Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1983 Sep 22 Th
Margaret Thatcher

Press Conference for Canadian journalists in London

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: No.10 Downing Street
Source: Thatcher Archive: transcript
Editorial comments: 1430-1600 set aside for interviews before North American visit.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 4182
Themes: Autobiographical comments, Commonwealth (general), Defence (general), Defence (arms control), Economy (general discussions), Employment, Trade, Foreign policy (Americas excluding USA), Foreign policy (International organizations), Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Leadership, Social security & welfare, Transport

Mrs. Thatcher

Ladies, gentlemen. Can I say how very pleased I am that I've been able to accept Mr. Trudeau 's invitation to do a longer visit to Canada. I've not visited on this kind of visit since I've been Prime Minister although I've been to Montebello for the economic summit and then previously when I was leader of the opposition, I came to Canada in 1975, but this is my first visit as Prime Minister and I'm looking forward to it very much indeed. Of course one of the main purposes are talks with government, with Mr. Trudeau, with members of his Cabinet, and also of course with Brian Mulroneythe leader of the opposition. What will we talk about? I don't think you'd need to be a genius to discern that, of course we will talk about the economy, of course we will talk about the great East/West problems, about the possibilities for disarmament and of course the NATO alliance and a number of bilateral things as well. I look forward too to addressing both Houses of Parliament. It's a great honour to be asked and it will be for me a very great experience and I hope that it'll be one that we shall remember.

I have seen the reports of the Canadian economy and it would seem that Canada is recovering very well. Quite a good annual growth rate at the moment and a little bit of good news on the unemployment front, it seems as if unemployment is being reduced. We of course all suffer from the problems of world recession, our rate of unemployment is about the same as yours, we're about 12.5/12.6%;. We, like you, have managed to get inflation down, we like you are living through an age of enormous new strides in technology and tremendous changes in industry. That brings great problems in its train, when you put great new technological advances into any business, the immediate effect is to reduce the numbers of people employed in that business. The secondary effect of new technology is to make available more jobs as it becomes possible to produce products that were unheard of some years ago and so the new jobs come. In the meantime we have to get through a very very difficult period, until we can set up new businesses which brings with it new jobs in its train.

May I say there's two special things I think about Canada: the first is that Canada I think has made a special position for herself throughout world politics, if there are problems to be dealt with in the third world, Canada's name is always very much to the forefront in taking the initiative. If there is work to be done in peacekeeping forces, in multinational force, Canada again is always ready to take a very full part and I think she has built up a unique position for herself in the world because if Canada decides to help solve the problems then she's part of the West but she's very much well known in the non-aligned and third world and her initiative is always trusted and always welcomed. And the second point I want to make is this: there are a tremendous number of people in Britain who have families in Canada and so we get a lot of cross-Atlantic traffic between Canada and Britain. Last year some four hundred thousand Canadians visited Britain and some three hundred and seventy or so thousand Britons visited Canada. This is a particular link, a very special link. But a very close link and it's one we value and of course one which will continue and endure throughout time.

Now May I have your questions please? [end p1]

Reporter

Prime Minister, you said you'd be visiting the leader of the opposition Mr. Brian Mulroney, I don't see it on the schedule, how much importance do you attach to meeting a new Conservative opposition leader?

Mrs. Thatcher

When I came over .… I came over in 1975 as leader of the opposition, people in government were very kind in seeing me and therefore whenever I travel I always see the leader of the opposition, I think you'll find that in democratic countries it is a courtesy, that is both normally extended and one which is expected. We run the kind of system in parliamentary democracy where there is always an alternative government so I always hope to see the leader of the opposition and I shall of course on this occasion.

Reporter

Mrs. Prime Minister … excuse me .…

Mrs. Thatcher

It's all right, it's an office not a person.

Reporter

Canada/UK trade has declined significantly over the last ten years and sharply in the last six months, do you have any specific trade initiatives you'd like to see?

