Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Complete list of 8,000+ Thatcher statements & texts of many of them

1977 Aug 25 Th
Margaret Thatcher

Interview for Tyne Tees TV Face The Press

Document type:public statement
Document kind:Interview
Venue:Unknown
Source:Thatcher Archive: transcript
Journalist:Joe Rogaly and Bob Edwards for Tyne Tees
Editorial comments:1130-1300. The programme was broadcast on Sunday 28 August 1977 at 1200. Joe Rogaly (Financial Times) and Bob Edwards (editor Sunday Mirror) questioned MT.
Importance ranking:Major
Word count:4055
Themes:Parliament, Conservative Party (organisation), Economy (general discussions), Employment, Monetary policy, Privatised and state industries, Pay, Private education, Labour Party and Socialism, Law and order, Race, immigration, and nationality, Religion/Morality, Society, Social security and welfare

Chairman

Facing the Press this week is the Leader of the Conservative Party, Mrs. Margaret Thatcher. To question her with me are Joe Rogaly of the Financial Times, and Robert Edwards, Editor of the Sunday Mirror.

Q

Mrs. Thatcher, in the month that Parliament has been in recess have you become more pessimistic or more optimistic about the future of the country?

MT

Neither. There have been a series of figures out, some inflation, some about unemployment and a number of others too. The significant ones I think are that the underlying economic position hasn't changed and that is this, that we're not producing any more now than we were three years ago. Indeed we are not even back to the kind of peak production we had in 1973, and I know and I think everyone else knows that you don't get rich as a nation unless and until you produce more. We shan't be better off just by shuffling round what we've got between different groups. That to me is the fundamental thing that hasn't changed. And until we become once again an enterprise economy, with people having some incentives, I don't see any chance of it changing.

Chairman

Joe.

Q

Mrs. Thatcher, this time last year the pound was deep in trouble, it was falling and people were wondering how far it was going to fall. Now, its rising. When it was falling, people were saying and many Conservatives were saying, that this was a sign of foreign confidence in what the Government was doing. Are we to believe now that it's rising that foreigners are coming to think that the Government is at least getting some of its policies right?

MT

Mr. Rogaly, it used to be $2.20 cents just two and a half years ago, its now $1.74 cents, its risen by a couple of cents. I am pleased that it's rising. It so happens that I think that it would be better if the Government let it rise more because then we should find that it was cheaper to buy our imports.[fo 1] So I've been an advocate of letting it rise further. I think there are special reasons why foreign money is flowing in. You probably know them even better than I do. People are expecting a revaluation of sterling, they are expecting it to rise, therefore they're putting their money here in anticipation of its rising. That, as you also know, is causing certain other problems with the money supply and that will have problems for the future of inflation. But I am glad if the pound is rising, my only comment is it's got an awful long way to go back to where it was when the present Government took office.

Chairman

Robert .

Q

Why do you think, Mrs. Thatcher, that the City of London seems to prefer having a Labour Government at this time?

MT

Oh, I don't believe it does, Mr. Edwards at all. What the City of London doesn't like is uncertainty. I believe that when we get near to an election they will want just exactly what I want. A return to an enterprise economy, a return to incentives, a return to all of those people who are either willing to take risks with their own money or who are willing to work jolly hard to benefit themselves their families and therefore society as a whole. And its just the uncertainty, the City always hates uncertainty.

Q

I didn't think myself that there was. I am talking of course of the February affair when there was a vote of confidence and the Government might have been defeated and there might have been a General Election and, as you know, the F.T. index dropped like a stone at the prospect of a General Election, but there was no, in my view, there was no uncertainty about the result. If there had been a General Election, you would have won. And then, as soon as there was no General Election, the City recovered its confidence. Now, why's that?

MT

The City goes up and down. If your thesis is correct, then it should steadily go up and up and never go down while there's a Labour Government. But the F.T. index reached its bottom, rock bottom, under a Labour Government, because at that time they had no confidence whatsoever. Now, I think that when it comes up to an Election the[fo 2] City will be on my side. It's bound to be because it's on the side of free enterprise, it's on the side of effort, incentive and an enterprise economy and you've only to take one look at that manifesto which was approved by the last Labour Party Conference, the Labour Programme 1976, to know that it has nothing to offers the City or anyone who's interested in doing things for themselves by their own efforts so I'm not in the least bit worried or alarmed or nervous.

Q

Lets take two subjects which interest people most, wages and jobs. First of all wages. Do you think the Government's pay guidelines scheme is going to work?

