PM Direct in Kazakhstan

Prime Minister David Cameron took part in a PM Direct event with students during his visit to Kazakhstan.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Prime Minister answering students' questions at the Nazarbayev University


Colleagues and students and members of the press, I’ll be very brief, simply because we have the main event waiting for us. Prime Minister Cameron, it’s a great honour and pleasure for us to receive you here.

Prime Minister

Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you. Well, thank you for that warm welcome, and it’s a huge pleasure and a privilege to be here at this extraordinary university, these wonderful buildings. And I’m very proud to be the first British Prime Minister – serving British Prime Minister, to come to this country in over 20 years. I was a little bit delayed in my flight from Pakistan, but as I got off the aeroplane, your President very kindly said, when I said, ‘I’m sorry, Mr President, for being a bit late’, he said, ‘Don’t worry, we’ve waited 20 years. We can wait an hour or so more’.

No long speech from me, because this is about your questions and my answers. I just wanted to say one thing about Kazakhstan, one thing about the United Kingdom and one thing about our relationship. It is a pleasure to be here; this is a young country, and I wanted to come and hear directly from the people who are going to build its future. But I think there’s a lot to celebrate about Kazakhstan.

I think the decision of your country to give up its nuclear weapons was a bold and right decision and we should always remember that. I think the way that you’re using your oil and mineral wealth, the way you’re diversifying your economy, the way that you are seeing the growth of living standards, the way you’re developing your country, I think is remarkable and very impressive. And impressive to be here in this capital city that’s been built so rapidly, and, I would like to say, with the help of some very good British architects as well.

A word about the United Kingdom. I often like to say that, in this modern, interconnected world, we’re in something of a global race. There are the rising powers, and your country is one of those rising powers. And I think it’s very important to recognise, as people and as leaders, that the history of our countries is not yet written. We are going to write it ourselves. Whether we succeed or whether we fall back will depend on the decisions that we make – the decisions we make as people, the decisions we make as countries.

And, as leader of the United Kingdom, I’m determined that, while Britain has had a long history, I’m determined that we’re going to be as successful in this century as we were in the last. And I’m great believer that if you make the bold and right decisions, if you deal with your debts, if you make your economy competitive, if you invest in education; in this modern interconnected world, if you open yourselves up, if you trade, if you invest around the world, if you make the most of your opportunities, you can be a success story. That is what I believe the United Kingdom needs to do, and that is what I know that Kazakhstan aims to do as well.

So, a word about our partnership. Why is a British Prime Minister here in Kazakhstan? Well, I would put the question the other way round. Why is it a British Prime Minister hasn’t been to Kazakhstan for the last 20 years? We should have been here earlier, and I’m delighted to be here, because I think we can have quite a partnership between our countries. I think we can have a partnership in education, as we see in this great university.

We can have a partnership in terms of oil and gas. You’re developing oil and gas fields in some very challenging environments. We in Britain did that in the North Sea. I think we can have a partnership as you diversify your economy. And I’m very proud to have brought many, many British businesses here this week in order to sign lots of agreements in lots of different sectors – in services, in education, in manufacturing, in petrochemicals, in all those sectors – so that our two economies, our two countries can trade with each other, invest in each other’s economies, learn from each other and partner with each other. We’re at different stages of development, but I want Britain to be a partner of choice for Kazakhstan.

So that is why I’m here. That’s why I’m enthusiastic about this relationship. Of course, there are many things we should discuss together. Nothing should be off the menu. We should discuss economic issues, trade issues; we should discuss human rights and democracy. Your country is on a journey, as many other countries are, and, as your partner, we want to help you on that journey. So, nothing is off the menu, nothing is off the table, and I’m very happy to take questions and try and answer those questions on any subject you care to ask.


Hello. Welcome to Astana. I work here, and I did my – I spent four years in Scotland doing my undergraduate degree. And, as a former politics student, I would like to ask – learn your opinion on Scottish independence issues.

Prime Minister

Well, very good. It may seem a long, long way here in Kazakhstan, but it’s a very important question in the United Kingdom. And I think, actually, a very important question for all countries to think, how do you maintain the entirety of your country and take people with you. As you may know, the United Kingdom consists of four nations: we have England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland.

