Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1987 May 24 Su
Margaret Thatcher

Radio Interview for IRN (phone-in)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: Radio Interview
Venue: IRN, Gough Square, central London
Source: IRN Archive: OUP transcript
Journalist: Peter Murphy, IRN, chairing
Editorial comments: Between 0940 and 1115.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 8193
Themes: Defence (general), Defence (arms control), Education, Secondary education, Employment, General Elections, Pay, Public spending & borrowing, Taxation, Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Health policy, Labour Party & socialism, Law & order, Leadership, Northern Ireland, Society, Sport, Social security & welfare, Terrorism, Strikes & other union action

Peter Murphy, IRN

Hello, this is Peter Murphy with the first of the Independent Radio Network's national election phone in programmes. My guest this week is the Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. Good morning Mrs Thatcher and thank you for joining us. And before taking our first call, there seems to be some confusion over education policy with the possibility of fee-paying in state schools and the re-introduction of the 11 Plus. Exactly what is the position?

MT

Well, as you know, Kenneth Baker made a full speech yesterday putting to rest both of those fears. These schools will be grant-maintained schools—they're state schools—the money comes from the taxpayer, there'll be no fees on parents and the ordinary arrangement now when you've got a school oversubscribed, that is parents, far too many parents want to send their children there, the same arrangements for admission will happen as happens now. So it's not a return to the 11 Plus and there are no fees payable.

Peter Murphy, IRN

But didn't you suggest that the schools will be able to raise their own cash in some sort of way?

MT

I would not exclude schools raising their own cash, but I would exclude it by raising cash by putting fees on parents. After all many schools already want a few extra facilities, they raise money elsewhere, it may be from local business, it may be from doing many, many things, it may be from the customary, time-honoured method by fetes, bazaars, raising money now for extras. There's no earthly reason why a grant-maintained school shouldn't be able to do that as well.

Peter Murphy, IRN

And the question of 11 Plus. You talk about selection, that some schools already do select pupils. Doesn't that really mean, though, that there is going to be … have to be some sort of screening, some sort of exam at 11 in a primary school?

MT

Look, the most popular schools already oversubscribed. [sic] More parents want their children to go to them than there are places. So those schools already have to choose. They find no difficulty in doing it. It is not an 11 Plus. Yes they will know the child's record. Yes, in due course of time they'll have the results of the tests of attainment which we're going to introduce. Yes they may do interviews, yes they may do a few written tests. It's not a bad thing you know to … be fully aware of a child's ability by asking for a few written tests. But that is a matter for them, that is not an 11 Plus. It means that the school when it selects that child to go to that school will know what the [end p1] child's abilities are, what it can do and what it can't, and whether it's going to need, uh, a little bit of remedial education or whether it is particularly bright in some subject.

Peter Murphy, IRN

But how …

MT

That is already done. It is not 11 Plus, it is a set exam, that is not what we're talking about.

Peter Murphy, IRN

But how are you going to stop south-east schools from creaming off the best, the brightest pupils and so leaving other schools with those which have a much lower level of attainment?

MT

Well now that is, that is an argument that's often been used against grammar schools. And yet I remember Harold Wilson saying that grammar schools would be destroyed over his dead body. I remember many, many MPs on both sides of the House feeling that they were able to climb the ladder, including myself, because they went to grammar schools. Yes we have some grammar schools, they often offer chances for children, particularly in inner cities, they wouldn't get otherwise. And some grammar schools may choose to become grant-maintained schools, so will some comprehensive schools choose to become grant-maintained schools, so will some secondary modern schools. They will apply to the Secretary of State for Education saying the governors and parents of this school would like to become a grant-maintained school directly under the Department of Education and Science and out of the local educational authority. They will say what their character is, they will opt out, if that is the phrase, in the same character. That is to say if they're a grammar school, then they become a grammar school when they're a grant-maintained school. If they're now a comprehensive under the local educational authority, they'll be comprehensive under the grant-maintained system. If they're secondary modern they would still be a secondary modern, under the grant-maintained system. And as now, if later—because one mustn't ossify a school—if later they wanted to change their character, supposing a secondary modern school wanted to say, all right we would like to become a grammar school, em, then they would have to apply in the usual way, I think it's under Section 12 of the 1980 Act to the Secretary of State to see if they could change their character, and he would take into account everything and all the representations made for him at the time.

Look, let's make it clear. This is an additional choice for parents. No one's compelling anyone. What we're doing is saying “you're already paying for your child's education through the rates and through your taxes. If you're totally dissatisfied with it, or not very satisfied with it, then there is another way of getting an education through the state without paying fees and that is by ceasing to be a school maintained by the local educational authority and becoming a school maintained by the Department of Education and Science” . This is an extra choice for parents, not compulsion, choice, and I think many, many parents who are thoroughly dissatisfied with the education their child's receiving particularly in some of the very left-wing Labour authorities, will greet this with joy.

