Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1983 May 24 Tu
Margaret Thatcher

TV Interview for BBC1 Nationwide (On the Spot)

Document type: speeches
Document kind: TV Interview
Venue: BBC Television Studios, Lime Grove, London
Source: Thatcher Archive: BBC transcript
Journalist: Sue Lawley, BBC, chairing
Editorial comments: On the Spot was broadcast live. MT arrived at the studios at 1745 and took questions from viewers in BBC studios around the country 1825-1900. She returned to No.10 at 1915.
Importance ranking: Key
Word count: 6598
Themes: Conservatism, Defence (arms control), Defence (Falklands War, 1982), Economy (general discussions), Employment, Industry, General Elections, Public spending & borrowing, Taxation, Law & order, Religion & morality, Social security & welfare, Voluntary sector & charity, Famous statements by MT

Sue Lawley (SL)

Good evening. ‘Nationwide’ tonight: as the General Election campaign gathers momertum, we have the Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, in our studio, to answer your questions.

For the next 35 minutes we'll be inviting viewers around the country to put Mrs. Thatcher ‘on the spot’, as we call it. We've been asking for questions over the past two weeks, since the election was declared, and the points our questioners will be making reflect the main areas of concern that you've indicated to us as this General Election approaches—points on unemployment, taxation, pensions, the Falklands question, the arms race, our police, and our Health Service.

But we start with Janet Blair from Exeter, who has a question on a topic that Mrs. Thatcher has mentioned many times in the past 12 months. Mrs. Janet Blair, your question please.

Janet Blair (JB)

Yes. You have expressed an approval for ‘Victorian values’. Victorian times create for me images of child labour, unemancipated women, rigid class barriers, almost impossible poverty traps, and a variety of frigid morality which rejected fun and generally helped to maintain the status quo.

Now, I'd like to know why you're so attracted to the values of these times?

SL

Mrs. Thatcher?

Rt. Hon. Margaret Thatcher, MP (MT)

I think you have mixed up, if I might respectfully say so, some of the conditions with some of the values.

In fact, during Victorian times, as you know, conditions improved—that was the great … improvement in industry, the great expansion in industry which gave us a chance to have a rising standard of living. And almost every school, when I was Secretary of State for Education, that we were replacing used to be a school that had been given by voluntary effort in Victorian times. So too the hospitals. So too even the prisons.

It was time when you had great self-reliance, you lived within your income, great integrity, great duty, a great increase in empire, and a great increase in self-confidence [end p1] as a nation. Yes, they were very difficult and dark days, but the fact was that we were creating the extra wealth with which to improve those conditions, and that time was the greatest time of improvement that we've seen for a long time.

JB

Mrs. Thatcher, at the end of the Victorian period, if you look at the proportions of people in relation to the distribution of wealth … You say that things were improving during the Victorian period; at the end of the Victorian period there were nearly 40 million poor people and less than four million people who might be described as being comfortably off.

SL

It has to be said, Mrs. Thatcher, that a lot of people who wrote into us on this point—and there were quite a few—did feel that perhaps your summoning up the virtues of the Victorian times were perhaps an excuse for reducing the welfare state, which is what I think Mrs. Blair is getting at.

MT

That's absolute nonsense. What I'm getting at is I think many of those values would stand us in very good stead now; living within your income, thrift, self-reliance, personal responsibility, the spirit of voluntary effort. All of those things were very characteristic of Victorian times, and I think we could do with more of those now.

But there was a tremendous spirit of voluntary effort during those times and it was then that we were creating the resources to improve the very conditions of which you speak. And, my goodness, they were improved and they needed to be.

SL

A quick last go, Mrs. Blair.

JB

Well, I think that perhaps it's a misunderstanding of cause and effect if Mrs. Thatcher thinks that by imposing these values in some way that she can create the greatness which she referred to, the great power that Britain was in Victorian times.

