Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1988 Dec 30 Fr
Margaret Thatcher

TV Interview for TV-AM Frost on Sunday

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: TV Interview
Venue: No.10 Downing Street
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: David Frost, TV-AM
Editorial comments: 1015-1215. The interview was broadcast on 1 January 1989.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 14334
Themes: Education, Social security & welfare, Family, Women, Agriculture, Taxation, Energy, Foreign policy (general discussions), Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Foreign policy (Africa), Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (development, aid, etc), Commonwealth (South Africa), Arts & entertainment, Environment, Housing, Science & technology, Transport, Defence (general), Defence (arms control), Terrorism, Executive (appointments), Parliament, Civil liberties, Race, immigration, nationality, Conservatism, Labour Party & socialism, Liberal & Social Democratic Parties, Leadership, Religion & morality, Autobiographical comments, Autobiography (marriage & children)

David Frost

Prime Minister, as you know, our main theme for this conversation is the future, but there is one subject in the present that has been dominating the headlines that I think we must refer to before we move on to that, and that is the tragedy of Pan-Am 103, Lockerbie.

Those impressions you had just before Christmas must have been indelible of your visit! [end p1]

Prime Minister

I think indelible is the right word. Those of us who saw it will just never forget that experience.

The people of Lockerbie were marvellous. Although there was a feeling of being kind of numb with shock, everyone did everything possible to help: all of the emergency services; the school immediately became the disaster centre and they were all very active, all knowing that there would soon be a traumatic shock setting in because it was just unbelievable—even more vivid when you saw it than it could ever be on pictures.

David Frost

Are there any lessons to be learned from the tragedy of Pan-Am 103?

Prime Minister

There are lessons to be learned the whole time, because the technology moves on. Unfortunately, the terrorists can get the latest technology as well, but so can governments, and we hope to try to keep ahead.

Really, you know, the whole of the legal system depends upon the overwhelming majority of people obeying the law and the searches and the police have to watch for those who, in a calculated, callous, ruthless way disregard not only the law but all the ordinary rules of humanity. [end p2]

Each time, we learn something. We cannot say precisely what we are going to do, because that would let the terrorists know.

I think people do not know about the successes we have in avoiding things and I think perhaps they tend to forget occasions like the one in London when the girl was found carrying a bomb onto the plane, not knowing about it, and it was discovered. But we just have to continue with ever better techniques, technology, remembering all the time that people like you have to travel and meet deadlines and we have to make it possible for them to do so while trying to make things as safe as we possibly can.

David Frost

That is the balance that exists all the time, isn't it?

There is a lot of talk around the world and in the United States at the moment about some form of revenge operation for this hideous event. Does “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” become valid in a situation like this, do you think?

Prime Minister

No, I do not think “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” is ever valid.

I can understand the anger. We feel the anger very deeply. The most important thing to do is to try to get the cooperation of all nations to track these people down so that they are brought to justice; so that there should not be a safe haven; they should [end p3] not escape! I think public opinion is having its effect on most nations. I think public opinion is disgusted with nations that will not try to track down terrorists—absolutely disgusted—and is making its own views felt. That is the most important thing of all. Revenge is never a good word to use, because it can affect innocent people.

We go about things by first finding the facts—and do not forget it was very very careful analysis of everything they found on those hills in Lockerbie that made them decide that there was a bomb—and there will be a much much more careful analysis which will lead them to where it was, perhaps a little bit more information. When we have got the facts, then we can decide how best to tackle it.

David Frost

When you mention nations, you raise a really important issue. For instance, at the moment, there is a tremendous amount of intelligence coming out of Washington and no doubt out of London about the fact that Libya, for instance, is preparing chemical warfare, chemical weapons, on a considerable scale and that seems to be corroborated in Washington. There is talk of a surgical strike to deal with that threat.

If the Americans decided that was justified, would you provide the same facilities as you did over the previous surgical attack on Libya? [end p4]

Prime Minister

One can never say in advance what one's answer would be to a specific request, but I think we have to remember this: there are probably quite a considerable number of nations who have a chemical warfare capability—not one, but quite a considerable number.

David Frost

Do we, Prime Minister?

Prime Minister

In this country, no, because we gave ours up in 1958 and we have no stockpiles. There are stockpiles in Germany—American stockpiles in Germany—they are the older kind of chemical weapon, they have never been modernised.

The Soviet Union both has large stockpiles and modernised ones. With the modernised ones, it is very difficult to verify whether people have got them or not, because they can be made in two different parts of the country and then, when they are brought together, they are quite deadly, so it is very very difficult to discover or verify whether people are making them or not. But it is not one nation. We think quite a number of nations in the Middle East have a capability now and it is one of the most worrying things of all, just when we are feeling more hopeful in a way about East-West relations and about reduction in some of the other weapons, chemical weapons and the fact that they have been used in the Middle East to devastating effect, together with the increasing sales of missiles and you can put chemical weapons in missile warheads, are very worrying indeed, but it is not only one nation. [end p5]

We watch very carefully in this country and people who have an order—big chemical companies who have an order or pharmaceutical companies who receive an order for something that could be a basic chemical material for making chemical weapons—will come and say so and when we say: “No! Do not supply that!” they will not, because that is against what I call our duty to humanity and to mankind and we are very careful indeed and we, too, watch these factories being built. But it is not just one—it is more than that—and any request we receive will be considered at the time in the light of all the circumstances at the time, with a good deal of cross-examination as to the possible consequences.

You have to think these things through very carefully.

David Frost

We will probably come back to chemical weapons later.

Prime Minister, thank you for this prologue; we will take a a break and we will come right back!

David Frost

In conclusion on this whole sad topic, is there anything you can say to the victims of Pan Am 103 who are watching us in Britain or in the United States in the way of comfort and solace? I guess the main thing is to catch the perpetrators! [end p6]

Prime Minister

That is the most important thing, but we are all very much aware of the deep sorrows of the relatives of those people, of what happened on the ground in Lockerbie, the people who were killed there and who lost their homes, and I think, too, the whole world is very much aware of the other disasters: the Armenian earthquake, the terrible sorrows one saw there too; the agony you saw in people's faces; the train crash we had; the other disasters: the hurricanes we had. And I felt very much that day I came back from Lockerbie, from the train crash, and when I heard about the Armenian tragedy, that an awful lot of us grumble about little things and we all felt really rather ashamed about the little grumbles, because these real agonies which people will have to live with for ever put everything else into perspective and made many of us count our blessings and have a new determination to help to relieve the sufferings of people in Lockerbie, Pan-Am, and the terrible tragedies we have seen.

David Frost

Prime Minister, thank you! We will take a break and then continue with the main interview. [end p7]

David Frost

Prime Minister, as you know, this is a rather different sort of interview—this is long-term rather than short term. We have had a couple of very enjoyable cut-and-thrust sessions on the topical issues of the moment, the last one just before the last election, and no doubt we can have something like that again when you are running again in 1991, 1995, 1999, and 2003. Can we make a date for those now?

Prime Minister

Well, I think that is running a little ahead! Let us take it one at a time!

David Frost

But this has been the Thatcher Decade hasn't it and you would not rule out the next decade being a Thatcher Decade, would you?

Prime Minister

It has been a decade of remarkable reforms and advances. It really has been a decade of people returning to their own responsibilities, wanting to get rid of too many regulations and controls, and realising that the forward movement of progress depended upon them exercising their talents in freedom and therefore having responsibilities. [end p8]

All of a sudden, things have been freed up and all of a sudden, instead of people turning to the Government and saying: “We have a problem, you must do things!” they have realised that that is not the way in a free society—and it has happened, I think, not only in this country but also even in the Soviet Union—you cannot get prosperity, you cannot get dignity, you cannot get a higher standard of living without mobilising the talent and ability within people.

