Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1983 May 25 We
Margaret Thatcher

General Election Press Conference

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Conservative Central Office, Smith Square, Westminster
Source: Conservative Party Archive: transcript
Editorial comments: 0930-1000.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 7834
Themes: Executive, Conservatism, Defence (general), Employment, Industry, General Elections, Privatized & state industries, Labour Party & socialism, Local government, Local government finance, Liberal & Social Democratic Parties, Media, Northern Ireland, Social security & welfare

The Prime Minister

This morning as you can see, we have Francis PymForeign Secretary and Michael HeseltineDefence Secretary with us, so we shall be concentrating on defence policies. Michael Heseltine will make the opening statement on defence, Francis will add some things on disarmament, then we'll have questions on defence and then open it up to other questions later. Michael.

The Rt Hon Michael Heseltine—Secretary of State for Defence

Thank you very much Prime Minister. I've just spent two days travelling through some eighteen constituencies and it's quite obvious now that defence is regarded as the, one of the leading issues of this campaign. And we've issued a statement this morning which is available to everybody here, I won't go through it in detail, but perhaps I can just make the main points. It makes it quite clear that the Conservative Party has the very strongest commitment to the NATO Alliance, that we believe that we believe that it is necessary to back our conventional defence effort with a nuclear capability, and we believe that it is essential that we should modernise our British independent, last resort deterrent, the Polaris submarine system, by introducing the Trident system which will guarantee our deterrence capability until the first quarter of the next century. We have increased under this Government our defence expenditure by something like 20 per cent in real terms, and we are now in a position where we're very anxious to see a satisfactory agreement with the Soviet Union at the Geneva Intermediate Range Talks, but we've made it absolutely clear, along with our NATO allies, that if we don't get a satisfactory agreement, then we shall proceed on time with the deployment of the Cruise missile systems in Britain and in the Continent of Europe. The issue that is causing the principle concern, in the public debate, is the row that now centres on Labour's defence policy. And I think that I would want to make it quite clear that our view is that Michael Foot is sticking rigidly to the spirit and the letter of the Labour Party manifesto. He, from all the things that I have read, that he has said and heard that he has said, he would be able to claim that if he were elected an absolute mandate on the basis of the Labour Party manifesto for his defence policies. And what are the key points of Labour's manifesto on defence? First of all, they are to have a non-nuclear defence policy. They are quite specific about the timescale within which they will achieve that non-nuclear defence policy. It is to be within the lifetime of a single Parliament. Now those are unqualified commitments, and we believe that they add up to the most naive and reckless gamble with the defence of this nation, that any Party seeking office has put before the British people. What it amounts to is that within the lifetime of a Parliament, under a Labour Government, there would be no independent British deterrent, there would be no NATO nuclear bases on British soil or in British waters, and that of course would deal a devastating blow to the confidence and morale of the NATO Alliance. So what do Labour say they will use to defend ourselves? Well, Michael Foot says that they will do what they've always done, which is to rely on the Army, Navy and Air Force. No one doubts the professional excellence of the men and women who serve in those services. But anybody in that position will want to ask the Labour Party very specifically, how it is they they intend to rely on the Army, Navy and Air Force, when the Labour Party manifesto commits a Labour Government to slashing reductions in the conventional defence budget, and the commitment is totally clear. They will reduce the burden of defence expenditure to the level of our major NATO Allies. Well, we are today spending [end p1] something like 5.1 per cent of our national product on defence. The average of our major NATO Allies is 3.5 per cent, and so that reduction of 1.6 per cent, which amounts to about four and a half thousand million pounds a year, is the clear commitment of the Labour manifesto. As it isn't conceiveable that you can get economies perhaps of even £1 billion from the nuclear policies of the Labour Party, they must be looking for something of the order of three and half thousand million pounds of reductions in defence, in conventional policies. This of course would be devastating to our defence capability. It would also have incalculable effects upon the jobs of the people working in the defence industries. This position was made absolutely clear by the defence spokesman for the Labour Party, Mr. Brynmor John, in 1981, where he first gave currency to the figure of up to 400,000 job losses in defence industries, if the policies of the Labour Party were to be adopted, well those policies have to be, have been now adopted, and so we are not only going to have a non-nuclear policy, but a savage reduction in our conventional defence budget, and perhaps up to 400,000 threatened in the defence industries. So, under Labour, it amounts to a very simple thing, you're defenceless and jobless.

