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1993 - Mr Major’s Speech to the Association of American Correspondents

Below is the text of Mr Major’s speech to the Association of American Correspondents, held at Brown’s Hotel on Wednesday 30th June 1993.


PRIME MINISTER:

What I want to know is, when they shoot the wounded, why do they miss so often. I was just leaving Downing Street forty five minutes or so ago and a parcel arrived. I opened it and inside was a watch and it had an inscription on the back but discretion has taught me that you don't read out inscriptions in future.

We've been talking casually over lunch and as part of the conversation, one of my visits to Kennebunkport came up. I remember going there. They were marvellous hosts, George and Barbara Bush. Extremely good company, you never knew quite what was going to happen. But they were extremely good company in every respect.

One evening at the end of a long day, we went in a lounge there, a huge lounge and the whole of one wall converted to a large screen, a large cinema screen. And they showed a very remarkable film. Some of you may have seen it, called Patriot Games. It was a great piece of diplomacy. It's the story of a plot to kill a British minister and I was sitting there watching it with my Private Secretary and Press Secretary. And of course the villain, the murderer, turns out to be the Private Secretary and the terrorist was a man named O'Donnell. So I said to the President that I think he scored double top on that particular occasion.

Let me just take you back a while, just test your memory as we slip away from some of the extraneous matters that have intruded into politics over the past few months. There has been something of a frenzied atmosphere in Capitals all round the world, not just in the United Kingdom. I think, dare I say it, from time to time there has been a slightly frenzied attitude in Washington, Tokyo, in Bonn, in Paris, in Rome and perhaps in any number of other countries I might mention. But in the midst of that in the United Kingdom, some fairly important things have happened.

If I had come here just fifteen months ago and said to you on that occasion, let me make a few predictions: I will come back and see you at the end of June in 1993. And when I come back and see you at that time, interest rates will be down at 6 per cent. Inflation will be down at 1.3 per cent and our exports will be growing faster than we've ever seen before and faster than anywhere else in the European Community. We'll have the most competitive exchange rate we've had for a very long time. We'll have potentially the greatest growth rate in the European Community this year. The greatest growth rate forecast for next year. Unemployment will not reach three million. And by the time I come and see you in June 1993 it will be falling for four successive months when right the way across the rest of Europe, in our principal markets, unemployment is rising, growth is falling and so many of them are heading into recession.

Now if I had said that to you, you might perhaps have called for the men in white coats to have me carted off to the funny farm. If I'd added to that, and said in the Parliamentary Session drawing to a close in June 1993, we would have carried all our legislations, often against little local difficulties. Hugely important and reforming Bills on housing, on education, on lotteries, on asylum, on the de-nationalisation, forget that ugly word privatisation, it's de-nationalisation of British Rail. And also, despite the occasional tiny split in my own Party, the Maastricht Bill would have gone right the way through the House of Commons and would be receiving average majorities of over 150 on the votes it faces in the House of Lords. If I'd added that, you would undoubtedly have said, this guy has taken leave of his senses.

Yet that is the reality when you strip away the nonsense that has be-devilled so much of our national interest over recent months.

That is the reality of what is happening.

And then, there's another fundamental change that has taken place.

Out there, all the way around the United Kingdom, if you tap people on the shoulder they'll say of me. Why does he spend so much time on foreign affairs? Why is he bothering about Europe? What about our problems here at home? But the reality for our country now, as it has been for some years, and will be in the future, is that the European market is our own home backyard in terms of exports, in terms of investment and in terms of prosperity.

And what has happened in the last two years in Europe has been very profound, very striking.

I believe the whole nature and tilt of European policy has begun to move. And it has begun to move in a direction that we British have been pushing for, for some time.

Try and put it in context for a moment. For so much of the 1980's, the European Community was bouncing along, 3 per cent plus growth a year. It's not all that long ago in two of the European countries, Portugal and Spain, that the countries were actually led by men in dark glasses and epaulettes. And one was worrying as to whether they would actually be safe for democracy when they headed the community in the early 1980's. And yet they are.

Spain, despite its present difficulties, has immeasurably improved its position over the last decade and so has Portugal.

