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1996 - Mr Major’s Doorstep Interview in London

Below is the text of Mr Major’s doorstep interview in London on Friday 23rd February 1996.


QUESTION:

Prime Minister, what is your reaction this morning to Mr Thurnham's resignation?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I am surprised, to be honest. I had a lengthy conversation with Peter and Sarah last evening and we had a very friendly conversation, a very amiable conversation and we were going to meet again next week. So I am a little surprised, I don't quite know what happened after I finished my meeting with him.

QUESTION:

What will this mean for the debate on Monday on Scott?

PRIME MINISTER:

I don't know that it makes any difference to the debate at all on Monday, I wasn't sure what Peter was going to do, I don't know what Peter is going to do now, but I expect that we will win the vote on Monday.

QUESTION:

Are you confident that you can win that vote?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, I think we will win the vote on Monday.

QUESTION:

And will you ensure that there is indeed a division on that subject?

PRIME MINISTER:

It is not for me to ensure there is a division, I think the Opposition will probably ensure there is a division and I think we can rely upon them to do that. There is a capability for division. If the Opposition are entirely satisfied and don't wish to divide, that is a matter for them.

QUESTION:

Is there a danger now, as Sir Teddy Taylor was saying this morning, of an election before the end of the year?

PRIME MINISTER:

I don't believe so. I have always expected to go through to the spring of 1997 and I still expect to go through to the spring of 1997.

QUESTION:

This has been described as a betrayal by his own Constituency Association people, do you feel betrayed by what he has done?

PRIME MINISTER:

Peter will have worked very closely with his constituency and his constituency will have worked very closely with him and very hard for him over the years, so I can understand that people feel very worried about this. I don't think that is the sort of language that I am in the business of using. Peter has been a parliamentary colleague for a very long time. I am very saddened and disappointed at his decision. I am not quite sure what temporarily resigning the Whip means, but I am sure Peter will be in touch to say what it means.

QUESTION:

Is your door still open to him to come back?

PRIME MINISTER:

My door is open to every Member of Parliament almost all the time, I spend a lot of time talking to Members of Parliament.

PRIME MINISTER:

Are you concerned about further defections?

PRIME MINISTER:

I am not expecting any.

QUESTION:

What would you say to any Tories who may be considering doing something similar?

PRIME MINISTER:

I don't think there are any, so I don't think the situation arises.

QUESTION:

On Ireland, you will be seeing George Mitchell today, we understand you have had a number of meetings in the last 24 hours, are you hoping that the peace process in a meaningful way can be put back together in the next few days, with a summit perhaps?

PRIME MINISTER:

I have said repeatedly that I am not prepared to give up on the process, neither is John Bruton. We had a further conversation this morning. As you say, I will be seeing George Mitchell later on today, that is not to negotiate, it is to discuss what has happened and to update him on our thinking. And then I expect to be speaking to the Taoiseach again over the weekend. We are working towards a summit, we are not going to call a summit until we have done some further work. There is a huge amount of discussion and negotiation going on at the moment.

QUESTION:

Do you think you will meet him before you go to Bangkok?

PRIME MINISTER:

It would be my hope to meet him before we go to Bangkok, I can't be certain that that will be the case but that would be my wish if it is achievable.

QUESTION:

Sinn Fein were saying last night that the package that appears to be being put together, they were interested in and certainly wanted to look at. Do you feel that there is any realistic prospect at this stage that they can be brought back in, from what you are hearing?

PRIME MINISTER:

From what we have heard from Sinn Fein in the past, there ought never to have been a breach of the ceasefire. So I am a little sceptical about what I hear Sinn Fein saying, I think it is actions from now on we will wish to see from Sinn Fein and the IRA. I think we would be cautious about any words, we have been in the past, we now have every reason to be more cautious. It is actions we will wish to see from them. But we will continue and I hope we will be able to have a summit before the European Union/Asia Conference in Bangkok. I cannot be certain about that yet, and neither can John Bruton be certain about that. If we can achieve it, we will.

QUESTION:

What would Sinn Fein have to do, in your view, to get back into the process?

PRIME MINISTER:

These are matters that will become apparent over the next few days. Let us finish the discussions we are having and then we will make it quite clear.