The Prime Minister

Thank you, Francis.

The Rt Hon Francis Pym—Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

I also think it is quite clear that if that Labour policy were to be followed, we would not succeed in getting any arms control agreements. Because all the evidence confirms that the only thing the Russians respect is strength and what you have to negotiate with. We have at the present time the most comprehensive set of negotiations on arms control and disarmament that there has ever been. On the nuclear field it is going on between the super powers over the strategic deterrent, where on behalf of the Alliance, and themselves, the United States has proposed a very drastic reduction on both sides, which has so far received a ‘no’ from the Soviet Union. In the INF talks to which Cruise missiles are related, similarly, we have stressed and fortified the United States in their zero option, no weapons in that cateogry on the Russian side, none on our side, there's been an absolute ‘no’ from the Russians. And let me remind you, that when NATO took its decision in 1979, the Russians refused to negotiate at all, and when they realised that we meant the decision, that unless they did talk, we would deploy, they decided to talk. Then in Vienna there are the negotiations about conventional weapons, have been going on for a number of years, without much success so far, but we are determined to continue and do everything we can to get a reduction there. On chemical weapons, we've made proposals there, which have so far met no response from the Soviet Union. We ourselves gave up our own chemical weapons a few years ago, no response on the other side, they've still got theirs, but still we're struggling to try and persuade them to do away with those. And then in Madrid, we have the conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe, which deals with matters such as trying to build confidence measures in Europe, also on human rights, where there is after Helsinki now a criterion, against which we can test the Russians and indeed ourselves, or any other country, we're trying to make progress there. That's the most comprehensive set of proposals, ever undertaken by anyone, and we can only get results if we are strong enough, with our allies, to indicate quite clearly to the other side, that there is no hope for them, [end p2] no point in them, no gain for them in contemplating anything like aggression.

The Prime Minister

Thank you, can we have questions first on Defence and Disarmament. Yes, at the back.

Question

(inaudible).

The Rt Hon Michael Heseltine—Secretary of State for Defence

You couldn't pursue a defence policy which was carried out without the resources necessary to fund, and it is obviously the first responsibility of Government to defend the nation and we have to find the means to do that.

Question

(inaudible)

The Rt Hon Michael Heseltine—Secretary of State for Defence

It certainly has a beneficial effect in the overall, obviously as we have well established, but the fact of the matter is that if you were in the way the Labour Party propose to bring about the reductions of the sort that is put forward in their conventional proposals, there would be savage job reductions, and don't rely on me for that, because the Labour manifesto, itself makes it quite clear that a Labour Government will plan to ensure that savings in military expenditure do not lead to unemployment for those working in defence industries, will give material support and encouragement to plans for industrial conversion. So that valuable resources of defence industries can be used for the production of useful goods. Now that's a pious hope, and as you all know, no Labour Government ever in the history of the Labour Party has ever managed to reduce unemployment.

The Prime Minister

Mr. Andrew Roth and then Miss Elinor Goodman.

Question

How does the platform feel about President Reagan 's initial success with the MX missile?

The Rt Hon Michael Heseltine—Secretary of State for Defence

Well, obviously the President has to make his own decisions about the major defence requirements of the United States. I don't think it is for us to try and comment on the priorities that he sets, we believe that it is absolutely critical that he should maintain a credible and effective policy.

The Prime Minister

Miss Goodman.

Question

(inaudible).

The Rt Hon Michael Heseltine—Secretary of State for Defence

Yes, they argue those sort things, but they don't make an qualifications as such in their manifesto. They make it, they make it absolutely clear that they will reduce the level of defence expenditure, full stop.

The Prime Minister

What's wrong with their argument is the facts.

The Rt Hon Michael Heseltine—Secretary of State for Defence

There's the history, they have managed to reduce unemployment. [end p3]

The Prime Minister

No, I think it's on the output figure …   . Did I hear, if I heard her right.——

Question

… that they would increase the Gross National Product to the level it was when they left Government. They could reduce the proportion going on defence to 3.5 the level of our NATO allies, and contain the real level of spending——

The Prime Minister

Yes, yes and how much do they think it was fallen? What their allegation [sic] by the amount by which it's fallen?