We have now seen in the last couple of years some changes in European policy profoundly important for Europe and profoundly important for this country.

The first of them is the enlargement of the community. The Community has now agreed, the British have pushed it and pushed and pushed it and the Community has accepted, that the four EFTAN countries can enter the community, subject to negotiations being satisfactory, by 1 January 1995. A good deal earlier than many people anticipated. Many would have pushed it aside for their own domestic reasons. We have won that argument, they are coming in, subject to their own domestic approvals, they'll be in the community by 1 January 1995.

Four extra countries enlarging the community from twelve to sixteen and all of them net contributors to the community budget.

For the first time ever in the European Communities history, about one half of all the member states will be net contributors to the budget, not net beneficiaries from the large contributions of the Germans, the British and the French.

And that begins to change the tilt and balance of interests in the community in a more sensible and pragmatic way in terms of looking at its own financial future.

And then of course there is the remarkable change. The new realism that I think was very evident in the debates we had in Copenhagen. Alas, in this country rather overshadowed by domestic matters. The debates there were at Copenhagen were about the future direction of European economic policy.

I make no secret of the fact, that I believe we have to look ahead for a decade or more and address a problem that has been getting steadily worse right the way across Europe.

Unemployment is a huge problem. We all know it. There's been a huge hump in unemployment right the way across the community in the last two or three years. Seventeen million Europeans unemployed. In two years time it is likely to be twenty million Europeans unemployed.

But that isn't just a function of this current recession. Unemployment in Europe has been rising steadily, growth or not, for over twenty years. And it has been rising steadily for twenty years because Europe has become relatively less competitive over twenty years to the United States, Japan and of course to the Pacific Basin. Though I think separate criteria apply there.

I won't weary you with lots of statistics. Just let me give you one that is a start. Over twenty years the growth in Europe and the growth in the United States is pretty much the same. It should have produced the same number of jobs. But in fact for every single job created in Europe over twenty years, the United States have created four. I think the underlying reason they have done that is the flexibility of the United States' economy and a lack of additional on-costs that has be-devilled the cost structure of so much of employment in Europe.

So it isn't a question of just being beastly and holding back on social costs, it is fundamental to the prosperity of the future of Europe, that the whole of Europe, not just the United Kingdom, grasps that nettle of competitiveness for the future. If they don't, they will remain powerful and relatively rich. But relatively, over time, they will become less powerful, less influential and less wealthy. Unless across Europe they have the courage to actually address those problems.

And it is for that I have been arguing in the European Community over recent years. And it is for that I will go on arguing.

The other point, I think that has changed, very much in the direction we have wanted it to, is the size and shape of the Community, even beyond the growth of the EFTAN states.

I see the European Community at the moment as, in truth, just a fragment of European community. It doesn't yet take in our old friends in Central and Eastern Europe. Hungary, Czechlands, Slovak, in due course Romania, Bulgaria, Poland. In due course they must come into the community.

In the last two years the British have managed to persuade our European partners that will happen. It won't happen perhaps for a decade, but it is now agreed as a matter of European policy that in due course they will enter the Community. And for military, social and political reasons, I believe that is the right way ahead for the community to go.

Let me move on to one or two other issues and skim over them just lightly so that I may leave the maximum amount of time for you to ask the questions you wish to ask rather than simply listen to what I wish to say.

I think the United States were right to attack Baghdad. What I said publicly is what I believe privately. I have not a shred of reservation about it. The attempt to assassinate, in the way that occurred, a former President of the United States with the potential death of hundreds of other innocent people, who would just have been in that area, is an act of international terrorism. An act of international terrorism sponsored not by a group of international terrorists but by the Government of Iraq and by the dictator of Iraq.

Faced with that I think the United States were absolutely right to retaliate and to attack in the way that they did. And they certainly have my wholehearted support. And I regret that support doesn't spread, as it deserves to, across every strand of British politics.

Let me just say a word about the G7 Summit that's just coming up. There are a number of important issues that I think we have to address at the G7 Summit. Certainly I think we find it in our interests, as well as in Russia's interests, to try and help the Russians as they go through the second Russian revolution this century. I wonder at the right way to do it.

