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

1983 May 18 We
Margaret Thatcher

General Election Press Conference launching manifesto

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: Press Conference
Venue: Conservative Central Office, Smith Square, Westminster
Source: Thatcher Archive: Central Office transcript
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: The Press Conference began at 1030.
Importance ranking: Key
Word count: 8339
Themes: Parliament, Conservative Party (organization), Defence (general), Defence (arms control), Defence (Falklands War, 1982), Higher & further education, Employment, Industry, General Elections, Monetary policy, Privatized & state industries, Energy, Public spending & borrowing, Taxation, European Union (general), Health policy, Housing, Labour Party & socialism, Law & order, Local government, Local government finance, Media, Northern Ireland, Science & technology, Social security & welfare, Trade union law reform

The Prime Minister

Cecil ParkinsonMr Chairman, colleagues, can everyone see? I thought not. Could we have a photographic session afterwards do you think? …   . I will allow plenty of time for that.

Thank you very much for coming, welcome to the launch of our Conservative manifesto 1983. I've got part of the team with me. Those especially concerned with the fundamental issues and also those particularly concerned with the new proposals. And I do especially thank Geoffrey Howe who is a Chairman of the Group who produced the manifesto and did most of the hard work upon it. The manifesto, I believe you will find is a robust work it contains proposals which are both sound and adventurous and is designed to meet the challenge of our times. Some of the policies in it represent the continuity factor in politics and others the need for change. Throughout I think you'll find it represents the Tory views that we need to increase choice for our people.

May I deal briefly with those factors which come under continuity of policies. First, we shall endeavour to bring inflation lower still. Lower inflation policy is a continuous policy. It is of course one which helps jobs by keeping down price increases to those which can rival or be better than our competitors. It will continue to make further improvements in tax allowances and tax reliefs. We hope to go better on National Insurance Surcharge. Our opponents put that terrible tax on jobs. We've gone a long way towards reducing it and we hope as prosperity increases to be able to allocate further amounts towards direct tax reductions on individuals. That is a continuous policy. Again very helpful on jobs because by cutting taxes on industry we help to keep their costs down. A continuous part of the policy will carry on with a robust policy towards the EEC, we are part of it, we fight our corner on those things we need to fight on and we fully co-operate with the policies of the EEC. It brings new investment to Britain, new job opportunities in the Common Market. And as you know, so many of our industries are geared and equipped to sell into that Market. The Defence policies will continue. We note that while others demonstrate about peace we've been keeping it in Europe.

The Pensions policy will continue. Pensions will be related—increases in pensions will be related to the actual price increases and not the estimated price increases. And retirement pensions will continue to be protected against rising prices. And I point out there that lower inflation truly helps the pensioner. They don't get the rapid increases between pension increases, so the value of their pension is not severely eroded during the year. And again I point out that low inflation protects the value of the savings of the pensioner. And they, my goodness, are a group which have saved over the years. You get continuity of policy in the Health Service, we really have maintained, indeed we've increased the resources allocated to the Health Service. There's a very very good piece on the Health Service pointing out the considerable achievements. When we came into power we were spending £7¾ billion on the National Health Service. We're now spending £15½ billion which is an [end p1] increase way ahead of price increases. And we shall of course continue to maintain the Health Service. There's an excellent programme for new hospitals £1.1 billion allocated and there a 140 new hospitals are either in the designing stage or being built.

All of those are examples of continuity of policies. We set out on that road four years ago. We shall continue on that road.

Now may I come to the other aspect. The aspect of change which is a fundamental part of Conservative policy is you need to adapt to the requirements of the present. I think it was Disraeli who said ‘change is constant’. Now the first change to which I draw your attention. Our new changes in Trade Union law. I will ask Norman Tebbit to have a word about those in a moment. The legislation will consist of holding ballots for the election of governing bodies of Trade Unions. It will enable Trade Unions to decide whether they should have party political funds, as you know I think that decision was made once in 1913 and has never been made since. And will curb the legal immunity of Unions to call strikes without a fair and secret ballot. Now there are one or two more things as well and I leave Norman to unfold the whole policy.

On Local Government and rates, may I deal first with the Metropolitan Councils including the Greater London Council. These have developed bureaucracies far in excess of their functions and their functions can now be carried out by other means—some by going to the boroughs, some by joint boards and some for example, transport by putting them to Transport Boards. Bureaucracy and waste is just not tolerable and therefore we shall abolish the GLC and the Metropolitan Councils.