Question

I've forgotten what the precise figures are but they maintain——

The Prime Minister

Well, I can tell you it's very considerable, I heard 15 per cent, which is why I have the facts with me. The level of Gross Domestic Product in the first quarter of 1979 was 108.3 on the index, in the first quarter of 1983 it is 107.2. Their arithmetic doesn't stand up.

The Rt Hon Michael Heseltine—Secretary of State for Defence

There is another Labour argument, and that is that they will actually keep the absolute level static whilst growth takes the economy into a larger position and therefore the proportion of expenditure will, well, we've looked to see what it would be necessary by way of growth to achieve to bring that about, and if you have no nuclear policy at all, they'd need to achieve an annual rate of growth of about 5 and a half per cent.

The Prime Minister

Mr. Raphael and then the gentleman over there.

Question

…   . the Prime Minister that her Government is sustaining … of defence spending … there is a general view in Whitehall that your Government would be forced into a defence review very shortly …   . levels are unsustainable.

The Prime Minister

It is included in the Public Expenditure plans for the next three years. Already included in the published plans, which you have before, because we have that commitment, and its included in them.

Question

And after that period?

The Prime Minister

Well, we come up to look up to that period, when we come to that period, but three years ahead publication isn't bad. I think we're up to 1985–86. It's included in the years which we do in fact publish. That's not bad. We of course look at each public expenditure every year, but if you're looking forwards three years, and have it included in, it's not bad. I think its very good.

The Rt Hon Michael Heseltine—Secretary of State for Defence

Our future plans for 1985–6 are an increase of a further 1 per cent.

The Prime Minister

No, the gentleman behind you.

Question

… that the manifesto is not specific on this, the commitment followed by the independent deterrent is … (inaudible). [end p4]

The Rt Hon Michael Heseltine—Secretary of State for Defence

Yes, absolutely categoric. I made a speech in Perth just before the manifesto was published, specifically making it clear that we would do that and I've said exactly the same thing today in the statement issues today, so it's exactly that.

Question

If Mrs. Thatcher … so that as long as she remains Prime Minister there's no question of the Government's commitment to acquiring Trident being changed on cost or any other grounds.

The Prime Minister

That there's no question of a commitment to Trident being changed? I think you're trying to read something into the Manifesto that isn't there. We have to modernise the independent nuclear deterrent because the Polaris submarines will, I'm afraid no longer be serviceable after-1990?

The Rt Hon Michael Heseltine—Secretary of State for Defence

1990.

The Prime Minister

1990. Therefore, the new submarines have to be built and the new Trident deterrent has to come in. I think we did not actually specify Trident in the manifesto, that was an omission which we had not noticed until it was raised here, but the modernisation is Trident. The submarines are built at Barrow?

The Rt Hon Michael Heseltine—Secretary of State for Defence

Yes, a very high proportion of the total expenditure will be spent in Britain.

Question

Prime Minister, … the Labour Party and Polaris, I just wonder if I can turn a bit to the implications of Trident. Just supposing what … the Soviet Union and the United States were to reach an agreement at the START talks, which resulted in a substantial reduction in the number of warheads being deployed by each side and inter-continental weapons, and then we go ahead with Trident which substantially increases the number of warheads available to the British, from a small number to over 500. Wouldn't there be the danger, at the end of this decade, that as the Soviet Union and the United States reached a strategic agreement that the British independent deterrent could overturn the balance again and make the super powers even very difficult to protect?

The Rt Hon Francis Pym—Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

We've always made it clear, we've always made it absolutely clear that if there was a drastic change in the strategic scene, that if the Soviet Union had shown a totally different attitude and where prepared to make drastic reductions in their strategic armaments, indeed all their armaments, and showed totally different attitude altogether, then we would be prepared to reconsider the British independent nuclear deterrent which is the weapon of last resort. But we're obviously a long way away from that. But in those circumstances then obviously we would, but I hope that day does come.

Question

Not all that different from the Labour Party, is it …——

The Prime Minister

No, very different. [end p5]

The Rt Hon Francis Pym—Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

Totally, toally different, they're first of all saying they'd phase it out now so that there would be no independent nuclear deterrent whatsoever. It's absurd also to say they'd put Polaris into the talks, because, that Polaris, as everybody knows, even with Cheveline, will be ineffective and … in the 1990s, that's why Trident has to take place, why there's no point in saying that they would hold on to Polaris, it won't be an effective deterrent. We will hold on to our effective deterrent, and it will be an effective one with Trident, unless and until there is this drastic change of attitude and strategy and circumstances which we all hope for, but which there is not the slightest sign of unfortunately at the present time.