There is more than one way to do it and in many ways I think the most effective way is a wide-range of micro-economic assistance rather than macro-economic packages with no clear guidance as to what it will be used for or over what timescale it will be available.

If one goes these days to Moscow and compares it to two years ago, you are beginning to see embedded in the system, the roots of private enterprise. Whereas there was once just a black market, there are now lots of little stalls selling goods that they've brought in from overseas. Things that simply wouldn't have been available in Russia just two years ago are now available.

Go into the stores where you wouldn't have brought anything a few years ago, except perhaps as an illustration of how rotten everything they had was. You now find a wide range of, in many cases, quite high quality goods.

There is a buzz, a feel, a moving place. Despite all the difficulties they have, it suggests that there is a realistic chance, and it will take a long time, it will take a long time, but a realistic chance that their hopes and aspirations to move to a mixed market economy may be beginning to take shallow root in Russia. And it is in our interests I think, on every count, to try and assist them.

Then of course I think we must look at the desirability of settlement of the Uruguay Round. For some years, Heads of Government have gone to the G7. They have solemnly sat down and agreed at the end of that year they would have a GATT settlement. And the next year they have gone back and agreed that at the end of that year they would have a GATT settlement. It is beginning, frankly, to get a bit thin and I know the difficulties there will be only too well.

Few have been in a better position to see what the difficulties are. But I do believe it is profoundly important that we begin to make progress with that agreement.

If we find ourselves in a stand-off between any of the great trading nations to the extent that you then get protectionism and counter-protectionism and trade wars, there will be no winning for anyone. That will be a defeat for everyone and at this moment, when the thing the world economy most needs is confidence and the growth of trade, it would be folly for us not to bend every wit and will we have to try and find a settlement to the Uruguay Round.

Maybe positions will have to be changed, people will have to take a long-term view and in many cases face difficulties in their own countries. But I think we need to address that very seriously and see what can be done.

The other thing I just briefly want to touch on is the world economy. It is pretty sluggish. Indeed, in Europe, the United Kingdom is coming out of recession. Many of our European partners are going into recession. In some cases on a far greater scale than they could remember at any stage in the postwar period.

If you look at Japan, the signals are conflicting. In Japan the Japanese economy is certainly not bounding along as one of the great entrants to the world economy in the way it has so often in the past.

The United States looked as though it was coming sharply and clearly and powerfully out of recession a few months ago. It looks a good deal less like that now. And so one has, amongst three of the great engines of the world economy, the United States, Japan and Germany, none of them exactly giving that powerful pull out of sluggishness and recession that ideally we would wish to see to get trade going and see growth return to put more and more people back to work.

So I think there are areas there. I don't anticipate that we can sit round at the table in Tokyo and decide a new world economic order that is going to correct us. Nobody should imagine that is remotely going to happen. But I think we do have to look and see what the policies in different countries, that will lead to sustainable non-inflationary growth, that will, during the 1990's, the most competitive decade we will ever have lived through, which ever part of the world we're in, to see what is the best way to lift the economy up and out and back towards prosperity.

Those are some of the things that I think we will be discussing, by no means an exclusive agenda, at the G7 in Tokyo.

There are many other issues I could stray into. Many of them are lengthy and I think dealing with them trivially would perhaps be a mistake. What I will do, with your consent, is just leave it at that and answer any questions you may have either on the subjects I have raised or if you wish on any other subjects.


QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

QUESTION (Tom Penther, CBS News):

Prime Minister, if I could ask a broader question. As the United States withdraws from Europe and seems to be advocating its boardroom leadership, Bosnia is the obvious example. Who or what in Europe is going to build this back?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, there are two premises there. If I may examine them both.

That the United States militarily is reducing its commitment to Europe. I think that's probably right. Given the changed military and security structure in Europe, there isn't the same land based threat that there once was from the Soviet Union. We haven't got Russian troops on the very borders of West Germany anymore. They are right the other side of Russia and they've got an army that's collapsing, and in the most appalling difficulties. The threat has wholly changed. But there will still be a very substantial United States presence in Europe. I would guess around 100,000 troops will remain. And I know of no suggestion that this administration or any alternative administration has any imminent likelihood of reducing below that 100,000.

