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ON THIS DAY

ON THIS DAY

09 January 1986: Heseltine quits over Westland. The Defence Secretary, Michael Heseltine, has resigned from his Cabinet job in a row with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher over the Westland affair. Mr Heseltine stormed out of a meeting at Number 10 today saying his views on the future of the Westland helicopter company were being ignored. He said the final straw came when Mrs Thatcher insisted all his public comments on Westland would have to be vetted by officials before being released. In a statement to reporters later this afternoon, Mr Heseltine said: “If the basis of trust between the Prime Minister and her Defence Secretary no longer exists, there is no place for me with honour in such a Cabinet.” The row over the company’s future has split the Cabinet. Mr Heseltine was alone among ministers backing a European consortium’s rescue package – while Mrs Thatcher favoured the deal being proposed by the American Sikorski Fiat group. Mr Heseltine – with the backing of the Defence committee – claimed the European deal, which was initially worth more financially, could form the basis of a strong arms industry to rival the Americans. Critics claimed the orders were based on aircraft still in the design stage. Westland’s directors are urging shareholders to back the Sikorski package. The American group has now offered to match the European offer. Its orders are also seen as more secure, because they are linked to aircraft already in production. Mrs Thatcher has appointed George Younger to replace Mr Heseltine as Defence Secretary. Malcolm Rifkind will take over the vacant role of Secretary of State for Scotland. Mr Heseltine’s sensational departure from his Cabinet role is bound to fuel rumours that he is aiming for the top job, as Conservative party leader. (Source: BBC)

15 January 1973: Nixon orders ceasefire in Vietnam. President Nixon has ordered a halt to American bombing in North Vietnam following peace talks in Paris. The decision comes after Dr Henry Kissinger, the president’s assistant for National Security Affairs, returned to Washington yesterday from France with a draft peace proposal. Representatives from North and South Vietnam and the United States have been at the negotiating table and reports from Paris say progress has been made with compromises on all sides. But many political issues remain to be resolved. Although attacks against the North have been halted, air assaults are continuing against communist forces in South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. Communist negotiators in Paris are now calling for the ceasefire to be extended to these areas. President Nixon’s special envoy to Saigon, General Alexander Haig, is in the South Vietnamese capital briefing the president on the 25 article peace agreement worked out in Paris. Initial discussions with President Nguyen Van Thieu lasted nearly three hours. Afterwards, the president ordered a five-man delegation to fly to France to consider the proposals in more detail. Senator Barry Goldwater, who previously supported the American role in Vietnam, said: “I can’t say peace is at hand, but I feel that we’re making progress.” The Daily Telegraph correspondent in Saigon says President Thieu may feel it is unwise “to jeopardise further American support by holding out against an agreement which Washington considers just”. (Source: BBC)

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