Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1987 Jun 2 Tu
Margaret Thatcher

General Election Press Conference (the economy)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Conservative Central Office, Smith Square, Westminster
Source: (1) Thatcher Archive: Lawson Statement (2) Conservative Party Archive: transcript
Editorial comments: 0930-1000. MT was accompanied on the platform by Nigel Lawson, Norman Tebbit, Lord Young, Peter Walker and John Moore.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 6505
Themes: Executive (appointments), Conservatism, Conservative Party (organization), Defence (general), Economy (general discussions), Employment, General Elections, Privatized & state industries, Environment, Public spending & borrowing, Taxation, Economic, monetary & political union, Foreign policy (Middle East), Housing, Media
(1) Thatcher Archive: Lawson Statement

LABOUR'S THREAT TO THE ECONOMY

We are now enjoying higher economic growth and lower inflation than for almost 20 years. Moreover jobs and productivity are surging ahead. The economy is healthier and more vigorous than at any time in our post-war history. If anyone doubts this good news on the economy, they have only to listen to the voices of businessmen themselves—as reflected, for example, in yesterday's CBI survey of manufacturing trends, or in today's letter to the Times from twelve leading industrialists.

The improvement in our economic performance is not an accident, nor is the robustness of the nation's finances, nor our growing prosperity. They are all the result of policies steadfastly pursued by this Government despite the scepticism and the abuse of our opponents. An important part of those policies has been the greatly improved efficiency that has come from privatisation—and the creation of one nation through wider share ownership. Another important part has been our reform of trade union law. Both of these Labour is committed to reverse. But provided we stick to those policies—prudent financial policies backed up by privatisation, trade union reform and lower taxation—the prospect is for continuing steady growth, for more to spend on the social services, and for increasing prosperity all round. [end p1]

In short, there is only one threat to our continued economic success—the Labour Party. Previous Labour Governments have followed a rake's progress into debt and destitution. Any future Labour Government would follow the same well—trodden path.

The danger begins with their plans for massively higher spending. The Labour Party refuse to cost their own manifesto so we have had to do it for them. It works out at an extra £35 billion. They have not contested any item in our list. Instead, Mr Hattersley—as cavalier with the costing of his programme as he would be with the nation's finances—instructs us only to look at the first two pages of their manifesto. This is their so-called priority programme. That is expensive enough, even though it contains no significant proposals on health or education. But Mr Hattersley really cannot get away with inviting the British people to vote for all Labour's manifesto and at the same time tell us that we only need worry about the cost of a fraction of it.

The money to pay for that extra spending would have to be found somehow. And for the past fortnight we have slowly and painfully been extracting from Labour their hidden manifesto of tax increases. Mr Gould has admitted that their tax increases for higher earners wouldn't raise much extra revenue. Their justification is simple spite. In fact, almost everyone would pay more tax. Labour would put the basic rate of tax up to 29 pence in the pound, just for starters. They would abolish the ceiling on National Insurance Contributions so that 2 million people would pay higher national insurance contributions. [end p2]

And this week we have discovered that their proposals for higher child benefit and higher pensions depend upon the abolition of the married man's tax allowance. What they give in benefits they take in tax. A married man on average earnings would pay £10 a week more income tax.

Higher spending, higher taxation, higher borrowing, and the higher inflation and higher interest rates which would inevitably result would take this economy straight back to the sort of economic crisis we experienced a little over a decade ago. And that would mean worse, not better public services; and higher, not lower, unemployment. I warned last week that it might mean eventually seeking asylum with the IMF as we did in 1976. But it could be even worse. The last Labour Government only agreed to abandon its irresponsible policies and hand over the economic management of this country to the IMF after carefully looking at the alternative option—a siege economy. Next time, Kinnock and Hattersley, weaker men, faced with a much more left wing party, would not be able to face reality as Callaghan and Healey did. It would be the same crisis as last time but a more damaging response. We would end up with an isolated, inefficient, impoverished economy capable only of producing new controls and new taxes. In short, Labour would end up with a British economy closer to Eastern Europe than to the West. [end p3]

(2) Conservative Party Archive: transcript:

Q (Mr Oakley)

Can the Chancellor tell us what state enterprise would remain unprivatised at the end of another term of Tory Government, and in what order you would tackle those which are on the list?

