Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1986 Jul 7 Mo
Margaret Thatcher

TV Interview for Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: TV Interview
Venue: No.10 Downing Street
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: Simon Durivage, CBC
Editorial comments: 1430-1545 was set aside for interviews prior to MT’s visit to Canada. This interview was embargoed until 0300 BST 9 July 1986.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2533
Themes: Commonwealth (general), Commonwealth (South Africa), Privatized & state industries, Trade, Foreign policy (Africa), Foreign policy (Americas excluding USA), Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (USA), Terrorism

Simon Durivage, CBC

Mrs. Thatcher, you are coming to Canada at the end of the week to go to EXPO 86 and then you are going to meet with Mr. Mulroney at Mirabelle (phon.) before coming back to England.

You have known Mr. Mulroney for quite a while now. How do you get along with him? What other in common do you have than being two Tory prime ministers?

Prime Minister

We just happen to get on very well together. We work well together. We work well when we are in international conferences, whether it be the Commonwealth Conference, the Tokyo Summit or the Bonn Summit. We work very well together. Brian MulroneyHe is very easy and reasonable to get on with. [end p1]

Simon Durivage, CBC

It seems that Canada-UK relations are excellent, apart maybe from that South African problem. We will talk about that a little later, but briefly, what is your assessment of our bilateral relations?

Prime Minister

They are good. You know, we did have a tricky time when you required changes in the constitution and some of our Parliament took the view that certain powers had been left with them to protect the rights of the provinces and so I said to Mr. Trudeau: “Look! You will make it a lot easier if you can agree between the Federal Government and the Provinces as to what you want. Then we shall not have much difficulty in getting it through our Parliament.” Well, Mr. Trudeau did and, as you know, the constitutional changes were made, and then we made a special effort to get close again to Canada after that, and it is not only at Government level; it is not only at Commonwealth level; it is people to people. So many of our people have relatives in Canada. They go and see one another, and people to people really is the very best basis for friendship that can possibly exist. We have it. [end p2]

Simon Durivage, CBC

Now, South Africa. On this matter, Mr. Mulroney has a different point of view from yours. He favours sanctions. You seem to oppose global sanctions, economic sanctions, against South Africa.

People do not understand your position in Canada. How strongly and how long will you oppose sanctions on South Africa?

Prime Minister

First, I know of no example in history where economic sanctions have brought about internal change. On the contrary, history proves that economic sanctions, general economic sanctions, do not bring about internal change. They did not in Rhodesia. They were on fifteen years, and they did not bring about internal change. In the end, we had to negotiate, so general economic sanctions do not bring about the change you wish to see.

Why then do people wish to impose them? I do not know of anyone in the western world who still hopes to impose or wants to impose general economic sanctions, and if they do not work, why should they? What they do want—and of course, they would do a tremendous amount of harm both to the whole economy of South Africa, but above all to the people you are wanting to help.

So I think therefore the calls for sanctions are calls for signals and gestures, and that is what we did at the last Commonwealth Conference; that is what we did at the European Economic [end p3] Community—not to bring about change, because they do not, but as a kind of mark of disapproval of apartheid, and that is why we have agreed so far to the sanctions that have been imposed, and we agreed to some small ones, but as signals or gestures, not as believing they would bring about the change we want to see in South Africa. Indeed, I think that they would act in quite the reverse way. If you are trying to persuade people to do what you want, you do not hit out at them.

Simon Durivage, CBC

What do you propose? What solution do you propose to the South African problem?

Prime Minister

Well, at the European Economic Community, first I think we have entered I think into more discussions with South Africa. President Botha came to Europe. I saw him—a number of other Heads of Government saw him. You know, I think it was a great mistake to isolate South Africa. If you want to influence people, you talk to them.

As you know, South Africa was forced out of the Commonwealth, and then after that, she was isolated. It is very strange to me that when want to influence for the better things in the Soviet Union, we talk to the Soviet Union. We make a special point of saying: “Look! Let us have more contact so that we can [end p4] influence one another better!” Not so with South Africa. It is very very strange. So she has been isolated.

