Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1987 Jun 6 Sa
Margaret Thatcher

Radio Interview for BBC Radio 4 Today

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: Radio Interview
Venue: BBC Broadcasting House, Portland Place, central London
Source: Thatcher Archive: OUP transcript
Journalist: John Humphrys, BBC
Editorial comments: 0800-0815. As broadcast the interview ended at 0826. For reason of copyright questions have been paraphrased. Full text available on CD-ROM only.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2751
Themes: Executive, Executive (appointments), Conservatism, Employment, General Elections, Privatized & state industries, Health policy, Private health care, Labour Party & socialism, Leadership, Religion & morality, Society, Social security & welfare, Terrorism, Strikes & other union action, Famous statements by MT (discussions of)

John Humphrys, BBC

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright]

With me is leader of Conservative Party, MT, good morning.

MT

Good morning.

John Humphrys, BBC

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright]

Would you accept that you as much - or more - than anything have become the issue in this matter?

MT

No, I don't think so, I don't think that's right. It is the policies that we have pursued. Really campaigns are about policies. Yes I have been very firm on some things, yes I've needed to be, I've been very firm on defence, Britain's reputation is at stake. I've been very firm on fighting strikes. I re-read last night on the plane coming back the debate in the House of Commons on the coal strike which came in before our full trade union reforms had taken effect. No demand from the Labour party for a secret ballot. Oh yes, they condemn violence in general but would not condemn violence on any picket line. Yes, we had to be strong to fight that, the fundamental question there was democracy and was it going to be toppled by the bully boys, so yes we've fought that. Yes, we've been strong against inflation otherwise it would have been a dishonest policy on people's savings. I think what they're saying is that we have been strong and consistent to put through our policies and, yes, we shall continue to be so.

John Humphrys, BBC

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright]

They are also saying that we now have a country divided between rich and poor, those in work and those out of work, those who can afford private health, those who have to go to NHS, that you are an uncaring Prime Minister.

MT

And look who is charging me with being uncaring, the people who supported a coal strike, who didn't support the miners who went to work, but supported those who conducted that strike through intimidation, the object of which was to bring to a stop the whole of manufacturing industry which was to deprive the household and the pensioner of heat and light [end p1] and now they want to bring back secondary picketing, that was the party which votes against the prevention of terrorism, the party who in 1979 jolly nearly closed cancer wards. If you look under the health service, if you look at the headlines, then there was a strike in the Health Service, there was a strike in the ambulance service, the party which supports the teachers in striking against children. No, we care deeply, that's why I have gone through so much, Mr Humphrys, to restore Britain's reputation as a reliable ally and a trusted friend, that's why I went through so much in fighting strikes and that's why I'll continue to go through a great deal in standing up for Britain, and might I just say one further thing, the standard of living in this country, including the standard of care is higher than it has ever been, we don't talk, we deliver.

John Humphrys, BBC

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright]

Not higher if you are out of work, and 3 million are.

MT

Yes, there are 3 million who are still out of work, 1.2 million of whom have been out of work for a very long time. May I look, may I just point out that when we came in power there was a great deal of hidden unemployment, because as you know there was a lot of over-manning and a lot of restrictive practices and the British disease was strikes and we were declining rapidly? Yes, that had to be turned round. Industry is now competitive, and at least the benefits available for those who are out of work are better than they have ever been, the [words missing] the benefits available for the pensioner. Indeed I often say that the day I was given the charge of going into No.10 the economy was such that the British taxpayer, who foots the bill for everything, not the Government, could only afford to pay £8 billion to sustain the National Health Service. After eight years of Toryism, its nearly three times as much, £21 billion, and on the social security side, because you tackled me about help available, it was £17 billion, and now its £46 billion, a lot of it of course to extra pensions and extra pensioners.

John Humphrys, BBC

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright]

Ammunition to your critics when you [end p2] talk as you did last week about freedom of choice because only rich and strong can afford that?

MT

No, I would not accept that, there are 5 million people and rising who actually choose to spend their money on insuring health.

John Humphrys, BBC

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright]

Many more millions cannot afford that sort of money.

MT

But are you saying that unless everyone can have something no-one should have it? Do you know what the cost of that, of doing that outside London, no, you tackled me, do you know what the cost of insuring on a BUPA or a hospital plan, I don't know what the BBC uses, many many unions have a certain amount of help and there's a hospital supported by the trade unions. The cost outside London is the equivalent of one packet of cigarettes a day.