Rates we have to tackle right across the board not only domestic but commercial and industrial. They are a particularly heavy burden on jobs when rates get very high. We have two broad proposals for rates together with some subsidiary ones which I will invite Tom King to discuss in detail. The broad proposals are these. The background being we struggled to get local public expenditure down to reasonable levels and local bureaucracies to be reduced, and in many places the increases in rates this year are very containable and reasonable and some for example, in Birmingham are even down. Good Tory Authorities. But there are a large number or a number of very very big spenders whose rate increases are quite excessive. We shall introduce legislation to curb those and at the same time we shall introduce general powers to limit the increases in rates. We hope we shall not have actually to bring those powers into operation but we shall take legislative powers to do so, but believe that, having curbed the big spenders and by conducting our policies with co-operation, we shall be able in practice to limit the increases in rates [words missing?] is not, and would not be fair to do so. On new legislation we shall bring back of course the Housing Bill which fell to enable local people who wish to have more opportunities to buy council property to do so. Some of those in leasehold property are denied that opportunity. On the change side I want particularly to highlight what this Government has done, is doing and will continue to do on introducing and embracing new technology. [end p2]

The only thing to be afraid about New Technology is if your competitors have it and you don't. And so we really have got a very robust and adventurous policy towards New Technology. The William WhitelawHome Secretary has a White Paper on cable television and satellite work and that will be translated into legislation. Again we were quick to grasp the opportunity—it's exciting, it's adventurous. Shortly before the Election we announced our conclusions on the Alvey Report. This again exciting, for the first time Government, universities and industry are entering into major collaborative research and technology to beat other people on the next generation of computers and beyond. £200 million of Government money, £150 million of industry money. Really preparing for the future, preparing the jobs for the future, seeing that Britain keeps a step ahead, are also in the change as you know. We'll seize the opportunity now to have the biggest again and most exiciting training scheme of all time, for young people. Some over 460,000 places in training for young people starting in September. So that we hope that out of the dark clouds of the recession, we can find some silver lining in seeing that our young people are properly trained for the jobs of the future. It is all under the heading of the changes that are required, that we're going to bring about.

The next change—quite substantial, further denationalisation—we shall of course restore the British Telecommunications Bill to denationalise it, we shall hope to make strides on introducing private capital, denationalising Rolls-Royce, British Airways, parts of British Steel parts of British Leyland, parts of British Shipbuilders and British Gas Offshore oil interests and possibly more. But again you'll notice, indeed I heard on the radio this morning certain people didn't really think that politicians knew very much about running industry—they don't. The logic is that you should denationalise the industry and put it into the hands of people who can respond to the market, win greater competition and greater choice. Again the choice theme runs through very strongly.

Now on the Home Office side in addition to the cable legislation, the Police and Criminal Evidence Bill will be restored to the House of Commons and go through its stages and its discussion again. We do note increasing public concern over offences against public decency and [this?] does often have links with serious crime so we shall introduce legislation to deal with the most serious of these problems, which is violent and obscene video cassettes and I believe that that will be welcomed in almost every home in the country. I point out that legislation in fighting crime is never enough. Crime fighters consist not only of police, they need the support and help of the public too. Now those therefore are the two headings—continuity and change and all with a view to trying to increase the choice and opportunities available to the electorate. May I just stress how much this means to trying to create genuine jobs? But if you are going to tackle unemployment, and this Government is determined to, you have to get genuine prospects of genuine jobs. And if you look at the programme I've outlined you will see that that is just what the programme does. Government will be keeping inflation down, getting interest rates down, those are not wholly dependent on us but dependent on other people as well, National Insurance Surcharge down, we're cutting the bureaucracy, indeed we have the lowest numbers in the Civil Service for twenty years, that means lower overheads [end p3] on industry, and we are hoping to keep down industrial rates which you'll here about later. All of that is helping to cut the costs on industry. That helps to compete, that helps to win customers, that helps to get more jobs. At the same time, within more than any other Government to stimulate the creation of new businesses and new products and go into the new technology and the new electronics. We are also doing a good deal to cushion the effect of change in the old industries, the steel and in a number of the other industries, and we have a very vigorous policy on public purchasing. Particularly for example in defence. Doubtless the Michael HeseltineDefence Secretary [words missing] and ninety per cent of our equipment comes from Britain and indeed even in Britain's shipyards, we now have £1.8 billion worth of ships being built.

We have a vigorous policy on training, because it would be absurd to do all of these things, the new technologies and not to have our young people trained for the jobs. And also in jobs, by staying in the EEC we shall keep a lot of jobs, we shall attract a lot more jobs for Britain and by our policies of good design and efficient industry we shall gain new markets in the Community. We must regard it as a challenge, a challenge to which Britain can respond and a challenge which will bring new jobs to Britain.

