Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1983 May 22 Su
Margaret Thatcher

Radio Interview for IRN (phone-in)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: Radio Interview
Venue: IRN, Communications House, Gough Square, London
Source: IRN Archive: OUP transcript
Journalist: Peter Allen, IRN
Editorial comments: 1100-1200.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 9034
Themes: Executive, Executive (appointments), Union of UK nations, Defence (general), Defence (arms control), Defence (Falklands War, 1982), Education, Secondary education, Employment, Industry, General Elections, Monetary policy, Public spending & borrowing, Taxation, Trade, Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Labour Party & socialism, Law & order, Local government, Local government finance, Conservative (leadership elections), Media, Northern Ireland, Religion & morality, Society, Social security & welfare, Terrorism, Trade unions, Trade union law reform

Peter Allen, IRN

This is Peter Allen with the Independent Radio Network's national phone-in to the Prime Minister, Mrs. Margaret Thatcher, good morning. For the next hour all the commercial stations in Great Britain join forces for the first of three programmes with the party leaders. Next week it will be the turn of Michael Foot, the week after that David Steel.

I have to say at the outset that it won't be possible to ring in with your comments during the course of this programme. Because of the numbers of listeners and the regions involved we've already contacted those who are likely to have a chance to speak to the Prime Minister today. Their calls were selected from the many hundreds who wrote or phoned in during the week.

Prime Minister, thank you for joining us.

Now by far the largest numbers of questions and comments from those who wanted to talk to you involved the economy and unemployment, and I'd like to begin with a couple of questions from those topics before we begin taking calls. Can I put to this … the to you this first of all. Now, is it true that neither you nor any of your advisors can predict the date when levels of unemployment begin to fall, indeed that all the forecasts you have those levels of unemployment will keep on rising for the next few years?

MT

We have never made forecasts in the long-term future about unemployment, indeed no government ever has. You will remember that we've had this battle, ding-dong battle across the despatch box for quite a long time. When I was in Opposition I used to ask Mr. Callaghan and he said “As regards forecasts on unemployment my answer is ‘No’. I rely on what the late Iain Macleod said, he said he did not believe in making such forecasts and I am happy to follow his example” . That also applies to me.

But I think the real reason is because I don't think we know any way of forecasting. For example, who could have said between last year and now there'd be about 27,000 people employed as the result of the new video recorders, in retail shops, in making new cassettes, no one could possibly have foreseen that.

Peter Allen, IRN

But if you're not prepared to make forecasts, other people are. There is, for instance, the Henley Centre for Forecasting and this carried in the Daily Telegraph which is no enemy of the Conservative Party. Their forecast stated quite clearly that if they fed your policies into a computer that unemployment under the Conservative Party will continue to grow right up until 1987. The figure they projected was a rise perhaps of half-a million, with a few hundred thousand going on every year, year after year, right into the next term of office. [end p1]

MT

Yes, but people don't act as computers. Some of them think up actually new products to sell, some of them think up new services to sell, some of them take on and employ new people.

Let me give you just one example. There would be no such thing as independent television or independent radio but for a decision of the then Conservative Government in 1955, who insisted that we had radio, certainly television, independent television later followed by independent radio. Now that wouldn't have shown up on any graphs, any forecasts of any kind. …

Peter Allen, IRN

[speaking over MT] But you have to go by forecasts …

MT

… We do every year say to the person who runs the National Insurance Fund, “look this in fact is an assumption for unemployment next year, build that into your figures” . And what we do, of course, is say, well now what is going to get unemployment down and then we judge and we adjust our policies accordingly. And we have very considerable programmes for helping to get unemployment down and helping to create new jobs, and that's the whole constructive side. We don't just say “look we're desperately worried about unemployment” —which we are, who wouldn't be— “we're desperately worried about the young people” —who wouldn't be? We have whole policies in fact to try to help to create new jobs.

Peter Allen, IRN

But it doesn't seem to be creating many new jobs. I mean it's not just the Henley Centre, it's the, it's the National Economic Development Council. We've had an argument about their report which is apparently suppressed according to Mr. Neil Kinnock today, and we hear Sir Terence Beckett says in that report publication of this would not be productive because there was not a single item of cheer in it. I mean these are a consistent trend of reports about the future which say either your policies although inflation may be kept down, unemployment would keep on going up?

MT

First that report you know it was answered, I notice you don't mention that. …

Peter Allen, IRN

[talking over MT] Well, I have already talked to him.

MT

… Well, Geoffrey Howe gave a very good answer to Neil Kinnock. First the report that did not come out was a report on industrial performance and I understood that all of those at Neddy agreed that that would be damaging if it did come out, and I'm surprised therefore that Mr. Kinnock has chosen to highlight it. Secondly the one that did deal with economic forecasts was published, so I do not see what is the problem about raising that. It has been a whole hare. I would far rather start to talk about the policies for reducing unemployment and for getting genuine jobs because we have quite the best ones.

Now I'm sorry you said so many things that I've forgotten what the others were. Could you just remind me?

