Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1974 Sep 18 We
Margaret Thatcher

Interview for Pre-Retirement Choice ("hoarding")

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: Interview
Venue: Unknown
Source: (1) Pre-Retirement Choice , December 1974 (pp10-11) (2) Pre-Retirement Choice , January 1975 (pp13-14)
Journalist: John Kemp, Pre-Retirement Choice
Editorial comments: 1200. The interview was taped and is written up in dialogue form, but neither tape nor transcript has survived in the Thatcher Archive. The first part of the interview - which launched the "hoarding" controversy - became available to the press on 27 November 1974. The second was published on 27 December 1974.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2405
Themes: Autobiographical comments, Autobiography (childhood), Monetary policy, Environment, Famous statements by MT
(1) Pre-Retirement Choice, December 1974 (pp 10–11)

Personal opinion by Margaret Thatcher

How Mrs Thatcher is going to beat inflation

Mrs. Margaret Thatcher, recently appointed Conservative spokesman on economic affairs, is married to an oil company executive ten years older than herself. Now, although she is only 49 years old Mrs. Thatcher is planning ahead for her retirement.

In this exclusive Choice interview with John Kemp Mrs. Thatcher gives shrewd down-to-earth advice on how she plans to cut costs and continue eating well.

Kemp

The pace of inflation is a special worry for people within ten or fifteen years of retirement. Is there anything practical they can do to ward off its effects?

Mrs. Thatcher

They do have problems, fears and doubts because they doubt whether income they foresee they will have will be enough to meet essential outgoings.

I know what it is like. My husband faces his 60th birthday next May. I am younger and of course we just both hope to go on working. Indeed I think a lot of people will probably have to consider working in a part time job, first because in a way it's much better to have some outside interest and secondly because it gives an extra income and helps them to conserve what they have got.

I don't know whether what oneself does is of any use, but I, for the first time in my life, have started steadily buying things like tinned food. I have started to buy things which I know we shall need in five to ten years time—things like sheets and towels and things.

Kemp

Why buy tinned food?

Mrs. Thatcher

Don't you find with inflation going as it is, whatever you can afford to buy now is awfully good value in four or five years time.

I am of the wartime generation. We did this at the beginning of the war and I can remember my mother still had tins left at the end. They were very good indeed. I am doing the same thing now. With my husband facing retirement I see the prices rise so one does lay in a quiet store of food and of household things that one hopes one will need.

If you are in an owner occupied house you try to do any fundamental work that needs doing so that you won't have any big drain on your resources in the first few years. I can only tell you that as the younger wife of a person who is coming up to retirement age that one is already doing it.

Kemp

Can you tell me more about buying food to keep for retirement?

Mrs. Thatcher

I've been doing it for some time. People tend to think of storage these days in terms of deep freezing but fresh meat won't keep in a deep freeze for more than about a year.

Tinned food on the other hand will keep for five, ten and fifteen years. What you collect are the expensive [end p1] proteins: ham, tongue, salmon, mackerel, sardines. They will last for years. I have got some corned beef too.

Also there are tinned fruits. With the sugar shortage this must also eventually work through to tinned fruit. Also tinned jams, marmalades, honey. Also big tins of instant coffee. These are expensive things. I thought everyone was doing it since Jim Slater recommended it.

I have my own regular food store and then a long term store. Don't forget most of the supermarkets now have a special offer of some kind every week and one of them will be of protein and one of them will probably be of something sweet.

Kemp

You can't buy sugar to store these days.

Mrs. Thatcher

I've got some sugar. I came across one bag of sugar the other day with a 4½d (old money) label on it. I bought some honey last year at 30p and this year I bought some more and it's marked on the jar—40p—it's identical honey.

It's interesting to mark the price on the jars as you buy it and you can see how the prices go up. I've been doing it for 18 months and I can see the different prices already.

Obviously if you do store food like this you have to be careful about stealing.

Kemp

Is it worth spending, say, several hundred pounds on tinned food?

