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1993 - Mr Major’s Doorstep Interview in Bombay

Below is the text of Mr Major’s doorstep interview with the press, held in Bombay on Wednesday 27th January 1993.


QUESTION:

Prime Minister, you were criticised for coming here, how in retrospect do you see the value of your visit here?

PRIME MINISTER:

I do not think there is any doubt whatsoever about the value of this visit. There is a tremendous opportunity for both India and the United Kingdom to expand their trade and to expand their investment relationship, here was an opportunity to grasp that and I think it is perfectly apparent from the discussions across a range of matters that the businessmen have taken that opportunity. We have had two very large contracts already, the British Gas contract and today it has been confirmed that GEC are going to be awarded a very large contract as well. So I think that in itself would probably have made the visit worthwhile but in fact a large number of other things are being discussed as well.

QUESTION:

But was it really wise to be out of direct contact with British politics for nearly a week?

PRIME MINISTER:

I have not been out of direct contact with British politics. But I think I would put the point back to you the other way. Here is one of our oldest friends offering the British Prime Minister a position, the greatest honour they can offer as the quest of honour in their Republic Day, apart from the fact that I would have wished to come, it would have been very churlish to refuse and it would perhaps have done immense damage to the relationship between India and the United Kingdom. Even if there had been difficulties I would not have wished to have done that. As it was, I was delighted to accept and there were very many matters we were able to discuss.

QUESTION:

It is a great honour to have you here in India, is there any message that you have for Indians living in Britain from Indian soil?

PRIME MINISTER:

I am very pleased to make my first visit to India. We know at home the extent to which the Indian community plays a practical part in our community, not least of course in our business community. I have been able to see here how it operates locally and I am delighted to have done so.

QUESTION:

At your press conference in Delhi you spoke very positively about the Indians settled in the UK, whereas the successful ones have no problem, what is your government doing for the less fortunate?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think most people looking at the large number of Indians in the United Kingdom would see right across the range of income groups a tremendous increase in their quality of life and their standard of living in recent years and I think they will benefit, as will everyone else in the United Kingdom, as we move out of recession and back into growth.

QUESTION:

In the BCCI bank collapse many Asians lost everything and they are very unhappy with the way the government has handled it, do you not think the problem needs to be addressed?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think the problem has been addressed. If you recall the ECCI affair it was in fact a criminal fraud on a gigantic scale but the overwhelming majority of the investors have now got around three-quarters of their money back, three-quarters of their money back as the result of a protection scheme after a criminal fraud and of course a very careful investigation subsequently.

QUESTION:

What about the new immigration law that the government proposes, in effect it means that if a person from the sub-continent applies for entry to the UK and is refused leave to enter he loses the right to appeal, is this not against the rule of law?

PRIME MINISTER:

No it is not against the rule of law and I think you slightly mis-state the position. The Asylum Bill is dealing with a substantial problem we have with the huge weight of people who are actually waiting a very long time for decisions, we now have administrative measures to deal with it and of course none of that prevents anybody reapplying again if they feel they have been unfairly treated.