Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1986 Jun 13 Fr
Margaret Thatcher

TV Interview for Channel 4 News

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: TV Interview
Venue: ITN, Gray’s Inn Road, London
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: Peter Sissons, Channel 4
Editorial comments: MT was scheduled to depart No.10 at 1330 and to leave ITN at 1425.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 3964
Themes: Monarchy, Commonwealth (Rhodesia-Zimbabwe), Commonwealth (South Africa), Employment, General Elections, Monetary policy, Privatized & state industries, Public spending & borrowing, Taxation, Trade, Foreign policy (Africa), Law & order, Northern Ireland, Terrorism, Women, Famous statements by MT

Interviewer

Prime Minister, can any British prime minister resist the pressure now building up for tough economic sanctions against South Africa?

Prime Minister

Yes, I think you can resist the pressure for sudden conclusions. We have just had this report. It took the people concerned a long time to do it. They took a great deal of trouble. They have not made specific proposals. They have left it to us to decide what to do and the main thing—and we must never lose sight of it—is to try to get a peaceful negotiation in South Africa between the black community and the government, and that is the thing we must keep in mind, how best to bring that about.

Interviewer

And yet President Botha, last night on television, said to those holding out against sanctions, presumably in the hope of getting in on some negotiations, “your reward will not be to interfere, just to have South Africa as reliable trading partners.” What is your answer to that? [end p1]

Prime Minister

I think I have two answers.

First, whatever happens to the future of South Africa, and one wishes it can become a full democratic republic with the people concerned having votes …

Interviewer

One man, one vote?

Prime Minister

Well, one man, one vote. The question is whether you then have a kind of federation which is always a possibility, but that is for them to decide. Whatever happens, you wish the economy of South Africa to come through in good shape and everyone wants that.

And the second thing is we come back the whole time: “What is your purpose in having economic sanctions? Is it merely to hit out at something you do not like?—none of us likes apartheid—or is it to try to bring about a successful conclusion?” Mine is to try to bring about a peaceful negotiation, and there could be a view, which we must discuss, that to add to the present difficulties, to add to those economic sanctions, would not help negotiations. It would only make things worse. So let us keep the main object in view.

Interviewer

But that is not the view of the Eminent Persons Group is it? They say it is not whether such measures will compel change. It is already the case that their absence and [end p2] Pretoria's belief that they need not be feared defers change.

Prime Minister

Yes, and will you look back and see what such measures are, because they did not propose what measures should be taken. They specifically refrained from proposing measures. They said it was up to the Heads of Government to decide. What they said was they wanted effective measures, without defining them. They did not say you have got to go into full economic sanctions nowhere, but nowhere, in that report. They said “effective measures” . Now, what are you trying to do? Again, I come back to this: are you trying to hit out at something for the sake of hitting out? And do not forget it would harm many of the other countries in Africa who rely on getting their goods in through South Africa and their goods out through South Africa. It would hit this country, about 120,000 people would perhaps be without jobs.

So those are two extra reasons why one should say: “Look, I am not hitting out!” What we are trying to do is still bring about a peaceful negotiation.

What are the most effective measures to do that? Now, I am not dashing into conclusions. It would be quite wrong if I did and I think you would be justified in criticising me if I did, because one country cannot act alone. There can be no effective measures unless we agree with our European partners, unless we agree with the seven western industrialised nations, because supposing one nation did take sanctions and you merely passed on the trade to someone else? That would be useless. It [end p3] also would not be effective. So we have to consider what would be the measures that would be most likely to bring about the change we all wish to see which is the end of apartheid and the black people of South Africa having rights which they do not have now, rights to take part in the democratic process of the country.

Interviewer

You talk about a range of measures, but there are black leaders in South Africa who are urging you specifically to take economic sanctions, tough economic sanctions. There is Bishop Tutu inside South Africa and President Kaunda outside. They say that only concerted action by the outside world can avert Armageddon, that was Bishop Tutu's word. The EPG's words were “the worst blood bath since the Second World War” . What they mean is economic sanctions.

Prime Minister

They may mean that, and I think that they are making. …   .—they are concluding that economic sanctions would bring about negotiations. They are concluding economic sanctions would not make things worse, but they are giving no evidence for that whatsoever, and I do sometimes say to them: “Look! What you are saying is that measures up to now have not worked, although there have been quite a number of changes in South Africa, but nothing like enough. What you are saying is past measures have not worked, therefore what they propose, economic sanctions, would.” I see no reason and no evidence for that conclusion. Indeed, [words missing?] [end p4] where you have trouble in South Africa already, and you have, where you have violence, if you add to that greater poverty because you deny them goods which they need, that you could make the violence worse, that you would add hunger to all of the things, the other things, which they have to deal with. So I do not see their argument that full economic sanctions would stop violence. You could argue that it could make it worse.