MT

They are not values you impose. You either believe in them or you don't. You either believe in self-reliance and in duty to others …

JB

No, I don't think they're peculiarly Victorian. Those values are around now, actually. The implication is that people do not recognise or practice those values now, and I feel that is a little insulting.

MT

I would agree with you—they're not peculiarly Victorian. They are eternal truths, and I would be very happy to call them that.

SL

Let's leave it there and move on to what we've called ‘Unemployment and the Economy’, which is, obviously, quite a vast area. [end p2]

Let's start off with Mr. Andrew Richard (phon), who's in our Manchester studio. He's 28 years old and he is a lecturer. Mr. Richard, your question?

Andrew Richard (AR)

Well, my question for Mrs. Thatcher is this: how has she the audacity to go into an election reaffirming economic policies that have brought so much unemployment to this country?

She talks about national prosperity and the create of real jobs. There's little sign of this, in fact. I think that what we need to be doing for true national prosperity, what we need to be doing is fully utilising the labour force of this country. That, obviously, means getting rid of unemployment, and especially the unemployment of our polytechnic and university graduates. What is Mrs. Thatcher's response to this, please?

SL

Mr. Richard, just let me ask you briefly before Mrs. Thatcher replies: are you unemployed?

AR

I was unemployed for 15 months following graduation. I've now got a temporary appointment at a polytechnic, and, quite clearly, unemployment is something that I'm very concerned about.

SL

Right Mrs. Thatcher.

MT

Yes, Mr. Richard, I would be the first to want to get rid of unemployment. So would every politician of every party and, I believe, every human being. But we don't do it just by talking, as if it could be done at a stroke. We can only get rid of unemployment by producing goods and services that the housewives and employed people of this country will purchase.

And they have a wide choice to choose from. At the moment there is a very, very great demand for goods and services, and not all of it's being filled by what we produce here. We have to get industry efficient and have well-designed goods and services. You're in the public sector, so am I. We rely on the prosperity of those industries and services and we rely on, therefore, them producing effective goods efficiently.

SL

Mr. Richard, would you like to come back on that?

AR

Well, yes, I'd like to say that, you know, decimating the economy is not a good way of making it efficient. I think starving the cow won't bring us any benefits whatsoever. In fact, I would like to say that Mrs. Thatcher's policies are not only morally bankrupt, they're actually a blatant lie because what she is suggesting is that her policies will lead this country to greater prosperity in the future. Obviously this is not the case.

And a second point I would really like to make is this … [end p3]

SL

Quickly, if you will.

AR

… Yes, right, O.K., that effective leadership of this country demands that the leader shows a degree of humility. That is a basic quality of all successful leaders. I doubt whether Mrs. Thatcher can successfully lead this country for the next four or five years.

SL

Mrs. Thatcher.

MT

Do you think you show a degree of humility, Mr. Richard?

AR

Oh, yes, I showed a great degree of humility to my students, who are studying for their exams at the moment and are now facing life on the dole following completion of their examinations.

MT

Let me come to what you said. You said “decimating the economy”. Getting inflation down isn't decimating the economy, it's making certain that people's savings still keep their value. The contrary is having a dishonest policy and deliberately plundering the value of people's savings. Getting interest rates down isn't decimating the economy. Reducing severely the National Insurance Surcharge on industry and so getting its costs down isn't decimating the economy. Helping small businesses to start isn't decimating it. Getting a lot of extra money for research into technology in the partnership between university, polytechnics, industry, and government isn't decimating it. Having the biggest training scheme we've ever had isn't decimating in, Mr. Richards.

Look at those things dispassionately. Every single one of those things is a strategy far jobs. You and I can't just sit down and design something that will sell, but by doing those things and creating those conditions we make it easier for some people who can. And I remind us both—in all humility—that you and I, both being in the public sector, depend on the prosperity of industry and commerce.

SL

Mr. Richards, a quick last word from you, ‘cause I want to move on and broaden the discussion.

