Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

Speech to Helensburgh Conservative rally

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Helensburgh, Argyll
Source: Thatcher Archive: speaking text
Editorial comments: Evening. Two sections of the speech are missing, including some remarks about Clydeside reported in the Glasgow Herald (see Remarks visiting Glasgow, 18 April 1975).
Importance ranking: Minor
Word count: 4243
Themes: Agriculture, British Constitution (general discussions), Union of UK nations, Commonwealth (general), Conservative Party (organization), Conservative Party (history), Economic policy - theory and process, Employment, Industry, General Elections, Monetary policy, Privatized & state industries, Pay, Public spending & borrowing, Taxation, Trade, European Union (general), Economic, monetary & political union, Foreign policy (development, aid, etc), Housing, Labour Party & socialism, Local government, Transport

I came to Scotland immediately after my election as Leader. I spoke at a wonderful rally in Glasgow. It was a marvellous meeting, the climax of a day I shall long remember.

Here I am again.

I'm being selfish. I like coming to Scotland!

I want to talk to you about three themes tonight.

I want to talk to you about the Economy, about Europe and about our Country—Scotland. [end p1]

And if it happens that the lead letters of these three themes are EEC—then it is not by chance. Because that constitutional monster, the Referendum, is creeping closer and closer.

Unless we have our way with it in June, and win it, then all our troubles will be even bigger and blacker than they are now!

Well, the economy …   . and that means the Budget.

Most of you, I think, will be aware that we had a budget earlier this week.

Painfully aware! [end p2]

When the Press rang me up on Tuesday morning and asked me what I would be wearing for the Budget debate, my answer was simple.

I said I would be wearing black!

But I also wore a carnation—a promise that we shall, one day soon, have a Conservative Government again!

A little while ago, in a speech, I spoke of the buffooneries of Mr Benn, and the wileyness of Mr Wilson. [end p3]

I now have a third one to add:

The menace of Denis HealeyDenis!

Although here I must hastily say that, generally, I am rather partial to the name Denis.

It happens to be my Denis Thatcherhusband's name too!

But I have two grave charges to lay against this present Government, against this budget and against Mr Healey in particular. [end p4]

The first charge is that the tax increases are so heavy, because of his lack of foresight, his complacency, and his profligacy, over the last year.

My second charge is that to increase taxation as he has done, without also dramatically cutting Government expenditure, is like ordering the cavalry to charge without their horses; like running with one leg; like rowing a boat with only one oar.

And you all know what happens if you row a boat with only one oar. You go round and round in circles and are swept over the rapids! [end p5]

Now, my first charge is of complacency and profligacy which has contributed so much to our trouble … and to the weight of the tax increases.

The crucial thing that we must keep in mind is that when we were in power, we had our economic difficulties.

But then the rest of the world were in difficulty too.

We were all in an inflationary period. We were all suffering from economic problems. [end p6]

Today the other Western nations have tackled their economic problems. Things already have changed for the better … for them.

They are on the way up.

And as for us, we are taking a bitter medicine, made more bitter because the patient has been so long neglected.

We still have to tackle the fundamental deep-seated problem of inflation, now running at 20 per cent or more.

Even Italy, which was the poor relation of Europe for a time, is now down to a rate of inflation of around 15 per cent. [end p7]

Very ironic that we should talk of “coming down to 15 per cent” .

In 1970 I can well remember Reginald Maudling saying, when we were talking about inflation at 9 per cent(?)—

“Well, if that is what it is going to be, we can all pack up and go home!” .

Indeed the average rate of inflation of our European partners is now very close to half that of ours.

And it didn't just happen by chance that their Governments had the courage to take the right economic steps. [end p8]

It didn't just happen by chance that, now, if their unemployment is high, they are in a position to start recovering towards growth again.

Incidentally, let me here say that the unemployment figures in Europe are Not much different from those in our country, as the Labour Party would have us believe.

Germany, for instance, has a rate of unemployment only just a bit above ours, about 3.4 or 3.5 per cent. Ours is 3.1 per cent.

But look at the difference in inflation.

Ours 20 per cent. Germany's 7%; per cent! [end p9]

And what Mr Healey has at last realised, and stated in his budget speech, is that inflation brings with it, inevitably, higher and higher unemployment.

