Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1983 May 31 Tu
Margaret Thatcher

TV Interview for BBC1 Panorama

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: TV Interview
Venue: No.12 Downing Street
Source: Thatcher Archive: transcript
Journalist: Sir Robin Day, BBC
Editorial comments: 1030-1300 diary records preparation and recording for Panorama . The Times , 2 June 1983, reported that the interview ran for forty minutes.
Importance ranking: Key
Word count: 8572
Themes: Autobiographical comments, Executive (appointments), Parliament, Conservatism, Defence (general), Economy (general discussions), Employment, Industry, General Elections, Monetary policy, Privatized & state industries, Public spending & borrowing, Foreign policy (USA), Health policy, Private health care, Law & order, Leadership, Social security & welfare, Terrorism, Strikes & other union action, Famous statements by MT

Fred Emery

Tonight, nine days to the election, Mrs. Margaret Thatcher puts the case for the Conservatives in an interview with Sir Robin Day.

Good evening. To judge by the opinion polls, the Conservatives now look unstopable. But the campaign's tempo and the temperature is hotting up … Labour attacking now with more zest and purpose have spent much of today berating Mrs. Thatcher with detailed accusations that she plans to dismantle the Health Service … the Conservatives showing how sensitive they are to the charge, promptly called a special news conference to denounce the accusations. The SDP/Liberal Alliance also are reacting optimistically to the latest opinion poll which gives them 24%; of the vote. It's a telephone poll by audience selection showing a 4%; rise in their popularity during the past week. According to David Steel, it shows that the tide is at last turning. Oddly enough, this fresh impetus has all coincided with Mrs. Thatcher's weekend visit to the Williamsburg summit. Labour and the Alliance treated her excursion with disdain—“Catostrophe”, said Labour because the summit decided no special measures to create jobs. “Self-congratulation with nothing to celebrate,” said the Alliance. But for the Tories, there was another political dividend to be had: a chance to display what they have chosen to see as their trump card—Mrs. Thatcher herself in her strong suit: leadership.

She's very much the new breed of Tory. A Grammer School girl who went to Oxford. And her father's grocer's shop in Granthem is still an important symbol to her of what hard work and thrift can achieve. Mrs. Thatcher was an MP for eleven years before becoming Secretary of State for Education in Mr. Heath 's Cabinet—her first and only major government post before becoming Prime Minister. After Mr. Heath 's defeats in 1974, she stood against him for the leadership where many of her more experienced male colleagues shied away from the challenge. Surprisingly, she knocked him out in the first round, and easily defeated Mr. Whitelaw in the run off. At the time, however, many felt that her inexperience could consign the Conservatives to years in Opposition. But four years later, when Prime Minister Callaghan left his 1979 election too late, she became the first woman Prime Minister in the Western world, proclaiming her determination not to U-turn away from radical hardline Tory remedies.

In her early days, on the international stage at least, her instincts were tempered by Lord Carrington who, for instance, persuaded her to make a Rhodesia settlement she hadn't wanted. But at home, her single-minded pursuit of monetary policies and government spending [end p1] cuts led to almost open Cabinet revolt. By the end of 1981, she had removed or neutralised most of her Cabinet opponents, but had become, in the process, according to the opinion polls, one of the most unpopular Prime Ministers on record.

The Falklands changed all that. By the time she was able to visit the islands herself this year, the very qualities which before the fighting contributed to her unpopularity, seemed to have made her in party and personal terms unassailable. The resolute approach, as the phrase had it, had seen off her Cabinet opponents, and it seemed to blunt the potential electoral damage done back at home by the recession. This was evident at the launch of the Conservative manifesto. Indeed, some commentators thought too much so. Mrs. Thatcher seemed at times to be displaying her dominance over the so-called “wets” in the Cabinet as enthusiastically as she was presenting the policies themselves.

As with any party in power, the Conservatives devote much of their manifesto to what they've already achieved. The Falklands gets three mentions for instance. Council house sales are prominent alongwith the low inflation rate which Mrs. Thatcher says she'll make lower still. As for what's to be changed, the new proposals, top of Mrs. Thatcher's own list is Trades Union reform—to curb what the manifesto calls “abusive power by union leaders.” There'll be new laws giving union members the right to elect their union governing bodies by ballot. And if the unions won't devise a better system for letting members contract out of the political levy, the government may legislate one for them. Thirdly, they'd make unions hold secret ballots before calling strikes by removing immunities and making them liable for damages if they don't. By comparison with the union package, the pledges on jobs are rather slim … little more than an exhortation to accept that the present government's policies are right. But there is an important section on the nationalized industries, with pledges to transfer more of them to private ownership—continuing the programme of the last four years. British Airways, British Telecom, Rolls Royce, substantial parts of British Steel and British Leyland, and as many as possible of Britain's airports will be privatised. And they'll try to attract private capital into the gas and electricity industries. Under the heading: “Encouraging Free Enterprise”, they talk about advancing the new high technology rather than the traditional industries of this country, including the launch of new cable networks. Not just TV, but teleshopping and telebanking as well. “Responsibility and the Family” includes a section on the National Health Service, which they claim they have expanded and made better value for money. But they welcome the growth of private health care and say they'll promote a closer partnership between the state and private sectors.