Peter Allen, IRN

Well let's go on to, let's, let's ignore then forecasts and predictions and let's just, just just … let me ask you one question about unemployment and I think it's a fair question from anybody who's going to vote in the election. When, when is, are your economic policies going to start producing some jobs? When are we going to see the net result? [end p2]

MT

Look there are new jobs being produced the whole time, but equally there are a lot of other jobs going out. After all there are still jobs being lost in steel, in coal, on railways, in some of the great nationalized industries. But some of those jobs are still being lost because in some industries because there has been enormous overmanning and restrictive practices. And until in fact we got our manning levels so that they would compete with those overseas, we weren't going to have efficient industries. Some of those are still being lost, a lot of jobs have been lost because of the overmanning and restrictive practices. You mentioned today's press. There is in fact an assessment in I think the Sunday Mirror, one of the articles in the Sunday Mirror, it comes from Professor Patrick Minford of Liverpool University to the effect that nearly a million jobs have been lost because of the trade unions overmanning and restrictive practices.

Peter Allen, IRN

Just two further questions I'd like to ask about unemployment before I take the first of our many callers. The first of them is this. Mr. Heath was sitting in the same chair that you're occupying this time last week and he said to me— “I don't think society, … the social fabric will survive this kind of unemployment, the unemployment, getting it down has to be first whatever else happens, whatever you say about inflation, you've got to get this inflation … the unemployment levels down” . I mean he seemed to think that that was, you had to put that above everything else?

MT

You have to put tackling the root causes of unemployment above almost anything else. That is exactly what I'm doing and if we'd like to go through every single item of policy, I'll go through it with you, indeed I'd be very glad to because it's far better than making these hollow, false accusations about documents being suppressed, etc. Let's tackle the root causes of it, that's the way we're going to help our young people and that's the way we're going to help people whose skills have become obsolete, and of course they're worried, any government would be worried, any human being would be worried. But in fact you deal with a problem not by saying things like that but by saying, “what are the causes, let's analyze them, let's deal with them” . Because that gives us the best hope for the future, and gives our young people the best chance for the future.

Peter Allen, IRN

Well the second of those questions I've promised. Some even of your own supporters, your own cabinet members seem concerned about the, the approach to unemployment, or at least the image you've, you've got. I mean Mr. Jim Prior— “the resolute approach was not enough” , he said, “people had to be convinced you cared about unemployment” and so he's not convinced.

MT

Uh, he did not say that. He did not say that. That's what you have said. Jim knows, as we all know in Cabinet, we're all deeply concerned about it, every single person is, but that's why we're taking so many steps and all kinds of steps. When I go to talk to industry they sometimes say to me, “look young people are not educated to come into industry” . All right we're taking many, many steps for that, we're seeing for example that there computers [sic] in every school, so they're trained in schools and used to that habit of thought in that. For the first time we're actually bringing back big technical courses into schools. It was not I who got rid of them, I desperately tried to keep both grammar schools and technical schools and technical courses. This will be a whole new opportunity. We believe that young people will train best and get used to the habits of industry and commerce and pleasing the customer, with what it's all about. [sic] When they're both trained and have work experience in that, so we've got the most exciting get-ahead, go-ahead scheme for training young people that's ever been introduced in this country. We ought to have done it years ago. What we're saying is this [end p3] recession is tragic, it's tragic in its effect on people, not only here but there are 2— million people unemployed throughout the OECD countries. Let's try to tackle it in a way that will produce the jobs of the future, and that's exactly what we're doing.

Peter Allen, IRN

At this stage we will turn to some of the many callers around the country who, um, want to put questions and comments to the Prime Minister. And Prime Minister if you could take a pair of those head phones you at least can …

MT

Ah yes of course … these things.

Peter Allen, IRN

[polite laughter] Indeed, one pair of those please.

MT

Right.

Peter Allen, IRN

Um, and first of all we intend to go up to the area of Swansea Sound and there … our listener there is Colin from Swansea talking about inflation and unemployment. Hello Colin.

Colin from Swansea

Good morning.

Peter Allen, IRN

Good morning, what do you want to say to the Prime Minister?

Colin from Swansea

Good morning Prime Minister.

MT

Good morning.

Colin from Swansea

Your government has consistently maintained that bringing down inflation is the keystone in reducing the appalling level of unemployment. Shortly after you took office inflation was running at around 2— per cent, with unemployment at around one and a half million. Of course you and various of your spokesmen have claimed that both these figures were still rising. But of course this might be a subject for debate. What, however, is indisputable is that inflation is now down to around — per cent, yet unemployment is up to three and a half million according to the government figures, our side believe it is higher than this.

Peter Allen, IRN

Colin, you'd better keep this question … it sounds a bit too much like a speech. Put your point please.

Colin from Swansea

Can you then tell me please Prime Minister, how you can justify persisting in this particular part of your policy? It is quite obvious to me is not working.