Inflation Causes unemployment.

And here in Scotland, our unemployment is not 3.1 per cent.

It is not even the German level of 3.5 per cent.

It is 4.6 per cent.

And in our constituency here of West Dumbartonshire, it is a staggering 7.2 per cent! [end p10]

7.2 per cent today.

But we have the Denis HealeyChancellor of the Exchequer forecasting a million unemployed by the end of the year in the country as a whole.

What will it be then in Scotland? And what will it be then in West Dumbartonshire?

Because, I repeat, inflation causes unemployment. And our rate of inflation is nearly double that of our Western partners. [end p11]

Now, during the last election, you may remember the self-same Chancellor talking about 8.4 per cent inflation. And it helped Labour win the election.

Is this not complacency?

You may remember him—and indeed all the Labour Ministers—talking about the Social Contract.

How the Social Contract would keep wage demands in line with price rises. And it helped Labour win the election. [end p12]

We wished the Social Contract well. But we were sceptical. Increasingly so as the months went by, and the wage demands grew larger and larger. The chorus of doubt grew louder and louder.

Yet the Government again and again defended the Social Contract.

Now this week the Chancellor increases Income Tax as “a counter-inflation tax” —to make up for the failure of his Social Contract.

Does this not admit to monumental complacency over the last year? [end p13]

And, incidentally, those he is punishing with this tax are probably Not the ones who have gained the vast pay rises, yet they have suffered the vast price rises!

Typical Socialist justice!

But it is not only his complacency that is dangerous. Denis HealeyHe is the profligate, spendthrift Chancellor too.

One of the prime causes of inflation is when a Government spends much more than its income.

Mr. Healey said that we were living beyond our means. [end p14]

The truth is that He is living beyond our means!

It is His hand in our pocket!

Let me remind him that, a year ago, he forecast that his Government's borrowing requirement would be £2.7 billion.

Then the estimate for the November budget came along. It was £6.3 billion.

It turned out, in fact, to be £7.6 billion!

He is now estimating £9.0 billion for this year. [end p15]

I wonder what that'll turn out to be …

The charge: profligacy and extravagance. Lack of foresight and lack of action.

The result: the budget announced this week from which we shall all suffer for a long time to come. [end p16]

You will remember that I also laid a second grave charge against the Government and Mr. Healey.

I said that to increase taxation, as he has done without also cutting Government expenditure, is like rowing a boat with only one oar.

Instead of forging ahead, you go round in circles.

But you will say: “Is this fair? Did not Mr. Healey announce in his Budget that, indeed, he will cut public expenditure?” .

The answer is Yes—he did. That is, say he would … next year! [end p17]

But Governments have been saying this sort of thing as long as there have been governments around.

It is what they do that counts.

Mr. Healey said his reason for not making cuts this year was that: “We must plan the reductions well ahead, so that they cause the least possible damage …” (Hansard 15 April, 287).

Admirable sentiments.

But, one question: Why did he not start planning the cuts six months ago …? When, for instance, the 1974 March borrowing requirement was doubling in the space of some ten months? [end p18]

Could it be that last year's elections have something to do with it?

Banish the thought!

The Government would never behave like that!

But if that wasn't the reason—then we are left with the lack of foresight of a spendthrift chancellor!

My guess is that both reasons had something to do with it!

In fact, there are several immediate candidates that required little thought and planning. [end p19]

One such is food subsidies.

Why should I benefit from food subsidies—just as much as the poorest pensioner?

It's nonsense.

They should have been cut last Tuesday—and some part of the saving used to help those who would be harder hit. [end p20]

In conclusion, I would say this about the budget. I believe that the combination of taxes that you pay …   . the direct tax, the income tax … the indirect taxes, value added tax, customs and excise tax, what you pay as National Insurance premiums, what you pay as rates …   . all this added up together …

I believe that the limits of taxation have been reached—and passed.

People really cannot go on paying more and more.

The time has come that the Government said to the British people: “We shall give you a choice. We shall stop saying that you must pay additional taxes because we have decided on additional expenditure” . [end p21]

Many people would chose a lower level of taxes, and lower public expenditure.

But under this Government you have no choice.

The Denis HealeyChancellor of the Exchequer is saying, in different words, what George Bernard Shaw once said: “Under Socialism, you will not get what you like, so you will have to like what you get!” .