Peter Murphy, IRN

Would you like to see a return to grammar schools in all education areas?

MT

I am a great believer in grammar schools, particularly in large cities. I think that they give chances which are not always given by comprehensive schools and if there are proposals to set up new grammar schools either from local education authorities or from parents, that too would be considered. But can you not see the entire difference with the course of questioning that you're putting which appears to be questioning which wants [end p2] to … to close down the choice, to limit the choice, to say to parents, “no matter that you're paying for your child's education by rates and taxes, if you're not satisfied with it well that's just too bad, you've got to take it or leave it” . That may be the viewpoint of other political parties. It is not the viewpoint of ours. Ours is to give parents greater, wider choice and we're setting about it this way. They will be able to get an education without any fee-paying, without any fee-paying, paid for by the same taxes that they already pay to the local authority and they'll get the same amount to the school. Wider choice for parents and I think there are many dissatisfied parents, particularly in inner cities. And many dissatisfied teachers in inner cities. You've seen articles by head teachers, opting out, resigning early from ILEA. We are giving increased choice. That is good.

Peter Murphy, IRN

You mentioned the subject of teachers and we now take our first call, it's Jim in Finchampstead who wants to talk about the teachers. Good morning Jim.

Jim from Finchampstead

Good morning.

MT

Good morning … sir. [laughs]

Jim from Finchampstead

Good morning Prime Minister.

MT

Good morning.

Jim from Finchampstead

My question follows on from the subject you've been talking about. I'm the parent of two boys and my question is how are you going to get the teachers back to work and get politics out of the classroom?

MT

I would … I would be very pleased if the teachers decided not to have any disruption of the children's education. I believe that teachers are a profession. I want them to be held in high prestige, in high esteem by the whole community, particularly by the parents and the children. I don't see how they can be held in high esteem if they disrupt their children's education, because that to me seems to be saying “we're going to take it out on the children because there's something we the teachers don't like” . As you know we have had the largest increase in pay for teachers. We think that's right, er, and we hope that they will consider not going on strike. I believe the majority will not go on strike.

Peter Murphy, IRN

Are you happy with that, Jim?

Jim from Finchampstead

Yes, well it's just that I feel both our children and the teachers have been let down by successive governments and the present government has been in office for seven years. Our education standards are not high enough to meet modern demands and for that reason my feelings are to vote for the Alliance to give them a chance to heal the rifts, so, uh, I don't quite …

MT

Well now look. I agree with you that from the massive amounts that are being spent on education, it has had far more money per pupil, there are more teachers in proportion to pupils and there are better trained teachers in proportion to pupils, and you would think [end p3] that with all that, better pay, more teachers, better trained teachers, more spent per pupil, that education should be very good all over. It isn't and that's why we have given such attention to it in our manifesto, and that's why we are saying for the first time that there simply must be certain basic subjects that are taught in every school and we'll give guideline syllabuses. But we have always thought that the way to tackle it was by improving the status and training of the teachers. We've done it with the training, we're now doing it with the pay. I do think that the rest is up to the teachers and also to the parents, because let's face it, you simply can't expect teachers to do in the classroom what parents should do at home. It is up to the parents to teach children right and wrong and to teach them certain standards of courtesy and discipline. So it is a co-partnership really between teachers and parents, but government is doing its bit and government because it realizes that some people are dissatisfied is giving a large choice for parents to go to different kinds of school and is also enabling, uh, teachers and parents of schools, even with schools that stay with the local education authority, to have a bigger say in controlling their school. So I hope that many teachers and parents will welcome that, take advantage of it and that the schools will come nearer to the children and the families they serve.

Peter Murphy, IRN

From education we move on now to unemployment, a major problem that has faced your government over the last eight years, and our caller on that subject is Robert from Leicester. Good morning Robert.

Robert from Leicester

Good morning.

MT

Good morning Robert.

Robert from Leicester

Good morning Mrs Thatcher. My question is, uh, during the election of 1979 the Conservative slogan was that Labour isn't working. Today, two terms of office later and eight years later, uh, there's three times that number unemployed. How can you conceivably ask the electorate to believe that the Conservative policy is working?

