Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1987 Jun 9 Tu
Margaret Thatcher

TV Interview for Yorkshire TV ("A Leader for the Nineties")

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Harrogate, Yorkshire
Source: Yorkshire TV Archive: OUP transcript
Journalist: Olivia O’Leary, Yorkshire TV
Editorial comments: 1030-2100.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 4627
Themes: Defence (general), Defence (arms control), Private education, Employment, Industry, General Elections, Monetary policy, Privatized & state industries, Private health care, Religion & morality, Strikes & other union action, Famous statements by MT (discussions of)

Olivia O'Leary

Good evening and welcome to the last in our series A Leader for the Nineties, in which we talk to the leaders of all the three main political parties. And we're joined, this evening, by the Prime Minister, Mrs Margaret Thatcher, leader of the Conservative Party. Mrs Thatcher, you're very welcome. Your last rally was here tonight in Harrogate in Yorkshire, and perhaps I can start with a question with a Yorkshire flavour. What would you advise Yorkshire people, the many Yorkshire [end p1] people who have lost their jobs in the steel industry, for instance, over the last eight years, what would you advise them to do about getting a job?

MT

You wouldn't expect me to say anything other than that I believe my policies, our policies followed in the last eight years, are creating more jobs. I didn't in 1983 promise a precise number of jobs, but since 1983 over one million have been created. It took longer to get down the amount of employment [sic] because the population of working age is going up. So our policies are good for industry, and jobs come from business, so they are good for getting more jobs. So naturally one would say, yes, people have suffered in the steel industry. They've suffered from technological change. But the steel industry is working extremely well now. For some people who were made redundant, we've tried to give as generous a redundancy payment as possible. Some started up on their own. But if they have not yet got a job, then I hope they will go to their nearest job centre and see if they need training, because there are some jobs for which we cannot find people because the skills are not there.

Olivia O'Leary

But isn't there a particular difficulty with the sort of unemployed person that one's talking about? Say, a forty-seven year old steel worker, a man who has worked all his life with his muscles, with his hands, with his legs, who takes pride in his physical strength, and who may now be being asked to be—what, a computer operator? He just doesn't find it possible to make that sort of transition.

MT

But, you know, all sorts of people have. I remember watching the whole transition of the gas industry from the time when we had the destructive distillation of coal, and then naphtha, and now, natural gas. And a lot of it is done from great big computer banks. A tremendous number of people have made that transition. In the printing world, they've gone from the heavy printing machines to typing it in. We have to make that transition. We can't resist change. Otherwise we shall be a country of yesterday. And they will find it quite easy, and it's much cleaner, and I think quite a number of them might like it. But one recognises there's always fear of the unknown, isn't there? If you go to start a new job, there's fear of the unknown. And I understand that. But the training, you know, now is very, very good, and really it's part of that job to make the person who comes for training feel confident and at home.

Olivia O'Leary

How confident can one feel when the chances are loaded against one, say in Yorkshire or in the North? One's talking about an 13 per cent unemployment rate in Yorkshire as compared with 8 per cent in the South East. A 16 per cent unemployment rate in the North. The chances of replacement jobs, replacement industry coming in time, again, for somebody who is forty-seven years-old are very slim.

MT

Look, I have played quite a considerable part in getting Nissan, further north than this, Nissan to the North East. Last time I was around in Yorkshire, I went to see Lucas Aerospace. It is a fantastic company. I've known Lucas for years, and this particular [end p2] one, in this particular part of the world is quite outstanding. A massive amount of it goes to exports. America comes and looks at the factory, thinks it's one of the best in the world. I went to Central Clothing. Wonderful! All the latest technology. I've been round one after another. The other day, I went to—and you were talking about steel—an old steel place, Shotton. That had to be closed down. I went to a great big new paper mill, again fantastic. I went to a new building which is going to house all of the credit cards for Marks & Spencer's. Look, new jobs are coming.

Olivia O'Leary

But so many of these industries you mention may not be labour intensive, and … [MT tries to interrupt], but just look 13 per cent. I mean, the very unemployment rate itself shows the fact that the jobs aren't being created fast enough.

MT

No, they are coming, otherwise we should not be getting the unemployment register down. They are being created faster. Forty million of our people now work in service industries. Er, you know, you cannot stop technological change, and we shouldn't have any manufacturing industry if we did. But they are changing, they are highly competitive. They are expanding and they're doing well, and they're exporting more than they have ever done before. But, you know, 30,000 jobs change hands every day. 30,000 people change their jobs every day.