The Scots elected a government made up of a party called the Scottish National Party, who believe in Scottish independence. Now although I am passionate about keeping the United Kingdom together, I recognise that if one part of United Kingdom vote for a party that wants to split away, you have to let the people decide. You have to let the people choose.

So we will be holding a referendum in the United Kingdom – in Scotland – in September 2014. And there’s a big debate – and you would have seen that debate when you were studying in Scotland – between those who want to leave the United Kingdom and go it alone, and those who want to stay in the United Kingdom. As I say, I passionately believe that Scotland should stay in the United Kingdom. I think we’re stronger, more prosperous, safer and better off together, and I’ll be making those arguments.

So far in the debate, my side of the argument – the keep the United Kingdom together side, is winning the argument. But as I say, if we win that referendum, and I hope we will, I think our United Kingdom will be even stronger because we won’t have held Scotland in the United Kingdom against her will. We will have asked the people of Scotland to choose. And in the end, if we live in democracies, we have to allow the people to decide. Not the politicians to decide, but the people decide what their future is.

But I think the United Kingdom is a good example of how you can have different nations living together in one United Kingdom. I also think our country is a good example of how you can have many different races, creeds and religions in one country, and I know you in Kazakhstan have that too. And you have equal rights, whether you are ethnically Russian or ethnically Kazakh. And I think it’s very important that we say that is right for all countries in all parts of the world.

So I hope that is how we’re going to keep the United Kingdom together. And I hope that when you come back to Scotland, Scotland is still part of the UK. Thank you very much.

Gentleman here …


Mr Cameron, first of all, thank you for coming. It’s a great honour to have you here.

Prime Minister



Mr Cameron, it’s not a secret that the [inaudible] and popularity of sports within citizens is an important feature for the development of every modern state. For example, I know that you’re a big fan of sports; I know that you’re the supporter of Aston Villa Football Club. In addition, there are lots of people in Kazakhstan who are mad on richer sports, English football, for example. I’m a Liverpool supporter –

Prime Minister

Well, you had a slightly better year than me, so …


So, I would like to thank you for job you have done on the Hillsborough disaster this year.

Prime Minister

Thank you.


It was very important for Liverpool fans all over the world.

Prime Minister

Thank you.


So my question is, what do you think about the perspective of a co-operation between the UK and Kazakhstan in the field of sports? Are there any plans going on between these two countries?

Prime Minister

Very, very good. Well, first of all, thank you for the welcome and thank you for supporting an English football team. Liverpool’s not my team, but …

It’s a very good example of what a globalised interconnected world we live in, that all over the world, people are following English football. I remember taking the Premier League trophy on a trade visit to Malaysia, and people from – the business leaders from all over east Asia came to this dinner. And I thought, what an honour – all these people coming to have dinner with me, I must be such a big draw to get all these business people. They all wanted to come and have their picture taken with the Premier League trophy. It wasn’t me they were coming to see at all.

Now, sports co-operation between our countries – I think that is a good example of something we should look at that’s outside the area of oil and gas, and business. I think there will be opportunities. For instance, English football teams often choose to train in different countries during different parts of the year, so that is an opportunity.

We have some universities in the United Kingdom that are particularly good at sports technology, sports medicine. And it may be good on a future trade initiative to bring – for instance, Loughborough University, that is one of the world leaders in that – to bring them here to Kazakhstan and see what programmes could be run there. I’ve got my Ambassador sitting in front of me and she’s taking a note of all the things that we can do to encourage sporting links between our countries.

Also, you have, I think, the Winter University Games in 2017 here in Kazakhstan, and I hope that you’ll look at our experience from the Olympics last year in London – the Olympics and Paralympics, which I believe was a great success for our country. The architects of the Sochi stadium for the Winter Olympics in Russia are here on my trade delegation, and I know they’re interested in your Expo for 2017.

So I think this is my whole argument. You might think of the obvious areas of cooperation: oil and gas, and technology and even universities, but the cooperation should go much wider and sport and football is a very good place to start.

Next question. Gentleman here.


Good morning. Good morning Mr Prime Minister, you are welcome to come here. It’s an honour for me, for us, and my name is [Inaudible]. I am working here as teaching assistant. I have an undergraduate degree from Oxford Brookes University and recently I have got unconditional offer from university in Scotland.

Prime Minister

Which one?