So it is a reduction in their physical presence in Europe. But I don't believe it is an abdication of their instinctive and traditional role as part of European defence. I don't believe that is the case, though you perhaps may feel you know your own fellow citizens better than I do but I don't believe it is.

As to America's world role. The United States finds itself in a difficult position at the moment. Difficult in the sense that it is now the only superpower.

When the United States had the old Soviet Union, there was a counter balance. People instinctively rallied to it, or they rallied against it. Now the counter balance is gone and in a curious way it leaves the United States much more exposed. It hasn't got an enemy, I'll put the word in inverted commas if I may, that it can push against in difficult times. It has actually got to exist in popular fact, solely upon its own policies without that limited aspect that so often helps Governments when they face difficulties.

The present administration has got two problems on its plate. Neither of them of its own making, both of them hellishly difficult to deal with. Bosnia is quite literally a problem from hell and it is difficult to see quite what the United States could do to provide effective leadership.

As far as the world economy is concerned, economies take a long time to respond to action. This one showed signs of being very powerful and has now fallen away. And it will take time for the administration to begin to put that right.

I think that is an extraordinarily unfortunate conjunction of events for a new President to inherit. And I hope and believe that America will grapple with those immediate difficulties that it has. For I profoundly believe that it is very much in the interests of the free world, of the West in particular, that America, as the single great superpower, does exert a powerful leadership in the western world. I hope and expect that it will do so. I don't believe there is any information to abdicate that role and I profoundly hope that there isn't.

QUESTION (Keith Brockwell, Journal of Commerce):

Prime Minister, you mentioned the importance of getting an agreement in the Uruguay Round at the G7. When you arrive in Tokyo you will find there is no Japanese Government, the French have a pretty large chip on their shoulder and most of the other leaders that are there are looking at opinion polls that frankly they must consider to be pretty grim. How can these leaders summon the political will to make difficult choices, to change positions as you said, in very strategically, or in politically sensitive sectors that are needed to make to make a deal? And if this year after the last four years, the leaders are unable to do so, do you believe that the momentum can possibly be summoned to have another go?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think the answer to the first part of the question is, look at what will happen if they don't. I don't expect that these matters are going to be easily solved and I'm certainly not saying they must be solved at Tokyo next week. Things rarely operate in that fashion. We must make sure the momentum goes on up to Tokyo, during Tokyo and through Tokyo. But nobody can expect that if they aren't all solved at Tokyo, as I suspect they will not be, that is the end of the matter. We just have to continue.

But despite the difficulties that you've set out more vividly than I might have done in public, the reality is that unless the leaders of those seven large industrial nations actually move towards a GATT agreement, there will not be one. And if there is not one, what lies the other side of that hill is potentially immensely damaging. And the closer one gets to those difficulties, the greater one sees the prize already there in those areas of GATT already agreed. The loss in losing that and the potential damage that could then come about if the whole Uruguay Round itself was not able to move forward.

It was put very vividly to me the, the moral case for an agreement, by the President of one of the [inaudible] group countries, who came to see me, a relatively small country, and said: "what are you Americans and you Europeans playing at. We reached our agreements in the GATT round five years ago. The world has changed since then. We haven't squealed and complained. We've stuck with it because we want a GATT agreement, we're a relatively small nation. A few months ago the Americans and the Europeans struck a deal and now they're both wondering whether they're going to stick to it. Where does that put us when we have already stuck to the deal that we made four or five years ago?"

Now I have to say to you that I have a lot of sympathy with that argument. And it isn't just a question of the position of America and the position of Europe.

A GATT deal is of acute importance to countries all the way round the world. There is no morality in saying to many of the small nations of the world, we Americans, we British, we French and we Germans are going to be frightfully generous with all this overseas aid. And while we're giving you this overseas aid, a good deal of it tied to trade, we will actually close off our markets to your goods. So you can live off this overseas aid, today, tomorrow and for as far ahead as you can see.

I believe that is a self defeating policy. At some stage we have got to liberate world trade, open markets and enable these smaller countries themselves to provide themselves by their own endeavours and not have a hand to mouth existence with aid from the rich countries in the West.

