Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1988 Jan 27 We
Margaret Thatcher

Interview for Daily Star

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: No.10 Downing Street
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: Brian Hitchen, The Star
Editorial comments:

1015-1100.

Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 6637
Themes: Health policy, NHS reforms 1987-90, Voluntary sector & charity, Industry, Public spending & borrowing, Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Foreign policy (Africa), Foreign policy (Middle East), Commonwealth (South Africa), Housing, Law & order, Conservatism, Leadership, Autobiographical comments, Famous statements by MT (discussions of)

Brian Hitchen, Daily Star

When does your day start?

Prime Minister

It depends. Some days, I work extremely late at night. Other days, I find that I am slowing down work and then will go to bed and get up early in the morning, which I did this morning. We had the dinner last night and I came back and did some work, but I found I was slowing down and so I went to bed and got up not terribly early this morning, just about half-past six.

If we do it that way, which I am much beginning to prefer, you can do some of the routine when you are tired, but if you have got some real thinking to do or you have got, really, to go through the papers for meetings where you have got to squeeze out of your mind some new idea or something for a speech … you know, the rarest currency of all is the idea that sort of unlocks the problem or even asking the right question& … you really have got to be fresh for that and you have got to reverse the order of the day and start work early in the morning, so you have done quite a bit before you come down. [end p1]

This morning, I had to go out at a quarter-past eight, so I knew that I really must get quite a bit of work done and I knew that I would do it much faster, and that fits in actually very well. Indeed, we are doing that more and more, because I get the early six o'clock news, get the farming and then, you know, there is that lovely little bit “Prayer For The Day” at 6.25 or 6.30. up straight away! Bath and dress quickly, and work!

Brian Hitchen, Daily Star

Do you have breakfast?

Prime Minister

I am afraid I do not. Everyone says the most important thing to do is to have breakfast, but actually I have just a glass of spring water with two vitamin C in it and a cup of black coffee and perhaps an apple, but always something … ;if it is anything, it is fresh fruit. It may be grapefruit, it may be apple, but it is fresh fruit.

Brian Hitchen, Daily Star

Well, it certainly seems to work for you!

Prime Minister

Yes, it works!

And then some days, on Tuesdays and Thursday, when we are answering questions, we only have a very very light lunch and again, [end p2] if you have got like questions in the House or a major speech to make, you do not want a heavy lunch. I just have some soup and fresh fruit again.

I have noticed that the bloodstream, when you want it concentrated, you cannot have it going to the tummy after a heavy lunch! Heavy lunches, you see, are very very bad for you. Or if you are speaking at a dinner, you do not have too much to eat at the dinner.

Brian Hitchen, Daily Star

Well, that answers a lot of my questions. I had often wondered, sincerely, how you started your day and it always irritates me when our people come back from an interview with anyone and do not know what they have for breakfast, because I figure they have not asked the right questions at that time!

Prime Minister

I sometimes say to Denis ThatcherDenis, you know: “When, eventually, we retire, I think the thing to do will be to get up and have a really good breakfast!” As a matter of fact, the British menu for breakfast, I think, is one of the great culinary gifts of the British to the world, and I think the best meal, which we tend to have on Saturday night, is bacon and egg, either with tomatoes or mushrooms, and I think it is quite the best meal. [end p3]

Brian Hitchen, Daily Star

And you have that on Saturday night?

Prime Minister

I do not have it on Saturday night, but as I said, I think when we retire, if ever, we will have a good breakfast - fresh fruit and bacon eggs and brown toast and marmalade or honey, and then we will have no lunch, and then we will have a light evening meal. However, that is in the dim, distant future …

Brian Hitchen, Daily Star

I hope it is a long way off, Prime Minister!

Prime Minister

But it is basically, I think, a very good thing, but as you get older you do not need as much food. The thing is really that sometimes your hunger exceeds the food you need.

Off the record material removed.

Brian Hitchen, Daily Star

The Health Service boasts that it is the largest employer in Europe. I do not remember how many people they do employ.