MT

But most certainly it is. You can in fact see that the standard of living is higher than this country's ever known, the manufacturing industry has got rid of a lot of its over-manning which was hidden unemployment in 1979 and before that, got rid of a lot of its restrictive practices, and as a result many industries have become competitive and are exporting their goods all over the world, when many of them would not have survived before. You know there was a great deal wrong. Using the phrase “Labour isn't working” applied to many, many spheres of Labour government. The finances weren't working properly, industry was overmanned, it was becoming less competitive. You know full well that some of the trade union bosses were dictating almost to government as well as to their members. We've released all that. We've now had seven years of steady growth. As a result of that we've got lower tax, which goes right up the income scale from the bottom to the top, we have in fact the highest standard of living we've ever known and we've got sound finances, and we've had a million new jobs created since the last election. And now unemployment is falling as well.

Peter Murphy, IRN

Well Robert, have you any reaction to the Prime Minister's reply?

Robert from Leicester

Yes. The higher standard of living, uh, is more applicable to the higher wage earner, it says nothing for the three million who have to depend on state benefits, and it seems [end p4] that this government is hell bent on turning the country from a democracy, which it's been for many, many centuries into a plutocracy, where the wealthy govern.

MT

The better standard of living has gone to the man on average earnings as well and also to some of those below average earnings. The man on average earnings now, the married man on average earnings now is paying £10 a week less in tax than he would have been paying had the socialist tax regime that we inherited in 1979 still been in force, £10 a week better off with his net take-home pay on average earnings than he would have been. That is very good. We have in fact increased the tax-free allowances quite substantially, we have also reduced the basic rate of tax from 33 pence in the pound, to 27 pence in the pound. The basic rate of tax applies to every single person in the land, so of course the increased tax-free allowances and the reduced basic rate of tax applies to every working person in the land. It also applies to a considerable number of pensioners. You say state benefits. Look state benefits have gone up very much under us. The … the pension we've kept pace with, we have, it has kept its value in relation to inflation, it's slightly ahead of that, under us there's been no cancelling of the pensioner's Christmas bonus. Labour cancelled it two years in succession. So we have done better by state benefits, particularly for example disabled. We've done better by state benefits, we've done better by the National Health Service and you can do that because we have concentrated on enterprise, we have concentrated on incentive, it's that that has produced the growth, it's out of the growth that we've been able to do more to the Health Service, more to state benefits, more reductions in taxation. And that is good. It's the Labour Party, today's Labour Party that wants to grab more of your earnings in tax, that wants to take back industries into nationalization, that wants in fact to introduce many of the controls, including on prices and incomes that we got rid of. It is they who want far more controls to government, it is we who are giving more power to the people with home ownership, share ownership and more choice, both in education and housing, not only for those who want to own their homes, but also for those who are rent payers, more choice there as well, as well as in education, which we discussed a few moments ago.

Peter Murphy, IRN

Well we've got a lot of questions I know on unemployment, so we move on to an area of very high unemployment, Liverpool, where Mike is on the line.

Mike from Liverpool

Well …

MT

Liverpool—Mike. Good morning Mike.

Mike from Liverpool

Hello. I came on to talk about the unemployment but having heard all that talk about taxes, I'd just like to mention those first. Now I get paid a wage close on the national average but it's below it. But I found that when I look at my pay slips, in May 1979 under Labour, 18 per cent of my month's pay went in National Insurance and tax. Now last month, the figure was 22 per cent. We know that the income tax has come down a little bit, but the National Insurance payments have rocketed, and the net effect is that people on below average earnings are paying more tax now than they were when you came into office.

MT

No, people on average earnings as I've indicated, the man and wife on average earnings now, and don't forget of course …

Mike from Liverpool

You say average earnings, I'm below average earnings. [end p5]

MT

One moment, average earnings are enormously up on what they were in `79 …

Mike from Liverpool

So are taxes.

MT

And it's your net take home pay you're saying that counts. I have been talking about your income tax, you still another income tax cut to come into your pay packet from 29 pence to 27 pence.

Mike from Liverpool

That brings us back to where we started in `79.

MT

One moment, no it does not, no it does not.

Mike from Liverpool

Yes it does.

MT

Look, the tax in 1979 was, the basic rate of tax was 33 pence in the pound.

Mike from Liverpool

Now it's 27, we know it. National Insurance has more than doubled.

MT

National Insurance has gone up and if you want and promise to increase pensions, to increase sickness benefits, if you want to do all of those things, where do you think it is paid for save by the working population?

Mike from Liverpool

Yes, by the lower paid, that's by whom …

MT

No it is not …

Mike from Liverpool

The people who are on more than average earnings are paying less tax, those below average earnings are paying more.

MT

No, average earnings, I have given the figure, the …

Mike from Liverpool

You say average, I'm talking about below average, …

MT

Yes I too will talk about below average, don't forget below average earnings have gone up enormously since 1979, but also, so have the tax-free personal allowances, we've put them up far more than Labour did. So you've got a higher tax-free personal allowance, you've got a lower basic rate of tax and that comes through to your pay packet.

