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

1983 Sep 22 Th
Margaret Thatcher

Press Conference for the Association of American Correspondents in London

Document type: speeches
Document kind: Press Conference
Venue: No.10 Downing Street
Source: Thatcher Archive: ?COI transcript
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: The timing of this item is uncertain: the transcript states that the Press Conference began at 1030 but it is probable that it actually took place during the afternoon, perhaps immediately before the Press Conference for Canadian journalists which began at 1430.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 4213
Themes: Defence (arms control), General Elections, Monetary policy, Taxation, Trade, Foreign policy (Asia), Foreign policy (International organizations), Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Health policy

MT

Now as you know I was due to come to Washington at the time of the Williamsburg conference and to have talks with the President before the Williamsburg conference began. You will be aware that something called a General Election interfered with those plans and I was not able to have those long talks to which I'd looked forward, so this really is reinstating that visit and I think it's come at a very very fortunate time, you will ask what the things are we shall discuss, but I think you will be able to deduce them yourselves as well as anyone. Of course one will discuss East/West relations and the state of disarmament talks, between the United States and the Soviet Union in Geneva, of course we must discuss the Middle East and the Lebanon where we are both in a multinational force and where the situation appears to change daily. And of course we must discuss the great problems of the world economy, both within our countries, although the United States is recovering very rapidly from the recession. Canada is too, we are recovering more slowly but there are other great problems with the debt countries which still have not yet been fully solved and of course they are made rather difficult because the International Monetary Fund has not as many resources as it would wish. There are a number of bilateral problems which we'll also perhaps have a word about, there's a very important question affecting British businessmen about unitary taxation, which I must speak about and one or two other problems. I'm fortunate too in that I shall see the Senate Foreign Relations Committee under Senator Percy, I shall speak also with Mr. Regan, with Mr. Volcker, and with vice President and Mrs Bush and we are having an engagement with United States businessmen and bankers, I am of course very honoured to be receiving the Winston Churchill award and hope to make a speech about East/West relations on that occasion. Now perhaps that will do for a start, I'm very much looking forward to the visit, very much indeed and I'm really rather pleased that it's taking place now. [end p1]

Reporter

What are your views on the deepening involvement of the multinational force in the fighting in Lebanon? What will you tell the President?

Mrs. Thatcher

Well we keep regularly in touch, so long as there is a clear peacekeeping role for them and so long as their presence helps to get a ceasefire and a reconciliation between the various forces in the Lebanon, then I think they're doing a good job, there …   . the rules of engagement as it were differ obviously from nation to nation but every country which puts its soldiers anywhere of course gives …   . always gives them a right to self defence, you couldn't possibly, as a politician, put your armed forces anywhere without that inherent right. The situation as you know, does change from day to day but the point is there is an elected Lebanese government which is seeking reconciliation and which is supported by Lebanese armed forces which contain both Christians and Muslims. Lebanon is a full member of the United Nations, at the moment she is in practice almost partitioned by Syrian forces in the north, Israeli in the south, and we have this big wedge in the middle around Beirut. I believe that there is a role for those forces properly to play at the moment and that they are helping to get a ceasefire and reconciliation. But again I stress that the situation changes from day to day and we keep very closely in touch about it because it's one of the most complicated situations I have ever known.

Reporter

… counselling the President against the deeper involvement?

Mrs. Thatcher

You always have to watch that you do not get involved too deeply. This is a peacekeeping role to get a ceasefire and to enable reconciliation to come about. Those I think are the broad parameters of the reason why we're there and … then you give your forces who are there of course the right of self defence but I think one would have to be very very wary of deeper involvement.

Reporter (question faint)

…   . that Britain is dancing to Washington's tune, and I wondered what your response was to that idea?

