The Rt. Hon. Sir John Major KG CH

Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 1990-1997

1994Prime Minister (1990-1997)

Mr Major’s Doorstep Interview at Chequers – 4 June 1994

Below is Mr Major’s doorstep interview at Chequers with President Clinton, on Saturday 4th June 1994.


I suppose I should begin by apologising to you for the D-Day weather, I am sorry about that. Could I also say at the outset that the President and I will be able to take a question or two afterwards but I need to be in Portsmouth fairly speedily and I know the President has a live broadcast so I am afraid the question time will be limited.

We have had the opportunity this morning of discussions for nearly a couple of hours and we will take the opportunity over the next two days to pursue some other matters as well.

We looked at a wide range of issues, we looked forward firstly to the Naples Summit, we anticipate the emphasis there will be on employment following the Detroit Jobs Conference, and we discussed some of the preliminary work that is now in the course of preparation for that conference. We will of course at Naples be welcoming President Yeltsin, we both agree that the more stable, economic and political situation in Russia at present, a better foreign policy partnership than perhaps there has been at any stage in recent years, and we had the opportunity of looking at the responsible handling we have seen thus far by both Russia and Ukraine of the problems that exist in the Crimea.

Self-evidently today, we spent some time discussing our joint interests in Bosnia. We are at the middle in the midst of crucial negotiations in Geneva, the United Nations continues to seek a cessation of hostilities. At present, as you will know, the Contact Group is still meeting, pressing for settlement of territorial questions, and it is my view and that of the President as well that it is vital for all three parties in Bosnia to recognise that continued war will not advance their positions but would continue to strain international patience.

Saying that, we must recognise what has already been achieved in Bosnia. Many feared the war would spread beyond those borders, it has not done so, and I think there is some satisfaction we can draw from the peaceful developments in much of central Bosnia as well. We have a ceasefire there, in Sarajevo, in Gorazde, and the conflict has been contained. So far that is good, we hope we can achieve more at the end of the Contact Group discussions. The joint initiative the President and I launched in Washington seems to be successful and the reconstruction of Sarajevo is now in the United Nations’s hands.

We spent a while on looking at the hideous conflict in Rwanda. From our perspective we are looking to support with logistics the Secretary General’s proposals for an expanded United Nations force and of course the pre-eminent need for humanitarian aid.

We spent some time expressing our joint concern about the nuclear programme in North Korea and looking at the scope for effective action by the United Nations. I took the opportunity of briefing the President on the present state of discussions in Northern Ireland.

I also took the opportunity of thanking the President for his welcome decision on renewing MFN status for China, that is of course important for Hong Kong. But quite apart from that, I believe it is the best way to pursue a proper dialogue with the Chinese over human rights because it is more important to have a dialogue that will achieve results than simply to make gestures that may entrench the problem without satisfactorily advancing it. We have taken much the same view with human rights missions that have gone to China and I think there is a joint determination to continue the pressure on the Chinese in this respect. Nonetheless, I believe the decision on MFN was entirely right and I am extremely pleased that it was made.


I would like first to thank the Prime Minister for his hospitality, even though it is raining a little bit, Chequers is still a magnificent place, a welcome walk through history and a great opportunity for a good visit.

In addition to the items mentioned by the Prime Minister, I would like to also say how much I appreciate the support the United Kingdom has given, through NATO, to the idea of the Partnership for Peace, we now have 19 nations signed up to be part of our Partnership for Peace with NATO, giving us the prospect of having a Europe that is not divided politically and military perhaps for the first time since nation states dotted the continent, so we are very encouraged by that.

I would like to reaffirm what the Prime Minister said about Bosnia. We are heartened by the fact that the conflict has been limited, by the fact that the Croatians and the Bosnian government have worked out an accord, but we believe that we need to continue to push for an agreement here, I think it unlikely that either side in anywhere in the near term and with anything like acceptable losses can look forward to any kind of significant alteration in the parameters of the agreement that they were on the verge of making before the unfortunate incidents in Gorazde. So we are determined to redouble our efforts to try to achieve a settlement in whatever way we can.



How do you take the threat from North Korea that they would regard sanctions as an act of war and would this deter you in any way or is it even worth risking a war to pursue sanctions in the Security Council?


First of all, North Korea’s actions have in my view made it virtually imperative that the Security Council consider the question of sanctions. They did that, they freely undertook obligations as a part of the NPT, they repeatedly said that they did not wish to be a nuclear power and that they were committed to a non-nuclear Korean peninsular. We have offered any number of inducements or support to try to achieve that goal and nothing has been forthcoming, the IAEA inspections were not allowed to proceed, and so I think we have to proceed in the Security Council. There is still time for North Korea to avoid sanctions actually taking effect if we can work out something on the nuclear inspections, but this is in their hands. I think that clearly sanctions are not any sort of act of war and should not be seen as such.


[Inaudible but asking about American military forces in South Korea].


As you know, we have taken some steps to support the capacity of our troops to fulfil their mission there already and I have had continuing talks, as you would expect I would have, with Secretary Perry and General Shalikashvili, and when we had the Commanders and Chiefs in recently General Lock and others talked with me extensively about this. We are prepared to do our duty, I do not want a lot of sabre rattling over this or war talk, this is a peace talk, this should be about peace. We are trying to enforce the requirements of the NPT, to which North Korea voluntarily pledged its allegiance, all we want them to do is to keep their word and we are going to try to give them the chance to do it.


What is it like to be back in Britain after all this time?


Just like old times. Actually it is wonderful to be back. I have been back several times since I was a student here and I have come often but I never tire of coming and I always look forward to it. And today, having the opportunity to fly in the helicopter fairly low across the beautiful countryside was a very nostalgic trip for me, I was very grateful to have that chance.


The Prime Minister was talking about employment, have you got any words of advice for the Prime Minister considering that your administration is presiding over one of the greatest falls in unemployment that we have seen for a long time?


Well we had a tough 1980s so we changed some policies, we changed our direction, and we have been bringing down our deficit, we have been increasing investment in areas critical to job growth, we have been trying to work on greater flexibility in our workforce. These things are not easy to do. I will say this, Great Britain is having a quite impressive run of growth and eventually the growth rates you have enjoyed in the last few months will bring low unemployment, there is no question about it. I think the question though that we all have to face is how low can we get it in a global economy and then how can we deal with those people who want to work but are isolated, either isolated in geographic areas where there has been disinvestment, in the United States that is mostly big inner city areas and rural areas, or they are isolated because they do not have sufficient skills to compete in a global economy in a wealthy country. Those are the challenges that we have to face.

One of our big policies is how do we target the people that are left off? We have been very fortunate that our policies have paid off so handsomely, we have got about 3.3 million new jobs in the last 16 months but we too have a long way to go and I think we can all learn from each other. But I will say this, if your growth rates continue the way they have been you will have a drop in unemployment, it is unavoidable, you cannot absorb all this growth without hiring more people.


We will have to stop there. I know he will be pleased to know our unemployment has been falling for 15 months and it will go on.


Thank you.