Nigel Lawson

Those that are on the list would be tackled, I think, in the order of British Airports Authority first, the water authorities and then electricity. I think that that is the likeliest, although, of course, we will take decisions in the light of further work that we shall be doing on all these. Privatisation will continue to progress throughout the length of the next Parliament.

Q

What is definitely off the list?

Nigel Lawson

We will privatise what we consider it is sensible to privatise and what is ready to privatise. We are not, at this stage, in the business of looking for things that we cannot privatise. We are in the business of looking for things that we can.

Q

Why would not you rule out the privatisation of British Coal and British Rail?

Peter Walker

As far as British Coal is concerned, we have always said that when the industry reaches the position where it is viable and profitable, we would be delighted to examine ways in which the miners in this country can have direct participation in their industry. If we did it, we would do it openly. We would bring forward proposals that were carefully worked out. But at the moment there is certainly no possibility. We have a £2 billion investment programme going into the coal industry in the next three years. There has been a massive improvement in the productivity of that industry. The miners, I am glad to say, are earning far more than they have ever done previously due to the bonuses. I think that we will reach a position—probably in the [end p4] Parliament after this—in which the miners may be saying that, with the employees in the gas and electricity industries having direct participation in those industries, now that their industry is profitable and doing well they would like a direct participation in it. We would be only too pleased to consider proposals that would enable them to do that.

John Moore

It is not dissimilar to British Rail. We have no plans to privatise British Rail as a whole. We have indicated clearly in the objectives that I laid before Parliament, and successfully negotiated with Bob Reid, the Chairman of British Rail, last October that British Rail is anxious to bring into its operation the private sector to help them in some of its activities. But there are no basic plans because, of course, there are five different railways—Inter City, Network South East, freight, parcel and provincial. The Inter City, parcel and freight railways are already in our objectives on the commercial side of the railway, but we do not have plans to privatise British Rail itself. However, we wish to certainly bring the kind of competitive efficiency into it that Bob Reid and his Board are bringing now.

Nigel Lawson

We have already privatised over a third of what was the nationalised state-owned sector of industry when we were first elected in 1979. The programme ahead, which I mentioned and is in the Manifesto, of British Airports Authority, water authorities and electricity is a very substantial programme for the next Parliament. It is very big indeed.

Prime Minister

I think that I should just complete what has been said. I indicated that the general Post Office would not be privatised—the Royal Mail. People feel very strong about it (the Royal Mail) and so do I.

Peter Riddell

On electricity, does Mr Walker envisage privatising that in the same way as British Gas? Or would he envisage a more competitive structure with a break up of electricity. Secondly, would there be any role for private capital in, say, parts of British Coal's operation?

Peter Walker

As far as electricity is concerned, after the Election, we will be having consultations with the industry [end p5] itself, which we have not done at present. We will then be deciding the method of privatisation. It is very notable in the Election that, as well as privatisation proposals, there are nationalisation proposals. It is absolutely staggering that throughout the campaign the major part of Labour's platform to re-nationalise companies, such as British Gas and British Telecom, has been given no publicity by the Labour Party. They try to avoid questions on it. It is quite incredible—with those two industries in which their employees now virtually all have direct participation as do millions of small shareholders throughout the country—that nowhere in the campaign have I met any criticism of those privatisations at all. Yet the Labour Party will spend the first part of two years re-nationalising those types of industries. The proposals to give electricity workers and consumers the same benefits as British Gas will be considerable, and I am looking forward to deciding with colleagues the nature of that programme.

Q

Can you see any role for private capital in British Coal's operation?

Peter Walker

At present, British Coal is going through a major investment programme. There is also the problem with British Coal that one customer takes 75 per cent./80 per cent. of all its products. But I think that there are ways, when we have got that industry rationalised, doing well, efficient and making profits, in which we can see that both private capital and the miner have a direct participation.

Q (Mr Brunson)

Prime Minister, you just said people feel strongly about the Royal Mail and so did you. Presumably, you were referring to people feeling strongly that it should not be privatised?

Prime Minister

The Royal Mail is something quite different. That is why I said what I did.

