Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1975 Dec 18 Th
Margaret Thatcher

TV Interview for ITN (Chrysler rescue)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: ITN, Wells Street, central London
Source: (1) ITN Archive: First Report (1300-1322) 18 December 1975 (2) ITN Archive: Early Evening News (1750-1801) 18 December 1975 (3) ITN Archive: News At Ten (2200-2228) 18 December 1975
Journalist: (1), (2) and (3) Julian Haviland, ITN
Editorial comments: MT appears to have given two or even three interviews to ITN - one or two in the morning and a live interview for News At Ten. All three cover the same ground, though News At Ten is the most substantial. This was MT’s first television interview since the Conservative Conference in October.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2215
Themes: Employment, Industry, Privatized & state industries, Trade unions
(1) ITN Archive: First Report (1300–1322) 18 December 1975

The Conservative Party of course, strongly attacked the Government's plans for Chrysler in the House of Commons last night. Nevertheless on the final vote last night the Government did have a comfortable majority of 21.

This morning the Conservative leader, Mrs. Margaret Thatcher came here to give her first TV interview since the Conservative Conference in Blackpool, and our Political Editor, Julian Haviland, began by asking her about Chrysler. [end p1]

Julian

If you'd won last night's vote in the Commons Chrysler would have gone into liquidation with 27,000 jobs lost. Is that what you wanted?

Thatcher

First, we don't know whether it would go into liquidation. Secondly, a number of us are very puzzled about what is different with the loss of jobs in Chrysler and the other jobs that are already being lost. After all under the present government of [sic] 35,000 people becoming redundant every month in other firms. They're not getting anything like the same amount of money spent on them, and what is so different about Chrysler? After all Chrysler has poured £100 million into this company in the last four years. It's never made a profit; the government is budgeting only for losses. Jobs aren't really there if they're only jobs producing goods that people don't want to buy—that's what seems so wrong about this.

Julian

You're not saying the unemployment rate is so high that another ten or fifteen thousand jobs doesn't matter?

Thatcher

No, there will unfortunately under the present government be more jobs lost. This isn't necessarily saving those jobs, it's shifting round the unemployment because often by putting money into a company like this you're loosing jobs elsewhere. Just look at some of the other people who are producing cars and producing them profitably at the moment. They're going to have to compete with a company that's getting heavy subsidies and some of those subsidies ordinary folk are paying for. It means that profitable car companies will lose sales and they'll go to subsidies, so you shift around your unemployment.

Julian

But you sound as if you know that if you'd been Prime Minister and had a pistol at your head, as Mr. Wilson did, you would have had to mount some rescue operation.

Thatcher

I think it would have been a limited one. You also try to have a gradual withdrawal because you try not to have a sudden dislocation, but in the end jobs are not jobs unless producing products which other people want to buy with their pay packet and it's absurd to say they are. [end p2]

(2) ITN Archive: Early Evening News (1750–1801) 18 December 1975

The Conservative spokesman on Industry, Mr. Michael Heseltine, has claimed the government's arithmetic is wrong. He said the Chrysler rescue plan will cost £218 million—not £162 million over the next four years—and that Chrysler will be asking for more money within two years anyway.

Mrs. Thatcher, the leader of the Opposition, has called it “backing a loser.” Our Political Editor, Julian Haviland, asked Mrs. Thatcher if she had been Prime Minister, would she have let Chrysler go into liquidation: [end p3]

Thatcher

Well, first we don't know that the alternative is liquidation but certainly we should never have spent £162 million on rescuing this company. In the end, you know, companies and jobs will only survive if the companies make goods which people want to buy at prices they're prepared to pay. This one doesn't so the jobs aren't really there and if you're going to go on subsidising their cars, what's going to happen to cars made by other companies which are keeping their heads above water? It's they who are going to lose jobs. The people who've been struggling and making cars profitably.

Julian

You say the jobs aren't there—there are 27,000 jobs there. You'd have been bound to mount some sort of rescue operation surely?

Thatcher

Yes, I think we should have had a very limited rescue operation, a gradual run down. You say 27,000 jobs are there—they're not really jobs if you're making losses year after year. Don't forget the £162 million budgets for four years of loss making. What's going to happen at the end of that time. It's not a government rescue, we must get that absolutely clear. It's a taxpayers rescue. This money is coming from people who are working jolly hard in their own companies, being heavily taxed from companies who are managing to struggle and survive, who have good labour relations, and it's they who through taxation have to fork out the money to other companies, some of which have had bad labour relations.

Julian

Granted it is taxpayers money, but even on the arithmatic, the taxpayers over the next two years are going to have to pay less to keep Chrysler going then they'd have had to pay in unemployment benefit.

Thatcher

That assumes that every single person who comes out of a job through Chrysler will not get one. But that's not so—you know there are three hundred thousand people every month getting new jobs who've been on the unemployment register. [end p4]

(3) ITN Archive: News at Ten (2200–2228) 18 December 1975

The Chrysler crisis developed over the four weeks since the start of the current session of parliament and needed a quick decision.

The Conservatives argued strongly against the government spending money on a rescue—Mrs. Thatcher, the Opposition leader called it “backing a loser.”

The Conservative's chief spokesman on Industry, Mr. Michael Heseltine, has challenged the Government's arithmetic—saying the plan would cost £218 million over the next four years not £162 million.