AR

Well, I would finally say that if inflation is the problem, it is a problem for those people who have to survive on meagre unemployment benefit as a result of Margaret Thatcher's policies.

SL

Let me bring in, then, a vicar, in fact, the Reverend David Horne (phon), from Handsworth Wood in Birmingham. Can we have your question on this subject, Mr. Horne.

Rev. David Horne (DH)

Good evening, Prime Minister, and I must say, not a vicar, merely a curate.

MT

You might well be a vicar one day!

DH

But I'd like to ask, Prime Minister: your government, as I understand it, has embarked on a programme [end p4] of national economic recovery, and I want to ask to what extent you see that as able to be successful, inasmuch as less attention is paid to issues of social justice and issues of incentives for those not only on good money but those on poor money.

SL

What issues of social justice do you mean, Mr. Horne? Can we just clarify the question?

DH

Well, I'm thinking of … I'm basically concerned with issues of dignity and people's power and control of their own lives, the ability to hold their heads up in the marketplace in terms of the money they have to spend and the freedom they have to spend it.

SL

But you have in mind, obviously, the unemployed to a great extent?

DH

Well, I'm thinking of the interrelations, really, of benefit and of taxation, as much as anything.

SL

Right.

MT

Can I, now I know what you want, can I try to answer? The 23½ million people in work obviously have to provide for the pensioners, for the sick, for the unemployed, and for us all who are on the public sector. So we rely on them, the goods and services they produce. So if ever we're to have a very thriving public sector and do everything we want there—in pensions, National Health Service, and for the disabled—we can only do it if we have a thriving industry and commerce. So everything, I'm afraid, comes back to that.

Now, I would say that during this, the most severe recession we've had since the 1930s—which is a world recession, because we've got 26 million unemployed in the OECD countries—during that I think this government has a very good record indeed on the social services. For example, on the pensioners, we've kept the pensions ahead of rising prices, we haven't delayed increases. Now, for example, in France and Germany they've delayed their increases for five or six months …

SL

We've got someone, Mrs. Thatcher, who's going to pick you up on that very point in a minute …

MT

Yes, indeed, but please … No, please, I must answer him. We've kept pensions ahead of prices. We've actually spent more on the National Health Service, even taking prices into account. In Great Britain we've got 56,000 more nurses and nearly 7,000 more doctors in the National Health Service. We have spent more on the disabled, we've tax-relieved some of the mobility disabled allowances, tax-relieved war widows' pensions, we've given a widow's bereavement allowance for the first time. And all of this during a very tough world recession. [end p5] Indeed, you go through one thing after another and you'll find that we have made it our duty and our pride to lock after those who've been ill-served by a recession.

SL

Mr. Horne, does that convince you?

DH

Well, no, not entirely, because those are issues of some of the most vulnerable, and I think that is well made. The difficulty has been, as I see it, that at a time, as it were, when the economic cakes got smaller, it's the very rich who've had pay rises in terms of paying less tax, and if you include National Insurance it's those on the lowest wages who've actually paid less. Those getting, between '79 and '82, those receiving £850 a week or chereabouts, five times the national income, have had a pay increase of £58 a week, less tax.

SL

Indeed, Mrs. Thatcher, we had a lot of letters from people who feel that you have not offered the support in terms of taxation for the family that you said you would. And I would quite like to draw your attention to one specific case, from Mrs. S. Clark from Ipswich in Suffolk—a very moving letter, actually. She says her husband lost his job two years ago; she and he have gradually watched all that they put into their lives eroded in the past year; they can't afford to replace or repay their house—indeed, she says, it would pay her husband and her to separate because they would get more from supplementary benefits if they did that. “It is no longer true that two can live as cheaply as one. Does Mrs. Thatcher understand this kind of degradation?’