Mrs. Thatcher

We always try, when we get together on these occasions to reduce the amount of protectionism I quite agree with you trade between Britain and Canada has declined, May I point out that we import a good deal more from Canada than we export to Canada so perhaps we might have a go at redressing that balance, there is of course a good deal of inward investment, that is another link which I think is important. But in the end, you know, businessmen in one another's countries have to win the business in the other's country.

Reporter

Prime Minister, as you know there are a number of people—you alluded to them in Canada—of British extraction, origins, many of whom were born here and moved to Canada and they have been pressing the British government over a period of time to make new arrangements for their pensions and social security contributions so that they would be upgraded to take account of inflation since they left the United Kingdom, since I believe they're frozen at the time they leave. Is there any possibility that the British government which heretofore has not agreed to these kind of changes, might be reconsidering its position?

Mrs. Thatcher

No, sometimes we have a reciprocal agreement with another country, in which case the terms are governed by that reciprocal agreement but apart from that the position is exactly as you say, because the increases of course are not met out of any past contributions, the increases are met out of both present contributions and out of the taxpayers pocket and we feel that when people have left they are no longer contributing to our taxation and therefore we freeze it, with the position as it was when they left. We run a pay as you go scheme in our pensions, so the uprating is done not out of past contributions in any way. [end p2]

Reporter

Prime Minister, you listed a number of subjects you'd be talking to Mr. Trudeau about, you didn't mention the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' conference … heads of government conference in Delhi. I wondered whether you would be tackled on that and if so what issues you expect to be dominating in that …   .

Mrs. Thatcher

The list was indicative not exclusive, yes of course we shall talk about the Commonwealth conference but the things that will be discussed at the Commonwealth conference will be very similar to ones that will be discussed at any international conference, of course one looks at the economy on a global scale, because there's some, what, 47 countries at the Commonwealth conference, we live in one world and we're all suffering from world recession, also there are a number of limiting factors on growth, one of them is the amount of debt which has already been accumulated in certain countries and the other is of course that part of the Middle Eastern countries, some of those no longer have the resources to purchase the amount of exports from other countries that they were previously purchasing, so that is a limiting factor on growth. The under-developed countries always of course want naturally more aid and we all of us I'm afraid will probably be in the position when we'll have to restrict the aid we give. We also have a number of special trading arrangements with the under-developed countries which enables some of them to keep up their income at times of great difficulty so, yes, of course we will be discussing Commonwealth and it is big, because the two big things in the world are the economy and how to keep the peace, which involves defence and resolving some of the world's fundamental problems and very generally you've been at the job I'm sure as long as I have, you'll find most subjects fall into those two groups.

Reporter

.…the Cruise missile issue and you've been … I think a different approach taken by Britain and Canada on that issue?

Mrs. Thatcher

I don't think …   . we shall deploy Cruise missiles in the absence of an agreement for zero option in Geneva. We shall stick to the NATO decision. That is part of defence and defence is to enable us not to threaten anyone, the NATO countries threaten absolutely no-one. No-one at all. The purpose of defence is to enable us to keep our democratic institutions and live in freedom and justice and if we don't defend ourselves, who will? [end p3]

Reporter

Prime Minister, continuing on the Cruise missile subject: it's been said as Mr. Young has just… made reference to it, that there was apparently some sharp disagreement between you and Prime Minister Trudeau on the Cruise missile question. I wonder if in the light of what's being talked about today, about the possibility of a new compromise at Geneva, whether you yourself have changed your mind or whether the allies are coming round to different positions?

