Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1984 Jan 5 Th
Margaret Thatcher

Interview for News of the World

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: Interview
Venue: No.10 Downing Street
Source: Thatcher Archive: transcript
Journalist: Paul Potts, News of the World
Editorial comments: 1630-1710.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 5872
Themes: Autobiographical comments, Autobiography (marriage & children), British Constitution (general discussions), Parliament, Conservatism, Defence (arms control), Secondary education, Employment, Industry, Privatized & state industries, Pay, Public spending & borrowing, Taxation, Trade, European Union (general), Foreign policy (Americas excluding USA), Foreign policy (Central & Eastern Europe), Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Law & order, Local government finance, Leadership, Media, Northern Ireland, Terrorism, Trade unions, Trade union law reform

PP

SHALL I BEGIN—THE NEW YEAR MESSAGE TO THE PARTY. YOU SAID THAT GEORGE ORWELL WAS WRONG IN HIS PREDICTIONS FOR 1984—YOU SAID THAT YOURS WAS A MUCH MORE CHEERFUL MESSAGE. CAN I ASK YOU HOW YOU SEE 1984 UNFOLDING AND IF YOU ANTICIPATE ANY CHANGE IN GOVERNMENT POLICY?

MT

George Orwell was foreseeing something which mercifully hasn't happened and he was seeing a more and more controlled and manipulated society—manipulated by Governments—manipulated was the word. And he was seeing the total and utter distortion of language—well to some extent we do see the distortion of language but not on the scale that he foresaw and it's always struck me that the communist world, realising that some words were very attractive to people like “freedom”, turned round and used it: “freedom fighters”. And all right, they may call themselves that but once they get into power they destroy freedom. Democracy they know is a very, very popular word—popular concept—so they turn and call them “the people's democracies” in Eastern Europe—well they're not democracies at all. So you do get on nothing like the scale that Orwell foresaw because basically we are a still free society and a society governed by the rule of law and mercifully, not censorship of the press nor the media. So that hasn't come about and a free society—what characterises a free society is that …   . the limitation of [end p1] government powers and not their all-embracing nature. Once you have a government that embraces everything then you cease to have a free society. Once you have government with limited powers and the main powers and freedoms in the hands of the people then you have a free society.

That's what I really meant but they are too long for what you really want but there you are. And you then went on to say how do I see the coming year.

I think in our first four years we had to do many, many fundamental things: we had basically to get finance—the management of the nation's finance and income on a sound basis. It doesn't matter whether you're a housewife, a business or a government you've got to manage your resources properly, you've got to live within your means. That means living within a budget. However desirable other things are, you've got to say well, can I afford it? Now, we got that for the finances of our country on a sound basis and do you know, practically every time I pick up the financial pages of one of the newspaper heavies I find some government in great difficulty because it's got a really big deficit. That is, it's spent beyond its means, has gone on and on and on spending beyond its means and sometimes can get into difficulty even with paying the interest, let alone [end p2] repaying the capital. Not so Britain. So we got first thing—we had to get the nation's finances on a sound footing. Now secondly, we had to start to undo a tremendous number of the controls which had been put on the British people and industry which resulted in the winter of discontent. Now as you know we have taken off a lot of those. I mean the fact was, by the time you had incomes controls, prices controls, exchange controls and dividend controls and many, many other controls, real management wasn't free to manage. So it wasn't surprising you weren't getting good management. A lot of those controls and a lot of the form filling has come off—there's a good deal further to go and we've cut the time for planning applications—there's a good deal further to go but we've done a lot. That was the second thing.

The third thing was, there was far too many of our industries were nationalised and far too few in the hands of free enterprise and competition. As you know we've made very big strides on de-nationalisation—that is important—every housewife will tell you. Competition serves the housewife best. She knows she gets in the high street and the shops there and the people who fill those shops with goods know they have to compete with someone else. And they win customers insofar as they're good and good value. Now where you've got nationalised industries that were monopolies you were not getting that. So all right, we're [end p3] starting on the denationalisation programme because it gives you better value for money—we believe gives you better management. Because they've got the spur of competition. So we've started along that road and got quite a good way and have got a good deal further to go.

