Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1981 Jul 21 Tu
Margaret Thatcher

Press Conference after Ottawa G7 Summit

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Chateau Laurier, Ottawa
Source: House of Commons Library: COI transcript
Editorial comments: 1755-1900. MT gave a question and answer session with the press after her statement at the heads of government press conference half an hour earlier. Lord Carrington also took part.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2953
Themes: Economy (general discussions), Employment, Monetary policy, Trade, Foreign policy (general discussions), Foreign policy (Asia), Foreign policy (development, aid, etc), Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (Western Europe - non-EU), Law & order, Northern Ireland

I think you heard the main statements—and I don't think there's a great deal to add except that I think as we three here think this is the most workman-like summit we've attended: the preparations were excellent, the range of issues discussed was broader and more balanced—that's because we weren't under the shadow of any particular economic or world development although we were all very conscious of the situation in the Middle East…

Q

Mr Trudeau said last night at his press conference that the Canadian government would, on the assumption that the bank interest rates were going to remain high, have to consider some policy response—Chancellor Schmidt appeared to be saying the same thing during his closing remarks this afternoon. Do you envisage the British government will have to make any policy adjustment as a result of continued high level in bank interest rate?

MT

I don't think one must put everything on the continuing high level of American interest rates—indeed I think it would be most unfair to do so. As President Reagan pointed out during our deliberations his programme hasn't even yet got through congress: So he can hardly be blamed at the moment for the high interest rates: Indeed as he pointed out he did inherit them. He's hoping shortly to get his programme through congress which will mean a very considerable reduction in public expenditure and so the advice which has been tendered, which is don't put everything on interest rates but put something on the fiscal stance, is in fact being observed and naturally he's the first person to hope to get things through congress. He doesn't really have any special response, indeed I think it has been unwise for any country to say that they've had to respond wholly because of United States interest rates. Life is usually a little bit more mixed than that.

Q

Regardless of whether it's all the fault of the U.S. interest rates matter, but Canada and Germany have said that they expect to have to take domestic actions in the next short period. do you foresee any need to do that in Britain?

MT

I think Germany came expecting to take certain action already—I don't think you'll find it's a result of what happened in the summit at all. We have not got a mini-budget in view. Thank goodness its nearly the end of the parliamentary session.

Q

A question rather more to Lord Carrington—has any progress been made as far as Namibia is concerned?

A

Lord Carrington—We had a meeting in the margins of the Ottawa [end p1] conference and I think we are going to put out a statement tomorrow morning at this time. I mean Ottawa time.

Q

Have you had any sign at all that the appeal you addressed to the two sides of the Middle East is getting any response and has Mr Begin taken any notice…   .

MT

No—Mr Habib as you know is over in the Middle East trying to help secure a ceasefire. I'm afraid at the moment we know no more than you do. Can I have the next question?

Q

Yesterday your spokesman said that while you supported this communique on the Middle East that Europeans still stick to the Venice summit declaration on the Palestinians. Could you tell us why that part of that declaration was not included in the political declaration of yesterday?

MT

Because there's no point necessarily in repeating the same thing the whole time. That the Venice declaration is a very balanced declaration. It remains European policy. It is complimentary to the Camp David process—I wouldn't say that there's any change in that at all. Lord Carrington, would you like to add anything?

Lord Carrington

No.

Q

Prime Minister, did you find that British economic policies were as well supported here in Ottawa as they had been in Venice last year?

MT

Yes. I thought that was very clear from Trudeau 's summing up and from the communique itself.

Q

Did you find that the background of riots in Britain underhined the credibility of what you were saying to the others?

MT

Not in any way. Scarcely. no. I raised it myself with this one person just when speaking.

Q

What did you and President Reagan discuss about Northern Ireland?

MT

Very very little because Ronald Reaganhe regards Northern Ireland as within our province.

Q

Did he make it clear that the United States would not intervene as requested (interrupted).

MT

As I made clear before we were not invited to discuss Northern Ireland in detail. It was only in passing that it was mentioned.

Q

Mrs Thatcher, how do you feel about Ronald Reagan 's grasp of foreign affairs on his first summit conference?

MT

Ronald Reagan had a very good summit conference. Excellent. he participated absolutely fully in everything, every discussion.

Q

Prime Minister concerning your remarks in the arts centre that we in the United Kingdom would use all our influence to help in the Middle East. What do you have in mind?