Mike from Liverpool

Right. [end p6]

MT

And that's good. Now you're then talking about National Insurance contributions. The main way in which pensions are kept going and sickness benefit, the rule is this, money that is paid out this year in pensions, sickness benefit, unemployment benefit, is money which is paid in this year by the population of working age to their National Insurance contributions, and I'm also saying to the Labour Party, you're promising far more in pension, you're promising far more in sickness, far more in disablement benefit, what you are not saying is the extra amounts that that would take in National Insurance payments. So you're promising the pensioners, but you're not being candid with the working man and saying how much extra that would mean in National Insurance contributions that he's got to put in before you can pay it out. Yes, if you do want to make extra promises, you've got to see where the money comes from. Yes it does come from the population of working age. I think that the, um, it's about nine and a half, ten per cent of wages now up to a certain level which are taken in National Insurance contributions that goes, and the biggest demand upon those contributions are pensions. So what you simply cannot do at one and the same time is to say please “we want more pensions, please we want lower National Insurance contributions” .

Peter Murphy, IRN

Thank you very much Mike. We have a question here that's actually been sent in from Harry in Gloucester and he wants to know if Mrs Thatcher thinks that the over-sixties should retire gracefully in view of the present unemployment problem and give way to younger people. I'm not sure if he's having a dig at you, Mrs Thatcher.

MT

Well I'm quite young compared with some people in the House of Commons, there are quite a number of people who went on very far over sixty and even over seventy. Quite a lot of them, so I don't really think he's having a dig at me. We do have something called a job release scheme, that is to say a person could retire early, sometimes, uh, it's at age 64, sometimes we've had it below that, provided his or her job in retiring early is taken by a person who is on the unemployment register. You can't just retire early unless that second condition is satisfied because otherwise it wouldn't work. It has been one of the schemes we've used but what we find is that the jobs of those who are retiring, say 63, 64, aren't always the jobs which the younger people are able to take and frequently you'll find that companies have kept people on who've worked for them for quite some time out of loyalty to them, and quite right because there is a loyalty that builds up between employer and employee, and when that person retires they don't take on an extra person because of all the new technology which means they don't have to. But it is a … it is a method that we do use, and have used, to try to get down the numbers who are unemployed and to try to give an extra degree of hope to those who are wanting work.

Peter Murphy, IRN

Well I hope that keeps Harry happy, and now to go to Phyllis in Glasgow.

MT

Ah, Ladies. Good morning Phyllis.

Phyllis from Glasgow

Good morning Mrs Thatcher. The question I would like to ask is not a political one. Now what it is: as you are aware it was both the Scottish and the English cup finals last Saturday.

MT

Uh hm. [end p7]

Phyllis from Glasgow

Now what I would like to know is why did you opt to attend the final at Wembley when you were in Perth the previous night and could easily have been present at Hampden Park?

MT

Yes, you're quite right, that also occurred to me but I had accepted to go to Wembley quite some weeks before and one of the reasons I had accepted was because I hadn't been there the previous year and it tends to be rather traditional the Prime Minister of the day goes, I hadn't the previous year. But you've put a good point, a very good point. We had two very good cup finals, didn't we, and usually we happen to have a very important party political conference up there round about that time, so I must consider coming to the Scottish cup final next time. I would enjoy it greatly.

Phyllis from Glasgow

Well, I think it would have been best if you'd come this time but it was nearer the election after all it's mostly a Labour vote in Glasgow and maybe there would be more Conservative votes had you attended the final.

MT

Yes, well I had already accepted to go to the other one and of course it wouldn't have been possible to change. But I'll take up your thought and see what we can do next time, assuming I'm invited.

Phyllis from Glasgow

Oh, I'm sure you will be.

MT

Look forward to it. It was a very good cup final wasn't it, good cup finals all around and I must say in Scotland you showed the way for the whole of Great Britain, you know, in banning alcohol from grounds and in having a very much better standard of crowd behaviour before we managed to get it, we're very much better here now than we were. So thank you for your kind suggestion.

Peter Murphy, IRN

Are you worried, Prime Minister, about the position of the Conservative party in Scotland, I know the opinion polls suggest that you're going to lose more seats up there than you will of course anywhere else?

MT

Well I hope not. We want to hold all our seats and we'd like to gain some more. It's very interesting: Scotland you know—and I gathered this from one of the television magazines first—has the highest standard of income of any part of the United Kingdom after London and the South-East. The wages up there, the incomes up there are good so after London and the South-East you get the highest standard of wages and salaries, and of course you tend to get lower rents and in some areas lower cost of houses, so salary for salary, you get a higher standard of living up there, and I just hope that we will hold our seats in Scotland and perhaps gain one or two more.

