Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1981 Apr 13 Mo
Margaret Thatcher

TV Interview for ITN

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: TV Interview
Venue: No.10 Downing Street
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: Alastair Burnet, ITN
Editorial comments: 1815-30. ITN planned to use the whole interview, uncut, on News At Ten.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2761
Themes: Executive, Parliament, Defence (general), Economy (general discussions), Education, Employment, Industry, By-elections, Monetary policy, Energy, Pay, Public spending & borrowing, Law & order, Leadership, Northern Ireland, Race, immigration, nationality, Trade unions, Strikes & other union action

Interviewer

When do you go tomorrow? In the afternoon?

Prime Minister

Well after Questions and I have promised to see the Romanian Prime Minister again. But I don't like to miss many Question times.

Interviewer

No you haven't.

Prime Minister

Even when we were in the States I only missed just the one Question time.

Interviewer

I notice an effort is being made to try to reform Question time. So that you get sensible Questions instead of “What are you doing today?” or “What are your plans for tomorrow?”

Prime Minister

We've had one each week I think haven't we?

Interviewer

Prime Minister, do you accept that there is deep disaffection among many black young people, especially towards the police?

Prime Minister

I think there is probably deep disaffection among the problems. Whatever the problems, nothing, but nothing, justifies what happened on Saturday and Sunday nights. It is totally and utterly wrong as all the ways of protest and demonstration and democratic methods we have that anyone should attempt to take it out on the police or the citizens of the area like turning over cars and looting properties, setting it alight, throwing bombs and missiles at the police—nothing justifies that. And I cannot condemn it too strongly.

Interviewer

Do you think that high unemployment is a primary cause?

Prime Minister

No I don't somehow think that is the primary cause. After all we had much higher unemployment in the 1930s but we didn't get this behaviour in any way. I know that among young West Indians there is a higher rate of unemployment, there tends to be. Many of them are [end p1] unskilled and its not always easy to get a job for the unskilled at the moment. But I don't accept that that justifies what happened on Saturday and Sunday nights.

Interviewer

What do you intend to do about high unemployment among young blacks, bad housing, bad environment?

Prime Minister

As far as high unemployment among any young people is concerned the answer is the same. We have stepped up the amount of money and the number of job chances we are trying to give. Over 440,000 this year because there are an unusually large number of school leavers. And that applies to anyone. It doesn't matter whatever your background. If you are a young person and haven't got a job they we'll try and find some work experience for you under that scheme. But you know money has been poured into Lambeth. Its one of the areas where we have what's called a partnership scheme between Government and local authorities. This year some £9 million goes to that. There's quite a high Rate Support Grant for Lambeth. There's a lot of money, I think its something like £40 million going on housing there this year. So I think it would be a mistake to think that money can solve the problems. Money cant buy either trust or racial harmony. We have to try to go about it in a different way. You must get trust. You have set up almost every known voluntary organisation and institution, they are helped by funds. But trust takes a very much longer time to develop and is very much two-way and to allow the leaders of that community to try to get it as much as leaders of the voluntary organisations.

Interviewer

But it hasn't worked. So do you agree with Mr. Enoch Powell in the Commons today that we have seen nothing yet?

Prime Minister

I heard Enoch Powellhim say that and I thought it was a very very alarming remark. And I hope with all my heart that it isn't true. And I hope that we can get far more trust and try to work out these problems better than we have. It's quite true that we had Bristol a year ago but I do stress trust is a two-way business. It only comes with people who want it, who positively want to solve the problems. It only comes with people who really want to live as true and honourable upright members of society. I don't know quite how to get it except you just have to go on working at it and I do know this. Sometimes too much money doesn't help to solve problems. It causes more troubles. [end p2] It has to be contact between people. People who really have some kind of aptitude for this work and can get the confidence of the young people. You know when I was Secretary of State for Education I hated enormous schools. I thought you learn far more, you've got far more trust, you talk far more if you had a much much smaller school. A much much smaller group of people if they are in difficulty particularly with one teacher.

Interviewer

But there's no trust with the police, it appears, at the moment in Lambeth. I mean somebody said today that the police in Lambeth were behaving like an army of occupation.

