Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Margaret Thatcher

Interview for Le Monde

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: No.10 Downing Street
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: Dominique Dhombres and Jaques Amalique, Le Monde
Editorial comments:

Between 0930 and 1107 MT gave interviews to the French press.

Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 6206
Themes: Social security & welfare, Economy (general discussions), Agriculture, Monetary policy, Trade, Foreign policy (general discussions), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Foreign policy (Western Europe - non-EU), Foreign policy (Africa), Foreign policy (Americas excluding USA), Foreign policy (Asia), Foreign policy (Central & Eastern Europe), Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (development, aid, etc), Foreign policy (International organizations), Commonwealth (South Africa), European Union (general), European Union Single Market, Environment, Media, Transport, Defence (general), Defence (arms control), Defence (Falklands War, 1982), European elections, British Constitution (general discussions), Civil liberties, Religion & morality, Famous statements by MT

Interviewer

First, we want to know what your priorities for the Summit in Paris are.

Prime Minister

I think the priorities are first to see that we continue to run sound economic policies. You will recall that in the first seven years of the Summit, all the seven Summit nations were doing what is called “fine tuning” - a little bit here, a little bit there - and it led, I am afraid, to high inflation and high unemployment.

In the second seven years we said that is not the right approach. We have got really to run our economies in a sound way. See that your money supply does not get too much out of line with your country's capacity to earn - if it does you get inflation. We have got a little return of inflation now, but nothing like the previous time. See that your public spending is kept reasonably [end p1] under control and that you do not have too big a budget deficit. See that your taxation system is such that it gives incentives to people who work hard, and so on. There is no substitute for running your economy in a sound way.

The other thing which is going to be very important at this Summit also for running your economy in a sound way is to see that we pursue a policy of free trade through multilateral channels. That is very important. We have got the GATT Uruguay Round and there is now a tendency to have bilateral agreements which cut down trade, or too many of us have protectionist agreements. I suppose you can say the Common Agricultural Policy is itself protectionist and that has to be looked at in the GATT Uruguay Round. It is very very important this time that we continue to get down our trade barriers through the GATT and that we include agriculture - we have just started on that; that it includes services and includes intellectual property because any tendency - and every country has it; we all have some protectionist tendencies - to go further protectionist cuts down world trade which in the end does neither the industrial countries nor the Free World any good and if you are going to talk about debt and help the Third World, you just have to remember that Third World wants trade as much as it wants aid. That is the first thing. [end p2]

Secondly, yes of course we shall talk, as we did talk at Toronto, about the position reached with regard to debt but I do not think we shall have any very great new initiatives because I think the way in which it is being done now through the world financial institutions - the IMF, the World Bank - that is the right way to do it and when we reschedule, as we did after Toronto, we all agreed that we would either write off some capital and reduce the sum interest or reschedule the interest. We have already written off capital - over £1 billion - as France has now done, for the poorest countries and our system of either cutting down the extra bit of capital or relieving the pressure on interest rates was done by rescheduling through the Paris Club.

Environment will also loom very large this time because it is important from the viewpoint of the world's eco-systems.

What we really do is discuss what we will then do through the authorised international institutions. Really, there are three things: there is orthodox finance and keeping going the investment and the incentives; there is multilateral trade and if you tie to that some of the debt considerations - we have got the Brady Report - you just remember that it is not only relief from debt they want - they want trade; and the environment, which is very big. [end p3]

It is big because for years we have assumed that the world's eco-systems would go untouched by Man as it were and they are not. They are now reacting to what Man is doing and we must remember we only have a life tenancy on this earth and we have to leave it to others in pretty much the same conditions we found it.

Interviewer

Prime Minister, when you are speaking about debt you are speaking about public debt. What is your position on the private debts?

