Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1984 Dec 7 Fr
Margaret Thatcher

Press Conference for American correspondents in London

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: Press Conference
Venue: No.10 Downing Street
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1145-1245.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 8436
Themes: Executive, Conservative Party (history), Defence (general), Defence (arms control), Defence (Falklands War, 1982), Economy (general discussions), Employment, Industry, Monetary policy, Privatized & state industries, European Union (general), Foreign policy (general discussions), Foreign policy (Americas excluding USA), Foreign policy (Asia), Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Labour Party & socialism, Law & order, Leadership, Media, Northern Ireland, Science & technology, Terrorism, Strikes & other union action

Prime Minister

Welcome to No. 10. I am not going to take time on a statement. You know full well how pro-American this Government and my Party is. You know from the many speeches that I make that we think they are an extremely generous country; that the defence of the West depends upon we and the United States sticking together; that we appreciate everything they do; and we think you are not thanked enough. So thank you!

Now, you will have your particular questions to put to me, so would you like to fire away! [end p1]

Question

Prime Minister, looking back on 1968, some of the difficulties, I suppose. We have had the miners' strike, nine months long.

Prime Minister

Did you say 1968?

Question

I'm sorry; 1984.

Outside Comment

It's been a difficult year!

Question

We have had the miners' strike.

Prime Minister

Bless you! It helps me so much when someone else makes a mistake!

Question

…   . some of the economic problems …   . is there two Britains … problems with the Economic Community … problems with Northern Ireland, with the Irish, and with what has been called this week “The Revolt of the Backbenchers” . Looking back over the year, how would you assess these developments? Can you give us any feeling for the year ahead? [end p2]

Prime Minister

Well, it has indeed been a pretty active year. The two most difficult things have been the coal strike—talking on the domestic level—the length of it, the violence associated with it, and the defiance of the rule of law. So one has been the coal the strike and the other was, of course, the terrible experience of the terrorism and the Brighton bomb. Those are the things which immediately spring to mind as on the home front. The most devastating things.

Disappointment that although we have created a quarter of a million new jobs—about that last year—we have not been able to get unemployment down, and the reason is that some of those jobs have been taken by people who are not on the unemployment register, in particular by many married women taking some of the jobs, quite rightly, so we are in the position where we are creating extra jobs but you are not getting a similar reduction on the unemployment register. Another reason for that is because the demography is such that in a period of ten years, when we have an unduly large number of school-leavers because of the birth-rate several years ago.

Those are the three things that I think of immediately on the home front.

On the overseas front, there have been changes in East-West relations during this year. Do not forget that it [end p3] followed on our determination and our actual stationing of the Cruise missiles and the Pershings at the end of the previous year. That was a great moment of decision, when the West stood firmly together and did not in any way submit to the false blandishments of the Soviet Union who were trying to have a propaganda influence on our people to in fact prevent us from deploying those missiles. Now, that was the close of 1983. It was a strong close in terms of the determination of the West to defend itself and to be strong.

So you entered 1984. During 1984, I went to Moscow for the funeral of Mr. Andropov and met several people there, including Mr. Chernenko. I had also been to Hungary and had a very successful visit to Hungary. That is on East-West.

On Europe, 1984 was the year when the European Economic Community truly began to face up to its problems, instead of trying to ignore them. It began to face up to them and solve them.

So 1984 was a year of decision for Europe and Europe, I think, the Community, came out of it well.

The other, I think, great achievement which comes to mind immediately in the year 1984 was the agreement which we have initialled with China over the future of Hong Kong. Negotiations have taken two years and the agreement that we have got is one which I think is good for the people of Hong Kong. It will extend to fifty years after 1997, keeping the stability, prosperity and life-style [end p4] of the people of Hong Kong.

In order to demonstrate the importance we attach to it and the significance of the achievement itself, I am going to Peking to sign it. And so that again, after two years of patient, steady, careful work, was very good, and also, I believe, will open a new era of relations between Britain and China, Hong Kong and China, obviously, although the change does not come until 1997.

We also, in conjunction of course with the European Economic Community enlargement, have reached an agreement with Spain that the provisions which would come into force when Spain comes into the Community shall be accelerated and come into force earlier. That too is good.

So there have been all of those things which I think are on the positive side. Of course, there has been terrorism: Mrs. Gandhi 's assassination; the terrible matter in St. James 's Square of the Libyan Embassy when WPC Fletcher was assassinated and other people were injured; the assassination of our Deputy High Commissioner in Bombay, Percy Norris; and, of course, the kidnap of Dikko.

We have had some problems, as always, with Ireland, but the talks with Mr. FitzGerald, Dr. FitzGerald, will continue in the New Year, as we always said they would.