MT

Yes, of course I understand difficulties—you wouldn't be human if you didn't. Of course one understands what it feels like if, all of a sudden, you become redundant and can't find a job. And there are three million people whom one would wish to have jobs, and there are 26 million people in the OECD countries.

But the kind of things that I have described in answer to an earlier question are the kinds of things which will make it easier to bring new business and new industry into being, so we get new jobs and new products here.

With regard to those who you said are the poorest, there are some people who are very low income earners, and I think it's better, myself, that they should work because it's much better to have the dignity of bringing some wages home at the end of the week than to be on social security. For those, we have specially increased what is called the Family Incomes Supplement, so that they have that to make up their wages to a reasonable income, and we've increased that more than inflation. From next November we've increased the amount for the child benefit to an all-time high—that will be £6.50 per child …   . and also all of those an average earnings are now better off in terms of net take-home pay than they were. So we have tried to look after those. [end p6] Can I just say a word about those on higher incomes?

SL

Briefly, because I've got to move on.

MT

Yes, indeed, but you see each person is asking so many.

SL

Indeed, but in … (inaudible) …

MT

I had the impression that you didn't like it that we'd taken down the top rate of tax on earnings from 83 pence in the pound to 60 pence in the pound.

Yes, we did do that. We need the most successful, most brilliant managers here, people who can start new businesses, and the people who can create new products in the new science-based industries. I need them here. There's a market for them all over the world. What we have not had here is sufficient good management in the last ten years. If we're to thrive, I must keep those people here. And I believe that they too had a right to be treated reasonably as far as tax is concerned.

SL

Mr. Horne, make it very brief.

DH

But Prime Minister, that incentive is the nub of my concern, because I'm not convinced that incentives are only important for the very rich. I have just had a nearly £100 a month pay increase. I'm on FIS (phon). I kept £28 of that when tax and insurance was off it, and that's before my FIS is adjusted, which it will be in February …

(inaudible discussion of meaning of FIS—Family Incomes Supplement)

… and you can see that more and more of us are in a poverty trap. Now, if I was on piece rates, there's no incentive there.

SL

… Mrs. Thatcher, and this is very typical of a lot of the letters we've had, which is: why should you have given anything at all to the rich, whether you altered their tax threshold at all, as long as there were the poor and the needy people like Mr. Horne and Mrs. Clark?

MT

Look, to give something to the rich does not, in fact, cost very much. But let me come back to the question—I'll deal with the other aspect of it in a moment. If we're to get more industry, if it's to flourish, I must have those who can create jobs. You and I are not job-creators. I've got to have people who can create new business, new jobs—that's absolutely vital. I must keep them here and they must be good managers.

Now, we have in fact, actually increased the tax allowances, that is, the amount that is tax-free. They're up by 5 or 5 per cent—6 per cent, actually—over and above inflation. [end p7] We've increased them. The last government didn't. We've actually taken down the standard rate of tax, income tax, from 33 per cent to 30. We have done those things.

Yes, we would like to go further, but please may I put this to you as well: everyone wants to do two things simultaneously. Increase expenditure and reduce tax! I cannot do both things, and what we have to try to do is to be fair to all groups of people. Every time we put up benefits … we're on a ‘Pay as you go’ scheme. What is paid out in pensions and unemployment and sickeness benefit this year has to come in in National Insurance contributions and taxation. Therefore we have to watch the benefits to people who need it and the burden on the working population, all of whom have to pay it. Well, on average earnings, after income tax people are better off than they were. And, as I say, we've taken down the standard rate of income tax and put up income tax allowances.

Yes, I want to do more. We've got to create the wealth first, and for that I've got to keep the most talented wealth-creators here.

SL

I'm going to move on, much as Mr. Horne still looks very worried. Sorry, Mr. Horne—Love to stay with you.

Let's go to Mrs. Diana Gould in our Bristol studio. Mrs. Gould, your question, please?