And unless we do that, we will simply find that the rich countries of the West, over time, will not be rich enough to help these other nations.

So although this argument is largely couched in economic terms, I have to say personally, I think there is a powerful moral case. If that is not a dangerous thing for a politician to say in public these days. There is a powerful moral case for a settlement of the GATT round in the interest of weak nations in Latin America, in Africa, in South East Asia and in many other parts of the globe and I think that is an argument that will need to surface at Tokyo and elsewhere in terms of discussion on the GATT round.

QUESTION (Carla Rappaport, Fortune Magazine):

I was very interested in your comments on employment. You praised America's labour flexibility. The UK actually has one of the most flexible labour systems in Europe. Yet when I talk to economists about the recent [inaudible]. What more does Britain have to do, what is left to help the unemployment problem?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think there are a number of things that need doing. I certainly think there are some more supply side changes that we could make to free up unemployment.

I think as a whole, the economy is too heavily over-regulated. That largely, politicians push that out and they say well that's wicked Brussels sending lots of nasty directives over here. Up to a point that's true. They do send lots of nasty directives over here. But on top of that we often tie a cap and bells to them when they get to Whitehall.

We have some accident, and then there will be an inquiry, and then whoever conducts the inquiry makes 480 recommendations as to what might be done to ensure that such a thing never occurs again. They are faithfully enacted.

If one asks a businessman, go out there and ask all the people running small and medium sized companies what inhibits them from growth, one of the things they will come back, almost invariably, and say to you is, the degree of regulation is too great.

It is in this country less than in other European countries, but that is not the right measure. The question is, how does it compare with the United States and with Japan. That is the question. And the answer to that question is very badly. So I think there is a good deal more of supply side changes that still need to be carried through.

I think the trade union changes have worked immensely successively and I think that is very good. But there are other changes. I think there is a good degree of deregulation. Like every other nation in Europe we have to look at our social on costs.

We in the United Kingdom have seen a social budget that has absolutely soared and people rather say, well that's unimportant. Up to a point, but only up to a point. If you strip all the unemployment costs out of our social budget and then look at the rest of our social security budget, I've put health to one side, just social security, social security rises year on year, almost inexorably by between three and three and a half per cent a year over and above the rate of inflation.

Now that is the equivalent each year of about a penny ha'penny on income tax.

Now that is happening, it's happening all over Europe, in Germany, in Holland and Italy. All sorts of countries that are politically attracted to high social provision are finding it is necessary to trim back within what they can afford. And that is true here. That is why we have set in train with these fundamental expenditure reviews that we need to examine. So I think some of those are the things that we still need to do.

There's one other that I would touch upon. One of the other clear pieces of evidence from examining unemployment across Europe, is to look at the people who are unemployed. And predominantly the people who are unemployed for a long time are relatively unskilled males. They are the people who are unemployed for a long time. I'm not now talking just of the United Kingdom, I'm talking right the way across western Europe. And that argues to me firstly the on-cost argument. The same on-costs on someone of less economic value to a company, means they're less likely to be employed. Straight economic facts. So one has to look at those on-costs.

Secondly it argues that all across Europe we need to look more carefully at the nature and style of trading.

Thirdly in terms of the United Kingdom it argues very powerfully to me that I very much want to expand both the service sector, where most of our future jobs will come, but also the manufacturing sector. Not because I think the manufacturing sector of itself will be a large net producer of additional jobs, I doubt that it will. But I think the suppliers of some of the secondary impact of the wider manufacturing sector will give us jobs. And a wider manufacturing sector of its own will be benevolent addition to the British economy. So those are some of the things I think will go to address the point you made.

QUESTION (Rick Salinger, CNN):

You mentioned Bosnia as a problem from hell, perhaps a case can be made for saying that Northern Ireland's is the Prime Minister's problem from hell. Are you discouraged by the lack of success in bringing about a political solution and an end to the terrorism there?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I'd like to have had a complete solution of course. But I think it would be unwise to look at the extent to which progress has been made in the last two or three years. Let me illustrate that with some practical points rather than just the assertion.