Q

Could you accept though that a lot of people feel very very strongly indeed about something as basic as the provision of water in which they feel that there should not be a commercial element? [end p6]

Prime Minister

The Royal Mail is quite different. That is why I have distinctly separated it out. The Royal Mail is quite different. It has a different history and we feel that it should stay.

Nigel Lawson

As for water, there is a large private sector of water and always has been over 100 years. There are a whole lot of people in this country—millions—who get their supply and always have done from private water companies. What is much more serious and what people are much more concerned about are Labour's plans to grab their shares back on confiscatory terms—the shares that people have acquired in privatised companies. That is causing much more concern around the country.

Prime Minister

On the water privatisation, the pollution aspect has been taken out by a National Rivers Authority which Nick Ridley spoke to you about when he was here earlier.

Q

Could I be quite clear about what you meant about Royal Mail? I am a little confused.

Prime Minister

That we are not going to privatise it.

Q

But you seemed to say that it was a special case because people, including yourself, felt strongly about it.

Prime Minister

No. No. They feel strongly about it because it is the Royal Mail.

Norman Tebbit

There are good reasons why many people, including the Prime Minister and the rest of us along the platform, feel very strongly about it. They are perfectly straightforward reasons.

Q

The point that I was trying to make was that people could equally feel strongly about water.

Norman Tebbit

Yes, but there is not a good argument for that. Whereas the Royal Mail has been the Royal Mail with universal postage since 1840, the water authorities were largely [end p7] nationalised after the war having been in private hands. Most people in the country for most of the time that water has been piped to their houses have probably had it from the private sector. So they are two completely different matters.

Q

I thought it a little puzzling that British Steel did not appear specifically in the Manifesto when you have already appointed merchant bankers. Secondly, if you went ahead and privatised it during the lifetime of the next Parliament, which Paul Channon seemed to be indicating was possible on Newsnight, could you give a guarantee for Ravenscraig?

Norman Tebbit

The most interesting thing is that in a flush of enthusiasm we now find that the Alliance are anxious to privatise British Steel early on. So perhaps it is a question that you might ask them as well. The fact is that British Steel, although it is now profitable, is still in a sector where there are considerable problems. The problems of European steel industry, although we have done a great deal to resolve them, are still there. There is a great deal of problems to be resolved, and at the moment we do not see British Steel as an early candidate for privatisation—as the Chancellor has indicated.

Q (Mr Bevins)

I am sorry to return to it, but I wonder if I could go back to value added tax please. Just as you separate out the Royal Mail, and just as you separate out value added tax on food, do not you understand that you open up the possibility—the threat—that the burden of taxation under another Conservative Government could go up yet again, because you could, under your present terms, put value added tax on gas and electricity?

Nigel Lawson

The Prime Minister said to Brian Clough in the ‘World this Weekend’ on Sunday that we have no intention of putting value added tax on gas and electricity. Mr Bevins, you go on and on about the burden of tax increases. If you take a man, who in 1979 had the average earnings then, and if you assume that his earnings had stayed level in real terms, he would be paying significantly lower in tax today. In fact, he would be paying 16 per cent. less in income tax and national insurance contributions today than he was then. That is a fact. Even if [end p8] you take value added tax into account, he would still be paying less tax today than he was in 1979. That was a different answer. You are totally confused. That answer is about a man who was earning the average earnings in 1979 and the average earnings now. But, of course, he is earning a great deal more now. That is why he is paying more tax.

If, however, he was earning the same now—adjusting for inflation in real terms—he would be paying less tax. So the burden has gone down. It must be clear to anybody who understands the basic facts of life—the laws of arithmetic—that if you have a party, as the Labour Party has, which has a massive plan to increase public expenditure substantially over and above what was in the Public Expenditure White Paper, clearly it is they who would have to put taxes up very substantially, not the Conservative Government.

John Moore

A lot of the debate that I have found in the country has been about the nature of the resources that we are trying to put in—as we have successfully into health care, pensions and things of that kind. At the end of the day, the debate must come back to how wealthy your country can be. It is fascinating that people are not drawing attention to the fact that all the taxes whose top rates have been slashed massively in the past eight years have produced enormous increased revenues. Now Gould and Hattersley do not seem to want those revenues to spend on the kind of caring services we are concerned with. That is the critical point about the tax changes that we have had in the past eight years.

