Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1975 Nov 7 Fr
Margaret Thatcher

Speech to Norfolk Conservatives

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Hotel Norwich City Suite, Norwich
Source: Thatcher Archive: speaking text
Editorial comments: The press release (928/75) was embargoed until 1330. A section of the speech has been checked against ITN Archive: Early Evening News (1750-1801). MT modified the speaking text after a press release had been issued, with the result that the CCOPR differs from the speech as delivered. Shortly before the speech she had spent ten minutes walking through the Provision Market where she chatted with shoppers and stallholders (Eastern Evening News, 7 November 1975).
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 797
Themes: Foreign policy (Asia), Foreign policy (Central & Eastern Europe), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Media, Trade unions
Notes by MT

(Norwich North—Timothy Dee, Norwich South—Ian Coutts, North Norfolk—Ralph Howell, South Norfolk—John MacGregor, South West Norfolk—Paul Hawkins, North West Norfolk—Christopher Brocklebank-Fowler, Yarnwick—Anthony Fel).l

How is it that in Russia today the people still do not know the extent of their Government's enormous grain purchases from America?

How is it that in China the people there did not learn of Americans setting foot on the moon until long after it had happened?

How has this happened?

It was not the intention of the Russian revolutionaries in 1918, nor of the Communist revolutionaries in China, to have a press in chains. [end p1]

But in both countries—as in others where there is no opposition—the press is in chains because one body has succeeded in taking control of the press.

It has succeeded in gaining a monopoly over every outlet of news and information, over every radio station every television station every newspaper and every magazine in the land.

Is there not a lesson in this for Britain?

Are we so sure our liberties are safe when extremists are so active on all sides? [end p2]

Have we still not learnt the lesson of history that to give absolute power to one body, however well-intentioned, in the pious hope that they will use it wisely for all time-is a fantasy?

For this is the question that is really raised in the debate on the freedom of the press at the moment and the debate on the amendments which the House of Lords and Conservatives in the House of Commons are insisting that Michael Foot inserts into his Trade Union and Labour Relations Bill. Amendments that will provide minimum safeguards to the freedom of the press. [end p3]

It is not that we doubt the good faith of the overwhelming majority of journalists in the one union—(the National Union of Journalists)—that aims to gain a monopoly over journalists' jobs in every newspaper and magazine in Britain.

It is because we should consider what might happen in the future.

What might happen if control over the hiring and firing, and the writing of all those engaged in the supplying of news and information to the people of this country did get into the hands of one group and then, at some future date, that group decided to use its power unwisely. [end p4]

There would be no going back then.

It would be too late.

The one factor which distinguishes our society above all others from those countries behind the Iron or Bamboo curtains is that in ours the individual has the maximum liberty of choice.

That is what capitalism and our entire society is all about—the right of the individual to choose for himself where he wants to work, what he wants to read, what he wants to write and which union he wants to join. [end p5] Beginning of section checked against ITN Archive: Early Evening News

And above all in matters affecting the freedom of the press, we should be vigilant in seeing that power does not pass into the hands of a single body that could possibly one day determine all that it thinks we should, or should not, be told.

For at the moment, imperfect as our press may be, a journalist who is aggrieved by one newspaper may turn to another run by a different proprietor.

A writer who cannot get his work published by one group can turn to a different one, and of course that's the way it should be. [end p6]

But if one body was able to take absolute control, no journalist who was aggrieved by one paper, or writer whose work was banned by one magazine, could hope to turn to an alternative, because the same body would be controlling the lot. End of section checked against ITN Archive: Early Evening News.

And no journalist—no matter how brilliant—who, for whatever reason, chose not to belong to the one body, or who was dismissed from it, would ever again be able to practise his profession in this country.

The right to earn a living should be an inalienable right—it should not be in the hands of a single body however eminent. [end p7]

It should be safeguarded.

It must be safeguarded.

For if this country is to remain free, our press must be free—and that means our editors and our journalists must have the protection that the Lords have proposed.

Otherwise, we could one day be no better than Czechoslovakia, where one union controls all the means of communication, and all that the people are to be told Incidentally, there every member has to say he approves of the Soviet invasion of the country. [end p8]

Perhaps you will say that this is impossible in Britain.

Let us make sure that it is impossible in Britain by seeing that the Government's legislation is subject to the safeguards which have been proposed by the House of Lords.