I was searching for the scholarships in UK and also was searching scholarships in USA. And I have compared the scholarships and noticed that your scholarships of the USA includes both accommodation, institution fees and the lot of them, in comparison with the UK – with scholarships in UK. So my question, are there any possibilities or what is the British Government planning to increase the scholarship for international students?

Prime Minister

Right, very good question. We’re in a – as I said, we’re in a global race, and we’re in a global race for talent. We want the most talented students in the world to come to the United Kingdom and to choose the United Kingdom over other countries. And obviously we should look at our scholarship arrangements, we do have a lot of different scholarship schemes that people can apply for, but we are in competition with America and elsewhere.

So what are our competitive advantages? Why come to the United Kingdom? Well, I think first of all, we have excellent educational institutions. I think we have a long history. If you take the top ten universities in the world, I think Britain still has three or four of them which, for a country our size, is remarkable. We obviously have the English language. They handle it a little bit differently in America, but if you want the real version, you know… It’s a bit like the advert for Coca Cola; if you want the real thing, you’ve got to come to the United Kingdom!

We have also, I think, quite a – I know it often takes time to get a visa and to go through all the stages, but we actually have a very clear and simple offer, which is there’s no limit on the number of foreign students who can come and study in Britain. You have to have a basic English language qualification, which all of you clearly have, and you have to have a place at a British university. But if you have that, then there’s no limit on the number that can come.

And there’s another advantage, which is not always understood, which is that if you want to come back to Kazakhstan and build your country, that’s excellent; that’s a very good choice. But if you want to stay in the United Kingdom and you can find a graduate level job, then there’s no limit on the numbers that can stay and do a graduate level job and to work for Britain, in Britain in a graduate job and then perhaps come back to Kazakhstan to build the links between our countries.

So we have good institutions, we have the right language, and we have, I think, a good system to encourage people to come and that will forge the links between our countries. So I hope you choose the United Kingdom, I hope you choose Scotland, but I recognise the scholarship schemes, we’re always going to have to look at how we can keep competitive and how we also have to make sure that we can pay for them at the same time.

Question right at the back.


Mr Prime Minister, welcome to Astana; it’s a great pleasure to have you here in the Nazarbayev University. I would like to ask you about some politics. As you know, Croatia has just become the 28th member of the European Union. What is your opinion about this actually a matter and what is the role of – how do you see, envision the role of the United Kingdom in the development of the European Union? Thank you.

Prime Minister

Thank you. Well, first of all, I think it’s excellent news that Croatia has joined the European Union as the 28th member. I think if you think back 15, 20 years and you remember what was happening in the Balkans, and you think of the war and the human rights atrocities and some of the slaughters that were taking place, to think that, you know, 15, 20 years on, these countries would either be joining the European Union or, in the case of Serbia, Macedonia and others, preparing to join the European Union, I think that is a remarkable transformation.

And one of the strengths of the European Union is that, because it’s an organisation countries want to join, they have to take steps to put in place democracy, human rights, the rule of law, anti-corruption measures; they have to do these things in order to qualify. So it’s been quite an effective mechanism for encouraging countries to develop in the right way.

Britain has always supported the widening of the European Union. Our vision of the European Union is that it should be a large trading and cooperating organisation that effectively stretches, as it were, from the Atlantic to the Urals. We have a wide vision of Europe, and we’ve always encouraged countries to join.

But we recognise there’s a problem in the European Union right now that needs to be solved. And the problem comes in two parts. First of all, as I’ve said, we live in a very globally competitive world, and yet the European Union keeps adding more costs, more burdens and more bureaucracies onto businesses. It’s become too inflexible, it’s become too bureaucratic, it’s become too costly. And so we need some change in the European Union to deliver that.

The second problem goes a bit deeper, which is that the members of the European Union you can divide in two, if you like. There are 17 of them who share a single currency, the Euro. And then there are the other members – including my country, the United Kingdom – that has its own currency, the pound sterling, and that doesn’t want to give up its currency and join the Euro. And we have to make this organisation flexible enough to include both sorts of country.

And in my view the Euro countries, the countries that share the same currency, they clearly need to integrate more. You know, if you have a single currency, you need to have an integrated banking system, you need to have an integrated fiscal system, you need to make sure that you have quite a lot of harmonised rules; you need quite a lot of solidarity. We were just talking about England and Scotland. I mean, in England and Scotland we share the same currency. If Scotland has a bad year, England supports Scotland. If England has a bad year, Scotland supports England. That’s the way it works in a single currency.