Q

… is it possible that you would consider extending VAT in certain areas if, by so doing, you were able to reduce direct taxation even further?

Prime Minister

Were you with us yesterday? What I said yesterday was what the Chancellor said today. We are zero rated on food and zero rated on gas and electricity unlike 1979 when we had in our Manifesto, as a strategic policy, a shift from direct taxation to indirect. There is no such strategic shift on this occasion. Having given the two undertakings I have—the Chancellor was not here, so this is a nice way of letting him hear everything I said! I said that there is no way in which I [end p9] will tie up the Chancellor the Exchequer and have his Budget for the next five years made here. We are a party which believes in holding down spending to within our means. We are a party which believes in reducing taxation now as a proportion of national income. Having given the undertakings I have, and in the absence of a strategic shift of the kind which, rightly, we put in our 1979 Manifesto, I really do not think that I could go further, I doubt very much whether the Chancellor could in tying himself up. Yes, we stand on a very very good record. Ours was not the highest rate of VAT—25 per cent was the highest rate of VAT put on by Denis Healey. He had to take it off again soon because he nearly ruined the industries on which he put it. But we simply cannot have Budgets made up here. We are the party which keeps public expenditure within what we can afford, bearing in mind that people work for a higher standard of living for their families.

Q

Prime Minister, as a principle would not you find it attractive to move further towards indirect taxation and reducing ——

Prime Minister

We have no strategic shift in mind. As you come up to making each Budget, you look at all of the things before you then. I am not prepared to constrain the Chancellor, having been through eight Budgets now. We only have one Budget a year under this Government instead of about four a year under the previous one. But I ask you not to try to constrain him because we do not have a strategic shift of that kind.

The other thing that I should point out because I get it quite frequently from people who cross-examine me on television is that one of the reasons why the total burden of tax went up during our first four or five years was that we honestly financed our public spending. Having said that we will not finance it honestly, but we are going for increasing borrowing, then interest rates would have gone up even higher than they did. One of the reasons why that burden of tax went up during the early first four or five years was because we did finance it honestly, and that was one of the reasons why we still have a reputation for sound economic policies. In 1975–76, the Labour Party financed 9 per cent. of their public spending by a large amount of borrowing, which was equal to 9 per cent of GNP. Had we done that this year, the borrowing requirement would have been £33 billion. So we do finance it soundly. [end p10]

Nigel Lawson

We inherited a sick economy in 1979. Had we not reduced public sector borrowing quickly, we should not have got inflation down in the way in which we did. Last night, Mr Kinnock on television admitted that under Labour inflation would go up. He said that inflation would go up to 7 per cent. under Labour. Well, if he says 7 per cent., you can pretty sure that it would go up to at least double that—14 per cent. At even 14 per cent., I think that I am being kind to him because the average level of inflation under the last Labour Government—not the peak, but average—was 15.5 per cent.

Q (Adam Raphael)

… and the Alliance party in this election are promising substantial measures of tax reform. Why have the Conservatives, according to your Manifesto and to the statements of the Chancellor so far in this campaign, apparently given up on tax reform?

Prime Minister

We have not.

Nigel Lawson

Nor are there are any detailed measures on tax reform in the Labour and Alliance Manifestos. Earlier, the Alliance came out with a tax reform thing, which they made such a mess of, and had to withdraw it. Their present proposals are very muted indeed. You will see them as we come forward step by step, Budget by Budget, as indeed I have done during the time that I have been Chancellor of the Exchequer—reforming corporation tax totally, and the Americans have now followed in our footsteps, abolishing no fewer than four separate taxes and generally making the tax system simpler and more effective.

What we will not do, I can give you this guarantee, is what it is now clear that Labour plan to do and which is in the statement I made earlier, is to take away, abolish, the married man's tax allowance without giving any increased tax allowances to compensate for it. They have done something which—I must say in the most charitable frame of mind—is somewhat dishonest. They have a proposal to increase child benefit, but to finance it by taking away the married man's tax allowance. Yet if you look at their Manifesto, you will see in it is proudly the increase in child benefit, but not a word about the abolition of the married man's tax allowance. Since one finances the other, that is somewhat less than honest. [end p11]

Prime Minister

And the pensioners.

