Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1983 May 18 We
Margaret Thatcher

General Election Press Conference launching manifesto (international press)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Conservative Central Office, Smith Square, Westminster
Source: Thatcher Archive: Central Office transcript
Editorial comments: Presumably this press conference followed the main launch, from which many overseas journalists were excluded due to pressure of space.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2913
Themes: Commonwealth (general), Conservatism, Defence (general), Higher & further education, Employment, General Elections, Foreign policy (Asia), Foreign policy (Australia & NZ), Foreign policy (Middle East), Labour Party & socialism, Science & technology, Society, Trade union law reform

MT

Opening words missing

It is wholly lined with Conservative philosophy, it continues some of the things which we set out to do last time, for example it continues a policy of getting inflation down, getting personal taxation down, getting down costs on industry, continues with the EEC policy, continues with our defence policy, continues with our policy with price protecting pensioners, continues with our policy of maintaining the amounts of money spent on the National Health Service. And then, of course, every policy needs some change, some adaptation to the new circumstances, and it has a number of changes in it as well. The two most obvious ones are the changes in trade union law and the changes with regard to abolishing Metropolitan Councils and the GLC and rates, and there are various other changes, one of two in the Home Office, we shall improve the council tenants right to buy and re-introduce a bill which fell at the end of our own Parliament. We shall of course introduce this tremendous, exciting new training scheme for young people, that in September every school leaver who hasn't got a job to go to will go to training for a year and unemployment would not be a option. It would do tremendous things in encouraging the new technologies, first by encouraging small businesses, second by encouraging new technology products which any technology firm has got a new product to launch can go to the Department of Industry and get a grant of a third to help bring it to the market. We have the whole of what you call the Alvey Report that is to say we are getting new collaboration on a scale we have never had before in this country between universities, Government and industry on the latest technologies, particularly what I would call the next generation of computers and beyond. We have just started this, we allocated some £200 million of Government spending, taxpayers money along with a £150 million of industrial money, so it is a true partnership, they have a stake in it, it is almost fifty-fifty with the universities, so we are right up front on the latest technology and the latest research. [end p1] And, of course, we shall continue to pursue a vigorous policy regards the EEC which we hope will attract a lot of inward investment in this country. Again, I repeat all our programmes are costed and published and I do draw the very sharp contrast between the irresponsibility of Labour programmes which are borrow, borrow, borrow, spend, spend, spend, we have been that way before and ours, which is soundly financed. Government trying to get down costs on industry, keeping down inflation, going into partnership with the latest technology and encouraging new businesses and encouraging efficiency. This is the way to get geniune jobs in the future. The robust and responsible manifesto which I believe will lead to a better standard of living in our country and a brighter future for our children.

On defence, we are absolutely resolute as you know, for others talking about peace movements, we have actually, our polices have produced peace with freedom and justice in Europe for the last thirty-eight years. So I believe they will give a better standard of living at home and a brighter future for our children, they will ensure a strong and free Britain, which is a staunch ally, in an uncertain world. Now Francis PymForeign Secretary, do you wish to add to that?

Pym

I think, Prime Minister, as an opening statement you have covered the ground extremely well. There are two fundamental issues of difference in the field of foreign policy to this election which is new. The Labour Party is taking a different view about defence and disarmament and over the Common Market and the European Community. That is a very fundamental difference and those are two most significant issues in this election. For our part we regret that they should take a different view on these matters. We think it is absolutely wrong and we also believe that the great majority of the British people give us their support on the policies we are pursuing. So I think those are the central issues on the foreign policy field.

Howe

Prime Minister, I have nothing to add. [end p2]

Question

(unintelligible)

PM

Basically if you believe in a free country and a free people your only weapons, if I might put it that way, are persuasion and co-operation within a framework of law and that is the way we try to operate.

Question

Would you agree that it is essentially Thatcher and Thatcherism and whether the people believe which will win or lose you the election?