You are quite right, it has been a very active year, but there have been some real upbeat plusses, and so we go into the coming year in international affairs with the Western Alliance absolutely firm; with a positive position on East-West relations and an agreed position; [end p5] with a Europe which has faced its problems and therefore is the stronger.

And with ourselves, well, we have stood up very well this year and we shall stand up very well next year.

Question

Prime Minister, following up on the last question, how would you assess the position of Britain in the world, its standing and influence, following more than five years of your leadership? Have the internal troubles diminished Britain's voice abroad?

Prime Minister

No, and particularly when I am negotiating in the European Economic Community, I do not find that Britain's voice abroad has diminished at all. It is partly history; it is partly experience; it is partly that we take a very very firm view; it is partly that we speak directly on the issues and we do not try to fudge anything.

Question

If I may follow up from that, you mentioned at the Dublin Summit, you were asking the question why did Europe keep falling behind the US and Japan economically. Can you ever see Britain regaining economic and technological leadership in the world and Europe? When, and in what industries and technologies, would you see Britain leading in the future? [end p6]

Prime Minister

As you know, our reputation for research is extremely high. Many of the researches that have formed the fundamental basis of industries, including computers, were done in Britain. The cloning was done in Britain. The fundamental basis of the whole new biotechnology industries. The atom was split in Britain. Many of the fundamental researches that have unlocked the door to new technologies have been done in Britain. What we are not so good at is turning those fundamental researches into industrial profit and frankly, you are much better at it in the United States. We had the first nuclear power station, for example. I am afraid we are behind in nuclear energy. We are behind you in computers. We are behind you in the biotechnology, although many of the fundamental decisions were done here. You picked them up, and so has Japan.

I admire tremendously the enterprise culture of the United States. It is a very strong basis, it is a very strong economy. We had it; we are trying to regain it.

If I were asked one thing which I think would revive our chances of getting jobs, would revive our chances of getting the growth we need, would revive our economic strength, it is that we regain the spirit of enterprise. The number of people whose ambition is to build up a business. You do not often hear people in this country: “I want to build up a business!”

We are starting to get there. Increasing numbers [end p7] of people are self-employed. The numbers of businesses that are starting up far exceed those that are closing down. Good numbers of small businesses are starting, not proportionately as many as yours, but that is the thing we have to get back. But do not forget that when you have had virtually thirty, thirty-five years of quite a heavily controlled economy and people being taught—perhaps “taught” is not quite the right word—people tending to look to the State to solve their problems, it is taking a time to regain the idea that you need initiative and responsibility. It is regaining.

If I might just take one example which you might not think apposite: what we have seen in this coal strike is the rebirth of leadership among the moderates in the National Union of Mineworkers. That is why we have got a third of miners at work. It is the miners that are the custodians of their own rule book and taking their own NUM leadership to court, because the NUM leadership was not—the working miners thought—obeying the rule book. There has been a complete new birth of leadership and responsibility and that is very good.

Question

Prime Minister, on the subject of international terrorism, you have British subjects on board this plane in Teheran today; the United States has …   . is there anything more that either country can do to curb this sort of thing? [end p8]

Prime Minister

As you know, we did sign an international agreement on these matters through the Economic Summit some years ago. It seemed to be effective for a number of years. For a time, you will remember, there were not so many hi-jackings. You are quite right; there seemed to be some. When one came into Stansted …   .

Question

[(inaudible)]

…   . they were never fully carried out.

Question

Still flying to Libya?

Prime Minister

Does the United States not fly into Libya? The United States certainly has a great many commercial contracts in Libya. I am not sure you have quite got the right Devil! No, obviously, when you get these things … I know when I had one at Stansted, I simply took the decision “When this plane comes in here, it does not leave,” and it did not. Other people take a different view, but that hi-jacking ended here and it ended successfully.

Clearly, we have got a different problem at the moment. The psychological approach which has been built up over the years has not worked in this case and I think at the moment the less we say about it the better, for obvious reasons. We have two people on that plane. [end p9]

Question

Prime Minister, how concerned, if at all, are you about the possibilities of American military action in Central America …   . administration, and secondly, what will be your main message to Mr. Gorbachev when he comes?

Prime Minister

We watch very closely what is going on in Central America. At the first elections in El Salvador, I was the only country which sent observers to that El Salvador election, the first one, so I said, they are turning to democracy, of course we go, and in fact, have observers there. We still maintain troops in Belize. That is our contribution to stability in Central America. Belize is a totally independent country. After independence, she asked us to leave troops there. We have left troops there and there is a Harrier force there at the invitation of Mr. Price, the Prime Minister, and they are still there. So Belize, it keeps stability in Belize and I think it has helped to keep stability between Belize and Guatamala. So we do regard it in a way—you do quite a lot for us—we do regard it in a way as some of our contribution to stability in Central America and I think that your own Government, in particular your Ronald ReaganPresident, regards it in the same way. We would applaud the approach of the Contadora Group if it can in fact be carried out, but let me say this: we understand your [end p10] concerns in Central America and therefore we understand your concerns if there are heavy build-ups of armaments in that part of the world.

