Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

Speech to Erith Conservative Women

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Carlton Hall, Erith
Source: (1) Kentish Independent, 17 June 1949 (2) Erith Observer, 17 June 1949
Editorial comments: Afternoon
Importance ranking: Minor
Word count: 1203
Themes: Agriculture, Commonwealth (general), Conservatism, Conservative Party (organization), Trade, Women
(1) Kentish Independent, 17 June 1949:


Miss Margaret Roberts, prospective Conservative Parliamentary candidate for Dartford constituency (of which Erith is a part) has had little chance since she was adopted to meet her supporters, because she has been working as a research chemist at Manningtree, and living at Colchester. She has now taken a new job in London, and will live at Dartford. This will vastly reduce travelling, and will enable her to attend more evening meetings, as she will be near her home.

Between her two jobs Miss Roberts has had a short holiday, and has been able to meet Tory women at afternoon meetings. On Thursday, last week, she received an enthusiastic reception when she addresed as women's rally at the Carlton Hall, Erith, organized by the Women's Advisory Council of Kent Conservative Association (Dartford Division). In the chair was Mrs. D. M. Fletcher (chairman, Advisory Council), Mrs. A. C. Garrett and Mrs. A. Jenns (both vice-chairmen of the Council) and Mrs. Young (chairman, North Heath Women's Branch). More than 250 women were present.

Women's Insight

Women's inherent knowledge of human relationships was one of the subjects of Miss Roberts' talk. “Women have a special bent as technicians in human relationships,” she said, “and we have come to understand the human aspect of our problems. The problems we face to-day are not only ones of raw materials and money, but problems concerning human beings in our factories—problems of how to fit people in the jobs they want to do, so they can give their best.”

She continued: “Perhaps one of the greatest problems women face to-day is the difficulty of getting enough food (Cries of “hear, hear.” ) There is a whispering—in fact, a shouting campaign in operation—that if the Tories get back they will take off all the controls, but this is untrue. It was the Tories who introduced the finest food rationing system during the war. The only difference was that we got more food then.”

Lack of Meat

Meat, a question in the minds of all housewives at the moment, was another topic which was dealt with by Miss Roberts. Industrial production, she said, would be much greater if the workers could get more meat. She complained of the low production of home-produced beef, and sharply criticized the Government's delay in importing cattle feeding stuffs. “Pig production during 1948 was only half that of 1945. I cannot think that that would have happened if we had a competent Minister of Food,” she said.

“The Dominions are very loyally coming to our rescue. Australia is planning to increase her meat production; South Africa is embarking on large development schemes, but those schemes all take some time for fruition. Canada has got a large production of things we need, but the Canadians say that instead of trading with them Britain is trading with Russia and countries behind the ‘iron curtain.’ We (the Conservatives) think our first duty is to stand behind the Empire.” [end p1]

(2) Erith Observer, 17 June 1949:


Now Plays Large Part in Our National Life

Prospective Conservative Candidate Addresses 200

The prospective Conservative candidate for the Dartford Division, Miss Margaret Roberts, B.A., B.Sc., addressed 200 women at the Carlton Hall, Erith, on Thursday afternoon last week.

Miss Roberts said that looking back over the past half-century there had been a great change and development in women's interest in politics, and that they now played a large part in the national life outside the sphere of the home.

In response to her call, the audience twice reaffirmed their belief in Imperial Preference.

The organisation of the meeting was by Dartford Divisional Conservative Women's Advisory Committee, and Mrs. D. M. Fletcher presided. Also on the platform were Mrs. A. Jenns (vice-president). Mrs. A. C. Garrett (vice-president), Mrs. A. E. Young (Northumberland Heath Ward) and Mr. R. W. Mills (agent).

Miss Roberts said at the outset that unless women managed to attend evening meetings she had few opportunities to meet them, so that she was glad they had attended that afternoon gathering. If they met her in the street they should stop her for a chat, and in that way she would get to know members personally.

During the last war she said, this country had mobilised women to a far greater extent than any other in the world. They had gone to work, not only in ordinary jobs, but had also entered the professions. Women had contributed a great deal to the professions they had taken up.

Household Problems

Household problems concerned women, yet 50 years ago they had no part in the planning of houses or in the large scale buying of food. But it was a restriction that household problems to-day took up such a great deal of women's time, because of the difficulty of getting commodities.

Conservatives absolutely refuted the contention of a Socialist Minister that Whitehall officials knew better than the people what was good for them. “We have no truck with such a belief.” said Miss Roberts.

A whispering campaign, alleging that Conservatives would remove controls if returned to power, was taking place. When Lord Woolton was Food Minister, she recalled, a Conservative-dominated government instituted the finest rationing system in the world. The only difference was that people received more then than now.


Opponents asserted that Lord Woolton had lease-lend, but only 14.3 per cent. of that was spent on food, and the European markets were closed. The Labour Government had, first, the American loan and now Marshall Aid, and the Continental markets were open again.

Turning to the meat situation, the candidate said many women, especially in working class families, went without meat and gave it to their husbands. Britain was to-day producing only two-thirds of the pre-war beef output.

One solution was to use some of the few dollars that Britain had on livestock feeding stuffs instead of on meat. If £1,000 of feeding stuff was imported it would save £2,000 of imported livestock, she said.

Countries in Europe which had followed that system were among the first to recover, yet 18 months were lost before the Government spent dollars on livestock feeding materials.

Less Pork

In 1948 pig production was not only lower than before the war, but was indeed 55 per cent. lower than in 1945, declared Miss Roberts. It had, then, fallen by almost half in three years.

Development schemes and other methods to increase the meat supplies to this country were being explored in the Dominions. The Dominions had stood by the Mother Country during the war, and were coming to Britain's aid again.

Questions on women's problems were answered by Miss Roberts who was thanked by Mrs. Garrett and Mrs. Jenns.

An invitation to women to join the association was given by Mrs. Fletcher.