Diana Gould (DG)

Mrs. Thatcher, why, when the Belgrano, the Argentinian battleship, was outside the exclusion zone and actually sailing away from the Falklands, why did you give the orders to sink it?

MT

But it was not sailing away from the Falklands. It was in an area which was a danger to our ships and to our people on them.

DG

Outside the exclusion zone!

MT

But it was in an area which we had warned … at the end of April we had given warnings that all ships in those areas, if they represented a danger to our ships, were vulnerable. When it was sunk that ship, which we had found, was a danger to our ships. My duty was to look after our troops, our ships, our navy. And, my goodness me, I lived with many, many anxious days and nights.

DG

Mrs. Thatcher, you started your answer by saying it was not sailing away from the Falklands. It was on a bearing of 280 and it was already west of the Falklands, so I'm sorry but I cannot see how you can say it was not sailing away from the Falklands when it was sunk.

MT

When it was sunk it was a danger to our ships.

DG

No, but you have just said at the beginning of your answer that it was not sailing away from the Falklands, and I'm asking you to correct that statement. [end p8]

MT

Yes, but it was in an area outside the exclusion zone, which I think is what you are saying is ‘sailing away’.

SL

We're arguing about which way it was facing at the time.

MT

It was a danger to our ships.

DG

Mrs. Thatcher, I am saying that it was on a bearing 280, which is a bearing just north of west. It was already west of the Falklands and therefore nobody with any imagination can put it sailing other than away from the Falklands.

MT

Mrs. …   . I'm sorry, I've forgot your name——

SL

Mrs. Gould.

MT

Mrs. Gould, when orders were given to sink it and when it was sunk it was in an area which was a danger to our ships. Now, you accept that, do you?

DG

No, I don't.

MT

Well, I'm sorry, it was. You must accept that when we gave the order, when we changed the rules which enabled them to sink Belgrano, the change of rules had been notified at the end of April. It was all published, that any ships that were a danger to ours within a certain zone, wider than the Falklands, were likely to be sunk.

And again I do say to you my duty—and I'm very proud that we put it this way and adhered to it—was to protect the lives of the people in our ships and the enormous numbers of troops that we had down there waiting for landings. I put that duty first, and when the Belgrano was sunk—and I ask you to accept this—she was in a position which was a danger to our navy.

SL

Mrs. Gould, let me ask you this, Mrs. Gould. What motive are you seeking to attach to Mrs. Thatcher and her government in this? Is it inefficiency? Lack of communication? Or is it a desire for action, a desire for war?

DG

It is a desire for action and a lack of communications, because giving those orders to sink the Belgrano when it was actually sailing away from our fleet and away from the Falklands was, in effect, sabotaging any possibility of any peace plan succeeding. And Mrs. Thatcher had 14 hours in which to consider the Peruvian peace plan that was being put forward to her, in which—those 14 hours—those orders could have been … (inaudible) …

SL

One day all of the facts, in about 30 year's time, will [end p9] be published …

DG

That is not good enough, Mrs. Thatcher. We need …

MT

Would you please let me answer!

SL

Let Mrs. Thatcher answer. I think you've put a fair point.

MT

Would you please let me answer. I lived with the responsibility for a very long time. I answered the question giving the facts—not anyone's opinions, but the facts.

Those Peruvian peace proposals, which were only in outline, did not reach London until after the attack on the Belgrano. That is fact. I'm sorry, that is fact, and I am going to finish. They did not reach London until after the attack on the Belgrano.

Moreover, we went on negotiating for another fortnight after that attacked. I think it could only be in Britain that a Prime Minister was accused of sinking an enemy ship that was a danger to our navy when my main motive was to protect the boys in our navy. That was my main motive and I'm very proud of it.

One day all the facts will be revealed, and they will indicate as I have said.

SL

Mrs. Gould, have you got a new point to make, otherwise I must move on?