The section “Law, Democracy and the Citizen” makes it clear that they'd reintroduce the controversial Police and Criminal Evidence Bill. Another important commitment in this section—they'll abolish the metropolitan councils and the Greater London Council, and introduce a new law which will limit local authority power to increase the rates, though there's no commitment to abolish rates [end p2] which had been very close to Mrs. Thatcher's heart. Finally, Defence, and a clear statement that failing agreement with the Soviet Union, they'll start installing Cruise missiles here. And we in Britain, they say, must maintain our own independent nuclear deterrent as contribution to Allied as well as British defence. But all in all, what many have remarked upon is how little new there is in the manifesto; how few explicit promises to do this or abolish that. Well, that, say Labour and the Alliance, is because it's all only for show; that the manifesto is in fact a blank cheque for a Thatcherite world, and that there are plenty of coded references around to make clear what would happen if the Tories were re-elected.

Denis Healey led the assault at Labour's special press conference yesterday with allegations of what he called “the true Tory manifesto”. The end of statutory redundancy payments, abolishing equal pay for women, no increase in pensions in line with the cost of living, and so on; a vintage Healey broadside.

Rt. Hon. Denis Healey, MP

There is no question that following Williamsburg the prospects for the people of this country, particularly for families, would be appalling if the present government were returned to power specially when it were purged of the few remaining traditionalists. She got rid of the moderate peers like Lord Soames, Lord Hailsham and Lord Carrington. In this government we know that Willie Whitelaw, Francis Pym and Jim Prior are for the chop if she wins again. And we on this platform don't want to see Norman Tebbit 's “desk squads” running riot through our Health Services and civil liberties.

Fred Emery

Well, Labour and the Alliance, each in their own way, are still maintaining that their race against Mrs. Thatcher isn't over. And, indeed, it's not. But the fact is that what most people are now discussing—on the evidence of the polls anyway—is not whether the Tories win, but by how much. And the Opposition parties aren't the only ones asking what the effect of a massive Tory majority would be.

At the start of the campaign, some Right-Wing radicals in the Conservative Party were privately disappointed that the manifesto didn't spell out their vision of a brave new world more clearly. But there are, too, some moderates in the Conservative Party who're now worried that in the event of a landslide, the manifesto's unspecific language could turn out to mean more than the country bargained for.

Sir Robin Day spoke to Mrs. Thatcher in Downing Street this afternoon.

Sir Robin Day

Prime Minister, do you understand why some people, including some of your own Tory people, are worried at the thought of you getting too big a majority?

Rt. Hon. Margaret Thatcher, MP (Prime Minister)

No, I don't, because there's only one way to be certain that Conservatives get a majority at all and that is to support the Conservative candidate in each and every constituency. Otherwise some people might say, “well, they're going to get a big majority, we'll not vote for them here,” and the [end p3] result could be that we got no majority at all but that Labour does get a majority, and that would not, I believe, correspond with the wishes of the majority of our people.

Day

But what do you say to the thought which must worry some people that the elective dictatorship of a huge Commons majority should not be in the hand of someone so dogmatic and strongwilled as yourself?

Thatcher

I believe in certain things. I believe in them very strongly. Those things I place before the people openly in the manifesto. We did last time, they now had not only our last time's manifesto but our performance, they have this time's manifesto and the majority does not alter what is in the manifesto in any way. The policies, whether it is a majority of twenty, forty, or two hundred, are precisely the same. What it does change is the authority with which you're viewed abroad. If you get a really good majority then they know that you have the authority for the policies you're putting forward.

Day

Nonetheless, if you get a majority of a-hundred-and-fifty instead of a majority of fifteen that would raise your morale and would encourage you to go forward with—perhaps this is the view—policies which are perhaps a little more Thatcherite than some of those in the manifesto?

Thatcher

No, I shall carry on in exactly the same way as I have in the last four years. I believe certain things very strongly. We follow those things, we persist in those things. But we're always ready to help to cushion some of the harsh effects of some of the world recession. And, indeed, you know, I have. People were quite surprised that we went on supporting British Leyland. I did because I knew the devestating effect on the West Midlands and on other places if we didn't. But we didn't just say, “look, here's the taxpayers' money.” We said: “Look, you've got to earn it. You've got to perform better. You've got to stop your striking.” And so we achieved two things: we helped them to a better performance, but we helped many many people through difficult times.