Interviewer

What about their argument that they are willing to put up with the economic deprivation to get themselves out of the political deprivation?

Prime Minister

But I am not sure that it would necessarily get them out of the political deprivation. There is an argument that it would lead to greater and greater turmoil, more killing between the black peoples, because as you know a lot of the killing is between them. I do not wish to have that happen. I still come back to you must keep your mind on the main objective, and I think the Eminent Persons Group know it, which is why they did not say go to full economic sanctions.

Interviewer

It was not in their brief to make a recommendation of that kind. [end p5]

Prime Minister

Let us keep the objective in mind. Yes, we do want to end apartheid. Yes, we do want to end it in the country of South Africa, which has the same economic prosperity as she has now. She has more than any other African country. So we want to keep that. How are you going to get negotiations going between the present government and the black African population? I understand all the frustration; to be a highly educated black African person or a less educated; to be a full talented, able person and not to be able to take part in the government of your country, not to be able to live where you wish in the cities, must be so irritating, so full of resentment, but I understand how they feel. But still, let us say: how are you going to bring about negotiations?

Interviewer

What if it is the only way to keep the Commonwealth together, to impose a package of mandatory sanctions, what if that is the way the Commonwealth see the way forward and you are the odd one out?

Prime Minister

But if I were the odd one out and I were right, that would not matter would it? But you see, even the Commonwealth acting together would not be enough, because there are quite a lot of people who could propose economic sanctions and it would not affect their economies at all. The Commonwealth acting together is not enough on full economic sanctions because that would merely put the business to other people and so they would not be effective. Just remember that word “effective” that [end p6] the Eminent Persons Group used. If you were to have economic sanctions of any kind, and of course there is a long way between nothing—we already operate some—and full economic sanctions, they would have to be applied, I think, by the whole western industrialised world and by others, so you have got to discuss as we shall with the Commonwealth, with the European Community, with the Summit Seven which includes the United States and Tokyo as well, and just at the moment do not come to any preconceived conclusions. One knows the arguments for and against, but Mr. Sissons, you would be trouncing me if I got a report and within a couple of hours, without any discussion or consultation, came up with: “This what we are going to do!” You would be trouncing me. And I am not doing it.

Interviewer

When will you respond? When will you have the plan, the way forward?

Prime Minister

We shall be in touch with our Community partners, of course, through the Foreign Secretaries who meet regularly. They are meeting Monday and Tuesday. But Heads of Government comes towards the end of June. Commonwealth Heads of Government of the Seven are meeting at the beginning of August and we shall be in touch with the United States and other members of the Tokyo Economic Summit. [end p7]

Interviewer

Could it not be more urgent than that?

Prime Minister

No, I do not think it can, because the Commonwealth has deliberately called a meeting for the beginning of August and you do need to discuss matters with other people and see how they are affected. You also need to see how the world economy would be affected, because of course there are only two suppliers, for example, of platinum: one is the Soviet Union, the other is South Africa. You also have to look at the supplies of other raw materials. You have to look at the effect on Zimbabwe, Zambia. Most of their goods go in through the railway line that goes through South Africa. Most of their exports come out that way.

Interviewer

Are you saying that that economic perspective should override the moral perspective?

Prime Minister

But what is the moral perspective? There are two moral perspectives. One that you hit out with sanctions anyway; the other that if you do hit out with sanctions, you might be making things worse. The moral case can be deployed both ways.

I would think myself that there is quite a lot to be said that where you have the kind of situation you have there, to add to it poverty, which would hit the black people much worse than words missing [end p8]

Now what I am saying—and I repeat—is, we are going into extensive consultation with other people about this before we come out with any conclusions. What are effective measures? “Effective” is the very important thing. There may be other political things which one might be able to persuade the South African Government to do, so that they can keep the sound economy for the benefit of all the peoples of South Africa, and still get the political rights which the black people must have.

Interviewer

As part of the eventual way forward that the British Government sees, do you rule out tough mandatory sanctions?

Prime Minister

Tough mandatory sanctions will only work if the whole world operates them, the whole world. Even then, there is some doubt whether they would work. We had tough mandatory sanctions operated through the Security Council Resolution on Rhodesia. After fifteen years, they had not worked. They did not work. Rhodesia started to produce the things within the borders of Rhodesia.

Interviewer

Do you rule them out now?