DG

Just one point. I understood that the Peruvian peace plans, on a Nationwide programme, were discussed on midnight, May 1st. If that outline did not reach London for another 14 hours, I think there must be something very seriously wrong with our communications—and we are living in a nuclear age when we're going to have minutes to make decisions, not hours.

MT

I have indicated what the facts are. And would you accept that I am in a position to know exactly when they reached London, exactly when the attack was made. I repeat: the job of a Prime Minister is to protect the lives of our boys or our ships. And I'm proud of it, ‘cause that's what I did.

SL

Let's move on to discuss that nuclear age, Mrs. Thatcher, if we can, because we've got a lot of questions on defence, as you might imagine.

Let me bring in Miss Julia Banwell (phon) from Herne Bay, Julia Banwell, your question please.

Julia Banwell (JB)

Mrs. Thatcher, because of the ever-increasing arms race, many people are very scared about the possibility of nuclear war. How will your policies relating to nuclear weapons help to lessen this fear? [end p10]

MT

Because nuclear weapons are kept as a deterrent. And if you look about the world, where we have had nuclear weapons as a deterrent between the two big powers, we've had peace, in fact, for 38 years, because nuclear weapons are part of the balance between Nato and the Warsaw Fact countries. And peace to me, with freedom and justice, not at the expense of freedom, peace with freedom and justice to me is the greatest prize of all.

Where we've not had them, alas, there have been some 140 conflicts with conventional weapons. Don't think conventional weapons are comfortable or easy. They kill large numbers of people. We've had two terrible wars with them, and those conventional wars have killed some ten million people. But nuclear weapons have deterred not only nuclear war—it is what Winston calls a ‘balance of terror’—but also conventional war in Europe. And I am not willing to put that great price of peace at risk.

SL

Miss Banwell, do you accept the deterrent argument?

JB

Well, whether it's true or not that the nuclear deterrent has kept the peace in Europe, I think that we've changed now from the old strategy of deterrents to a counterforce strategy, a war-fighting strategy. Why is it that we need so many nuclear weapons? Why do we need such an enormous overkill capacity? You can only kill somebody once, and once they're dead it doesn't matter how many times their corpse is blown to pieces!

And why do nuclear weapons have to be so accurate? If a missile is aimed at a city and it lands half a mile off its target it'll still destroy that city. But now we're moving towards such accuracy and such enormous overkill, and the only reason I can see for that is that we need this capacity so that we can strike at the Soviet missiles in their siloes before the Russians have a chance to use them.

SL

To go back to the first point, there, that Miss Banwell made, Mrs. Thatcher, a lot of letters said that, that there's a lot of talk about reducing arms; there is only action, as in the coming of Cruise, to increase them.

MT

With all due respect, that is not so. But you put up so many questions, this is the trouble, I'll just have to try to answer them.

The purpose of nuclear weapons is the strongest deterrent that there is, and if we were unilaterally—just one-sidedly—to abandon nuclear weapons, we should leave them in the hards of our Sworn Enemies, enemies who didn't hesitate to roll into Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Afghanistan and deprive other people of their freedom. If we had no deterrent to deter them from attacking us, then if they threatened us and we had no nuclear weapons, we simply couldn't fight them because, in fact they could use that nuclear weapon on us very easily. [end p11]

Can I come back, because I have not answered all the questions? Therefore it is deterrence, and, in fact, it has deterred for 38 years. Don't forget, between World War One and World War Two there are only 22 years, only 22 years. We've been very fortunate in having 33 years of peace, and the policy has, in fact, kept that peace.

Now, the greater accuracy. The SS20s are a modernised version of the intermediate nuclear weapons. They are very accurate. The Cruise missile is modernising the present nuclear bombs which are stationed in this country. They're not extra—as some go in others will be taken out. They're modernising. Again, they deter.