Mrs. Thatcher—who's not given a television interview since the party conference in October—is in the studio tonight. With her is our Political Editor, Julian Haviland: [end p5]

Julian

Mrs Thatcher how many of those Chrysler jobs would the government led by you try to save and at what cost?

Thatcher

I think we have got to approach it in a slightly different way in that we want everyone to have good and secure jobs. That's a foundation on which a stable society is built. But there's really only one way to get that and that is by building a business that produces goods which other people will buy at a price they can afford to pay. Now this is really the reason why Chrysler's in trouble now because they can't do that and no amount of subsidising it will make it do that unless it can do it for other reasons.

Julian

But if you had a pistol to your head and four weeks notice and been a prime minister you would have had to mount some sort of rescue operation wouldn't you?

Thatcher

I don't think really that's quite the right description. One of my colleagues in the House of Commons last night said it wasn't a pistol at the Harold Wilsonprime minister's head it was a prime minister who put his head to the pistol. It's very very serious indeed for a big multi-national company to threaten to pull out or even to put into liquidation.

Julian

You don't think they meant it?

Thatcher

I don't think it's quite right to say that there are two really stark alternatives. Mr Riccardo is a very very skilled negotiator. It's quite clear from what the Americans have said. And I don't think the alternative was all of a sudden to stop everything now. Even if very sadly you had to put the firm into liquidation, you'd normally put a receiver in who would try to keep as much going as he possibly could so that he could sell it to best advantage. Anyone who faces unemployment, whether it's Chrysler or the other 1¼ million, face a very serious problem, but we want them to get into real jobs, and the real jobs come from expanding successful businesses and allowing new businesses to start. Not always from bailing out old ones that can't make any money from the profits of those who are running well. [end p6]

Julian

If you are right and if the government might have got better terms than they appear to have got, would the workforce of Linwood have done the right thing if they are now contemplating …?

Thatcher

It's very difficult to isolate Linwood from the whole operations of Chrysler. We don't know how this thing could be rearranged.

Julian

Does the government wish to join in too?

Thatcher

Well, what the government is doing at present is not going to continue the Hunter at Linwood it's to stop those and transfer the Avenger from Coventry to Linwood. So of course, one way of describing what the government is doing is not to say that it's saving jobs but that it's shifting jobs from one place to another and shifting employment from one place to another. That's where you always come up against the fundamental problem. Really our car industry and others must be competitive with other people and we can be.

Julian

You seemed pretty uncompromising in your speech on Tuesday, but are you quite sure that the Chrysler men at that plant cannot make money? Surely it deserves to be written off?

Thatcher

Chrysler have put into their UK operations over £100 million in the last four or five years. They've not managed to make any money. That's a pretty good chance. Now it's up to them to say whether they think if things will change and they could, whether management and workers together could in fact produce a car that their fellow workers and other people can buy. Well that's the crux of the matter. Will you or I buy Chrysler, or will we buy other models because we think they are better value? It's not a judgement I can make, but at the moment we can say to the people of Britain not to buy enough cars [sic] and overseas people likewise.

Julian

You mention steelworkers in your speech on Tuesday. Presumably you think that the steel corporation is right to cut out perhaps 40,000 jobs.

Thatcher

It's the same point Mr Haviland. We've got to be competitive in all our industries. We can't be over manned. If we are [end p7] overmanned, the price of the goods goes up and other people won't buy them. You know, the government did produce the report from the Think Tank. It had one very clear section in it indeed. But where we have the same investment here as overseas and the same number of people working at identical plants, the output here is only half as much as it is from similar plants overseas. That just won't do, and we must face it because otherwise we just won't have the business and if we haven't got good business we shan't have jobs and prosperity for the people. It's our business to create good jobs where there is a stable future, not always to bail one out that just can't keep going.

Julian

It's for efficiency presumably, for the corporation to do this. If the government back the steel corporation, then they might count on your supporting them?

Thatcher

If the government backed the steel corporation in what?

Julian

In wanting to shed 40,000 jobs so as to get their operation efficient.

Thatcher

We will always back a government which really insists on getting conditionally on the right course to produce goods which our people and people abroad will buy, because that's our only prosperity in the end. And we used to be famed for it, you know, people used to buy British because it was best value for money. We've got to get back to that.

Julian

Has your party really healed the breach with the unions which followed the Industrial Relations Act?

Thatcher

I believe so. I don't believe that those circumstances will ever occur again. I'm sure that most trade union leaders are very moderate and would say exactly the same as I would, that it's the job of unions to co-operate with all governments. After all, certainly three or four out of every ten trade unionists vote Conservative, otherwise we shouldn't get anything like the vote we do. Now they are basically democrat and just as much want the militants out of the way or of being in charge as we do and they're managing to deal with it themselves. This is the new factor. The ordinary trade unionist is going to vote. [end p8]

They are seeing that it's the moderates who are in charge.

Julian

You raised the threat of unions not allowing a Conservative Government. Clearly you don't believe that for real?

Thatcher

“Not the threat, that's the point, and I try to put it starkly and clearly that if anyone were to say that the trade unions would try to get on with the concerns of this government then what they would be saying at the outset of the general election campaign would be, “This election is a mockery, we shall determine the result not you.” In that case, democracy would have died. Most trade unionists are democrats and we wouldn't have that either and their leaders wouldn't.

Julian

Thank you very much Mrs Thatcher.