David Frost

But it has been a Thatcher decade. That marvellous story, which you probably know, of Nick Lloyd of the “Express” and Eve Pollard with the “Sunday Mirror” 's son Oliver, who is now eight, but last year he was watching a party political broadcast by Neil Kinnock and he said to his parents: “Who is that on the television now?” and they said: “That is Neil Kinnock. He wants to be Prime Minister!” and Oliver said: “But he cannot be Prime Minister—he is not a woman!” [end p9]

Prime Minister

Yes, I heard that. It was marvellous, wasn't it? It made one realise that there is a generation of children growing up who have never known a different Prime Minister. Quite a compliment, but you know, we are getting more women prime ministers—Benazir Bhutto now—and do not forget I was far from being the first. Mrs. Gandhi was a very able, charming, formidable prime minister of India.

David Frost

But we can switch the old question now. We can say: “Do you think there will ever be another male Prime Minister in Britain?”

Prime Minister

I think male Prime Ministers one day will come back into fashion!

David Frost

Do you think there will ever be another Labour Prime Minister? [end p10]

Prime Minister

I think that the Labour Party will have to change its policies very radically.

Years ago, in the last century, the Labour Party was totally different and in the first part of this century. Then, it got tied up with Marxist Socialism and Marxist Socialism is not a policy for ordinary people. Marxist Socialism was devised by academics for academics to control other people and other people do not like being controlled—they have their own lives to live—and they have to discard that Socialism.

Socialism is not social—it is an “ism” , it is a control.

David Frost

You have said that you want to preside over the death of Socialism. Have you done it yet or have you only scotched [scorched] the snake?

Prime Minister

No, no. There are some people who would be quite happy just to be told what to do—not very many of them, not very many. Indeed, I think that has been one of the things. Once they had been through the experience of extreme left-wing councils, being told what to do, and seeing some of the scenes, they rejected it totally. But there are just hints of it when people say: “Well I have a problem, the Government must solve it!” and you say: “But [end p11] look! The Government is the tax payer, it is ordinary people! You have a duty to try to solve your own problems first!” So there are still traces but all told, there is a sort of wholesomeness that the human personality is back with us and that matters a great deal.

But Socialism as such is not wholly dead—they are trying after all to kill it off in the Soviet Union too—but we are well on the way, I think, and rightly so.

The difference is this: Socialism says: “This is the economic system—the people have to conform to the system!” What democracy is all about is the people saying that Government is to serve the freedoms and liberties of the people under a rule of law. It is a totally different approach.

David Frost

But what about the question of the future of an Opposition? What should a good Opposition right now be opposing you on?

Prime Minister

Oh goodness me! I find it enough to do the task of Government! Do not ask me to do the task of Opposition!

When we were in Opposition, we did. We went right back to the principles in which we believed. From those principles, we sorted out policies, but that policy was as I have indicated: Government is to serve the opportunities, talents and abilities of the people and to ensure that the strong do not oppress the weak. [end p12]

That is why you have a rule of law. The rule of law is what enables freedom to work between people, because obviously if you live wholly alone you do not have to have many rules except the general rules that apply to us all. Once you start to live in a family, in a town or city, there have to be certain rules. They have to be enforced. But that is the basic from which we started: that you have freedom under a rule of justice and therefore you enlarge up liberties.

The next stage is that of course you find some people who have not had opportunities. I think the history of this country has been to enlarge opportunities all the way, otherwise I would not be here. But there are some people who have not yet had opportunities; perhaps they have not been fortunate enough to have a good family life. That is the most important thing of all. Perhaps they have not had as good an education as we struggle to give them and therefore their talents have been stunted. Some of them will find their own way, others will not, so we try to enlarge the opportunities.

Everyone has some talents and abilities. Even people whom we call “disabled” may have disabilities, but they have got talents and abilities, so you have to enlarge opportunities, because really we are the same human flesh and blood—always some opportunities! [end p13]

David Frost

But you do not, as some of your critics sometimes suggest, feel that the whole idea of Opposition is now obsolete?

Prime Minister

No, of course not! I know it is not obsolete.

When I am negotiating overseas—it may be negotiating in Europe, it may be talking to the Ronald ReaganPresident of the United States, talking to Mr. Gorbachev—I work out very carefully where I think we ought to be, what our objectives are, how far we should be able to get at that meeting, putting the corner-stones of the building in, as it were, which are the fundamentals of the negotiation, but constantly when I am negotiating, there is in my mind the fact that I have to return to the House of Commons, I will have to make a Statement; after that Statement, I will be cross-examined, usually for an hour—questions from all sides of the House—and what I think to myself is: “Now! This is what I believe we should have! Can I all the time find a good reason for what I have done in the interests of Britain and mankind as a whole?

And a Prime Minister that does not have to do that may think he or she is lucky, but they are not. Not all Prime Ministers have what we have. I know several in the Community. I have been to several countries in the Community and talked to their Oppositions. [end p14]

I went to Spain. There are eleven leaders of eleven parties in the Opposition. I saw them all. Each had a little speech to make to me, each asked me three questions and at the end of about two-and-a-half hours they said: “Thank you very much! It is not very often we have the chance to question a prime minister!” I said: “But doesn't your Felipe GonzalezPrime Minister come to be questioned?” No! In their system he does not. He goes to make a speech about three times a year. So ours—twice a week—is a tremendous effort. It takes a lot of time.

My goodness me! All the time, when I am negotiating I think: “Now, I have got not only to know what I want, but to know how to present it and how to defend it!” so yes, I can tell you there is an Opposition!

David Frost

Talking of opposition, do you think in the Nineties that Dr. David Owen will find a position worthy of his talents?

Prime Minister

I do not know. You know, there are some people who are very significant as a Member of Parliament—David Owenhe has been in Government—even though they may have perhaps no future at all in Government.

Let me say this: Enoch Powell was one such Member. Whenever he rose to speak, people listened because whatever he had to say was very well worth listening to and therefore he commanded influence without power. [end p15]

I think when Dr. Owen gets up and asks a question his question is to some extent shaped by his experience in Government because when you have been in Government you know that it is not a question of right or wrong—it is often a question of shades of grey. There are very difficult decisions to be made and I think, therefore, that he will have an influence as a Member of Parliament and I think Parliament is the better place when you have quite a number of very important personalities who make their contribution from the back benches. You do not want all your talent just on the front benches. We are constantly having people with talent on the back benches coming forward, but you must have a lot of talent on the back benches as well.

David Frost

Well, you have also been responsible for placing some of your talent back on the back benches again, not necessarily with their agreement at the time!

Prime Minister

Sometimes not, but frequently because they understand, but then they become very very important Members of Parliament because of their extra experience. They may become Chairmen of Select Committees, but they know the kind of decisions you have to make in [end p16] Government. They know the kind of negotiations you will have to do with other Heads of Government and other Ministers who have different ideas, but you have got to come to some way forward that will take you all forward.

David Frost

But even if he does not ever have a hope of power, David Owen could be, as it were, the Enoch Powell of the Nineties?

Prime Minister

I do not think he will be the Enoch Powell—I think he will be the David Owen—because we are each different, we each have our own style and never try to artificially change to someone else's style, it will look artificial.

Jo Grimond, you know, was a very important personality. He never came to power, but he always had something to say, but he did it as an individual as well as a leader of a party.

David Frost

Talking of power for a moment, it always seems to me that the non-elective part of the House of Lords is rather out-of-sync with your overall philosophy. [end p17]

Prime Minister

I do not think anyone could invent the House of Lords! It has grown.

David Frost

And if you were starting it, you would not start it as it is now?

Prime Minister

No, I do not think you possibly would start it as it is now. You would start it more as a senate, trying to elect a different kind of person, perhaps for a different period, but the fact is that there are things in the British Constitution of which the House of Lords is one, which have grown up, which suit us and the interesting thing is they work because they have been adapted. It is not just hereditary peers—there are life peers, people who go there, who are put there because they have a different facet of experience. You can get far many more people with different experience into the House of Lords than you can into the House of Commons.