Prime Minister

I am speaking about public debt. The commercial banks, they make their own decisions. It is for them to say whether they will continue to lend more in order to have the possibility of the previous debt being repaid. As you know, they are writing down some of their debts - they started to write down eighteen months to two years ago - then, when they write down those debts, which is correct for their balance sheet, I do not know what the tax law is in your country but in our country a bad debt is allowed against profits for tax. So in a way, the tax-payer is helping even on the private debt insofar as those are written down. And also, again, when you have ECGD - you have an export-import bank, you all have an export credit guarantee arrangement worked through government. As you know, quite often the vendor has not received payment in full for [end p4] some of the goods sold and then I am afraid that in theory has to be met by putting up the premiums on the export credit guarantee. In practice, it has not been. Sometimes the tax-payer has had to put up quite a subsidy. So the tax-payer is involved there too but I have never in all my ten years tried to persuade a bank either to give a loan or to do things which are against their commercial judgement because if a government does that and things go wrong then I reckon it gets a liability towards that bank because it has persuaded it to do things which its own judgement would not let be done.

Interviewer

Do you expect, like in Toronto, a kind of confrontation between European countries and the United States on this protectionism question?

Prime Minister

No, I do not think there will be a confrontation. I think there will be a recognition that we all do some of it and we have got to get it down.

The Common Agricultural Policy is protectionist. People are frightened to death that Europe will be protectionist after 1992 and sometimes so am I! I took one look at the Social Charter and thought that if you are going to pile all these costs on industry in [end p5] Europe, all the costs will go up so much that you will need a great big tariff barrier round the edge to protect us from the outside world, which would be absurd.

What you have got to do is recognise that larger world trade is in the interests both of the manufacturing countries and of the Third World countries. You get larger world trade by negotiating together in a multilateral forum to get your barriers down and we simply must stop the tendency to have bilateral arrangements, particularly when you have got a multilateral GATT Round going on. So it is to get the barriers down.

I remember the purpose of the Treaty of Rome - and do not forget a common market, a single market was right at the root of the Treaty of Rome, it is ironic that it has taken so long to come in - was that we got down our trade barriers within not to put up more without, but as an example to the rest of the world so that they got theirs down. So that means we should be negotiating with the rest of the world through the GATT to get those down and as you know, if anyone puts a fetter on trade like the hormone beef from the United States, they can take action under the GATT.

So it is really keeping an open world trading system which is very important. It is no good getting at other countries. We are all guilty to some extent. We had far better realise our guilt and say we will negotiate it away and not do the very reverse. [end p6]

Of course, we shall say to the United States: “You have got your Super 301 and we are all very worried about it as we were very worried about a Bill before Congress!” They will then say to us: “You have got a Common Agricultural Policy, you stop certain things coming in here! Some of your countries wanted an oils and fats tax put on! What is that but protectionism?” So we all recognise that we have some things to negotiate away. The important thing is that we do that.

Interviewer

Just one more question about the Summit. What main political issue do you want to discuss? East-West relations, China?

Prime Minister

You obviously must discuss China. The world would not understand if we did not because those scenes are still etched on one's mind - the scenes that one saw on television - and because I think we had all somehow thought that after all Deng Xiaoping had been a very reforming Head of China and he knew what the Cultural Revolution was like and we had thought that some things he had done really could not be reversed and that you could not go back to that sort of force and tyranny. Well, we were wrong and it was a shock! [end p7]

Perhaps it is so very easy - too easy - in foreign affairs somehow unconsciously to attribute to those with whom you are dealing the things which are quite fundamental to your beliefs and therefore unthinkable to us, and we must not do that. We must not put ourselves in their shoes. That is a great mistake. We have to judge them by what they are in their shoes and not what we would be like in their shoes.

Interviewer

Do you think we have some lessons to learn from the Chinese events when we think about the Soviet Union?

Prime Minister

Oh yes! People say certain things are irreversible. I hope to goodness they are, very much so!

The Soviet Union has gone about it in the reverse way. China went about it in the economic field first, perhaps because she had more people who were peasant farmers and knew how to make their own decisions and were a less sophisticated country than the Soviet Union so she could get her economic reforms really with much more of the market going although she found difficulty when it came to manufacturing. [end p8]

The Soviet Union has never really had people who have known how to run a free-enterprise system. They have always been directed in detail from the centre and it is inculcated into them that you do nothing unless you are told to do it and then you only do it in the way you are told to do it. So they have had to get the political reforms first which must have been a great joy to them, to get much greater freedom of discussion and you can see the way in which it has unleashed quite a lot of criticism of the government system which they really did not like. But the real difficulty with them is how to undo centuries of force, centuries of central direction, planning and control, and you can understand that people who have never taken responsibility but have been brought up under a system where there were heavy penalties if you did anything you were not told to, were a bit fearful and they are going to go on being fearful.