Let me to say to Mr. Gorbachev before I say what I am going to say, we are very much looking forward to his visit. We hope to have …   . The word “frank” unfortunately has been over-used in politics … can I use “candid” … “realistic discussions” , that is better, in a spirit of trying to solve some of the problems, because I believe that while the differences between us are enormous, and I am the first to full-heartedly and stoutly defend our way of life as the best in the world, I believe that it is in the interest of the Western countries, the free countries of the Western World, and the Communist countries—they have one great interest in common, to prevent armed conflict, and therefore we must talk on a basis of mutual respect and on the basis that we both have that interest and that is what will help to get real results on disarmament.

Question

Your Government has said that normalization of relations with the mainland is the first priority for the Falklands. Assuming you achieve this, what next? Where do you move from there? [end p11]

Prime Minister

Why should I move anywhere from there? Yes, I do want normalization of relations with the mainland. He is talking about Falklands, Argentina. …   . was asking about that we wanted … indeed, we tried to get normalization of relations with Argentina. Of course, we want normalization of relations with Argentina. We tried very hard to get them. We have not been successful, but why do you ask what next? I know why you ask. I just want to hear it from you!

Question

I guess what I was hoping, Prime Minister, is that you might point in a certain direction.

Prime Minister

I will point to a certain direction. The Falklands are British sovereign territory. The people on there have a right to self-determination. Therefore, their wishes are paramount. I would expect any democratic government to recognize that, because a democratic government is there in Argentina by the self-determination of her peoples. She cannot accept self-determination for herself and deny it to others. Is that clear? [end p12]

Question

Prime Minister, when you listed the places where dreadful things happened, I noticed that you did not include Brighton, which must have been the most …

Prime Minister

Well, I had indicated that earlier, yes.

Question

…   . what I wanted to know was whether it has, in a sense, made your job more difficult by insulating you a little bit from direct contact with your people.

Prime Minister

No, it has not. I have been out and about. Perhaps there is rather more security, obviously. I do not want to make it too easy for those whose aspirations are different from mine. But we go out and about and do not forget also I am across at Parliament twice a week with a good healthy session of question and answer. I am going to Oxford this afternoon. I am out and about quite a bit. I have to be. That is part of democracy, and I dive into crowds, of course I do. We carry on.

Question

Prime Minister, if I might ask you about some of those people whose aspirations are different. Could you explain why you think … I mean, what are the reasons [end p13] that nearly 43%; of the community in Northern Ireland back Provisional Sinn Fein …   . why?

Prime Minister

That is not for me to say. You will have to address that to them. I am not sure that I would agree with your figures.

Question

[(Very Low Level)]

What I am thinking of obviously is the percent of vote …   .

Prime Minister

Obviously, we work more with Mr. Hume. When I say we work more with him, we consult much more with Hume for the SDLP, because it is a nationalist party which rejects violence as a means to an end, and therefore we work, and we would hope and very much have wished when we set up the Assembly that the SDLP would join in the Assembly, and it is a great disappointment that they chose not to. You see, we have had two initiatives during my time. First, when Humphrey Atkins was Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and we got all the parties together round a table to see if we could sort out the problems there. They got on quite well as they were meeting day after day round a table and you get on quite well until you come to making decisions, and that is when it gets difficult. So the next, Jim Prior, said: “All right, we will go ahead with an Assembly” and we had elections, and the SDLP did not take their seats. Now, it is for others to [end p14] make their own conclusions about that, but we, when we are getting together now, I had hoped on a new round of talks to try to find a political framework that is acceptable to both communities in Northern Ireland. Obviously, we talk with the Unionists, obviously we talk with the SDLP, and obviously there is the Alliance Party in between. It is a different alliance from the one here.

Question

One of the things I asked, Prime Minister, it is one thing for us to talk to them or to Sinn Fein, which we do, but obviously your Government does not talk to Sinn Fein and your officials do not, the Irish officials do not, and yet they do have—we could argue about the figures—a significant degree of support for whatever reason, and I ask you why you think they do in part because your perceptions of why they do in fact …   . more important than their perceptions.

Prime Minister

We do not talk with any group that supports violence.