Some of them may have experience in great industries, experience right across the board in international affairs; they may have technical experience; they may know a great deal about the environment; they may know a great deal about energy, about transport. People who could never give their time to being a Member of Parliament, but you take a detailed Bill—the Children Bill started in the House of Lords now—you will have many people [end p18] with experience of children in difficulty, children who need help, broken families. We should be very much the poorer if we did not have that kind of House to which we can appoint people because they have got some special experience to bring. So no, one would not invent it but now one has got it, let us value it and see that it works!

David Frost

But if you were starting it now, you would start it like a senate without the hereditary principle?

Prime Minister

If we were starting it now, we would not have it, but we are not starting it now! We are not a new country, we are an old country, and we have this and it has served not only Britain well, it has served the world well.

You see, when you have some very distinguished Ministers who served in the House of Commons, then they go to the Lords. Harold Macmillan was marvellous in Their Lordships' House, Alec Douglas-Home has been absolutely wonderful; Labour ex-prime ministers have gone. We have put in there also some trade union leaders who to [sic] and give their expertise in the House of Lords. We put in social [end p19] workers, doctors, distinguished lawyers, people who are distinguished in the retail trade, people who know all the best and latest about electronics. We cannot have that range in the Commons, but because we have got it in the Lords, more so perhaps than any other country, the Bills that are introduced in the Commons have to go through that expert cross-examination. We have a number of very distinguished scientists in the House of Lords. They could not have time to devote to the work in the House of Commons.

So no, we would not start it that way but my goodness, we are jolly lucky to have it!

David Frost

You have mentioned once or twice the whole role of Government obviously. When one looks at President-elect Bush 's great phrase about “a kinder gentler America,” when one looks at the idea of a kinder, gentler Britain, what role in terms of state provision do you, at the end of the day, feel the Government, without becoming a nanny, should provide? At the end of the day, do you feel that the Government's role ends truly in a perfect world with defence and the police? [end p20]

Prime Minister

No, a good deal more than that.

First, may I say this: that I think the American people are among the most generous—perhaps the most generous—the most hospitable the world has ever seen. We all knew that from years ago. Not only with money for good causes, but they welcome you into their homes very quickly. They offer their friendship very quickly and it is quite remarkable. I think they are the most generous, hospitable people the world over.

But you ask a quite fundamental question. What is the role of Government? It is not to do everything for people. You could only do everything for people by taking everything away from them. That would not be a free society.

To be a strong and wise Government, you need to be very strong in things that Government must do. Now let us define those!

First, yes, you are primarily responsible for the defence of the realm and you are expected to be able to see much further than ordinary people can because defence is a very long-term thing, and to make certain that you will always be secure. That is the first thing.

Secondly, you are responsible for the currency and running the finances of the country well. Now that does not mean high taxation. It means taking only that amount in tax which enables people to go on and to have an incentive in going on creating the [end p21] wealth, because that is the wealth of the nation. But you have to take enough for your defence and certain other things, but not too much, because you never stop people from creating the wealth from which comes your higher standard of living and your capacity to relieve poverty and their capacity to relieve it. So that is two things—defence, fundamental financial prudence and soundness.

Third, you have to have a rule of law. As I said earlier, you do not have freedom unless you have a rule of law. Otherwise, it would be the strong against the weak. The rule of law is to defend the weak and to do your level best to defend them against violence. You cannot do it alone—you can only do it with the cooperation of the people—so that is a joint thing.

Fourth, you have to have certain basic standards of living and you must provide for what is called a “safety net” . You simply, in a highly sophisticated society, must have a basic safety net. You simply cannot have people hungry or without clothing or without some form of shelter. You have to have that, and then you have above all—and the same applies to health—you have above all, in addition to that, to provide opportunity.

I am especially keen on this. Education for most people was the way up. It is the way which enabled them to go and develop their talents and abilities and this is why I have all my life been very very keen on getting education opportunity to young people and enlarging it.

All of those basic things have to be done. [end p22]

Let me first explain it in connection with social services because my first ministerial job was in the Ministry of Pensions in 1961 and we had to set our whole philosophy for pensions for years ahead, and in those days we had the basic philosophy saying everyone when they are earning has some kind of basic duty to provide for their retirement, so we said everyone must have a basic pension and the State therefore must run a National Insurance Scheme to which we all contribute so that while you are working you will provide for a basic pension when you are older.

By the time it came to 1961, people's standard of living has risen and we said a basic state pension is not going to be enough, particularly when we have this background—which we called in those days “National Assistance” . If you have got nothing and you are willing to work then you can be helped by having National Assistance and if you are going to get that you have got to provide by yourself while you are working. So we said the basic state pension is not enough—everyone must have a second pension, an occupational pension. So provided as far back as that … an occupational pension and to make contributions to that. The state did not necessarily provide it, but it said you must provide for that for your own future and if you do not work for a company which does it, then we will have a fall-back second state pension. [end p23]

Now that was a long time ago. That shows you two things: the state did the basic and compelled people to contribute; above that, they said you can have private schemes but you must have one and the state will do a fall-back one.

So it does consist not in being a laissez faire Government, but strong—very strong—to do the things you can do. Then freeing-up on regulations so that the enterprise can go ahead with background safety regulations, with background health provisions. But you stultify that freedom, that enterprise, that sense of initiative, that sense of adventure, that sense of excitement, then you do not get the creation of the wealth which the country wants and needs and you do not get the flowering of the talents that we were given.

David Frost

Some people would say that in the area of the safety net, that those areas which are left to private sector initiatives—and I have had experience recently of very generous private sector response in one particular case—but nevertheless, across the board, that private sector initiatives replacing Government is less reliable than Government.

Can private sector initiatives truly replace Government in a reliable fashion? You would say a less wasteful fashion, but can they do it in a reliable fashion in the areas you have not mentioned? [end p24]

Prime Minister

Oh yes, most certainly, because your occupational pension schemes have to live up to certain standards and we set certain standards. Government sets the framework and then the private sector provides and if it did not, the alternative would be that Government did everything by taking away all your income and your liberty from you. Then, you would not have the incentive to work and you would not in fact give of your best.

David Frost

Now, there are also areas where Government has more than a watching brief—at times a regulatory brief. Your memorable quote that I actually picked as the quote of the year in your absence so I can say that I think it is the quote of the year in your presence, that “No generation has a freehold on this earth—we are trustees and guardians for future generations—all we have is a life tenancy with a full repairing lease and this Government intends to observe the terms of that lease to the full.”

The environment, obviously therefore, is an area where Government has to be involved with a watching brief and perhaps more? [end p25]

Prime Minister

As you said, a regulatory function. Yes, we have to set certain safety provisions. We have to set certain rules for safety provisions in factories; we have to set certain rules that every child shall have an education up to the age of sixteen and then provision beyond. That is Government setting the framework of rules and then people going ahead knowing what the rules are.

Of course, the environment—and you referred to a particular speech I made and then a second one following it, the one at the Royal Society, because I have many speeches to make during the year and I have the great privilege of being a Fellow of the Royal Society and I wanted to talk about two things: the need for basic scientific research and Government has quite a duty to provide money for that. You never know what is going to come out of that basic research, but you just have a duty to kind of cast your bread upon the waters and something will come out of it.