With regard to Britain's place in the world, you will of course find a very vigorous chapter on that, our first duty of a Government is to defend our peace with freedom and justice. The purpose of disarmament is never to undermine our defence but to enable it to be carried out at a lower level of weaponry. The method of getting a lower level of weaponry must be to get it on all sides simultaneously in balance and in a way in which we can expect and see and trust what one another is doing and you cannot to that without verification.

Now one other word. You want to know what our manifesto costs. At least, if you don't, you should. I hope it a question you're asking everyone at every conference. May I point out that our costs are—have been calculated, they are already included and have been published in all the forward expenditure programmes you have seen? May I ask you to contrast this totally responsible financial attitude of our manifesto with those of other Conferences which you may attend from time to time? Indeed, may I point out, Mr Joel Barnett referring to what the last Labour Government did at the beginning of its time—that most revealing book, ‘Inside the Treasury’, chapter three labelled “expansive days” -doubts his own Party's spending programme in this way. “Indeed it might be said that the first months of the new Labour Government were characterised by our spending money which in the event we did not have.” He went on, “instead of cutting expenditure, the Denis HealeyLabour Chancellor decided to maintain our expenditure plans and borrow to meet the deficit.” I quote because there is a certain similarity. This may have made life easier at the time but it has some dramatic consequences both for Joel Barnett personally and the country in general. You'll remember the dramatic consequences—we were dead broke in 1976—dead broke. Practically no reserves and no one would lend us a penny piece, we couldn't borrow it from abroad, or at home. And the only difference this time would be it wouldn't take two years—it would be reached very much longer. However, can I—very much shorter—I'm sorry, it would be reached at a very much shorter time—it does seem longer, it would be reached [end p4] in a very very much shorter time than two years. Thank you William WhitelawWillie.

Now I believe therefore our manifesto—I hope you'll see it's robust, and it's responsible. I believe it can lead to a better standard of living and for a brighter future for our children. I believe it will ensure that Britain remains a free country and a steadfast ally in an uncertain world. Now that's the end of the beginning.

Now, can I now go Norman—to the Geoffrey HoweChancellor for the economic assessment which is of course the centre of everything. Chancellor:

Sir Geoffrey Howe—Chancellor of the Exchequer

I begin with one point on which you touched at the end, Prime Minister. (PM, you must have a microphone). One of the things which Labour was driven to do within two years of coming into office last time, in their desperate attempts to balance the books, was to sell shares in BP. We've been glad to follow that example. They now intend to renationalise BP amongst a whole range of other industries, they intend to take into public ownership, with disastrous consequences. The fact is that our economic policies led to the position last year when growth around the world was still very faint and hard to see, Britain was one of the few countries in the world reporting positive growth last year, one of the very few years since the end of the war in which Britain was doing that. We grew by one per cent last year, as we had forecast we would. We expect to grow by two per cent this year in total output, and output in the first quarter of this year is one and a half per cent up on what it was in the last quarter of last year. Industrial manufacturing output particularly has been rising, and industrial output is now three and a half per cent up on what it was at the low point. So that all those are clear signs of on which we base our cautious optimism for the economy in the years ahead. They are based on our success in four key respects. The first, our success in getting inflation down to the lowest point since the late 1960s, inflation in Britain has fallen in the last year faster than any other country in the world. Interest rates similarly have come down by seven per cent from their high point. Taxation is also down. We've established a firm position in the European Community where over forty per cent of our trade is now conducted. In every one of those four respects those achievements will be reversed by a Labour Government. It is quite certain that their policies would lead as they did last time to a tear—away increase in inflation. It is quite certain that their high borrowing policies would lead as they did last time to a substantial increase in interest rates. We know, because they say so, that they would take Britain out of the European Community and thereby put at risk millions of jobs in this country which are secure with a Conservative Government, and we know, also because they have made it very clear in the last ten days, that they would reverse our policies of securing lower taxation. Under this Government the basic rate of income tax has come down by threepence in the pound. Under the last Labour Government it went up by threepence in the pound. Under this Government the point at which people start paying taxes—the tax threshold—has risen ahead of prices. Under a Labour Government it did exactly the reverse. And if you want to see in the clearest possible way a portent of what a Labour Government [end p5] would do, look at what they've forced upon the House of Commons in the Finance Bill last week. They insisted that the points at which people started paying higher rates of income tax should not go up. They did that, causing great potential damage to the middle management and professional people on whom industrial recovery in this country will depend. If a Labour Government is elected on June 9th then those tax changes which they forced on the House of Commons last week, will stand and more than a million people will be paying higher rates of income tax, key people to the economic recovery. The other thing which they did, which is of the same quality, they insisted that the point at which people start paying Investment Income Surcharge should not go up as we had proposed. So that again, they've made it very clear that if a Labour Government is elected on June 9th a quarter of a million people, half of them pensioners in retirement, would be paying higher rates of tax on their savings income. ‘By their fruits shall ye know them’—as Nye Bevan used to say ‘Why read the crystal when you can read the book?’. A prospective Labour Government has already advertised its intentions in the Finance Act that is now on the Statute Book. That is the way the future lies, one of several methods which a Labour Government would reverse the key features on which our economic recovery is based.