We have put forward—the whole of Nato has put forward and the United States has put forward—proposals for disarmament. Don't accuse as of not putting forward proposals for disarmament. We've said …

SL

… (inaudible) …

MT

… Well, I rather thought that Miss Lawley said that a number of people said that. We said “Look, if you take down the SS20s we need have no Cruise or Pershings”. Now, that is disarmament on both sides, no nuclear weapons of that class.

With regard to the very large missiles, it was suggested that they are taken down by a third—that was President Reagan. He's not yet had an adequate response.

But don't forget, we did disarm in one sphere in this country: we, in fact destroyed all our stockpile of chemical weapons. We did it in a one-sided way. Now, we hope, perhaps, that the Soviet Union might do the same thing. Far from it: She goes on building up her stockpile of chemicals, so one-sided disarmament did not, in tact, work there.

Please value the peace we've had for 38 years. It is the greatest price of all.

JB

Mrs. Thatcher, I didn't mention anything about unilateral disarmament. The question I asked you was why we have to have so many! And you just brought up the question of Cruise missiles—Cruise missiles would be able to carry conventional, chemical, or nuclear warheads. The Russians will not know which warheads are on which missiles. Verification would be impossible. Without verification you cannot have agreement, without agreement you cannot have multilateral disarmament.

SL

Let me ask Mrs. Thatcher to answer you very quickly, as quickly as she can. And I know it's difficult. Mrs. Thatcher, the nub of the question is: why so many, Mrs. Thatcher? [end p12]

MT

Because in fact the Soviet Union has so many and as far as we are concerned here, we are not having very many. On both Polaris and Trident, we're down to the irreducable minimum to deter. We have only 4 submarines we can only rely on one being on station at any one time and that is the irreducable minimum still to deter. On the Cruise Missile a comparatively small number coming here and of course they take the place of nuclear weapons. We are only too anxious to negotiate on disarmament. I do not believe myself that Andropov will negotiate seriously, as long as he believes that by his propaganda he can try to persuade people in this country to give up nuclear weapons but at the same time allowing him to keep all his. And I do suggest that many people who put this point to me would be better off addressing their points, their efforts in trying to persuade the Soviet Union not to go on putting so many extra nuclear weapons into place, because that is exactly what they have been doing a thousand SS20 warheads, 600 of which are targeted on Europe.

SL

Right I want to move on. Let me bring in Bill Sykes from Crawley in Sussex. Mr. Sykes, your question please?

Bill Sykes

5 years ago, Mrs. Sally Oppenheim said if the purchase in power of the pensioners' Christmas bonus is to be maintained it should be £20. Last year, Lord …   . said that it needed to be about £35. It is still only £10 in spite of the TV licence increase of £21. Which mollifies the Christmas bonus and leaves the pensioner £11 worse off.

SL

What's the question Mr. Sykes—do you want more money?

BS

How can you call yourself a caring government when you treat the pensioners so shabbily?

SL

Mrs. Thatcher can now ask for a brief answer on this one?

MT

Yes, I will give a brief answer. First on your weekly pension, the weekly pension has gone up more than prices have gone up. Your last increase under the last government was in November 1978, prices have risen since then by 61%;.

BS

Mrs. Thatcher, I'm talking about the Christmas bonus …   .

MT

…   . 68%;. We have paid a Christmas bonus, each and every year we've been in office—yes, it has only been £10. You did not get a Christmas bonus even of £10 for two years when Labour was in Office they don't pay it at all.

BS

…   . pensioners' bonus from £5 to £10.

MT

You do not get a Christmas bonus for two years during the lifetime of the last Labour Government, they paid you nothing at all in respect of two years.

SL

Do you remember that Mr. Sykes in 1975 and '76? [end p13]

BS

No.

MT

We have paid one each year. It is on top of the National Insurance Pension. Again, money that goes out has to be Let by money that comes in, this time from the tax-payer. And we have felt that having kept the pension well ahead of prices, and it will still be well ahead of prices this November, we could not actually ask the tax-payer to pay more to add to the Christmas bonus.