We also have—knew, that the trade union law gave trade unions here privileges and put them above the law in a way that was quite different from that in almost any other free society. And that they also were full of restrictive practices and over-manning and we had fundamentally to start and change that. And we started on changing the law—we've done two main trade union acts—we're on the third and of course, our firm financial policies got out a lot of the over-manning and the restrictive practices.

We also felt that taxation was too high and we must try therefore to get public expenditure down. Now, in a recession that's not very easy. Nevertheless, we did constrain public spending and if we hadn't been very firm it would have gone a lot higher than it did and this year … last year we managed to get it down as a percentage of GDP which was a step in the right direction and I hope this year we'll take it down a little bit further. We have not been able to get taxation down as much as we would have [end p4] wished. The battle I'm having now is to stop it rising. And let me say this, I think there are far too many politicians putting the case for increased public expenditure, forgetting that the inevitable effect of that case is to say to the wage earner and the family “you shall have less of your own money to spend and we the Government will spend more”. Now I believe it is morally right to leave a bigger proportion of the earnings of families in their own hands. I think they often spend it better. There is a moral right to them to expect to have a larger proportion of their own income in their own hands and I feel very strongly that people are taxed too highly at comparatively modest levels of income. And so I belong very firmly to the school of politicians which says I believe in leaving a larger proportion of people's earnings in their own pockets. And never, never, never say—or always when you're putting up demands for extra expenditure remember that the consequences that your're putting the politicians' hands—either national or local—more deeply into the pockets or the purses of the people.

PP

DO YOU THINK YOU WILL HAVE TO PUT TAXES UP AGAIN THIS YEAR?

MT

Well I hope we shall not have to put income tax up this year, but as Nigel Lawson said the other day, there are a number of taxes you can cover. Let me put it this way, as you know, if you are [end p5] to adjust your income tax for inflation—that is to say reduce your income tax because if you don't, inflation makes it a heavier burden—you understand the point I'm making—then you also—to keep your income tax the same in real terms you have to keep your indirect taxes—your Customs and Excise—the same in real terms. And that's where you tend to get some increases in taxation—apparent increases in taxation. So let me put it this way. We're particularly concerned about the direct rate of taxation because this is where you really get the incentives and believe you me, people do think that the level of taxation they pay out of their own pay packet is too high. They don't look at the figure at the beginning—they look at the figure at the end of their payslip. How much have I earned—how much has been taken? And I do think that they pay high levels of tax and that means that we still have to struggle to keep public expenditure down. Now, we have been struggling and we shall continue that struggle. But I believe if you give politicians too much money to spend too easily they will spend it and demand more. The easiest thing in the world is to spend other people's money and you must be very careful to make sure that there's a very good reason why you should take that money and not leave them to spend it. You see, the danger is that you get to a situation where the amount you take out in one form of tax or national insurance contributions is so great that people then say they haven't enough money to live and then are driven to apply for means tested benefits of one sort or another. Well that's a crazy world—far [end p6] better, to have lower public spending. That means that people have more of their own money in their pockets and then have to apply less and less for means tested benefits. It makes a much sounder society …   . You can take so much away in direct taxation and indirect taxation and they say “well, I've got to apply for a rate rebate—for a rent rebate—I've got to apply for free school meals—I've got to apply for this, that and the other”. And it's not treating people right either. To deprive them of their independence by a heavy taxation and then make them dependent on the state benefits. It's not treating people right. This is why you'll find me very firm on saying but Government must limit the amount it takes away from people in taxation because usually they spend it better themselves and they earned it in the first place. Of course you have to have quite high public expenditure but you've got to constrain it otherwise the tendency is to rise—and I see it around the Cabinet table: yes, we'll put a bit extra into this, bit extra into that, bit extra into that, and then they don't like it when the tax bill comes in. And so I'm constantly saying and so are my colleagues—if you're going to have this expenditure you're going to have to put up taxation. Now, are you sure there isn't a lot of room for getting value for money on what you already spend? When you have to manage on less, the astonishing thing is that you can. Without lowering the standard of service. [end p7]

