Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1988 Jan 25 Mo
Margaret Thatcher

TV Interview for BBC1 Panorama (announces NHS review)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: TV Interview
Venue: No.10 Downing Street
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: David Dimbleby, BBC
Editorial comments: 2130-2210. The interview was broadcast live.
Importance ranking: Key
Word count: 7045
Themes: Education, Higher & further education, Health policy, NHS reforms 1987-90, Private health care, Social security & welfare, Society, Economy (general discussions), Employment, Monetary policy, Pay, Taxation, Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Foreign policy (Western Europe - non-EU), Community charge ("poll tax"), Media, Science & technology, Defence (general), Defence (arms control), Security services, Executive, Conservatism, Leadership

David Dimbleby, BBC

Prime Minister, every week for the past few weeks, you have been at the despatch box in the House of Commons repeating time after time that your Government has spent more on the Health Service than any other government; that there are more nurses than there have ever been before, and week after week people read in their newspapers about closures of wards, about operating theatres not being able to go at full capacity because of a shortage of nurses.

Why are you so adamant that enough has been done and why do you refuse to do more to meet what seems to be an immediate crisis?

Prime Minister

But more is being done, Mr. Dimbleby.

Next year £1100 million more are being spent on the Health Service, added to the previous amounts. That is a lot more than we thought we should be spending this coming year when you and I last met in Downing Street in February 1986, a good deal more. It does not come from the Government - it comes from people. [end p1]

On average, a family in Britain pays now nearly £30 every week to sustain the Health Service. Next financial year, they will be paying nearly £32 a week, so there are increasing resources going into the Health Service and have been every year since we have been in power, very considerable increases.

David Dimbleby, BBC

But despite the increases - and everybody accepts those figures that you give on increases - they say it does not tell the whole picture; it is an older population; there are more sophisticated operations to be done; and the kind of thing that they read about now is that in Bart's Hospital in London, for instance, today, a ward looking after children with cancer having to close and they say it is the shortage of nurses, that is the problem.

Now, my question to you is: given the long-term proposals you have, nevertheless in the short-term is there not an argument for more money than you have promised so far?

Prime Minister

But we have an extra £100 million to get over a difficult period. Nevertheless, the £1100 million extra next year is over and above that.

You spoke about Barthomolew's closure of a ward. Yes, I was very concerned when I heard, very concerned indeed, and so I made enquiries. [end p2]

There are two wards there dealing with children, one a cancer ward and the other of general needs, and they decided to close one. It so happened that they decided to close the cancer ward, but they have made a statement that no child suffering from cancer need fear, because it will be admitted; that child will be admitted to that hospital. So there is no difficulty about that.

What they are trying to do now is what they have done previously. They are trying to reduce the number of ear, nose and throat operations they have to do on children by putting those out, under the National Health Service, to a private hospital.

Yes, you are quite right. The reason is a shortage of nurses and we do have a shortage of nurses, particularly in some specialties in London, not all over the country. There are some 64,000 more nurses than there were when we came in, but there are some shortages in some specialties and it is because of that that we have already taken steps to try to do deal with it.

Management side negotiated with the nurses to say how much extra should be allowed for particular skills which are in short supply. Already more is paid for nurses doing geriatric work, perhaps not enough for nurses doing paediatric work, so we have already got that in hand.

But may I just say this: yes, we do hear about every difficulty such as that, although cancer children will still be admitted, but what we do not hear about are the 45,000 operations that are carried out every week successfully. [end p3]

David Dimbleby, BBC

Well, I am not surprised you do not hear about those, because the people who complain are the people who cannot get their operations done. If people have an operation done, they are not going to be shouting about it.

Prime Minister

Yes, indeed. Believe you me, when you go around hospitals, they are very very grateful and when you tackle the patients they are not dissatisfied with the treatment they receive - they are very very grateful.

David Dimbleby, BBC

Not with the treatment, Prime Minister, but there is rising concern, as you know, in the country - reflected in opinion polls - about your Government, about the Health Service. They see this as the major problem your Government has to tackle.