MT

Well, just exactly, we are at the moment President of Europe and we hope to do everything we can and contribute in [end p2] every way we can. You want specific items. I don't think one can give you specific items. We are very active by virtue of the European community on every major issue of the day. And if there is any way we can contribute, we most certainly will. what would you like to add, Lord Carrington?

Lord Carrington

We've been President of the council for the last few weeks and we've already had a discussion about the Middle East and we're at the moment studying how the former, well, present Dutch Foreign Minister, who was president before me, made a report about the various aspects of it and those questions we'd asked during his tour. … We are saying that and we've obviously got to review the new situation in the Middle East in terms of the Israeli election and the recent events there and we intend to pursue the European policy, putting some flesh on the skeleton of the Venice declaration: but I don't think I can say at the moment exactly what that flesh is going to be because the ten haven't yet decided.

Q

No new initiative outside Mr Habib 's (interrupted)

Lord Carrington

I say we are discussing what we can do but the ten haven't yet decided what to do.

Q

Prime Minister, do you expect the continuation of high US interest rates to have an upward impact on British interest rates, specifically the MLR?

MT

.… You never discuss your own interest rates. You live with them.

Q

Prime Minister, the Canadians are representing this as a good break in terms for North-South relations and some of the other delegations are representing it as anything but, I believe the Italians and the French for example. What is your assessment of this communique in terms of North-South relations?

MT

One of the mysteries of these conferences is the sort of different briefing that appears to be received, whether what is received is what is given, I don't know. I would think this was very good for North-South relationships. We expected to take it a stage forward at Ottawa. There was complete unanimity, on the communique. And I would think that augured very well. I do think that all of us there as being reasonably accustomed to summitry, at any rate quite a number of us. I would perhaps add one rider: don't expect enormous new great declarations to come out of the Mexico summit. Just expect things to be taken a stage further and to have very much deeper and better understanding among those present there. And I think we all agree that, those who were present at that conference, I thought it was a very successful debate and the communique accurately reflects what was said there.

Q

Did any part of the summit alter your own thinking. have you changed your mind as a result of any specific areas of discussion?

MT

No, no, I might have done some mind changing of other people—towards my view.

Q

Whose mind did you change?

MT

We got most of the things we wanted in the economic section of the communique and again as Prime Minister Trudeau stressed this [end p3] afternoon, there's scarcely any argument about.… inflation, you've got to fight it first: you've got to fight it first as a way of fighting unemployment. And as a matter of fact if you look back, ironically enough, at the Downing street communique which we did in 1977. It says initially that inflation is a cause of unemployment. and it just almost now in this form isn't questioned. We know we have to fight to continue to fight to get inflation down, as a means in the long run of fighting unemployment and creating jobs. We know that a part of that is having a deficit of a not very large size and at the moment we would like ours lower and if you want to keep you interest rates down you must try to keep your deficit down and also that's quite a tough section on tight control of public spending. That's all very much in line with what we're doing. one of the difficulties at home is that they think that I'm out on a limb but frankly I'm right in the middle of the road as far as summitry and Europe is concerned. Indeed when we were talking about these things Chancellor Schmidt used a phrase which supported “middle of the road” monetary policies, “middle of the road” monetary policies, I wrote down exactly what ours are. I numerated them. So we're absolutely at one.

Q

What is your comment on the unemployment figure?

MT

Every time they go up naturally we are extremely distressed. We have warned that they were bound to go up at this time of the year because of the number of school-leavers coming onto the register. In a period of three years, last year, this year and next year, when we have an unusually high proportion of school-leavers: the same time comparatively low proportion of people leaving for retirement. So the demographic curve we have had, is such that even without a world recession, we'd have rising unemployment because of the increased size of the labour force at the moment and this means that we just have to step up the number of places we are finding on the youth opportunities programme in order to honour our pledge. So all those youngsters coming on the register and haven't got a job by Christmas, should have some youth opportunity offered to them. And we will of course honour that pledge.

Q

Prime Minister you said that we all agreed that we must fight inflation first. But the communique has got inflation, unemployment, these big problems must be tackled at the same time.

MT

Indeed. Yes, they are. Well yes.

Q

I wonder if you can resolve the apparent contradiction.

MT

No I don't believe there's any. I would like to say tackle them the same time, yes, but there can never be any question of letting inflation go as a means of fighting unemployment. That's the point. Never. never. never.