The Prime Minister

Thank you very much. Can I ask Norman Tebbit to deal with the Trade Union matters? Then Tom King, and then we're open for questions.

Norman Tebbit—Secretary of State for Employment

Thank you Prime Minister. First could I just say something very briefly, because you would think it unnatural if I did not, about unemployment? As we all know, that is partly due to the recession, that is less business in the world, and of course partly due to our own fault, because in the past we have lost our share of that business. Our fault included such sins as our prices going up faster than other people's, our taxes, most of all National Insurance Surcharge, going up faster than other people's, our interest rates higher than others, our strikes worse than others, our productivity lower than others, and a habit of propping up old industries at the expense of new, and of course our gross over-manning in many parts of industry.

The situation now has become somewhat different. Our prices—well, inflation, as the Chancellor has said, its lowest for fifteen years. National Insurance Surcharge cut and I hope to be cut still further as soon as possible. Strikes, we now have a far better record than many other countries. Productivity, has been increasing swiftly. We're shifting from the old industries to the new. Our over-manning, well, the gross over-manning is certainly a thing of the past, it is going in manufacturing. You have seen how swiftly it has been dealt with in such businesses as British Airways. In addition, as we spend some £2 billion a year on special employment measures and training measures to help those who have been hardest hit by unemployment. Those measures have been designed quite clearly to assist the industrial recovery. Most notably Youth Training Scheme, which from September onwards, means that no young school-leaver of sixteen need go onto the dole if he can't a job, there is a full year of training and work experience open to him or her. And of course there are many other measures such as Enterprise Allowance which is creating jobs in the special employment measures. Now what will interest you apart from [end p6] that of course are the measures on Trades Union reform.

I'll go through them very briefly. First, and I think perhaps most important is that we have decided to legislate to give Trades Unionists a right to elect the governing bodies of their own Unions. Fairly and freely. I think it astounding that that necessity has arisen in Great Britain, but one only has to read the words of Frank Chapple on the subject of the lying, the intriguing, the manipulating and the physical intimidation which has gone on in Trades Union elections to understand that that need is there. I'd hoped that the Trades Unions would reform themselves, we've offered them help, we've offered them money. They have refused both. So we will legislate to ensure that every Trades Unionist will have an equal and unrestricted opportunity to vote in secret by marking a ballot paper in a direct election to elect the governing body of his Union. And that that should happen at least every five years. Those Unions which are already up to that standard have nothing to fear. Those Union leaderships who have tried to prevent free elections have everything to fear. No trades unionist at shop-floor level, if he's interested in democracy, has anything to fear.

Secondly, we shall legislate on the issue of the political funds of Unions. The 1913 Act laid down that there should be a ballot to establish whether there should be a political fund or not. So there's no question of a new interference in Trades Union law. The 1913 Act has been accepted for seventy years. The trouble is that most of the ballots took place nearly seventy years ago. And in most Unions with political funds, those who voted on the issue are not only retired but probably dead and buried long ago.

Third, we shall take measures on the need to get more strike ballots before men are called out on strike. So, we shall legislate to withdraw immunity from strikes which are called without a ballot having been held. I'll explain more of the detail of that, if you wish, either now or later. We also have been much concerned about the Trades Unions' habits concerning the political levy. Even a moderate Trades Unionist, such as Mr. Gavin Laird, has said that it's his policy to make it as difficult as possible for men to contract out of the political levy. We intend to make the principle of trust that was established in the 1913 Act a reality. We shall invite the TUC to discuss with us what measures they would propose to ensure that there is a free and unfettered choice on whether the levy should be paid or not. If those talks are unsuccessful, then we shall have no hesitation but to legislate.

Finally, on the essential services. You will be aware of the great concern that has been caused by strikes in the essential services using innocent people as a means of blackmail against employers. Well, you'll recollect that the miners did ballot and didn't strike. You'll recollect that the water workers did not have a ballot in which they were enabled to mark on a ballot paper whether they wanted to strike or not. They were called out on strike. We shall consult again with the Unions on how we should proceed to specify particular essential services in law to construct procedural agreements for those with the aim of avoiding strikes and then we should legislate also to ensure that if those procedural agreements were not honoured, then there would be no immunity for such strikes. [end p7] I think that covers the main points, Prime Minister, thank you.

The Prime Minister

Thank you very much. Tom King on Local Government and Rates.