Mrs. Thatcher

Ah, then you would have a storage problem. I wouldn't have thought it was worth hiring storage space either because this is expensive and even tinned foods must be stored in a cool place. Don't forget that I am a grocer's daughter so one knows a little bit about this.

The important thing about tins, of course, is that it costs nothing to keep them in your own home. You don't need electricity. A deep freeze is limited in its use but I use it for the short term stuff.

I had a cook-in for a couple of weekends before the election because I knew it was coming. Every time I cooked a meal like a stew or casserole I did an extra one to put in the deep freeze, but that's all short term.

Kemp

Obviously you don't expect to see inflation beaten very quickly.

Mrs. Thatcher

No I don't. No I don't, and I know that proteins are the expensive things and I think if I got a tin a week for a couple of years—all right well that's fine.

Kemp

People used to invest their spare cash by buying an old clock or something. The idea you should transfer that cash into tinned food is a novel twist isn't it?

Mrs. Thatcher

I think the thing is that you don't in fact hold much as cash at the moment because at the time that you want to use it it is not the value it was when you saved it. I have bought some porcelain pieces but for sheer pleasure and delight. I don't so much buy for an investment.

Some of the things I've got are an investment and already I can see the prices rising over what I've paid but of course it's always different buying from selling. I wouldn't buy a thing which I didn't like merely because it was old and they told me that it would be an investment. I'd buy for beauty and that's why I buy porcelain. Lovely porcelain.

Kemp

A special problem at the moment is the plight of people who retired some time ago on what was a good pension at the time but which has been sadly eroded by inflation.

Mrs. Thatcher

I was shaken solid the other day when someone said to me—a chap who is a high earner—that he was being offered an insurance policy which would give him a retirement income of £14,000 a year in about 20, 23 or 24 years time. He turned round to the insurance chap and said by the time I retire £14,000 is not going to be worth very much.

You can't plan on this basis and that's why some of us say well, £14,000 a year—or for most of us £2,000 a year—might not be worth very much but one tin of ham is still a tin of ham and can still be eaten as a tin of ham.

Kemp

Couldn't buying food like this create a shortage?

Mrs. Thatcher

This is not a question of creating a shortage. It is being prudent. The important thing is to buy regularly. Don't buy in huge amounts. This is something you can do over a period of years.

Next month Mrs. Thatcher talks about homes, gardens and what she plans to do with her own retirement when it comes. [end p2]

(2) Pre-Retirement Choice, January 1975 (pp 13–14)

Mrs. Thatcher's plans for retirement

Last month Mrs Margaret Thatcher, Opposition spokesman on the economy and wife of a 59 years old oil company executive told about her efforts to beat inflation in her own household shopping. This month she continues her conversation with John Kemp by talking about some of the things she plans to do when she eventually gives up active politics.

Kemp

Do you have time to pursue hobbies or handicrafts yourself?

Mrs. Thatcher

I find I get a great deal of pleasure out of doing anything which uses one's hands. I used to do a good deal. I still do a lot of home decorating. If it wants doing—I do it. I have to do it quickly but I enjoy it and at the end of a couple of days hard work it is very nice to see you have decorated a whole room and that it looks good.

I would love to be able to do more things in the home like putting up shelves. Another thing I would like to do is metalwork. I have seen some of the work done by the Townswomen's Guilds where they have taken up metalwork. Lovely. I would like to be able to make little bits of furniture but that would take quite a long time to do.

Kemp

What are the sort of recreations which will interest you once you have retired do you think?

Mrs. Thatcher

In the last two years I have started to study and collect small pieces of Derby and Worcester porcelain. They are very expensive but it is a tremendous interest looking for them and spotting them. It means you have to read up all the books, go round the antique fairs and the museums and galleries. You learn more and more and it really is fascinating.

Another thing I want to do is bookbinding. We have at home 30 volumes of Kipling. The bindings are all raggy and they crumble after a time. I quietly think in the back of my mind that when I eventually retire—which I hope won't be for another 15 or 20 years—I will go to bookbinding class and do these volumes one by one.