Question

(very faint, but gist of question is: What kind of a signal would it be if there were to be a modest cut in the American Defence Budget?) [end p15]

Prime Minister

Well, that I have to leave to the Ronald ReaganPresident and to Congress. Only the American defence budget has increased enormously and has been one of the things which has contributed to the total renewal of confidence there has been in the United States, and that is a great plus, not only for the people of the United States, but for the rest of the world. Our's too, I might also say, in our way, has gone up. We are about 18%; or 19%; up over and above what we were when we came into power. It needed strengthening and we agreed with the NATO 3%; increase target and we are carrying on to 1985/ 86. I cannot go beyond that.

I recognize that I cannot go beyond that and therefore I am the first to understand that the people of the United States cannot go on increasing at the rate which they have been and we all turn to try to get absolute maximum value out of the money which we are spending. But I think we all understand that there are very difficult choices to make in politics and there are difficult balances to be determined between what you spend on defence and what you spend on other things, but fundamentally, you never weaken your right to defend your own way of life.

Now, America has not done so; nor have we in Europe, and I think the strengthening that has taken place in the last four years there and in the last five years with us has in fact contributed to making it perfectly clear that we believe in our way of life and we have both the capacity and the will to defend it, and I think that now that is one of the things [end p16] which are bringing disarmament talks nearer. Those talks will, I have no doubt, be conducted on a basis that there are no concessions unless they are mirrored by equal concessions from the other side—on a one-for-one. That is the basis of mutual respect. That is the basis on which we are likely to get the reductions that will hold. Beyond that I cannot go.

Question

(faint, but is the Prime Minister taking a second look at the Trident programme? Will the Prime Minister, in her forthcoming talks with the Russians, be thinking of using this as a bargaining counter or getting involved in arms talks in any way?)

Prime Minister

To the latter half of your question—No. To the first half, we have had an independent nuclear deterrent. Polaris has been modernized with Chevaline. It will only last to the early 1990s. I believe in keeping our independent nuclear deterrent. It is absolutely vital. The only choice, therefore, is Trident. There is no way in which that same amount of expenditure on anything else could gain us the strength that Trident gives us. It does give us a deterrent strength. To spend that same amount on extra aircraft or tanks could not achieve a deterrent strength equal to spending it on Trident, so it is very good value in defence and deterrent terms. [end p17]

With regard to getting involved in talks, no. Our independent nuclear deterrent—and I think the same is true of France—is such a tiny proportion of the strategic missiles that the Soviet Union has that it is almost irrelevant for present purposes—for their present purposes. We, at the moment, are 2½%; of their strategic missiles. Is it not really better to concentrate on getting the 98½%; down rather than to get involved in this small 2½%;? That is what makes sense.

Question

Prime Minister, returning to the coal strike, could you say what the effect has been on the economy and in view of this, what the prospects are for economic growth …   . interest rates.

Prime Minister

Two effects on the economy. It has reduced the growth rate. We should have been been three-quarters of a percent up on growth this year had we not had this strike, because the strike has two effects: first, the direct effect, that you do not get the production of coal, although quite a lot of the coal was being stock-piled—and at quite a high price—and the knock-on effect of that into those who supply the collieries which are not working. So the growth rate has been down this year. Nevertheless, we have had a growth rate in excess of just over 2%;. It would have been higher otherwise. So that [end p18] is a great disappointment.

And secondly, of course, it has an adverse effect on the Balance of Payments, which you can see from the figures.

Question

(inaudible)

Prime Minister

The worst effect was when for a time we had a dock strike added to the coal strike, and then we got the dock strike off. The Sterling when [sic] very adversely when we got the dock strike on. The dock strike came off and Sterling recovered a little bit. Then we got a second dock strike and that was difficult. The interest rates are slightly higher, I think, than they would otherwise have been, but they did go up very badly when we had the dock strike on, but when that came off they were able to recover to some extent.

Question

With regard to Trident, do you need so much? Are you convinced you need four submarines? According to my calculations, you are going from 64 warheads to 700 and from 60 to 780 … these are very accurate warheads, first strike capability.

Prime Minister

You need four submarines. That is absolute minimum, to be absolutely certain that you can always always always have [end p19] at least one on station; you have got to have four. Mostly you will have two on station. The number of missiles you put in is still a matter for consideration.

Question

Would they not be on station if they were right here?

Prime Minister

No, they have to be on station outside.

Question

Prime Minister, the coal strike. The trickle back seems to have virtually disappeared this week.

Prime Minister

No, there are 557 back this week. It is a jolly sight more than we had before the big return.

Question

Let me reform it. The trickle has lessened, slowed considerably.

Prime Minister

The increased return to work has reduced! [end p20]

Question

How do you see 1) an end to the strike; 2) when it is over, eventually, there will be deep scars from all the violence and all the things that we have seen; does the Government have some sort of thoughts about how to put an element, a degree, of harmony?