I believe myself that had she still been in the Commonwealth far more changes would have come about because we would have influenced one another. That was not to be.

We have been talking. When President Botha came to London I spoke to him particularly about enforced removals. I said utterly repugnant to people here. Enforced removals have stopped. There is virtually no apartheid left in sport. Job reservations for white people have stopped, largely because of the initiative of industry which is training up to managerial level, for managerial level, black people.

The pass laws. Legislation is in train to stop those, and the passes people have are not racially discriminatory.

The Mixed Marriages Act, the one that prohibited mixed marriages, that has been repealed.

Now, all of these things have happened within the last eighteen months or so. That is a considerable step on the way. I want them to go further. Obviously, one wants the Group Areas Act to go. One wants black South Africans to take a part in the political government of their country. It is not that they are not able. It is not that they are not cultured. It is not that they are not qualified. Many of them are. It is that they are not able to take part in the political development of their country, but the South African Government is going in the right [end p5] direction. We have got to persuade them to have negotiations with the black South Africans in return for the suspension of violence. That is the way the Commonwealth want it to go.

The Eminent Persons Group got quite a long way.

Simon Durivage, CBC

What do you answer Bishop Tutu, President Kaunda of Zambia, who say that this South African Government is not going the right way and that they are ready to accept sanctions, sacrifices imposed by sanctions?

Prime Minister

First, I say that they do not represent all of black South African opinion, as we know. Chief Buthelezi who is, I suppose, king of the Zulus, seven million people, says please do not put on sanctions. Please do not destroy the economy of South Africa. You will find that a number of the other black South Africans whom I have seen say a similar thing, so I see no reason why we should jump to the conclusion that because some people believe that sanctions would bring pressure on the Government of South Africa that others believe that too. I do not believe it.

I believe that they might bring some pressure on the South African Government, but not to go in the direction of lifting apartheid—quite the contrary. I believe the kind of pressure [end p6] it would bring would be to say: “Look! We have been doing all these things and all you do is to try to hit out at us when we do things. Why then should we do them?” The pressure they would bring to bear would be in the opposite direction. That is not what I want to see.

Simon Durivage, CBC

The other question is is the Commonwealth going to dismantle apartheid or is apartheid going to dismantle the Commonwealth?

Prime Minister

Well, I hope neither. The Commonwealth has ridden many many storms. If we were to have sanctions against every country in the Commonwealth that either had a state of emergency or had had terrible deaths among their people or who had in fact taken people into detention without trial or had had censorship or had had military government, well there would have been many many difficulties within the Commonwealth. We have not dashed to that conclusion. We said there are problems with almost every country. Let us try to help them to work them out.

In South Africa, there are moves afoot to bring about the end to apartheid. There are people who have been working for the end of apartheid there far longer than the rest of us and many of them are saying: “Please do not put on sanctions!” I do not know any western industrialised country that believes that punitive [end p7] economic sanctions would bring about internal change. All history is against it.

Why then do you want to do it? Why do you want to hit out? Why do you want to stop many many black South Africans from earning their living decently and looking after their families? Why is it a matter of morality … people who have good jobs, comfortable homes, will be entertained in expensive hotels, sit round a table and say: “As a matter of morality, we are going to decide that you in your hundreds of thousands will lose your job in a country where we know there is no social security. So we will add poverty and unemployment to the rest of the problems.” What is moral about that? To me it is immoral.

Simon Durivage, CBC

What if there is a revolution in a year or two from now, even before that maybe? What if there is a bloodbath in South Africa?

Prime Minister

There was indeed in Rhodesia terrorism on a colossal scale. We had in the end to deal with Rhodesia by negotiation. Much of the terrorism, as you know, is from black to black. The necklace is used by black South Africans on black South Africans. There are differences between them. For Heaven's sake, let us try to be positive and constructive. We did at the European Summit. We [end p8] said: “We will each give some more money—more than we are at the moment—towards the better education of more black people.” Some of them are highly educated, professionally qualified. It is not that they are not. It is that they do not yet take part in the political government of South Africa. That is what we have got to bring about.

