Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1988 Dec 3 Sa
Margaret Thatcher

TV Interview for ITN (Rhodes European Council)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: TV Interview
Venue: Castle of the Grand Knights, Rhodes
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: Jon Snow, ITN
Editorial comments: Between 1430 and 1630.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 979
Themes: Foreign policy (Western Europe - non-EU), Law & order, Northern Ireland, Terrorism

Jon Snow, ITN

Prime Minister, to hear the Belgians talk about your session with Prime Minister Martens, he did not take on board much of what you said. He certainly has not changed his mind; he believes he was right. He is says he is a constitutional lawyer and he feels vindicated.

Prime Minister

I cannot agree with that in any way.

The Belgian Cabinet, I am told, made its decision on a legal point. I find it utterly astonishing that that Belgian Cabinet, which is a body of politicians, should find a legal point and say that it was valid when neither their main Court found that point nor did their Court of Appeal. Both their main Court and their Court of Appeal agreed that an extradition order should be issued. It is utterly astonishing that a group of politicians should adopt that view.

I accept their right to make the final decision, but I find it astonishing they should make it on a legal point which their Courts did not spot. [end p1]

Jon Snow, ITN

Some people back in Britain in the Opposition, indeed in your own Party, Mr. Heath, have suggested that this is not really the way to resolve what is, in effect, a diplomatic crisis between ourselves and the Belgian Cabinet.

Prime Minister

I am afraid that the Belgians had already taken matters into their own hands and decided, totally unexpectedly, not to extradite; landed us, therefore, with the problem of which we are very critical, and landed also, with no notice, the Irish Government with a problem.

I think it was quite unforgivable.

Jon Snow, ITN

Prime Minister, were you not perhaps yourself a little precipitate in jumping on the Irish earlier in the week for an apparent looming failure to extradite? Have they really been given enough time to put this case together and extradite? [end p2]

Prime Minister

That is not the point. We were not asking for immediate extradition. You do not do that, because you know it takes quite a time to get before the courts. What you ask for is you send over a warrant for the arrest of someone charged with certain offences and you give the evidence, so that he may be arrested and taken into custody so that you then can consider the extradition which takes much longer, but you want to make certain that he does not skip in the meantime.

Under the Irish law, which they changed unilaterally, they can take out a provisional warrant and that provisional warrant is only three days. Now, that tells you how long the Irish think that they would require for such a longer decision on a longer warrant to take place—but we have waited much longer than three days!

Jon Snow, ITN

But we are now left, at the end of this Summit period, with a situation in which we seem to have a fairly bad relationship with the Belgians on the matter and a not very healthy situation with the Irish Government, who have to consider extradition as soon as next Tuesday. [end p3]

Prime Minister

What they first have to consider is whether to take the person concerned into custody, assuming that they still know where Patrick Ryanhe is.

Our Sir Patrick MayhewAttorney General sent across a warrant, which you would expect their own Attorney General to back. That is the usual rule: that one Attorney General accepts the full findings of another as given in the warrant. Alternatively, they can issue a provisional warrant. He did neither, and that person is still not in custody, although the charges have been made. So the matter is not therefore concluded.

What amazes me is that more people who question me do not take the view that we, who are the target for terrorism, who have had over two thousand people murdered or maimed, are not justified in demanding that everything possible is done to bring people who are charged with terrorist offences before a court of law which decides their guilt or innocence. When you are on the receiving end, when you get some of the letters from mothers that I get about their sons who have been murdered, or their wives or spouses who have been murdered, you would take precisely the view which I take. Believe you me, it is fully justified! [end p4]

Jon Snow, ITN

But we are left, Prime Minister, with two sovereign governments, both of whom have talked of the rule of law and of the need to go through due legal process and they are countering your concern for terrorism with that concern for the democratic rule of law.

Prime Minister

If you do not take a person into custody when charged with a number of offences under a warrant, you may never get to the position of deciding whether he can be extradited. He may, in fact, skip. Do you not think that it is absolutely vital that the rule of law not only be written down but be seen to work and that every democratic country—which cannot work without a rule of law—be seen to do its utmost to uphold that rule of law, to apprehend those who are accused of certain offences, and to take them into custody, while they then take longer to decide the much more difficult question of extradition, whether or not to extradite? That is what I am asking.

In Ireland, I am the first to accept that the Irish Government was suddenly landed with this on its plate without any warning, but we are not asking for an immediate decision on extradition but to take a person into custody charged with certain offences so they can decide the other thing properly in a longer time. [end p5]

Jon Snow, ITN

Finally, Prime Minister, are you satisfied in retrospect that your own handling of the matter—in terms of diplomacy with each of these governments—has really been the right way?

Prime Minister

I am not concerned with diplomacy—I am concerned with fighting terrorism. That is my duty to the people of Britain. That is the duty I uphold.