Olivia O'Leary

But Prime Minister …

MT

So there are opportunities. Please, cheer up just a little bit. I understand the feeling of people who haven't had one. That's why we're calling them in every six months now, and, if they haven't got one, they can do one of two things. Go on a training course, and we're trying to match the training to the jobs that are available, or …

Olivia O'Leary

Prime Minister, these Community Programmes …

MT

… in fact they can go on a Community Programme …

Olivia O'Leary

… with difficulty. I mean, you have talked a great deal, with great pride, about the new society, the new economy, the new enterprise economy that you have created. But in order for people to take advantage of that, to benefit from that, they've got to have access, they've got to have opportunity in order to have the choice to benefit from that. If one is unemployed, one doesn't have that choice. I mean, do you have any idea what it's like to be unemployed?

MT

No, I don't. All my life I've had to work, and I'd have had no income if I didn't. And this is why, because we're so concerned about it, that young people now automatically [end p3] have a two year training. And with the eighteen … er, over eighteen, we've got the new Job Training Scheme. And for those older people still, we're calling them in on the Restart Scheme, and they have, particularly for them, a Community Programme. Now, all that is being done, and will continue to be done. But, you know, industry is expanding. Service industries are expanding. Look, you go and look at the number of people who want to advertise on your television programme. It's a very good guide. You go and look in the Yorkshire Post at the number of situations vacant, the number of advertisements. You look at all the … all the shopping centres. You look at how well they're doing.

Olivia O'Leary

And … and …

MT

They're doing well because there's a lot of money about, because it's expanding. And therein lies the hope. Look at the numbers of self-employed. More in the North. Look at the numbers taking up the Enterprise Allowance. Quite a lot in the North. When I went to open Nissan, we had more people on Enterprise Allowance starting up their own business than we actually had in Nissan, even when it …

Olivia O'Leary

But, Prime Minister, many of the jobs you are mentioning are service jobs. What about jobs in manufacturing industry …

MT

But what's wrong with …

Olivia O'Leary

… almost two million of which have been lost in the last eight years?

MT

But not only in the last eight years. Please go back further. As you know full well, jobs have been lost in manufacturing for about the last sixteen to twenty years the world over, because you cannot stop new technology. And many jobs which used to be called manufacturing jobs—say some of your accountancy jobs, some of your contract cleaning jobs, some of your restaurant jobs, some of your marketing jobs, some of your design consultancy jobs. Those people used to be employed in manufacturing industry. They were called manufacturing jobs. Now, a lot of them were contracted out and they're called service jobs. But you must move with the times, if only to be up-to-date.

Olivia O'Leary

But mustn't service jobs also serve something, serve an expanding manufacturing sector? Isn't that the problem?

MT

[end p4] No, it isn't a problem. They do interweave, of course. A hotel is a service industry, but it needs carpets, it needs furniture, it needs cutlery, it needs tables, it needs crockery.

Olivia O'Leary

Right … right …

MT

So don't look at manufacturing and service. Computers are a service industry. Someone had to manufacture them.

Olivia O'Leary

Right, but let's look again at the figures. I mean, you said in 1977, “Sometimes I've heard it said that the Conservatives have been associated with unemployment. That's absolutely wrong. We would have been drummed out of office if we'd had this level of unemployment.” You said that in 1977 when unemployment was just about over a million. Now that was …

MT

It was 1.38, had been 1.5 …

Olivia O'Leary

Now, right to three million.

MT

Yes, right! We've had a world recession of the most severe we've ever had. Unemployment has been high and it's still rising in France and in Germany. It is falling here. It is not as high in America and Japan, because they do not have this hang up about technological change at all. They embrace it. And so they keep their industries well. What is more, they in fact have a smaller proportion of their income on public spending and a bigger proportion in the hands of people. But we've had the world recession, we've had technological change, we've had more school leavers than we've had people retiring. In spite of all that—and no one had our kind of unions, no one had our kind of trade union law, no one had our over-manning and hidden unemployment, and no one had our restrictive practices.

Olivia O'Leary

Prime Minister, it's still over three million people unemployed. Are there times, and I know you don't sleep much because you work so hard, but are there times when you wake at night and think, “Out there are three million people who are not joining in my enterprise society.”