You asked me a question: all of this started and made a firm foundation. This period—what I now think we're beginning to see—is the renewal of British industry and commerce. There will still be old industries which are dying—in a dynamic society, in a dynamic age—in a scientific age—this is bound to happen. That has got to be more than counterbalanced by the birth of new industries, new products, new services. That's where you get the renewal of your industry, the renewal of your commerce, the renewal of Britain, the spirit of enterprise and the higher standard of living and prosperity. Now this is one's hope for the coming three to four years of this period of parliament. The renewal of industry and commerce leading to a higher standard of living—a higher standard of prosperity. And also, if I might say so, I do think the other thing—the big thing we set out to do—was to strengthen the forces of security and law and order. And we did all that and I think that there is a genuine realisation how marvellous our police are and our armed forces but also an understanding—they can't do it alone. That the whole of our country—all of our people have to be behind the police, support the police. All of our country have to say “violence is unacceptable as a way of life and anyone who practices it is really …” the whole of society must express its disapproval in no uncertain terms of those who practise crime. And they do—they call for higher sentences but they must help the police. They must be on the watch for these things—they must be prepared to get involved. If they're asked “have you [end p8] seen anything happening”—if they're asked to be a witness. It is involving everyone in it that in the end will beat the violence which I believe people are totally and utterly fed up of and have turned against it. They've got help in the crusade against violence.

PP

THERE WAS TERRIFIC RESPONSE TO THE HARRODS …

MT

Terrific response and I think again, that things are turning and people are helping and being tremendously active and helping these marvellous police we have. Because it's only when you get that that you can beat the criminal. That's what we started to do and it has started to bear fruit.

PP

CAN I JUST QUICKLY REVERT TO PUBLIC SPENDING—ARE YOU CONFIDENT THAT YOU'RE GOING TO KEEP TO YOUR TARGETS IN THE NEW YEAR OR DO YOU FEEL THE PRESSURES ON PUBLIC SPENDING ARE …

MT

I hope we shall be able to keep to our targets. As any good budgeter does, we have a small contingency reserve for the unforeseen policies which arise during the course of the year, and if you keep a firm hand on everything steadily as the year goes [end p9] by I hope we shall be able to keep with it. It's a struggle because people think, right we'll go to the Government …

PP

MAY I TURN TO A COUPLE OF DOMESTIC ISSUES. THE RATES AND THE RATE LEGISLATION YOU ARE PROPOSING. THERE IS SOME CONCERN ON YOUR PROPOSALS ON BOTH SIDES OF THE POLITICAL LINE—RATES HAS BEEN A PROBLEM FOR YOUR GOVERNMENT SINCE 1979, DO …   .

MT

This has been a problem since local authority spending rose so sharply. Very sharply. Rate capping very popular among rate payers, among small business, among medium size business and among big companies—in other words, among all the people who are the creators of wealth and provide jobs because heavy rates put an extra burden upon them and therefore add to prices and make them less competitive, and among the householders who are heavy rate payers and they have to pay out of their net, taxed income. Make no mistake about it, rate capping is popular among domestic rate payers and among industrial and commercial rate payers. And it is the only way in which we are going to really make local authorities have regard to the value of the money which they spend and have maximum economies. I have been in this job and I know how we've done the rates support grant year after year and I know how we calculated local authority expenditure and yet there are times when we've come to negotiating wage increases for those [end p10] who are employed by local authorities and I have consistently watched the local authorities offer higher sums than the tax payer or the rate payer could afford. Darned easy—very easy, to spend other people's money. And if they hadn't had that money and if they'd had rate capping then there would have been more care about how they spent it.

PP

DO YOU SEE YOUR RATE CAPPING AS AN INTERIM MEASURE, AND DO YOU ANTICIPATE A MORE FUNDAMENTAL REVIEW OF THE RATE SYSTEM?

MT

We have reviewed the rating system and reviewed it. There is no point in reviewing it any further. The trouble is that people cannot agree on alternatives to the rating system. I myself would be very much against a local income tax because I believe it would help to put up public expenditure. And also I myself have always thought that there are a number of people who would take the whole of the black economy—you only catch their money when they spend it. So there is no way in which people will agree. Some people are very much against a local sales tax, as a part replacement, others like myself are very much against a local income tax so there's nothing we don't know about rates. Nothing. It's just that people will not agree on what could partially replace it over a period of many years. [end p11]

PP

DO YOU ANTICIPATE A ROUGH RIDE ON THIS LEGISLATION?

