Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

Press Conference for Regional and London Editors

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: No.10 Downing Street
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Editorial comments: 1730-1830.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 6098
Themes: Defence (general), Education, Industry, Monetary policy, Privatized & state industries, Taxation, Family, Foreign policy (Middle East), Health policy, Housing, Local government finance, Media, Northern Ireland, Religion & morality, Sport, Terrorism, Transport, Strikes & other union action

Question (Manchester Evening News)

Prime Minister, could you make any comment on the latest situation regarding the pound, and whether this will still make it a tax-cutting Budget, or will it restrict the Chancellor's room for manoeuvre on tax cuts?

Prime Minister

Well, you heard Nigel Lawsonthe Chancellor's statement in the House this afternoon and the very full questions which he answered, and he indicated then that he had hoped there would be £1.5 billion available for tax cuts in the Budget but he indicated at the time that he would have to consider it nearer the Budget and, of course, he will have to consider it nearer the Budget.


Could you give us your thinking on this?

Prime Minister

No. I cannot go further than Nigel Lawsonthe Chancellor. The Chancellor and I think together. [end p1]


There is a great deal of confusion, Prime Minister, about what the Government's exchange rate policy actually is. Can you make it clear to us what the policy is?

Prime Minister

Exchange rate is, of course, one of the matters which you consider in pursuing your full economic policy. That has been evident from the action which has been taken. We are quite determined that the policy of keeping down inflation and getting down inflation shall be a policy which will continue.

There are three things which affect the exchange rate: one is the strength of the dollar—that it is not in our gift to do anything about; it is affecting all European currencies. One is the price of oil—that we cannot ourselves influence very much, if at all. But the third thing is to see that our own affairs are run with strict monetary control, strict control of public spending, and in a way which gets inflation down. That we can do something about and have done something about.


Prime Minister, what effect will the fall in the value of sterling have on the pound in our pockets in your view? [end p2]

Prime Minister

Well, because we wish to defend our record on inflation and wish to continue our policy of getting inflation down, we have taken the action we have taken, and that is one of the reasons why we have taken the action on the interest rate.

You will very soon know what the figures are, next Friday. They are not out yet; they are not available yet—that is the Index of Retail Prices. I think the latest one is due out next Friday, so we shall know in a few days what the figures are.

Question (The journal, Newcastle)

Edward Heath is making a speech in Sunderland tonight and I think he is also appearing on “Newsnight” , in which he is calling on the Government to give more help to regions like the North East, to help them help themselves. His point is, I think, that the regions are trying hard to dig themselves out of the economic problem that they have, but he would like to see the Government give more help in the way of regional aid, investment, and perhaps even a regional development agency for the North East.

Could you comment on that, please!

Prime Minister

Well, I cannot comment on what anyone will say tonight when I do not know what they will say. I am sure it will be a very interesting speech! Because we wish to help the regions is why we have a regional policy. In the North-East, [end p3] Nissan is coming to Sunderland, which I think was a great boost for the North-East, but in the end, companies have to come there or companies have to start there and you cannot get around it, whichever way you look at it: the prosperity of a country depends upon companies—of which you are some—which in fact can sell a product which people want, at a price they can afford to pay, and you may go through macroeconomic policies, microeconomic policies, but the success depends upon whether people can sell goods and services, and whether they can sell them depends upon the quality of the product and its price, and that will be true of every region, just as much as it is true of the rest of the country.

We give regional aid as an extra incentive, for companies to go to those areas, when otherwise they might not in fact go. As you know, they do get considerable financial boosts. What has sometimes been happening in those areas is that in the past the finances have gone to help to build up very capital-intensive industries and in the replacement equipment often to replace jobs by machinery, and grants have been given towards that, so that some of your aid has actually resulted in reduction of jobs and not in their increase, and as you know, the recent changes in regional aid have been more oriented towards getting more jobs in those areas. [end p4]

McCarthur (West Morning News)

On regional aid, Devon has lost its previous status under the regional aid policy. I wondered if the Government would be prepared to consider any interim arrangement which would help it not to lose its European funds.

