Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1989 Oct 24 Tu
Margaret Thatcher

TV Interview for BBC (Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Summit)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: TV Interview
Venue: Commonwealth Conference Centre, Kuala Lumpur
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: John Simpson, BBC
Editorial comments: Between 0900 and lunch.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 951
Themes: Foreign policy (Africa), Commonwealth (South Africa), Trade, Foreign policy (Australia & NZ), Law & order, Terrorism

Interviewer

What about the balance sheet of this, where does your policy on South Africa lie at the end of this Conference?

Prime Minister

Our policy is precisely as it has always been. We agree with mandatory sanctions as far as armaments are concerned, that was a United Nations agreement, we have upheld it loyally; we agreed on gesture sanctions at Nassau, they are gesture sanctions, we have upheld those; beyond that we have said: “If you want more sanctions you must understand that they can only operate by being punitive on the poorest people in Africa”. We do not think that is right, we think it is abhorrent, we know that South Africa is the strongest economy in Africa and that many people go there from the Front Line States for it. We know that the Front Line States could put on sanctions if they wished to do so, that they will not because it would damage their own economies as well. [end p1]

So in fact our argument has in fact prevailed although they still say they want sanctions. They do not, however, put them on.

Interviewer

I think a lot of your colleagues found it difficult to understand why you proposed the Commonwealth's draft on the way forward on South Africa and then issued your own statement afterwards without actually telling them you were going to do that?

Prime Minister

Because the entire draft was clear where Britain disagreed and said so in four places. And so it was clear from the document itself that we agreed with some things and we disagreed with others but our views and reasons were not set out why we disagreed so I filled in the vacuum as clearly and concisely and effectively as possible starting off our own statement with where we fully agreed and then said where we disagreed.

Interviewer

But why not tell them you were going to do that?

Prime Minister

But why? It said on the document that we in fact disagreed. The others set out their view, they set them out in the very opening ceremony, five of them, one after another. They did not tell me about it, why should they? [end p2]

Interviewer

You do not think that was a tactical error now looking back on it?

Prime Minister

Not in any way, not in any way. I think I am the only Head of Government who has not regularly come into the Press Centre to give my views. This is the first time I have been into the Press Centre since the Conference started.

But I do think it is important because of misrepresentation, of which there is a great deal, that Britain's view should be set out clearly in writing. It is and it is effective and they have no reason whatsoever to complain. As I said in there when Mr Hawke did complain, I said: “Absolutely appalling. You use freedom of speech yourself, you issue statements, you make proposals even though I had a meeting with you that same day you had five points you were going to put to the Conference, you never revealed them to me. I did not complain. You cannot use freedom of speech yourself and deny it to others.”

Interviewer

Bob Hawke is one of Britain's closest allies, Australia is at any rate. Is it not a pity to be talking to one's closest friends and allies in this sort of tone? [end p3]

Prime Minister

Yes, it was Bob Hawkehe who spoke to me in that tone, publicly. He has not said anything to me privately.

Interviewer

But you did not need to answer it?

Prime Minister

No, I have previously answered it with a document, previously answered and set out our view with a document. He then went in public without coming to me and saying he was going to raise it, he went public in the whole of the Conference and I said I thought it absolutely appalling that people who themselves never hesitate to put their viewpoint clearly should object when others do so. It is totally futile and quite wrong.

Mr Mulroney did the same thing without any reference to me and then the Mahathir bin mohamadChairman said: “Anyone else who wishes to complain or comment?”, not one other person in that Conference of forty-eight Heads of Government complained, not one, just Mr Hawke, just Mr Mulroney. No-one has complained to me, no-one at all.

They have come up and said: “We hope our military training, we want our military training, we want our aid, etc”. But that is normal, they will get it, of course they will. [end p4]

Interviewer

While you have been here the Guildford Four have been released on the grounds that they were innocent. What does this show us about the methods of the police, the level of the police, the nature of justice in Britain, the question of the future of hanging?

Prime Minister

Look, that is a very concerning case and there is a full inquiry and it is absolutely right that there should be. This thing should never have happened.

With regard to the death penalty my view is the same. I believe the death penalty should be available to the court for use in the most hideous of cases. I do not believe it should be mandatory, the old death penalty was mandatory, the judge had no option but to impose it. I think it should be one of a series of punishments which are available to the court, then it would be for the court to judge in all the events of the case whether it was appropriate to use it. I do not think people should be able to go out to bomb, to kill, to main, to wound, to torture, knowing that however hideous or appalling or vicious or barbaric their crime their lives can never be forfeited.