Mrs. Thatcher

Can I just say this, Washington and Westminster are very close friends, close friends tend to think similarly on many many things. Where they do not, we owe one another our judgment, that judgment is always given and is given in the spirit of friendship. That is the way we conduct our relations and that is the way we shall continue. [end p2]

Reporter

Bob Sirton with ABC news. If President Reagan were to appeal to you and President Mitterrand to allow the British and French missiles to be counted in the East/West mix as a means of getting the Geneva talks off dead centre would you reconsider and what's so harmful about allowing those missiles to be counted?

Mrs. Thatcher

No, we must not allow ourselves to be side-tracked in any way. The talks at Geneva are about intermediate nuclear weapons. The Soviet Union modernised all her intermediate nuclear weapons with the SS20s, we have not yet begun the modernisation of our intermediate nuclear weapons. We're about to commence that modernisation with Cruise and Pershing. With regard to the British and French nuclear weapons, our nuclear deterrent existed and was needed long before SS20s had been designed, let alone stationed. They are a deterrent against the strategic power of the Soviet Union.

The British nuclear deterrent constitutes only an irreducible minimum, I might say, we couldn't go down on the numbers, we've got to get a minimum needed, always to have some on station. The British … our British deterrent constitutes only 2½%; of the Soviet Union's strategic missiles.

She has over some two thousand, a very powerful force indeed. You can see therefore that to attempt to introduce that question at the moment is a total irrelevancy and an attempt to sidetrack people's minds from the fundamental negotiations at Geneva. The place to posture and make great proposals by the Soviet Union are publicised to try to influence our Western opinion. We do not find that what they say publicly is reflected by their action at the negotiating table. We genuinely want disarmament. The place to do it is to get our noses and heads down over that negotiating table about the SS20s and the Cruise and Pershing. I absolutely refuse to be sidetracked by any irrelevancy whatsoever—does that answer your question?

Reporter (question faint)

How much more can President Reagan give in your opinion?

Mrs. Thatcher

If those …   . if agreement is not reached on the zero option and I think the chances of that are very slender indeed, almost negligible, then the Cruise and Pershings will be deployed on time and if they were not the Soviet Union would take it as a sign of weakness in the West. We are not weak, we carry out our obligations and our agreements under NATO, we are kept very closely in touch with every negotiating proposal which the President puts on the table before he puts it on. If, assuming that zero option is not reached, I hope those talks will still continue so that we can have talks on a lower number than the 572 which would otherwise be deployed and those talks would have to proceed in a way which would secure balance without bogus counting and under which whatever we agreed was verifiable to ensure that it was carried out. [end p3]

Reporter

National Public Radio. Given the reports of … that we've been seeing and I'm sure you've seen too about President Reagan 's new proposals for the Geneva talks and given your talks this week in Europe, do you have any hope that some sort of interim if not zero agreement can be reached in Geneva? if so is there any possibility of what some people in Europe have been speaking about in particular, of a postponement of deployment?

Mrs. Thatcher

No, I have already answered that, a postponement of deployment would be contrary to our agreement in NATO, it would be taken as a sign of weakness by the Soviet Union, that would be the very worst message we could give and it is a message which would put in jeopardy our security and would bring into question the decisions of NATO. No, that decision was taken in 1979, there have been three years in which the Soviet Union could negotiate, if she was serious about negotiating disarmament. The fact is that it's the democracies which really truly want disarmament because in a democracy it gives you freedom and justice and a free society, and we have many many other things to rather than spend money on military weapons but we're not going to put that security of freedom and justice in doubt, by having less of a deterrent than we need with which to face a potential aggressor, so no, those will be deployed, I hope that if the Soviet Union is serious and really wants to get disarmament done, the talks will continue. You would have thought, if of course you were dealing with a free society, they would want to get disarmament done but if they were a free society they wouldn't threaten anyone.

Reporter

Prime Minister, David Willis, Christian Science Monitor. You mentioned some economic problems between this country and the United States, how worried are you that we might be headed into a period of growing protectionism as the American election approaches and what are the main economic problems that you will deal with—I assume one of them would be the special steels tax and excise duties and other would be unitary taxation?

