Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1984 Oct 31 We
Margaret Thatcher

Interview for Die Welt

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: Interview
Venue: No.10 Downing Street
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: Brandt Conrad, Die Welt
Editorial comments: 0930-1030 set aside for interviews with Austrian TV and Die Welt .
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 3682
Themes: Defence (general), Defence (arms control), Employment, Industry, Privatized & state industries, Environment, Economic, monetary & political union, Foreign policy (Central & Eastern Europe), Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Foreign policy (Western Europe - non-EU), Labour Party & socialism, Northern Ireland, Religion & morality, Terrorism, Trade unions, Trade union law reform, Strikes & other union action

Interviewer

I would like to start with two questions resulting from the latest news.

First, naturally, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was shot down last night, you had that terrible bomb attack in Brighton, and my question is: should not still more be done to coordinate international measures to combat terrorism and to outlaw all countries which help or shelter terrorists?

Prime Minister

You know, at the London Economic Summit we talked about terrorism and we have set in hand much closer cooperation and we will do everything we can together, but it is not possible to give a guarantee that one can eradicate all terrorism.

The irony of freedom is that it is freedom to do evil. The law tries to stop it, the forces of law try to stop it, try to detect it before it happens, to prevent it from happening, but there is no such guarantee that we can stop all terrorism, any more than any country, no matter the fairness, the justice of its law and its police force, can guarantee to stop all crime. [end p1]

So it is something which we have to get stronger and stronger in our defences about, but to eradicate it, no country could give that guarantee.

As you know, we overcome it from time to time. We, after all, face it in this country. We face it with the IRA. We face it because the majority of people in Northern Ireland have voted to stay part of the United Kingdom. Every single person in Northern Ireland has a vote, a vote for representatives in Westminster, a vote for their local district, a vote for Stormont, for their local Assembly in Stormont.

So they have a vote. They do not like the result that the ballot gives, so they try to get a different outcome by terrorism.

If I might say so, the Republic of Ireland and myself are at one in standing staunchly against terrorism, but none of us can give a guarantee it will be eradicated. We can constantly improve our capacity to detect it and to deal with it, but do not forget they have technology too and that technology, I am afraid, can be harnessed to the forces of evil, but we cannot be beaten by it. But in the end, let me make it quite clear, it demands the involvement of every citizen. Every citizen has to watch, every citizen has to be prepared to yield information, to give up information which will help the police. Every citizen has to say: “We will not shelter these people!” and you are quite right, countries have to say: “We will not shelter these people!” but you know full well that there are some that in fact do.

The Republic of Ireland will do extradition, you know. [end p2] The Republic of Ireland will in fact try in the Republic of Ireland people for offences committed elsewhere, so certainly in the Western World we try to cooperate as much as we can and after all, I know, we all know, some of the great difficulties that the Federal Republic had and the way in which, I think, both the Federal Republic and Italy have improved enormously their capacity to deal with terrorism and we are full of admiration and all trying to do the same thing with redoubled efforts.

Interviewer

Prime Minister, the second question: there are quite surprising international aspects of the British miners' strike. The Soviet Union has placed an embargo on all fuel supplies to Britain to support the striking miners and Mr. Scargill, as we have learnt, has close ties with President Gadaffi of Libya. What is your comment on that?

Prime Minister

I think the whole country was very shocked when it learned of the approach to the Government of Libya. Shocked, because only in the last year the Libyan Embassy in this country had been used to commit murder on London streets. Shots were fired from the Libyan Embassy by people in the Embassy into St. James's Square, where a crowd had gathered for a demonstration. A Yvonne Fletcherpolicewoman was murdered by those shots and a number of people were injured. Of course, when you get that thing happening from an embassy, you have to break off diplomatic relations. [end p3]

Now, for the leadership of the NUM, under those circumstances, to approach a government that had done that on our streets, deeply shocked …   . I believe …   . the majority of miners, whether on strike or not, I believe the majority of the TUC, and the overwhelming majority of the British people.

Trade unions in the Soviet Union, of course, do not have the freedom that trade unions have here and the irony of a free trade movement here approaching anyone in countries where they do not have free trade union movements is there for all to see.

Interviewer

Prime Minister, you are coming to Bonn on Friday for the Anglo-German Summit. Are you irritated by the fact that Franco-German relations have been perhaps even closer in recent years than relations between Bonn and London?