But I don't need to tell you that it's not only the level of taxation that hurts.

Filling in tax forms is a tax on time itself. [end p22]

I know how many self-employed and small businesses there are in the West of Scotland.

For that reason, I can tell you that the Conservatives in the House of Commons will vote against multi-rate VAT.

I would rather have seen the rate go to 10 per cent again than to have yet another rate.

And we shall vote against the £40 car tax licence too! [end p23]

It may be true, as the Chancellor said, that it has not increased in recent years by as much as other prices.

But you cannot say: “Oh well, let's put it up to nearer what its true figure would be, compared to five years ago” .

Because you cannot look at it in isolation. You have to look at all the other hugely increased costs that the unhappy motorist has to bear …   . petrol, insurance, repair, and all the rest.

So we shall vote against it. [end p24]

To sum up this budget.

As I said in the House of Commons, Mr. Callaghan, when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, described one of his budgets as “steady as she goes!” .

This budget is “steady as she sinks!” . [end p25]

The second theme which I want to talk to you about tonight is Europe.

Unless we win the referendum, and stay in the European Community, all our troubles will grow yet larger still.

I was heartened by the recent opinion poll, which showed a majority—albeit slender—of all those questioned in Scotland, for staying in.

The trend is going the right way.

But the Scots are always known for their good sense! [end p26]

Indeed it is not surprising that I, as Leader of the Conservative Party, would support this campaign.

As a Party, we have pursued the European vision for a hundred years.

It was Disraeli who said:

“I assume also that no great power would shrink from its responsibilities. If that country from a perverse interpretation of its insular geographical position, turns an indifferent ear to the feelings and fortunes of continental Europe, such a course would, I believe, only end in it becoming an object of general plunder. Three pages missing. [end p27]

By turning our backs we would forfeit our right to influence what happens in the Community.

But what happens in the Community will inevitably affect us.

The European Community is a powerful group of nations.

With Britain as a member, it is more powerful. Without Britain it will still be powerful.

We can play a leading role in Europe, but if that leadership is not forthcoming, Europe will develop without Britain. [end p28]

Let me give you four over-riding reasons why Europe must develop with Britain: with our country playing a leading role.

The first is peace.

There has been peace in Europe for thirty years.

For that alone, I am grateful. My children have not fought in a European war—as did the children of the previous two generations. [end p29]

Nor must we take this peace for granted.

It has been gained by nations working together, deliberately, to this end.

And what is more, the Community gives us peace in a free society—a peace and security denied to past generations.

My second reason is that the Community gives us access to secure sources of food supplies. [end p30]

We are a country that has to import half of what we need. So this is vital to us.

My third reason is that, as members of the Community, we shall be members of a group doing more trade than any other in the world.

And giving more aid.

More aid than China … or Russia … or America. [end p31]

And fourthly, we can represent our Commonwealth in Europe.

The Commonwealth wants us to stay in and has said so.

The Community wants us too … and has shown it.

Incidentally, let me add a fifth good reason.

Anything that the left-wing of the Labour Party wants … is probably bad for our country! [end p32]

And they desperately want us to leave Europe.

Their reasons are clear.

They fear that, if we stay in Europe, they cannot have their way.

They cannot turn us into a socialist siege state, our society suffocated by a spendthrift government.

So if they want us out … I say all the more reason to stay in! [end p33]

It's up to us to tell our people what is at risk in this referendum.

We have no reason to feel complacent.

We must tell them of the advantages of Britain's membership, not simply in general terms, but how it has helped us [in our area?] in particular.

Every region has received some help; and the amounts vary from the large to the very small.

For example: Three pages missing. [end p34]

These are some of the advantages that we shall continue to receive as members of the Community.

Now let me tell you of some of the myths and scares that we shall hear from the anti-marketeers in the coming weeks. [end p35]

It is a myth that our membership of the European Community is to blame for the sharp deterioration in Britain's trade balance with the Community nations.

The truth is that some goods would have cost us much more if we had not been in the Community.

Food, for example, made up more than 50 per cent of our deficit. This is because when food prices for certain items such as cereals, started to rise on world markets we switched to cheaper European supplies. [end p36] Oil contributed 11 per cent of our deficit with the Community; because we are short of refining capacity in Britain we have to import oil products from the Community. We would have had to have done so whether we were in the Community or not.