And then, it occurred to me that because the basic research had been so fruitful, we solved many problems. Because medical research has been so fruitful, we have been able to keep so many people alive who would have perished and all sorts of pests and all sorts of things like malaria, like the Plague, so we kept a lot of people alive. Agricultural science had enabled us to be far more fruitful and have the yields go right up. [end p26]

Then, we all had technology, so it got a lot more industry, so in the last century … the population has gone up over the last 150 years from about one billion to seven or eight billion people and all the agriculture, all the livestock, all the industry, and all of a sudden, as I looked at some of the evidence from the environment, it seemed to me that unwittingly we had been carrying out the greatest experiment that we had ever known, somehow experimenting with the atmosphere around the Earth, with the life systems that support life on this Earth, because the extra number of people, the agriculture, all breathing out carbon dioxide, the agricultures creating methane, the industries creating all sorts of chemicals, and the assumption we have made that the atmosphere somehow would not change and what Man could do was very small compared with it—it is not very small any more! It is having an effect upon it and we have a duty to future generations and therefore, we must look very carefully because it can have two enormous consequences: climatic change—we do not know what consequence—and if it gets warmer parts of the ice cap could melt and the waters could come right in and cover certain parts of the land. [end p27]

So yes, we have a duty. We have to make progress. The Third World wants to make as much progress as we have, but we now have to look at how we are going to maintain that particular atmosphere which supports life, which supports the chain of animal life as well. Absolutely vital. That is why I came out with your quote.

We do not have a freehold. We have a lease of life and at the end of that lease we pass it on to the next generation.

David Frost

I think you have isolated two strains there. One is global and future and one is national and heritage.

Staying with that global one for a moment, your speech to the Royal Society has been much praised not only for its priorities but for making the point that we still do not know enough in terms of research about cause and effect—whether we are talking about annual thinning of the ozone layer, whether we are talking about the greenhouse effect, the bewildering number of warm years or summers we have had in the Eighties and so on, we do not actually know exactly what the cause and effect is. There is a cause and effect on dolphins perhaps, so that the need there in terms of the new things that we are doing to ourselves or to future generations is really, as you say, for cause and effect research, isn't it? [end p28]

Prime Minister

Yes, it is, but it is happening. We do not [sic] know that the Earth appears to warming and has warmed just a little.

We have one of the four centres of research for climatic change—we are very fortunate in that—and we are looking at it very carefully.

Again, the British Antarctic Survey team discovered the depletion of the ozone layer and they came here, the next room to this, and gave me the most fascinating presentation. That was basic research, incidentally. Out of basic research came this, and someone having the imagination and inspiration to observe and to find the explanation, and so we have taken action on that together, thirty or thirty-five countries, and we do know that some of the chlorofluorocarbons that we are putting up is having a basic effect on that, so we have taken action to cut them by 50 percent within the next ten years—actually we shall have done it already by next year—and we are already having another conference this coming year, organised by us, to cut them by 85 percent.

Public opinion is with us; the companies are researching and finding substitutes. ICI, I think, have a £30 million research programme, so that is something we are doing immediately.

Another thing we are very worried about is we realise that once you start to fiddle about with the Earth's balance, you are in danger. [end p29]

What is happening in the Third World is obviously that they want their standard of living to come up and they have been cutting down the trees—this is how you get increasing deserts, because the trees, if they are cut down, cannot bring up the moisture from deep underground, they do not use the carbon dioxide and give out oxygen, you do not get the clouds, you do not get the rain.

You get two things there: if you do not keep the trees and the forests, you do not get the rain; and also, you do not get the carbon dioxide used up, so immediately we have been talking about this on a much bigger scale and we and our Overseas Development Association are giving some of our aid to those countries who are prepared to keep their tropical rain forests.

The thing that emerges from this is that none of us can do it alone. What we could do alone would have some effect, but a small effect, and the world is getting together. There is a United Nations Environmental Protection Group which is very good and this is something that has to be pursued through that.

We have certain regulations in Europe, because you also have to watch the seas. You have a chain of life there and, again, we discovered this partly from the British Atlantic Survey. You know, where the cold waters from the Antarctic meet the warmer waters of the Atlantic you get a lot of krill, a small fish, concentrated protein, and people have been heavily fishing that. [end p30] Now, if you fish that too heavily, you stop the whole chain—the plankton, the krill feed on the plankton, the bigger fish on the krill, and so on. You stop that chain and you stop many of the smaller fish fixing carbon dioxide going down onto the Earth's sea bed and they fix that and it becomes chalk, so you get quite a lot of fixing of carbon dioxide from that.

So you have got to keep the ecology—the food chain of the sea—going and so you have also to look at other things that affect it.

But this is something that none of us can opt out from, none of us can opt out, and you know, if you have a family, most of us think—and I must say as you get older you think more about the future, isn't it fascinating?—you think more about the future and more about the long-term because you want to give your children a better chance than you have, but it is vital and we are looking at it more closely and more and more together.

But we do have to remember the people of the Third World. I remember someone coming here in the next room and saying to me: “We cut down mahogany trees—they are part of our exports, it is part of our standard of living, how are we going to get the standard of living up?” I said: “How long does it take a mahogany tree to grow?” “90 years!” . So I then said: “But look, we have got to make certain that we are planting them and growing more!” [end p31]

The Prime Minister of Bangladesh has been in this room—the floods there are caused because way back in the hills the trees have been cut down so the soil has eroded. The soil has come down and silted up the rivers, so when they get right from the mountains the rain, it comes down, it is not stopped by any trees, it is not stopped by any soil, it comes rushing down into rivers that are silted up and you get the country two-thirds …   .

Now how have we got to tackle that?

We give them relief—£40 million a year to Bangladesh. I said: “Look! It is no earthly good going on relief because they have got floods. We have to get together with all of the countries in the area to try to get the soil back up there, the trees back up there, the silt from the rivers!”

You have to be careful how you do this because those countries are sensitive and you have to say: “Look, there is a problem! Please can we help!” Not: “You have got to do this, that and the other!” but “Please! Can we help? If you need help to do these things, we will put our aid to do those things!” [end p32]

David Frost

As you said, these are the reforms, these are the urgent action, needed on a global scale. In this country, as you said, we are an old country and we obviously in part, as your MPG of January said about preserving our heritage and so on is a very vital part and protecting the environment is a very vital part of not destroying what we already have as an old country, and I was rather shocked to happen to hear a Planning Officer say recently: “Well, you must realise that my presumption must always be on the side of the developers unless there is an overwhelming objection to it!”

Now, looking at the MPG 1, talking to people in Whitehall, they have said: “No cogent objection. Of course there is a presumption of saying yes, because people need homes or whatever, but you do not say ‘yes’ if it means saying ‘no’ to the legitimate interests of the community or to established policies!”

A presumption to say: “Yes, but not there!” ? What guidance do you give in terms of the balance?

Prime Minister

First, you have got the green belts round your great cities. Particularly around London we have actually increased the amount of green belt, because otherwise you would just get urban sprawl going on eternally, so you keep a green belt and it is forbidden to develop in the green belt and if there is any suggestion of that you [end p33] would have to have a fundamental change of your local authority doing a whole structure plan and it might say: “Look, there is a really very bad bit of that green belt in which we could develop!” … be in the structure plan, which goes for inquiry and approval. So your green belts there are virtually sacrosanct.

Beyond that, you have to consider when other things come up, people need jobs and you do not get jobs without building factories and people need houses and young people are finding it very difficult to get houses, and so you have got to balance the two. About 87 percent of our land is farming and landscape and you have to balance the two and I think that you would say this:

Do not just stop all development. Obviously you would stop jobs and people need jobs. You would stop housing and people, particularly young people, have got to have houses, but do concentrate on what I call “tasteful development in keeping with the area” and, you know, architecture is, if I might say so, improving enormously. We are through that immediate post-war period and you are finding in some villages, for example, that some people are wanting increased nice housing development because they have got a village school and there are not many children left in the village so they need it. [end p34]

Some of the farmers need to turn their barns and outbuildings into industry and industry is not all clanking and heavy—quite a lot of it is electronic, clean and small. So yes, they have to use their talents and abilities to decide. They have to use their judgement.

Also, you are getting another factor. It is coming up very strongly at the moment that the congestion on roads is enormous. Therefore, please build more roads! And then you go through all the difficulty of everyone wants more roads but not here! So all the time you are making a judgement and you do have varying interests.

