Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1987 Feb 9 Mo
Margaret Thatcher

TV Interview for RAI (Italian TV)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: TV Interview
Venue: No.10 Downing Street
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: Dr Sandro Paternostro, RAI
Editorial comments: 1105-1150. The interview was embargoed until 1100 on 10 February 1987.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 4105
Themes: Economy (general discussions), Agriculture, Employment, Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Foreign policy (Western Europe - non-EU), Foreign policy (Middle East), European Union (general), European Union Budget, European Union Single Market, Arts & entertainment, Defence (general), Defence (arms control), Terrorism, General Elections, Parliament, Law & order, Leadership, Autobiographical comments, Autobiography (marriage & children), British relations with Italy

Dr Sandra Paternostro, Italian TV

There is no doubt, Prime Minister, that the big problems of international politics will be at the centre of your exchange of views with our Prime Minister and East-West relations.

You have met Gorbachev for about seven hours altogether. What will you tell him when you go to Moscow?

P.M.

Well, they are very interesting times in which to go to Moscow, interesting especially, for two reasons.

I think the arms control talks have reached a critical stage. Most of us want to get down the number of weapons, particularly nuclear; also chemical; then we have to look at the conventional weapons as well and the imbalance there. So that is very important of itself. [end p1]

But there is something else. You know, Mr. Gorbachev made a very interesting and deeply significant speech about a fortnight ago. Quite clearly, neither he nor his colleagues are satisfied with the way the communist system is working. It is not producing prosperity and we know full well that it is not producing scarcely any semblance of human rights or liberty and it is quite clear that some of the Russian people do not like it.

Now he proposed quite a number of changes. The question is whether those will be put into effect. But they are all designed, in his view, to make communism work better. In our view, we do not believe that communism, with its control, can work better; we think that it will only work insofar as you come away from so many of the controls which it operates.

So whether it is on arms control or whether it is on the system inside Russia and the fundamental human rights, there are questions being asked now and that of itself makes it extremely interesting, not only for peoples in the Soviet Union, not only for peoples in the satellite countries, but for peoples the world over, because there are stirrings of freedom in countries which have not had it - stirrings the world over.

Dr Sandra Paternostro, Italian TV

Mrs. Thatcher, how do you think could Italy and Great Britain cooperate to improve the relations [end p2] between the super powers and to make in Geneva some agreement possible?

P.M.

Well, I think our main cooperation has to come through NATO, because we are both members of it, and we always have to remember the point about NATO is to keep both sides of the Atlantic together - the United States and Canada and the whole of Europe which belongs to NATO. So that is how we will tackle it.

I think a number of us also perhaps have an extra relationship because those of us who stationed Cruise missiles, for example, responded very much to the needs of the defence of Europe and understood the importance of firm resolve over that matter, so that gives us something a little bit special with Italy and with Germany and with the Netherlands and Belgium.

Dr Sandra Paternostro, Italian TV

The Russians consider the so-called programme of President Reagan, Star Wars, as the main obstacle to a full agreement in Geneva. What do you think about it?

P.M.

Well that is the way it has been portrayed. I do not believe, in fact, it is true.

After all, the Soviet Union has an anti-ballistic missile system around Moscow, a very effective one. It [end p3] has been updating it for a long time. The Soviet Union, it is known, has been excellent on laser research for a very very long time and in some respects has been ahead of the United States.

The Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty does permit research and that is what happening in the United States, and it seems to me very strange that you should try to deny some defence against the most damaging weapon the world has ever seen, which is the nuclear weapon, and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty foresaw that there might be new developments and provided for discussions and negotiations on that subject. So I would not accept that.

As far as I am concerned, I believe passionately that the freedom-loving peoples and people who are prepared to defend freedom should make every effort to be ahead in research and I can only explain it this way: had we not gone ahead with nuclear research in the 1930s, had anyone tried to stop it and say: “No, no, you must not go ahead with that!” then we might have been in a position when Hitler got the atomic weapon first. Had that happened, the whole history of the world would have been different and that is etched on my mind. Yes, we must keep up front in research and technology.