MT

I assure you, every industrial organisation I see, industrial trade union association, CBI or small business or commerce and the rate payers' associations, say to me “you're absolutely right …”—we fought a whole election on this. Absolutely vital. And it's popular among rate payers. All right, it would often be easier for councillors if they didn't have to watch local expenditure minutely—they must, because I think there are many, many things which could be done for less than is being spent on them now and I think in sense of priorities it would be very much better—again—if more of the rate payers' money was left in their pockets rather than taken away from them and spent by the local authority.

PP

HOW MUCH OF … MESSAGE FOR 1984 SEEMS TO BE ON THE LINES OF EFFICIENCY AND BETTER VALUE FOR MONEY?

MT

That's what every housewife has to do. I would say it is better value for money—good management of your own resources. Good management of the money you have taken from rate payers, good management of the money you have taken from tax payers. And that means constant cross-examining of those who spend your money. It [end p12] means when a local authority cuts something that's highly sensitive just get in your councillors to go in and say “right, what are you spending the money on in preference to this?—let me have a look at all the wages that are paid for certain jobs, let me have a look at the numbers that are occupied on certain jobs, let me have a look at the amount you're spending on each and every part of expenditure. Let me have a look on expenditure and numbers and salaries you are preferring to keep, rather than to keep the thing you are cutting”. It's a classic tactic both of officers and councils that are against the Government's policy to say “cut, ha ha, we'll teach you a lesson, we'll cut the most sensitive thing”. And you go back to them and say “now, what are you spending on, how come that you're spending all of this money and yet not making provision for this particular thing you are cutting”. And you'll find some extraordinary things going on.

Have a look at the National Audit Commission's Report—it's very interesting. For the first time, we've got an audit of local authorities. It's the WHICH of local authorities. [end p13]

PP

AND YOU WOULD ENCOURAGE RATE PAYERS TO GO OUT AND CHALLENGE THEM?

MT

My goodness, I do, and also in the National Health Service for the first time we've got comparative costs from one authority to another.

PP

CAN I ASK YOU ABOUT UNEMPLOYMENT—ON TV LAST NIGHT YOU WERE QUITE OPTIMISTIC ABOUT 1984.

MT

Well I hope that 1984 will be the year that sees the levelling off of the rise in unemployment but it is undoubtedly still of great concern—the levels we have are of great concern. The possibility of more is still a concern because you're still going to get redundancies and the whole pattern of world trade has changed—the Far East—your newly undustrialised countries—your Koreas, your Japans, your Taiwan are producing a lot of the goods which only the Western countries used to produce. They're producing them very efficiently and very well. British people are choosing to buy them and so you're still going to get redundancies in some industries that haven't either re-designed [end p14] their products or cut their costs and you're still going to get difficulties in ship building because not only is world ship building new orders down but our share of them is down. With our restrictive practices and costs it's not surprising that our share is down. So you are still going to get some redundancies in some of the older and more difficult industries but my belief and hope is that the new industries, the new service industries and the revival of some of our traditional industries who have modernised themselves are going to provide the new jobs which will equal and I hope …   . brighter prospects for jobs.

PP

PARTICULARLY ON UNEMPLOYMENT—YOUNG PEOPLE, THAT MANY SEE THEMSELVES AS ON THE SCRAP HEAP.