If we hadn't got it from there, it would have cost the same elsewhere.

Similar considerations apply to chemicals and plastics, iron and steel.

It is also a myth that our membership of the Community has caused an increase in food prices. [end p37]

It is true that some items have also gone up. It is true that we cannot predict future world prices.

But it is also true that being a member of the Community has not, on balance, meant an increase in food prices.

It is a myth that the Community is simply a bureaucracy with no concern for the individual.

The entire staff of the Commission is about 7,000—smaller than that of the Scottish Office. [end p38]

It is a myth that our Membership of the Community will suffocate national tradition and culture.

Are the Germans any less German for being in the Community, or the French any less French?

Of course they are not!

It seems to me to display an amazing lack of self-confidence in Britain on the part of some people, that they think that, whereas no other nation in the Community has lost its national character, Britain in some way will. [end p39]

These points, and others, must be answered.

On every possible occasion, in conversation, and on the doorstep.

Because this monstrous invention of the Labour Government will soon be upon us.

The Referendum.

We must give a clear lead in this campaign to help Britain in Europe, and to honour the Treaty signed by our Conservative Government. [end p40]

What will our friends throughout the world think of Great Britain if, almost casually, we tear up this Treaty?

We must give this lead, even though we dislike referenda.

When referendum day comes, there may be some who do not want to vote.

But no one can opt out of this decision.

It is a decision that will affect us all.

It is a decision that will affect future generations. [end p41]

It is a decision in which all should participate to secure our future in a free society.

We must act to defend our children's future as those generations before us acted to protect ours.

For hundreds of years the peoples of Britain have been writing history. Do we want future generations to continue to write history or are they simply going to have to read it?

If we fail, they will read how we broke faith with both the present and the past. [end p42]

If we fail and the British people vote No to the European Community, they will read how there was a defeat for co-operation between nations, and how there was a victory for the tribunes of the Left.

They will read how extremism won over common sense.

For it is common sense to belong to a community working together in peace an economic and political issues that concern us all.

It is common sense to have access to secure sources of food supplies, when as a nation we have to import half our food. [end p43]

It is common sense to belong to the Community that is the largest trading and aiding unit in the world, and play our part in that Community.

It is surely common sense for Britain to continue to play a part in the Counsels of Europe.

It is surely common sense that we should also listen to the Commonwealth—those Nations who twice this century have come to Britain's aid to defend democracy in Europe. [end p44]

The Commonwealth wants us to stay in.

Britain has made a vital contribution to the past.

She has a contribution to make to the future.

It will be bigger in Europe than alone. [end p45]

My third and final theme tonight is Country … Scotland.

When I spoke in Glasgow, just after becoming the Leader of our Party, I said that if we are to have a Conservative Government, we must turn the tide in Scotland.

Since then I have talked with many people and have discussed many of the problems that we face here.

We still have a long way to go. But a number of points are becoming clearer. [end p46]

First: we must oppose Socialism throughout Scotland.

We must not only win Socialist seats. We must convince the people of Scotland that the Conservatives are the only true alternative to Socialists.

That is the choice here. A Conservative demonstration against the Socialist State.

In too many seats, people deeply worried by the road which this government is following, have not yet turned to our Party.

Yet I know that these people, potential Conservatives, utterly reject the destructive separatism sought by the Scottish Nationalists. [end p47]

In Parliament, the Scottish Nationalist MPs tend to support the Labour government.

As indeed, here in Scotland, I am told that they want defence expenditure to be slashed.

Except where they lose support by so doing. As here!

But secondly, what worries me as much as the seats we have lost in the North and East is the way our support has dropped in Scotland's cities. [end p48]

Most Scots live in a triangle bounded by the Tay, the Forth and the Clyde.

Any political party must look to this triangle.

So our real problem is the west of Scotland.

Twenty years ago we had sixteen Conservative MPs in the area. Today we have six. [end p49]

Glasgow and the west of Scotland has tremendous economic and social problems, not unlike some English cities where, too, we have lost support.

I believe that we must give priority to the problems of Clydeside. [end p50]

Any study, however superficial, of the west of Scotland shows the problems. And there have been many studies in the last quarter of a century.

