Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Complete list of 8,000+ Thatcher statements & texts of many of them

1979 Dec 17 Mo
Margaret Thatcher

Press Conference for the international press

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: Press Conference
Venue: Blair House, Washington DC
Source: Thatcher Archive: transcript
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1745 Eastern Standard Time.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2586
Themes: Agriculture, Autobiographical comments, Commonwealth (Rhodesia-Zimbabwe), Defence (general), Monetary policy, Pay, European Union Budget, Foreign policy (Africa), Foreign policy (development, aid, etc), Foreign policy (International organizations), Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (USA), Law & order, Northern Ireland, Terrorism

Q

I would like to know the results of any discussions you may have had on three weapons systems, the Trident, AV8 B and the Rapier missile.

A

We have not made a formal request for any Polaris successor yet. We are still only in the preliminary stages of discussion at home so no formal request has been made. As far as the advanced Harrier is concerned still there is no decision. We still have further to negotiate on that and the Rapier missile has not been sorted out either. Sorry.

Q

Has your government made a firm decision to support economic sanctions as requested by the United States in the Security Council against Iran?

A

We have decided that we would in fact support the United States if she went for a chapter 7 decision to the Security Council now. That means first that you would have to do a good deal of I think negotiating to make certain that it went through. I do think its important. We will support obviously. But the precise sanctions obviously have to be the subject of negotiation among the relevant members of the Security Council to get them through. You can't say under chapter 7 certain specific sanctions would be automatic. They have to be negotiated and obviously they have to be such as to be agreed by at least nine members.

Q

Could I just follow that up? Would Britain support for example the kind of sanctions against Iran that have formerly been imposed against Rhodesia?

A

We as you know were able to impose sanctions against Rhodesia long before there were United Nations sanctions. Now, the question when it comes to United Nations, the question is what kind of sanctions can you get in the resolution? And that has to be negotiated not between the United States and ourselves but with all nine members and that really is the vital question, what kind of sanctions could be negotiated and approved by at least nine members of the Security Council. [end p1]

Q

(Question on H.M.G. compensation for Rhodesian raids on the front line states not picked audibly)

A

Now look, the main raids into Zambia deep into the heart of the interior were of course made long before there was a Christopher SoamesBritish Governor there. Now if I may say so with the greatest possible respect I think the question is just a few hours out of date because there was of course a ceasefire agreement actually initialled in London at about 1 o'clock your time today. Now it is hoped that it will be signed in full on about Wednesday and after that monitoring forces can go out actually to start the arrangements for monitoring and I really think as the whole object was to try and get a ceasefire agreement there is now little point in going into what has happened in the past.

Q

What about reparations?

A

Those raids as you know into Zambia took place certainly before a British governor was there and we ourselves just cannot give you the reparation. We do in fact give very considerable aid to Zambia under our ordinary aid programme.

Q

Would Britain have made those statements about supporting chapter 7 sanctions against iran if the United States had not lifted sanctions against Rhodesia?

A

They were made by Lord Carrington in Europe last week. That was before the United States lifted sanctions against Rhodesia

Q

State department officials have already taken into account the prospect that they will not be able to pass the Security Council resolution because of the veto, and they have begun to make some plans for some kind of American-led trade sanctions against Iran with the backing they hope of allies such as Great Britain. If the United Nations route is closed would Britain support the United States in some other form of economic sanctions against Iran?

A

There are several questions there. First I wouldn't assume that chapter 7 would be blocked by a veto in any event. Secondly it's a matter for the United States to decide whether and when she goes for a chapter 7 resolution. I am sure that the one guiding factor in her decision is whether it will have an effect on her objective which is to see that the hostages get home unharmed. One always has to remember that in everything you do in this sphere. There's one objective and that is to see that the hostages get home unharmed and you have to look at every possibility with that in mind. Now, if there were to be a chapter 7 decision it does become the law of most countries and therefore has to be observed and that in fact does make a great deal of difference because there are somethings that the law of a country is defective to do without a chapter 7 resolution.