Day

A serious charge is being levelled at you in the middle of this campaign, Prime Minister, and that is that you're trying to con the electorate with what appears to be a relatively moderate manifesto and you're concealing your real intentions. This is the charge. What do you say to it?

Thatcher

It is an absurd charge. I believe most people know that I've been absolutely honest about what we're going to do and why we're going to do it. But there's one other thing. At the beginning of this campaign, I was warning that this would happen. The reason is because the same thing happened during the last campaign. Let me read you an example, it came up at the Press Conference this morning, so I'm ready for it. During the last campaign the Labour Party then ran a scare story—several scare stories—first to recut pensions. Secondly, that we would abandon the National Health Service. This is what Mr. Hattersley actually said on the 19th of April, 1979. He said there can be no doubt that when Mrs. Thatcher talks about Tory cuts in public [end p4] expenditure, the future levels of pensions is an item high on her list. That was his last time's scare. Note the similarity with this time's. Let me look what was our performance. Let me give you our performance. The retirement pension was £19 for a single person, £19.50 when we took over. It's now £32.85. For a married couple, when we took over, it was £31.20. It's now £52.55. That was our performance. It's over and above the increase in prices. The scare was cruel, callous and designed to make frightened the very people whom we all wish to protect. There's another one on the National Health Service, but you carry on with your questions and I'll try to supply the answers.

Day

If I may, Prime Minister, because …

Thatcher

They must not heed those scares. They're cold, callous and ruthless. And they make frightened the very people we should be protecting.

Day

If we go back to the 19th of April, 1979 that happens to be the same date on which you said you'd had no intention of putting up prescription charges?

Thatcher

Would you please quote, Mr. Day? Would you please quote what you are saying?

Day

Yes.

Thatcher

Would you please quote precisely?

Day

Yes, I can because I heard you say it at the Press Conference this morning, and I know what you're going to tell me, but you said “no government could possibly give a commitment to say they wouldn't go up?”

Thatcher

Let me give you whole …

Day

You did say you had no intention … Let's not get involved in too many detailed quotations, Prime Minister … you did say you had no intention of putting up prescription charges?

Thatcher

Let me give you the question and the answer. Not interpretations, but what came from the actual Press Conference in the last election. The question: “Accepting the pledge you've made that you'll continue to spend the same amount on the Health Service not reduce it. But can you make a specific statement that you would not increase prescription charges, and that you would not charge for visits to the doctor or for hospital stays?” Answer: “I cannot make specific statements. I don't think there'll be any question of charging for visits to a doctor. I doubt very much whether any responsible government could say that over a period of five years, regardless of what happened to the value of money, they would not put up prescription charges. I doubt whether they could.” [end p5]

Day

But did you not also say you had no intention of putting them up at that time?

Thatcher

They went on questioning me and I said it is not my intention to raise these charges …

Day

That is what I said.

Thatcher

Yes, indeed. But what was quoted this morning was that I had given an undertaking not to put up prescription charges.

Day

I didn't …

Thatcher

One moment, Mr. Day …

Day

I didn't accuse you of giving an undertaking. I said that you had said that you had no intention of so doing and yet a few weeks afterwards you did increase them.

Thatcher

Indeed, yes, we had to. Don't forget that when we got into office and locked at the books Labour had left us with a debt of twenty-two-billion dollars. We've now, in spite of world recession, paid off ten-billion of that, the rest is still round our necks and round the necks of our children, if we don't manage to pay it off. I was quite clear that no government could give that undertaking. I could not give that undertaking now, and do not. I gave two undertakings then. One was that I would not put, or not institute charges for stays in hospitals nor for going to the doctor. I repeat those pledges. Those are ones that we can give. What I cannot take is totally and utter selective quoting designed to deceive, and it was designed to deceive. In the meantime, may I point out that we have spent far more on the National Health Service than ever Labour did. We have more doctors, we have more nurses, and our performance on the National Health Service excels anything which they were able to achieve.

Day

Can I now come to the substance of the matter and to ask you whether there is any intention at all on your part, if you're returned to power, of privatising the National Health Service in some way or other or changing the basis on which it is funded?

Thatcher

We already cooperate between the National Health Service and the private sector, and it makes sense for both to do so. For example, many beds in the National Health Service are taken up by geriatric patients who have nowhere to go, therefore they have to be looked after. Honestly, it doesn't make sense to have them in hospital beds when they really need looking after rather than medical attention. And we already cooperate. Some of them go out under contract with the National Health Service to private nursing homes where they're looked after. That is to the benefit of the National Health Service and to the benefit of those who run private nursing homes, and it's a very very good thing. We have no intention of changing the finance of the National Health Service. As you know [end p6] Sir Alec Merrison looked at this and had a major report upon it, and it's very interesting. But we have no intention of changing it, it will continue to be financed by taxation.

