Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Margaret Thatcher

Radio Interview for IRN (London European Council)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, Westminster, London
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: David Spanier, IRN
Editorial comments: Media interviews followed the Press Conference, which was due to begin at 1430.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 1338
Themes: Defence (arms control), Employment, European Union (general), Economic, monetary & political union, European Union Single Market, Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (USA), Health policy, Security services

David Spanier, IRN

Prime Minister, do you think that, given the difficult situation in Washington, that the European Community is now taking the lead in foreign affairs?

Prime Minister

I do not know that it is taking the lead. It certainly demonstrated today its stability and its very constructive and forward-looking approach and a certain sense of achievement with the last five years, so it is acting as a full partner in the alliance.

David Spanier, IRN

But I think you made a point at this meeting that the European Community must be seen to be more united than it ever has done in the past?

Prime Minister

Yes, I did not want there to be anything which divided any of us. I think it absolutely vital at this moment that we prove that we were a very stable area of freedom and democracy and we have done that. [end p1]

David Spanier, IRN

If one takes the disarmament negotiations in Geneva as probably the most important thing going on in the world, do you think that there is a chance of progress, given the difficulties in Washington now?

Prime Minister

Yes. I do not think it is necessarily the difficulties in Washington. We had a very important NATO communique in which of course the United States played her full part, which indicated the way forward and the priorities. I hope now that those will be pursued at Geneva. There is no earthly reason why they should not, because that is the place to negotiate the detailed reductions in armaments. It is not at great summits. These things are highly complicated and I hope that they will get on at Geneva.

I think the blockage is whether Mr. Gorbachev is going to lift his objection to SDI research going on. That at the moment, I think, is the major blockage.

David Spanier, IRN

Another major question, of course, is the Middle East where the United States, again, is the dominant power.

Do you see any chance of the United States making a new initiative or can the European Community perhaps do something in its stead?

Prime Minister

I very much hope that next year the United States will think fit to making progress on the Middle-Eastern problem. You know, we [end p2] always come up against two difficulties.

I think the main structural progress is clear. It must consist of negotiation between Israel on the one hand and King Hussein with a team of Palestinians who truly represent the Palestinian people on the other. The difficulties always come in identifying those Palestinians and they have to be such that the Palestinian people have faith in them as negotiators and they have to be acceptable to all the negotiating teams and the countries concerned.

The second is that I know Jordan's King Hussein feels that any negotiations must take place against an international background and the question is what should that international background be? Should it be certain members of the Security Council? Should it be a specific number of nations? That international background must not have a veto on the negotiations, but they must be there to give it strength and to give it credibility and to take it forward.

David Spanier, IRN

I think it is fair to say, Prime Minister, you have taken a personal interest in the Middle East. You have been to Israel and so on. Do you think there is anything the British Government can do in the coming year on that front?

Prime Minister

I think we are always trying to remind our partners and our United States friends that we are worried about there being a vacuum in Middle East negotiations. We do not want it to continue very [end p3] much longer.

We are very much aware that there are bad conditions on the West Bank and we know that they need resources to help them to improve, but that is not a substitute for the political matter and we must really get forward and try to tackle that.

David Spanier, IRN

Turning now, Prime Minister, to the more economic side of this Summit meeting, I know you have made a great effort to get the rate of growth in Europe moving forward. What have you done at the Summit?

Prime Minister

We have tried to cut the number of regulations on business, because regulations and difficulties stop business expanding. We have tried to make it easier for businessmen by saying that we must set standards for goods and services in Europe so that businessmen know that they can sell right across the whole of Europe and they know precisely what the standards are in relation to any goods and services, and we have done a good deal about that in our Presidency.

And we have tried to give an impetus to new technologies such as mobile radio. We must get a standard across Europe for that, and get a framework agreement on research and development. And then we said to the Social Affairs Council: “Look! Do not diffuse your efforts! Concentrate them on trying to help long-term unemployed get back into work, to provide training for them and training for young people to help them into jobs and have a look at some of the inflexible labour practices and marget rigidies and try to get rid of those!” [end p4]

David Spanier, IRN

On a point of detail, I see in the communique a reference to the European Monetary System. Is it in your mind that Britain should join this sooner or later?

Prime Minister

I hope that one day we shall join it when we think the time is right. I do not believe it is right now at this moment.

David Spanier, IRN

Finally, on the subject of bringing home the European Community to the man-in-the-street so to speak, you have for the first time tackled a number of social problems like AIDS, but really, when you get down to it, can governments do anything practical?

Prime Minister

I think we have a duty—a bounden duty—to inform people of how the spread of AIDS can be prevented. I do not think it is enough just to rely on the press, although I must say the press and the media have been very good, if I might put it that way, in alerting people to what the dangers are.

I think we have to try to get out information to every household about how people themselves can prevent the spread of AIDS, so that its effect is limited in the future.

David Spanier, IRN

And do you think that kind of information is going to work? Are people going to respect it? [end p5]

Prime Minister

I believe a lot of people will respect it. If we did not put it out, they could not respect it because they would not know.

You can never do 100%;, but if you are gaining the whole time, that is something very valuable and, of course, then we must also continue on research in conjunction with other countries who are also doing similar research to see if we can find a remedy for this dread disease.

David Spanier, IRN

Prime Minister, during this Summit conference you have been extremely busy, of course. You have been the Chairman, but you also found a moment to issue a statement in defence of Lord Rothschild. May I ask you why you chose to do that when the previous day you felt unable to respond?

Prime Minister

The previous day there had been a letter published in the morning. I have a Cabinet and other meetings on Thursday mornings. I am answering questions in the House Thursday afternoon. I am not quite sure where people who call me a “workaholic” think that I could have found sufficient time to consider it with the care and attention which it merited, because we do not normally talk about security matters. This innuendo did not come from Government in any way.

Normally we do not respond to those. This was so grave, so wounding, so thoughtless, so heartless, so callous, that we felt that we had to issue that statement—and we did. [end p6]

David Spanier, IRN

Will that now clear the matter up?

Prime Minister

I hope that that is an end of the matter.