatcher walked into a room people knew that she was somebody special and that they were in the presence of a figure who would go down in history. If we put the clock forward 100 years, I am sure that people will still remember Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher, Mr Attlee, perhaps even Mr Blair, certainly the current Prime Minister—[Hon. Members: “ Hear, hear.]—I had to get that in. Without any doubt, however, they will remember Margaret Thatcher as a great Briton and somebody who saved our country. May she rest in peace. God bless her.

7.58 pm

Nigel Adams (Selby and Ainsty) (Con): I want to contribute briefly to pay tribute to and thank Margaret Thatcher for saving our country and for inspiring me, and many thousands of people from ordinary working-class backgrounds in this country, to achieve and to get on in life. Her understanding of what working-class aspirational people wanted was a great strength, and like Clement Attlee she was a Prime Minister dedicated to the cause of working-class aspiration. Some try to propagate the myth that Mrs Thatcher was simply on the side of the wealthy, which is nonsense. She did not win three elections by appealing only to the wealthy or to the south of the country.

I recall as a schoolboy at the end of the 1970s the national decline, the endless strikes, the lights going off, and the rubbish not being collected. Ordinary people were simply fed up with how our once proud country had been turned into a basket case. Margaret Thatcher turned our country around and saved it. She wanted to improve ordinary people’s lives by giving them more personal freedom and encouraging them to stand on their own two feet. She certainly did that for me. I was a young person from a working-class background, the grandson of coal miners. All of a sudden, there was a national figure and a leader of our country who made it clear that people can achieve success, whatever their background or walk of life. That was a politician I could relate to. She is the reason why I am standing in this Chamber today.

I had the pleasure of meeting Baroness Thatcher on a couple of occasions. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Daniel Kawczynski), I was petrified to be in her presence. I greatly remember, and will always cherish, her words of encouragement to me when I was a candidate and, after the election, when I told her I had won the Selby and Ainsty seat.

Baroness Thatcher was a conviction politician and a truly great Briton, and we owe her a great debt.

8.1 pm

Harriett Baldwin (West Worcestershire) (Con): It is with great humility that I rise today to pay my personal tribute to Baroness Thatcher. I sincerely appreciated the excellent speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest (Mrs Laing), on the role Lady Thatcher played in inspiring so many women in politics. It is a

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remarkable statistic that only 100 women in the history of this country have become Conservative MPs. Lady Thatcher played a crucial role not only in inspiring us, but in raising money for us. I met her at fundraisers for “Women2Win” or for individual female candidates, including current Members of the House.

Lady Thatcher was always absolutely remarkable in her steadfastness and support for women in the Conservative party, but—this comes better from a Conservative woman MP—she was also always absolutely immaculately dressed. She always looked fantastic. Has it not been wonderful over the past few days watching those old news reels and seeing that, on every occasion she faced as the first female leader in the western world, she always wore exactly the right thing? Whether she was in a tank in Germany or dancing with a former movie star—Ronald Reagan—she always looked impeccable. That held true even very recently, when my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth West (Conor Burns) invited some of the new intake MPs to meet her. She asked, with that piercing curiosity, “What’s your majority?”

It is only right that we pay tribute to Lady Thatcher’s personal assistant, Cynthia Crawford, who lives in Worcestershire, and who made such a huge contribution to Lady Thatcher’s life. Cynthia was such a loyal friend throughout Lady Thatcher’s retirement years. She ensured that Lady Thatcher always looked impeccable—they worked together very well on that.

Another secret about Lady Thatcher’s later years is that, as a result of that friendship, she came frequently to Worcestershire. She spent quiet retreats and holidays at the cottage in the woods in Malvern, where she found peace and beauty in the country. She grew to love the Malvern hills—she was inspired by Elgar, who was born there. It gives me and the people of West Worcestershire great satisfaction to know that she enjoyed the beauty of the great constituency that I have the privilege to represent. I am so pleased that she found peace there on earth, and I wish her peace in the next life.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans): Order. I am grateful for the hon. Lady’s brevity, which means we can get everybody in as long as everybody sticks to their time limit.

8.4 pm

Nadhim Zahawi (Stratford-on-Avon) (Con): Not only Britain but the whole world has lost a fierce champion of human liberty. A son and daughter have lost a mother. Our thoughts are with her family and the people who cared for her. The great lady has gone to a better place, and we know who will be there waiting for her, whisky in hand.

I was not close to Lady Thatcher personally, yet she had an enormous influence on me and on my family’s life. We arrived in the UK in 1978. I grew up with my father and mother admiring the new Conservative woman PM, as they referred to her. Beneath that admiration was the recognition of her background, which led us to the belief that, if we, as a new Kurdish family, worked hard and did our bit for our community, as her grocer father had done, we could do well in our new country.

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When I was selected as a parliamentary candidate in February 2010, Margaret Thatcher was one of the first to send a handwritten letter of congratulations, with an invitation to join her for drinks. I turned up in London—she had invited a handful of new candidates—and she wanted to know how things were in Stratford-on-Avon. I explained that the people were worried about the state of the country’s finances. Her sound advice was this: “We need to win, Nadhim, to ensure that we can fix things again, and make the tough decisions the country needs.”