Prime Minister

There are deep scars already, very very deep indeed, and literally scars. We we are very much aware of that and very much aware of the problems that will arise when—and one day the strike will end—and people will return to work, and you will have to rely very heavily on the wisdom and experience of your colliery managers to deal with that. I think part of it is being aware of the problem and aware of who will have to deal with it and the fact that I believe that they have already thought about the problem.

How will it end? I do not know how it will end. We have got about 34%;, 35%;, 36%;, I think, of the actual coal-miners at work and producing coal well and, of course, we still have a considerable stockpile. I do not know when it will end. There cannot be a negotiated settlement while the leadership of the NUM holds to the position from which it has never budged that uneconomic pits cannot close. That does not make sense, and so long as they adhere to that position, there cannot be a negotiated settlement. So it can only end by a gradual trickle back to work. [end p21]

Question

(inaudible)

Prime Minister

The Irish problem has been going on for about four hundred years and some say from the 12th century when it first arose, so one is very wary of raising expectations. I am particularly wary. As I say, we have had two initiatives, both in the belief, really, that looked at from outside Northern Ireland—and I am not talking about in the Republic—but looked at from outside that area, it would seem to us that surely there must come a time when the peoples of the two different communities, who are suffering so much from not getting together must some time get together and say: “Look! Enough! This will not do for our children!”

Many of us would have thought that that would have happened long before now, but when there is a movement to that effect, and you know there was when some of the women got together, it would seem that the terrorism stops it from maturing and therefore we have tried—terrorism and its accompanying intimidation—to get rid of the terrorism, because one just believes, believing in human nature, that most people do want a decent future for their children and would prefer to live without that, and therefore that if you were able to stop the terrorism and restore the complete rule of law, then you could have … then they would come to a political framework in which they would live together peacefully, although they have different views. But although they may have different [end p22] views, we still have to try to find a way of living together, and we shall go [on?]. But I am very wary of raising people's expectations, and I think the problem is not the problem that there are two different views within Northern Ireland. I think the problem is that: terrorism, intimidation, stops the very reconciliation that we would wish to see, that we work for, and I believe that the majority of people there want to see.

Let me be absolutely clear about it. Each person in Northern Ireland has certain fundamental human rights which must be observed and which are protected by law. The question is that while you have got that security problem and the intimidation, it is difficult to secure the result which we so very much want.

Question

(Inaudible)

Prime Minister

I do not see it in the foreseeable future. I cannot go beyond the foreseeable future, because the Unionists are very passionate in their loyalty. They are part of the United Kingdom. Very passionate in their loyalty, and we owe our protection to all citizens of the United Kingdom, wherever they may be, and they are citizens of the United Kingdom. Both the Unionist and the Nationalist community are also citizens of the United Kingdom and do not forget that when we went in there first, well, put the army in there … I am not saying when we went in there first and we had to put the army in there in Mr. Callaghan 's time …   . the minority [end p23] community very much welcomed the British Army.

Question

(Question regarding the Prime Minister's feelings about the growing mood for some sort of amendment to the Official Secrets Act)

Prime Minister

We tried to amend the Official Secrets Act during our first term of office. We were not successful. We were very much aware of this viewpoint and, indeed, brought in a Bill to amend it, which we hoped would be welcomed. It did not find favour and so we dropped it. I am not myself in favour of a Freedom of Information Act. I do not think it works well. I am always trying to give as much information as we possibly can and that we do, but I do not think a Freedom of Information Act is desirable, because I think that there are some things in Government which you can only carry on in strict confidentiality and that there are many people, if I might say so, who try to use freedom of information to stop the very consultations, the very considerations which can, should, and must take place, and it is of concern to me. I find it very much here that there are certain things in future policy that one really must very carefully consider. You will find a leak and you will find people in the name of freedom of information, in the name of freedom of discussion, trying to stop that discussion. In other words, they are using freedom to try to destroy a freedom of discussion, and that, you know, you have that responsibility on both sides, and that, broadly speaking, is my answer. The responsibilities of freedom are enormous. They [end p24] are not always discharged.

Question

We have an American Freedom of Information Act.

Prime Minister

Can I just say that I have learned a lot from it?

Question

Mrs. Thatcher, you were saying before that you did not know when the coal-miners' strike was going to end, but if you look at both sides … I don't think …   . you have got a war of attrition going on and I think relatively dispassionate observers like ourselves do not have much time for the leadership of the NUM on the one hand or the Coal Board on the other. I do not ask you to take that position, but it seems to me that both the Labour Party and the Trade Union Movement have kind of distanced themselves from Arthur Scargill. They have refused to support …   ., but if greater forces, if you like, do not interfere, you are going to have a war of attrition going on, you are going to have more people literally killed, as you say scarred.

Is not the time coming when the Government, you as the leader of the country, has to say to people who stand in a higher position in the Labour Movement if you like than Arthur Scargill, “Look, let us try and get something together before we have damage to this country which will last literally for decades!” [end p25]

Prime Minister

There have been sixteen days of negotiations.