Dr Sandra Paternostro, Italian TV

You have spoken of research, not of realisation, of putting into effect. [end p4]

P.M.

I think when it comes to deploying, then there is provision for negotiating under the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and President Reagan agreed when it comes to deploying you must go into negotiations.

Research to me means taking research far enough to know whether the thing is feasible or not. That is common sense.

Dr Sandra Paternostro, Italian TV

In this moment, the Middle East is in turmoil; has always been. Lebanon is in a deep crisis.

Do you think there is a way out?

P.M.

I think any country which encourages terrorism or gives it aid and comfort in the Lebanon must stop doing so, because unless it does, they find a ready hunting ground in the Lebanon, because there are already so many different groups in the Lebanon with different objectives, different political groups.

It is not a thing we can do from the outside. We can only try to give every help to President Gemayel insofar as he wishes to get people together and wishes to get some form of government which makes provision for the very very different religious groups there. People from outside cannot do it. There has got to be some readiness to meet and compromise and [end p5] negotiate from within. That will not happen so long as there is any encouragement to terrorism from outside countries.

Terrorism is the scourge of the modern world and no government should encourage it.

Dr Sandra Paternostro, Italian TV

What about the hostages? You have a fellow national, Terry Waite, in this moment in a very serious position?

P.M.

Yes. We also have other hostages and have had in the past. We have never wavered on what is the right thing to do about hostages. We do not ever contemplate giving either ransom money or armaments or anything like that for them - never - because if you do, you would only encourage the terrorists to take more hostages.

It is a tough policy. I sometimes see the relatives of hostages and obviously, some of them do not understand why we do not negotiate in that way, and I still have to say: “But if I do, if we were to negotiate in that way, then there would be twenty, thirty, forty more hostages taken. Any time they wanted money or weapons they would take a few more hostages. So we have held our line very firmly. It is tough but it is in the longer-term interests; do not negotiate with terrorists [end p6] on these matters; do not ever contemplate ransom, either in money or in weaponry.

Dr Sandra Paternostro, Italian TV

We close here the first part and I say thank you to you Prime Minister, but it is an interlocutary thank you.

Dr Sandra Paternostro, Italian TV

Paola, for editing, we start now the second part, which goes on the air tonight at 2300 hours. Thank you, Paola.

Dr Sandra Paternostro, Italian TV

Prime Minister, which are the subjects you are keen to raise in your imminent conversations with the Italian Prime Minister Craxi?

P.M.

Well, I think there are two more important than anything else.

First, we have never got financial discipline in dealing with Community moneys. You know, each of us has to be disciplined in how we deal with money in our own national budget. Somehow, when you get to Europe they are not. There is a sort of deal round the table: “I have what I want; you have what you want” and the whole contributions go up. Now that cannot go on. [end p7] We cannot really, any of us, say: “Look! We have to be careful how we deal with national moneys but you can be extravagant when it comes to dealing with Community money!” We have got to get as good discipline into the Community as we have at home. That is absolute top priority.

And the second is: you know, most of the moneys have gone on creating surpluses, which we cannot sell and we do not need to eat. It is ridiculous to go on like that, and we need to try to get rid of the surpluses, but we need also to find a system that will stop them from being rebuilt. That affects all of us. We are trying to get down to it gradually. We have got to try a little bit harder in the future.

There is a third one, which is subsidiary. We came together to be a common market and not to have barriers from one country to another. There are still a lot of barriers to trade. We must get those down. That is the only way we can have as big a market in Europe as they have in the United States.

Dr Sandra Paternostro, Italian TV

The English semester of Presidency of the European Community has expired the 31 December last year. Prime Minister, could you give us a quick assessment of what has been achieved or not achieved under your Presidency? [end p8]

P.M.

