Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1987 Sep 10 Th
Margaret Thatcher

Interview for The Independent

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: Interview
Venue: No.10 Downing Street
Source: Thatcher Archive (THCR 5/1/4/481): COI transcript
Journalist: Peter Jenkins, The Independent
Editorial comments: 1430-1550. When the Oxford CR-ROM was published in 1998 the final page of this interview transcript could not be found, though most of what MT said can be reconstructed from the published version of the interview. A full text has now been found in THCR 5/1/4/481. The interview was published on 14 September 1987.
Importance ranking: Key
Word count: 10439
Themes: Education, Secondary education, Health policy, NHS reforms 1987-90, Private health care, Social security & welfare, Society, Family, Industry, Privatized & state industries, Public spending & borrowing, Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Housing, Local government, Local government finance, Community charge ("poll tax"), British Constitution (general discussions), Conservatism, Labour Party & socialism, Liberal & Social Democratic Parties, Religion & morality, Autobiographical comments
Peter Jenkins, The Independent

Perhaps we could start by talking about the cities. This is a bit that I would like to put on the record if you are agreeable, and then we can perhaps talk more generally of the background afterwards:

You made this now famous remark on election night. Everybody is waiting to see what is going to happen. Give me some idea of how you … Prime Minister

That was made in a party political context and if you look, we have not got a seat in Liverpool. We had lost Manchester. We had just one in Sheffield, and it was made in a party political context, but already, in fact, in our programme, education and the community charge and the housing, we expect to have the maximum impact on inner cities. The community charge, so that you get rid of the feeling that they can have their expenditure and shove as much as they like onto the owner-occupiers and business. That was, in fact, pushing away the private sector, so it was pushing away jobs.

The housing: some of the condition in some of the housing in inner cities is appalling and we have in fact got the inheritance of the post-war period. Though with the best of intentions these were done in blocks, it has always seemed to me that if there is a divide in this country the biggest divide comes from the way in which we push large people [sic] into large blocks, council tenants and the rest. That is a fantastic divide and is in danger of becoming a cultural divide which in fact we started with the sale of the first million houses and that has got it broken up. There is still a lot more to do, and so that explains, really, the things in the manifesto on housing, and there will be a White Paper out soon.

Some of you were writing: “All right! Mrs. Thatcher has done various things for people who wanted to buy, but what about those who are going to be tenants for the rest of their lives?” That means that there is not enough private sector, which we have to start to deal with, but equally it means that there will be many many people who will be tenants in council flats for the rest of their lives. Are they not entitled to some increase in liberty, some increase in choice? So hence that comes and we have to have a system working with the housing associations and perhaps people like building societies, where they can opt out or get tenant cooperatives. But it is try to get rid of the dependency culture, the dependency on the local authority. That has to come and then there are some really which are in very very bad condition and they are blocks and you perhaps like me would like sometimes to take one or two of the big tower blocks down and, of course, in the end we shall have to do … a few of them … indeed, some of them are already coming down because some of them had defects, but many of them will have to stay, and some of them are in shocking condition, and hence the housing action trust to take a whole area.

Really, we looked at it from the viewpoint of the urban development corporation, where the urban development corporation, by the number of powers you have given it, has been able to do a considerable number of things which the local authority could not or would not do, and therefore, should we have a kind of housing action trust so we can get that right out of the local authority, do them up and then put them back into a variation of different kinds of tenure.

Community charge and education. Parents in inner cities are just as much interested in the education of their children - well, you see at Dewsbury - as other people. In fact, sometimes even more interested.

If I might just say one other thing while the flow is continuing &dubellip; and the derelict land and more urban development corporations. We have done four, but we shall have to have some mini ones to deal with certain areas which we cannot deal with otherwise.

But what bothers me particularly - if you can reserve your question for a moment - is that it is one thing to improve the environment, which of itself needs doing, getting rid of the dereliction, getting some of the buildings clean, but it is no good just doing that, I feel, and just handing it over and saying: “Well, there it is!” You really have got to involve some of the people there. You have got to do things in such a way which involves them and try to get them into some renewal of faith in themselves. If I might put it in old-fashioned language: renewal of confidence in themselves; that they have something to contribute, and a revival of pride.

Look at some of those! I went up to Liverpool once to open the Netherleigh (phon.) Comprehensive School, a brand new school when I was Education Secretary at the beginning of my time. It had absolutely everything in buildings, in equipment. It had an Oxford-trained head teacher. It had absolutely everything and on one side of this great big plot was the primary school and then you went into a great big comprehensive secondary school, and a new housing estate built at the same time. But, of course, there were very few shops on that housing estate; there was no youth centre; I do not believe there was a job centre. It was just artificial and now quite a lot of it is boarded up and the schools are not doing well.

You then have to go back and start with those. We want some of the job centres and we are going to take them back from MSC into employment, which most people think … you have got to have some job centres there; you have got to have some skill centres; you have got to have some small workshops there.

You have got the basis for doing it, because many of the ground floors you see boarded up and vandalised. You can see what I am trying to do. It is not enough just to do the old paternalistic social workers - “We will clean all this up, hand it over to you and then everything in the garden will be lovely!” It will not!

It is how to get involvement, and they have got to welcome the private sector, because that is where you are really going to get the things done. That is the broad general strategy and outline. Peter Jenkins, The Independent

Give me some idea, though, of the scale on which you envisage some of these things being done, because if you take the schools, for example, some of the things that have been said about this suggest that we are really talking about quite a small number of schools contracting out. Ken Baker has said twenty of these city technology colleges. Prime Minister

That is a different thing, because that has to be financed and is being financed. Peter Jenkins, The Independent

I understand that, but do you have in mind a sort of revolution which would be comparable to people buying their own house and for rental choice will become widespread or is this really just trying to beef-up the State system by a few schools which will … Prime Minister

No. It was meant … some of the letters one gets from people who feel themselves trapped in inner cities and there is no way … this is what I have always been fearful about, of just one sort of culture in those areas and another. No, I had not thought of the way of putting it that you have.

