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1996 - Mr Major’s Doorstep Interview

Below is the text of Mr Major’s doorstep interview on Wednesday 13th November 1996.


[Mr Major was asked whether he thought unemployment would fall]

PRIME MINISTER:

Unemployment has been falling steadily now for about three years, the monthly falls are erratic, last month was a very large fall, this month is a very large fall. Can't guarantee falls of that sort every month, but that the trend is going down and is going to continue to go down over the months ahead, I don't think it [indistinct].

[Mr Major was asked whether he thought that the Working Time Directive would ruin it all?]

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it would damage it, course it would, if you put more costs upon unemployment then you are going to damage that capacity to employ people. The real damage with the Working Time Directive and the other Directives that would come the same way if we didn't oppose them now, is that they would put particular burdens upon the small and medium size firms who are creating decent jobs. Let us be clear where these jobs come from, it is not the ICIs and EECs pushing the bulk [indistinct] of employment it is the small medium size firms, those are the ones that will suffer particularly with extra burdens on business.

[Mr Major was asked whether he thought 2 million unemployment was too high, given how unacceptable that would have been in 1979]

PRIME MINISTER:

Well you can trust that you can put the worst interpretation on things, in Germany there are 4 million unemployed and it is rising, it went up 40,000 this month. In France there are over 3 million unemployed, there is not another nation in Europe given the economic scene that has been right across the world, in the last few years, that has got unemployment down to the level it has been. Our unemployment is not just below the rest of Europe it is considerably below the rest of Europe. Where theirs are stuck, our unemployment levels are falling, and not just in some areas, right across the country as a whole, and a particular dent in long-term unemployment. That is very good news indeed, and it has been going on for three years.

[Mr Major was asked if the state of the economy would be good news for the election prospects in the months ahead]

PRIME MINISTER:

Well we have been concerned to get people back to work for 3 years, this is what policies are about. This is why we are trying to create the right sort of environment in which there is growth in the economy which we now have. Faster growth anywhere in Europe, and that growth in the economy is producing more jobs.

Firstly because of the climate and secondly because it is more competitive to established businesses in this country than anywhere else nearby. And thirdly because we have fewer burdens on business and they are more likely to employ people rather than find a way of avoiding employing people and putting money into sometimes costly and ineffective capital expenditure. Now all that is very good news for a Government that wants people back at work, that is what we wish to see.

[Mr Major was asked about the Working Time Directive]

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I think that many people in the Trade Union movement, I don't know whether this applies to Mr Monks and Mr Bickerstaff, but I think many people in the Trade Union movement see Europe as a way of returning many of the outmoded practices that we have managed to get rid of in the last 17 years. Now that is not an attractive prospect for the British workers, and I think it is the British workers and British competitiveness that we have to look at.