Prime Minister

Look! If they do not work, what is the point of having them? The Eminent Persons Group said “effective [end p9] measures” . If you are saying, Mr. Sissons, that you must have them as a kind of revenge, as a kind of mark of resentment, as a kind of mark of disapproval, that is not seeking your objective, it is not helping South Africa. That is why you were trying to drive me to a conclusion which I am not prepared to take. I am going to discuss it. Yes, I do want effective measures; I do want to bring about the end of apartheid; I do think it is urgent, and I will do everything possible that I can by any influence to bear to have whatever we conclude are those effective measures, but remember, fifteen years, when I came into No. 10 Downing Street, there had been sanctions, tough economic mandatory sanctions on Rhodesia, and they did not work.

Interviewer

Could I ask you a final question about the Commonwealth? Because in Nassau you moved, as you said, only a tiny bit, in the interests of Commonwealth unity. It is reported that the Head of the Commonwealth is deeply concerned about some threat to Commonwealth unity. Do you think there is any substance in that? Does she have a role in preventing it or is it down to you?

Prime Minister

Mr. Sissons, the Queen is my Queen. I do not discuss matters affecting the Queen except with the Queen.

Interviewer

I accept that Mrs. Thatcher. [end p10]

Could we move on to the economy because nearer to home this week we have seen the underlying rate of unemployment rise yet again.

Prime Minister

May I say my Queen too, I am a citizen, when I say the Queen is my Queen.

Interviewer

I did not misinterpret that for a moment and I am sure none of our viewers would.

Nearer to home, we have seen a rise in the underlying rate of unemployment yet again, the sixth consecutive month, and we have seen the inflation rate fall yet again, yet we were always told the principal reward for getting the inflation rate down was some sort of economic stability, and yet day after day we get these big redundancies in areas which can ill afford to lose men from key jobs, we see deprived areas, we see industries disappear, we get despair, decay, we get old ladies afraid to go out at night. Where are the sunlit uplands of getting the inflation rate down?

Prime Minister

Well, the sunlit uplands on getting the inflation rate down are that inflation is down, that people do not lose the value of their savings, that you can plan ahead in investments and that if you had not got it down you would be in an infinitely worse [line missing] [end p11] would have if we were up 20%; with inflation when they were down to nil? It would be infinitely worse than now and there is a morality too to having inflation down. Otherwise your savings are losing their value very rapidly, so that is important, but it is not a sufficient condition for getting unemployment down. You also have got to have the enterprising spirit of taking initiatives, of new business starting up. It is coming. We have had a million new jobs in the last three years. That is not enough at the moment because the baby boom of the sixties is now working through the the school-leavers.

Interviewer

But does one part-time job in a fast food shop equal one full-time job in a shipyard?

Prime Minister

No, but if businesses can only work, some of them, through part-time, and what is wrong with having a part-time job, many women like a part-time job? There may come a time when men will have two part-time jobs. What is important is that we keep up with the times and maybe the times will change, but do not denigrate part-time work. Many women like part-time work. It suits them. It raises the standard of living of their family and then they go out and spend what they have earned or part of it and then they spend it on other things, [two illegible words] here. But whichever way you look at it, no economic theory will work unless you get new business, new small business, growing [line missing] [end p12] you have got. Well we are getting it. The standard of living is higher; there are more businesses; there are more jobs. There are not enough yet, because we still have the redundancies from new technology and we still have about ten years of the baby boom working through and still coming on each year to the number of school-leavers. That is why the million new jobs has not quite had the effect that it should have had.

Interviewer

But your central thesis is, there is a limit to what Government can do.

Prime Minister

That is correct. It is not merely a thesis, it is a fact, unless you live in a Communist country, and you would not exactly say they have a high standard of living compared with ours.

Interviewer

Take this business of the £700 million order that Rolls-Royce stands to get or not to get from British Airways. Now, is it not unthinkable that they fail to get that order and that no other government in a similar situation would do other than ensure they got that order? For instance, we would not have a Rolls-Royce unless Mr. Heath in 1971 had saved it from bankruptcy. [line missing] [end p13]

Prime Minister

But you would not have a Rolls-Royce flourishing today as it is unless it also managed to get a lot of export orders. Last year, it exported in Rolls-Royce engines to the United States something over £400 million of engines. Are you suggesting that if we say here our Airways will only order Rolls-Royce engines, that the United States might not follow suit and say “And our airlines will only order Rolls-Royce engines, our manufacturing business …” I am sorry … “Will only order American engines.” If we say Rolls-Royce will have all the orders in this country, what happens if all the export markets retaliate and say: “We shall only order from our engine manufacturers” and where do you think Rolls-Royce would be? Not the flourishing business they are now. Do you think they might have lost some of that engine export order that they had last year to the United States?

