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1987 Oct 16 Fr
Margaret Thatcher

TV Interview for TV-AM (Vancouver Commonwealth Summit)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: TV Interview
Venue: Vancouver
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: Adam Boulton, TV-AM
Editorial comments: Evening; after MT’s return from the CHOGM retreat? Exact time and place unknown.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 1490
Themes: Commonwealth (general), Commonwealth (South Africa), Trade, Foreign policy (Africa), Foreign policy (Asia), Terrorism

Adam Boulton, TV-AM

Prime Minister, are you satisfied with the outcome of this summit on South Africa? It would seem that Britain is more isolated than ever.

Prime Minister

Hardly. I think, in a way, we have won the argument. You know, we have had wrangles about sanctions for the last two years.

I have said I do not think that comprehensive sanctions would work; indeed, I think they would be counter-productive; there is a lot of evidence to that effect from people in South Africa.

They say that they would like more sanctions and have made a declaration to that effect, but they have not put a single extra one on, so does it not really mean that the steam is going out of sanctions because they are not practical and they do not achieve the effect that they are designed to achieve?

Adam Boulton, TV-AM

They obviously feel that without Britain sanctions will not be really effective. At the same time, they commit themselves to [end p1] wider, tighter and more intensified sanctions and they go out of their way to say “except for Britain” on four or five occasions in their communique. Surely that is a coded message to you?

Prime Minister

No. Is it not rather that if they commit themselves to wider sanctions, that after two years they should know precisely what extra ones they are going to put on? They do not.

The ones that they said they were going to put on last year in London, some of them have not put on, because when they got home they found they were just not practicable.

We are steadily winning the argument on grounds of practicality and on grounds that they are not effective and you know, I really think it is very strange that they tend to judge on how many black Africans you could throw out of work and into deprivation—possibly starvation—when there is no social security. That may be the view they take—it is not the view I take.

Adam Boulton, TV-AM

Nonetheless, we have heard a great deal this week about intensified sanctions. At this minute, four leaders are holding a press conference making a great deal of noise on the subject.

Are you saying they are hypocrites, that they are saying they are going to intensify sanctions and they are not going to? [end p2]

Prime Minister

You are quite right. They are making a great deal of noise. There is ten pages of communique about it, but look through that ten pages: just tell me one extra sanctions that they are actually going to put on. There is not one. At the end, they are going to set up a committee. We have had those before.

This is very very different from the conference we had in London a year ago and in Nassau two years ago.

Adam Boulton, TV-AM

So they are hypocrites?

Prime Minister

No, I am not calling them hypocrites. I am saying that the steam is going out of sanctions as they are realising that they could not possibly do what they thought at first they would—I would say they are being very practical about it.

Adam Boulton, TV-AM

You are going to educate them?

Prime Minister

No. They are coming to realise that you can make great declarations, but it is not so easy when you come to carrying them out, and that is why we have got a ten-page communique, but there is not a single extra sanction that those who believe in them are going to put on. [end p3]

Adam Boulton, TV-AM

Do you think it is right that you should be intensifying your aid to the front-line black African states when they clearly disagree with your policy?

Prime Minister

Look! We have taken the view that sanctions will be counter-productive. We gave a signal—because they were anxious we should—and of course, we do not supply arms, that is on quite a different plane, but then, beyond that, we said: “Look! We will help the front-line states on security!” and have been doing so. There is nothing new about that. “Yes, we will help Mozambique!” —we have been doing so. There is nothing new about that. “Yes, we will help them to have different railway lines so that they do not have to send their goods through South Africa” and there is nothing new about that—we are committed to £14 million on the Limpopo line. That is all in the communique. Quite a lot of it is not attributed to Britain, but we were doing it before we came here. But that is the right way; it is much the more constructive way. We have been helping black South Africans for a long time to have a much higher level of education and to come out, if need be, to us to achieve that level of education.

This is the positive, constructive way to go about it and I think you will find that they too are realising that. [end p4]

Adam Boulton, TV-AM

Is there anything new today that there was not last week to suggest that the Commonwealth is putting on the pressure to end apartheid sooner?

Prime Minister

Everyone wants to end apartheid. The question is: do sanctions help or do they harm? I think that they prolong the very thing that they are wanting to bring to an end.

Yes, there is a difference between us: that they believe in the violence which the ANC practises. I have never believed in violence, never.

Adam Boulton, TV-AM

The rest of the Commonwealth believe in the violence?

Prime Minister

Well, they support the ANC—the ANC movement—which believes in violence, as you know, and we have never believed in violence and I have made it perfectly clear that we do not.

And they believe that comprehensive sanctions would work. I do not believe that putting the very people you want to help out of work on a massive scale, with no social security, and making South Africa a wasteland, would help at all—and even they have to admit [end p5] that one million of their people choose to go to South Africa to work because they get better jobs and a better deal as far as material things are concerned there than they would get in the other African countries.

Adam Boulton, TV-AM

Turning to Fiji, the Commonwealth accepts that Fiji is in limbo at the moment as far as membership is concerned.

If Fiji were to adopt, as seems likely, a racist constitution favouring one racial group over another, could it return to the Commonwealth?

Prime Minister

We are not coming to a conclusion at the moment. The fact is that when Fiji ceased to be a monarchy its membership lapsed and the question is whether it will make another application. What we are saying is: “Look! Take time to sort it out!” —I think most of us do not believe that the present situation will l* we believe that it is inherently unstable— “Take time to sort out something which is reasonable with regard to all peoples there and if you should come to something that is reasonable, that will be the time to put in another application, and if you do, under those circumstances it would be considered.”

We are saying: “Look! The Commonwealth does not come to hasty judgements, particularly without hearing someone.” It would be quite wrong to condemn them without a hearing. [end p6]

What we are doing is offering a helping hand in the spirit of friendship and we sat round that table with Fiji, and you know Fiji has been very good. Fiji put up military forces for United Nations peace-keeping. It is a very very important country in the Pacific. Let us just say: “Give them time to sort things out!” If we can help, then we will do so in a spirit of friendship, and then they will consider whether they want to put in an application with Fiji as a republic.

Adam Boulton, TV-AM

Finally, Prime Minister, the beautiful weather here has not been matched by England's weather. There appears to have been in the south a catastrophic storm.

Are you surprised that a country like ours appeared to have no warning of the crisis?

Prime Minister

Obviously, when one telephoned it was one of the first thing that one said.

Hurricanes, as you know, are notorious for taking paths that have not been forecast, and as news came in it was worse and worse—the number of trees down, the number of roofs. I can only think that it would have been even worse had it come mid-afternoon or some time like that, because so many cars and lorries would have been about and it would have been even worse. [end p7]

I think that we should again not condemn before we have heard what the explanation is, but undoubtedly it is the worst storm we have had since the early eighteenth century and is very serious indeed.

Adam Boulton, TV-AM

We did not have technological science then.

Prime Minister

No, we did not, but you know, even with technological science, you cannot predict everything. You cannot predict the course which every hurricane is going to take—it will change; you cannot predict always what mankind will do either.

Adam Boulton, TV-AM

Prime Minister, thank you very much indeed.