Shopkeepers fight Healey
REVOLT OVER THE COUNTER
The shopkeepers of the nation rose in revolt yesterday against spiralling rates and discriminatory taxes—and found a champion in Mrs. Margaret Thatcher
The new Tory leader, who was given a great ovation by 800 delegates in London, told them they were her kind of people: as a grocer's daughter she knew their problems and would try to help.
Mrs. Thatcher, who had not expected to speak, said later: “People feel the big battalions win all the time, so it is nice to be able to support small traders.
“We used to be famous for two things—as a nation of shopkeepers and as the workshop of the world. One is trade, the other is industry. We must get back our reputation.”
At the protest meeting called by the National Chamber of Trade the delegates—representing 350,000 small business proprietors—warned the Government that they were fed up with being “unpaid tax collectors” and drew attention “to the feeling that they should withdraw their unpaid labour from April 1.”
They would refuse to collect or pay in Vat, Paye tax, national insurance contributions, and excise duty on oil and spirits—which “would bring chaos.”
Another resolution objected to a capital transfer tax “which would kill off family businesses,” to the “massive workload” caused by V.A.T., and to “the discriminatory nature” of national insurance and social security contributions. It also demanded immediate rates relief.
Both resolutions were delivered to 10, Downing Street and to Chancellor Mr. Healey at the Commons.
In the shop
Mrs. Thatcher—who returned to the House before the threat to stop collecting taxes was made—told the meeting about her salad davs in Grantham. [end p1]
She said: “I knew full well during my first 18 years—spent over a shop—of the tremendous number of hours that went into earning your keep. I knew the woman of the house often had to put in a great deal of work in the shop, too.
“I knew Alfred Robertsfather and Beatrice Robertsmother could probably never go away on holiday together because they could not leave the shop at the same time. And I knew what it was when the rates went up.”
Increasing rates were due to inflation, she said—which must be beaten “before it destroys the kind of Britain we have come to know.”
Public spending must be cut: “We must say ‘If you can't afford it, you can't have it, and that's that.’”
Mr. Michael Heseltine, Opposition spokesman on industry, said: “We are here to talk, no less, about the place and rights of individuals in this land.
“What brings you here today is the growing feeling that the traditional contribution that people such as yourselves have made and the rewards you regard as your entitlement are threatened as never before by the growing dominance of central and local government and by the often monopoly power of organised labour.
“Let this meeting be remembered as the moment when the voice was heard of the man and woman who believe in their right to live their own life in their own way,’ he said. “I want you to rekindle your faith in the values for which you stand.”
The Tories' Sir Keith Joseph and Liberal leader Mr. Jeremy Thorpe made surprise appearances at the rally, both promising to help.
Miss Mildred Head, of Sudbury, Suffolk, chairman of the National Chamber of Trade, was pleased at the success of the meeting. “It is only the beginning.” she said. “We have plans to follow it up throughout the country.”