Question

No, I mean you.

Prime Minister

I do not know about the coal industry. But are you saying your Ronald ReaganPresident knows how to run a coal industry, a car industry, a textile industry, a chemical industry, etc., etc., etc., etc., or that you know how to do it? No. Well, neither do I. I know my limits. I think it would be quite a good thing if other people did.

But no, certainly not. Politicians are not there to run industries. There is a management there to run that industry. It is run with objectives which the Government sets. It is run within subsidies which the Government sets. Any industry has to have the management and the workforce getting on together. If they are not … but let me say this … as far as Government is concerned, never never never give in to violence, never. This strike has been sustained by violence and it took a long time for certain people to condemn that violence, and that length of time should never have occurred in a democracy. This strike is sustained by violence and by a refusal to have the democratic right to a ballot. Now, if anyone is suggesting that I appease those, no. [end p26]

Question

No, I am not suggesting appeasement. What I am saying is that the strike, because of its ramifications, has ceased to be a simple industrial question and I do not expect you to go and argue about coal production. I am saying it is the major social confrontation which is tearing your country apart and you as the leader maybe have a vested interest, just as you do not know anything about running armies, but you led the country during the Falklands. Surely we have reached the point …

Prime Minister

No, I did not try to run the army.

Question

No, but you are the leader. You were there. You listened. But with the coal strike you are not listening to, if you like, in the sense of having meetings with your generals, and listening and saying what we should do.

Prime Minister

If I might respectfully say so, the equivalent of the generals are those who run the National Coal Board. I have a Peter WalkerSecretary of State for Energy who of course meets with those who run the National Coal Board, because that is the authority for running the National Coal Board. But there have been sixteen days of consultations, not consultations, negotiations. We [end p27] have brought in our conciliation services. They are independent. They have been in. The conciliation service came to one set of compromise proposals. The National Coal Board accepted that. The NUM did not. So you have had professional conciliation there for that purpose; you have had sixteen days of negotiations, at the end of which it was the proud boast of the NUM that they had not budged an inch. We negotiated with one of the other unions in the mining industry. That other union was interested in the future of coal. We got an agreed settlement. We could have a similar settlement with the NUM, but the fact is the leadership does not want a settlement, otherwise that settlement, which agrees with NACODS, is there.

Now, some of the most severe cases have not yet come up before the courts. They take a good deal of time to prepare and the defence obviously must have sufficient time to prepare and the defence to the matters with which their clients are charged, but you never never—I beg of you get this clear—do not budge your position because there is violence. The violence is there to be dealt with by a totally independent police force who are not the servant of governments, but the servant of the law; by totally independent courts who are the servants only of the law. That is the way in which we have to deal with violence and intimidation.

Question

(Question regarding some ways of tailoring the Trident programme) [end p28]

Prime Minister

What I am saying is that we simply cannot get the amount of deterrence in any other way, save by purchasing Trident. Yes, of course, the exchange rate is a bothersome factor, because it does cost more for the same amount, and it is also a bothersome factor in other things that we buy from the United States, because as you know we buy quite a bit of equipment from you. But there is no way in which, for the expenditure of the same amount of money, we can get: the amount of deterrence which the purchase of Trident gives us, for reasons which you can see easily.

Question

When that price gets to the breaking point where it becomes really damaging to other parts of the defence budget are there ways in which you can shrink the Trident programme in some way?

Prime Minister

No, the amount of missiles you purchase, as someone else indicated, is still for decision. You have got to have four submarines. You have got to have enough to deter.

Question

Prime Minister, do you regard as helpful or some other adjective, the advice you have been getting from previous occupants of this building, namely Mr. Heath and Lord Stockton on the question of unemployment and related thereto, do you think that your [end p29] Party can win the next election with unemployment at a level close to what it is today?

Prime Minister

Harold MacmillanLord Stockton, if you looked at his speech, was very supportive of this Government's policies and pointed out that President Mitterrand was also following them, even though they were not the policies on which President Mitterrand was elected. So Lord Stockton, if you look at his speech, was really very supportive.

It is easy to talk about divisions isn't it? You have them in the United States, but you do not talk about them so much. Why do you talk about them here?

The divisions you have are those parts of the country where your old traditional industries were paramount. Your coal, your steel, your shipbuilding, your heavy engineering, and where there was not sufficient diversity, and it is not easy to get diversity, though we are getting it. But there are many many people there who have been used to working in those industries and are not so used to turning to work in other industries. Those are the parts where we have great problems. But you take Scotland, for example, she has this new industry, the oil industry, and all the associated supply industries, and has actually more jobs in the new electronics than she has in steel or coal. So she has been adaptive.