It is meant to be as big a revolution as the one million transfer from the public sector into owner-occupation hands. It is, and we are very much aware that we have got to form some kind of organisation to help people to do it, so that they are not afraid of doing it, and we have got to get people who already run schools and say: “Now look! This is how you go about it!” to help, because otherwise I am fearful that you might get quite a lot of parents who are wanting to do it, but really not knowing practically how to set about it and being a bit fearful of the burdens that would then come on the local authority. You may well have quite a lot of head teachers and staff who would like to do it, because it really is much more power to the teachers and the parents and we have just got to, at the same time as doing it, form organisations to which people can go, to help them to do it, because really, if I might put it back in a deeper philosophy, the history of liberty is the history of the limitation of government power. If you look right back to Magna Carta and then of course in the post-war periods, the effect that wars have is of revealing, sometimes in a much more intimate way than in normal civilian life, the way other people live and therefore you do in fact usually have quite a major change after a war which we did have, and I think the tendency after a war is to say: “Well you have done things centrally in war-time; can you not do it in peace-time?”

The two things are totally different. In war, the whole nation has one objective - survival as a free society. You come into peace-time and each family and person or each firm again have their own objectives to carry out in their own way, and therefore one of the first things that Rab Butler had to do was to start to get rid of rationing, which had almost become a part of our life. And you then come to a much later kind of post-war period and undoubtedly - and even some of our opponents would come in to discuss it … I remember Tony Crosland, I remember Roy Jenkins saying: “If you are going to get up to 50&pcnt; or 60&pcnt; public expenditure, resources being spent by government, you are really on the verge of losing your liberty!” Words to that effect.

And so, part of one's own fundamental philosophy is the return of personal responsibility and personal effort and initiative. It almost sounds like Gorbachev's latest speech, and we should never have departed from it.

You will find this more and more in housing. You will find there are certain sectors where you can hand over completely, or almost completely, to the person, if you want to have your own house. That is one such place.

In pensions, you do it in two ways; a basic state pension and then everyone has got to have their own second pension … to have a State pension fallback. So you have got the basic State and something else there.

On personal savings: all right, you want more of your own personal capital, whether it is in shares, building society accounts, savings accounts, and if you are asking people, expecting them to do that to build up their own nest egg, to build up their own capital, you have a bounden duty to see that it keeps its value so that the earnings they have turned into capital shall still have a similar value in what they will buy when they come out as when you put them in.

You then come to what I might call the big producer state services and undoubtedly, if you look in Bernard Donoughue's book, you will find a lot of the language which I use, because after a time they too were beginning to … the thinkers as distinct from the power-mongers … there are two things: there are thinkers and philosophers, and your politics comes from that, and people who just want to be in politics for the sake of power over other people … but if you think of the philosophers, they were saying … and Bernard Donoughue's book is extremely interesting … he was saying that the teachers, some of them, thought only “We are the producers and people must jolly well have what we say!” Sometimes in the Health Service! Fascinating! If this is “We are the producers!” then the whole thing is geared to the producers, not to the consumer at all.

That will not do, and the way to get it is again to give in schools the parents and the teachers who know what they want and if I might put it this way: most people - the majority of British people - are conservative with a small “c”. They like life to be run honourably, decently. They like their children to be taught good, sound things, English, arithmetic, all that is good in life, all that is good in history, that is decent, is honourable, and they like to them to be taught the ordinary courtesies, which are what makes life; kind towards one another. It always seems to me that those who are keenest on community should be keenest on courtesy and a reasonable standard of behaviour, and so you are striking the right chord there, but it is always, as George Bernard Shaw said, freedom incurs responsibility - that is why many men fear it - and because of part of the post-war period in which it is being run, there are people who fear responsibility, and so there becomes a political group that says: “Well, if everyone cannot have it, no-one shall have it!” It is nonsense. You would never have had any progress. We would all still be in the bogs in caves! Absolutely absurd! We all came from there. It is only a question of what time your ancestors came there - that is the only difference, but that is a general background, a general philosophy. Peter Jenkins, The Independent

If you want to see the freedom to exercise parental choice on the same sort of scale as you provided through the sale of council houses, you are talking then about a lot of schools contracting out of the local system … Prime Minister

Contracting out of the local authority's control, the greater dispersal of power. Peter Jenkins, The Independent

You are going to have two parallel systems in effect, are you not? Prime Minister

Now what is wrong with that? Peter Jenkins, The Independent

I am not saying there is anything wrong with it. I am just asking: is that what we are going to get? Prime Minister

You are going to have three: those who wish to stay with the local authority, but even then, do not forget that on the local authorities, they are going to have a core curriculum because some schools have failed with children and they are going to put more powers to the head teacher so you are going to have a change even within the local authority system.

You are going to have local authorities, you are going to have direct. Do not forget we had direct grant schools before. They are slightly different these. And you are going to have a private sector with assisted places. That is variety.

The thing that worried me was the tone that even you answered that question as if there was something faintly not nice about having two systems. I would say there is something, frankly, too rigid about “This is one thing and you have jolly well got to have it!” Peter Jenkins, The Independent

But how does one system select from the other, then? Prime Minister

It is the parents. The difficulty is you can opt personally for your house. You have to opt in some kind of group for a school. The parents will opt to go out and once out they will stay out, and then the other parents will choose as to whether they want to go to that school which is an opted-out school or whether they are very satisfied with the one that is in a local authority, which they may well be, because part of the thing with which we have gone about is: “Look! Where it is working all right, do not change it! Where it is not working, give a larger opportunity!”