Prime Minister

Oh, one-and-a-quarter million. [end p4]

Brian Hitchen, Daily Star

One-and-a-quarter million.

Prime Minister

I think it is one of the largest in the world.

Brian Hitchen, Daily Star

Do you think it is a reasonable boast? Should they have so many people?

Prime Minister

I do not think it is necessarily a boast, but if you have a very very large organisation you have to break it down into working, operating, management units. I mean, if you think, we only have in our Armed Forces about 330,000 and you break that down into regiments, into smaller groups - and I often thought that the Armed Forces are very good at management - but really, one-and-a-quarter million, you think: “My goodness! That will be impossible to manage unless we break it down into units, unless each are given clear objectives, clear costings!” and I am afraid that has not necessarily happened and the management, in spite of the initiatives and the costings, they are not always sure of how much things coast, which is a very bad principle.

And so, I am not sure it is a boast. It signals to the person that there is a very great management problem right at the outset. [end p5]

Brian Hitchen, Daily Star

In your new look at the Health Service, do you envisage possible privatisation of things like the people who make the bread?

Prime Minister

In a way, that is already being done because it is already contracted out - quite a bit of it. The important thing is to get best value for money. That is what really matters.

So we shall be looking at many things, but fine! In many cases, it does make sense not necessarily to have your own catering staff, but to buy it in from someone who know their costings, who are already doing other things, so you can usually then manage to get the service for a smaller amount of money and I think that that makes sense and, indeed, they are already saving quite a lot of money.

That money does not come back to the Exchequer. It goes straight back and they can do more with it!

Brian Hitchen, Daily Star

As part of your “Power to the People” policy &dubellip; I mean, you are not a centralist … you give people the power to do their own things.

Prime Minister

Well, that is the whole of my belief. [end p6]

Brian Hitchen, Daily Star

Yes, I know.

Prime Minister

You spread the decisions, you spread the responsibility, you give people a chance to build up their own capital. You spread it, because the other side of the coin of freedom - and it is a coin with two sides, you cannot take one without the other - is freedom implies responsibility, and you must be prepared to accept it, and I think, you know, when people have lived in a society which is free and they have accepted responsibility, they would hate to go back to anything also which just treated them as ciphers.

Brian Hitchen, Daily Star

Yes, quite right, absolutely!

What about the burden on the Health Service of people who are feeling that many hands are going into the pot that have not necessarily contributed to the pot in the first place?

A lot of people - ordinary people - feel rather strongly about this.

Prime Minister

Look! I can understand that, because people say why does not the Government do this? The Government has no money, and some people seen to judge morality in politics by how deeply you can put your hand into the citizen's pocket. [end p7]

That is not what Parliament was set up for. It was set up to constrain the power of the Executive and when we take away money - as we have to for defence, for the police, the central social services, for education - we have a trust to see that it is well used.

Now, to come back to your question about the Health Service, may I put it this way?

Just supposing in the many interviews that I had in the Election in 1997 I had said to people: “We are now spending £8 billion on the Health Service. That is what you the citizens are spending. It is about £11 a week, on average, for every family in the country, tax!” Just supposing I had said: “If you put me in power for, say, something like eight or nine years, I promise you…” - although it is not my habit to give promises, I would never have said it - “I promise you that at the end of that time there will be spent on the Health Service not £8 billion, but £22 billion, and that will be way, way way above inflation and we will have 64,000 more nurses” - 64,000 it is a lot; 64,000 is quite a sizeable town. So “a fantastic amount more money, a very much larger number of nurses and more doctors, 7,000 or 8,000 more doctors and dentists, and the nurses will have a lower working week - not 40 hours basic, but 37½

They would have said: “Good Heavens! We shall have no problems at all with the Health Service!” then, and yet that is what has happened: a fantastic amount more money over and above inflation - an extra 30&pcnt; - all the nurses paid a great deal more. [end p8] A nursing sister: for every £5 she was paid in 1997, she is paid £12 now, and yet people are entitled to ask and, indeed, I keep saying: “But why, with all this, are there still complaints?”