Interviewer

What evidence is there, Mrs. Thatcher, that tax cuts will help the economy? I am talking about evidence. Can any link be shown between tax cuts and the generation of more jobs?

Prime Minister

I think you can only say that the most successful countries in the world with low employment, with low unemployment, with a lot of jobs, with low unemployment, and a very high standard of living, the United States, Japan, Switzerland, have far lower tax than we do. I think you can also point to the fact that the United States has steadily cut her direct [end p14] taxation; we have cut ours. And I think you can point to the incentive effect. You know, there are a lot of people on below-average earnings who are already paying far too much in tax, and on average and below-average earnings you know we get 42%; of our income tax yield from those people and I think that they feel they are paying too much tax and I think perhaps that is one explanation for the cash economy.

Interviewer

With a crucial review of public spending underway and your own popularity at an all-time low incidentally, are you tempted in the run-up to the next election to take a more relaxed attitude to the big-spending ministers?

Prime Minister

No I am not, because we already spend a rather high proportion of our national income through the Government, through the State, and I wish to reduce that proportion and it is our policy to reduce that proportion. It is no part of my policy to take as much as I can out of peoples' earnings in order that Government should decide how they spend it rather than they themselves, and I think it would be very depressing for them if we did and we also have to take into account the future of wealth creation in this country. You know, our bottom rate of income tax at the moment is twenty-nine pence in the pound; lower than it was under Labour, twenty-nine pence. Have you seen what the income [line missing] [end p15] our bottom rate. What do you think that will do unless we take some account of it or have a look at it to all of the people who could operate either in the United States or here, who could start up their business there or here, all the entertainment world and many of the authors? You know, we just have to look at those factors as well.

Interviewer

You say you would not be prepared to take a more relaxed attitude, but was your Home Secretary then wrong to say recently that many of your supporters will be expecting you to strike a balance between the level of taxation and the quality of public services?

Prime Minister

We have always struck a balance. If you look at our record, we have both got income tax down and we have abolished a number of other taxes and also what is spent on the Health Service is well over double what it was when we came in. Some of it has been taken up by inflation but there is a greater deal more than is accounted for by the increased cost of living. Far more on pensions. Of course we have more pensioners and we have had to do more than keep it up with inflation, so we have struck a balance. But let me make one thing clear: whether you are running a television station, a business, a family, or a government, you have got to keep restraints on public expenditure always. You have got to learn to live within a budget and you have got to have [line missing]. [end p16]

Interviewer

A couple of final points, Mrs. Thatcher. I heard you say in an interview you did for one of the American networks that the next election would be in 1988. Is that your attempt to try and put any uncertainty about that out of the question?

Prime Minister

No, I said the next election does not have to be before July 1988.

Interviewer

I must have misheard, although I …

Prime Minister

Well, it is about the same, you know, but you have the choice to go right up to July 1988.

Interviewer

And it is your inclination to …

Prime Minister

You do not decide when you are going to have an election until you are going to have it.

Interviewer

And this week, the man who tried to kill you and indeed killed some of your dearest friends, was convicted at the Old Bailey. What is your reaction, what are your feelings seeing those verdicts brought in? [end p17]

Prime Minister

Whatever the violence, to whomsoever it occurs, I hope those who perpetrate it will be brought to justice, because it matters to the whole stability of our society and you never have full freedom except under a rule of law. There are times when we cannot catch everyone, but it does not matter who the victim is, the important thing is that whoever the victim, whoever they attack, we keep up the forces of law and order in this country. That is vital to freedom.

Interviewer

Do you have any personal feelings towards Patrick McGee? For instance, you voted in the past for the return of capital punishment; if ever there was a case of the sort of offence which you and people who think like you on that issue would hang a man for, it is this isn't it?

Prime Minister

I have no personal feelings except a total hatred and contempt for violence, because it means people cannot get their own way by persuasion, therefore they result to violence. Yes, I have always voted for the return of capital punishment. I do not believe that people should be able to go out and do the most hideous crimes, willing to take other peoples' lives in the most hideous way, and feel that their own will never be forfeit, and I personally will still continue to vote for the return of capital punishment. I do not wish it to be applied very much, but I wish the possibility to be there; that that could be a sentence in the case of a hideous crime … I am not talking about this case … it will be for a judge to decide … but at the moment that is not [end p18] one of the possibilities.

Interviewer

Prime Minister, thank you very much for talking to us.

Prime Minister

Thank you.