A large part of this manifesto was to enlarge an opportunity, give a chance where it has never been given before. Enlarge the opportunity. Very much so. Peter Jenkins, The Independent

But you see, I think you are probably right about this, and a great many people are going to want to send their children to these opted-out schools, and if the demand is as great as I suspect it might be, then it becomes a real question as to how that demand is to be met and whether there has to be some process of selection. Prime Minister

When you say “some process of selection”, there is now a process of selection. Most MPs could tell you almost the pecking order of schools in their own local authority, as everyone first wants their child to go usually to the school with the best head teacher and staff who teach what I could call a real orthodox curriculum, together with some extras, but you have got to have the basic and then there is plenty of room on top for the variations and the extras.

You already get that and that is why you usually have to put down two or three schools of choice, and so already your most popular school will perhaps have a wider choice of pupils than those who are less popular because it does not always go to within, say, three miles of where you are. It would be quite wrong if you did, because selection then would be if you could afford the houses in that area. That would be actually selection by price.

When you go and make a change, it is not going to be easy to start with. I mean, already, we have not got the Bill introduced yet, various people are coming along and saying: “We want to opt out!” and that will all have to go through too … education … they will be very very busy. Peter Jenkins, The Independent

It has been said before that the selection will not be on the basis of ability. Prime Minister

You will not have a rigid selection on ability, and I think most schools, they will opt out. The law at the moment is if you want to change your character, that is the comprehensive, grammar, secondary modern, you have to apply to the Secretary of State to do so. Using the character which you are in, you will opt out. If you want to change your character, the same rule will apply as now, that you apply usually under section 13 … I think it is section 12 now since they revised it … to change the character.

Of course, in some areas … a comprehensive school in Banbury probably has a rather different intake from a comprehensive school in Brixton, but that is choice by housing and that often is choice by the price of houses, so you have got differences now. But we are trying to get to every school, wherever it is. This is one reason why we are going to a core curriculum, because I passionately believe most children, the overwhelming majority, are capable of understanding a basic curriculum and coming out basically equipped, and most of them are capable of a lot more than that if the teaching is relevant, but really I think that most schools should be able to escape. Some kind of standards which the parents can see; that that school can be seen to teach them basic language.

It always strikes me when I go to America, the pupils are much more articulate and yet here, often I have youngsters in here … they are not so articulate and when I went recently to the Templeton Business Centre in Glasgow - it was once Templeton carpets - built in the style of the Doge's Palace at Venice, so this carpet factory was built in that style. Then of course, carpets were different. The Templetons left it and the whole thing has been restored at the front and the inside gutted, and it is now full of business in the community, not only workshops but small companies, small businesses, have taken square footage in it, and one of the things called “Workwise” which business in the community has taken up is a youth training scheme for the most underprivileged youngsters and they take them, and they are quite dedicated, and they are actually teaching them very very basic things: how to speak, how to dress, how to turn up, how to arsquouit themselves, and so on, and I said to one of the youngsters when I was in there: “Tell me! What is the most valuable thing? What has struck you most? What is the thing that has given you most?” You had to put it very very simply. “Oh!”, she said: “How to talk!” Quite extraordinary! How to talk. But marvellous youngsters. But it was that some had just bothered to teach them and they can see the point of teaching it, and they take them in. They teach them retailing; they teach another group hotel work; they will teach another group computer work and typing. They are capable of doing the whole lot.

But you know, you do look round and say: “We have had eleven years compulsory education. Before that ten years, the whole of the post-war period. How come they did not come out with that?” So it is a thing which goes right through, which is bigger chance, bigger opportunity.

When you are making a change, the problem is how to manage the change and obviously there will be people who already now expect them to be … Dewsbury is a case in point … the schools where they have got space will not be able to refuse pupils, and they really almost are blaming us for not having got that in immediately. Peter Jenkins, The Independent

I want to make sure I have got this right because I understand you to be envisaging, hoping to bring about a really quite large-scale privatisation of the secondary educational field. Prime Minister

No. No. Privatisation is financed by the private sector. No. Change of authority. From the local authorities. It is the change of public ownership to a different form. It is a change from one form of public provision to a choice of public provision. That is not privatisation. It is a change in public provision. Just as in a way as in housing. We are going to give a wider choice of public provision for people who are not satisfied so that those who produce the service shall not be able to say: “Look! This is it! Take it or leave it!” Peter Jenkins, The Independent

Now in housing, the scale of it in housing … Prime Minister

In housing, the scale of it in housing. It may be a little bit slower to get going because there again, you do have two kinds of public provision.

You have local authorities and you have housing associations, but I think there are quite a number of people who prefer to be with a housing association than with the local authority or with a building society than with the local authority, and I think it is going to take, myself, a little bit longer, because you have not got there the natural units already formed. You certainly have housing associations, but some people will wish to opt out individually and they might come under considerable persuasion from the local authority, which you have obviously got to watch, not to.

You see, there are already certain tenant cooperatives. Thamesmead, you know, opted to go under their own control, so we have got one or two examples, but there are not sort of ready-made units. As a school, you have to decide whether you continue under one form of public authority, under one public authority or under another and the amount of control that you have might vary.

I think that in housing it may well take longer because you know there is a variation of things in housing. There is the right to opt out from local authority landlordship to another approved landlord. We are not going to have any difficulties with a kind of Rachmanism or things like that. Housing associations would be one, building societies another, tenant cooperatives another. But you have not got the natural unit there existing who makes the decision, so I think that that might, myself, take a little longer. Peter Jenkins, The Independent

But if you take one of these appalling estates, vandalised, filthy estates. Nothing works. The repairs are not done. People live in terrible conditions waiting months and months and months. How is that going to change through this choice of management? Prime Minister

Housing action trusts, but we shall have to do a number of pilot schemes and take over a number of them and concentrate on repairing those and getting the private sector involved.

As you know, there have been a number. There is one block of Easterhouse that has been done. There is one block, is it Stockbridge Valley in Liverpool, that has been done, and they have altered them. They no longer look like council block flats. Now, in those cases, they have been able to work with the local authority and empty that block so that people have been put into others, completely re-do that block and then they can either sell them or take them into rented accommodation.