Prime Minister

Yes, I think they are constantly seeing a particular difficulty as the one which I have indicated, but I have indicated that children with cancer will still be admitted and that other operations will be done as they have been done before, elsewhere, so it will in fact be dealt with. [end p4]

As you know, we are already trying to get down the waiting lists and we have a specific programme for it. It so happens that just this last week I was talking to a surgeon who I knew had a specific allocation to get his own list down. I said: “How is it going?” He said: “It is going very well! After the first nine months, I have got the time which patients previously had to wait down by half!” Now that was a special allocation - £25 million this year - to a number of surgeons and hospitals up and down the country and this is working. Of course, I want them down further!

David Dimbleby, BBC

Do you think the nurses and the doctors who complain - and we read about them and hear from them a great deal - are exaggerating?

Prime Minister

I think that we obviously hear about the difficulties. You do not always hear the true facts. I think people were even more worried about Bart's when they thought that children with cancer would not be admitted, because they did not know about the statement that they would be. I think you often hear one side of the story. Indeed, only this last week I have had to enquire twice because I have been tackled in the House, and the story was very different when I got the facts, from that which was put in the House. I do not think they realise or give enough credit for the tremendous amount that the National Health Service does. [end p5]

Let me give an example.

The acute services are fantastic. If ever there is a disaster, an accident, someone suddenly having a heart attack, a stroke, immediately the services swing into action. People cannot praise them enough. The acute services in emergencies are absolutely fantastic.

We are now tackling, therefore, the waiting lists. We are tackling them. We are putting in more resources and, as I indicated, 45,000 operations a week, and people somehow hear the bad news but they do not necessarily hear all the good - and this is good!

David Dimbleby, BBC

We know, as Ministers in your Cabinet have said, that this problem is not going to go away, and I want to talk to you in just a moment about the long-term, but can we just talk about the nurses for a moment?

Would you commit your Government - and would it not ease a great deal of the disruption there is at the moment - would you commit your Government, as you did last year, to accepting the recommendation on nurses' pay that is put to you?

Prime Minister

No. You cannot automatically commit a government to accepting any recommendation from any sources, including nurses' and the pay review body. [end p6]

David Dimbleby, BBC

But this is meant to be a review body for the nurses. Is it not your responsibility to accept what they say?

Prime Minister

We, in fact, set up the review body for the nurses on the specific grounds that the Royal College of Nurses have never gone on strike. Therefore, they are entitled to a review body.

No, you cannot automatically say you will accept whatever they recommend for a very simple reason. If you have every review body coming in and you say you automatically accept it, and then there are other people in the public service, you have a bounden duty to look at the total burden on the tax-payer. It is not Government that pays - it is the tax-payer.

And just as everyone pays the nurses, pay the police, pay the teachers and nurses do not complain that they are paying too little tax - they complain they are paying too much - so you cannot just say “I will accept anything, whatever happens!” We will have to look at the whole thing when it comes!

David Dimbleby, BBC

Would you give an undertaking that the Government will meet any shortfall in the provision for nurses that results from your acceptance? Can you say even that? [end p7]

Prime Minister

We shall carry on in exactly the same way as we have.

I understand that you think we are in an enviable position. If we are in an enviable position, it is because of eight years' work. It is because of eight years' prudent finance. It is because of eight years of encouraging enterprise. It is because of eight years of growth, which have already enabled us to put the money spent on the Health Service up from £8 billion the day I walked in - the photograph you showed - £8 billion when I walked in, to £22 billion now, and it is no earthly good asking me will I accept this, that or the other. We shall carry on in the way that has given growth, in the way that has enabled more to be spent on the Health Service and more nurses and very considerable increases in pay.

David Dimbleby, BBC

Are you in danger of finding yourself in a Tory “Winter of Discontent” over the Health Service?

Prime Minister

Well I hope not, I hope not very much.