Peter Murphy, IRN

Thank you very much. More calls shortly, you're listening to Independent Radio. [commercial break] [end p8]

Peter Murphy, IRN

Welcome back to Independent Radio's National Election Phone-In with the Prime Minister, Mrs Thatcher. And we move on to our next caller, Selinda [phonetic] from Birmingham. Hello Selinda.

Selinda from Birmingham

[male Asian voice] Good morning, good morning Prime Minister.

MT

Good morning Selinda.

Selinda from Birmingham

My question is mainly about law and order.

MT

Yes.

Selinda from Birmingham

Eight years ago you came into power with a ticket on law and order and I'm a small businessman and find that in an inner-city area the law and order has deteriorated to such an extent, it's getting more and more violent over the, especially over the last eight years in particular, and I think you've not done anything about this at all.

MT

Well I think we have done quite a lot, but you're right in saying that crime has gone up and it's gone up not only in this country, it's gone up across Europe and it's gone up in the United States as well. It is, it is a problem and … but what have we done about it? It's an enormous problem, what have we done about it? Well first we have increased the numbers of police, police manpower has increased by about 16,600 since May 1979. Now also they've had better equipment and better pay. Now that is what government can do and we're going on with further increases in the number of police. But as you know it's not only that, we've also put up the maximum sentences for some crimes because they think … we think that they weren't high enough, and also we've encouraged something called Neighbourhood Watch schemes. I was talking to some people who are in one yesterday, in Hendon, and they were saying how very good it was that in their area it had reduced the amount of crime considerably. There are about 30,000 of those where ordinary folk in conjunction with the police keep close watch and see if there's anything suspicious. And also we have a very effective crime prevention programme that we've just started, which means that you really should look after your own house, see that it has proper locks, see that the windows are locked and do everything you can to deter the criminal, because 90 per cent of crimes are against property. That is worrying enough but most people … it is the violent crimes that worry them even more.

So we can go on increasing the number of police. We have in fact some heavier sentences which we wish to put through in the Criminal Justice Bill, and we of course always vote for a bill to help the police, an act called the Prevention of Terrorism Act. Now you'd think it a very good thing to try to prevent terrorism. So do I. But nevertheless we put it through every year, the Labour Party votes against it.

So when you in fact when you compare our records I think you'll find that ours is far better.

Selinda from Birmingham

Prime Minister, I think the reality of the fact is … at the moment I find that crime, my business is suffering, everything's suffering regarding, we find that the police are undermanned here, we find that, uh, we've lost a bobby on the street, they're getting more and more diminished, they're getting, they're driving around in cars, they haven't got the resources to combat crime. You've created a society of no-hopers without unemployment, [sic] with rising unemployment standard and we find that this is breeding a criminal which is evil and with a lot of bitterness and they've got no respect [end p9] for property, age or sex. We can't over the last eight years I find my quality of life has diminished, I can't go out on the streets, I can't take my kids out, my wife can't, cannot go shopping at night or after dusk. I mean you haven't solved any of these problems and you've put forward a lot of rhetoric and statistics. It's no good to me Mrs Thatcher. I'm suffering, all the businessmen around here they're suffering a lot and you're not putting over any reasonable solution. The police are themselves saying they're vastly undermanned especially in the inner city areas, as I am in.

MT

Look an extra police manpower of 16,600 aren't rhetoric. They're extra policemen or civilians replacing policemen and releasing policemen for extra duties. We are going to increase those numbers. It is not always easy to recruit policemen. They have to be well recruited, well trained. It is not always too easy to recruit them, some of the ethnic minority groups we would like to have more from but extra police manpower—16,600—isn't rhetoric. The extra equipment they've had isn't rhetoric. The extra pay which they've had isn't rhetoric. Thirty thousand neighbourhood watch schemes aren't rhetoric. They are all active, constructive schemes to help. Yes, you talk about increasing crime. Yes it is worrying. Each person is responsible for their own behaviour. I think one of the worst things about it is that the peak age of offenders is 15 years, so you cannot blame that onto unemployment. If in fact you are saying unemployment creates more crime, then you would be saying in the same breath that there should be much lower rate of crime in the United States because they have a much lower rate of unemployment. That just isn't so. In proportion to the population you know in the 1930s, unemployment was much higher than it is now, but crime was much lower. It is one of the, I think, very worrying things that increasing prosperity and decreasing discipline has led to increasing crime, and we have to say to people, yes, each and every one person has a choice and those who take to crime, yes we must have more police, we must have more prison places, we must have tougher sentences. We've done the police, we're increasing the powers of the police through public order, we have the biggest prison building programme, we vote against the Prevention of Terrorism Act, we are voting for increased sentences for those in fact who carry firearms with intent to commit a crime, and we are voting for the possibility to refer lenient sentences to the House of Lords. All that is being done and we require the full co-operation of everyone with the police. But it's not rhetoric, it's fact.