MT

No, I know that jobs come from business. Now, you tell me, and quite right, that sometimes manufacturing industry and the media have had to cut jobs. I sometimes have newspapers coming to me and saying, “What are you going to do about redundancies?” And I say, “What? You mean the ones you've just caused?” Because they too know—no, no, you mustn't run away from this. It's no earthly good just [end p5] saying, “What are you going to do about it?” What we do about it is, we run the finances of the country very well. We give tax incentives. We have cut controls and red tape. We are doing training. It is people that build industry. But look, there would not—you're independent television—there would not be any independent television unless one Conservative Government had fought on de-regulating and all of those jobs were created. More jobs are being created.

Olivia O'Leary

Prime Minister, to move on to an unemployed person who's looking at his or her future, looking at the three manifestoes presented by the three different parties, and says, “Well, Labour and the Alliance, they're offering to ‘Gissa job’, as the phrase goes. Conservatives aren't. It's not on their agenda at all.”

MT

They are promising, and I doubt very much whether they can deliver, except by piling on people into a bureaucracy or public spending. What they do not say is, the moment you taken in more money from the taxpayer or you borrow more, you've taken it out of the taxpayer's pocket or out of industry's pocket. That taxpayer would have spent that money on goods, hopefully most of them made in Britain. Those jobs would be lost. That industry would have spent that money, probably on an expansion or an investment. Those jobs, in that connection, will be lost. So you will have a lot of lost jobs which you can't see, which were productive jobs in industry, replaced by quite a bit of bureaucracy, which would have in fact then to go on industry's costs. That's why I do not believe … that is not an effective way to create jobs. We, I admit, do a certain amount of it. We do it in the Community Programme. Beyond that, we have training, but training is for real jobs. Now, a million more. I didn't promise you—I'm very sparse with promises, because the people …

Olivia O'Leary

Even though the targets, Prime Minister, even though the targets that ensure people that it's on your agenda …

MT

… know unemployment … But it's on our agenda by the way in which we are conducting the general economy, by the way in which we know jobs are created. They are created by business. I did not say, this time at the last election, I promise you a million extra jobs. We knew our policies. We believed that they would create a lot. They've created, actually, over a million. That, because the population is going up, was not enough to bring the unemployment register down by a million. It is now starting to fall. In the early 1990s, the population of working age will be smaller than it is now, proportionately, because there will be fewer school leavers and more people retiring.

Olivia O'Leary

There will be many people, Prime Minister, who will say, “Why not put another two or three points on inflation if it's going to give a million people hope?” There would be many people who would suggest that perhaps the Conservative party has actually used high unemployment as a way of keeping inflation down. [end p6]

MT

Well, that is absolute nonsense. Absolute nonsense, and if you put inflation on, then you will in fact make every single successful industry uncompetitive. You can't stop inflation when you want to. They found that last time. They took … had reckless spending, and they came to a position where no one in this country would lend the government any money, no one would invest in gilts, and no one from overseas would.

Olivia O'Leary

One moment …

MT

No, you tackled me about inflation. It is not … it is absolutely a reckless policy. It would undermine every single business that is now competitive. What possible help would … or help would it be to put our inflation up? It wouldn't stop at seven. Seven, ten, fifteen percent—when the German's is two and below! What you do is substitute German jobs for British jobs. There's only one way, and it's to run an economy soundly …

Olivia O'Leary

But …

MT

… not make reckless promises.

Olivia O'Leary

But …

MT

The economy is being run soundly. As a matter of fact …

Olivia O'Leary

But inflation is going up!

MT

Inflation is on 4 per cent. Yes, we are having a struggle with it.

Olivia O'Leary

And wages are going up!

MT

Unit labour costs are actually … unit wage costs now are doing quite well, because of the productivity factor.

Olivia O'Leary

The 7 per cent increase in wages, aren't you worried about that? [end p7]

MT

It's wages in relation to output. You just said to me a few minutes ago that there were fewer people in manufacturing industry. That is because there are more labour saving devices. Yes, that is true, but you have to compete in the markets of the world for business. And no amount of what any Government says or promises can alter the fact that someone out there has got to decide whether they are going to buy—you asked me a question, let me finish.

Olivia O'Leary

I'm waiting, Prime Minister!

