Speech to Federation of Conservative Students
|Document type:||public statement|
|Venue:||Conservative Central Office, Smith Square, Westminster|
|Source:||Thatcher Archive: speaking text|
|Editorial comments:||The press release (675/75) was embargoed until 1530. Sections of the text have been checked against the ITN Late Evening News and the conclusion against the BBC Radio News Report 1800 12 July 1975.|
|Themes:||Economy (general discussions), Monetary policy, Labour Party and Socialism, General Elections, Pay, Local government finance, Privatised and state industries, Public spending and borrowing|
At last—at long last—the Government has acted.
The first reaction must be a sign of relief. Everyone now admits the seriousness of Britain's inflation.
Indeed the [ Denis Healey] Chancellor of the Exchequer calls it a "madman's merry-go-round". He's quite right.
But look who's running it. Look who's been taking us all for a ride.
And those who haven't been taken for a ride have been trampled under Foot.
For two elections and sixteen months of government, Mr Wilson, Mr Healey, Mr. Foot and the Labour Party have tried to cover up the crisis.[fo 1]
In February last they offered us price control and a wage bonanza.
In October they offered us a quiet life and the Social Contract.
It's only now they have admitted the failure of easy answers, and called for tough action.
For that much of a conversion we must be thankful.[fo 2]
But it is a conversion bought at a high price.
Two elections won by a Labour Party which pretended there was a simple, comfortable way out of Britain's problems.
Two elections won on a Labour Manifesto which promised free collective bargaining.[fo 3]
Two elections leading to a Labour Government which has stoked up inflation, run down our industry and devalued the pound.
Yes, the Labour Government is now facing up to the crisis.
The crisis of its own making.[fo 4]
Harold Wilson could have fought inflation way back in February 1974 when it was only 12 per cent.
Denis Healey could have fought inflation last October—instead he said it was only 8.4 per cent.
This Government could have fought inflation through sixteen long months —When the rest of Europe was winning the battle —When the Conservative Party was demanding action day in, day out —When the masses of middle Britain were calling in desperation for real leadership.[fo 5]
Yes, they could have fought inflation, but they chose instead to dither, to dally and to delay.
What a price we are paying for that delay.
With each passing day the cost of socialist inaction has increased.
If only the Government had tackled our problems right from the start.[fo 6]
If only the Government had told us the truth and shamed the Left.
If only the Government had had the courage to face reality—
But then I suppose it couldn't have been a Labour Government.
After all, the whole basis of the two Labour Manifestos was that we didn't need any tough measures.[fo 7]
It was all got up by the Press—mere cocktail circuit gossip!
There was nothing to be worried about.
The Labour Party would do a deal with the militants. Britain's future was safe—secured by the Social Contract.
That was Harold Wilson's case.
A special case!
A very special case indeed![fo 8]
For sixteen months his case has been up for trial.
Last Friday he condemned himself.
The Government's White Paper is an admission of guilt.
It pleads guilty on two main counts.[fo 9]
Count 1—Wilfully misleading the voters in two general elections.
Count 2—Recklessly running Britain into debt despite repeated warnings.
But let's look at this White Paper.
It's an attempt to make up for lost time and that we welcome.
But after sixteen months of waiting we might expect a well thought out, carefully balanced, thoroughly researched plan for Britain's survival.[fo 10]
We might reasonably expect it—but we haven't got it!
The White Paper bears all the marks of a panic package cobbled together in haste.
It has the best of intentions but the worst of explanations.
There is a lot more work to be done before it becomes a practical programme to beat inflation.[fo 11]
Where are the simply explained watertight rules needed to operate it?
Why does the pay limit not start until August 1st and how many bargains will be hustled through in the meantime.
Who is to see that the pay limits are observed in the private sector? No-one seems to be in charge.[fo 12]
Do the unions who voted against this proposal feel committed to work for or against the Government's policies?
And when it comes to wages, who is going to see that people stick to the £6 a week?[fo 13]
The machinery has not been marked out.
Exactly what happens about increments and merit awards?
What happens about the self-employed?
What about local authorities?
How does the Government propose to control increases in local rates, or is the ratepayer not going to be protected?
What is going to happen in the nationalised industries?[fo 14]
Is the Government going to back the Chairmen Sir Derek Ezra, Sir William Rylands and Mr Richard Marsh?
If they fight excessive demands for pay increases, can they really rely on Mr Wilson's support?
Exactly when would reserve statutory powers be invoked?
The White Paper says "if the pay limit is endangered". What does the Government mean by this? When a very large claim is put in by a powerful Union or when it goes on strike?[fo 15] Beginning of section checked against ITN Late News 12 July 1975
But the crucial question is whether the Government will really stand firm.
May I remind the Government of a little verse which puts the matter in a nutshell?
It's easy to be a starter, But are you a sticker too? It's easy enough to begin a job, It's harder to see it through.
I hope, for Britain's sake, that this time—for the first time—they are going to see it through.
There's no second chance! End of section checked against ITN Late News 12 July 1975.[fo 16]
That's why we've got to look at this White Paper so carefully.
That's why it is our duty, in the nation's interests, to try and get the package right.
If this is to be fair, then the Government must make its sacrifices if it expects the people to make theirs.
If the people must spend less and expect less, then the Government must do the same.[fo 17]
The White Paper says nothing about the Government living within the taxpayers' means.
It actually proposes some increases in Government expenditure on subsidies for food and rent.
And who is going to pay?
There is no such thing as a Government grant. Only a taxpayers' grant.
The people are going to pay. We pay in taxes, we pay in rates. We pay for the money the Government borrows.[fo 18]
The Labour Party are determined to go on with their divisive policies at the very time that they call for national unity.
And while we go without the things we want for the good of the nation, the Government ploughs on with its doctrinaire policies which no-one wants and no-one can afford.
There is not one word in the White Paper about stopping divisive socialist policies.
Nowhere do they promise to ditch the Community Land Bill, the nationalisation of shipbuilding, aircraft and oil; the introduction of the National Enterprise Board.[fo 19]
Yet all these will cost vast sums of money, and employ more and more officials, again at the taxpayers' expense.
At the very time when the Government asks us to retrench, it carries on with its own expensive programme. Beginning of section checked against BBC Radio News Report 1800 12 July 1975
The Government wants to call forth sacrifices from the people, but it makes no sacrifices itself.
And yet this is what Britain expects.
We want no more one-sided bargains.[fo 20]
That is why we have the right to ask that this Government cuts its spending, drops its plans for nationalisation, encourages profitable private enterprise, and sticks rigidly to its word no matter what special cases may arise. (Hear, hear and applause.)
If it does that then the Government will have the right to call upon all of us to make our sacrifices.
For it will have shown the way and set the example.
The nation will not be slow to follow. End of section checked against BBC Radio News Report 1800 12 July 1975 and end of speech.