So I hope because they have got the political change first that part of that at any rate is irreversible but the problem is of raising the standard of living in a highly sophisticated society - do not forget we came into free enterprise, the Industrial Revolution, from an agricultural country and therefore we came up through a much simpler industrial society and now it is a highly complicated one. [end p9]

Politics, not only inside the Soviet Union but also down the satellite countries, give a period of great uncertainty, enormous uncertainty. You do not know how it is going to be. Even Hungary is finding quite considerable difficulty in getting the economic advance that she wants - and she has a certain experience of it - and it will be very difficult with Poland.

So you have got a very great uncertainty and that uncertainty is going to go on for quite a long time. Indeed, we have got more uncertainty than we have had for a long time. That is why people like me insist that we keep our defences sure. If you value your freedom under a rule of law - and what they have never had is a rule of law; they have never been able to take the government to court in the same way as we can - you are prepared to defend it and stick together.

Prime Minister

Last week in Paris, when Mr. Gorbachev was there, M. Mitterrand said that it is the duty of democracy to help Gorbachev and perestroika. Do you agree?

Prime Minister

Good Heavens yes, I was saying it first! Don't you remember, Mikhail Gorbachevhe came over here, he was General Secretary and my phrase was: “That is a man I can do business with!” When I saw his perestroika speeches - I got every speech, and they are long, my goodness me, they are long - I got them translated, I went through [end p10] them. I was the first to say: “Yes, we support you!” when other countries were saying: “Well, why do you support them? Do you not think they are trying to make Communism work better?” And I said “No! They can only do this by enlarging human freedom! Every enlargement of human freedom is good for human kind!” But because I support him and support him ardently that does not mean that I underestimate his difficulties with getting done what he wants to nor do I underestimate those who are against him who would prefer to carry on with the old system. So it is a very realistic approach and I was the very first to say: “Yes, this is quite a different Russian from any we have ever met before and he has this vision!” and I think it is fantastic and it has unlocked possibilities for the Soviet Union, but it is still difficult and I think M. Mitterrand feels the same. I think we probably feel very much the same about this and President Mitterrand and I feel very much the same about nuclear weapons. We have a very great deal in common.

Interviewer

Did you have contact with M. Mitterrand after the Gorbachev visit? [end p11]

Prime Minister

No, I have not had, no. Fran&cced;ois MitterrandHe has had enough on his hands after the Gorbachev visit with the Bastille Day, with the Bicentennial and with the Economic Summit. But as you know, the diplomatic net is very good and immediately, of course, your Quay briefs European ambassadors and all the telegrams come in and we read them with great fascination.

Interviewer

You just mentioned that the West should not lower its defences. Were you disappointed by the Brussels NATO Summit when this SNF negotiation was decided? [end p12]

Prime Minister

No, I was not disappointed in it, we actually got a very good Summit result, very good.

Interviewer

But you came to the Summit saying that you did not want any kind of negotiation on SNF.

Prime Minister

There are not going to be any for quite a long time, there are not going to be any for a long time, not until the conventional agreements are implemented. [end p13]

Interviewer

Do you think that it was pure veto given to the Germans?

Prime Minister

No, we could not in fact get no SNF negotiations but we got SNF negotiations after the conventional ones have not only been agreed, then when they have been agreed and they have started to reduce, then you can start your SNF negotiations with no third zero because you cannot have flexible response and a third zero. It is no good saying our strategy is flexible response and then denying the weapons to have it.

Plus the fact that it is quite clear in the comprehensive statement that your SNF do not go even if you get all of your conventional weapons down, they are a fundamental part of deterrence. That is the only thing, having the short-range, that if anyone came across that line it is the only actual nuclear deterrence there, that they know that those could be used. And without that they could come across the line and think my goodness me, the big intercontinental ballistic missiles will never be used.