Simon Durivage, CBC

Do you believe apartheid will be dismantled in fifteen years from now? Do you think that at the turn of the century, there will be no more apartheid?

Prime Minister

I believe that apartheid will be steadily dismantled and I believe they will settle their problems by negotiation. Apartheid is being dismantled. I have given you many examples of the things that are happening. Let us go further in that direction. Let us keep the moderate white and black South Africans with us in trying to bring about change without the violence and bloodshed.

Simon Durivage, CBC

Let us talk about international terrorism now. Last April, you supported the United States raid against Libya and since then, of course, two British citizens have been executed in Lebanon, [end p9] but it seems that terrorists have quietened down. Do you believe that time has proved you right in your attitude?

Prime Minister

I am not talking about right or wrong. I am saying that if terrorists believe that those whom they try to terrorise will never take action against them, never take action in order to defend their own people against further terrorism, if they believe that, then they have won, and the terrorism would mount, the deaths of innocent men, women and children would mount. That I believe is the view which President Reagan took. It is the view which I took, and now I believe it has had an effect. Those who practise state-sponsored terrorism will never know whether action might once again be taken against them unless they stop.

Simon Durivage, CBC

Would you do the same thing again against Libya, Iran?

Prime Minister

I have said in the House of Commons you always want to know in advance. No good general would tell his opponent what he was going to do. No good general, if he had the interests of his troops and his own people at heart. So it is no good in trying to get that. All you would be doing would be helping the [end p10] terrorists if you tried to get that out.

I say what we would do is we would consider any request in exactly the same way as we considered the last one. We considered and pondered it very carefully, because democracies are slow to resort to force, very slow, and that is understandable, and therefore you have to have a very good reason for doing it, and so we considered it in great depth.

Simon Durivage, CBC

One last question about economy and one very specific topic—privatisation. You have been a pioneer in that field. If we take the examples here in Britain, British Telecom, British Oil have been tremendous successes, but British Leyland, the privatisation of the water industry, have been postponed and stalled in some matters. Is there a limit to privatisation?

Prime Minister

Well Jaguar, of course, which was part of British Leyland, was privatised and is doing very very well indeed and it is still our objective to privatise the rest of British Leyland, British Airways—it is still our objective to privatise that—and water, we have to get legislation through Parliament, and at the moment that is going to take rather longer than we thought. It is very complex and I am afraid it is going to take longer than we had believed at the outset. But that is still our objective. You [end p11] know, governments are not good at running industry. Politicians, that is not their forte, to go and run industry.

Simon Durivage, CBC

But it seems that it takes more time to retreat than you had predicted.

Prime Minister

We have done a good deal. I think we have probably done more privatisation than I expected to do in our first seven years, and it has been very successful. You have to get it right. You also have to make arrangements for the people who work in the industry to have shares on a preferential basis, because their cooperation matters.

Now we have got one other very big privatisation scheme, still the legislation going through, but it will be complete this autumn and it will be privatised this autumn, and that is gas. That too will go through. That is the biggest one, I think, that we have ever done.

And then as you say, we have got others to do. British Airways, the legislation has gone through and also Rolls Royce. That one can be privatised. And also parts of British Leyland. We will just have to see what opportunities arise, but it was quite clear that we could not sell to any foreign buyer Land Rover and Range Rover because people just did not want it. [end p12]

Simon Durivage, CBC

Any advice to Mr. Mulroney or to Mr. name missing

Prime Minister

You each have to make your own decisions, but you know, it is much better for those industries to be away from politics. The decisions are made faster. The decisions on investment are made on the success of the business and not according to what the other investment is of the government, and it is very much better for everyone concerned, and you know, the people who work in it know that the decisions are made by the management and they of course can have much much more dialogue within the company.

Simon Durivage, CBC

Mrs. Thatcher, thank-you very much for this interview.

Prime Minister

My pleasure. Thank-you.