Just take nurses. There are 64,000 more than there were when we came in. Let me just give you one example - it one I sometimes quote in the House - that of a nursing sister, absolutely crucial in the Health Service. [end p8]

Again, the day I walked in that front door, the nursing sister on the top of her scale was paid £4,900 a year, in 1979. In today's money, that would be equal to £8,600 - this is on the top of her scale. She is not paid £8,600 after eight years of Tory Government. On the top of her basic scale, she is paid £12,000 and also …

David Dimbleby, BBC

The Royal College &dubellip; says there is a chronic shortage of nurses despite this.

Prime Minister

And also, the standard working week when we came in was 40 hours. We reduced it to 37½.

Now that has not just come about. It has come about because of eight years of sound government which has got the growth which has enabled that increase.

I do not think myself that we have the right structure on the extra skills, on midwifery, on paedatrics and on various other skills which are short. We are already dealing with that and that will go to the review body, but you see, you cannot do anything unless you pursue the policies which enable people to get the growth. [end p9]

David Dimbleby, BBC

You will understand I must keep moving through this interview.

Prime Minister

Yes, I do. You understand that I must put some of the facts!

David Dimbleby, BBC

Do you rule out meeting the nurses, as the Royal College has asked you to?

Prime Minister

I have met the Royal College of Nurses previously. If anyone really wishes to see me, I always say that they simply must go to the Minister concerned first, because there are seventeen or eighteen Departments, seventeen or eighteen Ministers. If I take it all on my shoulders, people only criticise and John Moorethe Secretary of State for Social Services and the Health Service is meeting the Royal College of Nurses - I think next week. [end p10]

David Dimbleby, BBC

There are people on your backbenches and indeed, it is said in your Cabinet, who would like to see a really radical review of the Health Service now and who complain that you and John Moore, your Secretary of State, seem to be dithering and uncertain what to do.

Why do you rule out a total review of the way the Health Service works, a complete inquiry into the whole thing?

Prime Minister

First, because it would take far too long, far too long.

There was an inquiry set up, a Royal Commission, in May 1976. It reported in July 1979. That is three years.

It said there was no magic wand. It came out and said: “We had no difficulty in believing one witness that the entire national income could be spent on health!” and also it realised that there has to be a limit. Three years!

No! We shall carry on and do things the way we have!

We are looking very carefully at why this vast extra amount which the tax-payers put into the Health Service is not perhaps giving as much as we would expect. It is giving a good deal more - let us face it - it is giving a great deal more, and it is giving a very good service, but not as much as people want or expected, and therefore, we are having a look at how some hospitals use the money much better than others. [end p11]

Indeed, we are already looking at the demands that will come in future, but we know there has to be a limit and therefore we shall continue as we did in education: make our own inquiries, our own consultations. Believe you me, people flood in to see us and of course, John MooreJohn sees them. And then, when we are ready, we shall come out with out own proposals, just exactly as we have done for other things.

David Dimbleby, BBC

Given the scale of increase in demand for the Health Service, is it in your view inevitable that this country moves towards a much greater private element?

We are way behind France, we are way behind Germany, in the amount people spend privately on health care.

Do you want to see the National Health Service paid for by the tax-payer and the private sector paid for by people through health insurance? Do you want to see them come together and the private sector increase?

Prime Minister

You are quite right that all countries which have a National Health Service or a substantial part of their health care in National Health Service, are in difficulty, because the demands are far outrunning the capacity to finance, and I think most of us are having a look at it. [end p12]

You are asking me to come to a conclusion while we are still considering these matters and looking at all possibilities. That I cannot do. I can tell you that John Moore and myself are looking at them very carefully, because what I am concerned with is that people should have the health care. It is a tremendous relief in one's mind that if you have a congenital disease, if you have a sudden accident, if you are struck down by a sudden disease, something totally unexpected, that there is health care available, that it is very very efficient, and one wishes - if we cannot provide enough for people's expectations on the present system - one has got to go to the people and say that and then make some different provision. We are considering all of these things.

David Dimbleby, BBC

And tax relief on insurance is a possibility? Income tax relief?