It is fundamental to deterrence so it is very good. I am sure you have been through it. It was a very very good communique, I could almost go through it with you paragraph by paragraph. It is good, it hangs together well, and of course it had the political declaration as well, it is very very good and all Heads of Government signed up to it. The thing now is to keep it because it does matter. [end p14]

It will be a very very long time before that massive superiority of conventional weapons is actually reduced. And do not forget, we are negotiating only from the Atlantic to the Urals. We, if anything went wrong, have to fetch our reinforcements across the Atlantic with all the U-Boat dangers, with all the reinforcement dangers.

It is only three hours flight from the Urals to the front line so you simply must look at the geography when you are looking at the strategy. You must always when you are negotiating on these things have had extensive talks with your Defence and Chiefs of Staff to see that what you have got is a cohesive strategy and a cohesive mix of weapons and a cohesive arrangement between the Allies. It was a very good document and France took a very similar view on the SNF to what we did. She has a sense of scepticism, as we have, quite rightly. France's scepticism is a good thing.

Interviewer

Are you irritated by the fact that the Summit coincided with Bicentennial events?

Prime Minister

No I am not irritated by it in any way. We always have an Economic Summit either in May, June or July. Obviously it occurred to Mr Mitterrand that if we had it in July then we should also have the chance to meet many other Heads of State and Government there which is always useful, always useful when you get together. [end p15]

We go and we have a celebratory lunch after the morning's events and then I think the busiest time is from about 2.30, 2.45 on, we are doing bilaterals. So it is quite useful. I have not, for example, seen Mr Gandhi for quite a time. I have just seen Benazir Bhutto because she has been here. That would be a great pleasure. Mexico - Mexico has a debt problem, she is handling it very well and so are the United States Banks, that is coming on. Brazil has a problem, my goodness me, she has problems. And of course we will talk about the Middle East too.

Interviewer

There were some suggestions that you were a little bit irritated by this French pretence that human rights began with the French Revolution?

Prime Minister

Human rights did not begin with the French Revolution, that is just what I have been doing on television, and I do not think anyone who knows their religious history or their Greek history would suggest they did.

Your human rights really step from a mixture of Judaism and Christianity. They are the only religions which actually regarded the individual as extremely important, the sanctity of the individual, certain rights of the individual which no government can take away. [end p16]

Europe was coterminous with Christendom at one time. Look, we had 1215 Magna Carta, much later than Christianity. We had the Bill of Right in the middle of the 17th Century. We had 1689, our silent quiet revolution, where Parliament exerted its will over The King. We had our quiet celebrations last year and this year, very quiet.

Interviewer

Much quieter than in France.

Prime Minister

Yes, much quieter but then it was not the sort of Revolution that France's was, it was done quietly without the bloodshed. But human rights did not start with the French Revolution. I do not know anyone who could either go back to Greek history - Antigone for example, you know she goes and says when she wants to claim her brother's body and then the King says no she cannot and she says: “You have no right to deny my brother the right to a proper burial, you have no right”. Good heavens no, it did not start.

Liberty, egality, fraternity; they forgot obligations and duties I think. And then of course it was the fraternity that went missing for a long time. Well, it just did, did it not? It heralded an age of terror. [end p17]

It has been fascinating and the books that have been written about it. I remember having read there were only seven people in the Bastille the night it was stormed. It was quite an extraordinary thing. But the age of terror that came after that and some of the arguments used - “Oh you have to strike these people down because they will be counter-revolutionaries”. Oh, what familiar language to my generation. “They have to be struck down, murdered”. And not only just the way the terrors were done with people loving to see the torture.

Oh no, it was followed by an age of terror, it was followed by Napoleon who was a remarkable man, perhaps too little revered for his law and his administrative capabilities. But he tried to unite Europe by force and we did not get rid of that until 1815.

So no, it did not begin in France. You go from 1782&slash;83, right up to the final death of Robespierre, oh it was an age of terror, it was an age of terror. But I say what happened to the fraternity? All of these artificial arguments, I was just reading it again this weekend, “Oh they have to go, we shall get counter-revolution”. Counter-revolution - the language of the communists!