Question

… that in the last analysis you would put Trident into the negotiations?

The Rt Hon Francis Pym—Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

We are not saying that. I'm saying we would reconsider the, our position about that, if there was this drastic change of attitude, that the Russians had shown that they were prepared to do away with a lot of their strategic weapons, that there were a complete acceptance of an arms control agreement and a huge reduction, so that all the circumstances, the strategic circumstances were different. We would then be prepared to reconsider our position. That's what I'm saying.

The Prime Minister

Mr. Emery.

Question

I'd like to ask Mr. Pym whether now that the original zero-zero reductions are no longer being negotiated … (inaudible).

The Rt Hon Francis Pym—Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

That is no longer possible. Once the zero option was abandoned because the Russians refused to negotiate on that basis, it meant that there were going to be some intermediate missiles on their side, and it follows as night follows day that there are going to be some intermediate missiles on our side.

Question

(inaudible).

The Rt Hon Francis Pym—Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

No, no. No, not at all. But I would simply say that if again in the next three or four years, when deployment is taking place, there is a change on the Russian side and they decide to do away with their SS20s, well then we can always of course alter that deployment plan.

The Prime Minister

Any other questions on defence and, yes, defence and disarmament?

Question

I wonder if Mr. Heseltine would comment on Mr. Foot 's statement yesterday about jobs in the defence industry, that Trident, much of it will be American made, that means exporting jobs from Britain to the United States. How many jobs, what sort of job loss is there as a result of the particular decision about where, how Trident will be made?

The Rt Hon Michael Heseltine—Secretary of State for Defence

[end p6] Well, the fact is that something getting on for half, just under half, over 40 per cent of the expenditure on Trident will be spent in Britain, and so, there will be a very substantial job opportunities arising from that programme, and Mr. Foot is really trying to obscure the fact that his policies lead to dramatic reductions in the defence budget, whilst our policies lead to increases in the defence budgets. So we——

Question

…   . there's no job losses as a result of buying in the American system?

The Rt Hon Michael Heseltine—Secretary of State for Defence

Our … can I just give you the figures? I think they explain it quite clearly. We've got a present defence budget of the order of £16,000 million a year. The average expenditure on Trident is of the £400 million, a very significant proportion of which will be spent in Britain. So if you compare that you can see the job export element is negligible, compare it with the Labour Party's commitment to reduce our defence budget by four and a half thousand million pounds a year, and you'll see that my commitment that jobs will be increased and maintained in the defence industries is real, whereas the Labour Party in reality is as Mr. Brynmor John said something up to 400,000 job losses.

The Prime Minister

At the back, sitting down.

Question

Can you explain while your Government has refused to give a pledge … nuclear weapons?

The Rt Hon Michael Heseltine—Secretary of State for Defence

Yes because we've given a better pledge, we'll be the first to use no weapons at all.

The Prime Minister

So we only use weapons in response to an attack, it's the NATO pledge, it was renewed at Bonn.

Question

… in certain circumstances to use nuclear weapons … (inaudible).

The Rt Hon Michael Heseltine—Secretary of State for Defence

The principle purpose of nuclear weapons is to deter any attack upon the Western Alliance. That is the task we set them and in which they have been brilliantly successful for thirty-eight years.

The Prime Minister

Any other questions on nuclear or——

The Rt Hon Michael Heseltine—Secretary of State for Defence

We are not going to try and anticipate any decisions that our opponents might make and then give the answers in advance.

Question

Can I just clarify one——

The Prime Minister

One moment, the gentleman at the back standing.

Question

(inaudible).

The Rt Hon Michael Heseltine—Secretary of State for Defence

What is at stake in this? Well, undoubtedly the credibility of Britain's commitment to the NATO Alliance. [end p7]

The Prime Minister

Someone else was chiming up, I couldn't say whom and where.