PM

No, it isn't. Its much much much more important than any single person. What you have got now is a choice between two governments and the choice is absolutely stark in philosophical terms. I think the Labour Party has made it stark. I have been through their manifesto twice. Every time I read it—or read parts of it—I read it with mounting horror that it would change the whole nature of our society to a controlled society. You have only to look at their views on industry, that they will buy into many many companies or pass a Bill to buy into many many companies, they will expect co-operation from Pension Funds, that the Pension Funds will have to put people's savings for pensions into investing in certain industries, that banks will be expected to co-operate or else they will be taken over. I have never in all my years in politics—the first election I fought was in 1950 when Attlee was P.M.—I have never seen such an extreme Socialist policy put before the British electorate either at home or in defence or in Europe. It strikes at the heart and the root of everything which we regard as a free people of Britain and of being a reliable ally. Now when you go from that to ours which is a Britain strong and free and caring for those who are less fortunate and free to prosper … The most important role is that Government creates a climate and a framework of law and a framework and climate in which British people, individuals and industry, can propser and can build their own independence. They can own their own homes. They have lower taxation on their incomes. The difference is the greatest I have ever experienced in thirty-three years of politics. They are a lot more important than me. All of us on this platform are absolutely adamant that we will do everything possible to prevent what we regard as the most catastrophic extreme Government coming to power if Labour got in, this country has ever seen. [end p3]

Question missing.

PM

—I am an instrument of the things which I believe, we all are, everyone here, we are conviction politicians, we are the convictions of a free, independent people and we see those things being compromised and we have immense pride in our country and what it has done, but you only keep that pride if you are strong and independent.

Question

(unintelligible)

PM

—It doesn't mean any lessening of links with Commonwealth countries, and the important things for us all, and each country does it, we must have good geographical and economic links with our neighbours. I expect Australia to do that, one expects Canada to do that, they expect Europe to do that, because each of us, we have the duty to be as strong as we can economically and their friendship and our common interest becomes stronger worldwide because each of us is strong. So we expect all the Commonwealth countries to have good local links and indeed one of the most encouraging things, I think the way in which the Asean countries and the countries in all parts of the world are getting together to fight the communist threat in that part of the world. Now, that means you are very strong in your area, I don't say that that reduces a Commonwealth, I think that's marvellous. We and Australia are friends, they are strong in that part of the world, we are strong in ours, and we went to the South Atlantic, that means that we have hands together, we have a band of strength for the free world, across the world. I do not interfere in internal Australian matters as you know. We do hold special [word missing] with Commonwealth countries, which are the Queen's Realms.

Question

(unintelligible)

PM

—I think it would probably become the main issue of the campaign, I am not afraid of that in any way. Our policies are the policies which are a partnership between Government [end p4] and industry to have to create the genuine jobs of the future. They're policies which regard Britain as a springboard of opportunity for people who take that opportunity. For companies to come here, best knowing that they have a Government which is sound in finance, sound in personal responsibility, and we will have a sound currency and keep inflation down. I, also know, despite the verbose [word missing] of my opponents no Labour Government in history has left office with lower unemployment than that with which it started. No Labour Government in Britain has infact reduced unemployment, and therefore I judge what they say by their past record.

Question

Prime Minister, while agreeing with what you say on the extremism of the Labour Programme, I must … isn't it also a fact that at the same time, the Conservative Party has no, …   . the Thatcher Conservative party is the most right-wing governing party in Europe, in its emphasis, in its … in the image it produces.

PM

—I am afraid that you are just not right, and I must put you right. Put you right very vigorously, that even after four years, that we still have more public sector, more state controlled industry, more nationalised industries, more public sector education, more public sector health than almost any other …   . doesn't matter what you mean, what you said, and I am telling you that you are wrong and I am telling you in no uncertain way. That there are many, many countries in Europe which in fact because, in fact they haven't had to had the socialism which we had, in fact are far more to the right of centre than I am, because they haven't got this legacy of nationalisation, of total blanketing of state education and of state health that we have, and they have much much more, usually a much greater in many countries, a much greater independence in education, the kind of direct grant school where they have a partnership between [end p5] state and the local education authority, whereas our education, private education is only 5%; and the Labour Party abolished the direct-grant schools. We have a much bigger blanketing of National Health Service and far fewer people in private health, we have a much bigger sector of nationalised industries still, all of that is state control. You name me another country in Europe or anywhere in the world, in the free world which has a bigger proportion of its houses public sector owned. You are wrong, I trust you have taken the message, I am trying to get further away from the public sector owned, I want more people to own their own houses, I want more people to have the choose in health and education. I want lesser public sector, less nationalised industry, more competition. Next question.

Question

(Unintelligible)—Alliance.

PM

—We are quite the best party, with quite the best programme and I wouldn't place anything second rate before you.

Question

(Unintelligible)—about Middle East.