There will be various different possibilities. This is why I say there are two ways of going about it:

One: the housing action trusts for which we have to legislate.

The second is enabling people to opt out and go to a housing association. For that you have to get a number of housing associations ready to become the landlord and obviously, you have to make provision and you have to decide what is the value transferred.

The third thing is - but it will not come in legislation this session, the question is how much can we get into a Bill this session - later being able to do to some extent what Scotland has: that she can kind of ring-fence her housing schemes financially. But that is for later.

I think that the speed, myself, with the education will be faster than with the housing for the reason I have indicated: that this is the practical effect.

Incidentally, there is something else. In some cases there are quite a number of people who still want to purchase their council houses and various things are put in their way and we have got to remove those stumbling blocks, but you and I are thinking not so much of the semi-detached houses where it is easier for the person to opt out. You are thinking of some of the big blocks, which we built - both governments - with the best of intentions, but I am afraid we altered the social structure of Britain in doing it and at a time when you have quite a bit of unemployment that, if you are not careful, is going to be the actual divide, and one is trying to break that up.

Interesting! We try to break up the divides more than anyone else! Peter Jenkins, The Independent

Now a lot of people will say that, okay, apply Thatcherism to the cities and in terms of these things all involving choice and freedom, good, but Thatcherism also means rigid public expenditure control and there just simply will not be enough money to do what she is talking about. Prime Minister

Well, I do not care whether you are the Independent newspaper or any other business; a small business, a big business, a family or a person, you have got to have expenditure control. You have got to have a budget and you have got to have priorities and it is quite wrong to indicate that there is a pot of gold and all you have got to do is say, “Please, I want more”. As a matter of fact we are not back to the same proportion of public expenditure as when we took over and I certainly think it is too high which is why we are trying to reduce it as a proportion of national income, because I think it would be quite ridiculous to take so much of people's money that you then made them queue up for for a service of a facility when, if they were allowed to keep a bigger proportion of their own earnings, they could provide some of that facility - and would - for themselves and that is really the frontier of freedom and it was getting too far - much too far - and one wants people to be more independent and don't forget that by the end of this century people retiring, most of them will own their own home; 70&pcnt; of them retiring will have an occupational pension, they will also have a little bunch of capital and it will alter - it will transform - the expectations of most people and the way they think, so yes, where public expenditure needs to be spent, then we have spent it. There is still quite a lot of waste and we are trying to get better value the whole time; witness in the Health Service and we are steadily doing it. I think that still some of the local authorities are behaving abominably - as you know, I need hardly tell you - the extravagance is appalling and again if you just go look again at Bernard Donoughue's book, sometimes you know you spent more money and you got no better service for it at all, and that is what you have to look at. We are in fact trying to target the money so we do get done the things that want to be done and I am absolutely appalled in a way at some of the standards of some of the property in local authorities because they have spent things on lots of revenue things but they have not in fact looked after their property. I was going round Liverpool, I was just going round off the track to have a look at the houses and someone spotted me and said “Come and have a look” and I was appalled at what I found in some of those, so much so that they were absolutely … do you remember? Were you with me when we went into them? Bernard Ingham

Yes, I talked to somebody who said “How often has this got to be painted and repaired?” and they said, “Well, ideally every three years” which did surprise me. I think they said it had not had a lick of paint for thirteen years. Prime Minister

Thirteen years! They had just lost all will, it was so bad, to do anything about it themselves. All will and pride had gone and I cannot think that with the income the local authority had that it should have let it get into that. Peter Jenkins, The Independent

But you believe really, don't you, that this is a problem of bad government rather than something which is endemic in the condition of the cities or in society? Prime Minister

Yes, I do. But it has been a Government that has encouraged people to say “Look, now we do everything for you” and so much so that if you wanted a washer changed on the tap, you were encouraged to ring up which is absurd. But it is getting a dependency society and that is a characteristic of politicians who want power over people and you go back and look - as I frequently do - you look at all the books that have been written about communism, the older ones and the newer ones and so much of it was a doctrine and really I suppose Marx started this way, a power over people that you could do it better if you did it for them and really that their wishes were subjugated, and you find frequently - that one might put it this way: the strict Socialism comes from people who want power over other people, because they believe they can plan it all better. Then really it was all back in Adam Smith; he said “look, you are looking at it …” - forgive me for paraphrasing it - “as if it were a chess board and you the great master can move the pieces about as you wish but what you have forgotten is that in a free society” - and it was not that free in Adam Smith's day as later - “each piece has its own idea as to what it wants to do and where it should move,” and so I really am returning, I think, to the fundamentals of liberty, of respect for the person and his wishes but there are certain things you have to do in groups, obviously. The more specialised life gets, you see I think life went very different when you got to such a highly specialised society. In days gone by you would not have had the unemployment because you had not got a job - all right you still had contact with your families who were probably in villages or in small business or apprenticeships of one sort or another - the more specialised you get and the more you got people into these great big groups and estates, the more difficult it has become. Well, there is not much point in crying about it, it is there but you must never forget - and it is ironic - because you go back to the early other socialist ideas, it was not, there are two forms: one is that we can plan it all better and nationalisation of the means of production, because of the Marx-Engels “Isn't this a scientific society, aren't we lucky to have it?” to the other much more fundamental, what I would call a much earlier Labour doctrine that man is entitled to a greater share of the fruits of his own labour. Now that on come [sic] Socialism and he shall have to hand most of it over to the state and only get pocket money back, so you have got the two, and the older one is to some extent what one is attempting to practice. Peter Jenkins, The Independent

I live in Lambeth and you get rid of … Prime Minister

I live in Southwark. Peter Jenkins, The Independent

… and you get rid of Ted Knight, and what happens? You get another lot no better than the first lot and the rates remain pretty much the same. Your poll tax … Prime Minister