Interviewer

Do you think these celebrations are a little bit over the top? [end p18]

Prime Minister

No, it is for each country to decide how it celebrates. They had the Eiffel Tower after a hundred years, why should they not have a nice time now? It was undoubtedly, if only it had not been accompanied by the age of terror. But it was unfortunately. But it was a fantastic historic turning point.

We did ours much more quietly. Because we did it quietly we celebrated it more quietly. They decide how they shall do it, it is not for me to decide, let every country decide how she does it.

But it is fascinating for me, we are all re-reading the times, the history books, and with some horror I think about some, and you must be horrified and some of the French people horrified about some of the things which took place.

Interviewer

So you are opposed to the publication of the declaration on human rights by the seven?

Prime Minister

I am always prepared to have a declaration on human rights, human rights, freedom of speech, freedom of movement, freedom of worship, freedom of family, certain rights of family. But those are things which people cannot take away from you. [end p19]

What many people are talking about is: “I have a right to a social security payment”. You have not as such, it is not a human right, you have a right because someone else has fulfilled an obligation, that is not a human right. And in order to get that right you have some duties to perform too.

That is not a human right, that is a kind of reciprocal contract which you make with everyone else - I will look after you when you are unfortunate, provided you will look after me. But that is the kind of right which can only be fulfilled by a preceding obligation.

So you cannot have a right to a good environment. What happens when you have a hurricane, when you have an earthquake, when you have a flood, when you have a fire?

Interviewer

What do you expect from the French Presidency and what did you feel when you heard Mr Mitterrand in Madrid saying that you are a brake to Europe?

Prime Minister

Well, Fran&cced;ois Mitterrandhe can hardly call me a brake, can he? Just look, we were first to try to get the Common Agricultural Policy sorted out, we persisted, persisted and persisted because we said you cannot go on with half your budget going to surpluses, not to farmers but to surpluses. We persisted, we got it done. [end p20]

We were the first to get the budget sorted out, we persisted, we got it done. We still after the budget are the second biggest net contributor to Europe - £2 billion, 20 billion francs - we pay across the exchanges to Europe, the second biggest contributor.

We have abolished foreign exchange controls ten years ago. We are not a brake, we are an example to Europe. France has not abolished foreign exchange control.

We have freedom of movement of capital for ten years, France has not. We have had open financial markets, London, the most open financial markets. You compare Frankfurt - lots of controls, still now will not let our financial markets in, we have got the second Banking Directive now but still not let our financial markets in there in the same way as London is open.

A brake! We have cabotage, in our ports all round our country ships from Europe or anywhere else for that matter can pick up business, take it from one port to another. Can our ships pick it up in Europe in the same way? Not on your life. So we of course are closing ours down to Europe. That is an example where we have been free and they are not.

Lorries, lorries going across to Europe and do not forget Mr Mitterrand and I are doing the Channel Tunnel which is one of the greatest changes in history it will bring about. Lorries, a lorry should also be able to take across its load, to be able to pick up a load anywhere in Europe, drop it anywhere else on the way back. Can it? Not on your life! [end p21]

There are hundreds of barriers in Europe and we are in the lead in getting them down. Perhaps we do not talk enough but when it comes to practical steps we have done those things.

Interviewer

Were you disappointed with the result of the Euro-election here with the Greens surging ahead?

Prime Minister

Yes I was, but the real difficulty is that people here find the European Parliament very remote. They say: “We know our Parliament, we hear it on radio”. I am in our Parliament answering questions every Tuesday and every Thursday and we are answerable to Parliament. Everything I do in the European Council of Ministers, I am answerable to our Parliament. They understand that but they do not quite understand a Parliament where they speak ten languages and they cannot have the same sort of debate as we do.

So that really is why we got comparatively few of our supporters out although we did run quite a vigorous campaign to try to get them out. But all across Europe the turn-out was less.

So they expect us to do the negotiations with Europe through the Council of Ministers, which we do, that is the operative thing and then of course anything we agree has to come back to our Parliament to be ratified and that they understand. [end p22]

Interviewer

And the surge of the Greens, how do you interpret that?