Mrs. Thatcher

I think at the moment that the … two things are very important. First unitary taxation, I think the President and I both take the same view, that we need more worldwide investment, we invest heavily in the United States, the United States probably has more multinational companies than any other country which invest heavily the world over. If that decision on unitary taxation is allowed to go through unchanged it will spread, it could fundamentally undermine investment in other countries and the people who would suffer most damage would be those who have most multinational companies, that I think is the seriousness of the problem, and that is why it simply must be discussed. We do believe in worldwide investment, the United States has more multinational companies and if ever there were pressure for similar action to be taken elsewhere the United States would be the great sufferer. We would all suffer and so would the underdeveloped countries. [end p4]

Mrs. Thatcher

On protectionism …   .

Reporter

Yes …   .

Mrs. Thatcher

If I might just put in one great plug for summits. I believe that the summits we've had, the economic summits and the summits we also had in Europe, have actually reduced the amount of protectionism, that there would otherwise have been in the world because at times of economic difficulty, governments are put under very heavy pressure by some of their particular industries, to go for protectionism, all of us have a certain number of voluntary agreements for particular industries in particular difficulty. But I think we all of us know, as heads of government, that if the amount of protectionism were to multiply, ultimately that would reduce the volume of world trade and that would depress world trade, depress the prospects for new business, depress the prospects for new jobs and therefore depress the prospects for expansion the world over and so you have really two things, pressure for immediate protectionism from particular industries which you know in the long run would be bad and we have to weigh the two things—when we meet, I think, in economic summits, I think we are able to reduce the amount of protectionism by referring to the larger aspects of this problem, the larger context and by acknowledging that protectionism in the longer run is bad for expansion and therefore bad for jobs in each of our respective countries.

Reporter

Prime Minister. China has accused Britain of being too rigid in the negotiations over Hong Kong, there seems to be a drop in confidence in Hong Kong …   . the future of the colony. The Hong Kong dollar is again going down. Could you say anything about the negotiations at all?

Mrs. Thatcher

Well the negotiations are confidential but it's not difficult to see what the problem is. The lease of 5%; of the territory … over 90%; of the territory comes to an end in 1997. Obviously some loans would … are now being taken out or would like to be taken out, for a period going beyond 1997, and there is therefore a great financial uncertainty and a great political uncertainty about the future of Hong Kong and it's that I think which is causing the drop in the Hong Kong dollar and also of course the drop on the Hong Kong stock exchange, I cannot say more about the negotiations, they are taking place. They take place against a background where both China and we wish to make arrangements to ensure and secure the stability and prosperity of Hong Kong. After all, under the present arrangements, which consists of over four million … more than four million Chinese people living in hong kong under the present system, the British system, you've got this Chinese character and the British system, really has achieved remarkable prosperity and stability for all those people there. We entered these negotiations believing it is possible to find a way for that stability and prosperity to continue, to the benefit mainly of the people of Hong Kong, Britain doesn't take a penny piece out of Hong Kong, we're only too relieved that we don't have to put money in, as you do frequently with territories which are not fully independent. But for the particular situation of Hong Kong and the leases, but for that, had it been just an ordinary British colony, she would have been independent years ago. She would have been another Singapore. We shouldn't have hung on in any way but Hong Kong is different in that she is attached to China and there are those leases and therefore that course was not open. But we can't be accused of colonialism in any way when other countries in a similar position like Singapore have been independent for years and have done marvellously well, because the Chinese, under the systems which were started by Britain, are very very talented, very very able and have built up very considerable prosperity. [end p5]

Reporter

Prime Minister—Steve Berlinger from the Boston Globe. After your re-election particularly in speeches that many of us heard you make, you talked about how you would have some of the longest experience now of any west European leader. You've just come back from other parts of western Europe, being rather a cheer leader on the whole issue of missile question. You're now going to Washington, I wonder if you could talk a bit about how you see your role as you go to Washington, is this a straight bilateral visit or will you be trying to bring the administration a sense of how Europe is responding to American leadership or lack of leadership on missiles, in Central America, and elsewhere?