Tom King, Secretary of State for the Environment

As the Prime Minister made clear, we've given top priority to restraining Local Government expenditure. And our concern has been not just with the impact on domestic ratepayers, but very much in these difficult times of world recession with the impact on British industry and British commerce.

We have had considerable success due very much to the Government's success in reducing inflation, in getting down the average rate of rate increases, which have fallen in every year since this Government came to power. And, but for the activities of eighteen Labour Authorities, this year the average rate increase would in fact have been nil and that of course does reflect, as the Prime Minister referred to a little earlier, particularly the splendid performance of Conservative Authorities like Birmingham, who actually achieved a twelve per cent reduction in their rates this year by getting much better value for money in their performance. Now, we are not prepared to leave ratepayers in high spending authorities totally unprotected from the sort of demands that have been quite unreasonably put on them and which have done great damage both to domestic ratepayers and cause great distress and done particular damage to industrial and commercial ratepayers, and in some cases have done crippling damage to firms. So what we will find in the manifesto is that we shall legislate to curb excessive and irresponsible rate increases by high spending councils. The manifesto also makes clear that we intend to provide in that same legislation for a general scheme of limitation on rate increases to be used if necessary.

In addition to those proposals, there are also three detailed proposals which will be helpful to industry and have been much sought by them, and the first, which will be no imposition on responsible authorities who already do it, we shall provide a statutory [obligation?] on every local authority to consult with industry and commerce in their area before fixing rate increases and their expenditure for the year. A substantial number of authorities do that now but a number do not and we shall give that statutory duty to all authorities.

The second is that we shall extend to a wider range of businesses the opportunities which are available to the smallest businesses at the moment to pay their rates by installments, which is another useful help to cash-flow of a lot of businesses at a very important time, and we shall also stop the rating of empty industrial property, which has lead to certain quite unacceptable problems certainly in the Midlands, with the removal of roofs from certain factories where a particular number of Labour Authorities, even with the difficulties that everybody knows industry faces at the present time, where Labour authorities have continued to impose rates on such empty industrial property.

We have also been looking at the structure of local government, and we have looked particularly at the area where the concern has been the greatest, which is the question of the Metropolitan [end p8] Counties and the need for that particular tier in Local Government. As the manifesto makes clear, we're satisfied that these have been shown to be an unnecessary and expensive tier of Local Government and we therefore make clear in the manifesto that we shall abolish them and that we shall return their functions, the vast majority of functions will in fact return to their constituent broughs, and I would emphasise that the benefit of this change, which we have examined carefully but will now be the subject, now the announcement can be made which will need obviously detailed consultation on the implementation, but we're satisfied that it is the sensible and necessary step to take, and will of course significantly reduce the burden to a whole range of ratepayers up and down the country living in the present Metropolitan Boroughs and in all the London Boroughs who have suffered such serious additional impositions from the rate demands of the GLC and the Metropolitan Counties. And so that I know that proposal which I think is widely accepted as being a sensible step to take is one that this Conservative Government intends to take at the earliest opportunity.

The Prime Minister

Thank you very much. Now may we have your questions—the customary way—who you are, who you represent and to whom you would like your question addressed. Yes.

[Name missing] … New Statesman … I would like to address it to you, Prime Minister. In the light of some of the reports of the last couple of days, would you like to take this opportunity of saying clearly …   . appear in Conservative Election Broadcasts would be real doctors, teachers and factory workers in their real places of work—not actors appearing in hospital wards … or factories that have closed down in the last four years?

The Prime Minister

I think the Cecil ParkinsonChairman will deal with that, I'm very interested that that is your top priority question.

Cecil Parkinson Party Chairman

May I start by saying that don't believe everything you read in the newspapers, there were no actors involved, there will be no actors involved in any of our Party Political Broadcasts and anybody you see carrying out a function or working at a lathe or doing work in a hospital will be a person doing just that.

The Prime Minister

Next question.

Peter Young, Sunday Times

Is the wording on pensions in the manifesto to be read as an unqualified statement … taxation every year?

The Prime Minister

On pricing? Yes. On accordance with the actual basis. Would you just like to have a look—have you got it there? I've found it in the family section—‘Responsibility and the Family’ it is on page 26 the paragraph ‘Protecting the Pensioner’, and it says in the next Parliament we shall continue to protect retirement pensions and other linked long-term benefits against rising prices. Public sector pensioners will also to continue to be be protected on the basis of realistic pension contributions. I have hoped—I think that's clear. Thank you. Yes. [end p9] Walter Cronkite, … [Question inaudible].

The Prime Minister

Welcome.

You will find the full position set out in the reply to a Parliamentary question released just before the House rose and agreed. I'll ask the Michael HeseltineSecretary of State for Defence to comment there.