Day

Do you stand by your statement of last October (and I quote), Prime Minister. “The National Health Service is safe with us. The principle that adequate health care should be provided for all regardless of ability to pay must be the foundation of any arrangements for financing the National Health Service.”

Thatcher

Yes, Mr. Day …

Day

Then why isn't that in the manifesto?

Thatcher

Because no one had ever thought that there would again be a charge of the kind we had in the last election that we would dismantle the National Health Service. It was proved to be false, bogus and phoney last time.

Day

But you made the statement twice. Once at the Tory Conference, once in the House of Commons …

Thatcher

Please may I answer? It is false, bogus, phoney and calculated to deceive this time. The National Health Service is safe with us. Our performance in the National Health Service is better than that of the last Labour government, and I would no more think of dismantling the National Health Service than I would think of dismantling our defence forces.

Day

If you do get a big majority, Prime Minister, would you see that as a clear mandate for continuing your policy of high unemployment?

Thatcher

I have not a policy of high unemployment. I have a policy for securing a better standard of living for all of our people and a policy for procuring jobs in the longer run. That has to be done on a sound financial basis, not on borrowing from the IMF, money which the Labour Party couldn't possibly repay. Not of having a false boom which goes to a bust, but steady, continuous, sound financial policies. Steady rise in industrial efficiency. Steady policies of pleasing the customer and then you win the jobs. Those policies are the right ones. And I think people in their hearts and minds know that. The whole world has been hit by the world recession. Twenty-six-million people are out of work …

Day

Are you saying that the increase of unemployment is entirely due to the world recession?

Thatcher

Not entirely, no. I think there are four reasons. One is the world recession, another is that at the same time we've got all the newly industralised countries of the Far East producing the goods which we used to produce and marketing them here and overseas. [end p7] That is new competition. Thirdly, we've got new technologies coming. The first effect of those new technologies is as you know is to take away unskilled and semi-skilled jobs. The next effect is to create more jobs, and more jobs are being created now, because it makes possible all sorts of products that we never thought of before. The fourth one in this country is that we were hit harder because we had never dealt with certain things in the past—overmanning, restrictive practices. For the whole decade of the seventies our inflation was at a higher rate than that of our competitors. And, one of the worst things of all, people regarded themselves as having an absolute right to increases in pay regardless of output, and regardless of industrial performance. Those things were worse here. And we had to tackle those as well.

Day

Do you say that your government has had no responsibility whatever for the increase in unemployment since 1979?

Thatcher

In putting inflation top priority to get it down it meant that in the short-run we'd have a bigger increase in unemployment. It means in the longer-un—and the longer-run is that which will happen in the next Parliament—in the longer-run our jobs will be better and more secure and have better prospects for the future.

Day

So you do accept responsibility as your …

Thatcher

I accept that I had to take a decision as between the short-run which would have meant you could have phoney short-run jobs which would have come out in higher longer-term unemployment. I think it's better to pursue a policy which gives our young people better prospects for good jobs which they can keep, and therefore they can begin to plan their future around something that is much more built on rock than the sandy, phoney, high-inflation, boom or bust policies.

Day

Does your policy of continuing to reduce inflation require a further increase in unemployment?

Thatcher

No, it does not. What is more, the policy of reducing inflation now is protecting the jobs of the twenty-three-and-a-half-million people in work. And if we ever went to a higher—policy of high inflation, many many of those twenty-three-and-a-half-million people in work would be very very fearful indeed. A lot of them are in work for exports, a lot of them have to compete with imports into this country and a much bigger proportion of those twenty-three-and-a-half-million jobs would be at risk. And it would be at risk now if I hadn't pursued the policies I have. And I think we're coming to the time when the rate of unemployment would have been higher in this country had Labour pursued their policies, and in the future it'll be much higher. To go back to a policy of high inflation would put twenty-three-and-a-half-million jobs at risk. And to come out of Europe would put a lot more as well. [end p8]

Day

When do you think unemployment will start to come down, Prime Minister?

Thatcher

I am very wary of predicting when. I know the opportunities are there. I go round and see companies—new companies starting, and in the last two years there's been a net increase of twenty-thousand more companies which have started. I go round to the new technologies as I did all day Friday. There were marvellous success stories there. But some of the older industries are still in difficulty—some of the steel and the coal and there's still overmanning on the railways. And those are still coming down while the others are going up. But the new jobs are coming. I'm wary of when the cross-over point will come, but I believe that within a reasonable time—if you ask me just precisely what is a reasonable time, I can't really put a time on it—that there are more opportunities and that there'll be a good chance if those opportunities are taken. And if people give us a fair chance then unemployment will come down.

Day

Do you promise that unemployment will come down in your next term of office, if you get one?