First, we tried to get much better cooperation on combatting drugs. That is absolutely vital, and although we want greater freedom of movement we must neverless not be so free with our movement that the police cannot follow the drug traffickers from one country to another. So much greater cooperation against drugs and against terrorism. And we got both of those things.

Second, we tried very hard to get down many of the barriers I have talked about to trade and we got a record number removed - some forty-four. That was quite hard going, but nevertheless, we got them removed, and there is more to be done.

And then we started some of the things which I indicated previously.

We had a very very good meeting on the agricultural policy and took, I think, tougher measures than ever before, because that was to show the way in which we must go.

So those were three very very good things that we did.

Dr Sandra Paternostro, Italian TV

There is a problem, Prime Minister, which Italy and England have in common - as a matter of fact, in common also with other countries in the European Community - and that is the creation of jobs … unemployed [end p9] people, especially youngsters, in your country, unemployed people, especially youngsters, in my country.

Do you see any possible constructive policy, not on a long range, but on a shorter range?

P.M.

Let us just deal with the long run briefly first.

In the long run, more jobs come from successful business. That is so whether it is larger business, either in manufacturing or services, or in small businesses and self-employment. Italy is particularly good at self-employment and the creation of small family businesses and I think she has been outstandingly successful in that. That is always continuous and in the longer run.

In the shorter run, yes, you can do a great deal and indeed, we do, and one of our things during our Presidency was to say that what you call the “structural funds of Europe” must be used primarily to help get unemployment down. What does that mean?

First, it means training young people and those who have not got a job, because in the midst of unemployment we still have some jobs for which people are not trained to take them. So you have your training for the jobs that are available. [end p10]

Second, we have a fantastic programme for training young people, a two-year programme. It is called the Youth Training Scheme. It is working extremely well and you know, when young people go on it, even though they did not do very well at school some of them, they like going to that training, they become motivated because they know that if they work hard at that they may get a job.

And thirdly, you can give help to people who want to start up on their own.

A feature of the time in which we have been in Government in Britain is an enormous increase in the number of people who are self-employed and starting up on their own. All of that helps. It gives confidence, it gives know-how to young people how to start on their own and we train them for jobs that are available because even now there are still some jobs for which employers cannot get people to fill.

Dr Sandra Paternostro, Italian TV

There has been one very authoritative English paper, English publication, “The Economist”, which has said that the Italian economy has overtaken the British economy for the fifth place in the list of countries with flourishing high-industrialised economy.

Now, do you think my nationalistic pride in reading “The Economist” is justified or not? [end p11]

P.M.

Of course, I expect you to ask that question. I think the answer is we have both done very well and it depends technically which measure you take.

We are going into our sixth year of successive growth, which is very good. We have had a marvellous increase in productivity. Some of our exports are doing very well, but we are also importing very much.

You have done fantastically well in small businesses and also in growth. I think we should be both pretty thankful that our economies are doing well and may it continue! They do well if you give free rein to people of talent and ability to find the goods that, if they produce them, will sell and that has been the secret of the success in both Italy and in Great Britain.

Dr Sandra Paternostro, Italian TV

Italy and Great Britain have very positive, very constructive relations.

Do you think they can further improve and how?

P.M.

Oh, I think so. There is always room for improvement of relations and, as you know, a lot of our people go to Italy for their holidays and love it. They love the way they are received. Italian people are so [end p12] friendly and warm towards people from this country. So there is no difficulty about going on to improve relations.

We talk closely, as I have indicated, on the arms control front, because we have similar things in common there. I think they will improve when we see more of one another, and that is what I think is so important about these bilateral visits, when we come either to Rome or Milan or Florence, which we love, and when your people come here, and when we have meetings of industrialists and people from the arts and when some of our arts things come to Rome for some of your exhibitions or to Florence and when some of yours come here.

Relations are good and they will continue to be good, but we can always work a little bit harder at them.