Nigel Lawson

Yes, certainly the pensioners would suffer very considerably as a result of this.

Q (Mr Buckland)

Would the Chairman like to privatise the BBC? Or does he hold it in the same affection as the Royal Mail?

Prime Minister

We have enough on our hands without that!

Norman Tebbit

I think that the Prime Minister's answer is very apt. We have enough on our hands without privatising the BBC.

Q

On the international side of the economy, can I ask the Chancellor what, if anything, he is expecting to come out of West Germany in way of reflation at the Venice Summit next week? Secondly, how is the Anglo-German … (?) alliance standing up to the Baker plans for … target sales (Inaudible).

Nigel Lawson

We shall be discussing this at Venice. For reasons which you will understand, the time which I shall have in Venice will not be as full as would otherwise be the case. But we will have time to discuss it. But I do not think that the Baker plans—the further development of what is known as the objective indicators exercise—have been fully thought through. I think that we do have to do some more work on them before we can reach any substantive conclusions. But I am very happy to discuss this further and, indeed, have participated fully in the work that has been done so far.

On the German economy, I think it is necessary for it to expand faster as it is for the Japanese economy. But I have to say that the right way to achieve this is through improving the supply side of the economy, and there are ample ways in which they can do that rather than necessarily pumping extra demand into the economy.

Q

Could you tell us if, and when, you intend to privatise the Rover Car Group? Could you guarantee that it would not be bought by Americans who, according to Mr Kinnock, will own the whole of Jaguar by 1990? [end p12]

Norman Tebbit

We would like to see the Rover Group independent of state finance and privatised as soon as is sensible. But there are still a considerable number of difficulties in the company. We have gone a long way towards privatising the whole group with Jaguar out. What Mr Kinnock is saying is that Americans, in his view, would be more eager to see the value in investing in British motor industry than he is. Well, I do not think that that is quite right. There will always remain a very, very, very strong British attachment to Jaguar and I think that it will remain a British company. But we have managed to achieve a satisfactory deal for Leyland and for the freigh Rover business in the alliance with Daff. So progress has been good, but the Rover Group is not yet ready to privatise and I do not know when it will be.

Q

Prime Minister, your slogan is “a strong economy” . Is Britain's economy strong enough for us to join the European monetary system immediately after the Election?

Prime Minister

I think you will get the standard answer from the Chancellor.

Nigel Lawson

We are certainly strong enough to do so, but what is the right time to do so depends on other considerations.

Prime Minister

Very good reserve figures out yesterday.

Nigel Lawson

I do not think that they are quite out, Prime Minister. The reserve figures will be out later this morning, but they are not out yet.

Q

Can you just elucidate the key factors that you see in the question of timing? What might delay entry soon after the Election?

Nigel Lawson

No, I cannot elucidate the factors because it is a complex matter of political and market judgment, and how these interact.

Prime Minister

The answer is just the same as you have, in fact, been having. We will review it from time to time. [end p13]

Q

You mentioned the Royal Mail, but what about the counter services? Are there any proposals to privatise those as distinct from other aspects of the Post Office?

Prime Minister

We have not, in fact, got any proposals ready at the moment, but I specifically tried to exclude the Royal Mail. But that is not to say that we have detailed proposals on the others; we have not. But I wanted to make it quite clear that the Royal Mail, in my view, is something quite different.

Q

The other bits of the Post Office are not closed off from possible privatisation?

Prime Minister

Some other parts of the Post Office are not closed off, although we have not got down to any detailed plans. I doubt very much whether we shall have time to do it in the coming Parliament.

Nigel Lawson

One of the aspects of privatisation which has not received sufficient attention yet is the way in which this was a policy which we pioneered and have led the world in. Country after country throughout the world now are pursuing a privatisation programme. Indeed, my French opposite number—the French Minister for Finance—has added it to his title. He is now a Minister of Finance, the Economy and Privatisation. Countries of all political colours are doing this because they can see that it makes sense. I have a troop of Ministers coming to me in the Treasury asking me how we do it because they want to do the same. It is perhaps one of the most successful British innovations that has happened within my lifetime.