Thatcher

I believe it will. I cannot promise it. I cannot. One moment, I'll tell you why. I could not foretell that people in good jobs in Halewood on Merseyside would go on strike and let the world know that when they've got good jobs and they've got good prospects they nevertheless put them in jeopardy by striking. I could not foretell that people in British Leyland, just when the taxpayer's given them money to produce two excellent cars—the Metro and Maestro—they'd tell the world that Britain is unreliable as a deliverer of cars if they went on strike. It depends on people. Democracy depends upon people, exercising their own responsibilities. We in government will exercise ours and give them every chance and every opportunity.

Day

Nonetheless, the tradition since the war has been accepted by all governments, from Churchill through to Heath, that governments have a responsibility to maintain full employment. Have you turned back on that principle?

Thatcher

No, I have not. This is a question that frequently comes up. I have carried this employment policy White Paper with me for many years …

Day

So I've heard, Prime Minister.

Thatcher

So you've heard. It's even got my maiden name on top—Margaret Roberts. Let's look at what that says …

Day

Don't read too much of it, will you?

Thatcher

No, it's on my side. I'll gladly read you the whole lot. But let's have a look at one of those which is right at the beginning, and I've quoted it before, but not on television. [end p9]

Day

Yes, paragraph 56?

Thatcher

No, right at the end of the foreword. I'll quote you paragraph 56 too if you'd like. It says this: “The success of the policy outlined in this paper will ultimately depend on the understanding and support of the community as a whole, and especially on the efforts of employers and workers in industry, for without a rising standard of industrial efficiency we cannot achieve a high level of employment combined with a rising standard of living.” Mr. Day, that's pure Thatcherism. Now do you want paragraph 56?

Day

Well, it might help if you like because it says something about private enterprise—letting people stand on their own feet?

Thatcher

No, it says: “For if an expansion of total expenditure were applied to cure unemployment of a type due not to absence of jobs but to failure of workers to move to places and occupations where they were needed, the policy of the government would be frustrated and a dangerous rise in prices might follow.” I think what you really meant was paragraph 54?

Day

That's right.

Thatcher

“Workers must examine their trade practices and customs to ensure that they do not constitute a serious impediment to an expansionist economy and so defeat the object of a full employment programme.” There are lot more paragraphs … I think you might like to ask another question. But you see that policy for full employment is the policy which I am pursuing.

Day

Well, then, what do you say to what Mr. Prior said the other day, Prime Minister. He said this, and I quote: “You can't tell people the whole time that they must take the medicine unless it is going to result in something better for them afterwards.”

Thatcher

Yes, but I believe that there are already signs of recovery. And I answer it in that way. And if you look today at the CBI survey you'll find that they, too, have said that improvements in the economy continue. So there are signs. Also, don't forget inflation down itself—down to four percent—is enormously good news for everyone who saves; everyone who's got savings in building societies, in National Savings—that's a lot of people. Every old age pensioner who's saved, everyone who wants to invest in industry. They know that if inflation is down they won't suddenly find the cost of their investment running ahead of their resources. Everyone who wants to rebuild stocks, everyone who wants to invest in housing and the construction of housing. That itself is good news for those people, and good news for jobs. Productivity up fourteen percent. That's good news for everyone who works in industry. It means we can hold up our heads and compete. It means that we're rising to the challenge of the times. It means that Britain has a new self-confidence … [end p10]

Day

But is not the challenge of the times, particularly for the Western world, mass unemployment? And you did not put, as I understand it, any proposals forward at the Williamsburg summit for joint concerted for expansion and growth to deal with unemployment such as, for instance, Mr. Heath has argued for and many others … and Mr. Jenkins?

Thatcher

The whole of the Williamsburg communique and the whole of our discussions were about trying to get a better standard of living, and that is a quotation from the document, if you've got it there. A better standard of living and more jobs. The methods were set out there. Again, if I might say so, the viewpoint of the seven industrialised nations, their leaders, their finance ministers, their advisers is to endorse the policies I am pursuing. Let me go over it, it is in the communique itself. If you want me to quote from it I will. It is: Get inflation down. Get interest rates down, pursue policy …   . two-thirds; get deficits down. We've done all of those things … and keep a firm control on expenditure. Try to persuade people that they must accept new technology because in the end it will produce more jobs. That's what we're doing and we're giving grants for new products and new technology to try and get them on to the market. Try to stop protectionism, because in fact if we get an expansion of world trade it helps industries … it helps countries that export. In the meantime, you must help those people who are unemployed and particularly help the young and have massive training schemes. We have the biggest ones ever started in this country. The most exciting go-ahead one starting in September. But we don't wait for that. We also have a thousand million pounds being spent to help the unemployed on special measures. Every single one of those things which they endorse. And they say we have to do these things together, because that's the way in which to get an expansion …

Day

Was not the Williamsburg summit, however, a failure from the point of view of those who wanted to see these great industrial nations commit themselves, as they did at a previous summit, to a certain degree of growth—to expand their economies?

