Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1989 Sep 23 Sa
Margaret Thatcher

TV Interview for TV-AM (visiting Moscow)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: TV Interview
Venue: Ministry of Foreign Affairs Press Centre, Moscow
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: Gerry Foley, TV-AM
Editorial comments: 1600-1630 or 1700 onwards: the appointment diary records two press conferences during the day, one of which was probably given over to interviews.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 1375
Themes: Civil liberties, Defence (arms control), Energy, Environment, European Union (general), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Terrorism

Interviewer

Prime Minister, you said that you found Mr. Gorbachev to be in very vigorous form, yet talking to some ordinary people in Moscow, there is still a great deal of frustration at the inability of the system to produce goods in the shops.

How long do you expect the Soviet people to be patient with him?

Prime Minister

I think the Soviet people are enjoying enormously the increased amount of freedom they have had. After all, they have got full freedom of speech and expression, they can see their views put in the Soviet Parliament and in the Party, they can see it on television and they can take part in the arguments, they can see their leaders arguing. And so, a lot of the tension and fear has gone out of the atmosphere in day-to-day life—that is a tremendous plus. We could not have conceived of that a few years ago. [end p1]

Economic reform of course takes longer. Politicians can bring about the political reform, can give the freedom of speech where none existed before, but they cannot do economic reform single-handed. They simply have got to have a partnership with the people. It means greater effort; it means a greater sense of management, how to do accountancy; it means sorting out prices and costs. That is an enormous change and they do not quite know how to go about it, so they will need training. But they do know that when they have got it right, it works. It works in Western Europe, why should it not work in Eastern Europe? It works in the United States, why should it not work in the Soviet Union?

They are not trying to pioneer a new system. They are trying to change to one which works and I believe that they will have increasing prosperity for the ordinary people and I think they will go for that prize and they will get some people who are natural entrepreneurs who really take a lead and who lead by example and other people will follow what they have done.

Interviewer

Are you suggesting that Mr. Gorbachev himself now accepts that communism as a system is at an end? [end p2]

Prime Minister

Look! I believe Mikhail Gorbachevhe set out to change the path of the Soviet Union because he looked at what had been achieved in seventy years, found it brought neither personal liberty nor dignity nor personal family prosperity and he said: “This will not do! What communism, the old system, promised, has not been performed and never will be performed under that system. Therefore we must change it! We must tackle all the difficulties and overcome them so we get through to this great prize so the Soviet Union, as well as being a great power by military strength will become a great power by virtue of its economic strength and success!” That is what he is trying to do. Other nations have done it, so it is not impossible; indeed, it is very possible and probable.

Interviewer

There was a suggestion earlier in the week of a possible invite for you to address the Soviet Parliament. If that invite came, what would be your response?

Prime Minister

I know nothing about it and I do not believe one is in the pipeline. I think they have their new procedures. If it came, we should look at it when it came. [end p3]

Interviewer

You also discussed with Mr. Gorbachev the progress of the present arms control talks in America. Is it your feeling now that things are moving in the right direction and things are moving rapidly enough?

Prime Minister

Yes, we had quite a long discussion about that because obviously we are kept in touch and have an input into what is happening in the United States.

We have been working very hard on the conventional arms talks and working hard for even longer on the chemical weapons talks and, of course, the START talks affect us on the strategic nuclear weapons because some countries rely on the United States for their nuclear deterrent.

There are a lot of technicalities to be sorted out, particularly in the START talks. They are tackling them, they have got some new proposals. I believe they will take the process forward but I do not believe it will come to fruition until some time next year.

I think on conventional weapons we shall get an agreement next year. Again, there are some new proposals which help and some others which we could not agree to. [end p4]

On chemical weapons, this has been extremely difficult because of the difficulty of verification. I think you will find that they have gone a good deal further on that in this meeting and also that they will have some proposals to make about the way ahead. They will take into account, too, the fact that chemical weapons have been used elsewhere and it is not only a matter of getting a ban between the Soviet Union and Western Europe and the United States—it is also a question of getting others to join a global ban and making certain we get the verification that we do, because as you know, chemical weapons have been used in the Middle East and it is no good us banning them if other people may still have them. So I think the negotiations will take all those factors into account and I think next year, after all the work we have done, we shall see a lower level of arnaments and still keep a strong and sure defence with nuclear as a deterrent.

Interviewer

In Japan, Prime Minister, you spoke quite a lot about environmental issues. At the same time, back home the Green Party at their conference—and also the Labour Party—were accusing you of “talking green but acting dirty!” What is your response? [end p5]

Prime Minister

Very silly isn't it? Very silly of them indeed!

If they look back historically, the Conservative Party has been very forward on environmental matters: the Clean Air Act with Sir Keith Joseph and I remember long before I became Prime Minister it being a matter of pride that the steps that we had taken in environmental matters had brought back fish to the Thames and the main five rivers are very much cleaner.

Yes, of course there is still some to be done. Also, in the last few years, science has shown us that the atmosphere round our Earth is not permanently stable as we thought—it is affected by what Man and animals and plant life does on this Earth. It is being adversely affected in some respects and we cannot just sit back and watch that. We have to take certain steps now—and those have been taken.

The gap in the ozone layer was discovered by the British Antarctic Survey. We held an ozone layer conference in London and got undertakings to cut down the gases that cause the problem. The greenhouse effect we shall have to look further at.

As a matter of fact, France does not offend as much as we do in that regard because she has got the biggest supply of nuclear power in her electricity supply, so she does not put up the carbon dioxide which you get from burning coal and oil and which goes up and stays permanently in the atmosphere. Perhaps that is something we can learn from but it is not something you will ever find the Labour Party putting forward. [end p6]

Interviewer

But on a more basic level, Prime Minister, the decision by the EEC to prosecute Britain on the quality of its water, surely that is a pretty damning comment on your record over ten years?

Prime Minister

I shall be very interested to see who else they are prosecuting, very interested, because all our water is safe to drink. The problem is with the colour in some parts and we have one of the biggest programmes to correct the things which are still wrong of any country in Europe and we were complemented on it but a few months ago. I shall be very interested to see who else in Europe the Commission is prosecuting or taking before the Court.

Interviewer

Finally, Prime Minister, in the aftermath of the Deal bombing and the controversy surrounding the role of private security firms in looking after security at these bases, is there now going to be a review of that whole area?

Prime Minister

We are constantly looking at security. Do not forget we have had many many bombing attacks, some in Europe, some at home, against our barracks or against bandstands—I could go through then as you know. We are constantly reviewing security and we shall do so again. We really have to be vigilant twenty-four hours every day, all of us.