MT

Um, but I think you've forgotten the time lags and also I think you've forgotten the fact that the countries that have got lowest inflation are the countries that have got lowest unemployment. I mean Japan has low inflation, she's got the lowest unemployment. But of course she's pursued her policies for a very long time. We've only just got inflation [end p4] really down—uh, it's now to the lowest for fifteen years—but it's going to take quite a long time for it to be a low inflation economy over quite a long period. Germany has low inflation. Now there's one very, very obvious thing. Japan and Germany compete with us in overseas markets. We have to export nearly a third of our national income to live. Unless we keep our inflation down to match theirs and preferably below theirs, they're going to have the edge over us in foreign markets. They're going to get the jobs, we're not. We have got a low inflation policy and we must persist with that otherwise we shall put the jobs of all of those in exports—and that's a lot of people—we shall put all of the jobs at stake, and we want to keep those jobs and we want to add more to them.

Peter Allen, IRN

Rod from Islington, you're the next caller, what do you want to say to the Prime Minister?

Rod from Islington

Good morning.

Peter Allen, IRN

Let's cut out the good mornings … wastes time …

MT

Oh no why not? Why should we cut them out? Good morning.

Peter Allen, IRN

Well, we haven't got very much time.

MT

It doesn't take very much time …

Peter Allen, IRN

[speaking over MT] We'll allow this good morning but no more.

MT

… to be courteous. [laughter]

Rod from Islington

Could I just ask you then please, what is the moral justification of an economic policy in which the most well off members of our society have received an increase in their standard of living while the poorer members, those for instance who are living below the average wage, have actually received a cut in theirs?

MT

Well, uh, the poorest members who are receiving below the average wage will be eligible for Family Income Supplement, and as you know we have put up the Family Income Supplement way way way ahead of inflation. So we have in fact said that it's far better for people to be working even though the wage they get may not be as good as they would wish and certainly no better than the job itself will bear. But they shouldn't suffer because they'll still get Family Income Supplement to bring their income up to certain levels and we have been particularly generous in that.

Now let's take the people at the top. People at the top—the top managers, the people who are creating jobs, the people who climb to the top by their own effort—they were here paying income tax at 8— per cent, which is absolutely a ridiculous rate, 8— pence in the pound and if they had any savings income it went right up to 9 pence in the pound. These were way way way above the income tax rates that were being charged by our industrial competitors. So our, er, top managers and people who create jobs, all the most creative people on whom we rely for new businesses, new industries to keep our industries running well, they were suffering penal taxation. Now I don't believe in [end p5] penal taxation. I believe in a fair deal for managers. I believe in a fair deal for people who can start up in business on their own and do well, a fair level of tax, but a reasonable one, and so we brought the tax on earned incomes, top earned incomes down to 60 per cent. That is about the dead average of anywhere else in the world. In doing so I believe we're keeping those people here. In keeping those people here we're giving ourselves the best chance of getting new businesses and new jobs for the future here. That's the justification and it's a good one.

Peter Allen, IRN

Right, let's go back to Wales. Let's go back to Cardiff, a CBC listener. Paul, what do you want to say?

Paul from Cardiff

Hello Mrs. Prime Minister?

MT

Hello.

Paul

Hello. My question is do the Youth Opportunities Schemes … [interference with line]

MT

I'm sorry I couldn't quite hear, could you just repeat that?

Peter Allen, IRN

I think probably we had better … we had better just hold on with your call. You had some problems. To all those people listening, if you have your radio on turn it off because what you'll get is a very peculiar sound with the sound coming out of your radio and back down the phone, and what we'll hear is that strange howling. I will perhaps move straight on to the next call, who one … is another caller from London in fact. It's Russell from Beaconsfield. Hello Russell. [pause] Hello Russell.

Russell from Beaconsfield

Hello?

Peter Allen, IRN

Yes, Russell, it's your call, what do you want to say?

Russell from Beaconsfield

Good morning Prime Minister.

MT

Good morning Russell.

Russell from Beaconsfield

The economic policy of this government has been to attack inflation by limiting the money supply to reduce public spending, thus making industry leaner and fitter and more competitive so that it's better able to cope with the increased demand of a boom period. It is my contention that this is a superfluous policy. Would it not have been more useful and helpful for the good of the nation to attack the problems of industry from their roots, i.e. (a(c) to try to reform production methods, (b(c) to alter the structure of industry as a whole as an alternative to making mere redundancies and (b(c) … (c(c) to try to recognize that the power trade unions hold and to try to work with them instead of trying to fight them?

MT

Um, let me take you points. First in order to get jobs and to get more business and to grow you've got to have two things, and I don't think you'll disagree with me. You've got [end p6] to have very efficient industry, but then of course you've got to produce the kind of goods that people want to buy. I mean it's no earthly good producing efficiently goods that people won't buy. So you've got to have the two things. The efficiency and the goods, the good design that people will buy. Now the efficiency you simply must leave to your managers on the shop floor. Governments cannot increase the efficiency of industry, they can help by their basic financial policies to see that people do on the shop floor, have to increase the efficiency, and that's what we've done. The design, the type of goods is a matter for industry itself.

Now you say … what were the three things you said, by improving production methods. Really you know there are not many people in politics who've had enormous experience in industry, so you've got to leave that, the production methods again to the shop floor. And I purposefully think … I personally think that the shop floor and management won't be decisions to be taken there, they can be taken quickly, you can get the suggestions from the shop floor about how in fact you should best organize production. That is a matter for at the workplace.