Certainly, they have got a lot more out of it. I mean, I do remind people that the acute services are absolutely fantastic. If there is an accident, if there is a disaster, these services all swing into action. They are fantastic! That is an enormous benefit, no-one should ever underestimate it. Someone has a sudden heart attack at home, in the street; the ambulance comes, they are taken to hospital; they get all the attention. They come out and they say: “The National Health Service is marvellous!” No-one should underestimate that, no-one, and everyone has access to a doctor, family practitioner service.

It is in the waiting lists that the problems occur and they are grievous, but really, one feels that somehow, with all of that, and a million-and-a-quarter people on it and a fantastic number of new hospitals, that we ought to have solved them. Really, what we are saying is: “Now, why haven't we? Where is the blockage?” and sometimes, you know, you will go to the Health Service and say: “Well, how much did this operation cost you? How much did it cost you to do these things?” because if you do not keep control of costs, you know, it is not being effective in that, and they do not always know. Why is it that we still have complaints and, really, what is the best way to tackle it. [end p9]

But we had already begun to realise that some of the questions we began to ask we were not getting answers to, so we had the management initiative with Sir Roy Griffiths and we are not completely on top of that yet, and we are still not completely on top of costings.

I re-read this last week-end, because I have been very perturbed about it, an official history of the Health Service. do you know, originally, in 1947-48, their highest estimate of what it would cost was £230 million a year. By 1951, it was £600 million and, remember, they were already having rows about the cost, when Nye Bevan resigned. There have been rows about the cost ever since!

Really, as I say, the £11 that there was in 1979, on average, which each family put in to sustain the Health Service, has this last year been £30 and this coming financial year it is going to be £32. Now, that is a lot of money and that is before they have paid a single thing for education, for pensions, for police, for defence, for the environment and all the other things.

so we first have to ask: “Well, why is it?” I know there are a lot more new things now and the ease with which people are able to think about a hip operation, a cataract, I mean, it was undreamed of years ago, and we save now 3,000 babies a year that would not have survived even ten years ago, and the cardiac operations. [end p10]

But I know - which is the other thing - and everyone knows that what you can budget for something is limited and, therefore, that is another reason why we have to look at it.

Sometimes you will find that a local health authority is saying: “Look! We have got a list, but there is a private hospital. I wonder if we could contract with them. It would not be cheaper for us to contract to get the list down because our surgeons cannot do it. Let us take a bit of money and see if we can get the list down!” In some, they do not always know the cost of the operations and if you do not always know the cost of the operations and if you do not keep track of your costs the tendency is that you are wasting money, you are not using it to the best advantage.

So with all this - the nurses have over 30&pcnt; more in pay than they used to have in real terms over and above inflation - why the number of complaints?

Although, let me say this, and the polls show it:

You go round and ask the people who have been in hospital, or who are in hospital, 80&pcnt; of them will say how very satisfied they are and where the complaints come is sometimes in the way in which they have to wait in out-patients, because they say: “Look! I had to come this morning and I was told to come today and I have been waiting around for five or six hours! Surely they could have said either come in the first half of the morning or the last half or the first half of the afternoon or the last half of the afternoon, so that I did not have to hang around wasting my time. I understand [end p11] the doctors are busy!” They sometimes say: “But you know what it is like having to take practically a whole day off from work and hang around!” and that tends to be where they get the complaints and I think more and more hospitals are trying to have some kind of time spread within which people come and not just wait, and sometimes local doctors in surgeries too are trying to get more appointments, so it is more consideration for each other.

Brian Hitchen, Daily Star

I think that is fine!

Do you envisage a time when perhaps if, say, in Eastbourne, there is an availability for hip operations that they would be sending them perhaps from Leeds or whatever?

