Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

Interview for The Sun

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: No.10 Downing Street
Source: The Sun, 14 May 1987
Journalist: Trevor Kavanagh and Simon Walters, The Sun
Editorial comments: 1445-1555. On their own account, the interviewers "relayed" to the Prime Minister questions from named readers of the paper.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 1882
Themes: Autobiographical comments, Autobiography (marriage & children), Defence (general), Education, General Elections, Privatized & state industries, Public spending & borrowing, Taxation, Health policy, Labour Party & socialism, Law & order, Leadership, Media, Northern Ireland, Race, immigration, nationality, Society, Terrorism

Maggie Thatcher talks to The Sun

Prime Minister answers your probing questions

Killers must dread the rope

• Election fever has certainly gripped Sun readers, as you proved yesterday when we gave you the chance to put questions to Prime Minister Maggie Thatcher.

Our telephone hotline was burning with issues like health, education, capital punishment and defence.

What would the Tories do to protect pensioners from thugs? How would they make striking teachers toe the line? Will there be a referendum on hanging? Will Britain retain its nuclear defence shield?

Political Editor Trevor Kavanagh and Simon Walters relayed your questions to Mrs Thatcher. And here are her answers.

‘Judges should be able to tell these cruel, vicious people: You will be hanged’


Are you going to bring back capital punishment, and if not will you put it to the country in a referendum?

Labour voter Edgar Frennett, 54, of Bolsover, Derbys.


This is a question that has never been decided on a party political basis. I speak as an ordinary Member of Parliament who happens to be Prime Minister.

I have always voted for the return of capital punishment—not in every case in which murder was committed but as one of the punishments to be available to judges.

I think some cases of murder are so sadistic, cruel, vicious, barbaric, that you almost cannot imagine some of the terrible things that you hear being done.

For those, capital punishment should be available for judges to say: “For you, the sentence is the death penalty.”

I don't believe a person should be able to go out knowing that however hideous or cruel he is, his own life will not be forfeit, even though he is prepared to take the life of and torture a victim.

I think we all know what the result of a referendum would be. But I do not think it would be appropriate.


Can we expect a revolution in our tax system if you get back into power?

Tory voter Sally Goorwitch, 24, of W. Hampstead, London.


Not a revolution, but steady progress. We believe it is right to go on getting tax down.

The incentive to work is the people's right. It is the way of improving the standard of living for yourself and your family.

When we came into office, the highest rate of tax was 83p in the pound. We brought it down to 60p. I think it is still too high.


What plans do you have for privatising state industries such as the Post Office, British Rail and British Coal?

Tory voter Mike Hill, 54, of Bourne, Lincolnshire.


We shall be carrying on with further privatisation measures. Companies have done very much better when they are privatised. It's good not only for the industries, but for the people who work in them.


Do you feel that by refusing a public debate with Neil Kinnock on television, undecided voters might interpret this as a sign of weakness?

Tory voter Malcolm Green, 27, of Harlow, Essex.


Hardly. We have that debate twice a week in the House of Commons and it generates more hot air than anything else.

I do not think TV debates greatly add to people's knowledge and understanding.

I think Britain under Labour would soon be broke. They would spend, spend, spend, spend. We would go broke, and be like some Third World country.

They would give power back to the trade union bosses, whereas we have given it back to the members.


What are you going to do to stop old people being attacked in their own homes?

Tory voter Patricia Cooper, 35, of Norton, North Yorks.


I can understand why the question was asked. We have greatly increased the number of police, increased their pay and morale.

You can increase the amount of equipment they have. You can have schemes for crime prevention and you can urge people when they go out to close their windows and doors.

But everyone has responsibility in a free society.

The rules of society have to be stressed—what is right and what is wrong, and you have got to observe them.


Do you think magistrates should be given specific rules on sentencing to stop the wide variety of sentences handed out for the same crime?

Tory voter Marion Cooper, 50, of Lewisham, S. London.


Sometimes you get reports from all over the country and you see very different sentences passed for what outwardly are similar crimes.

We have to remember that we haven't heard the details, whereas the magistrates or judges have.


Are you in favour of stopping immigration to Britain and will you introduce repatriation for those already here?