The structure of industry is changing, it's bound to. The newly developed countries are now coming into manufacturing production and the newly industrialized countries which used to be markets for us are now our competitors. And so we've had to go up-market. They're producing the things we used to produce so well, and so we've had to go up-market with many many extra skills. Now the structure is changing. Let me give you a figure. In Scotland for example there are now more people employed on the new electronics than either on shipbuilding or steel put together, because steel and shipbuilding, so much of them have gone to Japan and the newly industrialized countries. So the structure is changing and people are adapting to it really well.

Now on trade unions, getting on with trade unions means that you've got to have a proper balance in the legal system between the powers of employers and the powers of employees. That law … that law was not in balance at all. It was out of balance. We had two trade union measures and I believe we're gradually getting it back in balance and all industry was saying to us, we must get it back. Not only in balance between employers and employees but in balance between the powers of the unions and the rights of their individual members. And that is why, because we've done so much about that, that many many many trade unionists in increasing numbers are now voting Conservative, because they don't want to be pushed around by anyone. They want to have their rights but they're not going to be pushed around by their unions or anyone else.

Peter Allen, IRN

Paul from Cardiff, let's go back to you and see whether you can get your call through this time. Hello Paul.

Paul from Cardiff

Hello.

Peter Allen, IRN

Yes.

Paul from Cardiff

Good morning Prime Minister.

MT

Hello Paul. I can hear you now, thank you very much.

Paul from Cardiff

One of my questions is— the Youth Opportunity Schemes, now, the unemployment benefit for these youngsters is £1— a week, and if they took the youth opportunity scheme it's £2— a week. And I wonder if you were back in power would you try to stop this Youth Opportunity Scheme taking place? [end p7]

MT

The Youth Opportunity Scheme, stop it? No what we're going to in September is a Youth Training Scheme, so what I'm very anxious is that young people coming out of school, deciding to leave school, have a choice either to get a job—as a lot of them do but a lot of them can't—or to carry on for further education, or to go into a new Youth Training Scheme and that will be a year. So that unemployment will not be an option. I think that the worst thing that can happen to young people is that they feel they're not wanted, and so therefore I'm very anxious that they should not have the option of being unemployed because if they can't get a job and they don't want to go on in further education, they will go to a Youth Training Scheme that will be a mixture of training and work experience, because I think you often train best on the job. And I'm sure it's very very good to train in industry and in commerce so that you get, right at the beginning, used to pleasing the customer and used to the habits of industry and commerce. We should have done it years ago and we're going to do it now.

Peter Allen, IRN

Can I interrupt because I wanted to fit one more call in before we break?

MT

Oh yes of course, I'm so sorry.

Peter Allen, IRN

We try to fit lots of people in from around the country.

MT

I'm sorry if I'm taking too long in answering.

Peter Allen, IRN

Let's go to James from Glasgow, he's a Radio Clyde listener. Hello James.

James from Glasgow

Good morning.

MT

Good morning James.

James from Glasgow

I'd like to ask you Mrs. Thatcher …

MT

[speaking over James] Yes.

James from Glasgow

… how you can justify spending £10 billion of taxpayer's money on Trident nuclear missiles when there are basically four million people unemployed in the country. And don't you therefore feel that you have your priorities wrong?

MT

No, I do not. The priority is to defend our way of life in this country. And people whether they're employed or unemployed, almost every one of them if I were to ask them what is the characteristic of this country, would say— “Britain is a free country” . It doesn't matter where you come from in this country, whether employed or unemployed, we all I believe are united in being determined to defend our traditional liberties, and that applies just as much to those people who are unemployed as to those people who are employed.

Now the fact is that peace has been kept in Europe for thirty eight years. Indeed, where we've had nuclear weapons, there has been peace in spite of the fact that in the rest of the world there have been 140 conventional conflicts. What has happened is [end p8] strong defence, including a balance of nuclear weapons, has kept peace in our country and in Europe. That is the greatest prize of all, and it's the greatest prize for all our people, whether employed, whether the twenty three and a half million people who are in work or the three and a quarter million people who are not.

Peter Allen, IRN

Let's see if James is happy with that answer. Hello James, back to you.

James from Glasgow

No I really don't feel so, I still think she has her priorities a bit wrong because surely a government's job is to look after the people. And although I understand the arguments to do with an independent nuclear deterrent, I still feel that this is a phenomenal amount of money to be spending on Trident missiles. I think it could be used more usefully to fund the National Health Service, make new roads, which are going to show immediate benefit for the people in the country.

MT

James, I must disagree with you. I do not think, I could not possibly go along with a policy which says we abandon our independent nuclear deterrent while we leave colossal numbers, I think 2,000 strategic ballistic missiles in the hands of our sworn enemies, enemies that didn't hesitate to go in and crush Hungary and Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan. James, it's weakness that attracts war, it's strength and balance that has given us peace and … peace to me, with freedom and justice, as the greatest prize of all.

Peter Allen, IRN

The words of Mrs. Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister, with me for another half hour on this particular Independent Radio Phone-In and uh, in just a few minutes we'll be coming back for more questions around the country, and more views, outspoken views, from the Prime Minister. This is Peter Allen and with the time coming up at twenty eight minutes past eleven you are of course listening to Independent Radio News.