Question

On what Mr. Pym was saying, if in fact you were able to secure a drastic reduction in Soviet arms on the scale which would justify Britain not proceeding … is there not then some difficulty in retaining Mrs. Thatcher's assurances on those circumstance in which Trident would not be …

The Rt Hon Francis Pym—Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

No, I said nothing about Trident. What I said was that in those remarkable circumstances, if they arose, we would be prepared to reconsider the position, and that would be sensible, but that is as far as we would be prepared to go, and we ought to reconsider it in those circumstances, because it would be a completely different situation we're facing instead of a massive continuing sustained build up of arms on the Soviet side, which continue day after day, nuclear and conventional, we're envisaging circumstances, where exactly the reverse and their disposing of those weapons, that would be a new situation but we're a long way from that.

The Rt Hon Michael Heseltine—Secretary of State for Defence

And, and of course the point I think your question doesn't quite take on board, is that in looking in those quite hypothetical situations, you could be talking about maintaining, and you would be in the case of this Government, we would be talking about maintaing Britain's independent deterrent, but we might believe it was capable of being maintained with a lower number of warheads. In other words, there would be an irreducable minimum deterrent which we would absolutely ensure we maintained but not at the full level of deployment at the moment envisaged with the Trident system, providing that the Soviet Union would go in complete reverse of all the policies that they are pursued since the war.

The Prime Minister

Any more questions on defence and disarmament? Shall we open up then for our questions, yes?

Question

May I ask you to comment, Prime Minister, on the quality of Anglo-Irish relations during your term in office, and where you would see that process going in the event of your return?

The Prime Minister

I do not see any major difference in policy or indeed any difference in policy between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, no difference in policy at all. We co-operate, very much in matters of defence, and in a number of other economic matters across the border, we're also both members of the European Economic Community, and we have tried to have friendly cross-border relations with the only country with which we have a land boundary.

Question

But specifically, I'm thinking of the hiccough … relationship at the time of the Falkland's crisis, has that at this stage resolved itself?

The Prime Minister

We do not yet have any specific bilateral talks of the kind that we were having before those matters occurred. We thought it better to wait a time. We still meet as Members of the European Community and there I see Mr. Garret Fitzgerald, the Taoiseach. [end p8]

Question

… government contact, the relationship … in fact broke down?

The Prime Minister

No, no indeed, there's very, very good relationship across the border, particularly on security matters and of course all the things which go across the border, the roads, the other communications still continue, and we meet, we meet, yes, do you think I could actually let a number of other people on this? Yes

Question

There have been rumours buzzing around the DHSS that there are plans to means-test child benefit, can you——

The Prime Minister

Nonsense. No, no, no. Mr. Oakley.

Question

Is the Prime Minister alarmed at the number of confidential Government papers being leaked that she suspects Civil Servants, advisers or politicans and what does she intend to do about it?

The Prime Minister

Obviously, we try not to have papers leaked. I'm afraid it is a fact of life that they do get leaked. That they get so much publicity when they're so old, I think is an indication of the desperation of the Opposition. We're talking about the future, we shall continue in our Committees and in Cabinet and in our many, many discussions in Conservative Government to consider many, many ideas. We are a Party that actually looks at ideas before we decide finally on our course of action. That the documents help to demonstrate that, I think is a very, very good thing for the open mindedness of our Party, and the thoroughness of its considerations. Next question.

Question

Prime Minister, the leader of the GLC [said?] yesterday during a debate at County Hall, that the real reason you want to abolish the GLC is because the opposition to your policies is so effective. Would you like to comment on that?

The Prime Minister

No, I do not consider that the GLC is effective in any way. I do consider that it is an enormous drain on the ratepayer, an enormous drain, and that those very, very large rates which are caused by some of the policies of the GLC, are actually destroying jobs in London, and people would prefer, sometimes, to move out of the centre of London because the rates are so high. Also there are not many functions which the GLC which could not the better be carried out either by the Boroughs or joint boards, or a Transport Executive. And of course, it isn't only the GLC, it is also the Metropolitan counties. People who haven't yet had a look in. Two at the back.

Question

(inaudible).

The Prime Minister

Could you please speak up?

Question

Excuse me. Does Mrs. Thatcher subscribe to the view in the report of the Treasury Committee, that something under half the rise in British unemployment … the world recession?