MT

There's no way in which any Government in this country can influence the way in which the Japanese, or the Germans, or someone out there will say, “Are we going to buy that British good, or are we going to buy from Japan, from Germany, from France?” We've got to be world beaters. And we're getting to be world beaters.

Olivia O'Leary

Can I move on to the question of choice in this society and sometimes the judgements which underline that choice? You've spoken glowingly of the debt that you owe to the state education which you got. You've spoken with great pride of the National Health Service in your hands. And yet, you chose to send your children to private schools, you yourself choose private medical care. It's not much of a vote of confidence in either system, is it?

MT

It is a vote of confidence in a free society. That, in a free society, you're free to spend your own money as you choose. For example, you wouldn't exist unless we had given choice in television. That was a vote of confidence in more choice. Many people said then, “But don't do it. Don't do it. It will undermine all the standards of television which the BBC has built up.” We said, “But we believe in choice. We actually believe in competition.” And of course it works.

Olivia O'Leary

Getting back to the Health Service, getting back to the education service, didn't you make those choices because, basically, you thought you were going to get a better education for your children and a better health service for yourself by going private?

MT

I made the choices I made. I did think it was best for my children that that particular school that they went to was good for them. I made the choice in private … in private medicine. Five million other people make the choice in private medicine …   .

Olivia O'Leary

But does that not suggest that you believe that there is one system for the poor and a better system for those who have the money to pay for it?

MT

[end p8] No, no, no. I do not. There are many, many people who make very considerable sacrifices to send their children to the school of their choice. There are many, many people who, although they are paying heavy taxes and heavy rates, are getting a very bad education for their children. I am trying to help those not in fact, by making them pay for their own education. We have been helping them for a long time with assisted places. Those are actually in private schools, and we're now going to help them by opting out. But if you want to eliminate choice, then you want to go to a Communist society.

Olivia O'Leary

But, Prime Minister, isn't there …

MT

And one moment …

Olivia O'Leary

… only a choice for the people who have the money to pay for it?

MT

No, one moment then. Right, you mean that if you don't have a council house, you actually have the money to pay for a private house, then you really ought not to live in a private house, because everyone can't have it. That would not have got the standard of housing up. You mean that you really shouldn't get a better suit or clothes, very nice, or things, because some people cannot afford to pay for it. How many people would that put out of a job? You mean you shouldn't be able to get a better car, because some people can't have one. You mean you shouldn't be able to get a better carpet …

Olivia O'Leary

But you … you are the Prime Minister. You're the Prime Minister, you're the one …

MT

No, I'm taking you up on having said …

Olivia O'Leary

… who's in charge of these services, and for you to make the very symbolic choice that you made is, as I say, not much of a vote of confidence.

MT

The Health Service has done very much better under my Government than any other. Yes, I do have …

Olivia O'Leary

But you didn't choose it, Prime Minister.

MT

No, I did not choose it. Because I have to go in and say, “I want the day after a certain conference. I want to be in, I want to be in that day, I want to have it done, I want to [end p9] be out the next day.” For that I was paying. For that I paid. Yes, I could have done it another way. I could have used privilege as a Prime Minister. And you would have trounced me if I had. And you would have been right. You would have trounced me. Some people, yes, have taken that road. I have not. No one in this country can ever blame me for having taken a bed away from someone else who wanted it.

Olivia O'Leary

Who …

MT

No one, but no one. Moreover, I pay my dues to the National Health Service like everyone else. I have not used it. I also pay for my own, which mercifully is tiny, because I don't use it, because I'm very, very fit. And I also pay again. Because part of my income I do not take, and that was the equivalent of 100%; in tax. So, on the Health Service, we have done far better than any previous Government. I have never taken a bed away. I have never said, “I am Prime Minister or Minister. I must go in when I want to and have a private room, and the taxpayer's got to pay.” I've said, “No, I'm Prime Minister. Everyone knows that I can afford to pay, and I'm going to pay. I'm not going to take it away from anyone else.”

Olivia O'Leary

What about those who can't? You do an important job, but I'm sure you'd accept that, say, a woman with six children, perhaps an unemployed husband, also does a very important and very responsible job. She's not in a position to choose private health care.

MT

No, it wouldn't in fact have helped her, had I gone and taken a bed that she might want. If, as you know, we all need acute care sometimes. It may be an accident. The National Health Service gives it marvellously. Sometimes that means someone else has to wait, but, I think, your line of argument is a quite simple one. The house is the most important thing in your life. If you … because 27 per cent of people live in council houses, no one should live in a private house. That's your line of argument, because not everyone can afford it. My dear girl, there'd be no progress in this country, no people able to afford television, if that was the case.