[commercial break]

Peter Allen, IRN

This is Peter Allen with the Independent Network's National Phone-In to the Prime Minister, Mrs. Margaret Thatcher.

Well, in the first part of the programme we talked almost inevitably about the economy and about the prospects of creating jobs. Now as we spin calls around the country we're going to break it up a bit and we're going to talk about other subjects. And interestingly the last caller in the previous section was talking about whether or not it was worth defending a country which had four million … four million unemployed and talked about disarmament, he talked about Trident missiles. The next caller, who is Vera from Bermondsey wants to talk I believe about multilateral disarmament. Hello Vera.

Vera from Bermondsey

Hello, good morning Prime Minister.

MT

Good morning.

Vera from Bermondsey

I am very interested in our reply to the Glasgow caller regarding possible nuclear war. Um, I think everybody would agree that we have enjoyed, thank goodness, peace for thirty eight years, I don't think anyone would dispute the fact. Because at that time war [end p9] was inconceivable because if the two superpowers started, either one or the other would have obliterated each other, and indeed the whole world.

But I think people are worried about a later trend in the Reagan administration, the modern nuclear arms now facilitate a limited war in Europe. I think that is totally worrying. The NATO allies have been persuaded by the Reagan administration the same thing [sic] and I don't think the installation this year or at a later date of Cruise and Pershing missiles is going to in any way help the situation, which I think is very scary.

MT

Shall I answer now Vera? First, the purpose of nuclear weapons is to deter war. It is I think … Winston ChurchillWinston once put it well, it is a balance of terror. It is to say that if anyone were to start they would do so in the knowledge that the devastation that would be caused would be so horrific there'd be no victor, that no one … the deterrence is so strong that no one would start such a war. It appears, Vera, to have worked because there's not been war between the nuclear powers whereas in fact there have been terrible conventional conflicts and of course the last two wars were terrible conventional wars, and even since the last war conventional conflicts have deprived ten million people of their lives.

So the purpose of having the nuclear weapons is to deter and Vera it has worked. That is what the advocates of abolishing nuclear weapons cannot get over, the deterrent effect has worked, the deterrent effect has kept the peace. It's not only stopped nuclear war, it's stopped major conventional wars on the part of those who have them, that is something which no one can overcome. Maybe one day we'll have a different kind of deterrent but it's absolutely vital to me to keep the peace and nuclear weapons are an effective deterrent. The Cruise missiles of course are modernising the existing weapons that we have. Uh, they're not extra weapons, as they go in the older ones will be withdrawn. The Soviet Union has already modernized hers. But I believe that those nuclear weapons have kept the peace.

Now with regard to Ronald ReaganRon and what was said at Bonn and the NATO alliance, NATO is a defensive alliance. It doesn't threaten anyone and we all agreed and I was there at the time representing Britain, that NATO would not be the first to use force, we would only use force in response to an attack on us.

Peter Allen, IRN

Wouldn't it have been better if we'd stuck to those sort of arguments rather than the Michael HeseltineDefence Secretary starting to talk about how they're all socialists and communists anyway and generally … smear was the word used. That really was irrelevant for the main debate wasn't it?

MT

Look, I'm not fighting CND or anything like that. I am fighting the Labour Party manifesto, that's what I'm fighting. The Labour Party manifesto, it's most extreme for years, says that although all previous Prime Ministers have kept an independent nuclear deterrent, although French socialists insist on keeping an independent nuclear deterrent, socialists in Britain are going to abandon an independent nuclear deterrent. Even more than that, they're going to throw out all the American nuclear bases. That means that they're going fundamentally against things that have been agreed in NATO. I would say I think it's better to stand by NATO and I think it's better to stand staunchly by our allies, be friendly with our allies.

My goodness me, where would we have been in the last war unless America had come in and if there were any other conflict? Our allies stand together. Reserve your attacks for those who are not your friends. I am fighting the Labour Party manifesto.

Peter Allen, IRN

Well that's another strong argument but once again the Michael HeseltineDefence Secretary did go out of his way to talk about the political allegiances of the CND and [end p10] thus detract from the whole argument and the debate that you've just been conducting. I mean why was that done?

MT

The Michael HeseltineDefence Secretary gave a few facts, what is wrong with that? No one has challenged those facts successfully as far as I'm aware.

Peter Allen, IRN

Are they relevant to the whole debate?

MT

I think it is relevant to know the facts which he laid before the people. I don't see why anyone should want to conceal them.

Peter Allen, IRN

Right. The next call, I think I'm right in saying, is about the Falklands. It comes from a Radio Trent listener, uh, in Nottinghamshire. He's Henry from Southwell. Hello Henry.

Henry from Southwell

Hello. Good morning Mrs. Thatcher.

MT

Hello Henry.

Henry from Southwell

I along with the vast majority of the British people supported for firm action that you took during ths Falklands affair. Um, I did wonder, however, what you intend to do when re-elected to secure the long-term future of the islands. Are they now non-negotiable?

MT

Those islands, uh, were discovered by Britain. Uh, they were first settled by Britain. They've been continuously settled by British people for the last 150 years. There were no people there when we discovered them and when we settled them, so we didn't displace anyone. So they're British sovereign territory and they're inhabited by British people who want to stay British.