I had a letter in my mail just a few days ago: “Our village will not give permission for any more houses. How are young people going to get them?” So you have got the Green Belt round the towns, which is sacrosanct, and then you have got the possibility of reviving the villages and unless you revive the villages you will not keep rural life, but a lot of the houses in some villages … people are commuters coming into the cities … but you have got to keep real rural life in those villages so, yes, they do want some development; we watch the development with the regulations, obviously, as to what you can put into the drainage. A lot of that, of course, ironically enough, is from agriculture but not all of it. [end p35]

David Frost

And, of course, your Government has introduced environmentally-sensitive areas too?

Prime Minister

We have indeed, because again, people feel strongly about it and so do I and we did pay farmers not to develop some of those environmentally-sensitive areas because they had natural flora and fauna which we thought we should keep and also, again as I indicated earlier, we have been able to support something like seven or eight billion people in the world because of increased yields of agriculture. Now they are giving problems, particularly in this country where the nitrates … and it is not only the nitrates, the artificial fertiliser, but the natural organic as well … and in a country like this we have to watch that too.

So you have to watch several things and I should make one point very strongly: we have to do the things on environment because we have a duty to do so and most of us wish to improve the environment in any event. It cannot be done without a cost. We have to take the nitrates out of water—that will be an extra process which will cost money, but we must have the safe water—and we have to do more on the coasts and that will cost money. We have to take the sulphur out of coal—that will cost money. The answer to the greenhouse effect is, of course, to have more nuclear and if we have more nuclear, all the technology is known to look after the residual nuclear waste, that too costs money but you do not get the greenhouse effect from that. [end p36]

So you cannot talk about improving the environment without being prepared to pay for the purer water and the better electricity without damaging the environment.

David Frost

I think what you are saying in a way is that it is a balance between need versus the environment. If there is a situation where there are a thousand homeless young couples and it means extending a village a little, tastefully and so on, then the need wins over the environment but if there is really no demonstrable need and environmental damage, then environment wins. It is a question of balancing and somehow drawing a line between need and the environment.

Prime Minister

Yes indeed, the need of future generations but, you know, you will quite often find people opposing any development. “No! We do not want our village to change!” It is a very understandable thing but sometimes, when you can get a really nice development around a new little village green in nice houses, it means that the post office has new people, the village shops have new people and after it has taken place people can be quite glad about it. [end p37]

Sometimes you will have on a derelict site outside a town a big supermarket and people will oppose it and then it comes because people have used their judgement and you will find the very people who opposed it being the first people to use it.

It is constantly judgement. You do not want ever to put up environmental pollution and you keep that down by new regulations, but you must try to give opportunity to new generations and you cannot deny them either jobs or housing. What you can say is we are all much more interested now. We would never have built some of the buildings that went up in the post war period but remember, at that time we had to get them up fast. Perhaps it was the right thing to do then but now we develop differently.

David Frost

Oddly enough, my family has been involved in one on both sides. My mother lives opposite a field that has always been empty for twenty years.

Prime Minister

She wants to keep her view! [end p38]

David Frost

Keep her view, but she feels that the people expanding into Beccles deserve homes and so on and so she is all in favour—although it affects her view—of them having nice and varied houses, not just little boxes but bungalows and houses, so although it affects her view, she is all in favour of it.

At the same time, down in Hampshire there is a proposal for gravel where as far as I can see there is no demonstrable need, great destruction to an ESA and various other points, and that is on the other end of the scale so that I have been on both sides, as it were, and I was trying to think where the line is drawn in the middle and I guess it is drawn in the middle wherever need outweighs the environment or …

Prime Minister

Yes, you have to have both sand and gravel in order to do your building, but the regulations are now that you have to landscape them and as you know, when you have had a gravel pit you very soon have a lake and you get all kinds of amenities and sometimes it has to be filled in and sometimes where you mine iron ore or coal, it has to be filled in and landscaped.

Yes, it is more expensive but people are prepared to pay for that and they should be because it does leave the landscape—we must look after the landscape. [end p39]

David Frost

But if the supplies can come from somewhere else and not destroy the …   . you know it is madness not to do it.

Prime Minister

Yes, but we do not always. You could import all coal from overseas. It would not necessarily suit our jobs here. That is why we have to take sulphur out of our own coal.

David Frost

I was just suggesting from Dorset or Surrey. I do not think Dorset or Surrey are going to cut off diplomatic relations …

Prime Minister

You just think about it! I have always thought, if we were trying to build the railways today we would never get them built. We would never get planning permission. If we were trying to put up some of the great big pylons on which we depend for electricity as they march across the countryside, I doubt whether we would …   . well we should get them built, because we need electricity.

Some of the roads. Actually, sometimes you have seen a landscape with a road that you have never seen before and you can landscape a road very well. [end p40]

So all the time, it is a matter for judgement and the local authorities have great powers but do you know what is happening? Where there is a great argument about it locally, the local authority is not making a decision and it is all coming up to central government and although we actually have been deciding the appeals faster, we are getting so many more appeals now that it is slowing down again.

Again, I have to say to people: “Look! You must work this out with local people! Freedom incurs responsibility, but you must make those decisions and not just all put them upwards!” and some of them are now making them.

David Frost

We have been discussing a twin passion of ours, so we will move on.

Prime Minister

It is very important, very important. [end p41]

David Frost

So vital!

Let us move on to the world picture now!

Is the world a safer place because Mr. Gorbachev is in the Kremlin? The Cold War, you have said, is in a sense over!

Prime Minister

I think as far as East-West relations are concerned, the world is moving to be a safer place. I think that is because of two things:

It is because the West has staunchly stood up for freedom and been prepared to defend it always, and has pursued its passion for freedom and justice in what one would call the “battle of ideas” .

That battle of ideas has now penetrated and been taken to the Soviet Union as they realise that if you are to have the highest standard of living, you cannot have a higher standard of living without more liberty; you cannot have a higher standard of living without more liberty; you cannot have liberty in a Socialist Marxist system and at that time we are very fortunate in having a person like Mr. Gorbachev who is a person of great vision and boldness and courage. It is no good without having the vision, without the boldness and the courage. He has got both and why I say that if he gets through with his reforms the world is a safer place and if he gets through with his reforms, then I think the Cold War is at an end. [end p42]

At the moment, the Cold War is very much less cold because the Cold War was just two systems, very little discussion across the boundary between them. Now, discussion is much more total. We do much more trade, we do much more culture, people have much more freedom of movement, we are affecting things inside the Soviet Union.

In the last judgement that I shall have to make it will depend in my view on the things in which Mr. Gorbachev believes in the Soviet Union in predominating and I think he is trying to get them forward as fast as he can so that some things will be irreversible because people will have tasted a degree of freedom which they are not prepared to give up.

David Frost

Do you trust him?

Prime Minister

I have talked a long time to Mr. Gorbachev on a number of occasions. Every single thing he has undertaken to do to (for?) me, he has done and I am satisfied that if he undertakes to do something he will do it to the very best of his ability. [end p43]

David Frost

And do you think he will prevail in the reforms that he is making? Do you think he will still be the leader of the Soviet Union in the year 2000?

Prime Minister

I am sure he will never give up and I believe that he will get through, and it is in the interest of the whole world that he does and everything we can do to help, because you are dealing with people who have never known liberty and so they have never known what it is to take their own decisions—they have been told what to do and if they did something without being told they could be punished for it. It is not surprising, therefore, that they are saying “Better be a bit wary about this!” some of them, and anything we can do to go and teach them how to make decisions and how to do their own management … they come here, they look at some of our great retail organisations, at the factories behind it … anything we can do, we shall do, and so will the United States and a number of other countries, so important is this.

David Frost

And in terms of the Cold War, it is getting warmer. What about the Iron Curtain? Has it risen or has it just changed its contours in Eastern Europe? [end p44]

Prime Minister

The boundary across Europe is still there. You are still NATO against the Warsaw Pact.

David Frost

The curtain has risen a few feet?

Prime Minister

The Helsinki Agreement in 1975 was not only about weaponry, it was about the more freer movement of ideas and people and that is happening and some of the things that have been permitted—they should not have to be permitted but they are permitted—more freedom of worship of Christianity and also the Jewish people being able to worship more freely.