PM

Well, we make so many speeches about this. There is probably a Questions of Policy about it, but our policy towards the Middle East has not changed. We have spelled it out on many many occasions. Nothing would be dearer than the wishes of our heart than to secure a fundamental settlement of that long term question between Israel and the Arab peoples and we fully recognise Israel's right to exist within secure borders. We also fully recognise the legitimate rights of the Palestinian peoples and as you know we have pursued policies trying to bring them together and get this enormously difficult historic question settled because I think nothing could bring greater stability to the world than the settlement of that question.

Question

—about handing power over to Trade Unions. (Foot had said he would. Would the PM plan to do similarly?) [end p6]

PM

What a lovely question! As you know we believe in the supremacy of Parliamentry democracy and not in handing over de facto control to the Trade Unions or any other body outside Parliament. We have proposals in the manifesto again to further change the balance of trade union law, particularly to give the members of trade unions greater power. There should be a secret ballot for the governing bodies of trade unions. They should once again vote on whether they wish to have a political fund which they have not done since 1913, and also that if they have strikes without having had a secret ballot then they should lose their legal immunity for that strike. And a number of other things, but you will find that once again we are trying to restore a proper balance between employers and employees and above all a proper balance between the rights of the individuals of trade unions and the trade union body which claims to represent them.

Afghanistan question on unilateral disarmament.

Heseltine

This is a critical question in the debate which is going on in this country because of course Britain made a one-sided decision not to pursue chemical warfare techniques and the Soviet Union took not the slightest notice of that one-sided gesture. We have been trying without success to get the Soviet Union through negotiations to reach agreement on these matters and we have not succeeded. So all those people who say, “Let us now make a one-sided gesture with our nuclear deterrent,” are missing the very obvious fact that when we did it in the chemical field the Soviets in no way responded and that of course, in my view and the view of this Government, proves conclusively that one-sided unilateral nuclear disarmament is in fact a reckless gamble with the defences of this nation and of the Western Alliance.

Question

—on main achievement over last four years.

PM

Well I'm here to put forward my good points and I don't propose to do anything else.

Question

about whether if the Conservatives win there will be a social explosion in England.

PM

Nonsense. [end p7]

Question

about whether the economic recovery will be knocked off course by the deep recession in Third World countries. What plans to increase co-operation for the good of their economy?

PM

The Geoffrey HoweChancellor really does a great deal through the IMF and I think he should have a go at this.

Howe

Well, very simply, the industrial countries can play a key part in helping the developing countries return to prosperity. We are doing so by our success in getting inflation down, getting interest rates down and laying the foundations for sustainable non-inflationary growth in the industrial countries. That is most important. What we have also to do is to maintain and strengthen the international institutions, which is why I was so pleased to be able to take part in securing an effective doubling of the resources of the IMF in February and also playing our part as a country in supporting the International Development Association IDA 6 on what we did last year. So we are playing a very full part in maintaining and strengthening the international programmes to help the developing countries. Beyond that our own economic success in the Western countries along the lines laid clearly before us by the present Government is the best thing we can do to help the ODC.

PM

I am just going to ask the Francis PymForeign Secretary to take up the point about the Middle East because I think he has been more recently in touch. How do we stand with the PLO?

Pym

Obviously we have all been following very carefully the events in the Middle East and we have given the Reagan plan our very strongest support from the very outset. Of course we welcome the progress made recently by Secretary of State Shultz in securing a withdrawal from the Lebanon, where I would remind you we have a small peace keeping force of our own as part of the multi-national force. Obviously we are extremely anxious about the tensions that exist in the Middle East. We have constantly pressed for the need to withdraw all forces, we regret very much that Syria is not going to go along with that arrangement, and we are doing all [end p8] we can to try and encourage Syria to go along with it. For the Israeli side, we certainly want them to withdraw, and it is excellent that they have now agreed with the United States and Lebanon that they will withdraw and we also want to see them change their policy on the West Bank. As to the PLO, we regret very much that they could not go along with the plan worked out between Arafat and King Hussein. I think Arafat had thought he came to an arrangement but as you know the other PLO leaders would not allow him to stick to it and we think that that is a lost opportunity which we regret very much. After all, it was a plan designed to secure for the Palestinian people what they want—namely their rights of self-determination. So we regret that very much. But we are still giving all weight, support and strength we can to the Reagan plan which is still the best basis to start the peace-making process, and we hope very much that that will happen in the fairly near future.