We believe it's the right of people to determine their own future, and we … believe that we should and will defend that right. Uh, it is therefore up to the people of the Falklands to say what they wish to happen in the future and we must defend their right to self-determination. [pauses]

Peter Allen, IRN

[MT and Peter Allen talking over each other] Would you let me … Let's come back …

MT

[MT and Peter Allen talking over each other] Would you like to ask a supplementary? I'm not quite certain what you're getting at.

Peter Allen, IRN

… for a supplementary, yes. What do you think should happen in the Falklands?

Henry from Southwell

I think quite honestly that servicemen's lives were lost defending them and I just can't see a British government, um, handing them back to a fascist dictatorship.

MT

Neither can I. [end p11]

Peter Allen, IRN

So you believe they should be kept in perpetuity as British possessions?

Henry from Southwell

Certainly.

MT

Well that's exactly what I'm saying. They're British sovereign territory, they're British people. We defend the right of British people to choose their own future. Those people choose to stay with Britain and we will defend those islands.

Peter Allen, IRN

Well, can I just put one question to you Mrs. Thatcher on that … the Falklands.

MT

Yes of course.

Peter Allen, IRN

In the long term they have got to work within the region within which they exist. It's a sort of a physical nonsense to look at the Falklands and say— they're British and they're staying British for ever. They can't without enormous cost and trouble. Much better if they can work in with South America? [ends on laughing note]

MT

Yes, well what's the fundamental contradiction between being British and staying British, and yet having commercial links with South America?

Peter Allen, IRN

Well they're a small offshore island off South America. They've got to be … in the end they will be dominated, they are part of South America, not part of Britain.

MT

So you'd rat on the Falklands, would you?

Peter Allen, IRN

Well, fortunately it's not my policy decision.

MT

I wouldn't.

Peter Allen, IRN

Elizabeth from Belfast. Another island, we're going to talk about Northern Ireland this time, from Downtown Radio listener. Hello Elizabeth, what do you want to say?

Elizabeth from Belfast

Hello. Uh, if you get back into power Mrs. Thatcher, will your priorities be, as far as Northern Ireland is concerned? [sic]

MT

Priorities as far as Northern Ireland is concerned. To try to do every single thing we can to improve the security, to try to do every single thing we can to eradicate terrorism. Terrorism is no weapon in a democratic society and we must resist it with every power at our command.

There is a Northern Ireland assembly now, the Unionists are taking part in that. We had hoped that more people would take part in it but unfortunately they're not, but the Unionists are there and there therefore is a forum in which further powers can be exercised through that assembly, uh, when the people wish that to happen, right across the community. [end p12]

Peter Allen, IRN

Elizabeth, what do you want to say about the future of Northern Ireland?

Elizabeth from Belfast

Well, uh, it's security that annoys me and, uh, personally, all the unemployment and as regards security …   . [tape cuts] Some of them don't do anything else but throwing stones now in Northern Ireland. That's the way they're coming up.

MT

Yes I know. I think it is very, very tragic indeed. But all politics as you know is a choice of alternatives. We are faced with that. We're faced with those who deliberately wish to pursue their aims not through the ballot box, although Northern Ireland has just as much chance to vote as any other part of the United Kingdom, even more because it votes for its own assembly as well. So they've got the ballot box and because they're not winning through the ballot box, they're trying to substitute the bullet for the ballot.

Now what is the choice as far as governing Northern Ireland is concerned? We have either to abandon it, which we can't because those people are just British, they're members of the United Kingdom. You cannot abandon your own people, they've just as much right to be protected against terrorists as anyone else in the United Kingdom. Therefore, you have to stay there, not only with your most excellent Ulster Constabulary, but with your armed forces who are absolutely superb. And you have steadily to try to improve the security, um, of Northern Ireland.

It always is a mystery to me and I think it must be to you Elizabeth, why the mothers don't get together and say, look we really can't have our children brought up in this atmosphere. It's terrible for them all. And yet in Northern Ireland when that starts to happen the intimidators come in and it doesn't go on. One day they will have to. Pray that one day may be soon.

Peter Allen, IRN

From Northern Ireland we turn back to Scotland. In fact devolution is the subject. Robert from Bishopbriggs, a listener to Radio Clyde, is the one with the question.

Robert from Bishopbriggs

Good morning Mrs. Thatcher.

MT

Good morning.

Robert from Bishopbriggs

We have heard so much—particularly since the Falklands crisis—how you have a love of democracy, and also just how high on your list of priorities is the self-determination of nations. With this in mind I would like very much to know what you and your party's policy is towards devolution for Scotland, bearing in mind that the only time Scottish people were ever asked in the referendum three or four years ago, the majority of those voting voted in favour.

MT

I have no plans for devolution. I must make it absolutely clear. Uh, as you know the Scottish Select Committee does meet in Scotland but I regard Scotland as a full part of the United Kingdom and I believe it should be governed similarly to the rest of the United Kingdom, and as you know genuine devolution, what I would call genuine devolution, consists in government having fewer powers and more being exercised by people themselves, but not by extra government agencies. So I don't know whether that's the answer that you wanted to hear but it's absolutely straight from the shoulder.