Michael Heseltine—Secretary of State for Defence

Yes we have a perfectly satisfactory arrangement reached in the early 1950s with the United States, governing … We have a perfectly …

The Prime Minister

I'm sorry, could you have the microphone?

Michael Heseltine—Secretary of State for Defence

We have a perfectly satisfactory arrangement reached in the early 1950s with the United States, governing the use of American bases and American nuclear weapons in Britain and that arrangement clearly provides that there will be no use of the bases or the nuclear weapons on those bases without the joint decision of the British Prime Minister and the American President. That arrangement applies now to the American F1-11 bombers, and the American Poseidon submarines based in Britain and we believe that that is a perfectly satisfactory arrangement to govern future nuclear weapons here, including the Cruise missiles which will come if we do not reach satisfactory agreements with the Soviets in Geneva. All Governments have found that arrangement satisfactory including of course the last Labour Government. Thank you. Next question—Sir Robin Day.

Sir Robin Day, BBC. … specific mention of Trident in the document.

The Prime Minister

Michael HeseltineSecretary of State for Defence.

Michael Heseltine—Secretary of State for Defence

We are committed to the purchase of the Trident system as a replacement of the Polaris submarine system and we are committed to the maintenance of an independent British nuclear deterrent which the present Polaris and the future Trident submarine systems represent.

Sir Robin Day. Is there any reason why …   .

Micheael Heseltine Secretary of State for Defence

I think that we are committed in the document to an independent British nuclear deterrent.

The Prime Minister

No, the answer is no. It is part of the continuity. Indeed I hadn't ever noticed its omission. It's part of the policy. I'm very grateful to you. Have you got any more? Who's next? Look, someone over here, yes, he's at the back. We'll let you have a look at the draft next time. I'm terribly sorry we can't fully hear you, could you shout?

[Name omitted]

I'd like to ask Mr. Tebbit … the flow of funds from the Trade Unions to the Labour Party … for shareholders … paid by their companies to the Conservative Party.

Norman Tebbit—Secretary of State for Employment

The question depends on whether you believe that allowing people a choice of whether to contribute to the Labour Party would impede the [end p10] flow of funds. If what you're saying is that you believe that there are many Trades Unionists who are unwilling donors to the Labour Party, I think you make the case for action.

The Prime Minister

Yes please, at the back.

[Name omitted]

Prime Minister you describe your policies as continuation and change but the policy on jobs seems to be continuation when under there is another Conservative Government … [sic].

The Prime Minister

I would have thought that the number of changes that I gave particularly in new technology, in training, in the formation of new businesses, in the Enterprise Schemes, represented good prospects for more genuine jobs in the future. That is what Government can do, it's up to industry and commerce to take advantage of those greater opportunities and the better climate and the greater efficiency of industry. That was very very substantial under the change aspect.

[Name omitted]

When will the dole queue go down by a reasonable sum.

The Prime Minister

That will depend upon how people take advantage of the opportunities which are offered. If they sit in factories, new technology factories and do not take advantage of the new technology, there is nothing that I can do about it. They should know that if they do that, they would be losing jobs for themselves and their children.

Norman Tebbit Secretary of State for Employment

Prime Minister, could I remind our questioner that it seems that Jaguar are likely to bring on a night shift shortly, that Vauxhall's are talking of bringing back a night shift at Port Ellesmere? That's what creates jobs, as they satisfy customers and the customers are satisfied and they come back, the jobs are created.

The Prime Minister

Thank you. Yes

Charles Walsh, Daily Telegraph. The manifesto makes very general mention of the Falkland Islands. Could I ask the Foreign Secretary whether he proposes there should be any negotiations with Argentina …

The Prime Minister

Francis PymForeign Secretary.

Francis Pym—Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs

That is impossible at the present moment, when they haven't even formally declared a cessation of hostilities, that's quite unthinkable. Indeed, they haven't excluded the possibility that they might take further military action, however unlikely that may seem. What is required is that they should return to a completely peaceful situation; we're trying to re-establish normal commercial and diplomatic relations with them, at the moment they are utterly reluctant. And then you've got to bear in mind the views of the Falkland Islanders themselves, who are very strong in their opinions at the moment. So the answer is, at the moment it is not possible to visualise that, but hopefully, Argentina will take a more sensible view of the future, and then when we've discussed to the Islanders, possibly some further sensible conversations can take place.

The Prime Minister

On commercial links. [end p11]

Francis Pym—Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs

Yes.

The Prime Minister

No I'm sorry, I thought you were going to misunderstand that. The Francis PymForeign Secretary said quite clearly on commercial links and diplomatic links, but not on sovereignty.

Francis Pym Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs

No, no that is a matter for the Islanders.