Prime Minister

Our relations are close with the Federal Republic. They have been for a very long time. We demonstrate that by our guarantee to Berlin. We demonstrate it by the number of forces we have on the Central Front in Germany, every one a professional, every one. We do not have conscripts. Every one a professional.

Interviewer

Very good professionals. [end p4]

Prime Minister

Excellent. Their outstanding professionalism has just been demonstrated in Lionheart. We get on very well together. Anglo-German relations are good.

Now, I do not believe that just because one has a friend that excludes friendship with others. We are all partners in Europe.

Also Anglo-French relations are very good. Now it seems to me that if I get on with Chancellor Kohl, if I get on with President Mitterrand and President Mitterrand gets on with Chancellor Kohl, that is only to the advantage of us all.

Interviewer

Both you and your Foreign Secretary have stressed your commitment to the European Community on several occasions in the past few months. However, the idea of European political union, to which Chancellor Kohl attaches particular importance, has never featured among your proposals for improving European cooperation.

Do you consider such a political union desirable?

Prime Minister

I do wish someone would define it first and then ask me about it, because you know, I am usually fairly direct. I do not know what European political union means. I notice people who talk about it never carefully define it and it is one of the things about this European thing that they talk, [end p5] you know, in these phrases, and it is not defined.

I do not believe that we shall have or can have a United States of Europe in the same way that there is a United States of America. The history is different, totally different. But I happen also to believe that it is just as worthy an objective to cooperate together as free nations, each with its own history, each with its own people, coming together in an alliance in NATO, in a European Community, to get ever closer together in our cooperation as a group of ten, and I hope twelve, nations.

Now, when you talk about European political union, I say I am not quite sure what you mean. I want to cooperate more and more together, to cooperate freely; free discussion, free consultation. Cooperate by coming together on a treaty which we do, and getting closer together.

Now, tell me, what do you understand by European political union? We have European political cooperation. It is not always easy to get agreement among ten nations with a different history, as to how they should in fact cooperate on foreign affairs.

Now, one of those countries is neutral, the Republic of Ireland, so you cannot necessarily discuss defence. One of the countries is not militarily integrated into NATO, so has a slightly different view on defence.

So I do just like, when I am asked whether I agree with something, for people to define a little bit more closely what it is I am expected to agree to, so that I can put the arguments for and against. [end p6]

Interviewer

So I think there is an ad hoc committee now thinking about that and yesterday in Bad Kreuznach President Mitterrand and Chancellor Kohl underlined their wish to go in the direction of political union and they said they would …   . proposals.

Prime Minister

France will always be France. Britain will always be Britain, and I believe Germany will always be Germany and Holland will always be Holland. Now, I assume that political union does not mean submerging the nation state. It means that nation states cooperate more closely with one another because they freely enter into treaties, freely enter into agreements to cooperate with one another because it is for the good of each, as well as for the good of all.

Now, if you say that the European Treaty of Rome is a treaty which in fact translates that into action, I agree with you, and I am the first to say we uphold the treaty. I do. Britain honours her treaties.

I do not understand what you mean by political … do you? Tell me, what do you mean by it?

Interviewer

Maybe Chancellor Kohl will explain it to you on Friday.

Prime Minister

You do not understand, quite, either. Good. Please print that as well. That makes two of us! [end p7]

Interviewer

I think I have my ideas.

Prime Minister

I do not commit my country unless I know what people are talking about. Right. On you go. What is the next question?

Interviewer

The next question. You just mentioned defence questions and there is a lot of talk about strengthening the European pillar of NATO. Do you consider it conceivable that the European Community may one day also assume responsibility for defence policy and that there might be one day a European army?

Prime Minister

No. I do not. I think it is vital for the defence of Europe and for the defence of the United States and therefore for the defence of the free world that the Western Alliance sticks closely together; vital for the defence of Europe and for the defence of America that America is present in Europe, and I think that it is totally premature and unrealistic to talk about Europe defending herself without the United States.