Oh no, no. Peter Jenkins, The Independent

Your poll tax, maybe it will have the effect that you desire and it will cause people to vote for Socialist administrations out of a place like Lambeth, though I doubt it, because if you put the poll tax too high, people will vote for them in protest against the poll tax; how is it going to work politically? Prime Minister

Community charge, neither Lambeth, nor Southwark, nor Liverpool, nor Sheffield, nor Brent are going to be able to say “This is what we are going to say, this is the level of community charge on owner occupiers … and businesses”, because they are not going to have the power to shove it on business. That is a massive change. Now it is going to take five years to bring that in because the rates on businesses in some of the northern businesses are enormous. Take Sheffield - enormous - and they are stopping businesses from starting up but then they do not want the private sector. They would rather have people in dependency under their control agitating when it comes to elections so that they have got a vested interest in a block of votes there. This is the appalling thing about … Vested interests used to be talked about in the private sector. The biggest vested interests now are in the public sector. Now they are not going to be able to do that. Now, in good Tory authorities, your rates are a lot lower. In the Socialist authorities they are a lot higher in businesses. Now you cannot suddenly go from where you are now to where you want to be so we are going to take five years so that those who come down shall come down by not more than 20&pcnt; each year and those who have to go up shall go up not more than 20&pcnt; so that you get a reasonable business community rate. It is a business rate but that is fixed by Government. That is to help to bring back the private sector into some of these authorities.

Now the second thing is, yes, one is fearful of some of them who deliberately set out to spend as much as they can as a matter of power. You are going to cap, you are going to take powers to cap community charge on domestic because you want the expenditure to be reasonable because - after all, the whole of Parliament started so that the executive, namely the Government, should not have the capacity to take too much away from the people and the Parliament was the guardian of the people not the guardian of the executive. Peter Jenkins, The Independent

How to cap? You will have to explain a bit more on that. Prime Minister

Well, you have got rate-capping now. You are going to have community charge, with power to cap community charge, so that the high spending authorities you can cap, so no, we shall not put on more than that. Peter Jenkins, The Independent

I see, and will the existing rate-capping powers have to be amended to deal with the community charge? Prime Minister

They will come in the community charge bill so that you have the powers to cap the domestic community charge. Peter Jenkins, The Independent

I see. Prime Minister

So that does do it. Also do not forget that it will be a much broader base tax and although many people in Lambeth may get an 80&pcnt; rebate and those on social security will get the 80&pcnt; rebate and then get the average 20&pcnt; added to their social security, but they have got to pay it. They get the money, the average amount, but they have got to pay it and do you know what happened in Lambeth in the days when we could have a supplementary rate and it went round? There was quite a revolt against it, do you remember that? It was before we stopped. I know it has been part of my eight years. So you are - I would say - once again beginning to carry out, because of the views of some of these local authorities, coming once again fundamentally to carry out the duty of Parliament to protect against all the agencies of Government that together they shall not take such a large part of your income but really basically you cease to be what one would call a free society or you cease, put much more cogently, to look to yourself and your own efforts for the basic standard of living of your family. Peter Jenkins, The Independent

But do you really believe that people will start voting these extreme left authorities out of power as a result of this? Prime Minister

Whether they do or not, those authorities will not have the power to tax to the extent that they are taxing now for the purposes they are taxing now, because at the moment you have got a hell of a lot of people in those authorities looking to us and saying “But you are the Government, what can you do about it?” and the short answer at the moment is we did take rate-capping powers in 1983 and there are many authorities that say “Thank goodness we did”. Now they are finding ways round that and you know we have had to do some things, and there will of course long before the next election, in my view, be one or two crises in some local authorities because of the way they have borrowed money without any repayment, the repayment due in about three years. So we shall have that problem to deal with. But frequently, you know, people have been saying to me for quite a long time, “Liverpool will collapse, ought we to take legislation to put Commissioners in?” No, if they have voted these people into power, they must live to feel the consequences as they will come, not in the short term but in the longer term of these people in power. Peter Jenkins, The Independent

If we were to be really cynical, which we will not, one might say that some of these loony left authorities are extremely convenient to Conservative Government and help to keep Labour out of power? Prime Minister

You are entitled to be cynical. It is not cynical, it is an argument, but it is an argument which has occurred because of something which has happened but which shouldn't. It is an argument you can only put because of an abuse of power and that argument would not be there and there would not be the fear of Labour unless it had been very Socialist in the sense of power over people and be prepared to abuse power to hold that power so it is something that should not have happened and would not have happened with some of the old Labour - that is why I say there are two forms of the Labour party, the two faces of the Labour party, you are going to the two faces of the Labour party of which we have seen more and more coming to power of the power over people, the vested interest in retaining power over people and the feeling they would rather keep them in badly maintained property in great big blocks dependent upon a council for repairs, dependent on them for jobs, dependent on them for the amount of rent and rates they pay, than see them up, flourishing, thriving with the private sector coming, with jobs in the private sector, with being able to opt out as tenant cooperatives, with being able to have a say in how their houses shall be built and how they shall be done. Peter Jenkins, The Independent

Of course in the United States, you have appalling city problems, worse than ours, which cannot be attributed to Socialism in the same way. Prime Minister