Q

Today's Wall Street Journal has a front-page story most [end p2] complimentary to your accomplishments but the writer makes the point that Britain's rising inflation and increasing or continuing economic problems may tend to hamper your programmes, would you please give us the benefit of your thinking?

A

Yes, of course. Inflation is indeed one of our main problems. When we came into office there was in fact a price commission. That meant that all manufacturers and people in service industries had to apply for price increases and a certain number of nationalised industries, not all. And there were a tremendous number of applications in the pipe-line, a number of which were approved shortly after the election. So there was a great number to come forward and they came forward in the month or so after the election. There also were in the pipeline a lot of increases coming through from very big wage increases last year. In theory you see the price control was accompanied by wage restraint of 5 percent but the wage restraint turned out to be about 14 percent so that's another thing which at the moment is working through. In addition to that, like you we have had to absorb the oil price increases which we take in full and have been at about 70 percent since the beginning of the year. But one further factor which has gone on to the the retail price index that is we took a conscious decision to switch taxation away from income tax and put some of it on to a sales tax, we call it value added tax. That added nearly 4 percent to the retail price index. So those things have come through and as a consequence it certainly does look very high to the average person and indeed is, not only looks it but is. Now the question is whether we could bring it down with our policies of fairly strict control of the money supply which would take some time to operate through the system. At the same time whether we could persuade people to moderate their wage increases, and it's very interesting that there are some changes, there appear to be some changes in attitude taking place and there's no going figure at all now, the wage increases very very much from company to company. But there is no magic about getting inflation down. It's a question of not printing money, it's a question of government not spending too much of the people's money and having to borrow at too high interest rates to finance it. It's a question of persuading people not to try to take out more than they put in in effort and just sustaining that kind of policy.

Q

I understand you were unable to persuade the President to resume weapon sales to the Royal Ulster Constabulary. Was there any aspect of the Irish question on which you did agree?

A

Well yes of course I have duly explained to almost everyone I have spoken to just exactly what our policy is and what the background is. A number of people know the background. quite a number [end p3] of others don't. Always realise first that many, many years ago Home Rule was offered to the whole of Ireland. The northern counties said they didn't want it yet if it was forced upon them there would be civil war and so we got the division of Ireland into Northern Ireland and the present Republic of Ireland. Now since then there have been four what we call border polls, referenda, to see what the wishes of the people of Northern Ireland were. The last one was in 1973 and the overwhelming majority of the people of Northern Ireland wished to stay with the United Kingdom. As our policy towards Northern Ireland is one of self-determination it is our duty properly to protect law-abiding citizens there. Now the next aspect is that as you know there were a large number of incidents, of terrorist incidents which eventually led us to put the army in, under the then Labour government in 1969 and eventually to dissolve the Stormont parliament in about 1972 and take direct rule. Since then we've tried to find a form of government which would replace Stormont so that the people of Northern Ireland have greater control and greater say over their own affairs. they have not been able to agree. We had one constitutional convention to try to decide it, they couldn't agree. We are now left with two fundamental problems. one the defeat of terrorism, and I must say whether it's Mr Lynch or their people over here, they have been very, very firm indeed in condemning the activities of the IRA. They in fact lead to the loss of the lives of law-abiding citizens and everyone has totally condemned terrorism as a means of securing political aims. So we have to try to eradicate terrorism and to protect law-abiding citizens and assume our responsibility which is Northern Ireland and the army is in therefore to back up the Royal Ulster Constabulary to do that. at the same time we are really very anxious to try to get some kind of local authorities or regional councils or advisory councils or some kind of body or bodies which mean that the people of Ulster take more control over their own affairs because at the moment it is the only part of the United Kingdom which has not got full local government. So we're trying to get agreement. We're operating on two fronts, first to try to eradicate the terrorism and secondly to try to move towards more control by the people of Northern Ireland over their own affairs. As you know they do elect members to the Westminister parliament in just the same way as any other part of the United Kingdom and the number of seats to which they are entitled has recently been put up by act of parliament. You asked me whether we had agreed on anything. I think wherever I have been this general approach has been agreed upon, so there is a great deal to agree upon.

