Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1975 Jul 7 Mo
Margaret Thatcher

Speech to the Industrial Society

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Cafe Royal, Regent Street, central London
Source: Thatcher Archive: speaking text
Editorial comments: 1250. See also Financial Times, 8 July 1975: "After her speech, [MT] continued during an "off the record" question and answer session to avoid reference to the Government’s strategy for pay and prices, in spite of several promptings from the floor.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 1339
Themes: Conservatism, Industry, Housing, Pay, Labour Party & socialism

One of the foundations of Britain's wealth during the Industrial Revolution was our invention of the limited liability company.

Modern industrial organisation has its roots in that creation.

It was, and is, an essential organisation through which wealth can be created, jobs provided, and business and industry carried on. [end p1]

It is not surprising that from time to time, public concern should be focused upon the way we run our commerce and industry. It would be very odd if far reaching changes were not necessary to match up to modern conditions.

Yet I start with a reaffirmation of the importance of the industrial unit.

There will be no prosperity in Britain unless industry is profitable, and profits can only be made by companies which make their own decision, create their own loyalties, and are able to find their own sources of capital for investment. [end p2]

The freedom of commercial decision-making is a freedom at the heart of economic success.

This may seem obvious to most of us here, but there is an increasing attitude which takes for granted that outsiders, whether governments or bureaucrats, are better able to make every kind of commercial decision, than those actually doing the job.

That attitude I wholly reject. [end p3]

Yet to insist upon the rights of commercial undertakings to make their own decisions, is also to insist upon their responsibilities.

We hear a great deal of people's rights, and very little of their duties. It is perhaps one of the saddest features of today's political and industrial world.

No industry can make decisions today without a concern for the national interest. [end p4]

Of course, it is right that governments should share with the CBI, the Industrial Society, Trades Unions and all the other relevant organisations, its aims and sometimes its fears for the economic future of Britain.

Government has to provide the context within which industry functions.

It has a duty to make that context as favourable and as encouraging as it can. [end p5]

In return, industry must accept the responsibility of bringing in to its decision-making the needs of the nation as a whole, and not merely its own narrower aims.

That is why the rights of independent commercial decisions imply the responsibility outwards to the Government representing the nation as a whole.

But it also implies a responsibility inwards, towards the whole of the work force, and those who put their savings into the business. [end p6]

But someone has to carry the can. And that's why final responsibility must rest with the Board.

Just as there is responsibility outwards to the Government, so there is a duty to see that everyone is informed about the company for which they work, so that they can play their part in its success. [end p7]

We really cannot expect responsibility to be shown by workers who are not given the right to know.

Responsibility implies understanding. It cannot be expected unless there is real disclosure to the people who depend for their future upon the firm's success.

That is why the Conservative Party has always welcomed the demand to share information, good or bad, with those upon whose co-operation and industrial success depend. [end p8]

That does, of course, mean discussion, information and disclosure to those who actually work in a business, and not merely to trades unions. [end p9]

The Conservative Party is determined to ensure that companies increasingly share their decision-making so that workers are fully involved.

That cannot be done without full disclosure of all but that small category which is commercially most sensitive.

Even that category will shrink as management and work people learn to trust one another as they experience the increasing benefit of sharing in the plans for the future of the company. [end p10]

It would be foolish to suggest that this will be easy.

Attitudes have grown up in industry which make these practices unfamiliar and often difficult to implement and continue.

Brave starts often trail away as people find it easier to get on with the job themselves, rather than involving other people.

It is a familiar situation. [end p11]

All of us find it quicker to do it ourselves, even though we know that that is no way to run a business.

That's why it will be necessary to lay down guidelines to encourage a much fuller sharing of information in industry. That sharing will be with work people, in their companies, upon whose success they and their families depend.

That is the responsibility of management. It will bring forth a real respons from the people on the shop floor. [end p12]

Yet it is impossible to divorce participation in industry from participation in the community as a whole.

Ownership, a stake in our society, and the independence that it brings, is an essential part of freedom.

The dispersion of capital into the hands of more and more of our people must be the aim of a Conservative Government. The property-owing democracy must, as Iain Macleod said, become the capital-owing democracy. [end p13]

For most people that will be first through home-ownership.

As more and more people are able to buy their own homes, so they in their turn will have something to pass on to their children, their sense of sharing in the community, and of the continuity of their part in it will be enormously enhanced.

The right to own a home of your own, and the responsibilities which go with it, involve a family in the community. [end p14]

Such people will not be willing to play a less responsible part at work.

As society expects them to take their place as residents play their part in education as parents, in the market place as discriminating consumers. So it must enable people to take just as responsible a role in industry.

It is up to the Government to create the conditions in which this can be done. It is governments that make it possible for people to be home-owners. [end p15]

But it is individuals who make the choice and carry the responsibility.

It is governments which encourage industry towards greater participation, but it is individuals who make that sharing a success.

It is governments that create the conditions for prosperity. But it is individual firms, managers and work people who actually deliver the goods. [end p16]

Naturally, all this is much easier where the unit is small.

The small community helps and supports its members automatically without need for special organisation, or particular rules.

The small firm with direct contact between employer and employee, rarely needs the same encouragement for participation which the larger unit demands.

The bigger the unit becomes the more important it is to protect the people within it. [end p17]

The more important it is to ensure that they remain individuals, that they can exercise personal responsibility, and that they play a real part in the making of their own future.

The economies of scale have often blinded us to the inhumanities of size.

Modern processes and techniques may make big units inevitable. The demands of huge capital investment certainly increase the average size of plant. [end p18]

We must not throw up our hands in despair, and accept the damage to human relations which this so often involves.

We must instead take on the responsibilities of size. First amongst those is the need for an organisation designed round the human beings who work in it—even if that be at the expense of the machines which make it possible. [end p19]

The Industrial Society is dedicated to the improvement of the relationships between those who work in industry.

Those relationships can never be satisfactory unless we can learn how to deal with the problem of size, so that the people who work in our large companies feel that they are worth while.

The first step to that is the involvement of every one in the work force in the decisions which will make or mar his future.

It is governments duty to encourage industry to that end. [end p20]

We can set the scene and create the right climate.

We can encourage, cajole and in the last resort, insist.

But it is you who work in industry, alone, who can make it a success.

For most people, earning our living is the most important part of our lives. That is why your success is so vital for Britain. [end p21]

If we can bring to industry a real sense of partnership, and to the individual on the shop floor a real understanding of his own worth, we can revolutionise industrial relations and change the whole nature of our society.