The Prime Minister

No I do not. Have you received Mr. Du Cann 's statement which he made this morning? No. I think I'd better read it out. Would you like to read it out? [end p9]

The Rt Hon Cecil ParkinsonParty Chairman

Yes, all right. The draft report was prepared by advisers not by me, and not by the Committee. It represents neither my considered view, nor that of the Committee. There are no circumstances in which it would have been accepted by a majority of the Committee, in the form in which it is published. It is a pity that the serious research work done by the Committee has now been so misrepresented, for political reasons, I deplore that it devalues the work of the Select Committee, of Select Committees in general, in the House of Commons. The suggestion that the Committee and I blame the Government for causing unemployment is nonsense. Unemployment is due to the lack of productivity, slowness to change from old industries to the new, and so on. All of which Government policies are designed to cure and which I strongly support. There is one part of the report that I do warmly endorse, the recommendation that nations should discuss economic problems together, particularly inflation and interest rates, and the burden of these on developed and developing countries. This is of course, the purpose of the Prime Minister's visit to Williamsburg.

The Prime Minister

There will be copies of that available, I thought they were probably available as you came in. May I add my half to the answer of that question. As Norman Tebbit said I think on one of the early days of our press conferences, there are a number of causes of unemployment, one is world recession, another is the things, are the things, which is the fault of things like high inflation here in the last decade, pay which went, way, way, way ahead of output and therefore we had very low productivity, strikes, overmanning and restrictive practices, and constantly shoring up old industries regardless of performance, instead of concentrating on bringing new jobs into existence. All of those have added to unemployment here. There are of course two other reasons, to which we're all subject, one is the advent of the newly industralised countries, which are very efficient and which are not only taking our markets here, but are taking many of our markets overseas, that's a problem which didn't exist twenty years ago. And of course, the problem of adapting to the new technology. But as Norman Tebbit said in one of those very early press conferences, we have a specific number of things here, like very high inflation, pay unrelated to productivity, strikes, overmanning and restrictive practices which I'm afraid over the years made us more vulnerable to a world recession, and which added to unemployment. You had someone else near you who was also——

The Rt Hon Cecil Parkinson—Party Chairman

Prime Minister, may I just add one thing? Every single member of the, Conservative member of the Select Committee has endorsed Mr. Du Cann 's statement.

The Prime Minister

Yes, there's some at the back also, yes.

Question

Going back to the GLC, Prime Minister, the Conservative Opposition leader on the GLC is worried that the joint boards you refer to will become unelected Quangos. Can you reassure him?

The Prime Minister

Well hardly, the joint boards will consist of elected members from the boroughs. This could hardly be unelected Quangos. [end p10] You can't be unelected, if you're elected. Except at an election.

Question

(inaudible).

The Prime Minister

I think you must ask that of Mr. Du Cann. You must ask that of Mr. Du Cann, he's made a very, very clear statement, endorsed by all Conservative members on the Committee, which of course are in the majority.

Question

(inaudible).

The Prime Minister

You must ask Mr. Du Cann. We do not as you know constrain our Members of Parliament. I'm sure you will give us credit for that.

Question

Do you think the British electorate has accepted the Conservative Party contention that unemployment is mostly a problem of the public sector and not to be controlled by Government?

The Prime Minister

I'm sorry could you repeat that?

Question

The question is, whether the, you believe the British electorate has accepted the Conservative Party contention that unemployment is mostly a problem of the private sector and not of the public sector?

The Prime Minister

It is the first time I've ever heard such a suggestion. It is a problem in both. In the public sector of course you have very, very substantial redundancies, you have to. When I first came into politics there were about 700,000 people involved in coal mining. Now there are only about 200,000 not surprising, with all the modernisation of technology. Similarly with steel, similarly with railways, similarly if you go over to other public sector, with British Leyland you had colossal overmanning, and there was also a good deal of overmanning in other industries too. I certainly would accept that many, many other industries too. I certainly would accept that many, many other industries have slimmed down considerably and the management now think that they are thoroughly efficient. But there is the other factor, you have not only have to be very, very efficient, you do have to produce the right designed goods and services and of course, that still is a problem in some industries. There's also another one, that we still buy in, many, many products that we don't make here, because in the past our design was not good enough and people did not keep up to date. I mean typewriters is one of the classic ones, we don't——

Question

I put my question badly, perhaps, what I meant was …

The Prime Minister

You're being very kind.

Question

Whether it is the private sector or the Government that mostly control the problems or employment and unemployment.