Prime Minister

That is what should happen. Someone who lives in Leeds may have a relative in Eastbourne. It is much more likely to happen with adjacent…but I tell you what we have not got. I thought this was beginning to happen, then all of a sudden someone comes to me - this is why it is so absolutely vital to get about and so vital to have a constituency, so vital to go and visit and see so many people - they say but don't you realise they do not get the money transferred with the patient. It can take up to two years and there is a great big argy-bargy about accounting and so on, and really, it makes you very impatient if you are in my position, and you say: [end p12] “Well, for Heaven's sake, go and sort it out! Why haven't you? You bring that to me! You should sort it out yourselves! Good Heavens, you are a great big regional management board; just sort it out!” and so it is not happening as much as it should.

Now, sometimes people do not want to move, but other times, you know, they would far rather get rid of the pain. People have relatives all over the country and that should happen, but we did have a little bit of experience with our waiting list initiative. Instead of just pouring money in and disappearing, because you know we put an extra £800 million in this year, next year £1100 million - it is a lot of money and everyone says: “Now, what are we going to get for it? Is it just going to be poured in, everyone going to get more for doing the same and no better service or is it literally going to secure the midwives and the paediatric nurses … we are paying more the skill which we need or is it going to go in to get the waiting lists down? so when we have a waiting list initiative and we specifically give money, to say: Now“, how many patients can you deal with for that?” and in one specialist hospital in London we gave money for a waiting list, first thinking they had a waiting list and second, people would be very keen to go to that hospital - it was quite a well-known one - and then we discovered they had not got a waiting list and so, quite rightly, they went out to surgeons who they knew had a waiting list and said: “Look! We have facilities and we have money and we have spare capacity. Would some of your patients like to come in and have it done?” and some of the patients in this particular speciality said they would rather [end p13] stay on the surgeons! waiting lists and, in the end, we had to take that waiting-list money away and distribute it amongst the surgeons.

It happens sometimes in other cases, you know, they would rather say: “Please let me get this done!” but it was interesting, because I think it indicated something else: most of us have a kind of ideal about health and in those of us who are older it comes from the family doctor and you all saw your family doctor. You went to see him in his surgery; if you were ill, he came to see you. It was always he or his partner and be had known you for a long time and you had this one-to-one and if you needed any treatment, he would say: “Now look! Go to the hospital and I will give you a note and you will see a certain surgeon and then he will look after you!” and somehow, I think what worries people is that sometimes we have lost this one-to-one and the thing is how to get it back.

But you do see it sometimes that some people will say - a cataract or hip - “Well, he may be a very good doctor, but I do not know him. I would rather stay with you!” and that is a factor and if the patient has confidence in that doctor, then it is a fact you take into account, but also sometimes your general practitioner or your own surgeon will say: “Now look! I know that other doctor. He is extremely good!” and then you could do it, but I think that we must get this habit; one is very anxious that the pain should be stopped as soon as possible. [end p14]

Brian Hitchen, Daily Star

No matter where people have to go to do it. Fine!

Prime Minister, thank you very much! I wonder if we might turn to the situation in Israel at the moment.

It seems to me that there is a tremendous Islamic revolution going on that is quite dangerous and I wonder if some of us are not guilty of perhaps looking one-sidedly on the Left Bank at the moment - on the West Bank, I beg your pardon.

It seems that there are youths throwing stones that can provoke an incident which will be televised all round the world.

Is this not perhaps being unfair?

Prime Minister

What I call the “oxygen of publicity”.

Certainly, I think that is so, but I think there is something deeper than that.

You and I believe in self-determination, that is fundamental in the United Nations Charter. We have it, Israel has it, the Palestinians do not have it, and I do sometimes say to Israel, for whom I have the highest possible regard: “You cannot have self-determination for your own people and deny it to others! You cannot”

In the Camp David settlement, under President Carter's time, between Egypt and Israel, Israel recognised the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people. [end p15]

Now, Israel knows that Gaza and the West Bank do not belong to Israel legally and it knows that it cannot just annex them and knows that even now, while they are there just temporarily under Israeli control, that they cannot give them all a vote for the Knesset in Israel, because they are not full members of Israel. You have therefore got a festering grievance.

