Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1984 Oct 25 Th
Margaret Thatcher

Interview for Birmingham Post

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: Interview
Venue: No.10 Downing Street
Source: (1) Birmingham Post , 29 October 1984 (2) Thatcher Archive: COI transcript (extract)
Journalist: John Lewis, Birmingham Post
Editorial comments: No.10 disputed a section of the interview and prepared a transcript of that section, which is appended to the article as printed. A full transcript has not been traced. The interview began at 1815 and must have been finished by 1900.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2479
Themes: Executive (appointments), Conservatism, Economy (general discussions), Industry, Privatized & state industries, Labour Party & socialism, Law & order, Leadership, Northern Ireland, Terrorism, Trade unions, Strikes & other union action
(1) Birmingham Post, 29 October 1984; article as printed begins:

MRS. THATCHER: THE UNSHAKEABLE PM

The Prime Minister is optimistic about the economic prospects of the West Midlands and determined to give the region all possible government backing.

She declined to confirm that the West Midlands is to be given assisted area status later this year, attracting government aid and EEC grants.

But she indicated that if it does the region will still keep Mr. John Butcher as the Minister for the West Midlands.

see note at end of interview.

Lewis

I have speculated that the West Midlands is to have assisted area status. Will this make a big difference?

Mrs. Thatcher

I am very anxious about the West Midlands because I recognise that the people there think they have suffered. Many companies would have liked to have started or expanded their activities there but were not allowed to do so because of the Industrial Development Certificate policy.

Naturally I am anxious to do everything possible that a government can do to restore the place of the West Midlands in the industrial and commercial life of the country.

You think of the history of Birmingham. Its history and manufacturing. Its history in engineering, its history in cars—and I hope to goodness those Jaguar people are not going to go on strike—and it should be a real commercial centre as well. For most of as, Birmingham spells business trade, manufacturing. Naturally one wants to do everything the Government can to restore that.

Lewis

Do you have other assistance for the West Midlands in mind?

Thatcher

We did start, with the West Midlands in mind, the small firms engineering scheme. It was comparatively successful. I would also hope that what we have done for small businesses would help the West Midlands.

It is an area where they have a lot of businessmen and women, and I would have thought a lot of people who want to start a business and know what the market wants. Take up of some of the schemes in the West Midlands is higher than in some other regions.

It is important to an industrial area to have good universities. You have two, Birmingham and Aston, and the Science Park starting up. But you will not get all your jobs from new technology, you will get a lot from ordinary service industries.

Lewis

There has been some concern that the West Midlands might miss out on the new technology?

Thatcher

Well it shouldn't. With two universities like Birmingham and Aston, and Warwick is not very far away. They have a very good Science Park and brilliant professors.

The Prime Minister was asked about the consequences of the Brighton bomb.

Lewis

As I understand it, there is to be a Whitehall Committee which will look at the security aspects and make wider recommendations about what should be done about close contact between Ministers and MPs and the public. Have you any preliminary views?

Thatcher

I don't know what they will come out with in the end. What I do know is that Ministers and MPs will still want to keep their contacts with the public. That is the nature of our work and we cannot be put off from it.

We have to be certain we do not make life for the terrorists easy, and take reasonable precautions, but we simply must carry on with our contact with the public. In today's world, this is a hazard that we live with.

Lewis

Might there now be a chance of a Commons vote in favour of capital punishment for terrorism

Thatcher

If we had a vote in the House today I do not believe the result would be any different from previous votes.

Lewis

Would that disappoint you?

Thatcher

You know I have always voted for the return of capital punishment not because I wish it to be used very much. I don't. But I don't think that real, brutal criminals should go out to deprive other people of their lives and know they cannot be deprived themselves, if they are caught.

Lewis

It is now a fortnight since the Brighton bombing. Have your feelings changed in any way?

Thatcher

You feel [end p1] even more as the days go by the price paid by those we lost and by those who were injured. It does not diminish. If anything, you feel it even more.

Lewis

Will the bombing affect the way you approach your talks with the Irish Prime Minister shortly?

Thatcher

It will have an effect in one sense because it is now the new backdrop to everything we discuss, but we shall be meticulous to see that attitudes are not changed in any way.

Lewis

You will not want to talk about dramatic initiatives in Ulster. To do so can cost lives. But you have a big Conservative majority and three years of government to run. If there was a time for any movement at all surely this is it?

Thatcher

Anyone who is in government meets the argument: “Is it not time for an initiative. A dramatic initiative, not a dramatic initiative, but a small movement here and there?”

And one always says: “What is going to improve the situation?” Because if any of us knew one which would improve the situation we would assuredly make it. But let me be brutally frank. Things which are welcome to one community are unwelcome to another. Unless the people of both sides are prepared to back an initiative, then one would not help. There cannot be a solution from Westminster alone.

Lewis

Do you see any movement on the New Forum ideas?

Thatcher

We have already made it very clear that the three ideas put forward, one of unity, another of joint sovereignty and the other of joint authority are just not acceptable … the idea that a British government can suddenly pull a rabbit out of the hat is not on.

Lewis

Now that NACOD has settled how do you see the situation developing?

Thatcher

It seems to me that they did everything right. They had their ballot. They kept faith with their industry. They kept faith with their families. They kept faith with their customers who want security of supply and they kept faith with their union.

One really simply cannot be intimidated by mob violence. And one must remember there are many striking miners who would very much like to have a ballot.

Lewis

Mr. MacGregor still has your unqualified confidence?

