Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Complete list of 8,000+ Thatcher statements & texts of many of them

1975 Feb 17 Mo
Margaret Thatcher

Speech to National Chamber of Trade

Document type: speeches
Document kind: Speech
Venue: Central Hall, Westminster
Source: (1) Evening Standard , 17 February 1975 (2) Birmingham Post , 18 February 1975 (3) ITN Archive: News at Ten 17 February 1975
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1330-1340. The Daily Express reported that MT had been expected to attend but not to speak at the meeting. She told the Daily Mail “I didn’t know anything about it until fifteen minutes before the meeting” (18 February).
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 1006
Themes: Autobiography (childhood), Parliament, Industry, Monetary policy, Public spending & borrowing, Taxation
(1) Evening Standard, 17 February 1975

Thatcher's law …

If you can't afford it, you can't have it

Margaret Thatcher expounded her new law today: “If you can't afford it, you can't have it.”

The Tory leader was addressing a rally of small businessmen, self-employed shopkeepers and commercial men from all over the country.

After warning that a stern eye must be kept on public expenditure, she went on: “Inflation is public enemy number one and it has to be tackled before it damages the nation.

“It destroys the essence of a secure and stable society.”

Mrs Thatcher told her large audience at Westminster Central Hall that she did not come to them as a politician but as someone who understood their position through personal experience.

‘My father's shop’

“For the first 18 years of my life I lived over the shop my Alfred Robertsfather owned and ran. I know the hours he worked the long hours that were put in to earn a living.

“I know they never went on holiday together because father and Beatrice Robertsmother could not go away together, one of them had to remain to run the shop.

Central Hall was filled with hundreds of men and women representing 835 chambers of trade from places as far apart as North Yorkshire and Somerset.

They met under the organising umbrella of the 75-year-old National Chamber of Trade and they were looking to Mrs Thatcher to lead them in a crusade to better the plight of the small man.

She paid tribute to Sir Geoffrey Howe, Shadow Social Services Secretary, for his fight against higher National Insurance contributions for the self-employed, one of the issues that have enraged the little businessman. “I am quite sure Geoffrey Howe and his team will go on fighting on your behalf,” she said.

On the question of the capital transfer tax which would penalise the small businessmen passing on their firms to their children, Mrs Thatcher said: “Britain is not a place merely for big companies. It is a place where many people have, in the past and should in the future, show their own initiative on behalf of the people.”

Liberal Leader Jeremy Thorpe, who made a surprise appearance, pledged his party to fight the tax and attacked council spending as “the biggest mushrooming industry in the country.”

He knew of the problems of small businesses in his own Devon constituency. Many small firms were facing bankruptcy.

Earlier, the businessmen were urged to join in a march on the House of Commons by 47-year-old Denis Gutteridge, vice-chairman of Dyfed County Chamber of Trade in Caernarvon.

“If only we will unite—there are 2,000,000 of us—we can get rid of this Government in the same way the miners got rid of another one,” he declared. [end p1]

(2) Birmingham Post, 18 February 1975

Thatcher defends the small trader

Mrs. Margaret Thatcher, herself the daughter of a shopkeeper, sprang to the defence of Britain's small traders yesterday.

She said she knew from experience the “massive problem” faced every day in small businesses.

The new Opposition leader was speaking at a London Rally organised by the National Chamber of Trade.

She said that she believed small businesses were fundamental to Britain's future.

Mrs. Thatcher said her real claim to be at the meeting did not really come from the events of the last few days, but from the first 18 years of her life, when she lived over the shop which her Alfred Robertsfather owned and ran.

“I knew full well the tremendous number of hours which went into earning our keep. I knew full well what it was when the rates went up.

“I hope you will see I come not as a politician who only knows about politics, but as a person who really does know from experience the massive problems you have every single day in your businesses.

“I look at this as a meeting of those who make a very real contribution to the life of this nation, and I am delighted that you have at last decided to bring your case before the people so that they may know the value of the services you render.”

The traders say they are fearful of future Government policy and are particularly concerned about the burden of capital transfer tax, valued added tax, National Insurance contributions, and rates. [end p2]

(3) ITN Archive: News at Ten 17 February 1975

Mrs. Thatcher, in her first public speech as the new Leader of the Opposition, has said that small businesses are vital to Britain's future.

Many of them are under threat from rising costs and competition from the chain stores. Mrs. Thatcher spoke to small traders at a protest rally in London organised by the National Chamber of Trade.

She said she'd been invited at short notice and had had only 15 minutes to prepare her speech. [end p3]

Thatcher

Nevertheless, I am delighted to be here, and my first and real claim isn't really, doesn't really come from the events that have happened in the last few days, but that for the first eighteen years of my life, I lived over the shop which my Alfred Robertsfather owned and ran, and knew full well the tremendous number of hours which went in to earning your keep. Now I believe that the job you do is fundamental to the future of Britain. Britain is not a place merely for big, large companies. It is a place where many private people have in the past and should in the future be able to show and develop their own initiative on behalf of the people. This is the true wide distribution (Applause). This is the wide distribution of a property—owning democracy.

On leaving, she had a word for some well-wishers:

Thatcher

Hello, of course. Have you been …   . did you enjoy it? You went into the House of Lords as well? Lovely dark red colour, isn't it? Much prettier than the House of Commons.