Prime Minister

Well, the actual area of the country covered by some kind of extra status or another has actually gone up and one of the reasons is, as you know, to try to ensure that a wider part of the country is available for European funds. I do not think we can increase the amount, because we are constrained by European rules. I think the amount to which we can designate is of the order of 35%; and I think we are on that 35%;. Some areas have been very very difficult and we tried to make as many adjustments as we possibly could.

I cannot myself hold out any hope of more.

Randall (Editor, “Evening Sentinel” ) (Handley, Stoke on Trent)

Taking up that point, we have a peculiar problem in the Potteries. We were not designated for special aid. The West Midlands were. Since that decision, the Potteries as an area has suffered a very big blow by Michelin deciding to close down a large part of their plant, losing 2,400 jobs with a knock-on effect of probably another 1,600, which will bring the unemployment figure up probably to above the number designated for the aid being given.

I wonder if special consideration would be given to [end p5] areas like our own which has suffered in consequence?

Prime Minister

I saw that piece of news with a very heavy heart indeed. The tyre industry, as you know, has been under very considerable difficulty, ironically enough because it is producing products which last for longer than the previous products lasted and therefore the replacement is nothing like so fast—quite apart from the increasing technology.

I cannot, here this evening, just promise you anything extra special, as you know. We did try to look and try to give some help to the West Midlands because they felt that they had been very badly treated in the past, but I could not just now promise anything extra, nor can I promise to put up the area considered because, as I indicated, we are constrained by European rules. But I am quite certain that people are looking at that particular problem. As I say, I heard the news with a very heavy heart. It was such a large redundancy. I think it was about 2,300, but I think you have still got, is it 3,000 working there, yes? But it was a very big redundancy indeed.

Waldridge (York)

Prime Minister, I would be grateful if you could explain your statement made on September 26th in York last year, that the meetings of the Water Authority Boards were—and I quote—executive, not policy meetings, and this was why the public and the press were now excluded, and I wonder in doing so, whether you would be kind enough to explain why you believe the public should be denied access to meetings of a rate-levying authority; [end p6] and finally—and I know it is a long question for which I apologise—may I ask you whether you recognise that there is widespread concern on this issue, not just among the public and the press but among MPs of all parties, including I may say some very distinguished Conservative Members from Yorkshire? Thank you.

Prime Minister

Because if you go to a structure which is the kind of structure where you are making executive decisions, then quite honestly, I do not think you can make them with the press present. I do not know whether you really would like other press sitting in on your executive decisions in your own newspapers. I doubt it! Would you not therefore understand why other meetings which mainly are executive meetings, executive decisions, why they are not the kind of meetings they were before and why they are not suitable for the press? And I say that as being a person that does in fact agree with allowing the press in as much as possible.

…   . When we changed the structure, I do not think it appropriate that they should be in, as I duly have explained in the House.

Would you like me to come and sit in on your Executive Managing Directors' meetings? I am sure you would not! [end p7]

Same Questioner

The key thing that the public do not understand is that we have a rate-levying authority in Yorkshire. It spends £139 million a year of a rate which is levied for a basic commodity like water, and people really do not understand why such policy matters should not be discussed in public. Indeed, the day after you made your statement, Prime Minister, a member of the Board of Yorkshire Water Authority, who is in fact a very loyal supporter of yours, said he feared that the report was misinterpreted and that you had not said that these were executive meetings because he, as a member of the Board, was taking policy decisions along with the Board.

Prime Minister

I think perhaps it will be a great deal better when we go from rates to water charges. Some people already pay water charges. In other words, they pay for the commodity which they purchase, and then it ceases of course to be a rate. It is a payment for a commodity.