Thatcher

They are referring back to the Bonn summit which urged those countries which in fact had been very wise and prudent in financial policies and had got inflation down. They asked them to reflate by one percent. In other words they urged those who'd run prudent policies to run imprudent ones. Germany did it and her inflation went up and ultimately her unemployment went up, and she will never do it again. They were asking them to run unsound policies. They tried it once and they won't again. Look at what happened to running those unsound policies. We ran into the worst about of unemployment we've known in the post-war period.

Day

Why does the government prefer to spend fifteen-billion pounds or more, Prime Minister, a year keep people doing nothing rather than spend some at least of that to encourage them to do something less wasteful and more constructive? [end p11]

Thatcher

I don't know where you get the fifteen-billion pounds from …

Day

Well, can I tell you?

Thatcher

Yes, it's a totally inaccurate figure, and it's based on not getting income tax in which we would get if people were in work. The precise figure of spending on people who are unemployed I will give it to you. It's been given in the House of Commons many times. It is five-and-a-half-billion. Of that 1.8 billion comes out of the National Insurance Fund for unemployment benefit for which people are insured. The difference between 1.8 billion and 5½ billion is because most people who are unemployed are on social security payments which tops up their unemployment, and the actual figure paid out to help those who're unemployed to have a reasonable standard of living is 5½ billion. Some of them go out and do part-time work, they can do a certain amount. That's the actual figure. We also spend one-billion on special employment measures, including temporary part-time working compensation, including community programmes to help the long-term unemployed and added to that we're spending an extra billion on the training programmes. I can't stand false, phoney, distorted figures …

Day

Well, they're neither false, phoney or distorted, Prime Minister, and you know that I wouldn't put them to you if they were. The figure of fifteen-billion, now estimated at sixteen-billion or seventeen-billion that is the amount used in the large number of expert documents, including the All-Party House of Lords Select Committee on Unemployment and it quotes that figure. But anyway whatever the figure is …

Thatcher

No, no, no, I have not finished …

Day

Whatever the figure is, why do we spend money on keeping people unemployed rather them giving them constructive work to do which a lot of people suggest would be more sensible?

Thatcher

I'm coming back to that figure. I have given you the precise sums which are paid out …

Day

But that's one way of looking at the figures, Prime Minister, we can't have an argument about statistics. I can't contradict you, and I've quoted that one in good faith.

Thatcher

Mr. Day you raised the statistic. That statistic …

Day

But it's the one in common use in discussions.

Thatcher

I'm very sorry. What I'm saying is that it is the wrong one. The actual figure paid out on unemployment is 5½ billion. The figure you have calculated is what they might be paid on average earnings and the tax they pay which is lost, because we have unemployment. But it's nothing to do with the amount paid out for unemployment. I've indicated [end p12] we pay out 5½ billion. We're perfectly right to do so. I've indicated we've got two billion on special employment measures to help the unemployed. If half of those people who talk about unemployment knew how to go about and build and start and create new business, employ people and expand and really create genuine jobs in future, I'm mystified why they don't stop talking and do so.

Day

So every time Roy Jenkins or any other person of responsible expertise talks about fifteen-billion being spent on keeping people unemployed in one way or another that's a lot of nonsense, is it?

Thatcher

I give you the precise figures and I urge you to go and look at the calculation of that other which is based upon assuming that everyone has a job. Assuming that they're paid average wages and then calculating income that will be lost. If everyone had a job that would be absolutely marvellous, but those people who talk about it are not those people who have any idea how to create and build up an industry for themselves.

Day

Could we turn to the subject of defence, Prime Minister, because one can't spend the whole time on these extremely interesting economic questions. Were you able to get at the Williamsburg summit in your private talks with President Reagan any satisfaction on the question of dual key control of the Cruise missiles expected in this country?

Thatcher

Dual key did not come up in the summit because we had already dealt with it before … we had already dealt with the problem of joint decision. The argument was that the joint decision had not been reviewed in the light of the deployment of Cruise missiles either on or off base. Joint decision, as you know, is the formula that has stood from the time of Mr. Attlee with Mr. Truman through all prime ministers, Conservative or Labour, with the American presidents. We reviewed that, and it does apply to both Cruise missiles on base and off base, and you'll have seen that President Reagan gave an interview on it. And asked if that meant that we had a veto, he said: “Yes, of course, it does.”

Day

Did you ask for at any time either this weekend or before for dual control or dual key control as Dr. Owen says?

Thatcher

No, we have not because we were offered it right at the beginning if we should purchase the missiles. It did not seem to me the best use of money to purchase those missiles. What the Americans were doing was offering those to us and to everyone else who stations them for our own protection, for our own deterrence against the Soviet Union. When you're offered that, you do not in fact say: “All right, I will pay for it.” We have other things to do with our money, and it's very generous of them to offer them to us free. And so we said: “Right, the joint decision will continue to apply,” and now that has been published.

