Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

TV Interview for ITN News At Ten

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: ITN Studios, Wells Street, central London
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: Sir Alastair Burnet, ITN
Editorial comments: 1930 onwards.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 1351
Themes: Agriculture, Defence (general), Pay, Taxation, European Union Budget, Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Health policy, Law & order, Northern Ireland, Terrorism, Women
First question missing.

(Mrs. Thatcher's reaction to the Ford settlement)

Prime Minister

Look! Each company should know what it is doing as far as wages are concerned and what it will do to prices. If they price themselves out of the market, then they put themselves at risk, they put the jobs at risk.

There is no such thing as a norm, no such thing at all.

We are not talking about setting a pattern. It is for the management of each company to know what the price can bear, whether the design will take a higher price, whether they are getting as much out of the deal for higher wages as they are paying, what they are getting in productivity.

Under our regime, business has not done too badly; has not done too badly for business; has not done too badly for people who work in it—indeed, it has done very well, and has done very well for Britain, and that is because we have kept out. We have said: “You know your business. You get on with it! You carry the can!” [end p1]


Now, the Health Service is expensive. Are you impressed by the opinion poll in “The Telegraph” today saying that people would prefer to pay a pound more a week than have their taxes cut?

Prime Minister

Not particularly, because people have had both.

It is the way in which this Government has run the economy that has not only kept business flourishing and got business flourishing, but it has also enabled us to have lower taxation, so there are incentives to effort, incentives to the best management to keep here; lower taxation; and more spent on the social services.

Do not forget this regime has more than doubled the amount spent on the Health Service in cash terms and up about a third in real terms, so unless you give people incentives to extra effort, you are not going to get the extra effort. If you do not get the extra effort, you do not get the growth. We have had both.

And, you know, when nurses ring me up on one of the phone-in programmes, which I greatly enjoy, they do not say to me: “Mrs. Thatcher, we are not paying enough in tax!” They quote, not their gross pay, they quote their net take-home pay. If a nurse rings me up, she does not say—a fairly newly-qualified nurse— “I am on £170 a week!” She says: “My net take-home pay is £124!” and what she means is the £46 she is paying in tax and national insurance she thinks is too high. She is interested in lower tax. [end p2]

With lower tax you have got more incentive to growth—and we have had both: lower tax and more on the Health Service, and the amount extra in the Health Service for next year—£1100 million—is just about equal to a penny on income tax.


It is not really decided, is it, by figures? It is decided by what the consumer thinks about the Health Service, and why are there therefore so many complaints?

Prime Minister

I think that you do not look at the polls of the numbers of people who have been treated in the Health Service. When you go to those polls, you will find that eight out of every ten are not merely satisfied with the Health Service, but are very very pleased with it.


But the people in the queues to get treatment are not satisfied! [end p3]

Prime Minister

No. The queues are coming down and what the people in the queues are saying is: “Look! On average, a family of four in this country pays every week to sustain the Health Service £32 a week!” That is what they will be paying this year. Now they say: “It does not help us if someone else is getting the operation if we are not!”

We allocated more to reduce the waiting lists—I am afraid you get waiting lists in many many countries—and we want them down, but what we are looking at now is saying: “Are we getting best value for money out of this vast amount of money that is being put into the Health Service?”

We are certainly getting more patients treated, more operations—operations that were not thought of five or six years ago—and the nurses and doctors are doing more.


On disarmament, the Soviets say that President Reagan is for nuclear disarmament, Mr. Gorbachev is for nuclear disarmament, you are for nuclear rearmament.

Prime Minister

I want a war-free Europe. A nuclear-free Europe, I do not believe would be a war-free Europe.

The nuclear weapon has kept the peace in Western Europe for forty years. [end p4]

Of course, Mr. Gorbachev wants to get rid of nuclear weapons out of Western Europe, because he knows that if he does the enormous superiority he has got in men, in tanks, in aircraft, in all conventional weapons, the colossal superiority in chemical weapons, would mean that if he got the nuclear weapon out of Europe we would never be able to deter an aggressor and he could almost threaten and he would get what he wanted.

It is my job as Head of Government to see that no-one who wants to threaten Western Europe has any chance of succeeding, and the only way to do that is to see that we have a sure defence. You are not sure because of your own virtue. You are sure only because the men, the materials, the weapons—including the nuclear—are there, and if you make a mistake now it may not affect our generation, but it may affect future generations, because one mistake will take ten or twelve years to recover.


At the week-end, you said, I think about the French, you never understood men. You understood Mr. Haughey in Ireland and the worry that they have and the prospect that we may have lost extradition of terrorists for good? [end p5]

Prime Minister

Which piece of that question do I take?

On the European Council, really, our French friends were so very very difficult and what they did was so very non-commonsense, and women are very good at common sense and men are not.


Well, are you good with Mr. Haughey?

Prime Minister

Mr. Haughey and I had a very quiet, dignified discussion.

This is an emotional problem and you do not defeat emotion with reason. But let me put the thing in a perspective that I think has been lost in some of the arguments of the last few days:

Since the troubles began again in 1969, there have been 2,600 people murdered in Northern Ireland—some civilians, 250 of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, quite a number of security forces.

The people who are shooting to kill are the IRA and the INLA, and it is they whom we have to defeat.

The RUC are a band of very brave men. They continue to recruit. They are right on the border. They are right in Belfast there doing their duty superbly.

Yes, there are some problems and we will deal with those, but just remember that background—2,600 murders. The equivalent in Great Britain, if you translated that proportionate to the population, would be 91,000. [end p6]

Now that is the background, and we have got to defeat terrorism, and we have got to cooperate across the border. Mr. Haughey knows that, because he knows that the IRA not only shoot because they are Republican, but they are Marxist and they are out against democracy in the Republic as well as in Northern Ireland.

So yes, security cooperation will go on. It is just as much in the interests of Mr. Haughey and the Republic as it is in ours.

Yes, the Anglo-Irish Agreement will continue.

So, beyond all the emotion—and may I make this quite clear—the legal system in this country is quite separate from politics and the day it is not, freedom dies.

So beyond all the emotion—and there has been emotion in the Irish problem for hundreds of years—there is the knowledge that we have jointly to defeat those murderous terrorists and we have jointly try to build more confidence between the two communities in Northern Ireland through the Anglo-Irish Agreement and Mr. Haughey and I understand that.