I am not sure whether it is business as you pay on that basis. Quite a number of businesses do and some boards give you the option of paying for the commodity. Indeed, a number of people take it. It is anomalous in a way that for water we have paid historically by a rate, but I believe a bigger proportion now of people are paying as a commodity for what they use. I personally think it is a better way, but it would take quite a long time to get it applying to the [end p8] whole country, because each and every person would have to have a water meter.



Prime Minister

No, but it does indicate that it is more of the nature of a charge for a commodity than a rate. Do you see what I am getting at? Electricity, you buy according to how much you use. Gas, you buy according to how much you use. Some people, for water, buy according to how much they use. Other people pay a rate, based upon the rateable value of their house. I am not sure whether you belong to one of those areas where the water board has indicated that anyone, should they so wish, can pay according to the amount which they use. Do you or do you not? No.

Same Man

No, they hope to do that in the future, but at the moment people are charged a rate according to the domestic rate of their house.

Prime Minister

Some of your large users will almost certainly be charged according to a meter.

Same Man

Some farmers are, yes. [end p9]


Could you say when a decision might be taken on Stansted and in connection with that, as concerns Ringway Airport, Manchester, it was excluded from the assisted areas which were recently announced around Manchester, and our MPs are pressing very strongly for its inclusion. Will you consider those, please?

Prime Minister

Now, my lips are sealed about that particular Inspector's Report. I have read most of it. I spent quite a long time in the Christmas Recess reading it. We have given an undertaking to Parliament that it will be debated before Government decides on its policy, and therefore I can say nothing about it. We have to await the debate in Parliament and then we have to consider precisely what Government policy will be, and then we will have to present that to Parliament for approval, and I just simply cannot say anything about it in the interim for very obvious reasons.


Could you say when the debate is likely to be?

Prime Minister

I think it will be within a few weeks. [end p10]


The second part of the question was so far as Ringway is concerned. It is excluded from the assisted areas?

Prime Minister

I am sorry. I cannot comment upon that. It is, I hope you will understand, particularly difficult if every single area comes and says: “Please, what about my local problem?” It is just not possible to answer each and every one in the particular way you would wish.

Tony Austin (Liverpool Post & Echo)

Prime Minister, could you tell us whether you think the Government should support in any way celebrations for VE Days on May 8th?

Prime Minister

I understand that there is quite a bit of feeling about this. The question would be if we were to decide to do it, what kind of celebration would be appropriate. On D-Day, there were very obvious beaches. It was an occasion which gave a very obvious place for the celebrations to be held. What kind of celebration, if we were to have one, would you think would be appropriate?

Tony Austin

One in London. [end p11]

Prime Minister

But what?

Tony Austin

I had not thought that out. I was waiting for a lead from the Government.

Prime Minister

We have our remembrance service every year. We remember with gratitude every year those who died. The British Legion has a wonderful ceremony at the Albert Hall on the Saturday night before the Sunday, and the question is if one wanted a special celebration for VE Day, bearing in mind we do have our Cenotaph Service every year, the British Legion has its Festival at the Albert Hall every year, what celebration you would think would be most appropriate?

Tony Austin

I would suggest a firework display on the same lines as on VE night itself.

Prime Minister

I will take note!

Neville Stack (Preston Mercury) (Leicester?)

Following your visit to Leicester, Prime Minister, in which you saw one of the best of the textile factories, can we now hope that you would put further support behind the Government's own campaign against sweat shops which was launched in Leicester? [end p12]

Prime Minister

That textile factory showed what can be done by a workforce and management working together to produce excellent products, giving a good living to the people in Leicester and a good return on capital.

This is really part of what I said at the beginning. You are only going to solve the employment problem when you get management like this and cooperation from a workforce like that. It was absolutely superb. I understand that some five years ago that factory had been in difficulty. Now, the products have been completely re-designed. It is highly efficient and selling well!

Now, what I am asking and what I am always hoping for is that we get more good management, more entrepreneurs, more people wanting to set up in business. Now, it is only when you get that that you will get a good living for the people who work in that business.