Prime Minister

I think that was what we call a mid-term protest vote, because the people who voted Green were many of our people, but the Green's programme is a unilateral programme which says everyone has a right to a certain income regardless of means. It is just quite crazy some of the things. It was a mid-term protest vote which used to go to the Liberal or the Social Democratic but this time went to the Greens.

But no Party in Britain is greener than we are in terms of what we do.

Interviewer

But you are in the same phenomenon as many European countries?

Prime Minister

But I think most people realise now that the world's atmosphere, which we had always thought was unchangeable, would always somehow come back into equilibrium and that whatever man did to it was very small compared with the enormous processes in this atmosphere. [end p23]

But now we know that is not so, but it has only been in the last few years that we really know that is not so and it is not so because for millions of years, hundreds of thousands of years, the world had a very small population living really a very rural life in harmony with surroundings, then in the last 150 years you have had a colossal explosion of the world population made possible because of medical science which kept us all alive and did not kill us all off by malaria and other terrible diseases, so the medical research is keeping us all alive for very much longer. So you have a colossal explosion of the population, it doubled in my lifetime.

And then agricultural science provided all the food to do that, to keep us alive, and then the fossil fuels which have been there for millions of years, in the last 100 - 150 years coal has been taken out and burnt, gas been taken out and burnt, now oil been taken out and burnt on a colossal scale, and an industrial revolution.

All of those are so much all at once that those eco-systems are not staying as they were, we are damaging them. And we have to remember of course we would not be on this earth unless we had a greenhouse effect. That greenhouse effect is within a certain few degrees, only about four degrees, and if you fundamentally change that we do not know what is going to happen. [end p24]

Now we do not know all of the science but we know enough of the science to know we must not do certain things and we must not cut down the tropical forests because that traps most of the carbon dioxide and we must not put some of the halogens and the chlorofluorocarbons up on that ozone layer because that is damaging it.

And so those are the big, what I call the world's living systems and you must not so pollute the seas that you alter the foodchain of fish and plankton in the sea because that is the other medium that actually fixes about one-third of the carbon dioxide.

So we know that we cannot do some of these things. And added to that, look at all the packaging we now have that is thrown away, look at all the food that we waste and is thrown away, look at all of the chemicals that we do. It is the poor countries that pour them into the rivers, it is the East European countries that pour them into the German rivers that then go down on to the German Bight and cause problems there.

The more prosperous countries are turning their attention to dealing with this pollution and we must, we must, it is not a choice, it is an imperative because of that big atmosphere round the earth which enables us to have life on earth. So we have to deal with it and we have to deal with the pollution in the seas. Quite apart from wanting to, it is an imperative as well as a desire. [end p25]

But it is no earthly good our doing it if you then find China, with one billion people, digging up all her coal and burning it just as we are trying to be careful as to what we put up in the carbon dioxide band. So it has to be a world thing.

Interviewer

On China, what is your position now about sanctions, are you for or against? And how do you see the Hong Kong programme?

Prime Minister

On trade sanctions I am against. On military sanctions yes of course we stopped that and on high level visits. But do not forget, sanctions against China, sanctions against Hong Kong. And do not forget Hong Kong does a fantastic amount of trade with China and her water and her food come from China. So we do not talk about sanctions.

But we had to make our horror known in the way we did, and we all did it and we all did it together. We have the great responsibility for Hong Kong and to see that the agreement that we signed in good faith with China, that Hong Kong's way of life, including her freedom, increasing democracy, a capitalist system shall continue for fifty years after 1997. And the best chance of that is that Hong Kong continues to be of immense value to China as a great trading post and as an outlet for things and as the gateway to China. [end p26]

So we must not forget what has happened in China, nor must the world forget. But I would be absolutely against trading sanctions. First, they would not work, they never do. Secondly, it would be sanctions against Hong Kong too.

I do not think any country has had trading sanctions, we have stopped the military things of course and we have held up any new proposals on big what we call aid and trade credit on big subsidies to trade. But the ones which France is doing, we are doing, I think we are jointly doing one nuclear power station at Quang Dong (phon) are going ahead, but the new things we are having a look at.

Interviewer

About the Falklands, do you see a new signal coming from Mr Menem?