Prime Minister

We shall consider all of these things. It is our bounden duty to do so. Just as we considered education, just as we considered Community Charge, just as we considered what to do with housing, we are now considering the Health Service, but please let me make it clear: the extra that has been put in could never have been put in without this tremendous growth we have had. [end p13]

Now we shall look at the future - John Moore and myself and the whole of the Cabinet - as thoroughly as we have in other subjects and when we are ready - and it will be far quicker I believe than any Royal Commission - we shall come forward with our proposals for consultation and should they meet with what people want, then translate them into legislation.

David Dimbleby, BBC

Well let us come to this economy, which you describe as being the way in which the Health Service has had the funding that it has had.

Wages, first of all. Are you concerned that people in Britain are now in danger of putting forward wage demands that will lead to increased inflation, increased problems with the balance of payments; that their expectations now of the economy, after the growth we have had, are dangerously high?

Prime Minister

At the moment, the increases are going faster in the public sector than in the private sector, because the private sector is governed by the price it can get for its goods.

Yes, one is always worried if your wage costs are going ahead faster than those of your competitors. [end p14]

As a matter of fact, the productivity of manufacturing and in services has gone up enormously and therefore the unit wage costs have not been rising anything like as fast as wages.

David Dimbleby, BBC

So you are not deeply worried?

Prime Minister

We are watching that very carefully, but as you know, in the past year it is public sector wages that have gone up faster and, of course, that is a matter of concern for very obvious reasons.

David Dimbleby, BBC

You do not think there are signs of a bonanza? There is a Ford strike threatened with 90&pcnt; voting in favour; Arthur Scargill has just been returned as President of the NUM, saying he wants wage increases and refuses what was called “the new realism”. Do these things disturb you?

Prime Minister

No, I do not believe there is a sign of a bonanza. I believe that there is a new realism. People know that we have to earn our way in the world, and may I say - because you said something in the introduction which I wanted just to take up; you are giving the impression there is a great deal of extra money to spend - let me say this: [end p15]

This country has come to have its growth, come to get inflation down, has come to have a sound monetary policy, a sound financial policy, because we have been very cautious. Euphoria, high spending, these are not for us. We have to have the same wisdom and caution that have got us where we are now. It has been a very good policy and I think people would be very well advised to temper their expectations.

We have to earn our keep. The Chancellor does not have any money. Every penny piece he has to get from people who also want a higher standard of living for themselves and want, in fact, therefore, to pay lower tax - otherwise, if they do not, they demand higher wages.

David Dimbleby, BBC

Do you, as Prime Minister, now fear - or perhaps worry - that the rate of growth is going to slow down very fast during the coming year because of the impact of the stock market crashes all round the world in October?

Prime Minister

Not necessarily because of the impact of that. We have had a year of very fast growth. Nigel LawsonThe Chancellor has made it perfectly clear that he does not think that that growth can be maintained this coming year and that it will be slower. It will still be increasing growth on top of this year's growth, and we believe that industry is now much fitter, much more competitive. Other [end p16] countries know that and, of course, our service industries are excellent, and the two will give us greater growth next year, and it is that greater growth that is enabling more to be spent on the Health Service and more to be spent on other matters as well, but we shall not maintain the same rate of growth that we have had this year.

David Dimbleby, BBC

Do you think unemployment may start to rise again?

Prime Minister

On the rate of growth that we are expecting, I do not believe so.

I did just look up what has happened since we last met in this room and it is interesting: there are half a million more jobs than there were in February 1986, so that is very good. It has not been created necessarily by Government. It has been created by enterprising people.

David Dimbleby, BBC

No doubt the Chancellor will be looking at all these things when he decides what to do about tax in the Budget, and I do not suppose you are going to tell us what tax rate there will be after the Budget.

Prime Minister

I would be in trouble if I did - even if I knew! [end p17]

David Dimbleby, BBC

I would like to ask you this though: is your ambition still 25 pence as the tax rate at the end of this third term of a Tory Government, or are you looking for a lower tax rate than that?

Prime Minister

I suspect that you are asking me to say something about the Budget. That I cannot say!

We would like to continue to reduce the standard rate of tax. After all, people work for an increasing standard of living for their own families. It is important that they continue to believe that that is possible, and it is important, therefore, that we continue to regard the money as primarily theirs and we only take away that amount that we think it reasonable to take away to run all the services.

