‘Bring Back Birch’
If It Would Protect The Public, Says Candidate
At the first public meeting to which she has spoken in Friern Barnet, Mrs. Margaret Thatcher, prospective Conservative Parliamentary candidate, said in the Church Hall on Friday that if it would protect the public from “brutal” crimes of violence, she would vote for the return of the birch.
This was when answering questions at the end of her talk on “Conservation and Conservative Policy” .
Advocating the return of the birch, she told the audience that although the number of crimes of robbery with violence had decreased, the number of crimes of violence— “for the sheer love of brutality” —had increased on a hitherto unknown scale. The birch should be used in these cases.
Mrs. Thatcher thought Mr. R. A. Butler 's idea of detention centres, “something like civilian glass houses” , was a good one, but “birching would be justified until we get more positive results from detention centres are built” . Above all, the over-riding consideration should be the protection of the public.
Asked if she would vote against possession of the H-bomb and against government policy, Mrs. Thatcher said she would not, as her own views were in line with Tory policy.
She thought the H-bomb was a deterrent and Britain would not be safe without it. It was a case, she said, of choosing the lesser of two evils. Soviet policy had switched from the military to the economic offensive because, she believed, both east and west possessed the H-bomb.
In answer to other questions Mrs. Thatcher said she was not satisfied with the present unemployment situation and that high petrol tax was a necessity for the revenue it yields.
When asked why the government, if it opposed nationalisation, did not denationalise gas and electricity and stop giving loans to BOAC, BEA, and the Atomic Energy Authority the prospective candidate said the government could not de-nationalise things as easily as they had been nationalised.
Before embarking on her main theme Mrs. Thatcher, who was introduced by Mr. C. H. Blatch (Divisional Chairman) paid tribute to the community spirit which prevails in Friern Barnet.
Mrs. Thatcher said that although there had been an increase in material prosperity there had been comparatively little moral advance. “If one desires above all to build a responsible society of responsible citizens, how can Parliament bring it about” ? she asked.
As bad living conditions must obviously be tackled the Conservatives have endeavoured to build up the welfare state. The government is striving for better housing, hospitals and schools. Slum clearance schemes were well advanced.
The next step was to “Invest in people” , as well as in machinery. Efforts were being made to raise, the standard of education, as it is vital that pupils have the very best conditions in order to bring out any desires they may have for improvement.
Of comprehensive schools. The stated: We never believe in throwing out what tradition and experience have proved to be very good indeed, and replacing this by something as yet in the experimental stage” .
On the other hand there was room for experiment and improvement, and the two principles had to be reconciled. It may be, she said, that comprehensive schools turned out to be wonderful. At present the government was trying to improve the standard in secondary modern schools.
Character training was important and two departmental committees had been set up to examine the youth service, and to study a plan for extending physical recreation.
Mrs. Thatcher then turned to the policy of the Labour party which she declared, was the only alternative.
The Socialists wished local authorities to take over all homes which are privately rented, of which there are about 4½ million in this country. Apart from the cost of buying these homes, the cost of putting them in good repair would have to be met.
Compensation to landlords would not be in a lump sum but in payments spread over the number of years the house was expected to stand. In addition there would be a small sum for the site value.
The cost of this “municipalisation” of houses was estimated at £500 million. “Where is the money to come from, the taxes?” she asked.
She warned that the Socialists planned to nationalise once again the steel industry and road haulage, and “any industry falling the nation” . This, she thought, was a very wide phrase and gave the Labour party a “blank cheque” . The democratic system of our time is not suitable for detailed control of industry, she thought.
Mrs. Thatcher said that the Labour party also planned to carry out “back door nationalisation” ; buying shares in the 600 largest firms in the country.
In 20 years they could buy up four-fifths of all the equity shares on the stock exchange, thus gaining greater control over industry.
To finance their schemes the Labour party is to put the contributions of their pension scheme at such a level that ensures them of a surplus each year, and it is this surplus that is to be used.
Although she made no budget forecast, Mrs. Thatcher thought Derick Heathcoat Amory the Chancellor would compromise between claims for reduction in both direct and indirect taxation. Half the Post War Credits have yet to be paid out, and Mr. Hugh Gaitskell , the leader of the Opposition wanted the Chancellor to pay these as any reduction in taxation would damage Labour party ambitions.
Finally she declared that the Conservatives believed in giving more power to local authorities. It was possible for government policy to be sabotaged at county and local level, and it was therefore important that both county and local council be held by the Tories.
Cr. W. H. Tangys (Chairman of Friern Barnet Council) proposed a vote of thanks to Mrs. Thatcher, seconded by Mrs. E. P. Mackrill , candidate for West Ward.
Local association treasurer. Cr. E. Fergusson Taylor , then made in appeal for donations.