David Frost

There is real progress in human rights, isn't there?

Prime Minister

Real progress in human rights. Not enough yet, but progress in human rights and if you want there to be more, then you do not drop your belief in human rights but you encourage the things that are happening. [end p45]

David Frost

When you say “not enough human rights” , how many political prisoners are we talking about? Chancellor Kohl says two hundred. Do you think that is right?

Prime Minister

No, I do not. I think it is not only political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, it is having a fundamental rule of law and fundamental rule of law and fundamental beliefs which say this: Human rights are not given by the State—they are God-given and no State can take them away! and you have, therefore, a basic rule of law which enables people, yes, to go to court against the Government. This is talking in a completely different way. To have an impartial rule of law. Our judges developed it years ago. An impartial rule of law, impartially administered by judges. We are used to it. The United States is used to it. They are not. They tend to have a political law. Quite different!

David Frost

We have such a picture of sort of the whole of Siberia being some terrible camp for prisoners. How many political prisoners/prisoners of conscience are we talking about in the Soviet Union? [end p46]

Prime Minister

We do not quite know.

David Frost

Do you think Chancellor Kohl said too much or too little when he said two hundred?

Prime Minister

I think that we know some names, quite a lot of names, and when we take up those cases, yes, they are taken up and usually in a matter of time those people come out, but it is one thing to say you take up names of individuals—it is quite another thing to say the whole system should be such that human rights are observed.

David Frost

But are we talking of thousands of people detained or hundreds or tens?

Prime Minister

We do not know. Look! What we do know is there was a Gulag Archipelago. We know of labour camps. We do know that people were put inside psychiatric hospitals, not for any reason of mental health at all. We do know that the KGB still flourishes. It is a very very different system from ours, under which we have a rule of habeus corpus, that is to say that you can take a government to court if it detains people for more than the permitted time. It is a quite different system. Marxism is an atheist system, it recognises only the power of the State. [end p47]

David Frost

We cannot expect the whole system to become like ours … that would be a liberal communist society …   . could there be?

Prime Minister

I think that there could be a more liberal society. I think you would need a very different definition of communism, which is an all-powerful government, whereas our Government is limited as I indicated, recognising that the right to freedom and of worship is not given to you by a government, it is a fundamental right, and really cannot be taken away by a government and that is why you are getting now more freedom of worship in the Soviet Union. That is good.

David Frost

When do you hope to see Mr. Gorbachev again?

Prime Minister

I hope that he will be able to reinstate his visit at a time obviously which suits him, because clearly the Armenian tragedy was enormous but I hope that he will reinstate it as soon as he can there is a lot to talk about.

David Frost

You hope by the summer? [end p48]

Prime Minister

I would hope by the spring!

David Frost

Another world leader, of course, with whom you have struck up a great rapport is the retiring President, Ronald Reagan, and you described him as somebody with common instincts and uncommon abilities. What was his most uncommon ability, do you think?

Prime Minister

Ronald ReaganHe had a tremendous capacity to decide the big things that mattered and to stick to them absolutely—absolutely! Not move, not be shifted by “the important thing is compromise!” No, the important things are the things which he fundamentally believed in and he stuck to them and he also had the great capacity to communicate. It is two things: his fundamental instincts are the instincts of most decent honourable people in democracy—that is why they felt such a sympathy with him—and then he could communicate. He could communicate at times of disaster.

I remember very vividly that space shuttle.

David Frost

I was in the States that day. The Challenger speech was pure … it stilled a nation's fears in one speech. [end p49]

Prime Minister

Yes, using that tremendous quotation from the Canadian pilot: “He slipped the girdle of the Earth!”

David Frost

You are much more of a “hands on” manager than Ronald Reagan; did you ever envy his ability to communicate to ordinary people with such love coming back?

Prime Minister

One has always envied his tremendous capability to communicate. It is a very different system. Ronald ReaganHe is a President. I am only a Prime Minister. I have to go to the House of Commons, as I indicated, at least twice a week; he goes to his Congress once a year. It is a very very different system, so he communicated very much more directly by television and radio.

Our system is not, because if I were to take a ministerial broadcast—which I have never taken—they are then in difficulties. The next thing you have a ministerial broadcast by the Neil KinnockLeader of the Opposition and the next day you have to have it by all of the other Parties, so you have not got the same system. I communicate through the House of Commons and perhaps through interviews and through speeches. [end p50]

David Frost

And, of course, you did not make many movies before you went into politics either!

Prime Minister

No, but it was not so much the movies. I think that he was a professional communicator before that. It is fantastic watching him work. I have been with him at Camp David when I have been going over to see him and doing big negotiations. Sometimes it is done at Camp David, sometimes I do it at Chequers, and at a certain time on Saturday he gives a radio broadcast and he has gone over the script the night before—it is five minutes—and I have seen him mark on the script, look at his watch, where one minute comes, two minutes, three minutes, four minutes, and then I have seen him deliver it, sat by him as he has delivered this radio, just check that he was at the right place where one minute, two minutes, then seen him … the time I was with him came to four minutes … he was ahead of the four minutes and just slow down the last bit, come up just five seconds short of the five minutes and they said he does it every time. Fantastic, isn't it! You could do it, I could not!

David Frost

I am sure you could do it just like that. Tell me, in the give and take of the relationship over eight years, when did you most have to bite your tongue? Over arms for hostages? [end p51]

Prime Minister

We, again, have always taken a very clear view that we do not pay ransom of any kind for hostages, but that incident is closed, and I think his Presidency was quite remarkable because Ronald Reaganhe took these big things—the sure defence, the freedom on the offensive with the battle of ideas, the fact that if you had direct tax too high you stopped incentives and by not having it too high and he has brought it down even lower than ours, your created the jobs—and really, he has done an absolutely fantastic job, given America back its confidence.

There are, of course, certain things that we all have left over. I mentioned chemical weapons before. People are concentrating very much on nuclear and then we said we have to concentrate on conventional. It is the chemical weapons at the moment which are giving rise to great concern.

David Frost

Prime Minister, you mentioned earlier on in terms of the Soviet Union the freedom to worship and so on was a God-given right and so on, how important a factor is religion in your life?

Prime Minister

I think that religion is a fundamentally important factor in the life of everyone in this country. That does not mean to say they all go to church, but most people recognise these fundamental human rights. Most people would say: “This is a free country, [end p52] isn't it?” and you would agree and if you look at where those fundamental ideas came from, they came from Christendom and basically they come from your religious beliefs.

There are many people who may never go to church—in these days not all of them have religious beliefs—but they accept those fundamental things, that certain fundamental things are right and certain fundamental things are totally and utterly wrong. There is good and there is evil, and you will find, really, that the ideals of democracy are founded upon human rights and the dignity of the individual is something that comes not from statecraft, but something which really comes on Biblical foundations.

Right from the beginning, nations were answerable, each individual was accountable and so that has run through our history and it is accepted subconsciously as the basis … yes, people want their children to be taught what is fundamentally good, whether they themselves go to church or a different religion or not.

David Frost

But do you believe there is a God or do you know there is a God? [end p53]

Prime Minister

I believe there is a God.

David Frost

Do you know there is a God?

Prime Minister

Believing there is a God is knowing there is a God.

David Frost

Believing is knowing?

Prime Minister

Yes, indeed!

David Frost

Have you ever been conscious of the presence of God in a room at a difficult time?

Prime Minister

I am very wary of talking about personal belief, because it could so easily be misinterpreted. I believe and I believe that we are ultimately accountable and I think if you did not have that belief you would really wonder what life was about. Many people will say it is about doing better for your children and that is very very right, but supposing you do not have any children? You must, I think, think that life is just about more than feeding yourself and [end p54] living from day to day. You must somehow believe that doing things right and doing things good is right and I think that most people really want to believe that what they are doing is not only useful but they like to believe that it has some purpose and that it is right, so I think that there is a great deal more fundamental religion in people than many would acknowledge.