When you say “sweat shops” , I am not quite certain what you are directing your attention to particularly. Certainly not that factory!

Same Man

It is the sinister factories which are against all the normal standards of employment. They underpay; they are dangerous and often unhygienic conditions and the Government came up to Leicester to launch a campaign against them. [end p13]

Prime Minister

Well, we do have health and safety standards, as you know, and that is a matter for those inspectors to see that those standards are honoured.

Same Man

This was to be intensified and I hope that it will continue to be even more so as a result of your own visit.

Prime Minister

Well, I went round an excellent factory and I saw nothing that would give rise to any criticism—only things that would give rise to a great amount of praise.

Same Man

I am sorry if I misled you, Prime Minister. I was not referring to that factory. Of course there is a sweat shop at the back of the place. There are some very evil establishments which of course are in direct contrast to that excellent factory.

Prime Minister

Yes, but that is a matter for the Health and Safety Executive.


The town my newspaper covers is known in some quarters as “Moscow Down The Thames” and I wonder if you would kindly comment on your policy regarding rate capping. Basildon in Essex. The point, I think, is that in Basildon you would [end p14] expect that there would be opposition to that particular policy from the District Council—the rate-capping policy—but we do find that many members of the County Council who are very loyal supporters of yourself also oppose that policy and I wonder if you could comment, please.

Prime Minister

I have no difficulty in commenting. Rate-capping is very very welcome by the businesses who pay rates, but who have no votes, and by the many many people who pay full rates and who have felt that expenditures sometimes have risen beyond their capacity to pay rates. I think that rate-capping is welcomed by the ratepayer and I believe that the attitude we have taken to local authority expenditure has been right and has resulted in far lower rate increases than would otherwise have been the case.

Central Government knows exactly what it is to have to economise. We have, and we have also had to cut the numbers of people we employ where we could do the job as efficiently with fewer people.

I think you will find that the Central Government record in that respect is very good indeed and can be an example to a number of local authorities.

Also, if you compare, for example, some of the education costs from authority to authority, you will not find that those who spend most have the best results. Indeed, you will often find that those who spend most do not have the best results, and I think we must get away from judging a policy by the amount you [end p15] spend on it. I think you must judge a policy by the results, not by saying this must be a good policy because we spend so many pounds upon it, but by saying: what results do we get from the expenditure of each and every pound? That is how the private sector has to run.

The irony about rates is that only a minority of electors are rate-payers, so to say that rates is a method of making a local authority accountable to the electorate I am afraid is just not so. That is one of the fundamental weaknesses of the system.

Reece (Western Mail, Wales)

What would you see as the next likely steps in the miners' dispute and may I ask whether the Coal Board or Government has taken any note of the peace initiative put forward by the leading churchmen in Wales?

Prime Minister

The next step in the coal dispute, I hope, is more people returning to work, which is there and available for them, and which many of them recognise is a very good offer. I think some 1330 returned today, which was more than Monday last week.

There have been many many negotiations between the NUM and the Coal Board, many days of negotiations. None has succeeded, because the leadership of the NUM has made it clear that they are not prepared to budge an inch from their original position. I understand that they still hold that view. There therefore is no point in having further negotiations. [end p16]

With regard to inquiries, there have been a lot of inquiries. One of the most recent was that of the Monopolies & Mergers Commission, totally independent, which had a great deal to say about the need to close uneconomic pits. There have been Select Committees in the House of Commons of all parties which also recognised the need to close uneconomic pits. There is no point in having any more.

So the next step is for more and more people to return and I hope they will, not only for the industry, but for the families, because I think a number of them must be very very worried indeed about the number of debts they have built up and I think the sooner they feel that they are getting back to work and are able to cope with their normal outgoings and put something to reducing the debts they have built up, I think the better it will be for everyone, and I understand that the atmosphere where more and more are going back is very good and they are making a tremendous effort to return to normal. I think that is very good news. It is all being done quietly.



