Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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1983 Apr 15 Fr
Margaret Thatcher

Radio Interview for IRN programme The Decision Makers

Document type:public statement
Document kind:Radio Interview
Venue:No.10 Downing Street
Source:Thatcher Archive: IRN transcript
Journalist:Peter Allen, IRN
Editorial comments:1730-1800. IRN’s transcript was embargoed until broadcast at 1100 Friday 15 April 1983.
Importance ranking:Major
Word count:4074
Themes:General Elections, Employment, Monetary policy, Energy, Industry, Strikes and other union action, Trade, Economy (general discussions), Religion/Morality, Famous statements by MT (discussions of), Voluntary sector and charity, Society, Housing, Conservatism, Defence (general), Foreign policy (USA), Defence (arms control)

Peter Allen

Mrs. Thatcher, the interview broadly looks forward to the next five years, and that, of course, assumes you win the next elections. So can I ask the question that everyone is popping to you, have you actually decided whether to go in June or not?

Mrs. Thatcher

No, I most certainly haven't. I've always said I haven't been in power four years yet and I'm not going to think about it until past the four year mark.

Peter Allen

Mr. Roy Jenkins said you were dithering. I am sure that's not true but isn't there a case for ending the speculation because it does produce uncertainty?

Mrs. Thatcher

No, I have not yet been in four years. It is reasonable to say I must complete four years and there are certain options, I will address my mind to those then.

Peter Allen

And when you do address your mind—as a final word on this—it's fair to assume that you simply pick the option which presents the best chance of winning—that's the priority.

Mrs. Thatcher

It will be very silly to go in an election to chose the best chance of losing.

Peter Allen

The words you have uttered, minimal though they are, won't at all end any speculation about June though, will they? They will just fuel the speculation all the more. You can't just say look …   .

Mrs. Thatcher

What fuels the speculation is the fact that you have asked the question.

Peter Allen

When it does come to that election, whenever it is in the next fifteen months, as you said, unemployment it appears is going to be a key issue. On that issue at least would you admit that the Government has failed?[fo 1]

MT

I think you have to take into account what's happened the world over. We are not the only Government that has record unemployment in the post-war period. So has France and she has had to introduce some pretty stiff measures because she was in fact doing things which she has now thought were pretty inadvisable. The same applies to West Germany and the same applies to Holland to Belgium, and the same applies to the United States as a world recession has hit us. In addition to that we have had other things to tackle because we had more overmanning than most of them and therefore we were less competitive than others. We also throughout the decade of the 1970's paid ourselves so much more in proportion to what we produce and we had all of these things to cope with as well as other things. We now, I believe, have a strategy for jobs which is the right one. It is not merely looking back to yesterday, that would be totally wrong. It is looking forward to the new products to getting the new skills for our young people. Not to training them for yesterday's skills in the industries which are running down but making certain that we have enough people trained in the new electronics, in the new computers. Trained in design. Trained, of course, in some of the old jobs, I mean in construction, for example, and there is a great increase now in the work in construction and we have got to make certain that we've got the skills. So we really have a great strategy for training for the jobs of tomorrow.

PA

Do you really have a strategy for in any way denting an unemployment total which, which ever way you look at it, is over 3 million and some people say is over 4 million?

MT

Let me just run through it. First there are certain things a Government can do of which one is getting inflation down, we are succeeding very well on that and I was very interested that the Prime Minister of France said the other day, we've got to have a target in France of getting inflation down to five per cent. They are now just coming to that. We have reached that target and we want to go down further and the reasons he gave, perfect, perfect, Conservative reasons, "if we don't have a low rate of inflation other people have and they will be able to beat us in the markets of the world". So Government can run it's finances soundly, getting inflation down, keeping public spending under control, making certain we don't borrow too much.[fo 2]

That is what we are doing and that we shall continue to do. Secondly, Government can help with training schemes. We are now taking advantage of these very difficult times to have the biggest training scheme we've ever had for our young people. We've never had one before. Now they are all going to have the opportunity of a year's training if they don't carry on with their education or if they are not in a job. Now thirdly, we are doing a tremendous amount to help people to start up in small business or to expand small businesses. There are many many people who have marvellous and good ideas but they can't get the finance. So we've helped them by guaranteeing loans to help them to start. We are then looking for the new products. We are inventive people as you know and there are again many existing companies which can't afford to market their new electronic products and so we will give up to a third to help them to launch them. This is the whole way we are going. Now look at North Sea oil. It produced jobs but the tax on North Sea oil was too high and we were not getting the exploration going ahead and so all right, we altered the tax on North Sea oil to try and get more jobs and it looks as if we are going to get more exploration. We are helping those unemployed who want to start up on their own. This is all a strategy for jobs for our young people, and it is most important that we give them hope.

