Press Conference in York (miners’ strike)
|Document kind:||Press Conference|
|Source:||(1) The Times , 27 September 1984 (2) Yorkshire TV Archive: OUP transcript (3) Tyne Tees TV Archive: OUP transcript|
|Journalist:||(1) Peter Davenport, The Times , reporting|
|Editorial comments:||Some of this material is derived from MT’s press conference, but some may have originated at other points during the day. BBC Radio News Report 1800 26 September 1984 adds: "Mrs Thatcher said that, in spite of the six month strike, there were still very considerable stocks of coal - and there were unlikely to be any power cuts for a long time yet". BBC archives also hold MT’s comments on the Hong Kong agreement, probably derived from the press conference: "We have worked out between China and this government through the very good offices of the negotiators and Sir Geoffrey Howe, the Foreign Secretary, an agreement which continues in detail the present lifestyle and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong for fifty years after that time. And then we have a joint liaison committee lasting even further than that. Yes, I believe we have got a good agreement, negotiated in detail|
|Themes:||Economy (general discussions), Privatised and state industries, Law and order, Religion/Morality, Strikes and other union action|
(1)The Times, 27 September 1984:
Thatcher warning of ‘museum society’
Amid tentative moves to reactivate the stalled pit peace talks, the Prime Minister yesterday dashed any hope of compromise on the central question of uneconomic pits on which negotiations have repeatedly floundered.
Mrs Thatcher, in a determined and forceful mood on a visit to York, emphasized that uneconomic pits had been closed and would continue to be closed. Otherwise, she said, Britain would become a "museum society" of outdated, inefficient and uneconomic industry.
The Prime Minister met police officers returning from duty on the picket lines at Kellingley colliery in the Selby coalfield, where striking miners yesterday occupied the shaft tower for several hours. More than 40 pickets were arrested.
Mrs Thatcher was asked about the need for compromise to end the strike.
"You can never compromise on the right of management to manage in any industry," she said. "Management and workforce have to work together and you can never get to a position in which uneconomic pits do not have to close."
Mrs Thatcher said that the offers made to the miners were the best offered by any government.
She reiterated her firm backing for Mr Ian MacGregor , chairman of the National Coal Board, whose position had been challenged in the past week by the Bishops of Durham and Sheffield.
The Prime Minister refused to be drawn into the controversy surrounding the enthronement speech at Durham by Bishop David Jenkins , merely saying: "I don't think I should be too fussed about getting involved in that."
She was asked if it was time for the Government to take a more active role in the dispute.
"What are you proposing the Government should do?" she responded. "After the offer to the miners it must be abundantly clear that this is not a plain, straightforward industrial dispute. I do not think there is a role for the Government other than the one it is now actively playing."
The Prime Minister praised the police for their work on the picket lines. "We are extremely grateful for what you have done and so, I think, are the overwhelming majority of the British public. Many thanks for what you have done."
There were a dozen demonstrators among a crowd several hundred strong who chanted slogans in support of the miners as she arrived at York Minster but they were easily drowned by applause and cheers for Mrs Thatcher.[fo 1](2) Yorkshire TV Archive: OUP transcript:
[voiceover] Mrs Thatcher arrived in York amid strict security and little pre-arranged publicity to avoid possible demonstrations by striking miners. Her first stop was at the National Railway Museum, where she raised a few eyebrows, because the Prime Minister isn't noted as an enthusiastic rail traveller. Her next stop was at the Yorkshire police headquarters in York, where she met officers who'd just come back from [inaudible word] colliery. She told them she was immensely grateful [inaudible words]. Later, at a press conference, she began by listing the advantages of the Government decision to electrify the East Coast main rail line. Then she sent a message to the miners that she'd managed to avoid throughout the morning.
For every day the Government which I lead has been in power, £2 million every day we've been in power has been invested in mines. Yes, a lot of it in the new best seams, because we took the view that we wanted our miners to have the best, and we wanted our mines to be the best. Then for those who … er, do not wish to go on to a job at a different pit, we have offered the best voluntary redundancy terms, so good that we've never had a compulsory redundancy, and, as you know, now there are something like over 20,000 enquiries about redundancy already.
She was tackled about the Bishops of Durham and Sheffield, who called for Mr MacGregor 's resignation.
I do not join in the attacks, obviously, on the [ Ian MacGregor ] the Chairman of the National Coal Board. The offer that I have indicated to you is the offer made possible by the Chairman of the National Coal Board. He is one of these people who are able actually to go out and get orders, and you know that you only have a future if you can get orders. Even during the strike, he went to Chicago and got orders for coal that would have kept a thousand Durham miners in work, work that would not otherwise have been available for that extra number if he hadn't got it.
Glyn Mathias , ITN
Isn't it time for compromise in this dispute? If there's not compromise on both sides, well, seemingly it's going to last forever.
You can never compromise on the right of management to manage. That you can never do in any industry. Management and workforce have to work together. And you can never get to a position when uneconomic pits do not have to close. Uneconomic pits have always had to close. Uneconomic pits will have to close in the future, and, if you're interested in the future, you will do as we are doing, put the investment in the future, in the future pits. Just think, if this argument had been used—old uneconomic factories, uneconomic farms, uneconomic machinery—"Old? Uneconomic? It must never close!" We should be a museum society, and you wouldn't have a fraction of the standard of living you've got now. You cannot compromise on that at all. It is a totally unreasonable claim. I believe the whole of[fo 2] the TUC knows it's a totally unreasonable claim, and on that there can be no compromise.[Shouting and jeering.]
The Prime Minister examined building and restoration work at the fire damaged South transept. Her last visit here was for the enthronement of the Bishop of Durham. [Organ music.] [fo 3]
[(3) Tyne Tees TV Archive: OUP transcript:]
… Just think if this argument had been used. Old uneconomic factories, old uneconomic farms, uneconomic machinery, old uneconomic … [Tape briefly halts]. "This must never close". We should be a museum society and you wouldn't have a fraction of the standard of living you've got now. So you cannot compromise on that at all. It is a totally unreasonable claim. I believe that the whole of the TUC knows it's a totally unreasonable claim. On that there can be no compromise. That is the way the industry has carried on. If you're interested in the future, then your uneconomic things in the past have to close. We ARE interested in the future—a flourishing good future for the miners. And no government—it's one of my great prides … well, let me get this message across, to the miners—no government of any party political complexion of this country has EVER offered the miners a better deal than they are getting and no government has ever offered them as good a deal as this one is getting.