Now, if you have a legitimate, festering grievance and do nothing about it, then trouble tends to break out and I am totally and utterly against violence as you know. I never and do not support it, but again, the other side to that coin is where there is a legitimate grievance you have to make strenuous efforts to resolve it.

I have been making strenuous efforts, as you know. I said we will never negotiate with the PLO until they reject violence as a course of action and we made an arrangement that two of them were going to come here on the grounds that they rejected violence. At the last moment they said they could not. That was a great disappointment, but all our efforts have been and all my conversations, whenever I have seen the Ronald ReaganPresident, I have said: “Look! We simply cannot leave the Middle East alone! It is only the United States that can persuade Israel to negotiate. The Arab people are coming together to sort out this Palestinian problem. There is a solution.

It is that the West Bank, as you know, when Palestine broke up and we left Palestine &dubellip; because you see, do not forget we have a historic responsibility for this problem. We came out of [end p16] Palestine without the problem being solved, so we have a historic responsibility. There is a solution.

The West Bank, at that time, went to Jordan. Gaza actually belonged to Egypt, but the solution would be for those territories to be in a confederation with Jordan under King Hussein and we really must work towards that, and as you know, I was the first head of government of another country to say: “Look! The world takes the view that the time has come for Israel and King Hussein of Jordan, with some Palestinians who reject violence, to negotiate bilaterally - no-one else can do it - to solve this problem!”

It is not that the international conference would negotiate or mediate or veto. They would say: “We believe that you must negotiate!” Israel then with Syria because that is the Golan Heights, and then of course with Lebanon, and it is my great sorrow that this has not been moved forward - we have done everything we can - that violence has once again broken out, and we do have a duty to try to resolve a grievance.

I took the same view, as you know, in South Africa. I totally condemned violence, but the other side of the coin is constantly to say to President Botha “No, I am not going to put on sanctions! That would only make the thing worse. You really must come to some arrangement where you, the Government, negotiate with all of the people, because that is the way ahead!” [end p17]

I again say I have never supported violence as a way of taking politics in a country forward. People say: “Afghanistan!” I say: “Look! Afghanistan is an occupied country and if my country were occupied I would be pretty active in getting the occupiers out!”

That is different, and if you look at India, for example, Gandhi's movement was wholly a peaceful movement. Mind you, as I do sometimes say, they were lucky in their colonial masters, weren't they? And one points out that in the Soviet Union the Refuseniks and the people who have been working for human rights are gradually getting their view much more accepted. It is powerful within the world. It is having results, because they have never resorted to violence, never. So that just shows you if you go about it in the right way that the peaceful movements can move mountains and, indeed, the violence can be counter-productive.

But, nevertheless, we have a duty where there is a legitimate grievance to try to remove it.

Brian Hitchen, Daily Star

And that is the way we should go?

Prime Minister

Yes. [end p18]

Brian Hitchen, Daily Star

Fine! You were mentioning just now the Russian business. Do you believe that Mr. Gorbachev will be successful in his attempts to bring more freedom to the Soviet Union?

Prime Minister

I most earnestly hope so, because his whole purpose is to get more personal involvement and more personal responsibility because he recognises that is the only way to get a higher standard of living, a higher standard of ideas which get you the new technology and advance and research, and a higher standard of social services.

I recognise the enormity of the task on which Mikhail Gorbachevhe has embarked, because to say to a people who for seventy years have been told: “You do nothing unless you are told!”, then to turn round and say: “You have got to start using your own initiative and taking responsibility!” - within certain limits, mind you - is very difficult because you have got a lot of people there, the great bureaucracy and great members of the Party, who have vested interests and many of them are more concerned to keep those vested interests than have things changed.