Who would have contemplated two or three years ago that we would have managed to get all the political parties talking in the way that they have around the table. It has never happened before. Large measures of agreement reached in strand 1 and strand 2 of the talks. Agreement, without an explosion in either side of the Ireland, that there should be regular bilateral summits between the Irish Government and the British Government. Huge improvement in cooperation on security matters between the Irish Government and the British Government. Huge increase in the relationship between the Garda and the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

And perhaps above all, if you go to Northern Ireland and go out on the streets and talk to the people of Northern Ireland, there is a huge instinctive will for the politicians to talk and to try and reach an agreement.

They don't say anymore this or that political slogan when you talk to them. What they do say, though they may not put it quite in these terms, is that they don't want another twenty three years like the last twenty three years. They do want us to push ahead for some progress and the reason for that is quite clear.

If you walk around Belfast it's a different city from ten years ago. The difficulties are highly publicised, magnified all the way round the world. The successes aren't. There has been a huge amount of investment in Belfast and a great change in the city. One only has to go there to see it.

But it is just a drop in the ocean and this is what explains the public attitude. Just a drop in the ocean to what could happen if the bloodshed and the terrorism stopped.

You could triple tourism. I was in Northern Ireland over the weekend. The first Prime Minister to spend a weekend there I think for fifty years. I opened the tourist agency in Larne, a brand new agency. They could triple tourism in Northern Ireland but for the fact that all the rest of the world knows about Northern Ireland is when you get terrorist incidents. So they don't go. They think it is far worse than it is.

And secondly inward investment. Northern Ireland is a hugely attractive place to invest in. I went, the previous time I was there, to a great cotton factory where they got some investment from the United States. They'd merged and they were producing Fruit of the Loom t-shirts. Everybody there was hugely successful. Much more competitive than anywhere in the Pacific Basin.

And the amount of inward investment that would flood into Northern Ireland because of the attraction of Northern Ireland as a place to live, and also its competitiveness is huge, provided it had a better terrorist overhang.

Now the people of Northern Ireland know that. They know that there is a prosperity deficit in Northern Ireland because of terrorism. And I think they are getting heartily sick of it.

So I think there is quite an agenda of reasons for positive hope. I don't think it will be easy, I don't think it will necessarily be quick but I think inexorably we are moving in the right direction in Northern Ireland and that is something one could not have said for much of the last quarter of a century.

QUESTION (Linda Albany, ABC News):

Recently someone quite close to the talks on Bosnia indicated that they were quite surprised by the lack of preparation which the Americans came overseas to talk about what it was they wanted done, and said something about this administration being worse than even the Carter administration [inaudible]. What was the reaction of Europeans, would you say, behind closed doors to some extent, to what the US's position was and how they handled it?

PRIME MINISTER:

I'm always rather suspicious of anonymous quotes, having spent a year living through them. So I tend not to react too well to anonymous quotes.

I can only say on the occasions that I have spoken either to President Clinton or the Secretary of State, I found immensely well briefed about realities. Nobody is in any doubt that we have produced different prescriptions as to what is appropriate from time to time. But I think they're very well briefed. I think they do understand the problems involved and I sometimes find it bizarre when I read afterwards what has allegedly happened at a meeting I attended. Either I wasn't there at all or there's been some misapprehension in the way it has subsequently been passed on for reporting. So I have no criticisms to make on that score.

It's a very difficult problem. The United States have to grapple with it in the same way that we do. In some areas we have reached different conclusions but I think the objectives we have in mind are the same objectives and I think that will become apparent again when we talk about it in weeks ahead.

QUESTION (Maureen Johnson, Associated Press):

Prime Minister, when you were saying fifteen months ago we wouldn't have believed the achievements of your administration if you'd listed them, would you yourself have believed one of us if we had said where you're poll ratings would be now and how candid or permanent do you think these are?

PRIME MINISTER:

I have someone whose word you trust implicitly with me. Namely Gus O'Donnell. And Gus will tell you, if I ask him to, won't you Gus. "Yes Prime Minister" [GUS]. He used to write a very famous show as well of the same title.