Prime Minister

I think I answered it. There is no point in having any more inquiries. [end p17]


…   . whether in fact the proposition, although it sounds as if it may be local, in fact has a great many wider implications, and that is the proposition put forward by the leading church people in Wales towards a solution of the dispute.

Prime Minister

Which proposition are you referring to, because I thought I had covered that both by what I said about negotiations and what I said about inquiries? First, there have been plenty of independent inquiries, not the least the comparatively recent one by the Monopolies & Mergers Commission which came to the conclusion that uneconomic pits must be closed, not all of them together. That would be a great problem and the National Coal Board does not attempt to do that. It has a much less rigorous programme than that, and also there can be no point in negotiations. The position of the NUM has not changed. That deals with both negotiations and it deals with independent inquiries. I do not think I have heard of a proposition which does not consist of one or other of those.

Reece (very faint)

I am referring to the one that was put forward some weeks ago, and we understand in Wales has been seen by …   .

Prime Minister

Well, that surely was one about an independent inquiry [end p18] and further, I think you will find that in answering those two things I have covered, really, the main message of any initiative that has been put forward. It is not an initiative. It is things which I think are covered by either of the statements which I have made.

But the real way to end the strike is the way that is happening; is for more people, steadily, to return to work. Where they are, things are quietly being managed and going very well, and that I think is very encouraging indeed.

Sunderland (Evening Chronicle, Newcastle)

Coming, as I do, from the diocese of a fairly noisy bishop of Durham, I wondered how you viewed the intervention of the Church in the efforts to secure the freedom of the four men in Libya and what is the Government doing to support those efforts?

Prime Minister

Well, I think the Church and Mr. Waite are doing their level best for the four people who are there and I think we appreciate his efforts. Obviously, we think that the Church may well have a better chance of succeeding than perhaps anyone else in that particular situation.

John Edwards (Yorkshire Post)

Bit of hypothetical self-seeking, Prime Minister. Do you face with equanimity the very real damage that would be done to regional newspapers, many of them in this room, if as has been suggested, 15%; VAT is imposed on the …   . price? [end p19]

Prime Minister

You are coming straight to what are budgetary matters. I find a new thing developing in budgetary matters. Everyone is thinking up everything possible, trying to get up a campaign against it and trying to get one to deny one by one any of these matters. It is a path upon which one would not venture. You must in fact wait until the Budget, but also you must recognise that there are many many scare campaigns which have been run and I simply cannot comment upon each one. There is only one that I ever make any comment upon and I have because it is always part of our Manifesto—that so long as I am Prime Minister mortgage relief will continue.


Prime Minister …   .

Prime Minister

I wish provincial newspapers very well! I hope they continue to succeed.


Prime Minister, I wonder if you can tell us how you gauge the temper of the electorate at this stage of Parliament, particularly your own supporters. I come from an area covering thirteen Parliamentary constituencies, all of them staunchly in your favour, but I get soundings of disillusion bordering upon revolt. Now we are getting the effects of matters dear to their heart such as education and health coming fully into force. I wonder what [end p20] sort of soundings you are getting from the constituencies.

Prime Minister

Well, when I get any problems about education and health I point out that we are spending more of their money per pupil on education than ever before; that the proportion of teachers in proportion to pupils is at its best ever level; that there are more doctors and nurses and dentists in the Health Service than ever before; that the amount of their money which we spend on the Health Service on their behalf is very considerably up; that in Harold Macmillan 's time there were half a million people employed in the Health Service, there are now about one million people employed; that it takes a very considerable proportion of the yield of income tax and if they are complaining about steadily doing better, then I find it very difficult, but I also point out to them a part of Dr. Merrison 's Report on the Health Service, which was just before we came into power, which said he and his fellow members of the Royal Commission could quite believe it would be possible to spend the entire national income on health and that is, of course, the kind of subject which you are dealing with, and you have, in fact, to make decisions about the amount which you shall spend; the amount which the Government has spent of the taxpayers' money on health has increased, and we are now concerned to get maximum value for the many many billions of pounds which are spent, because we have a duty to have good management, which is very quietly good management, and maximum value for money wherever we operate. [end p21]

Davidson (Lincoln)

Prime Minister, the Government has been reported to be looking at the possibility of legislation regarding surrogate motherhood. Irrespective of the legislation that may be enacted, what is your own view of the phenomenon whether it takes place commercially or not?