The Prime Minister

You can't control them except by winning new customers. In a way it is the customer who decides where the jobs are, as far as the private sector is concerned and the customer decides by what goods they buy, and the British housewife is a very, very, shrewd buyer. Now also, so are many, many people here, who buy such things as cars, I'm afraid on the car market, the foreign penetration of the car market is well over 50 per cent, it's something of the order of 54–55 [end p11] per cent. Now if we had perhaps better designed cars, and I would contend now that our cars will match the design of others anywhere else in the world. But it's going to take a time to get our reputation back. Jaguar cars, for example are selling extremely well, good design, very efficient. The people who determine in greater part where the jobs are are the customers, and the people who attract the customers are those in industry who design and produce efficiently to tempt the customer. And only when we have a flourishing private sector are we able to have a flourishing public sector. So it isn't a matter of controlling employment. It's a question of winning customers and winning jobs. I hope we are on the same wavelength and that I've understood you? Yes.

Question

In today's Guardian story about privatisation, the national insurance scheme, it says that there is no evidence that the proposals have been dropped. Can you … (inaudible).

The Prime Minister

I think, we [word missing] you on this——

Question

… Whether they are going——

The Prime Minister

There is nothing in the manifesto which says we are going to drop insurance in any way. We are not. In reaching, in reaching our conclusions, we do look at all sorts of possibilities. That I think is a paper of a very, very long time ago. We look at them and then most of them are discarded. That was one that was discarded. We shall go on, I must stress, we shall go on looking at alternative possibilities, and the thing that worries me is that many, many people, who want more open Government, are using some of these documents, not to encourage open Government, but to try in a way to do everything to shut it down and to attack it. That I think will be fundamentally wrong. Yes, we are open minded. Yes, before we come to a conclusion, we do look at alternatives, we looked at that paper, I think you were on that Committee, we discard most of the alternatives which come up, and you then decide your policy and the policy is in the manifesto. But if you believe in a Government that really does look at alternatives, a Government that really does believe in open Government, because we have been open, then do not try to take every single thing which a competent Government will look at, if only to discard and try to accuse us with it, because if you are going to do that, then somehow we should not get as good Government as we've got at the moment, and as we're going to have at least for the next five years I believe. You were on that Committee——

The Rt Hon Michael Heseltine—Secretary of State for Defence

I was actually on the Misc 14 Committee and I therefore can personally support very much what the Prime Minister is saying. We did look at virtually every range of these subjects, always to say, how can we get a better, larger and more efficient provision of the services, and we produced a very long list of all the sort of options of which most people had ever heard, and we went through them very systematically, very large numbers of them we discarded straight away. Significant numbers of them, we said, well, we can't see that that could work, but we'd better just double and re-double the checking to see if it can. And a tiny number actually came through into ideas we pursued, but the Prime Minister is absolutely right, it was a very thorough horizon-searching exercise to try and be sure we'd thought of [end p12] all the ideas we could. Most of them we rejected, a lot of them out of hand.

Question

Mr. Tebbit is reported as saying that if we haven't got unemployment below 3 million by the next General Election, we won't deserved to be returned. I wonder if you yourself, are yet ready with a date on the turning down of unemployment?

The Prime Minister

No, I believe that our policies give the very best opportunities for new jobs. How far they're taken up will depend on many, many things I can't wholly determine. I can say that the opportunities are there. I believe that they will lead to good job prospects for many, many young people. The critical question is, how fast do you get the new jobs and the new products coming in? And there are a lot of new jobs now, compared with some of the old ones, which are still being run down. It is still very difficult to put a date on that. We give, we give the opportunities of low inflation, better tax incentives, tax incentives to help small business, tax incentives to help the new products and bring them to the market. How rapidly those will be taken up, I don't know. A lot also depends upon when, how the world recession will go, and recovery in other countries and a lot too will depend upon the interest rate which we cannot wholly determine. You're still trying to get us to forecast. I am saying we're creating the very best conditions and circumstances. I believe those will taken up in this country, I cannot give you a time or a date. Mr. Haviland.

Question

I wondered if the Prime Minister could tell us whether, since the document that she mentioned has come into the public domain, if the ideas in it are as old as the documents themselves? In particular whether——

The Prime Minister

Well, they must be, with all due respect Julian HavilandJulian. If the ideas are in the document, the ideas must at least be as old as the document themselves. I beg your pardon?