Prime Minister

What absolute nonsense and what an appalling remark and I condemn the person who made it. Had there been any question of the police withdrawing from Lambeth as they had temporarily to withdraw from Bristol they would have been subject to the gravest criticism. They would have been totally wrong. The job of the police is to protect the citizens. And they did protect the citizens in Lambeth to the very best of their ability and they were absolutely right to do so. No-one must condone violence, no-one must condone the disgraceful events that took place in Lambeth. They should not have happened. They were criminal. Criminal and they should never have occurred. And the police's job is to protect the citizens against criminal activity.

Interviewer

In Northern Ireland what does the election of an IRA hunger striker to the House of Commons tell you about the views of the Catholic community?

Prime Minister

Well I think what it really does is to show just how sharp are the divisions between the two communities in Northern Ireland. Having said that I don't think it fundamentally alters the position. In Northern Ireland we, by law, have guaranteed to the people of Northern Ireland that the status of Northern Ireland shall never be changed unless the people in Northern Ireland want it to be changed, and of course any change could go through the United Kingdom Parliament. That's enshrined in law. Nothing can alter that. The other aspect is that nevertheless we really must try to live through peace and reconciliation with our neighbours south of the border which is the Republic of Ireland—it is the only country with whom we have a land border—we're both members of the [end p3] Community—we have to co-operate across the border and we want to get as much economic co-operation as possible. Those things remain the same.

Interviewer

Mr. Sands who has been elected said that he is not going to give up his seat because he hasn't got very long to live. Now you are back again where you were when you last met Mr. Haughey in Dublin.

Prime Minister

I think perhaps you have just really confirmed what I have said, that I don't think the result of that election fundamentally changes the situation.

Interviewer

Do you think Mr. Sands should be expelled from the House of Commons?

Prime Minister

You would have to get agreement across parties to move a motion of expulsion. It would be very bad for any motion of expulsion to be moved unless we had quite considerable agreement from all parties in the House of Commons and the Leader of the House, Francis Pym, has been consulting other parties today. The Government has not take [sic] a collective view.

Interviewer

The Civil Service unions say that there is now less trust than ever between you and them. How long must that go on?

Prime Minister

Less trust between the Civil Service unions and myself? I think that's a little bit hard if I might put it that way. After all since we've been in power we've really tried to see that those in the Civil Service have had reasonable pay, fair pay, very fair pay. Indeed they are now paid 50%; more than they were two years ago. And added to that they have been offered another 7%; on top of that. The redundancies in the public sector are very very small indeed. We mostly do things by natural wastage and we're still recruiting. So I think that that is a rather harsh opinion. I think what they are really upset about, and I can understand it, is they want to know that in future they will have a system of payment that is fair. I want a system of payment that is fair for them too. Fair for them and fair for the great British taxpayer. But you know we shouldn't get people of the calibre we need unless [end p4] it were fair. And I think that perhaps their worries are not well founded for certainly this Government has given those who work in the Civil Service a very fair deal.

Interviewer

There is a view that you haven't done very much to get a new system of pay for the Civil Service.

Prime Minister

We have in fact done quite a lot. We didn't think that the last system of pay research was right and we tried to change that. This year we had to say that we really must stick within a cash limit. Because in the end, you know, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has to decide what the ordinary taxpayer can afford. We'd already decided to try to reduce the numbers—after all people in the private sector, some have had to take much less than 7%; this year. Many of them have lost their jobs. We had to take that into account. And we said yes we would like to go from where we are now to what we call a system where we agree some kind of basis for future pay and its an ordered system. It has to include all sorts of things, not only pay, terms and conditions of service, pensions, holidays, job security—all these kind of things. It's easy to say it like that, it's not easy to get it into some kind of formula and we really are trying to do that.

Interviewer

As these strikes go on will you put the services in whenever you think defence is at risk?

Prime Minister

Our duty as a Government is to see that our country is properly defended. We must see always that the nuclear deterrent is effective and we shan't hesitate to see that it and defence of the realm is properly regarded and that it is effective.

Interviewer

And that means, yes you will put them in?

Prime Minister

It means that if need be we will have to use the services for that purpose, of course.