Mrs.thatcher

The definition of a straight bilateral visit is difficult when you are by definition dealing with two countries both of which have a role which extends beyond the borders, beyond their own borders, and don't forget we're both members of NATO and that of course spans the Atlantic and must continue to do so, it … NATO is the real peace movement, it's NATO that's kept the peace in Europe and kept it for a longer time than we've had for many many years. Yes I think if we can go for about another five or six years it'll be the longest period of peace in Europe for well over a century, possibly two. Now that is the extent of the success of NATO and the close working of the alliance and that is why the alliance must continue to keep close together in the future because peace with freedom and justice is the most valuable of all assets. So we both have a wider role. You know from your own life that all experience is cumulative and frankly it helps you tackle whatever is the next problem. When we and the United States come together to talk, I think we have …   . well, we have a number of things in common, first we have the same political philosophy, the same belief in democracy, freedom and justice, it's enshrined in your constitution, it's in our rule of law in our parliamentary system. So we have that, we start … the words mean the same, the concepts mean the same and we try to practise them but we also have something else, we've both known a world role. The United States, the most powerful nation in the world, therefore carrying the greatest responsibilities in the world but you will know that whenever we discuss with Britain our past experience has always broadened our horizons, you will never never find Britain taking a view that is restricted to the boundaries of our islands. We have always been an outward looking people, we've always considered the impact of policy on the wider world and it's particularly valuable now because with communications as they are we are very much reminded that we live in one world and that foreign affairs play a far larger part in people's home lives than they used to. So they know about it and they're aware that what happens the other side of the world affects what happens in the United States and in Britain.

Reporter

If I could follow for just one quick second, you're not necessarily bringing messages let's say from Chancellor Kohl …

Mrs. Thatcher

Oh no, no, no. No, when we go …   . no, we do not negotiate on behalf of others, we are there ourselves and we are there to give our viewpoint. No, no, I've obviously seen Mr. Lubbers and Chancellor Kohl, we do not negotiate on their behalf. [end p6]

Reporter Mr. Mark Smith AP Radio

Let me turn to the peace keeping force in Beirut for a minute. There have been criticisms from both your opposition and from within your own party about the composition of the force, from within your own party saying it's too small, it's too small to carry out its mission: from the opposition saying that they're sitting ducks and shouldn't be there and perhaps should be withdrawn. I'm wondering if you're considering either beefing it up or withdrawing it?

Mrs. Thatcher

No, I am not considering increasing it at all. Now we were asked to take part really as a symbolic gesture. We are very stretched in our military commitment as you know. We have forces in many parts of the world. Like you we keep considerable forces in Europe. We also keep forces at the moment in Belize, a Harrier and army force in Belize, the Falklands of course, as you know, we have considerable forces there, we also have extensive sovereign bases in Cyprus where we keep considerable armed forces. We have a lot of what are called loan service personnel up and down the Gulf states at their request. We have some forces in Rhodesia training there, armed forces, and of course if you're in Diego Garcia, there are also forces in Hong Kong in support of the civil side there and that is all. But we are therefore considerably stretched. We also are represented in the multinational forces in Sinai as well as the multinational force in the Lebanon. That is a very considerable programme for Britain and we could not possibly increase the numbers in the Lebanon. They are doing a very particular role of patrolling in a particular area, it's very valuable and their work is highly respected and regarded.

Reporter

(question indistinct) … meet outside the United States, would you care to have us meet in London?