Lady Thatcher’s gift to this country was to make it great again. Her gift to the world was to confront aggressive communism and the cold war. Many colleagues have spoken eloquently about what Margaret Thatcher meant to them. I want to end by quoting two short notes I have received that show what she meant to those whom she cared most about: the people of her country. The first is from a serving soldier in the Household Cavalry, who writes:

“She was a real legend who walked her own path, stirred passions on both sides of the fence and made a sick Britain great again.”

The second note is from Dr Naeem Ahmed, who works in the NHS. He writes:

“My dad is a 1st generation Bangladeshi who arrived here at 13.”

Dr Ahmed’s dad was upset at Margaret Thatcher’s passing, and said:

“She was a leader on the side of the small businessman”.

The testimonies of those young men prove that the great lady will live on.

Margaret Thatcher made this country understand the importance of living within its means. She knew that only when we achieve that can we be ambitious for, and positive about, our position in the world. Next week, the country she loved will mark her passing. It is right that we do so with the full ceremony of Church and state, because 30 years ago, in a storm-lashed corner of the south Atlantic, she stood up for the inalienable rights of British citizens, despite coming under great pressure to look the other way. In doing so, she showed the world that we are not yet finished, and that Britain’s name and Britain’s word still matters. She gave us hope that our finest hour lies not in the past, but in our future. For that, the nation owes her its thanks.

8.8 pm

Dan Byles (North Warwickshire) (Con): It is truly a privilege and an honour to speak in this debate. I grew up in the 1980s. I was five years old when Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister, and 15 years old when her premiership came to an end. When I was a child, I genuinely did not know it was possible that somebody other than Margaret Thatcher could be the Prime Minister of Great Britain.

Margaret Thatcher was a great inspiration to me and my family, and particularly to my mother. When my parents divorced when I was nine years old, my mother became the single mother of two children. She was inspired by Margaret Thatcher’s example and words and did not look to others for help when she faced the classic problems that single mothers face. How do they provide for their children? If they cannot afford child care, what do they do during school holidays? What do

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they do when their children are sick? With no experience whatever of running a business, my mother established a small shop with our home above it, which enabled her to look after my sister and I, and yet be there for us when we were not at school.

Both my parents left school at age 16 and neither went on to university. My sister left school at age 16 and did not go on to university. I will always be incredibly grateful to the Conservative Government that Margaret Thatcher led in the 1980s for the assisted places scheme. I had an assisted place at Warwick school. As a result, I was the first and only member of my family to stay at school beyond 16 and go to university. Ultimately, as a result, I gained a commission in the British Army and eventually became an MP. I therefore feel honoured to be here today.

I will keep my speech very brief, Mr Deputy Speaker, and finish by reading the full quotation for the Deputy Prime Minister:

“There is no such thing as society. There is a living tapestry of men and women and people and the beauty of that tapestry and the quality of our lives will depend upon how much each of us is prepared to take responsibility for ourselves and each of us prepared to turn round and help by our own efforts those who are unfortunate.”

8.10 pm

Michael Ellis (Northampton North) (Con): It is an honour to speak in this debate. It has been six hours very well spent. I would have waited 60 hours to speak in this debate.

My late noble Friend Baroness Thatcher was a true British patriot. She fought for Britain unashamedly and was devoted to this country. She devoted her life to public service and set an example to me at a very early age and to many of my colleagues who have spoken in the House today. She clearly loved this country with all her formidable might. She also defended the liberty of the millions of people in the former Soviet Union satellite states in eastern Europe. Together with Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, she can be said to have helped those people. Of course, she and Ronnie won the cold war.

Lady Thatcher rose from being a grocer’s daughter in a northern English town to become a titan of the 20th century—a true colossus on the political stage. She was a deeply principled leader and was prepared to do unpopular things. In that, she is followed by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. What strikes me most is her tangible moral courage and her indefatigable bravery. Her political courage, about which many colleagues have spoken, was rooted in principle and in a determination to do what she thought was right for this country.

One of her best friends was Airey Neave MP, a hero of the second world war who was blown up by an IRA bomb in a cowardly attack here at the Houses of Parliament in 1979. She was defiant about that afterwards. Likewise, she displayed steadfast defiance in the face of the murderous IRA attack at the Grand hotel in Brighton in 1984, which killed five people. She insisted on carrying on and gave her conference speech the following day, apparently despite a serious warning of another bomb. She was indefatigable and courageous in every respect.

Although it is popular for those who did not know her to caricature Lady Thatcher as uncaring, it is quite clear that she was deeply compassionate and considerate,

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as her staff and those who were bereaved will today testify. She worked harder than anyone else; she was better informed than anyone else; she was magnificent.

As several Presidents of the United States have said, she was one of America’s greatest friends. She recognised the tremendous force for good and for international democracy that the United States is in the world and the leadership that it still gives to the oppressed around the world. It should not be forgotten that she was also a true friend to the Jewish people and to Israel.

I pay tribute to those who were devoted to her in her personal life, such as Mark Worthington and my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth West (Conor Burns). They have been assiduous in their care and devotion, and clearly loved her dearly.

In conclusion, she was a paragon of duty and service. Despite not knowing her anything like as well as several of my colleagues, may I still say that I will miss her?