But it is very bold, it is the right way to go and I know that when you start fundamental changes, even though ours are on a very modest scale, the difficulties emerge before the benefits. But [end p19] it is the right way to go and therefore I most heartily support it and encourage the boldness which led to it and do try to say it will require perseverance and persistance, but it is a goal worth seeking.

Brian Hitchen, Daily Star

Fine. I hope he pulls it off, for all our sakes!

Speaking of violence, Prime Minister, how do you feel that the capital punishment situation is likely to be resolved in the foreseeable future?

All the polls show between 86&pcnt; and 90&pcnt; of the people are in favour of capital punishment for killing children, killing policemen, for terrorist offences &dubellip;

Prime Minister

And for the most hideous awful murders!

Brian Hitchen, Daily Star

Indeed! Every one says so and they get very cross when their MPs do not reflect this view.

Is there a way out of it at all?

Prime Minister

No, only by convincing more MPs. I think sometimes those who argue against capital punishment tend to confuse the issue. Let me first make my own viewpoint clear: [end p20]

I believe that a person who goes out prepared to extinguish the life of another should not go out knowing his own life can never be forfeit and sometimes, if they have a long prison sentence and they get hold of something or murder or attack a policeman, they have got nothing else to lose. They are already in prison.

So I believe that capital punishment should be available to a judge when there is no possible doubt whatsoever about the identity of the killer and when the crime is so hideous that it really in my view, in the judge's view, should bear capital punishment.

It should never be the only sentence available - that was a mistake in the past. For murder, capital punishment should be one, life imprisonment with a certain minimum of years, and that is the view which I take.

Others will try to say that capital punishment, if you had that as the only punishment, there might be a mistake. No-one is saying it should be the only punishment. No-one is saying, therefore, that it should be applied to every single murder. We are not. We are saying for those most hideous murders or where people are deliberately carrying a gun to murder a policeman, or to murder other people, and it is a view which I think is absolutely clear, and the only way is to convince more MPs, and I believe that there are some people who would be deterred from murder or from taking out guns if they knew. You will not deter everyone. That is not the point. Will you deter some people? [end p21]

Brian Hitchen, Daily Star

Should people lobby their MPs to do that?

Prime Minister

I think they should let MPs know not only what they think but why they think it in a reasoned and heartfelt and strong feeling way. Not in an angry way, but in a view that this is to protect the community, to protect often our weakest and most innocent, the very young, the very old.

Brian Hitchen, Daily Star

Thank you, Prime Minister, that is fine!

On crimes of violence, which seem to be happening more and more and quite horrendous ones, do you feel that imprisonment of very violent people actually reforms people like this or do you feel that it is a good idea to separate them from society as long as possible?

Prime Minister

I think there are two things if you are dealing with someone who has commited an offence.

First, there is the actual punishment and, if they are dangerous, you have got to isolate them from society.

Brian Hitchen, Daily Star

For as long as possible? [end p22]

Prime Minister

Yes.

And secondly, is whether there is anything you can do fundamentally to reform the person or to see that he never does it again.

Now that is either because there is the deterrent of punishment which you will never go through again, or because there are some people who have not always had the kind of upbringing that most of us have been fortunate to have, not always had a kindly home, have known violence in the home - what you can do to help them rehabilitate themselves. So there are the two sides - there are always are.

But you have to protect the public from violence and therefore you have to put a person who is dangerous in prison and also it has to be an example to others who might choose to go that way, but you always do try to rehabilitate and I think there are other possible courses of rehabilitation or other kinds of punishment, of making people do something in the community, making them report regularly if it is not a question of violence, which one also must try as a form of sentencing and often could be more effective.

That is why sometimes the Douglas HurdHome Secretary is saying: “Look! For these terrible crimes we need real stiff sentences!” but there are others in which I wonder whether it is the best sentence to put people in prison. I think most of us differentiate crimes of [end p23] violence form others, but the thing is they have got to be punished and the public protected, but if you can both secure a punishment and a rehabilitation so that they do not come back and do it again in another way, then that is the best way, particularly if you are dealing with young people, because sometimes, you know, if they go inside they learn far worse things then they ever knew.