Mrs. Thatcher

Well you've got of course all of the requisite facilities in the United States and as I know, even from Europe, if you start to translate an assembly of that size you've got to take all the translation facilities, all the translators, it's an enormous logistic problem. I haven't thought of it, if anyone wishes to do it, I think it would be a very very expensive exercise, we would have therefore to ask—would it be worthwhile? [end p7]

Reporter

Madam Prime Minister, Dan Erlich of the San Francisco Examiner. For years America's been pondering establishing a National Health Service for the people in the country because we don't have one obviously, right now we see that there's 1500 doctors unemployed in this country, how do you view this as a scientist first and a politician, in relation to the National Health Service here?

Mrs. Thatcher

How do I what?

Reporter

View the fact that there are 1500 doctors unemployed…

Mrs. Thatcher

Well you can't just say no matter how many doctors choose to train as doctors, you automatically employ all of them in the National Health Service, you can't possibly say that. At the moment this Conservative government employs more doctors in the National Health Service than the last Labour one and a lot more nurses and the same will continue to be true even after the reductions which are now being made in order to keep the expenditure on the National Health Service within the amount which we had said we would spend this year. Does that answer your question?

Reporter

Ray Mosely from the Chicago News. You said you would not consider increasing the British contingent in Lebanon but I don't believe you answered the question of whether you would consider withdrawing it. If the current efforts to achieve a ceasefire and reconciliation talks break down, would you then consider that?

Mrs. Thatcher

Well it's very important that all of those in the multinational force, the countries represent consult together, if any question of withdrawing by one partner came up, we must I think consult together because the sort of conditions on which it would be advisable to withdraw or on which it would be possible to withdraw, because, look, we're looking for a sufficient ceasefire and reconciliation for the multinational force to be able to withdraw but we must in fact consult together upon it if possible.

Reporter

Does that mean you would not take a unilateral action …   .

Mrs. Thatcher

It means that I would consult with my partners very carefully because it is important that we keep together and I would say that … on the face of it, the action we should take which would enable us to withdraw, if you got the reconciliation on the part of … a ceasefire and reconciliation going, the conditions under which we would withdraw would be likely to be the same.

Chairman

Can we take three more questions, starting there. [end p8]

Reporter

Richard Davies RKO Radio Network. You've talked about the situation which would enable you to withdraw from the Lebanon what about a situation where it got worse, could you see a situation where Lebanon sunk into a civil war and you had to withdraw?

Mrs. Thatcher

That is possible and I wouldn't like to postulate the circumstances but one has to remember it's a peacekeeping force, during the time that there is a legitimate government in the Lebanon, the legitimate are supported by legitimate armed forces, that are broadly based and include people from all parts of Lebanese opinion and that is the situation at the moment. If we go into a different situation then of course we would have to consider what would be the best thing to do but we'd have to consider it together and it will do no good to try to separate those countries which constitute the peacekeeping force, it will do no good for Lebanon, no good for any of those countries and no good for peace.

Reporter

Mrs. Thatcher, Sue Stern from the Cable News Network. You're still fresh from your re-election victory …   .

Mrs. Thatcher

No, no, no, it seems a long time ago …   . (laughter)

Reporter

A few months have passed but when you see President Reagan will you be offering any of your judgments as one of his close friends on how he can win his next election?

Mrs. Thatcher

No, I think it's very very difficult to translate election experience from one country to another and I'm sure he knows as much about electioneering as I do, although I have fought many many elections. But my experience is of fighting elections in Britain and I've not yet put up in the United States …   . (laughter)

Chairman

Last question.

Reporter

You know Foreign Minister Cheysson has said that perhaps Britain, France and Italy ought to put together a European proposal or option for Lebanon, do you see any distinction as apparently he does, between what the American forces there are trying to do and what your and the French and the Italian forces are trying to do and is there a European position as distinct from …?

Mrs. Thatcher

No I don't think there is. We went in a peacekeeping role to secure a ceasefire and as you know originally when they went in it was to secure the peaceful withdrawal of other forces from beirut … to secure a ceasefire and reconciliation and I don't believe there's any difference.

Chairman

Well thank you very much ladies and gentlemen. Thank you Prime Minister.

Mrs. Thatcher

Right, thank you very much for coming.