Q

Could I follow that up? is there any role the United States might be able to play in connection with your efforts? [end p4]

A

Well, I think that a number of people in the United States have been very outspoken in their condemnation of the IRA and terrorism and that is an enormous help because terrorism is not the way to pursue any aims in a democratic society. And I am very grateful for that, I'm very grateful for the efforts which have been made to persuade people to stop sending money to the IRA and I believe those efforts have been effective.

Q

Today you were strongly praised as being strong, powerful and positive.

A

Good, that sounds about right.

Q

Strong would perhaps take in your health regime and how to use and handle involvement of stress. Another question I would like to ask you is when you were here the last time if you recall you were disappointed that more men did not come out to see you or hear you. Are you happier today that there are more men in the audience?

A

Do you know I can't see the audience because of the strong lights I hope you can see me better than I can see you. Health and stress, I have no problems with health, I just have a naturally good one so I don't need any of the artificial vitamins or anything like that. I am just naturally healthy and long may it continue.

Q

Could you tell us about your meeting with Mr Volcker this afternoon, why did you see him, what did he say to you?

A

Well I wanted to see him because I want him to know that the changes in the way of controlling the money supply that had been announced they appear to be being effective and I am always willing to learn new lessons from new policies which appear to be being very successful in their operation.

Q

(Inaudible about the CAP).

A

the CAP. Yes, the Common Agricultural Policy of Europe in fact takes up a very, very large percentage of the budget. it produces large massive surpluses of food which require a lot of financing and those surpluses are often sold off at cheap subsidised prices to places like the Soviet Union and also to Iran and that causes enormous resentment. But we are trying to reform the common agricultural policy first so that it does not produce those massive surpluses which are mainly in areas like butter and sugar and a certain amount of beef. Because it is financing those surpluses which in fact is very expensive on the budget so we are indeed trying to reform it.

Q

Both you and the President emphasised your wide area of agreement over a rather wide spectrum of issues. Did you find that same. [end p5] measure of agreement in your talks on Capital Hill with members of the House and what can you tell us about that session?

A

On Capitol Hill, yes indeed we had an excellent meeting, mainly on foreign affairs issues where I told them about how we had approached Salisbury and how we had approached the constitutional conference that we've had and the way in which we handled it and got through successfully. We also discussed Iran and the enormous problems there. I did speak a little bit about Northern Ireland, I was asked about SALT, I was asked about our economic policies and I just tried to answer in my usual may as honest and frankly as I can.

Q

Did you discuss the difficulties you have had with freeze of Iranian assets in London, and secondly is there any indication of when those assets might be unfrozen?

A

Now, one moment. there are two things here. Which particular aspect are you referring to because we have not the powers under our law to freeze assets?

Q

You spoke with American officials today (inaudible)

A

As far as freezing assets in London this happens to a number of European countries. We have not the power to freeze assets under existing law for anything other than banking reasons. Now when they were frozen here at the beginning as you know they were frozen for banking reasons that is to say Iran said that she would default on some of her obligations and also withdraw her assets. Now a combination of announcing that you are going to default on your obligations and withdraw your assets obviously leads people to freeze them to protect the whole of the banking system and to protect the assets of people who have lent to Iran. Now that is a plain straightforward economic banking reason, there were other reasons as well. Now, we are not empowered to freeze assets as our law stands at the moment unless assets are pouring out of the country. The law is designed to protect them and keep them in the country and that has been the whole thrust of our exchange control law. So in order to do anything like that we would either have to change the law and notification of a change of the law would of course prompt the withdrawal of those very assets. If you got a chapter 7 resolution then under the laws of most countries a United Nations mandatory resolution takes effect in the law of each of the countries as you would expect them to have a change in the law effective that way.