Question

Unless they're still entertained?

The Prime Minister

I have not the slightest shadow of doubt that all kinds of ideas will come up in the future. We shall continue to look at ideas, which we believe will be to the service of the people of this country, either which will carry out services better, or a number of things in that document, which have tried to create new jobs faster. We shall continue to see how we can better serve this country, we shall continue to see how we can better produce jobs. But I am not going to be driven to deny any single thing that is in any document or to accept it, I'm saying and I think it is reasonable to say. We are the Party that does consider ideas, we're the Party that considers them, in discharging our fundamental duty to the public and I think if I might respectfully say so, that it is totally wrong and a disservice to the public to use every small thing that is considered in coming to a conclusion, to try almost to indicate that it's wrong to consider such ideas, I think it does a great disservice. You're entitled to your opinion and I'm entitled to mine. We're going to go on looking at new ideas, and we're not going to be deflected by leaks of documents, or by people who receive documents and then publish them. It is very, very difficult to carry on Government against this background, but we shall continue to carry on in the way in which we have, being as open as possible, and discussing those things which it is [end p13] our duty to discuss.

The Rt Hon Michael Heseltine—Secretary of State for Defence

Prime Minister, there's one just example of that, that there are things in those documents which are still current because some of the things we were looking at, a lot were legislatable, but one of the examples is, we looked at a whole range of ideas for trying to extend home ownership, and we did introduce a lot of those. I'm quite sure that they will still be in the Department of the Environment, current thinking going on to see what extra can be done to help in that field. Some of it will have come out of that work.

Question

Have you abandoned the idea of a Government sponsored fighting fund for employers?

The Prime Minister

That is not, we have considered that many times. I expect it will come up again. We have never supported it. Never supported it, but I'm not going through them, Julian HavilandJulian because what I think you are doing, is securing or using leaked documents, which, ideas which were considered. The policies which we have are in the manifesto, and we fight on those. Yes, it is difficult if we get leaked documents. The important thing is, that they do not deflect us from considering all ideas which must be considered and will continue to be considered. And I will not be contrained by leaks of this kind, in any way, and we should be at fault if we were. No Mr. Waller, you've had some already. Can I just go, now we're twelve minutes past ten, to anyone who's not had a question, who wants to ask one, over there first.

Question

Will Mr. Heseltine accept that there are dangerous defence implications of the decline of the British shipbuilding industry?

The Rt Hon Michael Heseltine—Secretary of State for Defence

Well, the figures actually show that there are relatively small declines that have taken place as a result of the contraction of world, the shipbuilding or the merchant shipping? I'm terribly sorry, I thought you were talking about the merchant shipping side. The, on the shipbuilding side, we believe we have the capacity in this country to build the ships that are necessary in our defence interests, and I think we've placed contracts for something like thirty-three ships under this Government. Merchant ships of course are built around the world, and the evidence is, that we have a very large merchant fleet, although not as large numerically as it was, it still extremely large, getting on for nine hundred ships if I remember the figures correctly.

The Prime Minister

Last question, here.

Question

Prime Minister, according to today's Daily Mirror, the candidate in Stockton South has stood against the Conservative Party …   . (End of side one of the tape.)

The Rt Hon Cecil Parkinson—Party Chairman

He left it eight years ago, he repudiates the National Front's ideas and he has worked very hard in the Conservative Party and he was selected by the people at Stockton South. But he repudiated the National Front nearly ten years ago, and I think the contrast between that and Mr. Foot travelling to Bradford on Saturday to support [end p14] a candidate who holds extreme Marxist views and still holds them and refuses to repudiate them, is a very stark one.

Question

You've been seriously mislead, Sir. He repudiated the National Front in order to join the National Party, an equally extreme organisation. That was in, according to the Birmingham Post, that was in 1976. Bearing this in mind do you now repudiate …

The Rt Hon Cecil Parkinson—Party Chairman

We understand that he left the National Front eight years ago we've had conversations with him, he says he repudiated their ideas at that time, he found them totally unsatisfactory, he bitterly regrets his association with them.

The Prime Minister

Of course if you couldn't change your mind you wouldn't have any SDP Party now, would you? And that would save you a whole press conference.

The Rt Hon Cecil Parkinson—Party Chairman

Could I just say, the document costing Labour's Manifesto promises in detail is now available and will be available as you leave.