So yes, we want to get down - and continuously get down - the standard rate of tax.

David Dimbleby, BBC

I want to ask you this:

You have been in office for eight years. The country has grown richer during that period. All the statistics show though, that the poorer families with children have actually grown poorer over the last five years - not the pensioner, but the family with two children have actually grown marginally poorer. [end p18]

Prime Minister

No, I do not believe they have grown poorer. All groups have actually had an increase, including those on Supplementary Benefit.

Certainly - I think right the way through the scale - they have all benefited from the increasing prosperity.

David Dimbleby, BBC

I do not want to argue statistics with you - I do not want to bandy statistics with you - but there is evidence that people, after tax and after benefit, the lowest 20&pcnt; of earning families, with two children, are worse off, perhaps because they are not earning …

Prime Minister

The complaints we get about the people most in need of help are from the people who say: “It is not worthwhile our working because we could in face get as much if we were on Supplementary Benefit!”

Now that is a very different story from the one which you are indicating and because we are getting these complaints, as you know, we are changing the whole nature of income support to people on comparatively low wages, to make the gap between what they can get if they are on Supplementary Benefit and what they get in work wider. [end p19]

David Dimbleby, BBC

But the point in the long run - talking now about this Parliament or maybe even beyond - is: is the Thatcher commitment to enterprise and to making the rich richer, which they have certainly become under your prime ministership, is the consequence of that that there is a permanent band, rather like there is in the United States, of the population that remains poor, that does not get the same expansion in their income, and is it fair that that should be so?

Prime Minister

No, it is not. Look! You say I have made the rich richer. I have done no such thing! I have enlarged opportunity.

David Dimbleby, BBC

Well you cut tax for the richer!

Prime Minister

I have enlarged opportunity. I have given incentives, because unless this country is a country to which able people want to come and in which able people want to stay, then we do not have the motor to pull the rest of us up.

I want scientists to come back to this country; I want people in entertainment to stay in this country; I want the best managers to stay in this country; I want the best surgeons to be in this country. [end p20]

David Dimbleby, BBC

But you are talking about success! What about failure? What about the people who cannot do that?

Prime Minister

But you were talking about success and you were complaining that highly successful people have continued to stay in this country and have done well.

Unless highly successful people - including people like your goodself - stay in this country and do well &dubellip; they are the motor which pulls the rest of us up.

If you say to a young person: “Would you rather go to work for a quite brilliant manager, a brilliant industrialist, with tons of new ideas or would you rather go for one who is really rather a has-been?” they will tell you which one they want to go to.

Do not run down the able people! Do not run down those who build up, can start with nothing and build up a big business!

Do not run down the people who can create musicals, take them the world over!

Do not run down people who can create great financial centres in London.

They are the people who actually help to create the prosperity and employ the rest of us.

Out of their increased earnings, we are able to take tax and in fact give more to the Health Service, more to pensions and so on. [end p21]

David Dimbleby, BBC

One last point on the poor, the position of the poor!

You are committed to the Community Tax, what everybody else calls the Poll Tax - a flat-rate tax which will therefore be more burdensome for the poor than the better off, because it is not a graduated tax as the Tories originally intended back in 1974.

You have now seen, since the Election, a massive rejection by people as they discovered about this tax, now running at 64&pcnt;, and I think tomorrow's Gallup Poll is going to say 64&pcnt; of Tory MPs are worried about it.

Are you absolutely, firmly, unambiguously committed to a straight flat-rate tax or are you prepared to consider some of the graded Community Tax - Poll Tax - schemes which have been put forward?

Prime Minister

It is not a straight flat-rate tax, as you know, Mr. Dimbleby.

People who are poorer get up to 80&pcnt; rebate. That is not flat-rate. You get an 80&pcnt; rebate if you are poorer, and if you are on Supplementary Benefit, then you get an extra amount of money to pay the 20&pcnt; - an amount equal to the 20&pcnt; - so in fact, you would not be landed with any increase, unless you were in a very very high-spending authority, when you might have a little bit over average. You cannot say that no account is taken of the poor. [end p22]

Now, there is one point which people have not really got hold of:

The Community Charge meets only a quarter of local government expenditure. Another quarter comes from industry, and approximately the other half comes from the tax-payer. The tax-payer pays progressively throughout the piece and the tax-payer also pays Community Charge on a basis which permits 80&pcnt; rebates.

