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1949 Dec 15 Th
Margaret Thatcher

Speech to Crayford Conservatives

Document type: speeches
Document kind: Speech
Venue: Crayford-Barnehurst County Primary School
Source: Erith Observer, 16 December 1949
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: Evening?
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 677
Themes: Economy (general discussions), Monetary policy, Public spending & borrowing, Taxation, Trade, Foreign policy (Western Europe - non-EU), Housing, Labour Party & socialism, Local government finance

Miss M. Roberts at Barnehurst

‘Government Hanging on for Election’

Miss M. Roberts, B.A., B.Sc., prospective Conservative candidate for Dartford, spoke on “Devaluation” at the first meeting held by the new Barnehurst (North) branch, at Crayford-Barnehurst County Primary School on Thursday last week.

Miss Roberts accused the Government of a breach of faith in not giving Continental governments adequate notice of their intention to devalue the pound, or of the extent of that devaluation.

“As a result of this one government fell, but it was the wrong government—it was that of France,” said Miss Roberts.

At that time the Council of Europe was meeting at Strasbourg and the Labour members gave the impression that Britain would not devalue. The whole theme of that conference was co-operation, but if that was the British Government's idea of co-operation with Continental countries then they had better revise their ideas quickly.

The Government repeatedly said that devaluation would never happen as it would lower the value of wages and social services and would be folly; yet when they did it, they put it over, not as a defeat, but as a victory.

Series of Crises

Discussing the causes, Miss Roberts said there could be no doubt that devaluation had to come because of the Government's economic policy over the past four years. There had been a series of crises met with nothing more than expedients, and the position had gradually worsened. This last time the country was keyed up for severe cuts, but instead of a clarion call they only heard a feeble toot. Once again the Government was only hanging on for the General Election.

How much longer could they hang on? Her audience must have noticed from their newspapers that the value of the pound was still going down, so that the latest expedient of devaluation was not the turning point in the crisis.

Sir Stafford CrippsThe Chancellor of the Exchequer, when announcing devaluation, said it would make no immediate difference to the cost of living, except for a small increase in the price of bread, but very soon after that the Government put up the price of metal.

The candidate then quoted from the Dartford Chronicle and Kentish Times a report on housing, which showed that costs were increasing as the direct result of devaluation. That meant rates must go up to cover the increased cost or rents must be increased.

She also referred to specific imports from dollar countries, the price of which had increased and which in turn must affect the cost of living.

Finally, Miss Roberts dealt with the sterling balances, and showed how these had been accumulated by Britain's purchases in India and other countries during the war, for the defence of those countries. One of the terms of the American loan was that the British Government should consult those countries with a view to scaling down the balances, but that they did not do for four years. Those balances were unfair and people at home ought not to be saddled with them, she declared.

What would happen when Marshall Aid came to an end in 1952? Miss Roberts quoted the Red Queen's words to Alice: “We are having to run as fast as we can to stay where we are.” Now Britain was having to run 40 per cent faster, and in 1952 would have to increase her exports by 100 per cent. She doubted if that was possible.

The only solution was to cut Government expenditure, cut costs and lower taxation. Conservatives had been advocating that for years. They must go on advocating it, and she hoped that, with the co-operation of the electors, it would not be for long.

Mr. L. T. Whitehead presided, and Mr. J. W. Waterman (political survey director for Crayford sub-division) outlined his plans for “thoroughly combing the sub-division and building up a strong membership; paying particular attention to the floating vote.”

Mrs. Mills proposed a vote of thanks to Miss Roberts.