Below is the text of Mr Major’s joint doorstep interview with the New Zealand Prime Minister, Jim Bolger, held in Auckland on Wednesday 8th November 1995. [Jim Bolger was Prime Minister of New Zealand from 2nd November 1990 – 8th December 1997]
We do have to be short because I have to go across the road to escort Her Majesty through the building where the conference is going to be held.
Can I just open these comments by saying that Prime Minister Major and myself have covered both bilateral issues and of course the CHOGM issues.
On the bilateral front there is a warm reciprocity of views and we have no outstanding issues between us. We have agreed, however, that New Zealand will enhance the opportunity for young Britons to visit New Zealand on working arrangements. Currently that is limited to 500 per annum, we are going to quadruple that to 2,000 per annum, and that is in recognition that young New Zealanders of course can go to Britain on working arrangements with no limit. So it brings some reciprocity but clearly not to the extent that the British offer to New Zealand youngsters that go over there.
On the issue of CHOGM, there is clearly the nuclear question where there are differences between the Prime Minister and myself, they are well known so I will not reiterate them here this morning. The issue of good government and how that might impact on some of the countries you described as [indistinct] states, that is going to be, I think, the most difficult thing at the conference – how do we respond as a group of 52 nations to assist countries to pursue the ambitions stated in the Harare Declaration. And that is where we will be putting substantial time during the conference.
So that is what we have been discussing this morning and it has been a good morning.
Let me just add a word or two about that. As the Prime Minister says, there is a very close, very long-standing, very detailed bilateral relationship that I think is in extremely good shape and I am delighted at the Prime Minister’s announcement about extending the Young Persons Scheme this morning. That will be very welcome and I have no doubt that a lot of young British people will be delighted to come and spend a year in New Zealand. I am very pleased that it will be far more than did in the past.
We have discussed a number of other CHOGM issues this morning. As the Prime Minister says, even amongst the best of friends there are sometimes points of difference and although we share a determination to see a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, we do have one point of difference that is well understood by all of you here, it is a point of difference that between friends can exist and we both acknowledge that point of difference does exist at the moment.
We also spent some time this morning discussing something else of concern to us both, and that is not just the general question of the Harare Declaration and good government in the Commonwealth, which will certainly be a key part of our discussions over the next couple of days, but I think both of us are very concerned indeed at the confirmation by the Ruling Council in Nigeria of the death sentences on Mr Saro-Wiwa and his associates. It seems to me, and I believe the Prime Minister shares this view, that that was a flawed judicial procedure. The sentences are not just.
And I now speak for myself – the Prime Minister may wish to add his own thoughts – but I believe the Nigerians should exercise clemency, I very much hope they will exercise clemency, and I would be very surprised indeed if that were not a general view amongst colleagues in the Commonwealth.
I am sure it will be a general view of colleagues. The local media here will be aware that I met the young Mr Wiwa yesterday, who asked me to see whether the Commonwealth could express a view to the Nigerian authorities to exercise clemency on behalf of his father and the other 8 who were sentenced with him. And the confirmation overnight that their sentence has been confirmed of course heightens our concern that the authorities in Nigeria may be moving to an early execution. That, we believe, would be quite appalling given that this is a key issue in the Commonwealth and to flout the Commonwealth in that way would certainly send all the wrong signals.
Mr Major, do you believe that the bilateral relationship between New Zealand and Great Britain has been affected by the nuclear issue?
In countries that have been friends for a long time there is scope occasionally for disagreements. If there isn’t disagreement between countries then they have no great issues to discuss. Of course there is occasional disagreement. I don’t think that is going to affect the long term relationship between New Zealand and the United Kingdom. There have been many occasions over the past 5 or 10 years when the United Kingdom, on behalf of New Zealand, have taken up matters in the international fora of the world. That will happen again in the future. I think we can stand the occasional disagreement without a great degree of difficulty.
[Indistinct] opposition to the British position?
It is not the British position, I think we ought to get this correct. It is not Britain who are carrying out nuclear tests. Britain does not have to carry out nuclear tests. But we are a nuclear power. France is our next door neighbour. The French President has had clear advice that he should carry out those tests and as their next door neighbour I am not in the business of condemning them. That is the point.
But do you understand that New Zealanders might disagree and might have expected more from Britain as a leading member of the Commonwealth?
Of course I can understand how other people feel, it is a very emotional issue – nuclear weapons. But we are a nuclear power. We have a very close relationship with New Zealand, we also have a very relationship with France. I understand, perhaps better than non-nuclear powers, the particular problem faced by a nuclear power.
The President of France has had clear advice, as I understand it, that it is necessary for him to test his weapons. I can understand that since I myself have responsibility for a nuclear weapon. And on that basis I am not in the business of condemning the French. That is the point of difference between us and I have repeatedly said so.
Young people from this country died in your country when your environment was threatened, how can you come here when our environment is threatened and refuse to condemn the French testing?
There have been over 2,000 nuclear tests over the last few years. We are a nuclear country, the United Kingdom are a nuclear country. We think that is necessary for deterrence and for security. That security is there for the United Kingdom, it is also there for our friends.
We disagree on the issue, we accept we disagree on the issue, we are not seeking at this late moment to persuade each other to a different viewpoint. I think that is where it rests. Naturally Prime Minister Major would prefer that I agreed with him and I strongly would prefer that he agreed with me. But it doesn’t happen that way and that is where it is.
And turning to Nigeria, obviously this is a key issue for the conference and I will be talking during the course of the day to leading African leaders – President Mugabe, President Mandela and others, Prime Minister Mahatir from Asia, a leading Asian leader at the conference, to see what the conference can do as a collective body to convey its concerns and to offer what assistance we can to get all governments to adhere to the principles set out in the Harare Declaration. That, I believe, is going to be the substantive challenge of this conference.
Prime Minister Keating is heading over this evening and he says he wants to give you a slap on the knuckles. Are you concerned about that, will you be meeting him, do you want to talk with him about nuclear issues?
I have known Paul for many years, I have no doubt that we will be meeting during the course of the next few days and I shall look forward to our exchanges.
I will meet him tonight.