Reflation is not a method of fighting unemployment, it is a method of creating more unemployment, if you want to tackle, and you must tackle inflation and unemployment, there's no contradiction at all. You must tackle your inflation, otherwise you'll never have any hope of getting rid of your unemployment. But you don't just sit back and do nothing about your unemployment. After all, I should think that we at the moment have some 440,000 jobs on the work experience, on the youth opportunities programme, we have temporary short term working compensation, we have certain apprenticeships, certain training. All of this is to relieve some of the unemployment at present. So [end p4] we're fighting both inflation and unemployment at the same time. No contradiction at all.

Q

Prime Minister, given the popular industrial and political concern about the size and indeed the growth of the Japanese exports to Europe, it seems curious that the communique has virtually nothing to say on this subject. Did you have something somewhat sharper to say to Mr Suzuki, Prime Minister?

MT

I was fairly candid and said that countries particularly in a world recession must not concentrate their exports on a very narrow sector to the detriment of industries in other countries and made that point very, very clear. You will find a rather elliptical phrase, “we will keep under review” , it starts para 26 “we will keep under close review” , and this is meant to deal with this, “the role played by our countries in the smooth functioning of the multilateral trading system, with a view to ensuring maximum openess of our markets in a spirit of reciprocity, while allowing for the safeguard measures provided for the GATT.” That is a way of saying please, we want their market as open as ours, and please, we might also have to have certain measures of protection (as we do under GATT) and the multifibre is one, and we also made it clear that we must continue the voluntary quotas that we have with them. Otherwise we shall get enormous amounts of protectionism, and may I make it quite clear, protectionism, as a general principle, is not in the interest of the United Kingdom. We export 30 to 33 percent of our GDP, a much higher proportion than Japan exports of her GDP. It is absolutely vital for us to continue to export—that we have an open world trading system. nevertheless, our Japanese friends do tend to concentrate on certain particular sectors that can undermine those sectors and a number of us made our viewpoint very clear on that point. Of course, many of us around that table had voluntary agreements between their industries and our industries as to the degree of penetration of our markets. Those voluntary agreements will continue, the United States has one, we have one, Germany has one, France somehow did not get quite the same amount of penetration and Italy of course had an agreement which predates the Treaty of Rome which means that she has very little Japanese car penetration, that was dealt with very clearly.

Q

Prime Minister in one of the briefings given here we were told that you made a point at the summit that the Prime Minister raised too much hope at the Mexico summit in the fall.

MT

Well I've just said that.

Q

What kind of action—concrete real action should we expect now?

MT

Each summit tends to raise enormous hopes that there will be some great new declaration of practical policy or great new slice of money spent, on the whole, what you do at summits is to reach a greater understanding of one another's view and either, if any major thing comes out of a summit is because of immense preparatory work before, and then you don't arrange the summit until you've got something to announce. But at these kinds of summits you do not tend to get the great big practical policy pronouncements at the summit. You will get the kind of declarations of principles and lines to pursue in the future that we get now and I do think it would be a mistake to [end p5] get a time when world growth is not very great, to raise immediate hopes of that summit too high and there are hopes for that summit, I have hopes for that summit, and I think it would be a mistake to raise them so high that people might then be disappointed.

Q

Prime Minister are you distressed that the issue of Gibraltar is being used for the reason the King of Spain will not attend the wedding next week?

MT

I really have nothing to say to that. The arrangements will go as far as we are concerned at our end, arrangements will go ahead as planned, naturally we're sorry if the King of Spain is not attending.

Q

Prime Minister could I go back to the Middle East for a moment? In your opinion did President Reagan move far enough at this summit on the Middle East?

MT

Well, we had a very, very good discussion on the Middle East and I think the Foreign Ministers had a very prolonged discussion because we meet as you know in a series of groups, in full plenary some of the time, then we meet in three separate groups and the Foreign Ministers we had a lengthy discussion and as heads of government and also Foreign Ministers we had another discussion, had a very long discussion about it I believe.

Q

There was American movement though …

Lord Carrington

I think that when one is talking about United States policy, European policy, in so far as this is European policy, one has got to accept that in so far as Europe is concerned there is not very much pressure that they can bring upon Israel and that the only country broadly speaking that can influence Israel in what Israel is currently doing is the United States. It is of course up to the United States first of all to make its own mind up what pressure it can bring and then to decide whether it should do it and to what length it should do it, and we had a very frank discussion of that.