Norman Tebbit

Indeed, a large part of the counter service of the Post Office is already privatised through the sub-Post Office system. That is in very good hands and is very satisfactory. I will go even further than the Chancellor and remind you once again that the good news about privatisation has not only leaked through abroad, but even through to the Alliance. Those who voted against it whenever it came up in Parliament are now proposing to get on with it if they had any influence in Government. [end p14]

Q (Mr Schreiber)

When you talk about what people feel very strong about, Prime Minister, in a sense I suppose the Labour Party is appealing for votes on issues that “people feel very strongly about” . Your decision on the Post Office, or your announcement this morning about the Post Office ——

Prime Minister

I am afraid that it is not the first time. I hate to tell you, but it has been said before.

Q

Your repetition of your point about the Post Office—what it actually says, presumably, is that even though there may be economic reasons for denationalising something—I do not know whether there are or not for the Post Office—what you are saying is that if people feel very strongly about something, the economic ——

Prime Minister

No. The reason is that the Royal Mail is different, different in history and different in kind from anything else. That is the reason. That is why I feel strongly about it because it is different. You are saying that the Labour Party have issues about which people feel strongly. We have issues about which people feel even more strongly than that. They should be allowed to purchase their own houses with the appropriate discount from councils. They should be allowed to purchase in privatised businesses which they want more to be privatised. They should know that if they save, they have got a Government that keeps inflation down, so that you do not get a Socialist Government that in Lenin's revolutionary terms debauches the currency. Yes, they feel very strongly about the wider property-owning democracy which people only get under us; about the greater independence of people from the state which they will only get under us; about the wider choice that they will only get under us on housing and education. All that is more independence and more choice for people. To finish this little homily—without choice, there can be no morality whatsoever.

Mr John Cole

Prime Minister, I know that you have told us that you do not give predictions about unemployment. But during the last Election, the Chancellor who was then Secretary of State for Energy gave a prognosis. I wonder if either he or, indeed, his successor as Secretary of State for Energy would be prepared to go that far, at least, today. [end p15]

Nigel Lawson

At the last election, what I gave—I made it clear—was not a forecast. It was a statement on there being no reason why unemployment should not come down. Indeed, it is now coming down. I freely admit that it has taken longer than I hoped it would take, partly because of the failure to get pay settlements coming down in line with the fall in inflation. But we are now getting unemployment coming down and that is the great thing. My belief is that, with these policies, it will continue to come down.

Peter Walker

In terms of going round in this Election campaign—obviously, I have partly concentrated on the coal mining areas—one of the exciting things has been the success of the programme to bring new enterprise and new jobs to areas in which a pit has had to be closed. The enterprise company which we created and to which we advanced £40 million—it has got through about £27 million—has raised another £150 million from the private sector. Already 17,000 new jobs have been provided in mining communities. There are a total of 25,000 which are on stream. The combination of that sort of activity with the enormous upsurge of small new businesses. Throughout the Midlands, for example, one of the reasons why we are doing very well in all the polls there—the atmosphere politically is incredibly good—is that there really is an atmosphere that the economy of the Midlands is on the move, not just because of the older industries having the opportunity to re-invest, but with a mass of new small industries, some of which are rapidly becoming successful. With that atmosphere going on for a few years, there will be a considerable upturn in job opportunities.

Q

What inference can we draw by the absence of the Trade and Industry Secretary from the session on “The Next Move Forward to a Strong Economy” ?

Prime Minister

We cannot get everyone in. Paul has been here, as you know.

Norman Tebbit

Nobody addressed a question to him when he was here.

Prime Minister

No one at all. Indeed, I have had several Ministers here—one from Scotland yesterday, a health Minister [end p16] and usually a Treasury Minister. But we simply cannot get everyone here every day.

Q

Prime Minister, on Monday the Daily Mirror featured a building worker … who had been out of work for five years. What can you offer … (Inaudible)

Prime Minister

Construction is booming—is booming. What they are complaining about, as I know when I go everywhere, is that they cannot get bricklayers; they cannot get skilled people. You only have to look at some of the advertisements in the “situations vacant” to know that, and the amounts that are being offered to skilled people in the building industry. They are, in fact, travelling over quite long distances to get jobs, but they are still short. Yesterday, in Kent, they were telling me that sometimes they have to fill the jobs from people overseas because that is the only way to get the requisite skills at the time that they want them.