And what is your conscience about things except something that is of a religious background? It must be!

David Frost

Absolutely! We were talking earlier on about disasters. The thing that perplexes me—and I believe in God too—is how can you belief in a personally-involved God, because I find myself thanking God for three healthy children, but if I thank God for that personal intervention, why then do I blame God for Armenia?

Prime Minister

Because—two things: first, from the beginning of the world, the laws of Nature were laid down, so we know that the stars and the moon go on their appointed courses and the tides go on their appointed courses and the tides go on their appointed courses. We know that if you raise ice to a certain temperature it melts. You know that the flowers come in spring. You know that when the water vapour gets too heavy in the sky it falls under gravity as rain. From the beginning of time, the laws of Nature were determined and if the laws are such that two [end p55] platelets of the Earth slide over one another and it causes … it is part, I am afraid, of the laws of Nature. If the currents come so that they by the laws of Nature get into a hurricane and they take up water, those are the laws of Nature. They were set, and if they were not, how would we know that gravity would not cease?

That is one thing and the second thing is again from the time he was created. Man alone among the animals has this capacity to decide what to do, to think—more than an instinct—to think. He was given, therefore the right to choose between good and evil.

So if you are given the right to choose, yes, some will choose evil and that is why there are these personal violent tragedies—because someone has chosen evil. Most people choose good and there are times when you see evil in a State, as we did in Hitler, that the lesser evil was to go to war to end it, but people have the choice between good and evil, the freedom to choose between good and evil and most people most days choose to do the right thing. Many tiny things are small, but if you are given that choice, some people I am afraid will choose evil, but if we had not the right to choose we would not be human beings.

David Frost

And so Man has chosen to cut himself off from God, you mean? [end p56]

Prime Minister

No, but there are some people who have chosen evil, who choose to do terrible things.

David Frost

But then it is unlucky people who suffer, people maybe who have never done evil!

Prime Minister

Indeed, but that is so, that is in the nature. You are given the Ten Commandments, you are told what to do and everyone knows what to do but of course, people break the rules. People break the rules every day, but some break them in a terrible way and so you have the natural laws—they are fixed and they are beautiful—so you get, I am afraid, some of the natural disasters, but I think—if I might put it this way—the very worst ones are people choosing quite deliberately to do some of the most terrible evil things, but that arises from the fundamental choice which was part of the creation of Man and if he did not have the fundamental choice, well he would not be Man made in the image of God.

David Frost

So you cannot blame God for Clapham Junction or Pan Am 103, but you probably therefore cannot praise him for nine happy years as Prime Minister either? [end p57]

Prime Minister

No, obviously. I would not call necessarily Clapham Junction evil. It may be something that is a carelessness but when you think of the evil, I am thinking of the terrorism, of the murder, of the rape, of the violence. But if God could interfere and change everything, then we should not be human beings with this God-given right to choose.

David Frost

And, in fact, somebody said you have been reading the whole of the Bible from cover to cover!

Prime Minister

I started to re-read … I once read a fascinating book called “The Bible as History” . I had never started to read it through and I usually read some of the most fascinating books and interpretations, whether it by Cardinal Home, whether it is by Stuart Blanch who was Archbishop of York, the old C.S. Lewis ones, there are so many, of the Bishop of London—Immanuel Jakobovitsthe Chief Rabbi—and there are some terrible things that happened in the Old Testament and really quite terrible things and one really just had to start to read it through to get a sense of the order in which things happened and it is the most fascinating story of the world and of the development. I must actually go back. I know where I stopped. Parts of the Old Testament should not be [in?] untutored hands in a way. There is a good deal of interpretation. You just cannot go and read a bit and say: “Well, I can behave like that!” [end p58]

David Frost

The bit about Zebedia … bishops …   . and the bishops begat … hard going …   .

[sic]

Prime Minister

Yes, indeed.

David Frost

Do you have a favourite text from The Bible?

Prime Minister

There is a psalm, is it 139? It is to the effect that ‘Lord Thou hast known me, known my every action, known my every deed, known me before I was born.’ I cannot remember the particular thing. It is one of the Psalms of the Old Testament—I think it is about 139—which really puts it on a kind of personal relationship which is perhaps more rare in the Old Testament than in the New Testament. It is one of the most personal Psalms.

There is the other one, Psalm 46, ‘God is my refuge and my strength,’ but can I say this:

Each of us, having been given this remarkable personality, and the capacity to think, you do not leave anything to anyone else; you do not just say: “Look! I just want whatever someone else will!” You have a duty to think out what is the right think to do. It is a very active thing, belief, and you will not always come to the right answer, of course you will not, because you are human and you will sometimes be careless about things. [end p59]

But it is a realisation that each and every person matters.

I remember reading the book “The Devil's Advocate” , a fascinating book, a very well-known one, which is really the battle between some of the Communist people fighting some of the subversion and the free people and the priests and it comes to an end at the last chapter where you get a confrontation between the Communist who had captured the priest in the end and the Communist said: “And when I go, there will be millions and millions who will be willing to take my place!” —this is just a post-war book— “and I will not matter at all!” and the priest said: “And when I go, there will be millions and millions to take my place and each and every one will matter!” That is the difference.

David Frost

Prime Minister, that is superb! May we change the tapes for the closing part, so we do not miss something? That was fantastic, absolute …

Prime Minister

I do not like talking about religion because people will misinterpret … [end p60]

David Frost

Oh, but you talked about it so movingly. That was wonderful. (Change of Tape)

David Frost

Are you an optimist or a pessimist about the Bush Presidency, Prime Minister?

Prime Minister

I am an optimist. As you know, I have known George Bush for many years and, of course, he was Vice-President. Of course, he is a man of uniquely wide experience and so I think we are very fortunate.

David Frost

And obviously it goes without saying that the relationship will be close, as it was with Ronald Reagan but equally he is a very different sort of man. How will the relationship differ while remaining strong?

Prime Minister

I think it will be close in that we shall discuss things in exactly the same way that I discussed them with Ronald Reagan because whenever I went over to see Ronald Reagan I usually saw George Bush as well and we shall discuss them frankly and openly and try to get to grips with what are the real issues. [end p61]

David Frost

And, in fact, you are about to have a special relationship grandchild?

Prime Minister

Yes, we are looking forward to that enormously in spring. Won't it be marvellous?

David Frost

They run in the family. It could be twins!

Prime Minister

I do not think so!

David Frost

What was your reaction when you were told that you were going to have twins?

Prime Minister

I was not told until the day they were born. I was absolutely thrilled.

David Frost

You mean they had not worked it out?

Prime Minister

No. Technology had not got as far in those days! [end p62]

David Frost

So you thought you had finished when Mark was born and you had not!

Prime Minister

Well, let us not get into too much detail. They told me I was having twins and I was absolutely thrilled.

David Frost

So maybe Mark and Diane ThatcherDiane. Of course, technology has moved on since those days.

Is there anything, in addition to the things you so much value that you were taught by your parents, that you would wish them to pass on to their children that you have learned over the years?

Prime Minister

I think the most important thing of them all, the greatest gift of all, is having a family. Home is two things: it is both a refuge and it is an inspiration and it goes across the generations. You have always got home to go to and I think that the people who have not really miss the greatest thing in life and I think it is extremely important to keep that going.

One remembers as a child you always thought your own parents did not understand you. Of course they did; you know that when you become a parent and hear yourself saying some of the things that your own parents said to you, but so long as you have always got [end p63] home to go and you will say no matter what happens you will always come home, here you will find affection, understanding, comfort, support, and it is the greatest thing in life. The world unit is the family unit and you know, sometimes other nations teach us a lot about this.

The Indian people in our midst, they are very strong families. They look after their children. They teach them what they know. They look after their parents. They are very strong families. I think that that really is one of the most important things in life and really the most important and the greatest gift that you can have.