PA

Right, you have outlined the strategy in some detail for giving jobs and giving hope for young people but you don't really talk about getting that figure down, that was my question. Will that unemployment total fall? I mean the other parties are saying they'll try to create millions of jobs.

MT

Look, I have actually given you, not merely saying we are trying, I've actually given you a policy which we are putting into practice. I'm not just talking rhetoric. I'm not just saying Government must take initiatives. I'm telling you the initiatives, the actual initiatives, we are taking. The Government financial ones, the ones on training, the ones to encourage small businesses, the ones to start up individual enterprise, the ones to help new products, the ones on new things like the North Sea oil and all of these. Not just rhetoric and actual strategy and policy because I care about it very much and I'm not prepared just to talk in generalities. What have I said that you would disagree with?[fo 3]

PA

Nothing that I would disagree with, but I would only point out that despite all that we have a report from the Director General of the National Economic Development Council which says that industry in forty key sectors won't produce any more jobs for the rest of this decade.

MT

In manufacturing you will find that the new technology—and people generally understand this at the moment—the new investment, the new technology at the beginning displaces jobs. But also the new technology creates jobs. We are now in this country buying a lot of things that we should be making. Video recorders; we have the highest proportion of video recorders purchased in British homes compared with the population of any country in the world. We're not making them. We are just starting up factories to make them now. Word processors and the whole revolution in office equipment, there is an enormous market for those. We are not making them they are being imported. These are the things in which there are jobs. These are the things which we are trying to encourage setting up here, and of course, being a part of Europe helps because you can get in with investment here. We are doing practical things about these things. These are things which people are buying now. There are jobs. Now I also need help. We have poured money into British Leyland, into the Maestro car, into the Metro car, poured in money; given opportunity not only to those who work in British Leyland but also to those who work in all the small businesses who supply it. But if those people go on strike, they are not only striking themselves out of jobs but they are damaging all the small businesses who supply them. Look at Halewood. Difficulties there, jobs, all right. Things we buy here and what they are saying is—by striking—they are going to put jobs into the countries of our competitors. That is ridiculous and people who do that really must think that if they are going to do that, there is no earthly good them complaining about unemployment or the trade unions complaining about unemployment. They have got to say to those people, you've got an opportunity. You've got to make the most of it.[fo 4]

PA

Right, we are going back to what I said once again, forty key sectors have no prospects of growth—that's nothing to do with the unions, that just appears from the Director General of NEDDY to be something that is going to happen failing direct Government intervention.

MT

No prospect of growth? Maestro?

PA

More jobs.

MT

No prospect of growth? More jobs and I've just given you several examples of where we are importing things which we could make ourselves and told you of what we are doing to try and encourage the making of them here. Try to encourage new business. I'm doing everything possible in practical terms to create new jobs. Because as I indicated, certainly in some industries, you can produce more goods with fewer people by investing in equipment. But equally there are many, many new products which we are not making here which it is my purpose to make here. Sometimes we are; Sinclair, for example, home computers, new pocket televisions, he'll get out. In Scotland there are more people now employed in the new electronics, many of which didn't exist ten years ago, than there are in either steel or ship-building. Those are practical things. I've been round factories where they are taking on people, sometimes in older products, sometimes in textiles or in suitcases, shoes or fashion goods, where they are getting the business because they are giving value for money and snappy design. But you have got to give value for money and you have got to get a really good design. And we can do it. So don't be too depressed. We can do it.

PA

Is there are recovery on the way do you think? People are being very hopeful, some of your ministers are sounding very hopeful.

MT

I would say my view is one of cautious optimism. We had hope before but I think what happened before was that people were putting more money into stock because they had run down their stocks. Now I think we have got signs of recovery in the United States, here and in Germany together and that is much much more hopeful—and as you saw the interest rate here came down another half per cent today, and you saw Mr. Volcker said in the United States yesterday that if you want recovery you have got to try to get interest rates down.[fo 5] And it seems to me there are more signs in more countries together than there were some six months ago. And that is good, but it is no good waiting for world recovery to come to your door. You, by being efficient, by not striking, by delivering on time, by producing nice looking well designed goods at the right price, have got to bring about that recovery.

PA

Does the lesson from Cunard and the fuss about refitting that ship in Malta, does that bear out what you say? Is that the same lesson?