Peter Murphy, IRN

Well, from the problems of law and order on mainland Britain we move to Ulster and Sam from Larne. Hello Sam.

Sam from Larne

Good morning.

MT

Hello, good morning Sam.

Sam from Larne

Good morning Mrs Thatcher. Um, I want to ask you a couple of questions about the Anglo-Irish Agreement and life … how it affects life in Northern Ireland.

Can you explain to the … to the listening audience just exactly what rights the majority of people in Northern Ireland had which were not extended to the majority population before you signed the Anglo-Irish Agreement? [sic] And could you further state that since Stormont was prorogued in 1972, are you saying by having signed the agreement that British ministers did in fact discriminate against the minority community?

MT

Now, on the majority community, as you know at the beginning of the Anglo-Irish Agreement there is an undertaking recognised by the Republic that there shall be no [end p10] change in the status of Northern Ireland without the consent of the majority of people in the province. And of course it has not only to have the consent of the majority in Northern Ireland, it would also have to go through the Westminster Parliament. That is in, now, an agreement which is deposited with the United Nations and that therefore is much firmer than it ever was before. Now you then ask about 1972 and Stormont. I think before 1970, yes there was I believe, some … there was discrimination against the minority community. We have done our level best to see that there is no discrimination now because it is totally alien to everything we believe in. People have certain rights because they're residents in Ulster in the province of Northern Ireland. And I hope and believe that any discrimination that there had been has gone.

Now we would very much like the people of Northern Ireland to get together again, all communities, and to have their own devolved government, as they used to have. They used to have Stormont. We've had several goes at getting a new Stormont going again, without very much success. You are asking me questions, may I put most earnestly one point to you? No one will be more … delighted, more pleased, more deeply pleased than we shall be when the different communities in Northern Ireland find it possible to get together to have their own devolved government in Stormont and when that happens the things which they can decide in Stormont will no longer be able to be decided in the present way under the Anglo-Irish Agreement—not decided but consulted under the agreement because the decisions actually are taken by the government, uh, by the British government on the matter of Northern Ireland.

Peter Murphy, IRN

Mrs Thatcher if I could put a point to you, one opinion poll during the week, uh, suggested that there could be a hung Parliament with the many varieties of Unionists actually holding the balance of power. And they've made it clear that if they were in that position they would say to you “We want to renegotiate or at least scrap the Anglo-Irish Agreement” . It is renegotiable?

MT

No. We, uh … the Anglo-Irish Agreement was put to the House of Commons and passed with an overwhelming majority. It was put to the House of Lords and similarly passed. It's therefore been passed through Parliament and it's been registered as an agreement with the United Nations. There is a clause in the Anglo-Irish Agreement which says that it will be reviewed in … in course of time and it will of course be reviewed in course of time, but I do not anticipate that that review would lead in any way to an abrogation of the agreement. It's very very difficult to get something which is acceptable to all parts of the community in Northern Ireland. And you're quite right, um, if there were a hung Parliament, it could as part of it have all kinds of small parties, the Ulster Unionists, Dr Paisley 's party, the … the Republican party in Northern Ireland, and they could exact all kinds of promises as a condition of continuing the coalition, and that would mean that it would not be the great interests of the whole of the British people and the whole of the United Kingdom that were considered when decisions were reached, it would be a tiny little minority, trying in fact to say what should and what should not happen. That would be thoroughly undemocratic. The real thing though in Northern Ireland is for both communities, both traditions to get together and say “look, for the sake of the future of our children, let's just set some things aside and start to work together in a way we haven't before” . And then we could perhaps really defeat the terrorists who bedevil the life of so many good and honourable citizens in Northern Ireland.

Peter Murphy, IRN

Can we move on now to the subject of defence and on the line next is Paul from Bedfordshire.

Paul from Bedfordshire

Good morning. [end p11]

Peter Murphy, IRN

Hello Paul.

Paul from Bedfordshire

Hello. Good morning.

MT

Hello Paul.

Paul from Bedfordshire

Good morning Prime Minister. First of all can I quickly say are you available to play against Pakistan tomorrow? I saw your very wonderful shot …   .

MT

[both laugh] I was just having a little bit of tuition. I thought it really important that I should hit sixes and fours now and then. [both laugh] And you know it was pouring with rain. I did twelve engagements yesterday and it poured with rain through the whole lot.