Interviewer

On the economy generally, it's thought that putting monetary policy aside you really are using unemployment in order to bring wages down. Is that your policy? [end p5]

Prime Minister

No of course not. Of course it isn't. We know that there won't be any good jobs in the future unless two things happen. First that we do get the rate of inflation down, so that it's no more than that of our main competitors. How could we compete against Germany or other countries—very successful countries—Germany, Switzerland, Japan—if our rate of inflation were rocketing while theirs was steady? We shouldn't have a chance so of course we have to get the rate of inflation down to have a hope for the future. That's not all. There have to be incentives to people. Incentives to get their own firms right. We have to stop overmanning. We are stopping overmanning. Even added to that the design of goods has to be such that people here and overseas will buy them. The delivery times must be right. We must be ahead not only in our research and technology which is good but in translating it into commercial success. All of that we have to do. That is now happening. There wouldn't be any job prospects for the future unless we have the guts and courage to tackle that now. And because of what we have done there are better prospects for the future, better prospects for many companies now than there would have been if we had just let things go for a couple of years.

Interviewer

Would you go so far as to say we are now at the bottom of the recession?

Prime Minister

I hope that we are at the bottom of the recession, certainly the recession is slowing down and I believe there are a number of encouraging signs from a number of companies. But don't assume that things will suddenly improve. I believe that there is a chance to have a gradual improvement but a lot depends upon what people themselves do. How they get down to it. Government can't manage every firm. Managers are in charge of the firm, they're in touch with their trade unions and their employees, eight or nine or ten hours every day and its up to them to take advantage of the opportunities. The future of people depends upon their loyalty to their company and their determination to make it succeed. We can give them the opportunity. We can give them the background but only they can make it work. If people, wherever they are, are going to take out far too much in pay, not leaving enough in in profits and investment we shall suffer in the future. So they too have a full part to play in securing the future of our country and future jobs. [end p6]

Interviewer

Managers say that another cut in the Minimum Lending Rate would help them more than anything.

Prime Minister

I'm sure it would but what would help me to secure that would be if I had more support from all sides of the House in trying to get down the amount we spend on current expenditure in Government. Then of course we might have a chance if we spent less, of borrowing less, of getting the Minimum Lending Rate down. We have in fact cut current expenditure quite a lot, particularly in the recession, and we have been able to get the amount of borrowing down. And the more we succeed in that the more in the future we can get the interest rate down.

Interviewer

After nearly two years in Downing Street do you find that you are doing too much yourself?

Prime Minister

Well I was brought up to work hard and I enjoy it so I naturally turn my hand to everything that comes along. But I do delegate a great deal. Yes I do work hard—I enjoy it—I've always had to and I think it does help to secure the results.

Interviewer

Do you have to work hard because you still have a divided Cabinet?

Prime Minister

No I work hard because I am a naturally hard worker. Because I believe very much in leading from the front—that's what a leader is for, you don't lead from the back. You give an indication that's the way we want to go and then you try to persuade everyone to go that way and you do it by discussion. You know we have 22 people in Cabinet. It wouldn't be much of a Cabinet if it were always all of one mind. We have got to discuss things and come to a conclusion. And then you've got to agree loyally to support that conclusion and put it into operation and that's what we have done.

Interviewer

What's pleased you most and what's disappointed you most in these two years?

Prime Minister

I think what's pleasing me most is that we are in fact carrying on with the strategy through all of the criticism, through people who have in fact been a little bit worried about whether it would succeed. I think they mostly know that it will succeed [end p7] —that this is the only way to go and we've been able to hold it and previous Governments by this time have been frightened and returned to bad old ways. But we haven't got into the bad old troubles and that's pleased me most and we're going to carry on with the strategy. The strategy—we must stick to it absolutely. With tactics you can be a little flexible but with a strategy resolute. And what has disappointed me? We were very unlucky, if I might put it that way, in that we came into office just at the time of the beginning of a world recession which was caused by things totally outside our control. The day I came into office I think the OPEC price of oil was $11 a barrel—now its $36 a barrel—up 300%; in two years. Think what that means to the world economy. We're all having to spend so much more on oil, that there is less to spend on other things and that's put a lot of companies out of business who were basically good companies. That's been the worst thing to face. It made the policies even more important to carry through because we've got to compete with others when the upturn comes.

Interviewer

Thank you very much.

Prime Minister

Thank you.