The North East, I think, is one of our very difficult places in which to get new industries, although it was a great boost to them that Nissan are going to start up in Sunderland. That was a great boost to their confidence. [end p30]

We are getting new jobs, as I indicated. We are getting recently about a quarter of a million, but we still had such a degree of restrictive practices and overmanning and such a resistance to change of technology that we are getting the redundancies faster than the new technologies and new jobs and new industries are growing, bearing in mind that between 1978 and 1984 there have been a million more people in the population of working age. Translate that to your figures, it would be the equivalent of five million more people, because of the birth-rate several years ago. So it is not enough just to provide the same number of jobs. You have got got to provide more jobs, even to stand still, and then even more to get the unemployment rate down. comment (inaudible)

Prime Minister

Yes, I think they have understood that. And we are fighting to stop unemployment from rising and also fighting to get it down. Fighting to get proper training, because even with unemployment, would you believe it, we are still short of some computer skills. We spend £3 billion a year on university education—again multiply up for you and it would be enormous but we do not have the number of private universities that you do—and we are not in fact turning out enough people on the computer and new technology skills and the electronic engineers, so we have to try to turn over to do those. Now that is quite a long job. We are doing it, and until we do that we are not going to get the number of new jobs created. But is very [end p31] ironic that even with unemployment we are short of some of those skills and we are trying to get them.

Yes, I think it is important to try to get the trend of unemployment downwards, but let me say this to you; it is easier to talk about it than it is actively to create genuine new jobs, and I do sometimes say to politicians who seem to have all the answers: “Well, if you do have them, I would be so very grateful if you would go and start up a really creative business and if you come back and in a couple of years you have created two thousand jobs or even twenty or two hundred, I would be really very pleased” but let us face it, what we are after is more entrepreneurs and this is why I spoke … you asked me what I wanted most of all … it is the spirit of enterprise which leads people to say: “I am going to start up on my own” which leads highly technical people—because a lot of modern industry is science-based—to say: “My ambition is to build a business which employs people and gives them a living.” I have not got enough.

Question

Though understanding your point about not falsely raising hopes about Ireland, is it not true that you also have here a moment of history? Now in the same way—set in the context of American domestic politics—it had to be a Republican Nixon …   . US relations with China …   . it could also be argued that a strong Conservative Prime Minister is an essential ingredient to any settlement in Ireland. Now I am wondering, in the light of the current circumstances, the New Ireland Forum having somebody like Dr. [end p32] FitzGerald as your opposite number in Dublin and the toughening American attitude on the problem from that end, I just wondered if you think that perhaps in the next few years there is a special opportunity for you and if a settlement or some form of groundwork could be achieved during your years in office, that quite possibly could be seen as your crowning achievement.

Prime Minister

Well, as I indicated, we have had two goes already. You say it is a moment of history. There have been so many moments of history in Irish affairs. The New Ireland Forum recognized one or two very very important things. It totally and utterly rejected violence as a means of pursuing political ends. That rejection, I am afraid, is not mirrored in parts of the nationalist community in Northern Ireland. Obviously not mirrored in PIRA and PIRA is as much an enemy of democracy in the Republic as it is of a successful settlement in the north. That is why we get so much cooperation between ourselves and the Republic, because it is recognized that PIRA has a lot of marxism in it. It is against democracy. It is not only an Irish dimension. So the New Ireland Forum was very very constructive in that it recognized that violence is not a way of going ahead and that it also recognized that there could only be a change in Northern Ireland through the consent of the people in Northern Ireland. All of that was plus.

I say, we talk about these things, but it is when you come to getting the actual solutions that it is much more [end p33] difficult and, as I have indicated, if there were not any intimidation or terrorism attached to parts of the nationalist community, then I believe we could solve it.

But there is the PIRA which attacks both organizations in the Republic, just as much in the north. It is an enemy of democracy as well as having an Irish dimension. I must be realistic to you. So many people have said to me it is a moment of history, but you know, for four hundred years this problem has gone on and therefore I have perhaps some reason to be cautious, particularly when we have already tried twice, but we will go on and try again, because the New Ireland Forum began to understand some of the views of the Unionists and the Unionist document “The Way Forward” began to recognize some of the aspirations of the nationalist community.