So what we are suffering is a shortage of skills to fill jobs that are available. David, you are here. Do you want to have a go on this, or have I said it all? All right. That is enough.

Q

Do you have any plans to make it much easier for people to buy shares whether in high street shops or work places?

Nigel Lawson

We have already done that through the Personal Equity Plan which I introduced in the 1986 Budget, and which has already had a very encouraging take-up. I think that you will see an increasing take-up as time goes by, particularly as we get to the end of the year. The Personal Equity Plan enables anybody to invest in British industry up to a certain level per year—£2,400 a year—without having to pay any capital gains tax on any capital gains they make and without having to pay any income tax on the dividends they receive. This is a pioneering scheme. It has already had a very good response, including from first-time new investors. I think that it will grow in importance.

Q

Chancellor, why did you drop the Green Paper on Personal Taxation? [end p17]

Nigel Lawson

The Green Paper on Personal Taxation has not been dropped. It is there on the table. I would like to see further responses to that Green Paper. Failing that, I will then see whether there is some halfway house that I can introduce between the present situation and the proposals in the Green Paper. But it is a very radical reform which would take many years to implement. I think that it needs a very strong basis of support if we are going to go the whole way. Otherwise, we may need to go, say, halfway towards it.

Q

You said recently that you felt Britain was doing its share in terms of military defence activities in the Persian Gulf. Do you foresee any circumstances in which your Government would be able to respond to President Reagan 's call of yesterday for widened allied participation there, changing either the function or the level of Britain's military presence in the region.

Prime Minister

I shall give you the same reply that I have given when I have been asked this question, because the position has not changed. We have the Armilla patrol there. Obviously, it main purpose is to protect our shipping. We have forces widely across the world because we take a large international burden of which the Armilla patrol is one. We have received no specific proposals at the moment for wider co-operation. If we were to receive them, we obviously would look at them. But I must stress that the Armilla really is pretty well fully-occupied in looking after our own shipping in the Gulf, and is geared particularly for that. But if we get any other proposals, obviously we will look at them.

Q

Mr Tebbit, the Labour Party say that you are bullying the BBC again. Are you liable to ring them up, again, in the small hours if you feel that a spokesman should go on when he has not gone on.

Norman Tebbit

“Again” is a curious word because there was no conversation with the BBC in the small hours. I was home and in bed, comfortably, before midnight ——

Prime Minister

Aren't you lucky! [end p18]

Norman Tebbit

You do not know how lucky I am, Prime Minister! I was able to relax because Mr Cogan of the BBC had told me that he had asked Mr Parkinson to come on his programme, and then discovered that he had “had a problem with the Alliance” . The problem which he explained to me was that Dr Owen, or his staff, were insisting that Dr Owen should be on solo and that, therefore, the invitation to Mr Parkinson would have to be withdrawn. He confirmed to me that Dr Owen had argued that he would only do programmes solo, or with the Prime Minister or Mr Kinnock. As you know, that was not a matter which really arose since the proposal was that the interview should be separated by about one hour. Later, Mr Cogan 's editor rang me back to say that the problem was resolved and that, therefore, they had reinstated the invitation to Mr Parkinson to appear in a separate part of the programme. I think that was a very good thing to do, and I am glad that the BBC did not feel that they should accede to the request of politicians to ban other politicians from appearing even in the same programme an hour apart.

Q

So you did not talk to Mr Hussey at any stage?

Norman Tebbit

I spoke to Mr Hussey earlier, not about the merit of the issue, but because we were having some difficulty in reaching the editor of the programme in order that we could be appraised of his decision.

Q

Does Mr Walker look towards his political future with the same equanimity as Mr Biffen? Does he expect it to be on his knees, or on his feet?

Prime Minister

We get this one every day, Peter.

Peter Walker

All I can say is that I have very much enjoyed the past 26 years in Parliament, and I very much look forward to the next 26 years.