What I said to him the day after the last election. On the Friday after the election he sat upstairs in my flat. There were four of us there: Chris Patten, Gus O'Donnell, Sara Hogg and myself. And one of them said, 'well, election's over, we've won it'. And I said, and I hope Gus will recall the incident, that in a year I would be the most unpopular Prime Minister that this country had known for a very long time.

I did not quite envisage how it would come about. I freely confess that. But I was well aware of the intrinsic difficulties that lay ahead and I had no doubt that it would lead to a considerable amount of difficulties.

But I'm bound to say, asking me about poll ratings is not wildly productive. If I had believed poll ratings I wouldn't have had any of these problems, because I wouldn't have won the last election. None of them said that we would, I didn't believe them then. I disregarded them then and I have no intention of letting them get in the way of what I'm doing now.

QUESTION:

[Inaudible].

PRIME MINISTER:

The Exchange Rate's only part of competitiveness. Don't make too much just of the Exchange Rate. That's short hand for a range of other things as well.

If you look, for example, at the other components of competitiveness in the United Kingdom: unit costs, productivity growth. You'll see all of them are now strikingly better than most of our European competitors and strikingly better than we've seen previously in this country. So I wouldn't make too much simply of the Exchange Rate problem.

There are a whole range of other things that are making our exports very competitive. And I am delighted about that and also delighted that we have quite a degree of spare capacity, with proved production in this country in order to continue to export.

The problem that we will face, I think, will be a slightly different one. The problem that we are going to face over the next year is that so many of our principal markets are themselves in recession or are heading towards recession. So we are likely to get a larger share of our improved competitiveness. A larger share but perhaps of a smaller market. And if I had to worry about the trade deficit, I would worry about that aspect of the trade deficit rather than the one that you raised.

QUESTION:

[Inaudible].

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I think that question is capable of more than one interpretation. I hope we will be able to reach a settlement that is satisfactory for each of the three parties.

Even if that were true, the probability is, I state this is a probability not a certainty, but the probability is that there will need to be some international presence in the former Yugoslavia for some time to come. I don't know what form that presence will take. I don't know what form any guarantees that might be required would be. But I would be very surprised if there wasn't firstly an humanitarian presence in Bosnia for some time.

Secondly a presence aimed at the reconstruction of the former Yugoslavia, and very possibly what I might call the guardian presence, that's small g, of troops under a UN guise to help in one form or another.

So I think if any of the world's big nations had ambitions that they may be able to wash their hands of the Yugoslavian/Bosnian problem in the near future, then I think that is very unlikely. I don't myself foresee it. I hope we will get a settlement. I think that would be a great step forward.

The other problems would be rather more agreeable to have. But even if that occurred and we did get a settlement and that settlement were satisfactory and it looked as though it was going to last, there would still be a need, I think, for a continuing involvement.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, for thirty five years I've been trying, to explain British cricket. Unsuccessfully of course. Now I have to explain whether there is actually a decline in British cricket in its appearance of British Cricket and County Cricket, a lot of my audiences are waiting expectantly for my answer.

PRIME MINISTER:

I have many responsibilities and I am prepared to take the blame for most of them which on balance is a jolly good thing. Let me try and respond to that question.

As for explaining cricket it is quite simple. Two men go out to the middle of the field, they put in six pieces of wood, two men in white coats come out and it starts to rain. That is really all you need to know.

I tried to explain to President Bush what a leg breaker was, several times, and he got it. Ah, he said, it's a curved ball that doesn't bounce.

There is a serious point underlying your question. And I think it deserves a slightly more serious answer. County Cricket isn't the force it was. School cricket, the lack of school cricket, is really I think where the roots of the difficulties cricketers have actually spring from.

That is the negative side of the equation. The positive side of the equation is that the great County sides have recognised that and they are now organising on a scale we've never seen before in this country. Club Cricket and Youth Cricket actually organised by Lancashire, Surrey, Yorkshire and Middlesex. So they are seeking to get youngsters with some form of cricketing talent at a very young age and exposing them to a higher class of cricket.

That will take some time to work its way through. But if you look at the Surrey team, which I mention only because by far the most important public appointment I hold is that of life vice-president of Surrey County Cricket. A large number of the present Surrey County side actually came through those youth arrangements.