David Dimbleby, BBC

It is proving the least popular of all the measures you are proposing!

Prime Minister

I think it is because people have not yet fully understood.

Certainly, there will be a number of people paying the Community Charge who have never paid anything before, but why should, in fact, people who benefit from local government not pay something towards the cost of it? It has been very unjust, very unjust indeed. The rate-payer has borne an undue amount of the burden and a lot of people paid nothing, and we are remedying that injustice.

David Dimbleby, BBC

Prime Minister, I want to turn now to foreign affairs and defence and quote to you, in the context of East-West arms reductions, something the Russian Prime Minister said last week: [end p23]

“The Soviet Union would never allow any NATO country to use a pause in arms control talks such as we have at the moment, to strengthen their nuclear defence!”

He said it would be a very dangerous trend which would set back everything achieved.

Now, we know from you that you do think the nuclear defences of the West need strengthening within the context of that treaty.

What is your reaction to the Soviet Union saying it would never allow it and it is a very dangerous trend?

Prime Minister

They have neither power nor authority to say that, nor to do it.

What the Soviet Union must expect from us is what we expect from the Soviet Union: that having negotiated a treaty, strictly with verification, we adhere to that treaty meticulously - and we shall.

That treaty we have negotiated is a good one. It refers to one kind of weapon only - intermediate nuclear weapons, land-based. That is all.

For the rest, we have a bounden duty, if we believe in our way of life, to see that we can properly defend it. You are not properly and adequately defended enough to deter an aggressor unless your things are up-to-date. Any potential aggressor will see that his are. [end p24]

I do not dictate to Mr. Gorbachev what he can and cannot do. We will negotiate, we will make a treaty, we will have verification procedures and we will watch one another - but no-one can dictate to us what we are entitled to do …

David Dimbleby, BBC

Are the Russians bluffing, do you think?

Prime Minister

&dubellip; to look after our defence.

David Dimbleby, BBC

Is it bluff?

Prime Minister

We will keep our treaty.

I think it is a certain amount of propaganda to make people just a little bit perhaps fearful.

I know their propaganda. They are very very good at it, but equally, we take the measure of these people.

We have reached an agreement. It is a good one. We hope to go on reaching other agreements.

And the agreement we have reached means that they take down 1400 nuclear warheads and we take down 100. It is good and they will go on and there will be other agreements, but you negotiate them. [end p25]

But no-one is entitled to tell us what to do in order to be able to defend our own people, but let every nation know we shall defend our liberty and justice properly and effectively.

David Dimbleby, BBC

Over a decade ago, you said and talked frequently about the Soviet Union being bent on world domination. You now seem to talk rather differently about Mr. Gorbachev.

Do you think that the danger has receded, that we should be more sanguine about the Soviet Union than you wanted people to be a decade ago?

Prime Minister

Externally, no, I do not think we should.

I think that what Mr. Gorbachev is doing internally is very bold, very courageous. It will be very difficult to bring about. I hope he succeeds, because it will enlarge freedom in the Soviet Union and every enlargement of freedom enhances freedom for mankind.

We shall watch very carefully his stance on human rights because he signed the Helsinki Accord, and we are watching extremely carefully his policy on external affairs, because so far we do not see very much change.

They are still in Afghanistan; they are talking about coming out, but they are still there with more troops than they had in when they went in. They are still supporting Viet Nam in Cambodia. They are still supporting the Cubans, both in Angola and in many other [end p26] countries in Africa. They are still heavily supplying arms to countries like Ethiopia, to countries like Mozambique. These countries need food - they are having to pay heavily for arms.

They are still in fact very very active throughout the Middle East.

We are watching very carefully. You do not trust or take anything on trust. You watch and you learn and you condition your actions accordingly to defend our own way of life and our own interests.