So we need change in the single currency, and then we need to make the European Union more flexible so that it can include comfortably countries like Britain, or other countries that want to be in this trading cooperating partnership but don’t want the currency.

And that’s why I’ve argued for, effectively, a renegotiation of the rules of the European Union between now and 2017. And I’ve said that if re-elected, I will hold a referendum by the end of 2017 to give the British people a choice about whether they want to stay in this organisation, which will be changed by then, or to leave this organisation. Because going back to my argument about Scotland: in the end, you have to allow the people to choose what organisations they want to be in and what organisations they don’t want to be in.

But even as we have that debate, Britain mustn’t stand still. And that’s one of the reasons for coming here to Kazakhstan. Because actually Britain, as an open trading nation – one of the biggest investing nations around the world – we should, yes, make the most of our membership of the European Union, but we should also make the most of our relationships in the rest of the world.

Make the most of our relationships with, for instance, the Gulf countries; make the most of our relationships with countries like yours: invest more, trade more and expand into Southeast Asia. So that is my plan to do all of those things; to make the most of all the networks and the organisations that we belong to. I think that’s absolutely key.

Next question, one behind me here. Here comes the microphone.


You’re really welcome here. We are here as students of Nazarbayev University, and I’m humanities division student. And speaking like IR and economics students, you’ve majored in philosophy, economics and politics. And I’d like to ask your little bit suggestions on how these disciplines have helped you in your career and to become one of the youngest prime ministers in the world in 189 years.

And also one more question about Caspian Shelf. What’s your perspective on the humanitarian issues there, because we know that it’s one of your first agendas for coming here to Kazakhstan? Thank you very much for your response.

Prime Minister

Yes. Yes. Well, thank you. It’s a big question. First of all, on the development of the Caspian Sea, clearly it is important for your country, the development of these natural resources. But I was very struck yesterday, when I was down at the Kashagan oil field, how much work has been done as well to try and map and to mitigate the environmental impact of this development.

And I think that’s important, because, you know, we don’t have a freehold on this earth; we have a lease. And we need to pass it on to our children and to future generations. And we need to take care of the environment and develop our natural resources at the same time. But it seems to me that is the focus in Kazakhstan, as it is the focus in the UK.

In terms of what I studied, I studied philosophy and economics. Some people call economics the ‘dismal science’, because they always say you could lay the world’s economists end to end and they still wouldn’t reach a conclusion. And I think economics has suffered in recent years – the big banking and financial collapse, which was not really forecast by the economists. And economists have disagreed a lot about how to get us out of the difficulties.

But nonetheless it is still, even though economists maybe can’t be as precise in their answers as other scientists can be so certain, it still is so vital that we try and understand better the forces at work in our world, financial and economic and social.

So I suppose that is what I enjoyed about my studies was trying to understand better the economic systems of the world and how they work. I think learning political history is very important. If we learn about the past, hopefully we will repeat fewer of the mistakes. And philosophy I enjoyed because it was just a good way of training your mind – trying to understand some of the rules of logic, reading some of the great philosophers, was just a great exercise in trying to clarify your thinking.

And so often in politics as in life, what you’re really trying to do is work out your arguments, work out the best way of dealing with a problem. And the more you can break it down and deal with it logically and explain what you’re doing and take people with you, that’s what it’s all about. And I think that is what PPE – Philosophy, Politics and Economics – tries to teach you.

And I was very lucky to have some very good tutors. And in fact some of them still write me letters, often telling me that what I’m doing is not a good idea, but every now and again saying ‘well done’. So they keep in touch, and I think they still feel they’re training me even now.

Lady here.


Hello Mr Prime Minister. My name is Anyumi, I’m second-year Social Studies student. I’m IR student, actually. So as an IR student, I’m obliged to ask you: what is your favourite book about international relations and politics, and how has it influenced you? Thank you.

Prime Minister

Right, my favourite book about international relations and politics – that is a very good question. I think the book I’ve read most recently is Tom Friedman’s – he’s written two brilliant books, and he has this great expression of saying – his whole argument is about how interconnected our world has become, and how the pace of change is rapidly accelerating.

And there’s one bit in the book which caught my eye and I’ve used it over and over again, which is, he makes the point that even five years ago, the cloud was something in the sky, not something to do with computing; 4G (mobile phones), 4G was a parking space; Facebook had barely been invented; and Skype was a typo on your computer, not something you communicated via.