BS

I am talking about the Christmas bonus Mrs. Thatcher …   .?

MT

Yes, I have just answered about the Christmas bonus.

PS

No you haven't you've avoided the question. We're £11 worse off because of the increase in the TV licence from £25 to £46.

MT

May I repeat, the television licence you'd expect to come in the normal cost of living and it does come in the normal Retail Price Index and we have infact, kept the pension ahead of prices, the weekly pension.

BS

An increase of £21 a year to me and I only get £10 Christmas bonus, I'm £11 worse off.

MT

Yes and if you say how much your pension has gone up since November 1972.

BS

A percentage and a percentage of nothing is still nothing.

MT

I'm sorry, but the facts show the pension has gone up by 68%; and prices have gone up by 61%;, those are facts. On the Christmas bonus, you're right, it is still at £10, it is paid for by the tax-payer. We have paid that £10 through the tax-payer's money. Each and every year whereas Labour didn't. I cannot enter into a public auction at this Election. That public auction is with the money paid through tax and National Insurance Contributions of the working population. There are now some 600,000 more pensioners than there were when we came in.

BS

You still call yourself a caring government?

MT

I can only care with the money of other people and the money of other people, I do ask you has in fact provided a bigger pension than the rise in prices. And I think that during the time of a world-wide recession to have done that and to have spent more on the National Health Service and more on the disabled people, is a very, very good record both for government and for the burden which the 23½ million people who are in work, have to bear.

SL

Mrs. Thatcher, Mr. Sykes, can we leave that one there and come to our final subject of the evening from Mr. Paul Wheeler from Taunton in Somerset, who I'm told to tell you Mrs. Thatcher has an eye infection which is why he has got …   .

MT

I'm sorry, I do hope it gets better. [end p14]

SL

Mr. Wheeler, your question please.

Paul Wheeler

Mrs. Thatcher, when you were elected to Office in 1979 you promised to take action to improve law and order. But, despite the measures which you have implemented, crime figures have continued to rise. In the light of this, what further action would you take if you return for a second term?

SL

Before you answer that Mrs. Thatcher, let me just ask you Mr. Wheeler if you were Home Secretary what would you do about it?

PW

Well the first thing I would do would be to hold a referendum on the introduction of the death penalty.

SL

Mrs. Thatcher?

MT

With regard to what we have done about it as you know. We have paid police just exactly what the Edmand Davis Committee proposed and we have now got in England, 9,000 more policemen and they are properly equipped, and we've put more of them back on the beat. Now it takes a time to find them and to train them to get them on the beat and to see the improvement of doing that. But in fact I'm afraid you're right, crime has gone up and in good times and in bad, although the effect of putting the policemen back on the beat and having more of them and giving them extra powers is showing some benefit in Inner Cities. Now with regard to your referendum on hanging, I think I know what the result of a referendum on the death penalty would be. I believe that the majority of the people in this country who would vote, would vote for the restoration of the death penalty. I too would do that, and have always done so when it has come up in Parliament because I believe that there are some people who go out with guns or weapons determined to shoot their way out if anyone sees them committing a crime. There would not do that if they felt that they might pay the penalty if they were found cut. I answer in that capacity as a person, not as Leader of the Conservative Party because it is always a personal vote.

SL

It is an enormously important point and that is reflected in the fact that we have an enormous number of letters about it. If I can just short-circuit the whole system. I'm sorry Mr. Wheeler can I just ask you. Will there be a free vote in the next Parliament …   .

MT

Oh indeed yes there is a free vote in every Parliament.

SL

And how fervent is your hope that there will be a return of capital punishment if that free vote is held?

MT

I believe that a return to capital punishment would deter some people who go out to do violent crime which leads to murder.

SL

Mrs. Thatcher and everyone around the country, thank you all very much indeed for being with us this evening. On Thursday Mr. Foot will be with me. On the Spot.