David Frost

The most important of those famous Victorian values as it were?

Prime Minister

The family, of course, started long before and the values started long before Victoria. They really were some of the eternal truths. As I say, we all break the rules but at least you ought to have rules to break so you know where you are.

I remember a young person saying to me just about two years ago, complaining in a way that there was not as much discipline. She said: “The trouble is there are not any rules these days!” and [end p64] I felt so sorry because, you know, if you have not got any rules, if you have not got any signposts or …

David Frost

Worse still, you do not have the fun of breaking them! As a child, that is one of the great joys of life!

Prime Minister

You want some rules, yes. Of course, you will break them, but you want some rules. But you want understanding, you want comfort, you want affection, but you do not want softness. You want a kindliness that is firm, with standards, because that is long-term and it stands you in good stead.

David Frost

I suspect one of your ambitions for the next few years, Prime Minister, is to make a constructive contribution to the problem of South Africa. Is that right?

Prime Minister

I would very much like to think that within the next few years in South Africa they really will move to negotiating because that is the only way and I feel very strongly from many of my contacts in South Africa and the people who come to see me, both black and white, know what has to be done and are prepared to do it. [end p65] and you see movement being made now but not enough and I think that you must never be dominated by the extreme groups that there are in any society. They are very vocal, but you must never be dominated by them. You know what has to be done; you know it is right to do it and you try to gather in as many people as possible who are prepared to do what is generally the right thing and prepared to take practical steps towards it and you will find that in all parts of the population of South Africa.

David Frost

Would you like an invitation to visit South Africa this coming year?

Prime Minister

I would like above all to feel that there were more steps taken. There have been quite a lot of steps taken, but there is a fundamental step to be taken and that is to sit down and negotiate between the government of the day and the various different groups in the population of people of all colours. I do not think that fundamental negotiation can take place until Nelson Mandela is released. That, I think, has assumed enormous importance because I think that other black South Africans do not feel they can negotiate for reasons one fully understands until that has happened. [end p66]

When you do get a negotiation, then I think you will find many and varied views, of course you will. The black people in South Africa, there are many nations among them. The Zulus are a nation, a very large nation. Many people with their own different backgrounds, their own different beliefs, but in the end there will have to be a negotiation and I just hope the negotiation will come.

David Frost

You think the release of Nelson Mandela is in a way a precondition for that being able to happen?

Prime Minister

I think it is a pre-condition for that to happen, yes. I think there are a number of people who will feel able to negotiate when that happens and provided they are able to make their views known freely. And I think in return for that negotiation and freedom of view, you have got to have some quid pro quo on the other side—yes, that you get a suspension of violence. Once you are starting to negotiate, then you really should. I disapprove of violence under those circumstances. I have always been very impressed that some people are not willing to use violence but use persuasion. Once you are negotiating, then I think that the people who are negotiating should be prepared to say: “Look! No violence!” [end p67]

David Frost

But is possible, obviously, for a state—a nation state—to use violence on its citizens too, for both sides to be guilty of violence?

Prime Minister

Well let me put it this way: a rule of law, you have to go and have forceable arrests sometimes. You have to in fact put people in prison after a due and proper fair trial.

David Frost

As you were saying with Russia, political prisoners, prisoners of conscience, the numbers are probably greater in South Africa than in Russia.

Prime Minister

I do know what has to be done and I do know that the negotiations cannot start until that particular release has happened and it seems as if it is being taken a step at a time. It is all a step in the right direction. At least we are having that, and it was very good when an extreme group started to go in the reverse direction and put up strict black-white laws again, everyone recognised it was totally and utterly wrong. [end p68]

David Frost

One of your most famous quotes when you were exasperated after some Common Market meeting was attributed to you: I never did understand men!

Now, you are a great student. Are you making progress in that field?

Prime Minister

Let us say that it may not be understanding of the deepest kind, but I do know what they are likely to do and say, so one has a certain predictability about it.

David Frost

I see! And do you think they have got you sussed out to the same extent?

Prime Minister

They are not as practical as women on the whole. We are very practical. I think it is one of the fundamental differences. You know, when everything else is difficult and impossible, women are still left to sort the thing out and get life going again and we therefore tend in the end to say: “Now, what it is that you want to do? Don't talk in those generalities! Precisely what is it?” [end p69]

David Frost

Absolutely right, and actually your practicality is one of the things that people are amazed about because I can appear on television in my solitary blue suit and nobody cares, but you in fact have to have all those costumes, you have fittings for clothes, you have had to redecorate the house at Dulwich. How do you manage? I know women are practical, but how do you do that?

Prime Minister

Do not forget women have both run the home and worked for a very long time. In the early days of factories, women had to go out and do a lot of work and also run a home and there is nothing unusual in that. You just learn by experience to have a good deal of organisation and method.

Every working wife knows that if you decide to have steak and kidney pie for supper, it is no better if you took twenty minutes thinking about it than if you took twenty seconds, and you just make up your mind quickly and you can therefore get quite a lot more done!

David Frost

But you have managed to finish Dulwich in fact?

Prime Minister

Yes, we are there from time to time. [end p70]

David Frost

And it is all done?

Prime Minister

Yes, yes. We can walk in at any time. It is all ready, yes. All ready, all the furniture in place.

I tell you what is difficult. Again, any women will understand. You get used to one kitchen, you go into another kitchen and you simply cannot find a wooden spoon, you cannot find a saucepan, you cannot find the coffee-pot. It takes about twenty-four hours to get used to it again.

David Frost

But it is ready for you to walk in. The question you very gracefully evaded at the beginning is you are not planning to walk in there for some years?

Prime Minister

I hope not, but I have always remembered there have been Prime Ministers who have lived here and who have sold their own houses and have …

David Frost

Harold Wilson did that. [end p71]

Prime Minister

Yes, and Edward HeathTed. Ted did not have a home to go back to. So when we sold the house we had lived in for a long time in Chelsea because it obviously was not going to be right after the children had flown the nest, then I said we must always have our own house. It took me quite a time to find it and in that time I am afraid house prices in London and the South East went up enormously and I said to Denis ThatcherDenis: “Look! If we do not soon get a house, we shall only be able to afford a bungalow about a hundred miles out, the rate at which prices are going up!”

You should never, in here, be without your own home and you should visit it quite often because it is home. Never be without your own home.

David Frost

As I said at the beginning, Margaret Thatcher has been Prime Minister throughout the Eighties. You would not rule out absolutely Margaret Thatcher being Prime Minister throughout the Nineties, would you?

Prime Minister

You take life one step at a time in elections. I am constantly thinking about the future. Now, I am thinking not only about the rest of this Parliament as it stretches out—the environment is one thing, increasing opportunity is another, a closer One World is another—I am constantly thinking about the future and I shall always be thinking about the future. [end p72]

Each time, as you come up to an election, you have to think of your plan for the next five years but, you see, so much of what you do—the environment is a good example or building power stations, planning for roads, planning air transport, etc., is another—you are automatically thinking long-term, but at least now we are thinking in terms of not only the standard of living, but we are thinking very much in terms of the quality of life and so are more and more people.

David Frost

And how are you going to celebrate the tenth anniversary on May 3? Is there any truth to the rumour that you are just going to have a quite tête-à-tête with Ted Heath?

Prime Minister

I have not heard that one. I have heard quite a lot of others but you know, people asked me this when I came up to being the longest serving Prime Minister this century. I said, “Let us get there first,” and then do not forget when we do get there, it will be a day on which I will have just as many things to do as any other day and the day will come and the day will go, just get on. [end p73] Some of my political friends have been very kind and want to do one or two things. We must not have too many and maybe we will have just a little family party, but let us get there first and then it will be a very busy day—of that I have not the slightest shadow of doubt. And then, life will just go on as it did before, very busy—always very busy! Aren't we lucky to have such busy lives?

David Frost

I could not agree more. Prime Minister, thank you very much indeed.