Mrs. Thatcher

No, some of us actually believe that if we make a decision and set out a timetable the best way is to stick to it, unless the events which we'd hoped for actually happen. If there is zero option agreed at Geneva between the Soviet Union and the United States, there'd be no need to deploy any Cruise or pershings, because Cruise and Pershing are modernisation of intermediate nuclear weapons. The Soviet Union has already completed her modernisation and put all her SS20s in place. We have not started our modernisation, we should not need to start ours if she took all of hers down. I must be frank and say that I think the possibilities of agreement on zero option are slender, if not negligible. I hope therefore that those talks will continue after Christmas and although it will be necessary to start the deployment of Pershing and Cruise they are to be deployed over a period of a number of years, the numbers which will be deployed whether we go on to the whole 572, will of course depend upon whether we can reach an intermediate agreement on a balanced number which is strictly verifiable with no bogus counting. That position has not changed for a very long time the proposals that I understand President Reagan has put on the table in Geneva, and please note that he does negotiate at Geneva, and put his proposals there, they're not just great statements without putting them properly on the negotiating table in Geneva, the only place to negotiate, are designed I believe to help to reach an intermediate agreement. How far the Soviet Union is sincere in wanting to reach such an agreement I don't know but we'll go on trying.

Reporter

Does the prospect of widespread political demonstrations by the anti-nuclear people this summer, this fall, I'm sorry, in Europe, give you any cause for concern about the continued cohesion and the solidarity of the alliance over the next few months?

Mrs. Thatcher

No I have not. Germany will deploy … Germany and we are the first two to deploy and we shall deploy on time and one does not in fact have the … the whole policy of an alliance determined by demonstrators. Nor the whole safety nor security of one's people determined by a few demonstrators, even though they look quite a lot. [end p4]

Reporter

Prime Minister, assuming you will be talking about Lebanon with the Canadian Prime Minister … is there any particular avenue you would be exploring with him, given Canada's own experience in peacekeeping and with multinational forces in the area of the current multinational force in Lebanon, that is the problems it faces. What it can do and what it cannot do in a given situation?

Mrs. Thatcher

I have not the slightest shadow of doubt we shall have a thorough discussion on Lebanon because it is such an important and immediate subject with things changing there every day. Canada's not in the multinational force in the Lebanon. She's in the multinational force in the Sinai, so are we, but it's .… I think genuinely keeping the peace down in Sinai and very important it is. Canada's in Cyprus, in the United Nations force in Cyprus so are we. No, beyond saying that we shall have a thorough discussion about it, two leaders couldn't meet and not have a thorough discussion about it, Lebanon is of course a member of the United Nations, she's got Syria occupying a large part of her country in the north and Israel a considerable part in the south and then you've got this triangular wedge in between where you have got great problems between … with the Druze and the Christians and we went into Lebanon …   . really to supervise and keep the peace in Beirut while other forces were withdrawing. Of course we will discuss the very latest developments in the Lebanon. It's never far from our minds, particularly those of us that have members of the armed forces in that multinational force.

Reporter

Prime Minister, is Britain satisfied with the degree of Canada's commitment to NATO and if not, do you have anything in particular to say to the Canadian Prime Minister about Canada's NATO role?

Mrs. Thatcher

Canada is a loyal and true member of NATO. I'm sure she will continue to be a loyal and true member of NATO. NATO really is the true peace movement, it has kept the peace between East and West for far longer, kept the peace certainly in Europe for far longer than we've had peace in Europe for quite a long time. That's very valuable and it is a fact.

Reporter

Prime Minister, perhaps a less pressing problem, outside of the central theatre of the Middle East, but Canada and Britain had talked .… there had been some discussions previously about the situation in Belize. The Canadians indicated at that time they couldn't do anything in terms of people on the ground in Belize. Is that subject going to be raised again?

Mrs. Thatcher

I imagine it'll be part of the things we talk about when we talk about the Commonwealth conference. Belize of course is a completely independent country, as you know, we still have some armed forces there who stayed on after independence, they will not of course stay indefinitely.

Reporter

Would you like to see other countries involved in that force?

Mrs. Thatcher

We have indeed asked the Commonwealth secretary, Sonny Ramphal, if he could in fact help to make other arrangements for Belize, so far I'm afraid we've not been successful but we shall pursue the matter. [end p5]

Reporter

Will you make a direct bilateral request to Canada to do that?