John Humphrys, BBC

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright]

Many old age pensioners cannot afford that, many with large families cannot afford that.

MT

Yes indeed, but Mr Humphrys, you're going to deny a person the choice of how he uses his money. He can spend it on cigarettes, he can spend it on alcohol. Did you see that the amount at the Derby on gambling was one-fifth up on last year? But you would deny him the choice of spending it on health. In other words you would say that you'd far rather put 5 million people and their families onto the Health Service and deny them the right. Yes, there will come a time, we all rely on the Health Service, it is of [words missing?] accident if we ever have a long illness. It is a great comfort that it's there. [end p3]

John Humphrys, BBC

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright]

Isn't it slightly offensive to some people suggesting in effect they are wasting their money gambling and smoking when they ought to, perhaps, if you are saying this, to be spending it on private health, when indeed they… to the National Health service as we almost… [question tails away - meaning not entirely unclear]

MT

I'm not saying that, Mr Humphrys. What you are saying to me is that people should be free to spend it as they wish on alcohol, on gambling, on going to the dogs, on any form of entertainment, on any form of amusement, yes, and they should, but among those choices if they wish in fact to go to a private doctor, or if they wish to spend it on health, why should they not? It is you who are denying the choice. I am saying, heaven knows, I'm trying to give extra choice to people by saying yes, we don't want to take more tax away from you. I think it's right that you should have a bigger proportion of your income to look after your children, your family as you wish, but it is you who are taking away the choice and I am very interested, you see the only charge you have against me is that I never use the Health Service in the sense that I never jump the queue on the Health Service in any way, that I pay all my dues to the Health Service as a taxpayer and I pay highly, that I never jump the queue, no-one can ever accuse me of that. I've been very careful not to. Then I pay separately and over and above that I pay again because I do not take the top one-fifth of my income so in fact I pay 100%; tax on that. Now don't you think that's a good deal more caring of other people's concerns especially when the numbers of doctors and nurses and patient cases under the Health Service is far greater under a Tory government than it ever was under Labour?

John Humphrys, BBC

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright]

Yesterday you said essence of human rights is that each person can choose between right and wrong and as that “The right to choose is the essence of Christianity.” Some might say essence of Christianity is unselfish love, and you were attacked by various bishops for what you said. [end p4]

MT

How can you express unselfish love if you have no choice? I understand, I am not going to get into the fundamentals of Christianity, the fundamental choice is the right to choose between good and evil, is that not right? The fundamental reason of being on this earth is so to improve your character that you are fit for the next world. How can you exercise responsibility, how can you exercise concern unless you have some possibility of choice? Yes, you will find some bishops who will say that. I find nothing in the Gospels which says that everything you earn must be taken by the state for the state to give back to you and for you to have no choice at all. I think you'll find it all set out, it is a very good book, and there are Christians obviously in all parties, all parties, there's a very good book called “Faith in Politics.” John Gummer did it from the synod from the Conservative view point. I think Eric Heffer did it from the Labour view point, and I think Alan Beith did it from the Liberal. Yes, there are Christians in all parties. What makes me reply very sternly is when it is suggested that you can have morality or ethics without any choice. That's what's happened in the Soviet Union.

John Humphrys, BBC

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright]

Many would choose, would they not, to pay more taxes for a better NHS or education service. That's freedom of choice as well.

MT

But you can, but you are free to do what you like with the money that you have, but you see I don't find that Christianity is equal to compulsion. I find Christianity saying to a person you must use your own talents, you must do as you would be done by, but that is a personal thing. It seems to me that people didn't regard Christianity as totally in block groups, blocked classes. It was soul by soul and silently at the shining balance of the kingdom increase.