We are part of NATO, we are part of the Western Alliance. That is an unbelievably valuable alliance, valuable to every free person. Do nothing to undermine it; everything to enhance it; everything. America is the most generous nation the world has [end p8] ever known. Totally responsible when she had a nuclear supremacy over every other nation. She only used that supremacy in defence. She never attacked. Only used that supremacy in defence of liberty. Now, do nothing to undermine that fantastic relationship. Do everything to nurture it, to enhance it.

Interviewer

I cannot agree more.

In your talks in Bonn, the Chancellor will plead for quick European measures for the protection of the environment. In Germany, this is a very urgent question. How do you see it in Britain?

Prime Minister

We are all not merely very conscious of it, but trying to do everything we can. We had a Clean Air Act, I think it was under our government, twenty or so years ago, so we do not have fogs in London now. You find fish returning to the Thames because we have cleaned up the rivers. So we have been on to this, both clean air and clean rivers, and we are constantly trying to improve the environment.

Stubble burning. For example, farmers when they. having cut their wheat and barley and oats, some of them have been burning the stubble; it has been a great issue in our country and we had to have regulations about it.

We look at the sulphur dioxide emissions and the nitric oxide emissions. Do not forget those. If you are not [end p9] careful you in fact reduce one and the automatic consequence is that you enhance the other, because as you know, we are learning a great deal about the mechanisms.

We all agree that we must try to reduce the sulphur dioxide emissions from cars and vehicles. That is a great source, I think, of local environmental trouble.

Germany is going one way, putting the catalyst in the exhaust.

Interviewer

Do you criticize that?

Prime Minister

We do not think it is the best way. We believe that the lean burn engine is better and I think that it would be better, you know, if we agreed about how to do it.

When it comes to the lakes, you can get problems there for a number of reasons. First, because of fertilizers on the land where the fertilizers run off into the lakes and you can get problems there and you may, in fact, have to put more …   . have to deal with it by lime. There are various different ways of dealing with it. We are trying to find the best and we are cooperating, because we all feel strongly about it.

I do not know whether you have looked closely at some of the pictures of some of those forests. I had a small seminar about it down at Chequers. All of a sudden you will find a tree that is flourishing, another one sort of not, and [end p10] one wants to know why. Is it a different root system? Is it something different in the tree?

And then you will find you get different effects according to whether you get the rain after a long period of drought. You get different effects in different localities.

So we are putting a lot into research and we are doing as much as we possibly can, because, yes, we share the concern and do not forget we have been trying to cooperate where you can get terrible oil slicks, as you know, which go from one country to another. Environment is no respector of national boundaries, so we have to cooperate, and we discussed it at the London Economic Summit, and I know how much Chancellor Kohl has done and is doing, and we also are doing as much as we possibly can.

Interviewer

Prime Minister, the Italian Foreign Minister, Signor Andreotti, recently put forward the view that two German states are better than one. Can the Federal Republic of Germany really still rely firmly on Great Britain, the USA and France fulfilling their commitment arising from the Treaties of Paris of 1954 and pursuing the goal of a reunited Germany which is a free democratic constitution and is integrated into the Community of Europe? [end p11]

Prime Minister

We understand the feeling of the people of Germany about this, of course we do, and I issued a statement about it—I will get the precise wording for you—after the last Chequers Meeting, we had a statement issued about this which covered the point. We will get the precise wording.

Interviewer

Sir Geoffrey quoted that recently in Bonn.

Prime Minister

That is right. As I say, we understand. Please do not think me …   . I think it will take a very long time to bring about.

Interviewer

But we can rely on your support?

Prime Minister

Yes, indeed. We have made a statement to that effect.

Interviewer

Do you believe that dialogue and disarmament talks between Washington and Moscow will resume after the American presidential election?

Prime Minister

Can I just say in the meantime obviously things need [end p12] to be handled very sensitively indeed, which I think we also all understand. That is all.

Interviewer

Do you believe that dialogue and disarmament talks between Washington and Moscow will resume after the American presidential elections and should the European allies take any special action in this connection?

Prime Minister

Yes, I do believe that the dialogue will be resumed. I do believe that the disarmament talks on nuclear will be resumed. There are of course at the moment disarmament talks on chemical weapons and those on conventional weapons have been going on for a very long time, very very slowly I fear, but there will be an opportunity after those American elections, which I think both sides recognise, and I believe that they will be resumed. We are, of course, concerned in the chemical weapons and in the conventional weapons. I believe in the nuclear weapons, the best way is still between the United States and the Soviet Union.