Peter Allen, IRN

Do you want to come back with a brief supplementary? [end p13]

Robert from Bishopbriggs

Well it's an honest and straightforward answer, as you say Mrs. Thatcher, but not obviously the one I was looking for.

Peter Allen, IRN

You can't always expect that. Thanks very much indeed.

MT

Thank you very much.

Peter Allen, IRN

Let's go to Robert in Clifton in Bristol, a listener to Radio West. Uh, capital punishment, Robert?

Robert from Bristol

Yes, good morning Prime Minister.

MT

Good morning Robert.

Robert from Bristol

When a new Conservative Government takes office would you allow a public referendum on capital punishment?

MT

I don't think that we should get a public referendum on capital punishment through the House of Commons. May I say this, I believe that I know how the public would vote, I think I know. My judgement would be that the majority of the public would like some form of capital punishment to be restored, because they believe that it is a deterrent to a certain kind of criminal. It won't deter everyone, but it is a deterrent to a certain kind of criminal who if there were capital punishment and he knew that if he were to make other people's lives forfeit, he might have to forfeit his own and he would not go out and do things which result in murder. That I think would be the result of a referendum but I don't think I would get one through the House of Commons. There's almost always and there will be again a chance to have a free vote in the House of Commons about whether capital punishment should be restored. This is always dealt with on the basis of individual members and in answering you now I speak as an ordinary Conservative candidate.

I have always voted for the restoration of capital punishment. I believe that it would deter some criminals.

Peter Allen, IRN

Could you say what criminals?

MT

Those who would not in fact take out guns, those who would not shoot their way out if they thought they might have to make the final … be punished in the final way themselves. And you look at someone who is breaking out trying to escape, who is already under life sentence, he's got nothing to lose. So what does he do? Shoot or … kill in order to get out. There are many many people … many many people … there are some people who are prepared to take out guns and prepared to shoot and shoot anyone in their path when they've just done a main criminal offence in order to escape to get away. They do that in the knowledge that their own lives cannot be forfeit. I think that some of them would not do it, would not take guns, would not maim and kill if they knew that they themselves might have to pay the final penalty.

Peter Allen, IRN

[end p14]

The next call, another subject, another area. John from Eaglescliffe in Cleveland, that's Radio Tees's area. Rate reform. Hello John.

John from Eaglescliffe

Good morning Prime Minister.

MT

Hello. Good morning.

John from Eaglescliffe

The new Conservative manifesto gives a pledge on rates reform. Proposals such as a local income tax or a sales tax are both regressive taxes since the poor spend a greater part of their income whilst the rich save a greater part of theirs. Bearing in mind that the government promised rates reform when it was elected in 1979, what reforms do you have in mind Mrs. Thatcher?

MT

With regard to the earlier part of your question that the poor spend most of their income and those who are better off save theirs—yes indeed, but not only the rich save. Most people in this country, or many many people have some form of saving. I mean that's how we get national savings, post office savings, trustee savings, bank building societies which have massive amounts of savings in them.

And with regards to rates, there is of course a rate rebate scheme, as you know, to protect poor people from having to pay too much in rates, and I think that something like £400–500 million is spent on that rate rebate scheme. Of course, it has to be picked up by taxes from other people.

Now the reforms that we have in mind in the manifesto are not only for domestic rates, because by the time we came to deal with it this time … rates are not only a terrible burden on householders but also a tremendous burden on industry and commerce, and sometimes they're just the very factor which means small businesses can't carry on and therefore they lose jobs. So we're going to bring in legislation to limit the increases in rates. That we believe will help a lot of people and take a lot of worry away from them. And also we're going to abolish one extra … one tier of government which we don't think has many functions to carry out now, at least we don't think that we need a whole tier, extra tier for it, that's the Metropolitan County-GLC tier.

One of the things we have to make certain is that the policies try to get down local authority expenditure. Or let me put it this way, to stop it rising. I believe there's quite a lot of scope for economies and if we get that scope for economies then the rates themselves will not go up as they have. This year on average—and averages I know conceal quite a lot of differences—on average apart from eighteen or nineteen big spenders, the rate increases were much less than they have been.

Peter Allen, IRN

Were we right in being informed, when we were informed that you had told your ministers and officials very sternly that you wanted a plan to replace rates and in the end you had to accept that there wasn't one?

MT

Uh, well there are plans to replace rates but the fact is that that they would have [pauses] … many of them would also be very very unpopular. I mean, supposing you were to take a sales tax. I suppose in the end you could say that local sales tax would probably be more fairly distributed among people than almost anything else because as you spend, if you spend a lot, then you pay a tax. But I think that I'm told that the local business people would say, “oh yes, one more tax to collect” . And of course it could put up the cost of living and that could have quite devastating effects. That's one alternative. [end p15]

Another—local income tax would be yet another income tax on top of the income tax people already pay. And if you—let me go back to a sales tax a moment. There are times you know when some local authorities might find it easier to raise a sales tax. They might actually put up their expenditure more. That could lead to more taxation on people and that isn't the idea at all. The idea is that people must spend with best value for money and most economically, recognising in every pound they take away, every pound they spend is a pound they've taken away from the people they represent.