MT

No, no, they shouldn't. Don't forget until you're 18—and many young people get a job, don't forget that—others can either stay on in full-time education and if full-time education is attractive enough many of them will choose to do that. It makes a qualification or some do part-vocational training or they go to the Manpower Services Commission for vocational training or general training and vocational training. In that sense they've got better training than ever before and more opportunities to get into the habit of working in industry and commerce. That's what it's all about. Many of them I hope will stay on but you've [end p15] got to reckon that when you go to work first—I think myself that many wages offered to young people were too high compared to those offered to adults because manufacturers couldn't justify the amount they were paying and so what happened was the jobs weren't there. As you know, we've got a number of schemes …   . it's far better to have a job at a lower wage as a young person and gradually work up to a higher wage as you become more and more valuable. Some of those schemes like the young workers' scheme are working very well. And the Youth Training Scheme are working very well. We've got more places than we've got young people, I think. We haven't filled all our places on the Youth Training Scheme. We're giving opportunity, that's the great thing. What we always need are more people who can build and start new business and build it up—the great creative …   . The United States has always been a highly enterprising society. Young people expected to start up on their own, expected to build up and therefore there's a whole sort of atmosphere of that. One's hoping to get it here. The number of self-employed people has gone up here—that means they're finding ways themselves. I know a number of young people have taken some of the training, some of the craft apprenticeships, or even the Youth Training, and you find they go off and start up on their own and there's a colossal demand for skilled work. And it isn't easy, you know. If you want something done in the home in a skilled way—whether it's plumbing, electricals or carpentry, in certain parts of the country it's jolly difficult to get people to do it. [end p16]

PP

ON THE UNEMPLOYMENT THEME, YOUR CONCERN FOR FAMILY LIFE—THERE SEEMS TO BE ANXIETY ON THE FAMILY UNIT CAUSED BY UNEMPLOYMENT AND THE YOUNG.

MT

One is always anxious about unemployment for various reasons. It's far better to have work to do. That's why, one of those reasons why, we put on the Youth Training Scheme. Firstly to keep young people occupied and secondly, to give them a chance—a greater chance to get work. But for young people I hope that many of them would far rather choose to stay on in the education system than to be idle—they can right up to 18. And of course we have brought in the new technical training courses at school, 14 to 18, and I hope eventually we shall be able to have about a third of our young people being able to have those courses because we're behind in technical education. People concentrated so much on comprehensive education they forgot the technical education and indeed, they stamped out some of it in closing down some of the technical schools. Now we're getting the training schemes and they're very good. Believe you me, young people want them and parents want them for young people. Excellent, we started those up and that's one of our enormous successes.

PP

CAN I TURN TO IRELAND …   . HARRODS … ONLY A LIMITED AMOUNT CAN BE DONE TO PREVENT THIS HAPPENING AGAIN. DO YOU EVER SEE PEACE [end p17] IN IRELAND?

MT

You will only ever get peace in Ireland if both of the communities in Northern Ireland actively want it and totally and utterly—all of them—reject terrorism and refuse to harbour terrorism and totally and utterly reject violence. Democracy ought to be—is—the rejection of violence. Again you have got to have all communities rejecting violence as a way of pursuing their objectives and having the will to get together to say “how can we bring up our children against this kind of life”. Government can provide more police, can provide the army but in the end you've got to have the two communities saying “enough”.

PP

DO YOU ANTICIPATE YOURSELF DOING ANYTHING FURTHER THIS YEAR ON IRELAND?

MT

Well, we have no new policies at the moment, as I say it can't only be solved … it can't be solved only from here.

PP

MOVING A LITTLE WIDER ON VIOLENCE IN THE WORLD, THERE APPEARS SOME ANXIETY THAT THE DIALOGUE BETWEEN EAST AND WEST HAS BROKEN DOWN—DO YOU EXPECT TO MAKE ANY INITIATIVES THIS YEAR TO BREAK [end p18] THAT IMPASSE?

MT

There's not enough dialogue certainly—that is correct. Part of the reason was because of the action of the Soviets when they first marched into Afghanistan, as you know, and we broke off a number of the dialogues we had. Secondly, the Soviets chose to walk out of the disarmament conference—they walked out. I hope they'll walk back. Fortunately there is a new conference in Stockholm, the European Security Conference, and most of the foreign secretaries are going and I think it's about 35 nations, so that itself is a forum, and not only in that forum but the fact that we all go there and you have a lot of discussions separately among the people who attend—there was a lot of similar discussion at the CSC in Madrid before it ended. So there is quite a bit but there's not enough and we must try to increase it because I think you'll not get things coming right until you get a greater understanding. You won't necessarily get an understanding from dialogue but you won't get it without it.

PP

DO YOU REGARD HUNGARY AS PART OF YOUR BRIDGE BUILDING EXERCISE?