David Dimbleby, BBC

Are you worried that perhaps under a new President, perhaps under this President, as the talks on reducing arms go on, that the United States - itself facing economic problems now - will find itself less committed to the defence of Europe and has the time perhaps come when Britain, in its long-term interests, should be looking at perhaps a nuclear arrangement with France, rather than depending solely on America for our nuclear protection in the way we do?

Prime Minister

It has always been part of my strategy and my tactics and my policy, of almost every utterance I have ever made, to make it perfectly clear - both here and in the United States - that the frontier of freedom across the European Continent is not only Europe's frontier of freedom - it is the United States' frontier [end p27] of freedom. That is why we keep 66,000 troops - army and air force - on the German frontier. That is why the United States keeps 330,000, because it is their frontier of freedom.

David Dimbleby, BBC

Why do you believe they will go on accepting that? You say it! Why should they go on believing it?

Prime Minister

I believe they will because I believe they know it is their frontier of freedom.

They do not have a frontier of freedom across their continent and I hope to goodness that they will never have problems from Central America, but I believe they know that if anything happened to Europe it would endanger freedom in America too and that we have kept world peace, we have kept a Third World War from starting by standing together, and therein lies our hope for the future, and I believe that most of them fully understand and appreciate that.

David Dimbleby, BBC

You do not want us, in other words, to start negotiations with the French as a fallback position in case the American view did change? [end p28]

Prime Minister

We have our own independent nuclear deterrent and so do the French. We shall continue to try to get more cooperation on NATO equipment, because it is much more economical to do it. That is not precluded. Indeed, we are actively pursuing that course. But not only with the French, but also with the United States or other collaborative arrangements.

David Dimbleby, BBC

Prime Minister, in our last moments, I want to come back to you and your Government and your ninth term [sic] in office.

Sir John Nott, a Cabinet Minister in your first Government, said that you were in danger of becoming a centralist and a slightly authoritarian government now. That you were looking for dragons to slay and drawing power to the centre.

What is your comment on that?

Prime Minister

You have just been asking me what I am going to do about the Health Service, as if you expect me to draw more power to the centre.

It is not my purpose to draw more power to the centre.

In education, we are taking it further out, because we are saying to parents: “You can opt out with your schools!” That is not taking power to the centre - it is putting power further away. [end p29]

We are trying to spread capital ownership. That is giving more power and more influence to people.

We are trying to reduce the amount of taxation in proportion to the national income. That is more power to the people.

I am not a centralist. My whole belief is in spreading capital among the people; that freedom incurs responsibility, and it is more opportunity and it is that policy which has made us so much more powerful a nation, so much more powerful economically, so much more on the social services.

David Dimbleby, BBC

Does not the attempt to change the basis of power in education - I would just like to stick with that for a moment - both in terms of schools that opt out and in terms of your plans for the universities, mean that in the throes of doing this you have actually taken powers to the Ministry, to the Secretary of State for Education, which they never had before and which has caused an uproar, particularly in the universities, because in the end, the schools that opt out get their money direct from Whitehall and have to report back to Whitehall and the universities are now going to have to report to Whitehall. Are you happy with that?

Prime Minister

The schools which opt out have a greater degree of responsibility and liberty than they had under the local authorities, if they choose to take it - much greater - and I [end p30] hope they will choose to take it many of them, because I am very anxious that more and more people should exercise responsibility.

On the universities, we always had those powers. By convention, we took the advice of the University Grants Committee, but I think it is reasonable to expect in a highly technological world that when the tax-payer provides so much money to universities they are entitled to say: “Look! Are the universities thinking about providing engineers, people for long-term technology? Are they thinking of working more closely to manufacturing industry? Are they thinking of providing the training for the people we will need?”

That is all that is happening. It is a very very broad brush indeed.

David Dimbleby, BBC

One of your former advisers here at No. 10 described the Bill for universities as a large rat with teeth dripping blood and saw in it a danger.

Prime Minister

How absurd! You do not really take that seriously, do you?