Mrs. Thatcher

No I shall probably discuss the problem of belize with Mr. Trudeau, without formulating specific requests.

Reporter

In the past, Prime Minister, British businessmen and ministers when they have visited Canada, have said publicly and privately or expressed publicly and privately their disquiet about certain aspects of Canada … (break in transmission) … there have been some changes in those rules and regulations over the last year or two, I'm wondering if in your brief…(break in transmission).… been some disquiet … from British officials that one heard a great deal of two or three years ago, or whether you're now satisfied that the rules and regulations governing foreign investment in Canada are satisfactory and acceptable to British interests?

Mrs. Thatcher

There are problems, I have heard them but I do not expect to get negotiating in detail about them. That is done usually between the departments of trade and industry. But I do not think it is quite .… I do think that there have been improvements in recent times, considerable improvements.

Reporter

Prime Minister could you tell us why you chose to go to Edmonton specifically …   .

Mrs. Thatcher

Well I think I'd have gone much further had I had the time but I think we had an invitation to go there and we tried to …   . we tried to get in … to accept as much as we possibly could in the time, and I very much regret that I'm not going over further west, not able this time to do for example, to go to British Columbia.

Reporter

But there isn't any specific .…

Mrs. Thatcher

There's no specific thing. There's no specific thing, no.

Reporter

Quebec is a lot closer than Edmonton. Did you consider the possibility of stopping off in Quebec?

Mrs. Thatcher

No, I am quite satisfied with the places which we're able to go on this occasion and will not be tempted into making any highly contentious remarks.

Reporter

Prime Minister, a different sort of question, Canadians have been I would think it would be fair to say .… to be fascinated by your style of leadership and your personality since you've assumed the government in Britain. You've been called everything from Churchillian to cold and heartless, how would you characterise yourself and your own style of government and is there any…   .

Mrs. Thatcher

Oneself is never in a position to judge and I'm not going to answer this question. The answer's always the same. The person within can't really judge as if they were from without and I think you must just ask other people. [end p6]

Reporter

But do you feel yourself that you've changed in the last four years in your own …?

Mrs. Thatcher

I think it would be a very remarkable and rather dull person who did not change after an experience of four years.

Reporter

Prime Minister, I'd like to go back to NATO again if I could. The Canada and the .… Canada and the UK share similar responsibilities in the North Atlantic in different sectors, the UK has made a particular point of maintaining its defence commitments in terms of increasing its share every year, the Canadian government hasn't managed to match the British performance, will there be any particular discussion about that with the Canadians?

Mrs. Thatcher

No, I believe that we're both very loyal members of NATO, there are special arrangements between Britain and Canada. For example we do some training in your country and very very valued it is and I think our two armed forces get on very well together but we're … we're both valuable members of NATO. The important thing is to keep NATO together. Some people spend more upon their defence at particular times. Others spend it at different times, we have had … put our 3%; each year into the last four years and I think we're … are bound by it until ‘85’86 which we shall honour.

Reporter

Prime Minister a somewhat contentious question. The question's being asked in Canada that Mr. Trudeau may very well step down as leader of the Canadian liberal party and as Prime Minister of Canada soon. Did this influence your decision to go to Canada at all at this time?

Mrs. Thatcher

No, I have wanted to accept Mr. Trudeau's invitation to come to Canada because don't forget that Canada's been very much in the thoughts of our Parliament during the whole of the patriation of the constitution to Canada and we were discussing it day after day, had very lengthy discussions on the floor of the House. Then that was satisfactorily concluded, as I think that it only could have been satisfactorily concluded between two democracies with our particular parliamentary structure and of course you have your … the special relationships between your provinces and your federal government which was where the problem arose. I was asked to go when that was complete, I just could not come at that time and this is really the first opportunity since.