Of course gardening is an immense interest as well.

Kemp

It is also a profitable one these days.

Mrs. Thatcher

Yes. Although you have to be careful. If you are not you can spend an awful lot on your seeds and seedlings and fertilisers and you find you have a mass of kidney beans when everyone else is offering you theirs. I used to have a big garden. It used to take a lot of time and I really am totally absorbed in work and running a house now.

Of course having been brought up in the trade (Mrs Thatcher's father was a Lincolnshire grocer) I always have an eye to the economical buy which is terribly important at the moment and I like cooking. I like trying new dishes as well.

Kemp

There has been quite a growth in demand for adult education services among the older generation.

Mrs. Thatcher

You find some people say they have never been so busy since they retired but a lot of people can be quite lonely and there is tremendous demand from this group of people for the adult education services. They go and take up all kinds of interests they didn't have time to do before. The history of architecture, for example, or the history of painting and painters. Or there is an immense demand for the more practical crafts.

There is an enormous interest in my own constituency in Finchley. A lot of the women go for practical things like dressmaking. We have even had requests from some of the men now to learn tailoring. There's quite a bit of metalwork and making things for the house—lamp shades and so on and quite a bit of upholstery.

But then there is the other side. People who have been interested in music take up music lessons, some take singing lessons. Others are interested in architecture. People are more and more environment conscious thank goodness and realise the value of one's heritage and the beautiful things of the past.

I think one of the depressing things in a way is that we are inheriting more beautiful architecture and crafts and skills from the past than we are creating today to pass on to the future. One wants to know about the past but also one wants the skill and craftsmanship that went into these things to be preserved for the future.

Of course, it's easy to see why this has come about. People are working on mass production in factories before big machines with enormous output and the workers therefore get big wages. Now, the craftsman obviously must have similar wages if he is to be tempted to continue his craft and that means his products are enormously expensive.

Kemp

Your husband could presumably retire next year if he wanted. Is he likely to?

Mrs. Thatcher

Good heavens no. I mean he will carry on at least until he is 65. If you have always led a very active life, the kind of life when you just haven't had enough time to do everything which you have to do then the shock of suddenly having time on your hands is very considerable. It involves a big psychological adjustment to the fact that there are no longer a lot of people wanting your advice or decisions. I think it is worse for men than for women.

One minute your services are required and the next they are not. Now, it's easier for a woman because you turn round and there's a lot immediately and obviously to do in the house. There is always something to turn to and I found it easier for me when I was turned out of Government than it was for some of my colleagues because I had plenty of immediate things to do which had been put aside.

Kemp

It has always puzzled me when a housewife is [end p3] supposed to retire?

Mrs. Thatcher

The most terrifying thing in life would be to have time on your hands and nothing to do. That's why I say it's easier for her in a way to retire because her services are always required. She has to make the beds, do the shopping, do the cooking and I think more and more men are helping with the household chores as well.

Of course many people these days like to stay on at work. I found it very interesting, you know, having held a ministerial job. Frequently there were appointments to be made to committees, to courts of governors of schools or universities or technical colleges and often I would suggest the names of people who have just retired from industry or commerce. These are the people with invaluable experience.

But often when you put down their names the reaction would come back—well, don't you think they are too old? This is a terrible dilemma and I said unless we are going to use some of the talent and skill and experience of some of these people we are going to deprive ourselves of the advice they can give.

By the time you come up to say 65, it is not as old as you thought it was when you were say, 50.

Kemp

Housing is a matter of concern to many older people.

Mrs. Thatcher

A lot of them would like to go into smaller houses or sell their houses in big cities and move further out because this is a classic source of capital upon which to live for the future. After one of my election broadcasts I had a massive numbers of letters from old people, some of them saying that what they really wanted was a small place to go to but they could not find one. They wondered if someone could set up an organisation to build some of the smaller type of houses, finance their purchase of them and sell the big houses they were living in. Obviously the balance between selling price and purchase price would go to the old person concerned. There is so much to do.