Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1976 May 19 We
Margaret Thatcher

Speech to Conservative Women’s Conference ("Local Elections - Sale of Council Houses")

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Central Hall, Westminster
Source: Thatcher Archive: speaking text
Editorial comments: Generally there are only minor differences between the speaking text and the press release, but the former includes a closing section excluded from the latter.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 1957
Themes: Conservatism, Economy (general discussions), Industry, General Elections, Local elections, Monetary policy, Privatized & state industries, Pay, Public spending & borrowing, Housing, Labour Party & socialism, Local government

From all the reports I have had, this has been another successful and rewarding conference: rewarding I hope in both what you have put into the discussions, and got out of them. [end p1]


The Conference has been held with the local Election results still very much in the forefront of our minds.

There were famous victories up and down the country.

These cheered our hearts and sent shivers of depression through Labour and Liberal ranks. [end p2]

Such results do not come about just through enthusiasm and activity on the day.

I know of the weeks and months of preparation, centrally and locally.

There was a determination that we would seize this chance to put Conservatism into practice.

And we did seize it! [end p3]

It has been a combined effort of the Party Organisation, the Candidates and their Agents; with Tim Raison, Hugh Rossi, Keith Speed and my colleagues in Parliament conducting over many months a running campaign against Socialist policies and Government legislation.

The importance of campaigning with some specific themes has been demonstrated: for instance, the need to get value for money; the restriction of municipal trading and direct labour schemes; and above all the value of house ownership and the sale of Council houses. [end p4]

It was the survey of Council estates, which we carried out last year and in which many of you took part, that brought out particularly the wish of so many Council tenants to buy their own homes—if only they were allowed to.

Constantly we were asked during the campaign about our plans.

Clearly they opened up new opportunities for many people.

We've had quite a lot of experience in these matters. [end p5]

In 1972 under a Conservative Government and Conservative Councils, we sold over 60,000 Council houses in a year.

Last year (1975) under Labour government and many Labour controlled Councils, only 2,000 were sold.

The truth is that Labour Governments would rather continue the rule of bureaucracy over the lives of Council tenants, than respond to their wish to own their homes and live their lives in their own way. [end p6]

When it comes to the crunch, state control is more important to Socialism than the property-owning democracy which the people want.

The effect on the Government of the popularity of our policies has been dramatic.

We have heard one of their deftest bits of double-talk since the days of Harold Wilson.

They would have us believe that they have been in favour of selling Council Houses all along! [end p7]

We hear that even a member of the Tribune Group has bought his.

They preach one thing but they practise another.

They are trying to have it both ways, because as their Circular said and the figures show, they have actively discouraged Local Authorities from selling.

Yesterday in the House of Commons their Minister of Housing confirmed that the Government still considers it generally wrong for Local Authorities to sell Council houses, particularly in the large cities. [end p8]

The only concession the government made was that there should be consultation with the Chairmen of the New Town Development Corporations about the possibility of raising the ban which the Government itself imposed on sales in New Towns.

Why does the Government persist in its obstinacy, throwing up empty arguments against the sale of Council houses? [end p9]

After all, to sell houses will generally not reduce the number available for new letting—because the man who buys his Council house would have gone on living there anyway.

The most important point is that to sell Council Houses does not reduce the number of houses for people to live in. Of course it doesn't. [end p10]

But what it does do, is to provide money for Councils to build more houses—take for example old peoples bungalows and flats—if they are wanted, and to carry out improvements which are so badly needed for much of their older stock.

I urge all Conservative Councils to go ahead with the policies on which they were elected by actively promoting the sale of council houses. If the government then prevents them it will be clear where the odium lies. [end p11]

I am deeply grateful to all those who worked so hard to achieve our local government victories.

And I have a special word of thanks for the people of Cardiff. By voting in a Conservative Council, they delivered on Mr. Callaghan 's doorstep the very message which I have been telling him in the House of Commons week after week!

That message is that Socialism has failed! [end p12]

The Failure of Socialism

Who would have thought it possible, in the Autumn of 1974, that a Socialist James CallaghanPrime Minister and Denis HealeySocialist Chancellor would now be telling the people that they must accept a cut in their living standards?

Certainly not those who voted Labour in the October Election.

In that Election, we were assured that unemployment and inflation were under control. [end p13]

Did Mr. Healey say then—and these are the very latest figures—that today prices would be nearly 19p in the £ up on last year? No—he told us that inflation was at 8.4%;

Did Mr. Callaghan say, then, that we would be worse off under Socialism in 1976? Did he promise that pay packets would buy less this year than last?

For that is the truth of it.

Were we told then that within eighteen months the British pound wouldn't even buy two dollars in the foreign exchange markets? [end p14]

Indeed, was it not implied only two or three weeks ago that the pound would improve once the TUC had agreed the new pay deal?

And what, sadly, has happened to it since?