Reporter

Prime Minister you mentioned the bilateral issues you'd be discussing. Are there any pressing bilateral issues?

Mrs. Thatcher

I don't think there are any, I don't think there are any particularly urgent ones. They are of the nature that you've indicated. We would like more trade. We have to look at the rules for inward investment and so on, I don't think there are any particular urgent ones. [end p7]

Reporter

Another question on the subject of East/West tensions. Do you think there's anything more that Western countries can do to show their outrage or disappointment over the shooting down of the Korean jet liner. You have already been quoted as being unhappy with the reaction of some of the Europeans?

Mrs. Thatcher

I would have preferred it if we could have agreed to more action, to a longer period, when planes could not fly to Moscow and Aeroflot was excluded. We were not able to get a longer period of fourteen days, I may say that we had some people on that plane, so did Canada, Canada was very prompt with her strictures and her actions. We were all deeply upset about what we regarded as–well I just called it an atrocity against humanity, which it was and I myself would have wished to have had at least a month—fourteen days I felt was very small. But you know you have to try to agree with as many other countries as possible and the longest we could get by joint operation was fourteen days, over this side of the Atlantic and some people wouldn't even do that, so the rest of us have gone ahead with the fourteen days. Our pilots of course have put a longer term on as far as our own airliners are concerned.

Chairman

Shall we take another couple … there are two people who haven't asked questions. We ought to give them a chance to put their questions .…

Reporter

Prime Minister, if I could just return to the question of Lebanon again and the multinational force. One senses at times that the four nations involved in the multinational force might feel a little bit out on a limb as the situation there becomes more tense. Is there any sense among them at all that they could perhaps be getting more support from those now on the sidelines, countries like Canada, EEC countries who will all benefit from the multinational force themselves but should be doing more to help them?

Mrs. Thatcher

You're talking in Lebanon … the multinational force went in to keep the peace during the withdrawal from Beirut of certain forces. Now those forces are of course withdrawn, they are staying in because there is a legitimate and broadly based government there and it's important if one can to keep that, to keep a legitimate elected broadly based government there and there is, or there are Lebanese armed forces contained within them, both Christians and Muslims, so you are trying to keep together a country with a proper elected government which is acting in a state of reconciliation, hoping very much by our being there there will be a ceasefire and reconciliation and therefore that Lebanon may continue. But it's a situation which as you know changes daily. But we mustn't forget the purpose of that was a peacekeeping force during which time the withdrawals could take place from Beirut and there can be talks on reconciliation and for a ceasefire, that is the purpose. [end p8]

Reporter

Prime Minister, if the activities of the peacekeeping force, of the multinational force go beyond what you regard as peacekeeping, will you take those troops out of the Lebanon?

Mrs. Thatcher

What we do is regularly to talk amongst all four of us who are there–United States, France, Italy and Britain. The military commanders and ambassadors meet daily, of course they have to. They're not under a single command, they can't be, because they're four separate forces and they're peacekeeping. Again you have to remember that is their role—peacekeeping and of course from time to time that involves self defence, of course it does but I hope that we'll be able to continue to discuss and decide together.

Reporter

Is the degree of self defence currently underway in Beirut of any concern to you?

Mrs. Thatcher

Self defence is self defence. It's very nice for you and I to talk about it sitting here costly and comfortably in a rather nice room in number ten Downing Street. I think you perhaps know that if you there … you would know the steps you have to take in the furtherance of self defence according to the rules of engagement which you have and the judgment of the commanders on the spot how to act within those rules of engagement. So I don't think it's for us to pontificate about it in the comfort of this room. They're our soldiers there. You must give them the right to defend themselves. You're not entitled to put up your own armed forces and say that you've got to be shot at without taking the necessary steps to defend yourself. They wouldn't think much of politicians if we did that and if we did that they'd be entitled to their view, but we don't. We give rules of engagement which permit self defence.

Chairman

Well thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for coming along. Thank you Prime Minister.