Brian Hitchen, Daily Star

The university of crime, yes.

Prime Minister

I confess I used sometimes to think that the approved schools did wonderful things for young people. You know, sometimes the approved schools run by the nuns. Sometimes they were children from very difficult backgrounds and they managed to reclaim those children to live a very much better life and also sometimes to give them a way of living and a sense of security and a sense of being able to talk to someone and a sense of feeling: “Yes, I do matter! My future conduct does matter to this person in whose care I have been and if I get into difficulty I have always got someoned to go and talk to!” I think it was very good myself.

Brian Hitchen, Daily Star

Could you see a system coming back like that at all Prime Minister? Is it too late? [end p24]

Prime Minister

Well, I do not know. There are no plans to bring it back at the moment.

Brian Hitchen, Daily Star

It makes it much more personal than just “putting a child into care”, as we say now, where they are looked after but maybe that ont-to-one basis business is missing.

Prime Minister

I am thinking of some of the religious orders who did it and, my goodness, they were marvellous and they really were remarkable people. There was a very good one in my constituency for girls. I remember saying to one of the nuns sometimes when one of the girls had just run away with someone and got into problems: “Don't you feel deeply upset that after all the work that you have dons, that she has done this?” and I remember the Reverend Mother saying to me: “No! We did our level best for her and she knows always that if she comes back here she will find kindness, she knows that she will find discipline too, and we would do our best for her, but we could not do better and if you get grievously upset over everyone that you are not successful with you will not go on doing your best with people you can succeed with!” and it was really just so marvellous that they were not going to get down in the dumps because they knew that they had done their level best and they would go on doing it, and my goodness me, one is so thankful for people like that! [end p25]

Brian Hitchen, Daily Star

Prime Minister, can I ask you how you feel about the North-South now? Is the north set for&dubellip;have we got reassuring news for the people up there?

Prime Minister

I think so, because the prosperity is returning. You know, sometimes when there are people coming and want to invest in Britain and we say: “Look! Please go up and look at the north-east!” The north-west they are already quite familiar with. And they come back and they say: “Have you seen Newcastle? It is not down and out. Have you seen some of these cities? They are alive, they are thriving! Have you been to Gateshead and seen the big shops? have you been to Halifax?” and we say: “Yes, we have been telling you they are not dark satanic mills; they are revitalised cities with fascinating things happening!” and of course they are because yes, there used to be a north-south divide. The north was the wealthy manufacturing part because that was where the wealth was, that was where the iron one was, that was where the coal was, that was where the shipbuilding was, that was where the heavy engineering was.

Go and look at some of the great big houses there, those were the houses of the merchants, of the manufacturers, small businesses, so of course, the enterprise which built those cities … and of course it was always in Scotland and Scotland, as a matter of fact, is the third-highest national disposable income per head in the whole of [end p26] the country. Of course the enterprise that built those cities is still … What we are doing is to give it a chance to revive again, and it is reviving, so of course we are not surprised that the image you have got of those cities is wrong and in the north and the north-west the unemployment is falling fast there, and you know, I have never been so pleased as when I went up on a visit to Tyne-Tees not very long ago and I went to an enterprise centre where they were helping young people wanting to start up on their own and that day quite a number of them had heard they had got the enterprise allowance, that is the one that enables them to start up on their own. One of the young men, clearly who had an image of this woman Thatcher - never met me before you know but they have an image - Heaven knows where they get it from! “I don't know why you think we have not got just as good ideas up here as most people down south! I don't know you think that!”

I said: “But I do not think that! I am the person who thinks you have got every bit as good ideas and every bit as many up here as down south and I want to know why they are not coming out. This is why we are doing these things, to try to say: you have got the ideas, let us help you!”