Were we told then, at the October 1974 Election, that a Socialist government would run up the country's debts to record and forbidding levels; or that they would go on over-spending despite the debts that in this year alone they would have to borrow at a rate of over £200 for every man, woman and child in the country? [end p15]

Yet these are the painful realities.

After two years of Socialism we have arrived, not in a land flowing with milk and honey, but in a dry desert of debt, devaluation and decline.

It is because of Socialist failure that restraint is now necessary; indeed restraint is essential for recovery.

It is to the credit of the British people that they recognise this and are prepared at least temporarily to accept it; from whatever authority. [end p16]

But restraint is a negative thing.

Like so much else to do with Socialism, it is restrictive and depressing.

It holds down instead of building up.

It depresses expectations instead of encouraging achievement. [end p17]

Take the Government's new pay deal as an example. At a time when our energies should be liberated and effort rewarded, a new policy has been conceived which is even more restrictive than the previous one.

Under it, there can be no extra pay for higher productivity: and overtime is discouraged; whilst skilled workers, managers and executives all see their differentials yet further eroded. [end p18]

What message has the James CallaghanPrime Minister for them?

The Spanish would say “Mañana” —tomorrow!

Mr. Callaghan is once again falling back on this Government's favourite maxim “Don't do today what you can put off till tomorrow” .

What an irresponsible attitude! [end p19]

Mr. Callaghan knows that industrial prosperity depends on higher productivity and rewards for hard work and responsibility.

Yet he told the industrialists assembled at last night's CBI dinner that he is sorry—yes, sorry—but he can't manage to do anything about this till next year.

He calls for confidence. But his Government fails to take the action which would bring it about. [end p20]

If Mr. Callaghan is really serious about wanting to encourage profits and confidence, I will tell him three things he can do Today.

Not tomorrow—or next week—or next month—but Action Today. [end p21]

First, there is a debate in the House of Commons this afternoon on the Labour Party's plans for nationalising the banks, the pharmaceutical industry and the insurance companies.

Nothing could do more for the confidence of British industry—encouraging investment, profits and job creation—than for the Government to announce before the end of the debate that they will have nothing to do with these desperately damaging proposals. [end p22]

Let the Government say that before the end of the debate.

But will they?

Somehow I don't think so, because Mr. Callaghan has decided that the final speaker should be—wait for it—Mr. Bann. [end p23]

The second thing that Mr. Callaghan should do, and do today, is to announce that the Government's existing nationalisation programme will be completely dropped.

At present, the Government is trying to ram the nationalisation of aircraft and shipbuilding through its remaining stages in the House of Commons. [end p24]

They can show their alleged devotion to profits and enterprise by tearing up that Bill and letting the House of Commons discuss instead measures that really would put this country and our industry back on the road to recovery.

The third item on Mr. Callaghan's agenda for today should be to let us know that some of the spending cuts the Government say they will make next year will be brought forward to this year. [end p25]

I am always suspicious of Labour Chancellors promising to cut spending at some future date.

With them, next year never seems to come.

So let Mr. Callaghan say today that Government intend to start straightaway to transfer resources from those who spend our wealth to those who create it.

Pay restraint is not enough; we must have budget restraint as well. [end p26]

Those are the things for Mr. Callaghan to do now, this afternoon, to show that he means what he says.

It's not after-dinner speeches that count. It's action in Downing Street.

Those are some of the things that need to be done to build a new Britain. [end p27]

But Socialism is an obstacle, not an aid, to recovery.

If you won't act, Mr. Callaghan, stand aside and let us march through.

Because we know where we are going. [end p28]

We know the nation we have to build. The new nation should be a working nation, a creative nation, and a caring nation.

In a Conservative Society, we underline the importance and role of the individual person. We say that he must be allowed to develop his character, his individuality, to the full. But in giving him opportunity and choice, we also give him responsibility. We expect him to treat other people as individuals entitled to the same respect and consideration which he hopes to receive. We expect him to do something for them himself and not to shrug off the responsibility on to the State.

That is the behaviour we all look for in a good family. That is what distinguishes Conservative caring.

The anonymous, computerised Socialist system treats society as a set of pigeon holes into which Government policies can be popped.

Our country faces many problems and difficulties. Our economic and financial situation is as grave as any in our history. To recover from it requires hard work and sacrifice. [end p29]

Above all it needs self-confidence and determination to succeed. And it is national and individual confidence and determination which are yet lacking; and they are lacking because Socialism provides no encouragement, no enthusiasm; no hope: nothing but restriction and restraint.

We must conserve what is best from the past and build on it for the future.

We must give opportunity and reward for creativity, so as to build up the strength of our country.

We must build a society which cares, which cares for values and which cares for people as people. [end p30]

That is the Conservative society which we all want.

That is the Conservative society which with your help we shall start to build immediately after the next Election.