Michael Heseltine Secretary of State for Defence

Sir Robin Day 's question, I would just refer him to page 43 about the six or seventh line, making it clear that we are to maintain Britain's independent nuclear deterrent, in the manifesto.

The Prime Minister

Mr. Emery.

[Emery]

I would like to ask … the abolition of domestic rates …

The Prime Minister

Because the domestic rates, was what you were trying to tackle in 1974. Since then expenditure in local authorities has gone up enormously and it has become a very much broader problem then domestic rates and we could not begin to tackle that and just leave industrial and commercial. Had we done, the load that would that would be put on industrial and commercial would have been unbearable and that would have had the very adverse effect on jobs. We've therefore decided we must tackle the whole thing and come up with this which we believe is the best solution. Yes.

Andrew Roth (Manchester Evening News): How wide in this new dispensation will local transport be subsidised and will there be similar limits placed on …

Tom King Secretary of State for the Environment

London Transport comes under the GLC arrangement that will be London Transport Authority, that will be funded under a transfer of the grant arrangement, it's in the manifesto and there will be equivalent arrangements under the Metropolitan County arrangements as well.

The Prime Minister

Yes.

[Name omitted]

I wonder if you'd like to comment on Neil Kinnock 's … twice in the last few days that at the end of another term of Conservative Government there will be 6 million unemployed.

The Prime Minister

Well, Neil Kinnockhe's just pulling figures out of the air. I have seen nothing in the Labour manifesto that would do anything in a longer term, other than destroy jobs, destroy Britain's financial structure, destroy confidence in Britain, stop inward investment coming here, stop many many industries from exporting to Europe. Their policy on jobs would be totally and utterly disastrous, and would increase unemployment. Ours give genuine prospects for new jobs, for a partnership between Government, in what Government can do, and industry and commerce in what they can do to take up the opportunities. That is the recipe which has worked previously in Britain, it is the recipe that will work again, but it requires people not just saying ‘I'm going to wait for the upturn to come and knock on my door’, it requires them to go out and say, “I've got a [end p12] product, a good design product, I've got an expanding business, I'm going to go out and sell those products and create the upturn.”

[Name omitted]

Prime Minister, do you see a Fortress Falkland's policy as an absolute commitment to full five year period …

The Prime Minister

I see us defending the sovereignty and the self determination of the Falkland Islanders, that's exactly why the Francis PymForeign Secretary said it is the wishes of the Falkland Islanders. This country defends freedom and justice, when its existence is challenged and must and will continue to do so in the Falkland Islands. Unless the Falkland Islanders wish a contra-policy.

[Name omitted]

… Prime Minister, whether in the light of Mr. Tebbit 's proposals for Labour Party funds whether you have changed your mind on the viability and acceptability or State funding for political Parties.

The Prime Minister

I do not like State funding for political Parties. I think it would be a retrograde step. I understand from the proposals that what they are doing is saying we shall not be coerced in any way directly or indirectly into giving funds through the present Trade Union law to a particular Party. You shall have the choice. If you wish to give those funds to that Party, you shall of course be free to continue to do so. What's wrong with that.

[Name omitted]

You enjoy being a rich Party …

The Prime Minister

I wish I had, I wish someone had—has anyone here got £2½ million to offer me on a plate? We are having to go out and we not up to anything like that yet. Any Offers. Any offers?

John Lewis, Birmingham Post. Prime Minister, I address this to you. Now some of your opponents, and indeed some others, are urging you … to the world economy at Williamsburg. Is there in fact any …

The Prime Minister

I never understand what is meant by a world stimulus, I think you'll find that the formula was properly set out at Versailles and I should be very surprised if it's changed at Williamsburg—that is countries have to get inflation down, above all they have to get their deficits down so that they can help to get interest rates down. Interest rates are extremely important to recovery, and that's why when we go to the international forum we do put a great deal of stress on keeping deficits down. Because to do the contrary is to put up interest rates, and that's Labour policy, have interest rates rocket. That's the first thing which will abort a recovery. I'm going to hand over to the Geoffrey HoweChancellor to see if he has any extra comments to make.

Sir Geoffrey Howe—Chancellor of the Exchequer

Though the one thing that it absolutely clear and has been repeated [end p13] now at international economic conference after international conference, that is the recognition by world leaders that growth comes from continued success in reducing inflation, in reducing interest rates and that involves a crucial part in reducing budget deficits in the public sector. The concept that you can stimulate in jargon in the economy growth by increasing public deficits has been disproved on every occasion that it has been attempted. And there is universal agreement on the need to secure control of those deficits. And that I think will remain at the heart of the Williamsburg conclusions.

The Prime Minister

Now we'll start a little more quickly again.

Adam Raphael

Prime Minister, in your last manifesto you indicated that you were unhappy with the boundary between direct and indirect taxation … are you now satisfied with the balance between these two types of taxation?