They can to some extent be attributed to the way the welfare state has operated in some ways. I remember going to Watts, I remember when we had the early trouble with Watts, I remember going to look at Watts and I tell you what I had expected: narrow streets, close tenements, hot, sticky, everything that you would have expected, you know, and I got there: separate houses, some of them semi-detatched, most of them detached, land round them, in appalling condition, but they did not look after them, cars parked in streets, children running around but airy, open and I at once started to enquire - now you have got a problem there - you had the problem that it comes, I'm afraid from the old days of the slave trade - where the family structure was broken down and has not reformed and I started to enquire and there a woman - they knew their mother but they usually often did not know their father - I hope I have not misremembered: you got an extra allowance for every child up to eight and then no extra for that. Well, it was partly the way it was run but again, what I am saying was there you had individual houses, certainly the standard was not good, there was no care for the gardens or anything like that in the houses and that is why you have got to involve the people too. But you really had - don't forget some of the problems come from things which have happened in the past and you have to reform a family structure - and let me say this: the permanence and continuity of a nation, a free society, is based on the family structure and the stability of that family structure and that is the permanence, the future of the nation, you have got to have that overwhelmingly accepted. Of course there are times when it will not happen, of course there will be breakdowns, of course there will. There are fundamental incompatibilities, there are things which happen, and they do happen, you never know what goes on behind closed doors. You can deal with those so long as you have got the fundamental stability and acceptance of the whole continuing. What worries people like me is not the capacity to deal with the exception, it is when the exception, if the exception ever becomes like looking the norm, and that is what worries … so the permanence of the nation; you have got to have the family structure, the accepted family structure in practice going on quite apart from your religious beliefs, that is a free society and it is the way most people prefer to live. That does not mean to say that other things will not happen - of course they do - and they have always done but you can deal with those provided the great stability, the great decency, the great integrity, the great honesty continues; you can deal with the other things, they are part of life. Peter Jenkins, The Independent

Were you stunned, badly stunned by your uncaring image in the election, in some of the things that were said about you? Prime Minister

Was I stung about it? “Stung” is not quite the word, “upset” isn't quite the word either. I felt it was deeply unjustified, which it is - deeply unjustified because it seemed to me that what you did mattered for very little but I think it is quite wrong when you can get a totally false image just by repeating that image - but I mean you look at the harsh way in which some people are dealt with and some of the things that have come out about Southwark but one does not turn round and say “Socialists are uncaring or that those who run - personal politicians - are uncaring”. Peter Jenkins, The Independent

How did you get stuck with this image? How did it come about? Who was to blame? Prime Minister

I can tell you because of really the false use of words where compassion has come to mean the amount the state does for you which is the more it does for you the more compassionate you are and the less you do for yourself the better. Well, it is totally and utterly wrong, and it is not even compassionate because it means that once you accept that doctrine, you have no respect for the fundamental dignity and I cannot find the right words so I shall use “sanctity” - it is fundamental human rights - I would say it came from Judaism and Christianity but it was in humanism as well - the fundamental human rights, the natural rights of man and if your definition of compassion is that it is more right for the Government to have to look after your parent who happens to be cold than it is for you to do it, I do not accept that. I most certainly … that is not compassion, that is a total abuse of language to create the result: that the politician wants to create a power for himself and no power to the people but fundamentally deeper than that, it disregards, as I say, the dignity, the rights, and the sanctity of the person and of the family and of the fundamental right to do better for your family by your own effort, to be able to help your parents by your own effort, to be able to help someone who needs help, not by having them going to queue up to a local authority to get it, and the language of Socialism is a language of queues. It is, by saying all right I can get, look just quietly going round and saying “Do you need it? Here you are” or by doing something to help. It is mine, what I would call the true - could I say not “compassion” - the true concern because it takes in the right and the dignity. Peter Jenkins, The Independent

It was the Health Service perhaps which did you in more than anything else because you kept saying, which is perfectly true, that more money had been spent on it and so on, but it was also true that that money had somehow disappeared down the hole and people did have legitimate complaints of reduced or deteriorating services. Prime Minister

But then the first thing we do is start to have a look at it and say, “How is it that we put in more and more and how is it that in one authority, same amount of money, can produce so many hip operations, cataract operations, births, appendix and there is no waiting list and in another there is? How is that sometime all of a sudden you get a better management and out of the same amount of money you can get much more?” Peter Jenkins, The Independent

If you are on the waiting list, you do not have the power to do anything much about that, and then you say “Ah well, Mrs Thatcher is imposing this discipline on the system which may be necessary but meanwhile I am suffering from my hip.” Prime Minister

No, constantly you hear me say, and I still get it, “Why doesn't the Government …?” and I turn round every time and say “I haven't any money, I have only the amount I take from your pocket. Now, if I pay more to the teachers, I have got to take more out of the pockets, not only business, but of nurses and of policemen and of civil servants; they come along, I have got to take more out of the pocket of those, et cetera. You see you get it, you get what I got the last morning we were with Robin Day, when the nurse rang up and said “But I am only on £80 a week,” and I said to her, “But you are quoting me not your gross pay, you are quoting me your net take home pay aren't you after tax and also I think after a …?” “Yes”, she said. I knew we were up to a basic £7000 and we were up to far more than we have ever had. I said, “I agree you are paying too much tax, but you are telling me I have got to pay more tax from everyone else”. (sic) She was from Mold. There are five new hospitals - big new hospitals - in Wales in our time, I opened one, Mold is another, now there she was; the assumption, which is why I took you to task at the beginning, you have got a budget, whatever you want you can have and someone else will pay and you can still get more, that is not the equation of democracy. The equation of democracy is obligation and the freedom of democracy is dignity that I do for myself as much as I can and I do not say, “I want more, my neighbour must pay”. What I am satisfied is that the amount that we have been spending on the Health Service is reasonable, having regard to all the other demands - and it worked - one just goes to a person, a family, you cannot just have whatever you want and nor can I. Peter Jenkins, The Independent

But isn't this demand for education and for a house of your own and all the other things that we have been talking about, isn't this going to start extending in quite a big way to medicine? Aren't people going to want better quality, better provided medicine, more ways of providing it, more private medicine? It's huge in America isn't it? Prime Minister

Have you looked at Alec Merrison's - you know there was a Royal Commission on this? Peter Jenkins, The Independent