Prime Minister

Well, the Warnock Committee, as you know, made proposals over a wider area than this particular case. Those proposals are being considered, but it would be possible that we had to introduce legislation on a narrower front, I think, to deal with cases such as this. We are considering it, but we have not yet taken a final decision because these matters do raise a number of complications and we must get it right.

I do not like it! I just really recoil from it.

Leonard (Irish Independent)

Prime Minister, could you outline what you would like to see as the key developments in relations between your Government and the Irish Government over the remaining years of this Parliament?

Prime Minister

I believe that it is in the interests of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland to have good relations between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland Governments. We are both members of the European Economic Community and the [end p22] Republic of Ireland is the only country with which we have a land border, so it is in the interests, I think, of the peoples of the United Kingdom, all of them, that we try to have as good relations, friendly relations, as possible with the Republic of Ireland. And that we strive to do.

Obviously, there are some things that we disagree about, but nevertheless, we shall try to continue to approach the matter in that spirit.

It is also in the interests of both Governments to be 100%; against terrorism and violence. Once that gets a hold, it is very difficult to stop and, of course, it does not stop at a border.

So that, broadly, is the way in which I approach these matters.

Chris Oakley (Liverpool Echo)

Good Evening, Prime Minister. This is International Youth Year, but on areas of Merseyside there are 80%; of school-leavers without a job. It is estimated that half of all Merseyside teenagers have experimented with hard drugs. Most of the crime in the area is committed by young people under the age of twenty-one, and there are more homeless runaways from Merseyside on the streets of London than from any other region.

Do you have any message of hope for what is in danger of becoming a lost generation? [end p23]

Prime Minister

As you are personally very well aware, I came up to Liverpool and went around, and there are some very good things happening in Liverpool. I went to the International Flower Festival, which is most impressive that Liverpool did it. You go round; not only are the exhibits impressive, but there is no litter there, no vandalism. That, I think, was a fantastic boost for Liverpool.

I went round looking at the Albert Dock, at the new things which are starting up. I went to look at the new technology park where Plesseys have been very foremost in trying to get new technology projects started.

So there are opportunities in Liverpool, and also, if I might say, Liverpool football teams and the supporters who are among the best supporters in their public conduct that there are, is an example to many many others.

So there are tremendously good things in Liverpool and I believe there are opportunities, and we have to start on the good things and try to analyse the success and try to imitate that in other projects.

If rates are going to go up and up and up, you will not find it easy to get businesses going there, because rates are a cost.

We have an enterprise zone there. We have made Liverpool a free port. Whatever is going, Liverpool has had it. It did have an enterprise zone, we did make it a free port. It has had a great deal of aid and so it is not really a question of money. It is a question of analysing those firms which have been successful [end p24] and trying to imitate. I went unexpectedly into a small hall where a number of young people were cleaning it out and where they voluntarily were going to be there so that youngsters who are on drugs could come and talk about their problems to those young people. It was a kind of self-help scheme which perhaps will have more chance of succeeding than any other kind.

I went to areas where the private sector—the Minister Scheme isn't it?—where the private sector had taken over the big formidable blocks of flats and done them up and turned them into excellent places to live, which were attractive to look at, which were reasonable in price and where many many people were finding a new life.

