The Rt. Hon. Sir John Major KG CH

Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 1990-1997

1991Prime Minister (1990-1997)

Mr Major’s Statement on Plane from Hong Kong – 6 September 1991

Below is the transcript of Mr Major’s on-the-record statement on the plane from Hong Kong to London, held on 6th September 1991.


Perhaps I should firstly congratulate those survivors who have managed the complete trip to United States, the Soviet Union, China and also Hong Kong; I hope you are going to get a few hours off when you eventually get back.

I thought it might be useful just to cover some of the matters we need to carry forward as a result of the discussions of the last few days. I think we have discussed the follow-up to the United States visit before and I need not go over that again.

On the Soviet Union, I have now sent messages to the Heads of Government of all the G7 countries, reporting on the discussions I had there and my impressions there. This is fairly standard practice amongst us; everyone is immensely interested in what is happening in the Soviet Union and we try and concert our opinions and the information we have as much as possible.

In terms of practical follow-up, you may know that John Gummer had the first meeting with the Food Consortium Group in London yesterday so that we might be able to move forward to providing some practical food assistance to the Soviet Union during this winter. I don’t think that is going to be needed for a while but there are quite a lot of arrangements to be made, firstly to determine what is needed, secondly to determine how to get it there and thirdly, to determine how actually to distribute it inside the Soviet Union when we have dealt with the earlier matters so there is quite a lot of organisation to be put in hand.

We are still in touch with the Soviet Union and with the IMF with a view to encouraging an early meeting between them; that seems to us to be a useful way to proceed. IMF advice is needed, the Soviet Union are clearly keen to have that advice; and we are trying to push that meeting as speedily as we possibly can.

The expert discussions have been continuing with the Soviet Union, mainly with the new group who are looking after economic matters, Mr. Yavlinsky in particular, to decide how to deal with some of the other problems they have and identify precisely what they are and how serious they are because one point that can’t be emphasised too often is that there is still a great degree of uncertainty about what practical assistance is most appropriate at the present time.

The Foreign Secretary, Douglas, will be going back to Moscow on Monday; he is going there for the Human Rights Conference but it is probable – overwhelmingly likely – that he will have meetings when he is there with President Gorbachev, Mr. Popov, Shevardnadze and a number of others; arrangements for that are not finalised yet but I hope we will get those finalised within a day and as soon as we have done that of course we will let you know in the usual way.

I have one piece of good news for you that I am sure you will be pleased to hear. All of us had the opportunity of meeting Mrs. Gordievsky earlier this week and her family. I now have solid confirmation that she has been released; she is able to come home and she will be flying home to London today and will be in London with her family early this evening and will be met by Malcolm Caithness from the Foreign Office so that we can ensure that she is properly looked after. This has been a very long trail, as you know. It is many years since Margaret Thatcher first raised the question of Mrs. Gordievsky and her family with the Soviet Union; it is a matter we have persistently raised since; raised it with Mr. Shevardnadze when I was Foreign Secretary; Douglas has raised it repeatedly with Shevardnadze, Bessmertnykh and I have raised it also with President Gorbachev, so I think it does illustrate on human rights that persistent pressure eventually does pay off and that of course is a message we might take to heart for other parts of the world as well.

On China, I am still awaiting confirmation that the Hong Kong pro-democracy demonstrator Lor Hi Sing [phon] is being released and has been released. We are pursuing that still in Peking. I think what we are looking for is not just a release on bail in China but a release from China back to Hong Kong. We have not yet got that; we are still pursuing it and we must wait and see how that turns out.

In terms of following up the discussions we had in China, Douglas will be meeting Quian Qichen, the Chinese Foreign Minister, later this month in New York and he will carry forward a number of the matters that we were discussing there. We will also be in touch with a full briefing on events there and impressions there with Mrs. Thatcher who will be visiting Peking later on this month, Mr. Andreotti, the Prime Minister of Italy, who is also visiting Peking later this month with Mr. Kaifu who returned a couple of weeks ago from China and who was kind enough to send me his impressions and I think I will also be reporting to President Bush and Community Heads of Government on my impressions there and on the policy matters that we discussed during the last couple of days.

On Hong Kong, the principal follow-up point is that the British/Chinese Joint Liaison Group – that is the official group that carries forward all the detailed discussions that flow from the Joint Declaration – will be meeting later on this month in London both to carry forward their normal discussions and to firm-up details on a number of the matters we agreed in principle in Peking earlier this week.

The principal impression on Hong Kong, I think, is one of very great importance: there was no doubt in my mind, from the businessmen I talked to in Hong Kong, from the Governor, from the people we met at the university and elsewhere, that there is now a very great degree of confidence there. There is a great deal of confidence amongst the business community; they feel much more secure now that the work in the Joint Liaison Group is carried forward and much more confident about future investment. I hope that confidence extends to British investors as well. The airport project will be very large and I think there are many opportunities for people to submit tenders and l hope they are competitive tenders.

So those are the principal follow-up points. I can’t claim to you that that is an exclusive list but I think those are the principal points we need to follow up from the meetings over the last few days.