John Humphrys, BBC

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright]

At the start of the campaign Mrs Thatcher, your party promised to fight on a radical manifesto. Have you been side tracked by the need to attack Labour on defence and job policy because of the strength Labour has shown in the polls? [end p5]

MT

No, I haven't been side tracked. We've put forward positive policies the entire time. Let me go through them again. Yes, a positive policy that our defence should be sure, which includes the nuclear deterrent, we should be a reliable ally and a trusted friend. Yes a positive policy on freeing up the ordinary member of the trade unions not to be bossed about by some of the left-wing bully boys of the trade union leaders. It was we who gave the right to a secret ballot, it was we who gave the right to the ordinary member and the employment [sic] to go to court to resist a strike unless there had been a properly conducted secret ballot. It is we who have given more power to the individual against the state by saying, yes, you shall have a right to purchase your own home if you are a council tenant. Yes, you shall have the right and indeed much greater opportunity to become not an …   . owner but an earner and therefore own shares. Yes, you shall know that if you save in building society accounts, through a National Saving Certificate, you put your money conscientiously into those things, you shall have a Government to see that that money which represents your effort retains it value. Yes, all of those things, yes, and where you are not getting satisfactory education, although you are paying for it through rates and taxes, yes, you shall be free to have the same amount of money from the state and have a better education system, paid for by the State for you children. We are trying to get this fundamental thing, faith in the ordinary people when they are given extra responsibility and power and not the rule of compulsion or the dictate of the trade union boss like the Labour party.

John Humphrys, BBC

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright]

If you win General Election, what sort of government will we see? You have been accused of being dictatorial in government style, having in your Cabinet only those who agree with you. Will you for instance have Mr Biffen in your Cabinet?

MT

I do not have in my Cabinet only people who agree with everything, we have a very very vigorous campaign.

John Humphrys, BBC

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright]

Would you include Mr Biffen in Cabinet? [end p6]

MT

I'm not going to have, are you really saying the whole campaign is about who I have in my Cabinet, or are you really trying to deflect the choice of strong defence upholding Britain's reputation?

John Humphrys, BBC

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright]

I wanted sense of the sort of Cabinet we might see in your third term.

MT

As the same kind as we've always had. We have had a range of opinion in our Cabinet for a very good reason that you have to. A range of opinion, a range of geographical representation, a range of age, because that is the way you simply must do it, and you say dictatorial; look, it was we who took the dictatorship away from the trade union bosses and gave the power to the ordinary person. It was we who in fact have taken away the ralley [running?] of many nationalised industries away from government and put them back to the people who know about it, it was we who took, no you accused me, Mr Humphrys, it was we who took away the controls over how much increases you could have on incomes, dictated by a Government. We took that control away. It was we who took away, by taking away the control on prices, we actually reduced inflation. It was we who took away the control on how much a person could take out for a holiday abroad, because we actually had courage and faith enough in the British people to take away exchange control. It was we, yes, who took away the determination of government, the exercise of authority by government as to where you could and could not set-up a factory. We've relinquished those powers, Mr Humphrys, and we have taken less income tax from the British people in proportion to their incomes.

John Humphrys, BBC

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright]

And if win another five years, will we see extension of those policies or some new departures? Are we going to see continuation of what I understand you yourself occasionally call Thatcherism? [end p7]

MT

We are going to see an extension of the property owning democracy; that is more power to people by wider home ownership. They would never have got it under Labour. Yes, by wider share ownership, yes, by wider savings, because, yes, we do believe in the choice talents, abilities and responsibility of the people, but we shall keep up very firmly Britain's reputation on defence, we shall keep up very firmly, law and order, we should keep up the Trade Union Reform which Labour would abolish and we shall keep up a prudent financial policy, we owe that to the British people.

John Humphrys, BBC

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright]

You have not mentioned reducing unemployment.

MT

And also cutting unemployment, unemployment [words missing?] for ten or eleven months. Business creates jobs and it is this government which enabled enterprise to flourish and there was jobs to be created and that will continue.

John Humphrys, BBC

[Question paraphrased for reason of copyright]

Final question, will you go on, and on, and on as you said at the start of the campaign?

MT

We shall try, look, you tackled me at the beginning of the campaign, or some of your people did, with a kind of line of argument. I could see exactly where it was leading, that somehow I would just get in and then give-up. No, I do not get in and give up.

John Humphrys, BBC

So you will go on, and on, and on?

MT

We shall go, we have only one election in front of us, that election we submit our stewardship to the judgment of the people, and can I just point out this, Mr Humphrys? Every year as leader of the Conservative party, every year I have to be re-elected. It's that which gives one strength because one has to, one hasn't the choice to go on and on, that is submitted to the people and to the party, and I am glad it is, it makes one stronger. When one is returned.

John Humphrys, BBC

Mrs Thatcher, thank you very much.

MT

Thank you.