MT

Well, it's a long time since I've been to a country that is within the Soviet sphere of influence—Soviet orbit—and I hope that one [end p19] can secure greater understanding of the many views beyond the Iron Curtain by talking to Hungary. The deputy prime minister has been over here—we've had a long talk with him and we have to start somewhere, and I'm very much looking forward to seeing Hungary. Because, you see, Hungary really has a remarkable reputation as a country. Her own history, her own ways, and I'm really going there to talk to the Hungarians and to talk to Hungary and try to secure greater understanding.

PP

IT WAS THE RUSSIANS WHO FIRST CALLED YOU “THE IRON LADY” AND I WAS WONDERING IF YOU FELT THAT YOU COULD IN ANY WAY MAKE A GREATER CONTRIBUTION TO HELP BREAK DOWN THE BARRIERS THAT SEEM TO BE GROWING BETWEEN THE KREMLIN AND THE WHITE HOUSE?

MT

I think it's right to say we didn't create the barriers. At first the Soviet Union walked into Afghanistan—that was when President Carter was still there—and still occupies that country. Please note—four years on, it still occupies that country, with 80 to 100,000 troops in there. And you can't just ignore it or forget it. They spend an enormous amount of their national income on armaments. I'm always amazed that they haven't yet concentrated on improving their economic performance because it seems to me that when you start to educate the whole people, and everyone is educated in the Soviet Union, that [end p20] gradually they're going to come to wonder how is it they don't get a better economic performance like the other side of the Iron Curtain and the US. “It's a much better higher standard of living than we do.” They're going soon to ask those questions and one's hope is that the leaders or the rulers of the Soviet Union will soon have to pay attention to those very natural ambitions of their people for a better standard of living. And indeed one sees some signs that they are already very concerned about the performance of their economy. But they do spend a fantastic proportion of it on armaments and one would have thought that they would soon have begun to emulate the wishes of the western world and the western world says “well, we're not going to compromise our security in any way. If we persuade the Soviet Union to spend less on armaments we can spend less too. You've got to agree about this”. Now there's no shortage of goodwill in the western world, no shortage of wish or desire to spend less but there is a determination to defend our way of life. We would like to be able to do it at a lower level of weaponry, both nuclear and conventional weaponry. We shall pursue that aim.

PP

WHAT WOULD YOU MOST LIKE TO ACHIEVE IN 1984?

MT

If you look back you will find that President Reagan actually wrote a letter in his own hand to Mr. Brezhnev. Oh yes, he wrote a [end p21] letter in his own hand, but the letter he got back was very much the stock letter. That was long before the Versailles summit. I think he thought we've known and experienced the same wars, been through similar world crises … but don't forget that there was a great overture … President Reagan to sit down and write in his own hand, but he didn't get the same sort of response. What we hope is that we will get the renewal of industry and commerce with all the hope that offers for better jobs. We hope that we will get an improvement in growth with all the hope that that offers in higher standards of living and lower taxation. We believe that people are, as I indicated, much more conscious of the need for everyone to get involved in the battle against violence and this is one of the most important things and we believe that we are getting much better cooperation between everyone who works in industry and commerce. I hear far less of the “we and them” now. Much more of “us”. A much greater realisation that your future depends not on two sides of industry but on the prosperity and success of your company and business and that is one enterprise—not two sides—it is all working and pulling together and I think that is much, much more realised now.

PP

HAVE YOU YOURSELF MADE ANY NEW YEAR RESOLUTIONS?

MT

I don't make new year resolutions. I also [end p22] know the direction and speed with which one can go. I also believe that we do have opportunities in foreign affairs and foreign affairs very much affect your domestic affairs. They have a new start in Europe, which is very much a feel of a fresh start—a renewal, whether it's in home or industry, a revival—a new start in Europe because we are actually coming up to a point where we cannot ignore the problems that have been created by the effect of past policies in Europe. The surplus food policies, the budget policies. We now have to tackle them, we can't run away from them. And I believe there are East-West opportunities … the Stockholm conference, and there is a realisation that we must have much more dialogue. I believe that there is also a realisation in the Middle East—you must make an effort to solve the underlying problem as well as the Lebanese problem, but I believe that by having our forces in Lebanon we have enabled President Gemayelthe President of the Lebanon to bring together the various factions and different groupings that make up the Lebanon so that they can have a fresh start.