Prime Minister

No, it is the signal we have been trying to send for a long time. We have said: “Look, we would like to normalise commercial and then diplomatic relations” which we sent when President Alfonsin became the first democratic President. But he was not able to negotiate without raising the question of sovereignty and we cannot have that raised. But to normalise relations would be what we have been trying to do for a long time and I hope we succeed. [end p27]

It makes sense, it makes a lot of sense. We tried to deal with fishing rights through the Food and Agriculture Organisation and it may be that there may be certain oil things to be explored and really frankly it would help. It would help the Argentine and it would help the Falklands to normalise commercial relations. At the moment they are prepared to do that, we are very pleased.

Interviewer

But Mr Menem said yesterday that he was ready to normalise relations without saying anything about sovereignty.

Prime Minister

Yes. I hope if that is right he will have no difficulty. But you know we did try it once before when we all went to Berne and we had got everything nicely arranged as to who should say what and then we get down to commercial relations, but when they got there it did not turn out quite like that. So let us hope that we can normalise relations with the Argentine without anything about sovereignty.

Interviewer

One last question about South Africa. You are due to meet tomorrow Mrs Sisulu? [end p28]

Prime Minister

Yes, she is coming in tomorrow. Walter SisuluHer husband is over eighty, is he not, and they are the two that have been in with Nelson Mandela and who would have also to be released with him. And she is coming and I have seen many people so I thought I would like to see her, give her a little bit of encouragement.

Interviewer

Do you see new developments in South Africa?

Prime Minister

Yes I think the new developments will come. There are already new developments with Namibia. Do not forget we could not be going to independence for Namibia without the full cooperation of South Africa, the United States, the Soviet Union, Cuba, and Angola and it is absolutely vital that we get that country up to independence without any problems. We had some at the beginning, I think we have sorted those out. And if that goes well, that will be a great plus and should help with opinion in South Africa.

I think that after the elections in South Africa which come in September, I think that they are probably considering very carefully precisely what they intend to do. I think they know that they could not get negotiations going until Mr Mandela had been released and allowed freedom of speech. Then I think that would open the way for genuine negotiations among all peoples of South Africa. [end p29]

We cannot say what system they will end up with. We can only say that this has to come from negotiation between them genuinely held. So I think there is hope and it will be greatly advanced if the Namibian Independence goes off well.

Interviewer

You have received some guarantee about the liberation of Mandela or not?

Prime Minister

No, no-one has received any guarantee. I think that all of the powers in South Africa understand that negotiations could not be got going without the release of Mr Mandela because no black South African, whatever his background, there are many many different groups, the Zulus are the biggest group which is Buthelezi, the South African Swazis, M'Busa, is another very big group.

There are many many different groups but none of them could think of going to negotiations while Nelson Mandela was held. And of course it is not only releasing him but he would have to have freedom to speak his mind.

Interviewer

How do you see today's problem of Iranian fundamentalism? [end p30]

Prime Minister

I think it remains a problem. I think that those in power are trying to, now how can I say it, are trying quietly to continue, trying to have a moderate line which takes into account the fact that it is a religious state, but pursue a much more moderate line in the future, recognising that a great deal needs to be done in order to restore that country to a much greater economic prosperity for the benefit of peoples against a Moslem background.

I think they are playing it very very quietly but it remains a problem.

Interviewer

(Inaudible).

Prime Minister

It is really absolutely appalling. You simply cannot have someone urging his followers to go and murder someone else in another country. This is what freedom of speech is, freedom of speech is a human right. Now certainly that right is fettered by the sense that you cannot undermine or make racial comments or libellous comments. Apart from that it is not fettered. But you have to stand up, it is not a question of whether we agree with Mr Rushdie or not. That is not freedom of speech, it is freedom to say things on which other people disagree. [end p31]

But you simply have to stand up to that fundamental freedom of speech. But I hope that soon they will make it perfectly clear that to do that would be a crime, it would as far as we are concerned, and in the meantime we have to look after him. That is what freedom of speech is all about is it not? After all, I say things with which other people do not agree but a lot of people do agree. And a lot of them come up to me and say: “Well, we would not like to say it ourselves, but we absolutely agree with you”.