MT

I think they've got themselves into a thoroughly contradictory position. Shortly before the House rose we were told in the statement the famous statement that became a White Paper, that we're going back to normal free collective bargaining. And they put out an average guideline, an average, because if you're going back to a normal free collective bargaining you must recognise difference, you must recognise that there are some industries, some skills where you can't get enough people and unless you pay them enough, particularly those with extra skill, you won't be able to keep your industry turning over and expanding. You must recognise that there are some jobs, the police for example, where they must have way above the norm. They do an extremely difficult and dangerous job and they feel that they haven't had elementary justice in the past. Now, you cannot go back to normal free collective bargaining and then say that none of you are going to get more than x per cent. It's a thoroughly contradictory position. The problem always with an incomes policy is, how do you come out of it? The Government have said back to normal free collective bargaining and their weapons are to hold the money supply and to hold the cash limits. I believe they are creating a lot of trouble for the future because there are still burning resentments on the part of people whose differentials have been squeezed over the past two years. They've taken that for a long time believing that when you come out of an incomes policy they'll have reasonable justice for their cause and some restoration of differentials. Not all at once. And so I think they are getting the worst of all words at the moment.[fo 3]

Q

Mrs. Thatcher, if you became Prime Minister within the next half year or year, you would still be in the middle of that process of coming out of an incomes policy.

MT

Of course, we come out of it before. You know, this is the fourth one since I've been in Parliament.

Q

Right, and if you're doing that the weapons of cash limits and holding the money supply, which simply means saying there is no more money in the kitty to pay more wages would be weapons that you would have to wield as Government over the large numbers of people in public posts. Now, how would you go about using those? Would you say, "We are not going to hold the cash limits"? Or, if you said, "We're going to hold the cash limits," what do you do when you get a major strike, as for instance, with the miners or anyone else who are people who you as the Government are ultimately responsible for paying?

MT

Let us take that one, the miners. First, I think we've got into the habit where Government's expected to pronounce on far too many things. That is wrong. You never get responsibility that way. Now, what do we have to decide about a wage claim by the miners? We have to decide whether you should have any more subsidies from the taxpayer's pocket over and above what the mining industry can earn by its own efforts. Now, you say, if you hold the cash limit, but you're not going to have any more subsidy to pay increased wages. If you want increased wages, jolly good luck to you if they come from increased productivity, and as you know there's plenty of scope for that in the mining industry. As you also know, there are quite a lot of coal mines that would like productivity schemes. So increased production and productivity does not in fact mean increased subsidy. They can have their increased wages by virtue of increased effort. Now, the only other way I think is to say to them whether it comes out into increased prices, in which case it's not a struggle against Government, it's a struggle against your fellow worker. Because he's going to have to pay more out of a wage packet that isn't going to go up as much as yours. Or you say, all right we've only got a certain amount to spend on wage costs. If you're going to take more per person, then there will be less people employed. But I wouldn't be anything like as pessimistic[fo 4] as some people are now. I believe that there is a greater realisation that you can only get more money in real terms by more effort and I believe the vast majority of people realise that and are prepared to put in the more effort. The problem of modern society isn't dealing with those people, they are full of common sense and they want to do the right thing. The problem of modern society is how to deal with the wreckers. That's a different matter.[fo 5]

Q

Mrs. Thatcher, that doesn't answer the question.

MT

Sorry, I thought I had answered the question on cash limits. Now, what haven't I answered? Of course you have to hold the money supply.

Q

It doesn't answer the question on what you do if health service workers, if nurses, if doctors, if all the many millions of people who the Government is responsible at the end of the day for paying, say, "We've heard your arguments, we don't accept them and we're sitting down, we're going on strike until you pay us," which is what every other Government has had to face. How does your Government face that?

MT

No, I don't think every other Government has had to face that because what you are saying is that they would never, ever listen to any kind of reason. You know again that every company has to budget. Of course it has to budget. The cash limit is the Government's budget but the Government isn't deciding, nor should it necessarily decide how much goes to each person according to their industrial muscle. Once you go to that, you go to a system under which might is right.

Q

Well, how do you defeat this might?

MT

Could I please ask why are you so pessimistic? Because I believe the vast majority of people in Britain don't believe that might is right and that they can show what they feel in many, many different ways. You know there have been strikes that have been defeated by public opinion because on the whole the British person does not like to be at odds with his fellow citizens.

Q

Does this mean that you think that Ted Heath was right or wrong in February 1974?[fo 6]

MT

Well, I think that there are a number of things that we did then that we would not in fact, I certainly would not in fact, wish to do again. I think one of the things is that the moment you enshrine details of an incomes policy into law and the moment then that you've got nine million people who've complied with that law, you're almost put in the position of saying, "They have complied, I musn't let them down, therefore I must argue with everyone else who doesn't comply." And therefore it becomes a matter of upholding the law rather than a matter of upholding policy. So I think to some extent it's difficult. In so far as it's a question is it democratic government by Parliament or government by some force outside Parliament it may be that one day we shall have to fight that battle, but I believe that more and more people, if I get an audience and I say, "Parliament is the supreme authority it must never hand over its power to any other group however powerful," I will find a wave of applause from whatever kind of audience I have in front of me.