MT

I think it is a tragedy that no British shipyard could do that work within time. That ship, I understand, has to get back to the Caribbean to take up its scheduled cruises by July 9th. If it doesn't get there it loses its whole business and therefore, naturally it has to say, you've got to do the work in time for that ship to get back by July 9th. Everyone wanted it done in a British shipyard but I understand that no British shipyard would guarantee to get it done. I think, I think it is a tragedy. When those ships went down to the Falklands, our shipyards our people did wonders.

PA

Shouldn't they be helped now to get this contract?

MT

But they were offered the contract. They refused it.

PA

It is partly Government money It does seem very strange indeed, I am sure to a lot of people that this contract is going to Malta whatever the circumstances.

MT

It seems to me very strange that when we were offered business we turned it down. Whereas other shipyards said right, we will deliver on time. That's a tragedy. We have got to compete. It's no earthly good people saying, no matter how long it takes us to deliver, no matter how long, we have got to have the business. Unless we compete we will not get business. This country has to export one third of our national income to survive, and we are only going to do it if we are going to set out to be the most efficient, up to date, reliable businesses in the world. And that's the tragedy.

PA

Can I ask a question on behalf of the unemployed? Perhaps that sounds pompous. The question which comes from the unemployed. If there is some sort of economic recovery, if industry reacts in the way you want it to. Is there still a prospect of them getting—it's not their fault they haven't got jobs—is there a prospect of them getting jobs in the next year or two?[fo 6]

MT

I believe that new technology in the early stages has always, in fact, brought about a certain amount of unemployment, in the next stage has always managed to bring new jobs. I've indicated the number of new jobs that are available if only we make the goods here, if only we recover our home market. Those new jobs are there if only people will start up the new businesses and be efficient. That is the hope and that's why I'm setting about all kinds of training. We are going to start up twelve new technical schools. We are going to have a hundred new computer centres for training up and down the country, so that we can have those jobs here. I can create the circumstances, we can create the training, we can help to guarantee the loans to enterprise but people themselves have to respond.

PA

Can I turn from the immediate problems of unemployment to a wider perspective, Prime Minister? I would like to examine what kind of country Britain will become in the next decade. I would like to begin as well by asking what you meant recently when you talked about Victorian values. What values are they? What do you mean?

MT

Well, there is no great mystery about those. I was brought up by a Victorian grandmother. You were taught to work jolly hard, you were taught to improve yourself, you were taught self-reliance, you were taught to live within your income, you were taught that cleanliness was next to godliness. You were taught self-respect, you were taught always to give a hand to your neigbour, you were taught tremendous pride in your country, you were taught to be a good member of your community. All of these things are Victorian values.

PA

The Victorian values also seem to encompass for many people …   .

MT

They are also perennial values as well.

PA

They encompass as well work-houses and shocking conditions in industry, all sorts of deplorable things that were also part of the Victorian scene.

MT

There are some values which are eternal and in fact you found a tremendous improvement in conditions during Victorian times because people were brought up with a sense of duty. I was brought up with a very strong sense of duty. And part of the sense of duty was if you were getting on better, you turned yourself to help others; that as you did better yourself so you had a duty to your community to turn to help others.[fo 7] And so, as you got an increasing prosperity during Victorian times and as you got an immense national pride during Victorian times, so you had a duty voluntarily to help others. And many of the very good things, the improvements that were made, were made voluntarily in those times, for example, people built hospitals, there were voluntary hospitals. Many of the church schools were built during that time. Many people say we simply must do better with the prisons, a better prison system, prison reform but it came from this tremendous sense of reliance and duty. You don't hear so much about those things these days, but they were good values and they led to tremendous improvements in the standard of living.

PA

So that's what you're trying to get back to. That's what you would like to see happen, a society where we had those sort of values where perhaps the state steps back again then, and individuals get far more involved.

MT

I am saying that I think there are some values which are eternal and I think the ones I have indicated are.

PA

Yes, but what kind of society does that result in if people adopt those values then we have …   .

MT

If I may say so a very good society if people are self-reliant, self-respecting, if they always lend a hand to others, if they were always to improve themselves and work very hard to do it. If they reckon that they have got to be very good members of the community, not because any one tells them to, because that's the way we live. If they live within their income and save and that saving is there for investment. If they are prepared to take responsibility for their own actions, and responsibility for their own families and to respect other people's rights, it seems to me that you have the basis of an excellent society.