Day

Do you understand that many British people, including many of your own supporters would be happier if they knew that the British [end p13] Prime Minister had a finger on the Cruise safety catch.

Thatcher

What I think they're saying is that they distrust our staunchest allies. I do not. And if they tackle it in that way, what they're doing is undermining the whole of the NATO … the trust of the NATO alliance which is that if one is attacked we are all attacked. What they're doing is saying that what has been all right and satisfactory for every Labour prime minister, every Conservative prime minister until now is no longer satisfactory because they mistrust. I do not mistrust. Even a veto doesn't quite accurately express it, because it's deeper than that. Yes, we do have a veto. But should the commander-in-chief … should war start and the commander-in-chief come on and wished to use nuclear forces it isn't that America decides and then asks us if we agree. We're all in it together … we're in the thing consulting the whole time as to whether a decision should begin to form. If you cannot trust your staunchest ally who has done so much for the defence of Europe, which has three-hundred-and-fifty-thousand of her soldiers stationed in Europe and their families, which in fact had the Marshall Plan for Europe, which is taking the role of policeman all over to keep peace with freedom and justice, then you are fundamentally undermining, and wilfully undermining the whole of our defence strategy.

Day

What are the circumstances, Prime Minister, in which you or any other British prime minister would have to use or would have to be ready to use the British strategic deterrent—Polaris or Trident—independently of America or NATO?

Thatcher

The British independent deterrent is total last resort deterrent, if we ourselves were threatened by the Soviet Union. Our Polaris strategic missiles are only 2½%; of what the Soviet Union has—we face something like two-thousand-six-hundred …

Day

Why do we actually need it. Why can't we trust our American allies?

Thatcher

Because I cannot in the end rely upon not being threatened separately. After all we had to stand alone last time, and this is a total last resort.

Day

May I put you on that point what a former Chief of the Defence Staff said—Field-Marshal Lord Carver—and I better quote his words accurately: “I can conceive of no circumstances in which it would be right, responsible or realistic for the prime minister of the United Kingdom to authorise the use of British nuclear weapons when the President of the United States was not prepared to authorise the use of any U.S. nuclear weapons?”

Thatcher

But with all due respect to Lord Carverhim, his views are not shared by other Chiefs of Staff, and with all due respect to him, he's missed the point. The point about nuclear weapons is not use: it is to deter other people from the use either of nuclear weapons, chemical weapons, biological weapons, conventional weapons, because that's what they've [end p14] got. And do you know bullies go for people who are weak. They do not go for people who can deter. This is a deterrent weapon. It has worked not only to stop nuclear war, but to stop any other kind of conventional war, and even conventional is terrible.

Day

But it only deters if the Russians believe that it will be used?

Thatcher

Of course, that is a deterrent. If they believed that someone was just sitting there and saying, “well we've got them, but don't worry anyone in Moscow, don't worry you lot in the Kremlin, of course we'd never use it,” it wouldn't be a deterrent and you'd be liable to have either theirs used or they'd start a conventional war and could sweep across Europe and sweep across us as well. It is a deterrent. It has kept the peace in Europe for thirty-eight years. That is to be the greatest price of all.

Day

Is Polaris a deterrent against conventional attack only or only against nuclear attack?

Thatcher

It is a deterrent against a major war starting in Europe. Now if you had no nuclear deterrent, I thought the point was put very well, I remember there being quite an argument, I can't use on BBC or ITV, but quite a number of people were lined up and I think it was Group Captain Cheshire…   .so vividly impressed by it who said, “look, if you haven't got nuclear weapons you then just couldn't fight anyone who had. There wouldn't be any point in starting to fight them with conventional. You would start …   ..” The …   . said, “right, you fight with conventional, we use nuclear.” And I mean what is … the only alternative to nuclear deterrent is surrender or capitulation. Surrender or capitulation for Britain?—never.

Day

Let me move to another form of deterrent, if I may, Prime Minister, that involved in our own problem of law and order. If a House of Commons under a large Tory majority were by a free vote to vote to bring back capital punishment for murder would the government under you feel obliged to introduce a Bill to give effect to that wish?

Thatcher

Yes, of course we should. I have always voted for capital punishment. I believe—and it is an individual belief and I speak now as a Conservative candidate because each person has a free vote on this. I'm speaking not as leader of a party, but as a Conservative candidate. I believe that there are some people who'll be deterred if they knew that should they murder someone else they would suffer the final penalty. So if we get a majority then, and as Willie Whitelaw said in our press conference the other day, we should honour that majority and bring in a Bill to restore capital punishment.

Day

For what?

Thatcher

Well, for murder … [end p15]

Day

All murders as before?