Q

One of the things that I …   .

MT

I think he's just not quite satisfied with the answers—come on, just let's carry on. It doesn't matter, let's carry on.

Q

The reason I'm not satisfied is that people are against everybody's wage claims except their own, and so, if you came to power, you would be confronted by the present enormous wage claims, British Leyland and the miners, and all over the place people are making wage demands that just about equal what they were at the height of hyperinflation, and the point I'm trying to elucidate from you is, I still don't understand how you are going to prevent either a wage explosion or a confrontation on the scale of February 1974.

MT

Well, lets go back then and see what weapons you have. You decide how much extra money there's going to be in the economy as a whole. Now you and I know that nine to thirteen percent which is the extra provided for next year is already inflationary because you can't come down from 17%; rate of inflation to nil in one year.[fo 7]

You'd cause immense dislocation. So you come down gradually. So you decided to come down by having something extra within that wage band. Now you and I know equally, if you let go on that, you're causing the next round of greater inflation. If you cause the next round of greater inflation, you're causing even higher unemployment. If you cause even higher unemployment, you'll get all sorts of problems of the kind we saw in Germany between the wars. Therefore its vital that you hold those money supply targets and I do think this is a thing that we've learnt, you know, a tremendous amount of research has been done on money supply since the early 1970s. We now know the figures very much better, we now know the cause and effect and the time lag. So will you accept that it's vital we hold that if we're to get down inflation and ultimately to get down unemployment? And a Government has a duty to hold that and I would, as an Opposition, would back this Government in holding that. So let it be known that we really are behind them in their fight against inflation and we're a responsible Opposition. So that's one point. You hold on it. And this Government is lucky in having a responsible Opposition. We weren't in February 1974. We would back them on holding the money supply. You then come to the cash limits. Now, don't forget I'm not in on your wage claim. You decide it in the Mirror Group. I'm not in on the Financial Times, you decide it and I think you've done it jolly well. I'm not in on the majority of wage claims, nor should Government be. Unless you want a Government deciding absolutely everything. And how are you going to get a responsible people or a responsible business if you do that? What have I to decide? Where we are the direct employer and we have to get our money out of you on the Daily Mirror, out of you on the Financial Times, out of independent television, which itself wouldn't exist but for a Conservative Government in the past, out of many people who are working to provide the money in the public services. It isn't free, and you are saying to me that you think those people who work in the public services, all of them, are so totally unreasonable that they'll say we must have more under any circumstances.[fo 8]

I don't believe they will. There will be some who'll perhaps face up to it but there will be some surely who will listen to reasonable arguments when we put them. If, and I come back and I think this is why you're not satisfied, if Governments are going to be intimidated, what hope is there for democracy?

Q

That actually comes on to a question I would like to ask you.

MT

Is he satisfied?

Q

I don't know whether he is or not. Its been said that the most successful Tory Governments are those which govern in the spirit of the times. Now, what do you think is the spirit of our present age?

MT

Oh, its most interesting. We're going, I think, in the opposite direction from socialism for the simple reason that people have come to see what it means to them, and there are many, many people, I think, who used to vote Labour, I think perhaps for two different reasons. One, because they thought that the underdog would have a better deal and they now see that unless you create more wealth, and you don't under socialism, no-one gets a better deal. We're all just paying for one another. And the other reason is that I think a number of intellectuals used to vote Labour because they thought that it would mean greater freedom, and they now see that it's meaning less. So, socialism is in retreat and we're going the other way. And it's a most interesting period. You see, when I was young, which I know is now a long time ago, and at university, many people were not very contented with the ways of a society which appeared to have produced quite a bit of unemployment and they were looking at the Communist creed and the extreme left wing creed. The interesting thing now is that's it's the intellectuals in the Communist countries who are so bitterly dissatisfied by what they've seen in practice that they are looking at ours and wanting to escape from theirs. It's a turn right face about. Now, all right, that's the theoretical end of it.[fo 9]

Where does it get in practical terms? The most significant thing that I have said to me when I go round, and it's said at all levels of society, is, "Please put back some incentive, make it worth while to work, pay us to work hard and we'll work harder, but if you pay us not to work then you can't blaim a number of people for taking that option." I do blame them, because they take it in fact from their fellow workers. They take the money from their fellow workers who are working. They want incentives which means they want to be more in control of their own destiny. They are anxious to do more for their own families and, unless you uphold the importance of the individual and the family in society, then you'll go more and more to regimentation by a government under one form or another.

Q

Let's look at the social aspects slightly. Most people would say that hooliganism, football and that sort of thing, is greater today than ever before. Now why do you think that is?