And I think this is a brilliant little expression about how fast the pace of change is in our world. And if we think that some of the biggest companies that exist today didn’t even exist five or ten years ago, that is a demonstration of that change. So I’m influenced by him; I think he’s a very wise writer. But I think probably best not to be too influenced by any one single person, as you study international relations.

I think you need to read as widely as you can, and also try and apply what you’re reading to what is going on around you. And I think that’s the great thing about university: you have this opportunity to study, to learn, but also to think about this rapid change taking place in the world, and try and apply your studies to that. And with that, I wish you luck.

The gentleman here?


My name is [Inaudible]; I’m working here and my question about the situation in Syria.

Prime Minister



There are lots of discussions on the war in Syria and what’s the position of the England on that question, and do you have any scenarios how the war could be resolved?

Prime Minister

Right. Well, a very good question. Well, first of all, what is happening in Syria is a complete tragedy. The figures are truly shocking. We’ve now seen around 100,000 people killed, and I believe the regime of Assad bears the overwhelming responsibility for that. I believe he has blood on his hands for the attacks he’s made on his people.

The evidence that we have is that he has used chemical weapons in a limited way, but nonetheless, the most appalling chemical weapons, banned internationally, on his own people. We’ve seen an enormous humanitarian crisis as millions of people have had to leave their homes. Many have had to leave their homes but are still in Syria, but many of them are in Jordan, are in Lebanon, are in Turkey, and in some cases they are really de-stabilising those countries.

The refugee camp in Jordan, the one that I visited quite recently, that is now one of the biggest cities in Jordan. So if you imagine the impact of literally millions of people coming to your country, a small country, it is causing enormous regional instability. So the question is how do we try and bring this to an end, and that is where I think it is right to support the international efforts for a peace conference.

That is what we did at the G8 where I had President Obama and President Putin around the table with me in Northern Ireland to try and set out the terms for a peace conference where representatives of the regime, and representatives of the opposition would sit round the table and would decide on a transitional government to take over in Syria, a transitional government that could have the support of everyone in Syria, including the minorities, and that would have full executive powers. That is what we need to happen. That is what we want to happen, but the question is how can we make it more likely to happen? And that is where Britain is also playing a role in supporting the opposition in Syria.

Now, I know there are elements to the opposition that are extremists, that are dangerous, that we should have nothing to do with that I’d like to see driven out of Syria, but nonetheless, there is also a Syrian opposition that believes in a democratic, pluralistic, open future for Syria.

We, in the international community, including in the European Union, have recognised this official opposition as legitimate spokespeople for the Syrian people in the light of the appalling things Assad has done, and I think we should be on their side. We should be helping them and that is what the United Kingdom is doing, because in the end we should be speaking up for the millions of people in Syria who don’t support Assad, who know that what he has done effectively should rule him out of office for the future.

But also, don’t support extremism, don’t support terrorism. Millions of people in Syria want what others have in the world, which is the chance to live in a country with a government that represents all of the people of that country, where they can choose who leads them. That is what they want. That is what we should support. It’s an incredibly difficult problem to sort out, but Britain is committed to playing its part in supporting the official opposition and keeping up the pressure for that international peace conference.

The lady here?


Dear Prime Minister, thank you for coming to Kazakhstan, and we know that it’s the first official visit of the Prime Minister of the UK to our country, and I really hope that you’re having a good time here in Astana. So my question is going to be very personal and my colleagues ask you more political and economic stuff, but I want to ask you a question that – so if you have an ability to relive one moment in your life, excluding the birth of your children and marriage, like what is – what did this opportunity – like would it be like in…?

Prime Minister

That is such a good question because, of course, the first answer is – I mean, I do still remember vividly the day I was married and it’s the most exciting day of your life. I still remember it and I haven’t seen my wife for several days now and I miss her desperately, so that would be my answer. And of course, the birth of your first child particularly – I’ve had four children, and the birth of your first child is an incredibly emotional and powerful moment. So what other moment of my life would I like to relive? That is a very difficult one.

I’m a very keen tennis player and I once played a game of tennis with Boris Becker and I got his serve back. I’m not quite sure how I did it and so I’d quite like to relive that just to see that it really did happen. But I’ll have to think longer and harder for a better answer to your question, but certainly for me it would be about my – it would be about my children. Particularly, when they’re growing up, the first time they do certain things – the first words, the first steps are magical moments.