David Dimbleby, BBC

And saw in it a danger, not necessarily for you and your Government, but for the principle of non-centralised control, for other governments which might have other policies from yours. [end p31]

Prime Minister

Look! The control was exercised through a body set up by Government and whom people appointed by Government, through the University Grants Committee. The powers were always with Government.

There was a Croham Report - one of the very sort of reports that you wanted for the Health Service. The Croham Report, we accepted their recommendations and now we are being blamed for it.

But we have no wish to have intimate control over universities in any way. We do have a wish that insofar as tax-payers' money goes that they really should produce sufficient engineers, sufficient scientists, for our needs and it is very very broad, the requirements that we are putting upon them, and we think that this country has had marvellous inventors, marvellous research, but somehow the universities have never got sufficiently into translating that research into prosperity, and we really hope they will do so - and many of them are really looking forward to being more active between manufacturing industry and themselves.

David Dimbleby, BBC

I want to put another question about you yourself, because you have been here in No. 10 now eight and a half years.

Prime Minister

It has gone very quickly, hasn't it? [end p32]

David Dimbleby, BBC

It has. The interview you mean?

Prime Minister

No, the eight and a half years!

David Dimbleby, BBC

The eight and a half years! I would not want to comment on that.

One of your backbenchers came to see you the other day and he said afterwards - I quote him - he was truly shocked by your distance from the things that move us - he was speaking for himself - as Members of Parliament.

Are you becoming, as I think some of your backbenchers think, too isolated here in Downing Street, too much of a one-woman band?

Prime Minister

I was equally shocked by what Richard Shepherdhe said. Fortunately, I had two other people there who know just exactly how the interview was handled, and may I say it was on a security matter?

Let me say this: ordinary folk - I reckon the Government are far more in touch with the people of this country over security than many people in the media. Ordinary people expect us to have security services. They expect the people who work in them to keep [end p33] their secrets all their lives, and they understand why we say that there will be no security services unless people can keep their secrets totally to themselves. We have practically no problem from ordinary people like this, who say: “We expect you to have security services; we expect them to be secret; get on with it!” and it is people who want to open up everything who are out of touch.

David Dimbleby, BBC

You do not want things opened up?

Prime Minister

Of course I do not want a security service - a secret service - opened up. How can you have a security service if it is opened up?

In the end, as I trusted Merlyn Rees, when I was in Opposition, he was Home Secretary, to use any powers that they may have with restraint and with reasonableness.

So I hope people will trust us in the same way, because we watch these things very carefully - but you will not have a security service if you try to prise everything open and if people talk. [end p34]

David Dimbleby, BBC

Can I very briefly ask you whether you consider the proposal that that MP put forward - joint discussions about your proposals on the Secrets Act between the parties before the Bill goes through?

Prime Minister

We put out our views, as I have already indicated. We shall put them out in a White Paper and then people will have abundant time to discuss.

David Dimbleby, BBC

Right!

Can I ask you this?

Lord Whitelaw retired recently and some people say that this has left you vulnerable in the sense that there is nobody now who will really stand up to you in Cabinet. I said you have become a one-woman band &dubellip; that there is a real danger that you become the identity of conservatism, not your Cabinet and not the party.

Prime Minister

This is nonsense!

Yes, I do drive ideas through which I believe in passionately and I should never have got them through unless most of the Cabinet believe in each one passionately and the others, if they might disagree with some particular thing, went along with the over-whelming majority. [end p35]

Yes, I do drive through things which I believe in passionately. What else do you expect of a Prime Minister?

I am not here just to be a Chairman. I am here because I believe in things. I am here because we are always thinking forward, because we are always thinking of the new policies for the next generation - as we shall on the Health Service - and we shall do it, as we have with other things, and it has been successful.

Has it been successful for me? Yes, it has. Does that matter? What matters to me far more is Britain's standing in the world and we have standing in the world because we sorted our own problems as other people have not been prepared to and because we said to the British people: “The method we use is it is in the British character to take responsibility, to show initiative, to show enterprise, rise to everything that is within you!” and that is what they have done!

David Dimbleby, BBC

Prime Minister, thank you very much!

Prime Minister

Thank you!