I have not read it I am afraid. Prime Minister

Well, do. I know Alec Merrison, he is Vice Chancellor, he is a physicist. He is a very very able person and he did it in the last Labour time and he said “We had no” - this is a quotation - “We had no difficulty in believing the evidence of some witnesses who told us that the whole national income could be spent on the Health Service,” and it doesn't make sense, it does not make sense at all. So you have got to have some limits and yes, you do have to put up your prescription charges and yes, there are quite a number of people saying, “Yes, I want to go on BUPA” and it is perfectly right if they wish to do so that they should. What we are trying to provide is a reasonable health service. We are also trying to look and say, “Why is it that you have an enormous waiting list here and not over there?” Now let us just get rid of the dogma, if this authority has got an enormous waiting list and that hasn't, you have got to have an arrangement that the money goes with the patient and you will hear me say that again and again and again. You do not just put a block of money there and say “You have got it regardless of the amount of service you can give” and this is going to come in in education, you are going to say “The money goes with the patient”. So you want - you have got a waiting list here and they have got spare capacity there, either within the authority or across the borders or in August a BUPA hospital does not have many people in it or from time to time it has spare and says “Right, we can take it”. Right, the important thing is to try to get that waiting list down by the use of existing surgeons, nurses and the money goes with the patient. Peter Jenkins, The Independent

Now, is that a new policy? The money goes with the patient? Does it require new power? Prime Minister

No, we are starting to get it. You will find that some hospital authorities have already been allocating a certain amount of money to get their waiting lists down. They have got what you have got to get; you have not had any management powers in the Health Service but they are coming now. Of course you will come up against some problem. Some surgeon will say, “Well, I do not like them going elsewhere, we can keep more track of them here” and others will say “Fine”, and sometimes you will find this - and you must know it - “I know that surgeon, he has got a fantastic reputation, he did my mother or my aunt or someone else's aunt and I would rather wait for longer for him than go to someone else”. It is very tricky because it is not always, you know, it means on that basis you would never try any younger surgeons, but these things you have to take … Peter Jenkins, The Independent

What does it mean - “the money goes with the patient”? Prime Minister

That, what does it mean? I can tell you just exactly what it means. It means that you would have to, out of your budget in your regional health authority or your district health authority, you would have to say “Right, we will take a certain amount, allocate a certain amount of the budget and say that we will use that amount to try to get this waiting list down”. You see we put £50 million into trying to get waiting lists down. We made them apply for that. Within their budgets some of them will allocate a certain amount and say, “Look, this waiting list is too long, please can we buy that number of operations either from another hospital, from a neighbouring authority?” or sometimes in conjunction with a private sector. Now in Wales they do it with kidney dialysis. So it is already starting but it is only just starting and we now, instead of just giving blanket increases sometimes to the Health Service are targeting the increases particularly to getting the waiting lists down. There are a number of things: hip operations are one thing - there is a big list - cataract is another, open heart surgery is another, but you see the fact is that as medicine, the research goes on and increases, so obviously everyone wants the new operation immediately and we shall get through this Parliament with the improvements we are making now and getting better value for money, that is why I took the other things. Then we shall just have to look and see how fast the extra research is going and we will also have to have a fundamental look to see what ageing population means for the Health Service. Peter Jenkins, The Independent

How much of this can be done in five years? Everything that we have been talking about this afternoon? Prime Minister

Look, five years, my! When you are in Government five years is very short. When you are in opposition it is a hell of a long time. That is why for this - let me tell you - you have to have priorities and our priority this time was to extend the choice and the opportunity. We shall carry on with the fundamentally sound policies - we have to look at law and order always, the defence, the fundamentally sound financial policies, the privatisation which is always the limitation the public sector getting more responsibility together with the right and responsibility - the obligation and responsibility into the private sector and if you want more resources - and this is where in the end why we won; because people knew that our system would produce more resources and one was able to say, “Look, compassion apart, look at the facts!”. We have created the means of having better social services. Now, getting every man a capitalist, getting the privatisation because it is better - even British Telecom's now is better than it was - and Governments ought not to have to run those things, what was the next? And it really was to try to get more opportunity, whether to build up your own capital, your own home but for those, more chance, more opportunity not only in the capital sense and income sense but in education and in the housing, for those who otherwise were not getting it out of the present system, and to try to get more private sector into the Socialist local authority. As I said some of them, they are hostile to the private sector. It stops their control, it is their fiefdom and so the community charge, as I told you, as I told the 1922 committee which was all in the papers, years ago when I was shadow Environment between February 1974 and October 1974, I remember Edward HeathTed saying to me “Get rid of rates” and I started study groups then and there are several ways of doing it. Coming up to 1983 when we had had another really good look, we had had green papers, green papers, everything, could not get the party to agree on which course so between that and this time I said, “Now look, we are a party, we agree that this is a totally unfair system, we have got to have a better system, we shall not get everything right but we have got to agree on one or we shall never get it done” and we have. But now that is to try to get more jobs into areas and try to get more private sector back into it because this is where the new wealth is going to come - people don't call it … the new prosperity - I want a new phrase for the creation of wealth; I am now saying “Don't call it creation of wealth” - wealth is something the other guy has, you know, the creation of greater prosperity or resources. Really you might say that someone has got to do the work and get in the money before you can spend it, that is the ordinary way you would say it. That is neither Guardian or Independent phraseology. The creation of wealth is not an adequate concept so all of this we have got to do. Now the Health Service, I did say that, with what we are doing now and what we have done, I did not think it needed fundamental - all right it will need, yes, various, I expect prescription charges one day will have to go, because you know we are actually, no Government has been able to manage without some charges in the Health Service. We gave certain undertakings during the campaign that we had not charged for hospital stays and those will be honoured. But what we are doing now and the way we have got to get the waiting lists down, with the new management which is beginning to work and with the figures, the comparisons we are getting in, I think that we can go with a much better will to make it work and with what we have done for people who work in it. We have got problems in London which is the subject of a report and that is because of the wages in London, the accommodation in London, that … but the big thing this time was the housing, the education, the community charge. Now it will take really until 1991 you see to get it in. Don't forget the capital spending on roads and so on and the investment, the electricity privatisation, the water privatisation and people have got to remember, investment is not just good because it is investment. We poured money into steel and bad investment, it has got to be the right investment. But of course you go on investing. But the big change this time, and it is a change of culture and of attitude and of opportunity. My great fear before 1979 and after 1979: look supposing we do all the changes, we get the Trade Union changes, that we manage after a time get the proportion of taxation down so that people have more their own responsibility, more their own money, every man a capitalist, everything set to get in extra enterprise, extra investment. Supposing I put the ball at their feet and they don't kick it? That was the nightmare. Peter Jenkins, The Independent