Tory voter Linda Wright, 37, of Lewisham, S. London. [end p1]


No, we will not introduce repatriation. Once people have come here, and have been accepted for permenant settlement, you cannot then turn round and say: “We are now going to withdraw it.”

Immigration has been smaller this year than at some times in the mid-Fifties. We have a firm immigration control at the moment.


Will you continue the current archaic pub licensing laws or will you have them changed?

Tory voter Mike Reid, 45, a Chichester publican.


We would like to have more liberal licensing laws.

Yes, the ones we have are a little archaic but there must be a time at the end of the day when they finish.

You cannot have a lot of noise very late at night, which would be unfair to people who live near a public house.

But we need much more freedom in the hours that pubs can open during the day. It seems to work in other countries.


How do you cope with the constant threat to your life from terrorist organisations like the IRA?

Undecided voter Pat Webster, 42, of Oxford.


You have to cope with it because if you didn't, and they intimidated you out of doing the work you have been elected to do, it would be the end of democracy.


You have said there should be choice in education. When will state schools offer education standards now available in private schools?

Alliance voter Jennifer Izod, 37, of Boston, Lincs.


We believe the standards in state schools should match those in private schools.

We have put more money into schools to improve standards.


How do you look so young after so many years in office? What are your strengths?

Tory voter Lillian Wigley, 64, of Islington, N. London.


I think I was born quite strong. I have always worked extremely hard. Hard work and being interested keeps you looking younger.

I have been just lucky with health and strength.

How have I kept fit? I don't know—by not thinking too much about keeping fit. If you are always thinking about your health, it strikes me you get in a much worse tizzy than if you just go on doing things.



What does Denis Thatcher think of your ambition to lead the country for another ten years?

Tory voter Jill Rae, 32, Watford, Herts.


I think he thinks the first job is to get in for the third term. Then we will tackle that with the same verve and vim as we tackled the first two.

People ask if I'm prepared to do a fourth term and of course I am but we can't climb the next flight of stairs until we have got to the top of this one.

I just want to make it absolutely clear that I do not want to give up.

And Denis is marvellous. He knows just how important it is. Naturally we would like more time to do things together, but we do quite a lot.

We both love the work and isn't he looking fit?

But we will keep our home at Dulwich. I have seen other Prime Ministers suddenly left without one—remember what happened to Ted Heath and Harold Wilson? They both had to find new homes quickly so I've always had one.

Have you thought about grandchildren now your son Mark is married?

Goodness me, no. There's nothing more embarrassing to a young couple who have just got married than to suggest that they ought to produce a family.

That is a matter for them. I really think there should be a right to privacy. [end p2]



Are you seriously committed to maintaining the health service while hospitals are closing?

Alliance voter Patrick Gillespie, 31, Woolwich, London.


We have a great record on building facilities. Some small hospitals are being closed but they are being replaced by bigger, better-equipped ones.

We have more nurses and they have just received the best pay deal they have ever had.

Under Labour, nurses' pay actually went down in real terms because Labour were forced to cut money for the health service.

We have increased spending on the health service from £7.75 billion in 1979 to £21 billion a year.


What are you going to do about hospital waiting lists?

Undecided voter Andrew Ward, 39, Warrington, Cheshire.


As soon as we provide more facilities, which we have, doctors discover new treatments for cancer, kidney disease and other ills.

And as people live longer, there will be a greater demand for treatment.

So the waiting list grows, Of course, we have got to tackle it and we are.

But the fact is that there are now more operations being carried out than ever before and this will continue.

Keeping the peace


After your meeting with Mr Gorbachev you said that as the longest serving Western leader, you were an important bridge between East and West. What would be the impact of a Labour victory on those talks?

Labour voter Audrey Tugwell, 48, Reigate, Surrey.


I am sure Labour would not defend this country in the way it has been vital to defend its interests since the end of World War II.

We need the nuclear deterrent to keep the peace in Europe. Labour does not have the determination, resolve or capacity to stand up for Britain's interests or to a potential aggressor in the way we have.

The Conservative Government has stood up for Britain and Europe in East-West relations and we have kept our friends because they respect us and we respect them.

When negotiating with other countries, the interests that we have in common are that we never want another conflict, that we both defend ourselves, but that we do so with a lower level of weapons.