Now that was edging forward, but again I say to you, it is when you translate things into what happens next that something that is acceptable to one part of the community is almost by definition not acceptable to the other, and something that is acceptable to the other is not acceptable to the one, and that has been a very real stumbling block, and the breakthrough will be when we can get an overlap of agreement forward. We had hoped to get that overlap of agreement by elections to the Assembly. Do not forget every single person in Northern Ireland has a vote for a Member for the House of Commons, has a vote for a Member of the Assembly, so it is not absence of the ballot box in any way. It is when they have in fact exercised that vote and got a result it is taking part in those organizations. [end p34]

Question

(Question regarding the future in Europe) (Question regarding the European Community's political influence)

Prime Minister

It has not failed to make its influence felt around the world. It is the biggest trading block the world over, the biggest single trading block, and that really does make its influence felt, as it did you know—indeed, we do not always agree with the United States and this is one of our problems that we are determined not to quarrel with the United States over these things and determined to reach agreement on this—it is the biggest importer of goods from the rest of the world, so it is the biggest influential trading block in the world and we negotiate as such. It is the biggest giver of aid in the world, so in fact, we have a good deal of contacts with all other countries in the world. It contains within it countries who have enormous experience of the rest of the world, which always give us far wider horizons than only domestic horizons. France had an empire, we had; we have both gone to Commonwealths and we keep contact with many of them. We particularly have experience in Africa. We still keep very close through friendship to the Asian countries.

And when you are coming to talk international affairs, you will find there people who are not wholly looking at it from the viewpoint only of their domestic populations, but they are looking at it from the viewpoint of countries with a history and an experience of the wider world, from the Far East to Europe, [end p35] and of course, when Spain and Portugal come in, to some extent we have a good deal of experience of Latin America, and my goodness me, we helped Bolivar and one or two others to gain their independence, so it does have this international aspect, and the fact that now it is resolving some of its internal problems will make even more influential, and also do not forget the frontier of freedom goes across that continent, so we have a special understanding of Eastern and Western problems, as you do when, if I might put [sic], absence of freedom, what you get under a Communist system, is just a bus ride away.

Question

(inaudible) (Mention of President Reagan)

Prime Minister

One moment, I have a punch line before you come to that. Ladies and Gentlemen, I am during the week beginning the 17th, be seeing …   . 16th Sunday … I shall be seeing Mr. Gorbachev at Chequers, Mr. Deng Xiao-ping in Peking, and President Reagan in Washington. That is quite an active way to finish up the year! Over to you!

Question

In your session with the President you will be discussing interest rates. Is there anything else that you might possibly be objecting to over there …   . or is it simply congratulations on your next term session? Secondly, (inaudible …   . re Gromyko) … [end p36]

Prime Minister

I do not think that I would attribute very much to that visit. I am not trying to be political. I do not think I would attribute very much to that particular visit, to Mr. Kinnock 's visit to Moscow … I do not think it will screw things up in any way and if it did, I would have unscrewed them!

The session with President Reagan will be highly constructive as they always are. Highly constructive, first because, as I indicated right at the beginning, this Government is very pro-American, and we love America, and we appreciate their generosity, and we appreciate their fantastic role in the world, and aren't we lucky that the leading power of the Free World is such a generous country and so constructive and now does have a historic opportunity and is taking it? So we will be very constructive. I am not there to be critical. Certainly I am there to give my views. You have never known me not do that, but they are given always constructively and they will not diverge very much.

Question

Based on your talks with the Secretary Weinberger and the close ties that Britain has with Jordan, I wonder to what extent you see a new Middle East peace initiative …   . and what role you would foresee Hussein playing in the process? [end p37]

Prime Minister

I believe that there probably will be a new peace initiative in the Middle East. It is easier to say that than it is to work out precisely what it should be, but I think that the world is hoping that there will be and I think that King Hussein would be prepared to play an active role under certain circumstances. He obviously has to keep the Arab World … the Arab World has to stay together …   . and that would have to be clear … If he were to play any role … we are very very fortunate in having King Hussein there and I think that we must use his enormous abilities to help to bring a settlement about but you have to keep the Arab World together.

Question

Could you foresee any circumstances in the future under which you would talk with the Sinn Fein or negotiate a truce with the Provisional IRA?

Prime Minister

No, I do not talk with PIRA I do not talk with violence. No.

Question

[(inaudible)]

Prime Minister

I do not talk with violence. Anyone who comes in fact who is elected by the ballot box, I talk to, provided they take their seat, because they are elected by the ballot box. That is different. [end p38]

Question

In other words, that would include a member of Sinn Fein who took his seat?

Prime Minister

I have to … if a person comes and takes a seat in Parliament who has been elected by the ballot box … obviously, they can cross-examine me in the House and obviously, under certain circumstances, they could ask to see me. Whether or not I agreed to see them at that time or not would be a matter for consideration, but the House of Commons is the place where people are elected by the ballot box and the people I see there are the people who are elected by the ballot box and of course when they come into the House of Commons they take an Oath of Allegiance.

Question

Prime Minister, do you expect to be the Leader of the Conservative Party when it enters the next General Election?

Prime Minister

I would hope so. That is a matter for my party, but I would hope so. I would like to do the third election at least.