The most recent was publicised only this week.

It showed that Glasgow is the area of greatest deprivation in Britain.

There seem to be three factors that make it so. Economic. Social (especially housing). The environment. [end p51]

Government after government has tried to make things better. Without all that much success.

I wonder if there is a fourth factor—usually overlooked: that local control, responsible for a range of planning decisions, has been in the hands of Labour councils.

Not only in Glasgow, either. But in many surrounding areas which have failed to respond to the needs of their citizens.

When the reports talk of the failure to expand economic opportunity, they mention high rates. Industrial unrest. Planning frustrations. [end p52]

Perhaps they should also mention the Labour-controlled local councils.

And in an area with 60 per cent of its population living in houses owned by local authorities, New Town Corporations or the Scottish Special Housing Association, surely it is a condemnation of local housing policy that nearly a fifth of all council tenants live in overcrowded conditions.

In conditions worse than in the private housing sector.

These reports show the environment as bleak.

Glasgow and its surroundings are short of open space, grass and trees. [end p53]

Streets, gardens and back courts are sometimes neglected.

Again local council housing leads this league. Of the 137,000 houses judged to offer a poor environment in the West of Scotland, over half are built by the local authorities.

Perhaps these reports should again mention, among their reasons, the Labour-controlled local authorities.

But I know that there are no quick answers … no magic wand that can be waved. [end p54]

However, there is no need to make the situation even more difficult than it already is.

The threat of nationalisation, poised like the sword of Damocles above our shipyards and marine engineering works, cannot be said to give rise to universal shouts of public approval.

Let alone to increasing confidence.

And I would say the same about the proposals for a Scottish Development Agency, a sort of tartan Wedgwood Benn. [end p55]

Here in the west of Scotland, benefits from North Sea development are starting to show.

But how ironic—what a disaster it would be—were those same revenues from the North Sea to be used for a State takeover of the firms hoping to benefit from the orders now being placed. [end p56]

I promise you that we shall fight further nationalisation.

We shall fight the Capital Transfer Tax, another grievous threat to our businesses—just as I have said that we shall fight the multi-rate VAT.

Now I have spoken in general terms about some of the problems facing us here in Scotland.

Let me turn to two problems in a more specific and detailed way.

Housing. And the environment. [end p57]

First, Housing.

I am deeply worried by the catastrophic drop in private house building in Scotland.

In the last years of office of our government, figures reached record levels.

Now the emphasis is only on council building.

We must have mixed development, if we are not to perpetuate so many of the errors that have been made in the past.

And of course those who live in council homes should also have the chance to buy their houses or flats. [end p58]

This has been our policy. It remains our policy.

Why should council tenants be forced to remain tenants all their lives if they want to become owners? [end p59]

Meanwhile, with so many living in council housing, may the time not be coming when we should consider a radical change in housing tenure?

Were we able to transfer ownership to the tenants, perhaps in the form of a housing association, then might we not see a change in attitudes?

Tenants would become part-owners. They would have a say in how their homes are decorated and maintained. They would have pride of ownership.

Surely the west of Scotland is a key area in which to study new approaches such as this. [end p60]

It is a challenge, which I leave with you here.

Then the environment.

Conservative governments have striven to improve our environment here.

We launched the new towns of Cumbernauld, Irvine and Stonehouse.

East Kilbride grew to maturity during our periods of office. [end p61]

And, in line with our 1970 Manifesto, a Conservative government, recognising the special problems, invested £13 million in improving the environment in the west of Scotland. [end p62]

In Clydeside, we have a tradition of skill and industrial experience, unequalled in the world.

We have two fine universities … and, at the bottom of the street here, Western Europe's finest natural harbour.

We are surrounded by beautiful countryside. [end p63]

It may be true that Labour's legacy has been frustration and lack of modernisation. But this can be overcome.

We can show that Conservative policies can help overcome them.

If we can, then the result of the next election can be swift and dramatic. [end p64]

But to do so, we need hard work, thought, imagination, vision.

And there is not much time.

This is the message that I am bringing to you tonight.

[Words missing] with your help.

I am determined that we shall have a winning Conservative Party in Scotland.

I am determined that we shall have a Conservative Government in Britain.