Thatcher

Well, indeed. You have to decide what is murder, what is manslaughter, what is first degree murder, what is second degree murder, what are the defence. And as you know there was a very very complicated law before, but you'd have to bring in capital punishment as “a punishment” for murder, not as the only punishment. You know there was a time when for murder capital punishment was the “only there was a time when for murder capital punishment was the “only punishment”. At the moment capital punishment is not available as a sentence. It will be available as one sentence for murder, and of course the rest will be up to the judge as to which sentence he imposed.

Day

But are you sure that you want capital punishment for terrorist murders, bearing in mind that one type of murderer who may not be deterred is the fanatical, political terrorist. Indeed, why have we abolished capital punishment by a Conservative government in Northern Ireland?

Thatcher

Capital punishment, as you know, has been abolished really by a free vote of the House of Commons. I think it was back in 1956. It was before I was in the House, and I think it was abolished then. I believe that capital punishment should be available, and I believe there are some acts of terrorism which are so hideous, so callous, so cold-blooded and so cruel that it would be as well if the sentence of of capital punishment were available for that. The precise detail of a Bill would have to go through the House of Commons. First we'd have to get a vote to bring it back. Then a Bill would have to go through all its stages. So I stress I am talking on this subject as a Conservative candidate, as a person …

Day

Yes, yes, but your government would obey the wish of the House of Commons and bring in a Bill and advise Parliament on how it should be done?

Thatcher

Government is accountable to the House of Commons. It is a pride of our democratic system that we are.

Day

Could we just come towards the end of this interview, Prime Minister? May I ask you this, and if the voters (coming back to the general election campaign) are the voters not entitled to ask you, if you are elected again, whether you will have a Cabinet consisting solely of hardline Thatcherites or whether those who are known to be less strongly Thatcherite in their opinions will be ditched—sacked?

Thatcher

I'm not going to form my Cabinet again before I've won an election. But let me just say this. I think all prime ministers have all views of their party reflected in their Cabinet.

Day

So Mr. Pym and Mr. Prior and Mr. Whitelaw and Mr. Walker are not necessarily going to go?

Thatcher

You're going further than I wish to go. [end p16]

Day

Well, naturally, that's part of my job, Prime Minister.

Thatcher

Yes, indeed, it's part of my job to try to stop you. All prime ministers have various views in their party reflected in their Cabinet because you have still to keep your party together. And it is not just stones coming down and handed out to people. We are a party. We believe strongly in certain things. We discuss them among one another. We even talk to one another in the Conservative Party and discuss together, and we form those policies. We set out our broad direction, and I have a Cabinet which has carried out our broad direction and carried it out very well. We keep the whole party together and we've done it very well.

Day

I asked you that question, Prime Minister, not simply to be mischievous but because many voters who might be deciding whether to vote for the Alliance might worry, well if she wins a wacking great majority she's going to get rid of all those “wets” and she's just going to go on on her own line but …   . to criticize.

Thatcher

Perhaps you've been very kind and given me the opportunity to indicate my views, but may I also point out no Cabinet minister has resigned of his own accord from my Cabinet save John Nott who went because he was not going to stand again, and not on any matter of policy.

Day

As we enter these last few days of the campaign, Prime Minister, are you afraid that people who might otherwise have voted for you to prevent a left-wing Labour government will now feel free to vote Alliance because they don't see any chance of a left-wing Labour government, any danger of one and that you've got a huge lead?

Thatcher

There is always a chance of a Labour government getting into power on polling day which is the only poll that counts unless more Conservative members are returned to Parliament on that day, and to think that you have some latitude is totally and utterly wrong. The exercise of that latitude could lead in fact to the return of a Labour government even though the people do not want that. And so there's only one way to ensure that a Labour government is not returned and does not carry out that very extreme manifesto, and I believe that indicates the truth of what they would do, and that is to ensure that we have a good Conservative majority. Only one way, and don't look at the polls—no poll matters—until the one on polling day. And that's the way you actually vote …

Day

Finally, Prime Minister, why have you refused an invitation to take part in direct debate with the other two party leaders. Wouldn't that be better than bandying statistics with interviewers and so on?

Thatcher

No, I believe you get more thorough chance to question me in the way in which you are doing it now. The others, and I've seen some of them, they start to shout at one another, they talk over one another. I've had it every Tuesday and Thursday in Parliament for four years. It is not conducive to getting the true policies and good debate. It is clash, it is hurling insults, it is making false [end p17] allegations. This is much better, this is considered, it is studied, I give you considered replies and I believe you get much better idea of the true manifesto and the true policies this way.

Day

Prime Minister, may I apologise to you for having interrupted you occasionally. I had to make the same apology to Mr. Jenkins last week. I did so simply out of enthusiasm for the subject and the interest of the viewer.

Thatcher

That's all right, I can cope with you.

Emery

Mrs. Thatcher putting the case for the Conservatives there with Sir rather than Mr. Robin Day at Downing Street this afternoon.

Next week, the case for Labour with Mr. Michael Foot.

From us all here, good night.