Dr Sandra Paternostro, Italian TV

Thank you, Mrs. Thatcher.

Dr Sandra Paternostro, Italian TV

Paola, for editing, we close here, Instalment No. 2 and we open No. 3, The Personality, The Image, The Family, and so on. Thank you, Paola. [end p13]

Dr Sandra Paternostro, Italian TV

There are a lot of rumours in this country, growing rumours, that you want to win with anticipated elections a third mandate.

Would you be so indiscreet to tell me if there will be new elections this year without telling immediately your fellow nationals?

P.M.

Well, of course I want to win a third term. We believe in what we are doing in my Party. We believe it is right for Britain and that is why we want to win.

As for when, I can tell you! It will be some time during the next eighteen months, but precisely when, even I do not yet know!

Dr Sandra Paternostro, Italian TV

Do you consider really yourself as a lady of iron? The Russians invented this qualification and then it has been somehow spread in the media. But do you really think being made of iron?

P.M.

Well, it is interesting that the phrase came from the Soviet Union and it came from there because they know that I am very firm in defending everything I believe in, freedom and the rule of law. They know [end p14] that we are reliable allies to NATO. That is not a bad reputation to have when it comes to home things.

Yes, I am very firm also. I must be. Some of the decisions which you take, there is no good being soft or wishy-washy about them. You have got to be firm and you have got to know the direction in which you are going.

That is not a bad reputation to have. But you know, people are firm, again, because they believe in what they are doing and they believe it will be best for their country and they believe that it will be best for all of the people, not just some.

So yes, I do not mind being called an iron lady by those who I think would undermine freedom and the rule of law. They are right! I am very tough in that respect.

And at home, yes, I am very firm. Who in the world would want a leader who was soft, who did not know what they wanted to do, they did not know where they were going and simply gave in to everything regardless of the long-term effect?

Dr Sandra Paternostro, Italian TV

If you would have to choose between the rigorous respect of a principle or one or two or a few human beings, which choice would you make? [end p15]

P.M.

I think that by upholding the principle you, in the end, make it better for the human beings.

It really is rather like the question we were dealing with a few moments ago - hostages. Yes, by negotiating in a way in which I would not negotiate you perhaps get a few of them out, but you would make it absolutely certain that more would be taken. So the immediate effect of negotiating or paying ransom money might be to get some more out and you might say that that showed much more sympathy. I would say it would not, because it would mean more were taken, and that is just a classic example of the principle that you are asking ... ...

There is another example. When it came to letting the United States have the use of her bases in this country for the bombing of Libya, one had to consider it very very carefully, and we did it consider it, but if terrorists know that you will never take such action against them, then it means that they can go on with more and more and more terrorism and those who love freedom and the western world will never take sufficient action in self-defence to stop them.

So yes, although the immediate thing … obviously, people looked and said: “We do not use force!” but my goodness me, in self-defence you have to!

So yes, you have to uphold the principles in order that your people may have the longer-term life, liberty and law. [end p16]

Dr Sandra Paternostro, Italian TV

Switching to your home. Who is in command in your family, you or Mr. Denis Thatcher?

P.M.

Why do you talk about command? We are a marvellous partnership. Isn't that as it should be?

Dr Sandra Paternostro, Italian TV

A few days ago, the English viewers could admire you in your kitchen cooking a cabbage and adding a few chemicals and even transforming the colour of this cabbage, and you gave a very interesting explanation to scientists and to amateur scientists.

I was looking at this show and I was thinking how much time does the Prime Minister have for her house, for her family and especially for her hobbies.

Do you cook willingly?

P.M.

We do not have a lot of time because I work extremely hard. Indeed I am called a workaholic, and that is the only way I know how to do this work. But nevertheless, we come in late at night or there might be a half-day, Saturday or Sunday, when we are freer; yes, then I do do quite a bit of work and in the evenings, because in the British system we do not have any cooks or domestic staff provided for the flat in which we [end p17] live. Anything we have, we take on ourselves and Denis ThatcherDenis and I prefer not to have anyone in residence so that late at night, if we want something, then I go down to the kitchen to do it. It is much easier that way. I enjoy it. I like cooking. As you get older, I must tell you, you like simpler things and that makes it easier to cook.