Olivia O'Leary

Prime Minister, to move on to defence, can I quote to you something that you said on disarmament? There are many quotable quotes, as you know, from things you have said in the past, but one of the most important was that you said, “Both the President,” referring at that time to President Reagan, “and Mr Gorbachev have said that they want to see a world without nuclear weapons. Let me be practical about it. The knowledge is there to make them, so do not go too far for that pie in the sky, because while everyone would like to see it, I don't believe that it's going to come about.” Is that not an extraordinarily pessimistic world view? I mean, for somebody who is a Christian, and Christians believe in hope. It's part of the Christian ethic that one's hopeful, that one trusts ones fellow men. Is that not a very pessimistic view of the world to take? [end p10]

MT

Did you hope that Hitler wouldn't attack Britain? Do you think it would have helped us, just having hope? Do you think it would have helped the future of Christianity to have it extinguished? Christianity allows self-defence. On your world, we wouldn't be here now. We'd have just sat back and said … some people are pacifists. I respect them for it. They were very courageous, some people, being pacifists. They went into the front line. They did … some of the Quakers treated people. They're very, very brave. But what you're saying is a Stalin, a Hitler—just sit back and hope for the best. No, that is not any belief that I know of Christianity.

Olivia O'Leary

But somebody who trusted in Christianity …

MT

There's a right of self-defence in Christianity.

Olivia O'Leary

… might accept that, by one side deciding to be brave and give up particularly the lethal weapons …

MT

Brave? Brave? Six million Jews were murdered by Hitler! Are you suggesting we weren't right to stop that? Six million were murdered!

MT

But, Prime Minister, that hasn't got anything to do with nuclear weapons.

MT

It has to do with defending yourself. It has this to do with the nuclear. Had Hitler got that atomic weapon first, we should not be here now.

Olivia O'Leary

So do you never see a world in which there will be no nuclear weapons?

MT

I don't know. I do not see it in the coming years. I remember Winston Churchill, who knew a lot about weakness and about appeasement, saying. “Don't ever give up the nuclear weapon until you are sure, absolutely sure, and better than sure, that better means are in your hands of preserving the peace.” Look, I hope for a world without crime. It doesn't mean to say that I can do without a police force, or magistrates courts, or a court of law. I don't sit back and say, “Well, I'm optimistic and hopeful.” Nuclear weapons have preserved the peace. That matters to me. It matters to me tremendously. If a war started, it would be the young people who'd bear the brunt, and it's my duty to that generation, as well as to their parents, and, as you know, it's only when you're a parent that you really know the children are the most important thing in your life. I owe it to the next generation, I owe it to the present young generation, I owe it to their parents to do my utmost to see that peace is kept, and I [end p11] will. And that means the nuclear deterrent. I don't think you can ever disinvent a weapon. You couldn't disinvent dynamite. Again, you cannot disinvent nuclear weapons. If a war started, even if you thought they'd been destroyed, it's easy to keep missiles somewhere …

Olivia O'Leary

Right.

MT

… the nuclear warhead. It would be a race as to who got it first.

Olivia O'Leary

Right. Prime Minister, since we're coming near the end, rightly or wrongly, the criticism has been levelled at you that you seem not to care, that … that the Thatcher attitude … that the attitude created by Thatcherism, so to speak, has been one in which compassion has been seen, perhaps, as something weak, as something wet. That those who are weak, that those who are vulnerable, that those who fail should not be given this compassion, that somehow selfishness has been raised to a virtue. What do you say to those who would put that …?

MT

Well, of course, that is absolute nonsense. If you … the people who accuse me of not caring are the people who have backed every strike, whether it be the coal strike—designed to take away jobs in manufacturing and to bring manufacturing industry to a stop, designed to put an end to heat and light to people's homes and to their schools, merely to further the desires of one particular group of people. It's they who don't care, not me. I fought it, we won. That was real caring.

Olivia O'Leary

Prime Minister, much as though one might like to go on, we're going to have to leave it there and thank you for joining me. That's the end of our series, A Leader for the Nineties. Thank you. Goodbye from me and from the Prime Minister.

MT

Thank you.