Paul from Bedfordshire

Right well it was a lovely shot, anyway.

MT

Bless you. Was it? Good.

Paul from Bedfordshire

Um, a couple of questions on the defence policy please Mrs Thatcher, if I may ask you. At the moment there's current negotiations going on between the superpowers as to the medium-range missiles reduction in Europe. Can I ask you, would that—if there was an agreement—would the Trident and Cruise be incorporated in such an agreement?

MT

No, Trident … Trident is quite separate. But of course the Cruise missiles are really at the very heart of that agreement. You remember the history? The Soviet set up SS-20s and we in Europe had nothing in reply. We said to them, please take them down. If you take them down we won't set up anything similar. For four years we asked them, for four years they refused so we deployed Cruise missiles in Britain and in Germany and in Italy, and also they're deploying them in Holland and in Belgium, and the Pershing 2 in Germany. So the intermediate ones would be that, it would be SS-20s, uh, would be taken down, and the Cruise and Pershings would be taken down. That leaves us with a problem because the next range—the shorter-range ones—the Soviet Union has an enormous preponderance over anything that Europe's got. In Europe there are some German ones which are Pershing 1s, seventy two, and that's all that we have in Europe. And so we are saying that you simply cannot just negotiate on the intermediate ones without taking into account the preponderance which the Soviet Union have on the shorter ones and that must be considered at the same time.

But Trident is quite separate. That is Britain's independent nuclear deterrent, which must be kept.

Peter Murphy, IRN

Paul, you said you had more than one question.

Paul from Bedfordshire

Yes I was going to lead on to the next question. Now I'm just pretending that I'm on the other side for a moment and I'm negotiating for the reduction of missiles. Do you honestly think, Mrs Thatcher, that the Russians would accept us to have our own independent nuclear deterrent if they are stripping Europe of the rest of their missiles? [end p12]

MT

But they're not stripping Europe of the rest of their missiles. Er, when we put in, we put in Polaris quite a long time ago and when Trident updates Polaris, Trident certainly will have two and a half times the fire power that Polaris had, but in the meantime the Soviet Union have put up their strategic missiles fivefold. So the the … the question is that the Soviet Union is not stripping itself of intercontinental ballistic missiles. It is proposed that there should be reduction of 50 per cent of the Soviet Union intercontinental ballistic missiles alongside the United States intercontinental ballistic missiles. If they were to do that then Trident would still have the same relationship to the number of warheads and megatonnage, um, after that 50 per cent reduction as Polaris had to the numbers when we stationed Polaris. But they're two different negotiations.

Peter Murphy, IRN

Could I ask you a question, Mrs Thatcher, about a report in the Sunday Telegraph this morning which says that a top secret report prepared for President Reagan by NATO's Supreme Allied Commander shows that America would withdraw key elements of the armed forces from Britain within weeks of a Labour victory in the General Election. Do you think that's true?

MT

I know nothing about that beyond what I heard on the news this morning. But you know the Labour Party has received many, many warnings not to be so anti-American and anti-nuclear and the one that I liked very much was Michael Stewart—Lord Stewart now—in the House of Lords in a recent defence debate in their lordship's house on the 25th of February, saying if we hope to have any influence on the nuclear field it's no good beginning by telling the United States to take all its nuclear weapons out of this country and not to expect any co-operation from us in nuclear matters in the future. We can say that if we like but we can't expect after that to have any effect at all on United States policy.

Now the freedom of Europe depends in considerable measure not only on the way in which we deploy our troops in Europe and the weapons we have, it depends upon our alliance with the United States. NATO is a nuclear alliance. We have been foremost as one of the nuclear powers and you really cannot expect to go on hitting out at the United States saying, as the Labour Party does, that their bases would go, they'd get rid of an independent nuclear deterrent, and to command any respect at all. And the real difficult thing is—and one was warned about it again and again—if you really irritate and upset the United States by being anti-American then you'll come to time when they'll say, all right, if that's what you think maybe we'll consider taking out the 330,000 American troops that they have right on the front line in Europe. Now I hope that that day will never, never come, because it is vital that they stay there, and I have always said that it's in the interests of the United States to have their troops in Europe as well as in Britain's interest. But just look and see as I read it out what Michael Stewart said, he went on “if we believe in defence, if we believe in NATO we must accept that this country continues to play an active part in it, not only by having nuclear weapons of our own” —then he went on to say I think that's not the most important issue— “but by resolutely co-operating with the United States in the preparation of the nuclear of NATO's defences” . [end point of quotation unclear] Labour's defence policy would be catastrophic for the security of Britain and catastrophic to NATO.