And the great thing about today – you’re all holding cameras – now everything gets filmed so you can relive these moments because you can watch them. If you can work iMovie, which I’m struggling with, if you can work your iMovie system then you can watch it all over again. The lady here?


Good morning. Welcome to Kazakhstan again. I am [Inaudible], a student of Nazarbayev University and I want to ask you a question, which was like a continuation of the question which was before about Syria.

Prime Minister



Recently you had the G8 forum in Lough Erne and you and six other members had a contrasting opinion with Russia on the Syria issue. Do you think reaching compromise is possible?

Prime Minister

Yes, I do think. I mean, look, we do have a different view. I have a good relationship with Vladimir Putin. I visited Moscow as Prime Minister relatively early on in my premiership and I went to see him in Sochi this year and welcomed him to London and to the G8 very recently, and of course, we disagree.

I believe that President Assad is now illegitimate, has to go, cannot represent his people because of the appalling things that he’s done, including the use of chemical weapons. That is my very clear view and I’m absolutely as certain as I can be, given the intelligence evidence I’ve seen that he has used those chemical weapons. So that is my view.

My view is also that we need a democratic transition in Syria, that Syria will be better off with a transitional government and then fresh elections, and a new government. Now, Vladimir Putin takes a different view. He doesn’t – he must speak for himself, but he doesn’t agree about the evidence on chemical weapons. He is very concerned about the extremist elements of the opposition, which I am too, but I don’t think he sees the other parts of the opposition as legitimately as I do. So there’s a disagreement.

But what is important in international relations is to try and talk and discuss and understand and accept where your differences are, but then try and find some common ground. And I think there is some common ground between, say, Britain and the United States and France on the one hand, and Russia on the other.

And the common ground is that we want to see this slaughter, we want to see this conflict end. The common ground is that we recognise that a conference, a peace conference on the so-called Geneva principles that establishes the people who could form part of a transitional government, would be right for Syria.

Now, in my view that must involve Assad going as fast as possible. Again, President Putin might take a different view, but if we can agree about the end state, that in the end Syria should have a government representing all her people, in the end we need an end to the conflict and the death and destruction, in the end we don’t want to see extremists and terrorists in Syria. If we can agree the end and we can agree some of the steps about how to get there, then we should continue to sit round the table and try and make that happen.

But I think the real task now is to try and encourage the Russians to push the Syrian regime to the table and for us to encourage the opposition to go to the table, but it has to be done on the basis that the transitional government will have full executive power, including over the military because then people in Syria will know that change really is coming. So there is some common ground but we need to keep working at it and we need to keep the pressure on. The lady here.


Good morning. My name is Nara[?] and I am a student of Nazarbayev University and here is my question. If you were proposed to be a part of the Harry Potter cast which character would you choose?

Prime Minister

That’s a very good one. Funnily enough, my daughter is nine years old and she’s just starting to read all the Harry Potter books and so I’m sort of rediscovering them all over again. But I can think of all sorts of characters you don’t want to be and I suppose in the end, you know, if you’ve got any sense, you want to be Harry Potter. I mean that be the – that must be the correct answer. But I suspect that people in Britain might want to paint me into a different role, but I’ll let them do that; I won’t make the work easy for them.

Lady here.


Thank you very much. Talking of sports, I don’t know if you’ve had the chance to cycle just yet, because it’s ideal cycling territory.

Prime Minister

I haven’t.


Just a recommendation. On a more serious note, this country is clearly interested in western capital. The UK is set to make huge profits from Kazakhstan. Talking of partnership, as you did, when do you think the UK will be able to repay the huge economic favour that the Kazakhstanis are doing us, for one thing?

And separately, are you worried that your private conversations with President Nursultan Nazarbayev might be subject to eavesdropping by American secret service? Thank you.

Prime Minister

First of all, I’ve had very good conversations with the President, so we have nothing to hide. We had an excellent conversation last night about relations between our two countries. We talked about the problems in Afghanistan; we talked about trade; we talked about human rights. We discussed all sorts of subjects, and that was very positive.