Brian Hitchen, Daily Star

Right. Most encouraging. [end p27]

Prime Minister

And it is happening, but you see the spirit has revived and I am absolutely thrilled.

They also, of course, get so much better value for money in housing and also in Birmingham - I went round there - the old site of the old Bilston steelworks - massive, about 250 acres - now Tarmac are building. It has also been levelled, it is all being re-covered. They have got all the services in, all the necessary fundamental public services, the water, the gas, the electricity, it is levelled, and they are building houses on it, and you know houses which to the people who live in London are a dream. The houses for young people, not all the same sort, they are doing two or three different kinds, and then family houses.

The starter houses there for young couples - I went in two of them - a nice, good, big living room. Small entrance hall, good, big living room. This is one of the great things of modern houses. They used to build a small room at the front and small room at the back. You lived in one room at the front and the back room was the bedroom. Now they have a good-sized room, much better, and a good-sized kitchen with a little table with a dinette at one end, and the kitchen had the French doors straight onto a garden - a garden, mind you, at the back and a little garden at the front. Small staircase up, good-sized bedroom, bathroom and a small second bedroom. Excellent kitchen, all in with the size of the house and one bedroom with fitted cupboards - £22,000! [end p28]

And you went from there to the family houses in which I went and it was a family - they wanted a bigger one. Again, a very good big-sized living room and another small room also on the ground floor. They could either use it as a study or children's room, a rumpus room, a television room. An even bigger kitchen with excellent diner at the end. Two really big good-sized bedrooms, two smaller and two bathrooms, front garden, larger back garden - £45,000.

Brian Hitchen, Daily Star

That is wonderful on a day that a garage is being sold for - £110,000.

Prime Minister

And garage, yes.

Brian Hitchen, Daily Star

That is marvellous!

Prime Minister

Now, I mean, you know, one fair gasped because one of the problems we have in London and the South East with, for example, nurses and teachers and policemen, is the cost of housing.

Now, you go further north. Someone right in the heart of the north-west came up to me when I was there and he said: “Look! I [end p29] am a computer scientist, I have a very good computer job” - he was about thirty-four - and he said: “I have a very nice house up here and it is semi-detached and it is three bedrooms, good gardens!” He said it was £25,000, so that took my breath away, and he was grumbling. He said: “I cannot move to London because I could not afford the housing!” I said: “What in the world do you want to move to London for? You have got a good job up here! You have got a much higher standard of living on a salary. I am sure in this part of the world there will be plenty of computer chances!” So, north-south divide!

I remember when I was first a Parliamentary Secretary in my first job in Government to the Minister of Pensions. John Boyd-Carpenter was my boss and he took a major decision that we move the graduated pension scheme and the computer up to Newcastle. Grumble, grumble, grumble. “We don't want to go up to Newcastle!” Grumble, grumble, grumble - until they got up there and then found that it was not what they imagined. They had good buildings in which to work and the country is so much more easily accessible and it took them about fifteen minutes to get to work or even less and they said: “It has transformed our lives! We have so much more time to ourselves, time to be with our families!” and so you see, so much part of our task is people have fixed ideas and one has to get rid of them because they are not necessarily in accordance with or in tune with life as it is. [end p30]

Or course the North is reviving, because it is talented, because it is able, because it is getting its confidence back and because people, instead of getting fixed ideas in their mind, are going to look &dubellip; Of course, there are still difficult areas. There are still some heavily dependent on shipbuilding, that were heavily dependent on steel and there still some difficult areas because we have not yet got diverse industries up there, but you know, you do not solve them by giving subsidies to yesterday's industries. You solve them by giving a hand to start up new businesses as their forefathers started up businesses before and by persuading people who want to invest in Britain to go and have a look at the opportunities there - but also to get more self-starters up there, just as the north was built long ago.

Brian Hitchen, Daily Star

Prime Minister, thank you very much. Very kind of you. I do appreciate it.

Prime Minister

Lovely! Well, I think you will have enough to write about 800 words won't you?