But have they kicked it? Prime Minister

Yes, and it was obvious to everyone after about my seventh year that they were. All of a sudden we went into a new confidence as it was beginning to work and industry was getting to be seen to be much more efficient, could be seen to be competing, just a new spirit came about, about eighteen months ago, a year ago. That is not my worry now. My worry now is to enlarge that opportunity, to make certain that anyone who has the talent, who wants to build up something for themselves, wants to take responsibility, who wants to get out of the queue&slash;Socialist structure approach, who wants to get out of that shall be able to. Peter Jenkins, The Independent

Will it endure? Prime Minister

I think if we are in long enough it will endure because - one might put it this way: for my first - 1950 was my first election, for my first twenty-five years in politics, it was Socialist ideas that were influencing Conservatives, in those days one had not seen full Socialism in practice; you did not know for example in those days the terrible things that Stalin had done, it was not until after Khrushchev. The world has seen Socialism now and it is not for free human beings and on the fundamental dignity of man which ought to be what every politician in a free society is about, it is not for the British character, it is not for people, I think it is not for the fundamental rights of man which is the dignity. I think it produces neither the prosperity because you cannot - you can force people to work, but if you want to get more than the minimum out of them you have got to give them incentives. So it produces neither the prosperity of standard of living nor the dignity, and to do that you really have got variations on what I believe and so now at last we are coming to these beliefs, beginning to influence those who had played with the central planning and control of Socialism. As you know, as I said, it is not an opposition I want to get rid of, it is a central planning and control, the centrally controlled Socialist society that your rights come from the Government and you do as you are told. Peter Jenkins, The Independent

You have got to have some kind of opposition; perhaps we haven't? Prime Minister

Yes, you must have. Yes indeed because you can never go to a one party state, nor must you go to something that is so indistinct that it is a coalition of eight or nine different parties in Government, because you do not get anyway forward, you come internationally; who makes the decisions? They all stand back; they cannot. We make them and you hope hopefully that they follow on, but I remember someone in Belgium saying to me, “We are very interested in your getting elected for a third term, we are all passionately interested in Belgium, we get you from satellite, et cetera”. I said, “You had an election in Belgium.” He said “But oh, it doesn't make any difference here, it is the same old lot.” But, you know, you have got to have a safety valve, this is why you have got to have an opposition, you have got to have an alternative Government, if people are really dissatisfied with a Government, they do not want the same lot back after an election; - that is when you can get the seeds of dissidence and revolution - you have got to have an alternative Government in a democratic society to put in. That is the fault of a one party state. There is not a safety valve if you get discontent. Peter Jenkins, The Independent

When I asked you, you see, whether you thought that the Thatcher revolution - if we call it that - will endure and part of the implication of that is, if eventually people get tired of you and throw you out or throw your party out, then whether your revolution endures or not will depend on what kind of opposition we have got so perhaps you have some responsibility in that matter as well? Prime Minister

But you are asking me, and I said if we are in long enough, you call it “Thatcherism” - it is much older than that - and there is nothing which I have said to you which is not far older than Thatcher; Adam Smith and a lot of other people, so the person may go but I hope the philosophy will endure. I believe it will, because if you looked at the beginning of the post-war period, they had seen some of the problems of capitalism and the number of people, the G.D.H. ColeCole group in Oxford, the Harold LaskiLaski group, the J. D. Bernal group, “Well, let's try the central planning and control,” so you had got one philosophy in principles and you had seen some of the problems of that, and you had got another philosophy and principle which they said had not been tried. Now you have got one lot of philosophy and principles and another lot of philosophy and principles and the results of both, and this is why that one: the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and wherever the Socialism is operated is “kaputt” - nearly. It will not do, because it will not do for people who want to be free. We are not just interested in power, we are interested in power really to release people from power to some extent, and never let anyone say I am laisser faire; we are very strong Government; we are strong to do those things which Government must do and only Government can do, but we are strong enough to say ‘over to the people’ because we believe in their fundamental dignity and freedom obligation [sic]. Peter Jenkins, The Independent

Just briefly off the record now before I go, what did you make of Owen’s self-destruction? Prime Minister

I thought it was very sad but you are all writing that people have finished but you know in politics things are never finished – never. I do not know quite what will happen but it will be interesting. I do not quite know what will happen. It may be that he finishes up making his kind of contribution in the same way that Enoch [Enoch Powell] made his. His very forceful and powerful contribution Enoch’s. Gosh he said some terrible things about me – terrible but still I have a fundamental respect for the man and maybe he will do that. I do not know but you see what I am after, I always thought that they postponed the fundamental realignment of politics. My fundamental realignment was always what I thought of the old Labour party when I came in: the Charlie Pannell, the Douglas Houghton, the Hugh Gaitskell, you had them to get rid of the left. You could not belong to the Communist party then as a member of the Labour party of any of the left wing organizations. Their whole strategy was to ditch the kind of Socialism that I have been talking about, the Clause Four, to ditch the left. This is the fundamental realignment which has still to take place and splitting off this bit delayed that. Now I think you may, it just depends upon the courage of the Labour party, whether they are going to get rid of those, but you know if you do not get things right for the longer term, you will not survive but they delayed it and there is always a place in our Parliamentary system for a significant individual Member of Parliament – he may be member of a party but it is his personal contribution that can be very significant.