Thatcher

Ian MacGregorHe is the chairman of the National Coal Board. His only wish was to build a prosperous coal industry for the future. This is a man who actually creates jobs.

Lewis

Can I pursue your tactics in the light of the NACOD decision?

Thatcher

Pursue them if you wish. I shall not say more than I have. I think the present leadership of the NUM is isolated. Nothing would please me better than if they supported the agreement which has been reached by negotiation with NACOD. It would please me enormously because there are many people living in very reduced circumstances whom I would like to see back at work for their sake and ours, and for the customers.

Lewis

I am trying to suggest to you that there is nothing else that can go on the table.

Thatcher

Anything has to be within the National Coal Board's duty to manage the industry efficiently and that does include having regard to the supply and demand and the condition of the market now.

Lewis

With less revenue as a result of the coal strike, the Chancellor will have less to spend on public services?

Thatcher

If you have a major strike, then there is more money being paid out in Social Security, there is less money being spent, there are other firms which are being badly hit. And that is inevitable. They know that. They are doing it, I think, in a very cold-blooded way.

They have brought back the soap kitchen to Britain, to a very proud industry, proud of its high earnings and proud that it could keep its families well and of an industry which had a good future. There is little point in members of the Opposition talking about unemployment when the Labour Party is the first to support strikes …   .

Do they intend the misery?

Lewis

You have said you want Britain to follow the US pattern of encouraging enterprise?

Thatcher

Unit labour costs are rising. The United States' unit labour costs are not going up as fast as ours and in Japan. I think, they are actually falling. The United States have far more small businesses, than we have, [end p2] they are far more ready to accept change, they don't have anything like the number of restrictive practices, they have much more mobility of labour, they are much more prepared to work at unsocial hours or at variable hours than we are …

Lewis

But how can you transfer this mentality to Britain?

Thatcher

Only by talking about it and pointing it out.

Lewis

Do you have any feelings about the current crop of pay demands and the threatened strikes?

Thatcher

Every time we get news of a vote to strike, whether in Jaguar, or Austin Rover, it does incalculable harm even though the strike does not come to pass. People say: “There you go. The British again. There is no point in ordering their goods because you cannot be sure they will produce on time. Work-forces which are strike happy will strike themselves out of jobs.

Lewis

I think many Conservatives approve very much of your strong lead on issues, over local government spending, GCHQ and other items, but I have found in by-elections that there is concern among other Conservatives that you convey too harsh an image. Is this not a genuine dilemma for you as a “conviction” politician?

Thatcher

I take the line because I believe it is the best line. It is best for the future of my country and best for the future of her people. It is the line which gives prospects and real hope and real pride for the young. And I'm not prepared to go to palliatives which have not worked and finished us up in the IMF and taken us down the ranks of industrial nations.

We are a very able people and everything I do is to try to harness and release that ability and let it have full play. And so I am firm about those things.

Don't you think the best mother is a mother who is very fair with her family, very firm, has quite clear standards, quite clear rules by which to live, but don't you also think it is kindest and best to be firm and that firmness and kindness are not two different things? That they can go very much hand in hand?

Lewis

But is there not a dilemma politically?

Thatcher

I tell you where it comes. When I am for example interviewed. I am constantly on the receiving end of combative questions and naturally I would not be where I was unless I was a fighter.

There would not be much point in having a Prime Minister at No. 10 unless he or she was a fighter.

Lewis

People like Sir Ian Gilmour have suggested that Arthur Scargill would not have been able to retain the support he has if there was not a hostility to a hard line government?

Thatcher

I think Ian Gilmourhe is totally wrong. Mr. Scargill has only been able to hold the hard line because he manipulated the strike into existence and he has held it by denying a ballot and not only by denying a ballot, but by violence and intimidation on a scale totally repugnant to every tradition and repugnant to the overwhelming majority of miners whom he represents.

The new session

Lewis

In and outside Parliament who do you think of now as your main political opponents?

Thatcher

Oh! I don't think of my main challenger. I just think of getting on with the job.

Lewis

You don't think of the Alliance as being the more serious threat than Labour?

Thatcher

I grieve for the Labour Party. They are not like the old Labour Party people I was brought up with. I don't see many trade union leaders—there are some—like old Ernie Bevin.

“Now let me make it perfectly clear. There are some I would call true trade unionists. That is to say they are not interested in politics. They are interested in the industry in which their people work and getting a fair deal for the people with a prosperous industry. And they recognise the condition for getting a fair deal and a better deal is a more prosperous industry, so they work with management.

“I make it perfectly clear that when this strike is over we have got to do everything we can to encourage that approach. Yes I am interested in responsible trade unionism, responsible trade unionists prepared to build a prosperous industry, which comes from satisfying customers.

And with a prosperous industry, we mean a fair deal for the people who work in it. I hope everyone who works in industry has the chance not only to be an earner, but also an owner of property, housing or real estate or savings or shares. And we are the only party which is going to do it.

[End of article as printed]

(2) COI partial transcript

Downing Street felt that John Lewis misinterpreted Margaret Thatcher's remarks about the future of the title ‘Minister for the West Midlands’.

Her words as transcribed were as follows:

[end p3]

JL

Are you going to keep John Butcher in the job if it [West Midlands] gets assisted area status?

PM

I have no plans to make any changes in my Government at the moment.

JL

I just wondered—because you gave the West Midlands a Minister to give some drive and coordination. If in fact it's getting the same status as some other areas, then obviously the case for having somebody special …   .

PM

You're fishing! Look—I made a few changes which were necessary because one or two people went to do a few other jobs. I would not expect to make changes for some considerable time.