Dr Sandra Paternostro, Italian TV

How many hours a day has Mrs. Margaret Thatcher, housewife, at her disposal, on average?

P.M.

Oh very few. It is quite common to work eighteen hours a day, quite common.

I am not quite certain of the Italian system.

We have our own constituencies and therefore I must go to the constituency. I have to be there to vote in the House of Commons quite often. I also have to answer questions twice a week - every Tuesday and Thursday - in the House of Commons. I have no idea what those questions will be. They can be of any work of Government, either from defence, through the health service, through the social services, through the environment, through transport, and so I have to keep absolutely up-to-date with what is going on.

We also have something like 4,000 letters a week. I cannot do them all. I am also Leader of my Party, [end p18] and I do not think any other President or Prime Minister has quite the volume of work and intensity that we have, and there is only one way that I know how to do it and that is extremely well and go on working as hard as I can. And then all of a sudden, you will find that you have to make a major speech and you know, speeches do not just come off the top of your head. Sometimes, you could get up and give a speech four or five times a day, but there are major speeches in which you really are trying to work out the principles, how they work out in policy, how they work out in programme and always trying to say to people: “Look! This is what we are going to do and this is the reason why and this is the direction in which we are going!” and they take a lot of time. So that is why I take up eighteen hours a day and work very hard over week-ends as well.

Dr Sandra Paternostro, Italian TV

I do not envy you! There is no doubt, Prime Minister, that you are one of the preferred targets, together with the Queen and with the Royal House, of the satirical cartoons.

Do you think satire is justified? Do you think satire is acceptable? I remember that recently, you even gave advice to a satirical comedy for the television called “Yes, Prime Minister!” [end p19]

What, in your opinion, should be satire? How strong? Their limits? Are you happy with it or not?

P.M.

Satire is a part of life. People get enormous pleasure and fun from it and so do I, so there is no point in doing anything other than really enjoying it, and sometimes you know, it gets a message across that you cannot get across anyhow else.

The thing that I think is, I am afraid, a little bit more common now than it used to be, are statements which are totally and meant to be cruel and false. Those hurt! They are intended to wound, and the only thing that enables you to get through them is that you know that there are people working against you who want to use those weapons to wound, to hurt, to destroy, because they want to get you down and you say: “You are not going to get me down by that means!”

Dr Sandra Paternostro, Italian TV

Some time ago, you even gave advice to Paul Eddington, a very well-known English actor, for the very successful serials of BBC's “Yes, Prime Minister!” Why did you do that? [end p20]

P.M.

I can tell you exactly why. That programme was winning a television award and there was a great ceremony and a lot of speeches were going to be made and mine came just before I gave the award and it was about the sixth speech. You imagine being the sixth speaker! So everything nice about the programme had been said, and I thought: “How can I be different?” and so here in No. 10 we just made up a little sketch … I was saying to the Permanent Secretary and Prime Minister: “I want to get rid of economists!” It was a satire on us, and we thought that that would be better than yet another speech, and it was fascinating making up the script. It had to move fast and they cooperated and we did it. It only lasted two-and-a-half or three minutes, but it was marvellous, much better than the sixth speech would have been.

Dr Sandra Paternostro, Italian TV

A last question, Prime Minister. How can you keep so young? What is your secret?

P.M.

I have no idea and you are very kind to say that. I was just born with a good constitution. I was born full of energy. I have always lived that way and I think so long as you work hard and are interested in [end p21] life you are much more likely to stay young, much more likely.

Dr Sandra Paternostro, Italian TV

Thank you, and lots of wishes!

P.M.

Thank you. My pleasure!