Peter Murphy, IRN

If this report is true, though, isn't it an interference in domestic politics?

MT

No, it would not be an interference in domestic politics. If I as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom found very very anti-British things being said against us by the United States and we were … are contributing a great deal I believe to the defence, then it may [end p13] well be that I should react. If you are an alliance you negotiate with an alliance. You do not hit out, you negotiate with an alliance, and you recognize that if you don't then the same right that you have to attack them is the same right as they have to say what they wish to say about you. Freedom is indivisible.

Peter Murphy, IRN

Thank you very much. We have time for just one more caller. We're rapidly running out of time. It's Jean from Nottingham who wants to ask about the National Health Service. Hello Jean.

Jean from Nottingham

Hello.

MT

Hello Jean.

Jean from Nottingham

How can you justify building more hospitals when existing ones are not fully equipped and staffed?

MT

Well, of course you can justify building more hospitals, first because we build them areas in which have never had such good big general hospitals as they are in fact getting. As you know in some areas, yes, some smaller hospitals are closed down and a very good, large general hospital with far more facilities is built. In fact there are more doctors and far more nurses now than there were in 1979, and they're treating far more patients.

But, yes, it has been our policy to see that some areas in the Midlands and the North and in the South West and in Scotland have excellent hospitals with excellent equipment, and in fact we have a very very good record on building hospitals, which the last Labour government had to … had to cancel because they got into a mess economically.

Peter Murphy, IRN

Well …

MT

The important thing is the number of patients that are treated and since 1979 the National Health Service is treating one million more patients a year in hospitals and three and a half million more day patients than they were a year than they were in 1979. They're able to do as many more as that because they have increased staff and because they have better management among their existing staff.

Peter Murphy, IRN

I'm afraid we're running out of time but before we finish we have a piece of music. In fact it's the first public performance of a new Andrew Lloyd Webber composition.

[1987 General Election Conservative theme music] [end p14]

Peter Murphy, IRN

Well that's the new Conservative election campaign theme. I wonder, Mrs Thatcher, if you think that's going to follow previous Lloyd Webber works into the hit parade?

MT

Uh after the election of course it will be released and available for people to purchase. I think it's a marvellous piece of music and I think music lovers will want to have it in their collection.

Peter Murphy, IRN

It brings me actually to a written question from A. Shipman in Leeds who wanted to know if you consider that election campaigns are becoming like American presidential campaigns, being built around personalities rather than policies?

MT

Well, we are not building ours on personalities. We have got and I have it here with me, a manifesto called The Next Moves Forward. It consists of 77 pages of future policy and it is the … the longest and the most detailed and the clearest manifesto of any of the parties. And may I point out that alone among manifestos of the main parties, alone, it has not got a picture of the leader on the front.

Peter Murphy, IRN

Have you enjoyed the first couple of days of campaigning, I mean you've only just started really?

MT

I enjoy … I love, I love getting out and being really with people and we had a fantastic reception in the North West and yesterday we were out and about in the Greater London area. Yes, I enjoy it tremendously.

Peter Murphy, IRN

Do you feel that people really want to get out and meet you? I mean at the moment it's very difficult for them to meet you because of security. Are you hoping to meet real people rather than committed party workers?

MT

Well you simply can't have seen the first day's campaigning. We were absolutely surrounded by people. We dived into the crowd, dived into one crowd, dived into another crowd, had meetings in a field, went through the crowd. This is the way I live, this is the way I love it, this is the way it will continue.

Peter Murphy, IRN

But at Manchester airport, of course, it was a mistake really I suppose, but thanks to the air traffic controllers that there were so many people there to see you at the time?

MT

Yes, but what you're saying is … yes, yes I went round to see them. It was one slight side effect, beneficial side effect for me that there were so many there. But one didn't try to avoid them or go round some side way. I was delighted, one dives straight in, asking how they were, was it half-term, where were they going to, what were their views, how did they feel? Isn't it interesting. Manchester in the North West has an enormously flourishing airport. It deals with eight and a half million passengers at the moment and they're going to expand and deal with more. It just shows you, people say there's a north-south divide, there are great flourishing areas in the north and more and more of them.

Peter Murphy, IRN

[end p15]

Thank you very much, Prime Minister, for joining us on the first of our election programmes.

MT

My pleasure. Thank you very much.

Peter Murphy, IRN

Thank you also to all those callers who took part and apologies to those who wanted to ask questions but we just didn't have the time to fit them in. Next week it's the turn of Labour leader Neil Kinnock. If you want to take part, please send a postcard to this station with your name, telephone number and question to arrive by Thursday. You're listening to Independent Radio.