In terms of your question about – and on the issue of intelligence, I strongly believe that intelligence organisations must always operate within a legal framework. It’s well known in the UK, we have Intelligence organisations. You’ve all seen the James Bond films; it’s not quite like that, but we have – they are now organisations that have a statutory basis. They have to – they are properly held to account in our Parliament through an Intelligence and Security Committee. They have to operate under the law.

Look, all countries need to have services to look after their national security. Of course they do. But I think a modern country should have them on a statutory basis, operating under the law, and with a level of accountability to Parliament. And that’s what we have. I’m not saying it’s perfect in the UK, but we have gone through many iterations to try and get a good approach. And I think we have a good approach, and as Prime Minister I feel confident that it’s a good approach and one that operates under the law.

With your question about investment, look, I believe in free markets, I believe in enterprise, I believe that properly regulated and under the rule of law, the capitalist system can actually lead to the creation and the spreading of wealth and prosperity and progress. And you can’t have capitalism without capital. You can’t have the development of a country without capital.

You need capital in order to build the schools and hospitals you need for your people. You need capital to develop your natural resources. You need capital to build factories. But I believe that if we have a well organised international system, then the flow of capital between countries is good for both. And of course Britain, I think, is the second largest investor into Kazakhstan, and I think that is good for Britain. I also think it’s good for Kazakhstan.

Kazakhstan is going to become a massive international investor. As your oil wealth builds up, very sensibly, your leaders have decided to copy what happened in Norway where they set up a sovereign wealth fund. I’m very pleased to say the headquarters of that sovereign wealth fund is going to be in London, the international financial centre, and you’re very welcome there.

But you’ll have this sovereign wealth fund, which will invest some of the proceeds of your oil wealth into businesses and organisations all around the world and that will be very good for the Kazakh people because you’ll have external sources of wealth as well as your internal wealth. And as your oil and gas runs down, you’ll have those other assets overseas.

So the international exchange and flow of capital is a good thing, not a bad thing. And we shouldn’t see it as some sort of winner/loser game. It’s a game in which all can win if these things are properly arranged. And Britain has now some of the strongest legal frameworks anywhere in the world for the operation of business.

I was talking to my business delegation this morning, and they were talking about the Bribery Act we have now passed in the UK, which is one of the toughest pieces of legislation anywhere in the world. And I was saying to them, ‘I know it is tough, I know it’s a regulatory burden on you, but you should use it as a calling card. You should say if you do business with a British company, or a British bank, or a British investment organisation, you’re going to be doing business with an organisation that has to meet the toughest rules in the world. Make that a calling card; make that a positive for your country.’

So I think Britain and Kazakhstan will both benefit from this exchange of capital, from the investment we’re making in your country, and that’s the way we should see it.

Gentleman here.


Mr Prime Minister, thank you very much for providing such an opportunity for our students to talk to you in such a format.

I’m sure that many students are sitting right now and thinking, I want to be as good as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Whom are you inspired by, Mr Prime Minister? Who are your role models?

Prime Minister

Well I studied at university. I had great tutors, as I said, who taught me, made me think, and made me open my mind to all the best that’s been written and said, and that was very inspiring. But in politics I would say, some future – some past politicians in Britain have been particularly inspiring; one in particular, Margaret Thatcher, who very sadly died this year. She was an inspirational figure when I was growing up in Britain in the 1980s. She seemed to me to be someone who had a very clear view about where she wanted to take the country, and she had a very clear view about the forces at work in the world.

And the 1980s was a time of quite a lot of big battles, ideologically. Obviously the battle between Soviet communism and western-style capitalism; the battle between Marxist dictatorship and western democracy: these were big battles. And I felt that Margaret Thatcher was on the right side of those battles. I think that she made the right calls, certainly in my country, in the United Kingdom.

She took over at a time when people were willing to believe that the UK was going into a decline, and she refused to accept that decline. She said if we get on top of inflation, if we democratise our trade unions, if we privatise some of state owned companies, if we get out taxes down we can be a success story again.

And I think the story of the 1980s – and they weren’t without difficulties – but the story of the 1980s was a country that was reborn, was a country that showed you could turn yourself around, pull yourself up and get on and succeed in the world. And I think it has a relevance for Kazakhstan, because I think the move to privatise state owned businesses, to open up markets, to encourage enterprise, to introduce low tax rates – I think that is a lesson that other countries have looked at and, to some extent, followed.