PP

(POINT YOU MADE LAST NIGHT)

… until we can make other arrangements because we're there to help. That was a positive thing. Not only to stop violence—absolutely vital if the positive things are to have a chance, which is that they can get the government together which their army will support and so that you can have democracy restored in the Lebanon. And I think it was encouraging that President Assad seems to be restored to health and strength and that they released the American airman. All of these are [end p23] encouraging signs and we must build on them. So, right, you might say, for the year that we've got to be the great builders. Not the great destroyers—I'm fed up with …   . the great builders. Building the future. Anyone can destroy—too many people at it. The great majority of us have to be the great builders—a positive thing.

PP

SOME OF YOUR CRITICS SAID THAT '83 ENDED … ACCIDENT PRONE WAS THE KEY PHRASE.

MT

Can you just tell me what were the accidents? You tell me the accidents and I'll give you the reply. They tend to say I brought the question of MPs' pay to Parliament. I did. They tend to say my view was different of that of many MPs. It was. The people who really wanted more—the Labour party wanted the whole of the Plowden recommendations and some other people as well. And I said look, if you recognise that one of the problems in our society is that some people want to take more out than they put in—and you've got to give a lead. You've got to give a lead in the House of Commons. I'm being accident prone—I was giving a lead. I brought the question of capital punishment—I take a different view from the majority. That wasn't being accident prone. It was going straight to them and saying “now, look at this again”. Nigel Lawson: that wasn't being accident prone— [end p24] that was being far sighted and thank goodness he was. It's the commentators who've got it wrong. Thank goodness, because it's a constant battle on public expenditure. Lebanon—accident prone?—no. Do you know the British forces there are highly regarded and we've been very steady over it. Europe—accident prone?—we're fighting our corner.

We took a slightly different view from President Reagan on Grenada. I took the view—and I had been making speeches about it all summer—we do not solve our problems by the use of force and therefore you try something else. If you're attacked, someone else has used force, then you have to reply, otherwise, whatever problems you have, force is a last resort and you do not solve your problems by use of force. President Reagan took a different view on that particular thing. It wasn't that one was accident prone. It was—this is our view.

PP

AND RELATIONS REMAIN AS STRONG AS EVER.

MT

Yes, of course they do. We had a different problem seen through his perspective as people standing in different directions do see an object differently, because they're standing and seeing things from a different aspect, and he may have been right from his view [end p25] point and I was right from ours, and it's a matter of principle. And there's no rift, and please note all combat troops are out of Grenada. The military troops are out of Grenada. Note the difference between the United States and the Soviet Union. They've got some military police in there because they have to keep order but their combat troops are out.

PP

AWAY FROM THE PARTICULAR ISSUES, DO YOU EVER GET FED UP WITH BEING PRIME MINISTER?

MT

Never.

PP

IS THERE ANYTHING YOU DISLIKE ABOUT IT?

MT

I think your family often has a raw deal because everything they do has the sharp light of publicity on them and I think that many many people are beginning to start to talk again about right to privacy.

PP

DO YOU SEE THE RIGHT TO PRIVACY BEING PURSUED THIS YEAR?

[end p26]

MT

I think it will be pursued a little more because people are worried about the information within computers and so on, but people have a right to privacy. There's a right to reticence and a right to privacy. How you clothe that in practical results I don't quite know. There are certain things we can do about data protection. You will find that when people's families have had a tragedy or been involved in a nasty incident or accident and then they are the first to say “look, we have a right not to be pestered”.

PP

WHAT WOULD BE YOUR 1984 MESSAGE TO OUR READERS?

MT

Put the accent on the positive. It's enthusiasm and vigour that solves problems and there's plenty of it in Britain and in Number 10.

PP

CLEARLY YOU'RE LOOKING FORWARD TO THE COMING YEAR.

MT

Yes, I'm fine, and looking forward to it tremendously. Just rise to the challenge. Don't give a hundred reasons why something can't be done, just give me three why it can and will. A very positive year.