Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Margaret Thatcher

Speech in Derby (British Leyland)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Derby
Source: (1) Thatcher Archive: CCOPR 388/75 (2) The Times, 3 May 1975
Journalist: (2) Christopher Warman, The Times, reporting
Editorial comments: Embargoed until 1230. The text has been checked against excerpts broadcast on ITN’s News At Ten 2 May 1975. The final sentence of the speech has been added from ITN’s coverage; it is not included in the press release.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 1032
Themes: Industry, Local elections, Privatized & state industries
(1) Thatcher Archive: CCOPR

We believe that we must build a prosperous and profitable motor industry in Britain which offers security and a good standard of living to those who work in it, and those who depend upon it.

The Ryder Report on British Leyland is inadequate and incomplete. As you know, its proposals put massive obligations on the taxpayer in return for very little from the firm and no commitments whatsoever from the unions. We therefore believe that the Government was wrong in so hastily accepting the Report as a basis of future policy for the company.

British Leyland is of great significance to the economy as an employer, and exporter. So we accept, of course, that the Government has a duty to help British Leyland to find remedies for its own failures and to find a way out of its critical position. But any proposals for vast and unprecedented financial support such as those of the Ryder Report must be looked at critically and rigorously, particularly at a time of general economic crisis.

The Government must show much greater awareness of the interests of the taxpayer and of the rest of the economy, on whom the burdens of such assistance have to fall. The basic principle of Government policy for British Leyland—as for any other ailing firm—must be to find a recipe for success.

This can best be achieved by providing specified assistance sufficient [end p1] to give British Leyland time to reconstruct and reorganise in the light of realistic assessments for the years ahead of what can be sold and at what price.

The next step should be for British Leyland's new management, and the unions, together with financial and industrial advisers, to work out alternative plans to restore the firm to a profitable basis.

These plans must be spelt out in detail and be accompanied by firm undertakings from British Leyland's employees to co-operate in the programme of rationalisation and radical improvement in productivity and industrial relations.

The scale, character and timing of any longer-term assistance which the Government might recommend to Parliament can then be properly assessed.

Whatever the outcome, the Government should do everything in its power to assist in retraining any workers who become redundant and to help them find new jobs.

Unless we can ensure a flourishing and competitive industry capable of producing a product at a price people will pay, it is not only the future of the British Leyland that is at stake, but the very standards and standing of the British nation itself. Nothing should be allowed to conceal this fact from our people. Our solution is not to go on putting massive subsidies into failure, but to give an infusion of help until such time as we can find a plan for a profitable and successful car industry which will give our own workers confidence in and security for the future. [end p2]

(2) The Times, 3 May 1975

Mrs Thatcher detects ‘scent of victory’ after Tory successes in local elections

By Christopher Warman Local Government Correspondent

Mrs Thatcher, leader of the Conservative Party, said cheerfully yesterday that she detected the “scent of victory” after Thursday's metropolitan district elections.

The Conservatives' achievement in gaining 199 seats of the 856 contested exceeded the hopes of party officials and loosened Labour's strong grip on the big city areas of the Midlands and North.

Labour ended the day with an overall majority on 22 of the 36 councils, instead of 26. The Conservatives won Calderdale (West Yorkshire), previously a Labour authority, and became the overall masters in Bury, Stockport and Wirral, where they had been the largest party.

The Tory leader told party workers in Derby: “We meet at a time when we can smell the scent of victory because the news this morning about our victories in the local government elections was excellent.

“We have now won more than half of the seats that were contested. That is a very good result, and we are winning the seats in the areas where hitherto we have not been as strong as we should be. I am constantly asked whether we shall win back the industrial areas and my answer has always been ‘Yes’. Today we can show that we are winning them back.”

Labour's reaction was naturally different. “Of course, the losses were a disappointment, but we regard them as a temporary setback. Labour still controls the majority of the largest councils” , Mr Ronald Hayward, general secretary of the party, said.

Mr Crosland, Secretary of State for the Environment, admitted last night that the results were “a setback” . But, he said at Grimsby, “there is no reason in these results for the Government to change tack” .

The sweeping gains made in the 1973 local elections, when it was acknowledged on all sides that Labour had a very good year, made it highly unlikely that Labour could gain more seats, he added.

The necessary economic measures undertaken by the Government had made it difficult to campaign at local level. “Obviously, since rates were a major issue, not nearly enough people realized how much the Labour Government had done to keep down rates” , he said.

Such comfort as could be drawn from the results of elections in a small section of the country—one third of the seats in the areas surrounding Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle upon Tyne and Sheffield—went to the Conservatives.

They picked up seats everywhere and, apart from their four main successes, became the largest party in Leeds, and reduced Labour's hold in Birmingham, Rochdale and Kirklees.

They now have overall control in nine of the districts. Labour has the same number of seats as the opposition parties in Birmingham and Kirklees, thus losing their overall majority, but they retain control.

Liverpool, the one district controlled by the Liberals, as the biggest single party, remained in their grip. They suffered a net loss of three seats, but stay the biggest single party, with a majority of one over Labour. If the rates had been the only issue, the Liberals must surely have taken overall control because they managed to reduce the city's rates.

Thursday's elections were the country's first since the general election. The next test for the Government will come with the by-election pending in the Labour-held marginal seat in Greenwich, Woolwich, West, where Labour had a majority of 3,541.