The Rt. Hon. Sir John Major KG CH

Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 1990-1997

1995Prime Minister (1990-1997)

Mr Major’s Doorstep Interview with Al Gore – 6 May 1995

Below is the transcript of Mr Major’s doorstep interview in London with US Vice-President Al Gore, on Saturday 6th May 1995.


I am delighted to welcome the Vice-President here this morning. We have had the opportunity of continuing our discussions in Washington just a few weeks ago; we covered a wide range of subjects and perhaps I may firstly say how delighted I am to see the Vice-President here for these commemorations this weekend; he is very welcome indeed and I look forward to seeing great deal of him over the next day or so.


Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister. In many ways, this was a seamless continuation of a discussion that we had in Washington a short time ago. Of course, I would like to emphasise on this occasion what a great honour it is for me personally to be able to represent my country at the VE-Day commemorations and to remember on behalf of all Americans the hours when Britain stood alone against the forces of evil threatening all civilisation and to celebrate the partnership that won that war and to honour those who sacrificed everything for our freedom.

It is a moving experience to read into the details of the tremendous sacrifices that were made and it is a true honour to take part in it.

In our discussions, we talked about a great number of subjects including the Prime Minister’s important meeting coming up shortly with President Yeltsin in Moscow which will immediately precede President Clinton’s meeting with President Yeltsin and of course, since we are singing off the same page of music on all security issues virtually without exception, it is always valuable to talk together about the details of what is in our interests so it was a very productive discussion on that and other issues.


Let me just add a word or two on the substance of what we discussed:

As the Vice-President said, we look forward to the agenda for the discussions I will have with President Yeltsin next week and the lengthy discussions that President Clinton will have with him the following day, a substantial agenda there and I think we found ourselves in complete agreement upon all the substantive issues.

We also spent some time on a matter that I know is of great interest to the Vice-President and also to the Government here and that is the public sector reforms and David Hunt was able to join us and set out many of the reforms that we are undertaking. The same nature of change is taking place in the United States and we had the opportunity of comparing notes on that.

We were able to look at a number of other issues: clearly, the developing situation in Bosnia; the development in the discussions on Northern Ireland was another matter we touched on this morning and a range of lesser items; I won’t go into detail on them at this stage but will respond to any questions you may have but it was, as it is always is when we meet the Vice-President, a very worthwhile and a very enjoyable occasion.


May I ask the Vice-President if he is in a position to put any more pressure on Sinn Fein to take part in a meaningful decommissioning of arms in Northern Ireland?


Yes. We believe it is essential and we will make that point over and over again. As President Clinton said when Prime Minister Major was in Washington, we believe that is essential to the success of all-party talks and to the success of the process that Prime Minister Major and Prime Minister Bruton and Prime Minister Reynolds before him have got under way and I want to again say how impressed all Americans have been with the tremendous courage shown by Prime Minister Major in moving this process to the stage it has now reached and a willingness on the part of Sinn Fein to seriously discuss decommissioning is absolutely key at this stage and we will be urging them in every possible way to engage in such talks.


If I could just add a point to that, we certainly discussed that and the Vice-President has just made his views very clear and I think that it is extremely helpful and I am very grateful for that.

We also discussed the forthcoming Washington Conference which I hope is going to lead to a good deal of investment both in the north and in the south and that sort of investment, that growth of economic prosperity, that growth of opportunity that will remove, I think, many of the reasons why so many young people in the past have joined the paramilitaries on both sides is of immense importance so we look forward to that conference being a very great success and I am sure it will be.


The response, incidentally, among American businesses to this upcoming conference toward the end of this month has been extraordinary. You are going to see quite an outpouring from the business community seeking to seize the significant opportunities for investment in Northern Ireland and in the border counties of the Republic. We are very excited about it and looking forward to it.

Mr. Prime Minister, you made reference to our work on re-inventing government or “public sector reform” as I believe you often refer to it here. I want to compliment David Hunt on the work that you and he have done here. I have already got an appointment – I believe next week – in Washington to talk with Mr. Hunt. We have learned a great deal from what has gone on here and we are making progress also. It is high time that some of the reforms that have been successful in private corporations are applied thoroughly to the public sector and we are learning from one another on the best ways to do that.


I would like to ask you about the local elections now you have had time to think about them and there have also been surveys in the press and the BBC saying that party chairmen are unhappy about disunity and blaming that for the results. What is your response to that?


I dealt with most of those matters standing here yesterday and my response today would be the same as yesterday, I have nothing further to add to that. Clearly, they were very unsatisfactory election results, I make no secret about that and I made that perfectly clear yesterday. We will have to consider and reflect upon those results and see how we take matters forward.

What I was seeking to emphasise yesterday is that there are some long-term strategic goals that we believe are very much in the interest of our prosperity in the future and we must clearly seek to achieve those goals. That doesn’t mean we are going to brush aside without consideration the concerns that people express, of course not, that is not the way of democratic politics and it is not in my instinct so of course we will consider those very carefully.