And I believe that our influence should be brought to bear in discussions with the United States and we do attempt to and we do indeed exert influence in that way and the United States is very good and keeps very closely in touch with consultations all the time. [end p13]

Interviewer

Prime Minister, like the Federal German Government, your Government is endeavouring to combat the economic recession and unemployment with liberal market economy measures. Nevertheless, you are still experiencing the same considerable problems with unemployment as we are. Does this discourage you?

Prime Minister

One finds it deeply disappointing, obviously. As well as a recession, of course, we are in the third industrial revolution with the new technology.

I think we all look back and realise that previous industrial revolutions have at first replaced the work of human hand by the work of machines, but then the new technology has brought about new possibilities of work which did not previously exist and you can see it best in the fact that a century ago most of our people were working on the land. Then machinery took over from the land and therefore people came to the towns, but machinery brought also the possibility of a lot of semi-skilled labour in the towns producing things that we had never thought of before.

So the first effect of technology is to make quite a lot of redundancies, but nevertheless, it has to be done, because otherwise other countries starting up for the first time produce those goods in the most efficient way and we would lose our markets.

The second and later effect—and we are already seeing some of it—is that you get new products, new jobs, which did [end p14] not exist before. That happens. It is not happening as fast as the redundancies are occurring and the disappointing thing is that the creation of new jobs is not quite fast enough, although new jobs are being created.

I believe that the course of this industrial revolution will be the same as previous ones. That it will in the end produce new jobs and it will of course produce a higher standard of living, because the wealth of a nation is how much each person can produce, so the wealth of a nation is the average produced per person, and, of course, the more machinery and the more technology you get, the greater the wealth. And that machinery and technology produces the wealth and then those people who work at that obviously want other facilities and services and so the services expand as well and that also produces new jobs.

I believe that that mechanism—if I may call it that—will occur now as it has previously. I think in looking back we may have underestimated the time which it took to happen. Mercifully, these days we look after those who are unemployed and seeking work well, and so we do not have the physical misery that occurred before. It is, nevertheless, a very demoralizing situation for those who are searching for work and we each and all of us try to do as much as we can to mitigate it, you know with better training schemes, with a certain amount of what we call a Community Enterprise Programme and various programmes particularly for the long-term unemployed, to get them some kind of work for the community which they would not otherwise have. But we have to rely in the end on the system [end p15] of enterprise creating the new jobs and responding to the needs of people where they see a need which is not met, producing it and creating jobs in that way. That is the way which has given the highest standard of living in the Western World, a far higher standard of living than the total planned controlled economies of the Iron Curtain countries of the Soviet Union.

Interviewer

The English bishops recently criticized your firm stance on the miners' strike. Does this affect your view?

Prime Minister

I think you should look very carefully at what the bishops said. I do not ever make comments about bishops or archbishops. I am not tangling. I am responsible to this world.

Interviewer

But does that influence you?

Prime Minister

I look very carefully at what they say, of course, I do but then I look very carefully at what anyone says to see if I agree with it or not; to see if I think it is justified or not. But no question will make me tangle with the bishops or archbishops. They are freer to say what they like about me than I am about them. [end p16]

Interviewer

Is the British system of a bond between the Labour Party and the trade unions not a very inhibiting factor for Great Britain's economy and political development in the long term? Does the Government see this as a situation which cannot be altered?

Prime Minister

We are for the first time, because of new legislation, requiring the unions to have another ballot about whether they should have a political levy. I think they had a ballot some time before the First World War as to whether they should have a political levy and have not had a ballot since. We are requiring them to have a ballot to see if they wish the system of political levies to continue. I personally believe that it is not good for politics or for trade unions to have the trade unions affiliated to one particular political party.

We should never have got back into power without the support of a very considerable number of trade unionists and I obviously would like to see a trade union system which is highly responsible, looks after the interests of its members, regards the interests of its members as being that of helping to create prosperous industries and then getting a reasonable share for those who work in the industry, and not a political objective.

I think that most people in Britain would like that to happen too and we shall just have to see. People are free to choose here equally. Each person is free to choose [end p17] whether he contributes a political levy to his union or not.

Interviewer

Thank you, Prime Minister.

Prime Minister

Thank you.