The Prime Minister

Well, we did make a major shift and I think one constantly has to look in future. I think that most of us would wish to see that increasing prosperity should benefit the individual by a reduction in personal taxes. We could have gone further with that than we have, had we not been left with such a colossal tax on jobs, imposed by the Labour Government in the form of the National Insurance Surcharge. And because of the impact on jobs, we did have to concentrate on getting down that tax. Right. Down here …

[Name omitted]

A question for Tom King, Municipal Journal. Two things on the rates proposals … One is can I take it that these proposals finally kill the bogeyman of local sales taxes … and secondly could you outline in more detail the general powers to curb excessive rate increases?

Tom King Secretary of State for the Environment

Yes, I mean on the first one there's the balance on maintaining we think this is the right course to take, the one that we've announced. The problems of both the alternatives that we've discussed is that, in any case as I think it is widely known, they couldn't have been introduced at any early stage, and it is absolutely vital we believe in the expenditure area to take early action, particularly in the problems of the high spending authorities, and we shall operate on a system of identifying the high spenders which is a system that already operated in Scotland, actually it derives from the original Labour Government legislation of 1965–66 which gave them powers to intervene with the individual authorities and we shall work on that approach … No, the question on individual authorities will be examination of expenditure levels and a determination of what we think are reasonable expenditure levels for the very highest spending authorities who we believe have grossly abused their position and their powers in the impositions that they have put on their ratepayers

The Prime Minister

Thank you. On the floor

[Name omitted]

… TVS. Prime Minister, can I come back to this question of unemployment, because at the last election the Conservatives made no secret of the fact they were confident that unemployment would be brought down. Now in answer to every question this morning bets are hedged and answers are hedged. Can you say [end p14] that if a Conservative Government is elected, what unemployment would be four years from now?

The Prime Minister

No, of course not and neither would any responsible Government or any responsible politician, or any responsible statistician. Next question. No, no behind you please, Mr. Riddell, and then Mr. Oakley afterwards.

[Peter Riddell]

… Sunday Times. Would a re-elected Conservative Government reduce public spending … the already planned levels?

The Prime Minister

It is our hope to further reduce the bureaucracy in Government. I'm sorry, was that your precise question?

[Peter Riddell]

No, it was public spending and Civil Service manpower below existing planned levels.

The Prime Minister

We have already published our public expenditure plans for the coming years, those take into account everything I've announced in the manifesto. We're always on the alert to cut out waste and get best value for money. Mr. Oakley.

[Robin Oakley]

What is the specific target now for income tax? Does it remain at 25 per cent as it was?

The Prime Minister

Well, we don't have a specific target excepting to improve the [words missing] by reducing the total tax burden on individuals. Next question, one moment, people haven't asked yet, but is there anyone who hasn't asked a question? Elinor Goodman.

Elinor Goodman

Would you … give another free vote on hanging if you were re-elected?

The Prime Minister

I assume that in any Parliament there will be a free vote on hanging. I think its reasonable to say that, William WhitelawWillie, we wouldn't get away without one.

William Whitelaw—Home Secretary

Absolutely, there are so many opportunities for doing it, it will certainly be done.

The Prime Minister

Yes please, and then one over there, I think that's the lot, one, two three.

(Some question about Northern Ireland.)

The Prime Minister

I don't wish to add to what is in the manifesto on Northern Ireland, the Northern Irish Assembly as you know is referred to there. There is an agreement that further powers would not be devolved unless we got a cross-community agreement. Yes.

[Question inaudible.]

The Prime Minister

Well, you know the whole of the Alvey, the whole of the Alvey concept has been accepted and we are on the way to setting up the collaborative research projects which involves universities, industries and Government and we're setting up a system to do that. There is one which already operates in the Ministry of Defence but we're setting one up to operate [end p15] within the Department of Industry and that's in hand. Yes, last question.

Mike White, The Guardian. … 0.9 per cent last month, all the Opposition Parties are saying that the Government is cutting and running before things get worse …   .

The Prime Minister

Geoffrey HoweChancellor.

Geoffrey Howe Chancellor of the Exchequer

Because in fact, when they see the experience of the British economy growing during the last twelve months is that [sic] they see the fact aside from oil, industrial manufacturing production also significantly up from the low point. They see industrial production one and a half per cent up in the first quarter of this year on the last quarter last year, and they see the signs which give them ground for cautious optimism, which gives business leaders grounds for cautious optimism, as are recorded in the opinions which they register.

The Prime Minister

Don't discount oil, why should you? It was a great technological and private enterprise success and why you should cut out the successful things in asking questions is to me a mystery. Gentlemen, thank you very much indeed.