Peter Allen, IRN

So in summary, no alternative to rates?

MT

We have not in fact put an alternative in for rates at the moment. What we're saying is we're going to limit the increases and of course part of your local authority expenditure is raised not by rates at all. Indeed the greater part of it is raised not by rates at all but by the rates support grant—which of course is tax—right across the board.

Peter Allen, IRN

OK, let's go to Tony from Bedford, listener to Chiltern Radio, talking about state education. Tony what do you want to say?

Tony from Bedford

Hello Mrs. Thatcher.

MT

Hello Tony.

Tony from Bedford

As chairman of the Campaign for the Advancement of State Education and someone who earns his living in public sector further and higher education, and also the parent of three children in state comprehensive schools, I'm very conscious of the battering state education has suffered over the last four years, both materially and in terms of morale. I'm therefore anxious to ask you in the light of the minimal reference to education in the Conservative manifesto, and of your government's evident enthusiasm only for private schools and the Manpower Services Commission approach, how you see the maintained sector developing—if at all—over the next five to ten years if you're re-elected?

MT

First, I do not accept your criticisms. There's a very good section of the Conservative manifesto which sets out just exactly how we've tried to give greater choice to parents and tried also to give them greater influence about what goes on in the schools and in the curriculum. I believe that is very very warmly welcomed.

We've also tried to give parents greater choice in having assisted places in schools which are not state schools and many, many of the people who take advantage of those are people who have broken families or people who would not otherwise be able to afford it. And indeed the heading of the section on schools is “the pursuit of excellence” . That is a very good heading.

Now let me just give the record. In fact—and you cannot challenge this because it is true—there is now more money spent per pupil in state education, even taking rising prices into account, more money spent per pupil than ever before in our history. And what is more there are more teachers in proportion to pupils than ever before in our history. So it is more money per pupil and the best ever numbers of teachers to pupils … well, records for both.

Now we can't set out to run each and every school. How local authorities deal with that extra money and those extra resources is up to them. But I make … I strenuously wish people to have, parents to have greater choice and I want standards of excellence in all our schools. [end p16]

Now, another thing we've done, the reports of Her Majesty's Inspectorate are going to be published. The schools have to publish their exam results so that parents will know how to judge. Excellence and equipping young people for the world of work is what I want and that is the way we're going. And I do not think you can challenge a single thing that I have said.

Peter Allen, IRN

Unfortunately you're not going to get the chance to challenge a single thing Mrs. Thatcher said because the time is evaporating fairly rapidly and probably our last call of this particular programme.

MT

Oh it's gone quickly.

Peter Allen, IRN

It has indeed. Let's go to Sylvia in Romford. What do you want to talk about Sylvia?

Sylvia from Romford

Good morning Mrs. Thatcher.

MT

Hello Sylvia.

Sylvia from Romford

If you win the election will you keep Norman Tebbit as Minister of Employment and if you don't win the election, will you stand down as party leader?

MT

Oh my goodness me. Uh, well right now we're bending every effort to win the election. I think I can confidently say that in the event of our winning the election and I'm cautiously optimistic that we, chances are good, Norman Tebbit will certainly be in my Cabinet, uh, precisely as what job … well I've really not yet turned my mind to reshaping a Cabinet and would not intend to do so until the election is well and truly in the bag.

If by any chance we should not win, and naturally I think that would be totally and utterly disastrous for this country because the alternative is the most extreme we've ever had, then my goodness me my name would have to be put up again in competition with others for party leader and I would see that there was such a competition. Who won that competition is not for me to say.

Peter Allen, IRN

The Observer front page says today “Mr. Francis Pym, the Foreign Secretary, has told Mrs. Thatcher he will leave her government if she tries to remove him from the Foreign Office” . It does seem that the wets in your cabinet, that's the phrase which has been attached to them, are on the move again?

MT

That report is totally and utterly untrue. Mr. Pym has had no such conversation or communication with me and he is very distressed indeed at that totally false report.

Peter Allen, IRN

You did perhaps give the spring to those stories by the way … you were seen in public and I want say whether you did or not, but you were seen in public to slap down Mr. Pym at one of your press conferences.

MT

[end p17]

No, I was not seen to slap down Mr. Pym. I could see that the press in front of me had not in fact taken up that his point which he made, which was that it is the people of the Falklands whom we consider when we're considering the future of the Falklands. And that I believe and as he believes that the people in the Falkland Islands will wish to stay British and that we shall defend them. …

Peter Allen, IRN

[spending over MT] There's also his remarks about …

MT

There's no difference between us …

Peter Allen, IRN

There was also his remarks about election, there was a difference about that.

MT

I'm afraid he tossed a tiny little comment which the press—not his fault in any way—which the press just blew up. Look this really, may I make one plea?

Peter Allen, IRN

Very quickly I'm afraid.

MT

We've got two and a bit weeks to go on this election. We've got to fight it on the real big issues and that's what I'm going to try to do.

Peter Allen, IRN

Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, many thanks indeed for your time, the last hour. In next week we're going to talk to Michael Foot. In the meantime, this is Peter Allen reporting. This is Independent Radio News.