So, yes, there is hope, but I cannot say that all of a sudden there will be new jobs created in Liverpool. There is still a problem in Liverpool and you know it and I know it, and we have to get rid of some of that difficult reputation with labour relations and make certain that when new firms do start up they do not have any problems, that they get a fully cooperative workforce. As you know, that has not always been the case. On the other hand, there have been some firms where they have had a very cooperative workforce, but that has not I am afraid prevented redundancy, because in an age of technology there are companies which do have to rationalise their production in order for the whole company to stay in business and that has meant that Liverpool has lost a number of factories that it used to be able to rely on for jobs. Technology is, of course, part of our problem, but Liverpool as I say has had almost every grant that [end p25] is going, almost every specialized thing, whether it be an enterprise zone or a free port. It has a very good university. It has a good polytechnic, so it has got all of the things which you would expect to be a mark of possible success in high technology projects, and that does give it a good deal of chance.

Michael Corner (The star, Sheffield)

When, hopefully soon, Prime Minister, the miners' strike is over, irrespective of however it comes to an end, I think it likely that there will be approaches to the Government from the local authorities in the mining areas for perhaps some assistance on things such as community projects, which would help build the bridges back in the community.

How amenable is the Government likely to be to such approaches and will they be able to give any priority treatment to such areas?

Prime Minister

The only possible fund for that is the Urban Fund, but I think it is probably heavily committed in some of the areas which we already know about. Some of those may well be mining areas. I do not think that there will be any special fund for the purpose for which you are raising, but can I just say this? I share your hope that the strike will be over soon because it would be the best possible news for the industry and for the people who work in it. [end p26]

Tom Welsh (Barrow In Furness)

Vickers is just starting work on the submarines which will be used for carrying the Trident missiles. There has been a great deal of speculation recently about the future of this weapon which of course is of considerable importance to the prosperity of South Cumbria.

Can you say anything which would be reassuring on the future of this particular project?

Prime Minister

You are considering it in relation to the research on the Strategic Defence Initiative?

Same Man


Prime Minister

Research is a very very long way from design of weapons. The research will take a very very long time and the Trident programme will continue.

Question (Birmingham Post & Mail)

Do you rule out, Prime Minister, under all circumstances, further Government financial aid to Austin Rover and other BL motor companies? [end p27]

Prime Minister

We have made it quite clear that there is no more aid forthcoming. The taxpayer has spent £2 billion, I think, on British Leyland and of course the proceeds of the sale of Jaguar went not to HMG but to the company. I think that some £2 billion is a very good earnest of faith by the taxpayer and bearing in mind that a number of motor companies have to survive without such generous taxpayers' help, there is no further aid forthcoming. We have made that clear.

Question (Hennegan, Irish Press)

Supplementary to an earlier question, Prime Minister.

Accepting that you have the hope that cooperation will be extended between London and Dublin, I think it is true to say there are still a lot of misgivings about the Chequers Summit. Do you hope that these will ease? Do you think they are eased and do you hope that another Summit will take place pretty shortly?

Prime Minister

I do not think the difficulty arose at the Chequers Summit. The difficulty arose at the press conference afterwards, which is my habit of answering directly questions which are put to me, and the way I answered that in a way which is not different from anything that had been said before, and it is a mystery to me why it was received in certain quarters in that way, but not by those who were present. [end p28]

I hope the talks will continue. Let me make it perfectly clear, in case you should dash away again, that there were very many good things in the Forum Report. For example, the total condemnation of violence as a way of pursuing your political aims, and a recognition that there could be no changes in Northern Ireland without the consent of the people. Those are two very excellent things and I think that there is a recognition on the part of the people who made the Forum Report of the strong sense of identity and feeling of the Unionists in Northern Ireland and that Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom and that could only be changed by the consent of the majority in Northern Ireland; a very strong understanding and recognition of that, and in another report among Unionists in Northern Ireland there was an understanding of the existence of an Irish dimension, so those things are good.

If you try to go beyond those things, you come into differences, so let us look at the things which were good in that Report.