MT

I think there are a number of reasons, a number of causes, I think, It's easier, I think, to analyse the causes than it is to prescribe what you should do about it. First, there is not such a clear acceptance of what is right and what is wrong. The whole of law really, the rule of law, is based on an acceptance by all generations of the fact that some certain things are right and some things are wrong. Now you can argue where the line comes, but most of us would say "Look, they've just gone too far and that's that. Now, don't argue about it, you and I know that's wrong." There have been a number of intellectual doctrines which have argued with certain fundamental things. So that's point number one. We haven't quite such a clear general acceptance by teachers and at all levels of society of what is right and what is wrong, although the vast majority of people would agree with me that the rule of law must be upheld. The second thing is that people in the end must accept that self-government, which is what democracy is, is only for people who have learnt a certain amount of self-discipline.[fo 10]

Now, this is why I say it's easier to understand the cause than it is to prescribe. I think this is one of the reasons why people are turning to education now. They know that first, the hold of the family isn't as strong as it used to be or should be. And therefore they turn to education. Most of them are saying please teach our children what is right, what is wrong, and self-discipline. How do you deal with it from the State's viewpoint? I believe that when you've got the problem with you now with hooliganism, when you've got the terrible problems with the marches we've seen, not the marches but the violence that some people have been willing to engender, I hope that the courts will be very severe indeed, because if you can't get at it by self-discipline then you have to get at it by deterrents.

Q

Mrs. Thatcher, one of the reasons for that violence is the large number of unemployed black young people in areas like that and the people who oppose them and the people on both sides who get into fights on the left and the right. What do you think a Conservative Government should do about the British-born black population in the centre of the cities?

MT

Now, you've put in a tremendous number of provisos there. You call it the left wing and the right. I regard all of those who use force to get their own way, who want to destroy our way of life, as left. They are people who want to say "Disregard the ballot box, disregard the rule of law, we're going to get our way and we're going to get it by force." And the only sense in which I regard it as left and right is that your Communist is the left foot of socialism and your Fascism is the right foot of it, using Socialism in the sense that it is total regimentation and control by the State. So I'd say its the Fascist Left and the Communist Left and they have so much in common in that they want to destroy the society in which we all here believe. So don't use the terms right and left, it is the great destroyers of democratic societies.[fo 11]

Q

But what would you do about the unemployed black youth in the city centres?

MT

You will not in fact get better or fuller employment, and I think unfortunately we are going into a period when unemployment is going to be worse than it is now, until you return to something much more like an enterprise economy. That is to say, until you get some expansion going again. And remember this is exactly why I took the point right at the beginning. This is why in a way I'm not optimistic about Britain's future, because there is no expansion. If I can't get any expansion, then all I'm getting is increased technology putting more people unemployed out of work. And I must get the expansion to take those up. So you won't get it until you get more expansion. I think the other thing is that one of the reasons why we've got such trouble in the city centres is that as you know small businesses have disappeared from them. They can't afford the rates. Perhaps they haven't had sufficient consideration in getting planning permission. Again there's not always enough incentive. Small businesses employ a tremendous number of people and the on the whole they are the ones that have the best labour relations, they are the ones where you've got more personal contact between employer and employee. But don't think it is only unemployment there. I agree that if you haven't got a job and you've got time on your hands its one of the worst things. There's an awful lot in education.

Q

Can I ask you a perfectly serious question?

MT

Sounds exciting.

Q

It's always concerned me about the Conservative Party. You claim to be broadly based and represent the broad spectrum of reasonable people. Why is it that the leaders you have appointed, so many of them went to public schools? Out of your Shadow Cabinet and the Whips you've appointed, 38, if my counting is correct, 32 went to public schools and 11 went to Eton,[fo 12] which is totally unrepresentative. How do you explain that and are you satisfied with it?

MT

Do you know it's news to me? I didn't choose them according to the school they went to. I chose them according to whether I thought they were suitable for the job. It so happens I didn't go to public school and I'm sorry that I don't, I am not sorry, but I don't look at people according to their background. It doesn't matter to me. Whatever sort of background they come from, I look at them whether they are suitable for the job. And if you're going to say "Look, I'm as good as he is," then you've got also to say, "He's as good as I am." Do you see the point? You see there are so many people who say, "I'm as good as he is." Of course everyone is entitled equally to dignity and respect and consideration from others, but you've got then to accept that, whatever background, all right he's equally entitled to consideration for that job. And I don't look down a list and say, "Did he go to public school? what's his background? what's his income?" I just say do I think he'll do the job well.

Q

Yes, I'll get this in …   .

MT

Look at the numbers of people in the House of Lords on the Mirror Group. Does that condemn the Mirror?

Chairman

Mrs. Thatcher, thank you very much indeed.

I don't know whether it does condemn the Mirror or not.