TV Interview for BBC (US pipeline sanctions - "deeply wounded by a friend")
|Document kind:||TV Interview|
|Source:||BBC Sound Archive: OUP transcript|
|Journalist:||James Cox, BBC|
|Editorial comments:||MT took off for Glasgow at 1410. For reason of copyright, James Cox’s questions have been paraphrased.|
|Themes:||Foreign policy (USSR and successor states), Foreign policy (USA), Trade, Foreign policy (Western Europe - non - EU), Autobiographical comments, Pay, Strikes and other union action, Health policy, Public spending and borrowing|
We are in constant contact through the usual channels with the United States government and also, of course, with other people who are similarly affected in Europe—Germany and France in particular. I spoke to President Reagan about it when I saw him because you know how deeply concerned I was. This is a wonderful company, they've got a splendid order, er, and I feel very strongly that once you've made a deal you ought to keep to it. I pointed out that the whole reputation of the City of London was built up, my word is my bond, and when you've made a commercial contract, short of there being a war or something like the Falklands, then you do not just upset it. I had the impression then that President Reagan didn't quite realize how serious it was to us in Scotland, already badly hit, how serious it would be if we had to stand off more people. We're strongly trying to get that message through, but above all we're saying: “Look we stick to our deals, we said we would deliver, we shall deliver, we want to deliver. Now will you please not understand this, especially as after all you in the United States are going to deliver wheat to the Soviet Union?”
James Cox, BBC
Question paraphrased: You think US out of line?
Well I have not made any secret of that. We make a contract, we make a deal, we keep it unless there's some overriding reason. Had he said right at the beginning, before the contracts were made, “look no American technology or licences will be permitted”, we wouldn't have put in for the contracts. But it wasn't said at the beginning and I don't believe that now is the right time to do it and naturally we feel ... [pause] particularly [pause] ... deeply wounded by a friend. I would just like to say one thing. We've been a staunch friend of the United States and we must continue to be that, the alliance must hold because that is in our interests, but from that basis we must be pretty frank with our American friends.
James Cox, BBC
Question paraphrased: Necessary for European Community heads to take united line against US policy on this question?
Well of course we discuss it whenever we meet and we discussed it at Versailles. It's mainly concerning Germany, France and ourselves. We are the people who most usually get together to talk about these, France and Germany of course is taking gas from the line. We have this one contract, but this one contract means a great deal to us and we naturally wish to complete it.[fo 1]
James Cox, BBC
Question paraphrased: If sanctions go ahead, John Brown Engineering has said they might have to sack some or all of their 1,700 staff by end 1982. Would you follow suggestion of shadow trade secretary, John Smith, that British government should indemnify the government against losses from going ahead?
Well the point I was constantly trying to get over to President Reagan as I was speaking to him when I was over in Washington was, look, do you realize that we might have to stand off people, and he would scarcely believe it. He said “No, no, we don't that it will be as serious as that for John Brown”. Well, yes, it would be and we have to get that message across. Er, should the worst happen, and I don't believe it's happened yet and obviously we're in touch fairly closely during the next few days, should the worst happen there would be some measure of compensation from the normal ECGD commitment. There might also be some possible course of action through the law in the United States. Naturally, we wish to look at that first.
James Cox, BBC
Question paraphrased: Another intractable problem, Health Service workers dispute. Naturally settlement must come some time. Can it only be on government’s terms?
You say “on the government's terms”. The government doesn't pay the National Health Service workers, the people pay the National Health Service workers, the teachers, the universities, the local authorities, civil servants and everything. And what we have to think about is, look. We've put up the tax for National Health twice during our time, we've put up the national insurance quite heavily to pay for all of the things which people want to spend, we've put up the rates or local authorities have put up the rates and now naturally people are complaining, saying “we're paying too much”. And that's what we have to think about, how much more can they possibly pay over and above what they are already paying for our very considerable social services. I wonder how many people realize the increasing numbers we've had in the National Health Service over the past twenty years? When I came into Parliament, taking the Great Britain figures, there were about 560,000 people employed in the National Health Service. This year there are 1.2 million, er, and yet the average number of beds occupied has gone down slightly. The figures proportionately are about the same for Scotland.
James Cox, BBC
Question paraphrased: Answer then is higher productivity in Health Service?
I am just saying, may I just [several words inaudible] that's over the last 20 years. Em, during our time, 1979 to now, again when we came in, what you were paying each year for the National Health Service, the people, £9.5 billion. It's gone up now to about £14 billion. That's an enormous increase. And I do think you know that we are entitled to look at the general management, which is exactly what Norman Fowler is doing to see are people getting full value for money? Because if you work it out per person in this country, per man, per woman, per child, for each one, when we came in they were spending £170 per each man, each woman, each child for the cost of the National Health Service, 1979. Now it's up to about £265. Er, we can't go on indefinitely, and I think we are entitled to say, “look, we gave the nurses a very fair deal, we honoured the Clegg commitment, we brought the hours down from 40 hours a week to thirty seven[fo 2] and a half hours a week, the total nursing bill has gone up far more than inflation”. We've got more nurses, we are I think entitled to say, with all of this extra, “we really must look at the running of the National Health Service to see that people are getting, er, a very good deal which they're entitled to get”. It's no one's fault in particular in some of the groups that are applying, but I well remember when Alec Merrison, who recently looked at the financing of the National Health Service, I well remember a couple of phrases that sprung out at me from his book, he had an independent look at it. He said we could quite easily believe one witness that, you know, the National Health Service could take the whole of the gross national product. Our job is to see that the organization, the management, the use is first class, because as you see from the figures I've quoted, er, we ought to have an absolutely first class National Health Service with very few waiting lists for all people. So we don't pay, the people do.