PA

Can you do anything to help create that excellent society? Do you for instance try to cut back on some areas of State activity so that you generate that kind of atmosphere in which that thing happens?[fo 8]

MT

The state can only take things from people. If people take responsibility for the work they do, for working harder, for living within their income, for looking after themselves and their families, then there might indeed be fewer people who in fact need the help of the state and then everyone could have more of their own money, in fact, to chose how they spend it. You asked me how I see life quite apart from those things. I am very keen that every person should have the opportunity to be what I would call a man or woman of property. You start by owning your own house. We are nearly up to 60%;. It is tremendous, because a man of property isn't someone else, its one's own self. And so therefore you have a chance to own your own house then it gives you an interest in the future, gives you respect for your own property, it gives you ability to improve your own standard of living in housing and then to respect other people's property. And you will have something to hand on to your children and grandchildren in years to come. And then your own savings, this is the kind of independence, this is the kind of personal initiative and personal choice which I believe is the kind of independence which used to belong to a few people which I want to extend to the many.

PA

Right, you would like everyone to have freedom of choice to buy their own property, probably to choose the kind of education their children have, to chose the kind of medicine in which their family partakes whether private or National Health. But surely those kind of advantages, to return to what we said earlier are only offered to those with; offered to the haves not to the have-nots, not to people without jobs. They are for the people with money.

MT

With all due respect, we unfortunately have just over 3 million unemployed in this country and we have the 22 to 23 million people who are working. Nearly 60%; of the houses in this country are now owner occupied. Many, many more people are applying to buy their own homes. The savings ratio is 9,10,11 or 12%; and that is good. I'm trying to make certain that people who save, the value of their savings is kept. Wouldn't life have been better and much different for many of our old folk if the money they had put aside out of very much lower wages in Victorian values years ago had in fact kept its value because we had Governments which had tried to keep inflation down? We would have a very much better society and we wouldn't have cheated those old people of the value of their savings.[fo 9] What I am saying is something within the reach of everyone if they wish to take it. Yes, we certainly have to try to get more jobs and I have indicated how we are going to do it, but I want everyone to have these kind of opportunities. They are opportunities partly of a way of life, but a Government has got to act in such a way that these opportunities are available and that the people who do everything right, in this way, do have the benefits of their own home, have the benefits of their savings keeping their value, have the benefits of a higher standard of living, have the benefits of being able to pass them on to their children, and society has the benefits because you get a responsible society which consists of a society of responsible people.

PA

There has been some talk from Conservative MPs in particular about Britain obtaining dual control of cruise missiles.

MT

The main purpose of both cruise missiles or any nuclear weapons is to deter. May I make that perfectly clear? I believe they are just about the most powerful deterrent the world has ever known. So the main purpose is to deter. If it ever came to their use we have an arrangement with the United States which is "joint decision" which means that the things could not be fired unless both the President of the United States and I agreed. All previous Governments have had confidence in that agreement. I too have confidence in that "joint decision".

PA

Even in the heat of war you think that decision would hold?

MT

I have confidence in that joint decision but the main purpose of nuclear weapons is to deter and we fortunately have kept the peace in Europe for longer than was kept between the first and second world wars. I think if we manage another six years, which I believe we shall, it is the longest period, just about, in Europe for two centuries. So nuclear weapons have deterred.

PA

It does seem as if cruise missiles will come to this country. Russians are speaking in a bellicose fashion about that. Can you see the prospect in the next decade of anything other than the further build up in nuclear weapons on both sides?[fo 10]

MT

Yes I can. Provided Russia will agree to negotiate down. Providing Russia will, it is in Russia's hands. President Reagan has put forward a proposal for substantially reducing the strategic missiles, for going on the intermediate ones right down to zero, and of course, in the past we have taken out a thousand war heads out of Europe without any response. We also, I might say, unilaterally abolished our own stock pile of chemical weapons but the Russians didn't follow suit. What happens depends upon what the Russians will do. We stand ready, not ready and willing but wanting to reduce, provided at the same time we can properly defend our way of life. And those remarks should be addressed to the Russians.

PA

Finally, three years ago when I interviewed you, I think in the same room, you talked about being the kind of nurse that gave you the medicine you needed even if it didn't taste very nice. Can I suggest that three years on it hasn't really worked out the way you thought so far and that really the medicine hasn't worked for this country as yet? It hasn't actually come right.

MT

Let me put it this way. Inflation is down. France is having to try to take measures now to try to get it down. I'm not having to take some of the measures that are being taken in France because we have been consistent and steady over the years. I believe we have laid the foundations which will get inflation down even further which will keep it down and which have laid the foundations for industry to be competitive, to be enterprising and to get new business if we will. I could lay the foundations, I have to get other people to take advantage and to build upon them. I believe the opportunity is there.

PA

If you are re-elected, more of the same? Is that what you promise?

MT

Yes indeed, because I believe we have been going the right way and I believe that is the way to get extra jobs and a more prosperous Britain and I believe that one of our great achievements is that everyone now recognises that Britain commands respect the world over and we have tremendous self-respect and both of those things are worth having.