And I was talking about this with your President last night, because he spent some time with Margaret Thatcher, I think mostly after she had left office in 1980. And they had a lot of conversations about how to build a free enterprise economy, how to have a larger private sector, how to privatise state industries. And I would argue that has been part of your success here in Kazakhstan.

So she’s been very inspiring to me, both because I grew up seeing her making these changes and also, I think that she had a very clear view that you write your own history – it’s not written for you – if you take the right choices. And she also showed something else, which is sometimes in politics you have to make some very tough decisions. I became Prime Minister in 2010, when the British budget deficit was one of the biggest anywhere in the world. It was bigger than the Greek or almost as big as the Greek deficit.

And we had to make cuts in public spending, we had to make difficult decisions on things like public sector pay, we had to make difficult decisions on public sector pensions. We made those decisions. It’s very tough, very difficult, but I believe it is beginning to pay off, that people can see the deficit is coming down; the economy is starting to grow. We’ve lost, you know, almost half a million jobs in the public sector, but we’ve created 1.3 million jobs in the private sector so the economy’s rebalancing.

Now, we need more rebalancing. We need to export more; we need to grow more. We need to be less reliant on financial services; we need to build up our technology and manufacturing industries again. But I believe these things are starting to happen and so Margaret Thatcher has been very inspiring to me.

But the great thing in politics, and particularly in a country like mine, you can look back over history and you can find many other inspirational figures. Winston Churchill: I will never forget – when I sit in the Cabinet room in Number 10 Downing Street, I never forget that he sat there in May 1940 when Britain was all on our own facing Hitler, and he decided to fight on. And I think that was such an act of bravery and leadership that it stands as the sort of – one of the single greatest moments of British history. And that’s very inspiring.

And it was a privilege actually, recently, to stand with President Putin in Number 10 Downing Street and to give medals to the British veterans of the Arctic Convoys who, after the Soviet Union joined the war against Adolf Hitler and Nazism, were supplied by British sailors travelling that very perilous route through the Arctic, and delivering supplies to Russia. And so the two of us pinned medals on men who are now in their 90s, who took that perilous journey. And all of that wouldn’t have happened without the bravery of Winston Churchill in the 1940s. So that’s inspiring too.


Hello Mr Cameron. So, as you could notice, here today gathered many students of Political Science and IR field, and what kind of advice could you give us as the students of this field and as the future, maybe, politicians of Kazakhstan? Thank you.

Prime Minister

What advice could I give? Well, the first thing is get involved; don’t leave politics to someone else. I think it’s really important, because I know in life today people are very busy; people want to get on with their own careers; they want to think about their own families. And also, politics and politicians have been in disrepute because there are big forces at work in our world, and people wonder whether politicians and nations can grip them and make the changes we want to see.

But the answer to that is not to switch off politics and give up on politics; the answer is to get involved. So the first thing I’d say is, get involved. Get involved in the political development of your country, however you can do that, so that you can play a part. I think the other thing is to keep an open mind in this rapidly developing world, because there are so many changes taking place that I think you have to have an open mind.

I think the other thing is to read widely and try and understand some of the big arguments, and some of the big forces at work in our world. We’ve talked about some of them today. There’s this big argument between, do you want to see open markets, enterprise, competition and choice, or do you believe in a more controlled centralised system? And I think the arguments are for openness, choice, competition and enterprise.

There’s a big argument in our world about how we combat extremism, and how we combat terrorism and I think there needs to be a big debate about this, about how we demonstrate that Islam is a religion of peace, but we have to deal with this extremist interpretation that’s taken part – taken hold in some places and in some countries, including in my country with some people. And I think this big debate is something that, as students, you can get involved in; you can stand up and demonstrate that Islam and democracy are compatible and that it’s a condescending argument to say that they’re not.

So I hope you’ll get involved in some of the big arguments. Do we want free markets, or do we want control? Do we want religious tolerance, or do we want extremism? These are big arguments that are going to shape our world, that will shape the world you grew up in, and hopefully play a big part in leading.

It’s been a huge pleasure coming here today; this is a fantastic university. I’m very proud of the part that British universities and British tutors are playing in this university, and I think it’s exactly the sort of collaboration we want to see as we build this relationship between Britain and Kazakhstan. But thank you again for the excellent questions, and thank you again for the warm welcome. It’s been a real privilege. Thank you.

Published 1 July 2013