Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Margaret Thatcher

Speech to Conservative Women’s Conference

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Central Hall, Westminster
Source: Thatcher Archive: CCOPR 710/78
Editorial comments: Embargoed until 1500. Extracts only. No speaking text survives in the Thatcher Archive. Sections of the speech have been checked against IRN Report 24 May 1978 (see editorial notes in text).
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 1210
Themes: Education, Monetary policy, Family, Law & order, Religion & morality

1. Protecting the Citizen

Beginning of first section checked against IRN Report 24 May 1978

There's little point in creating prosperity if, having done it, we fear we might be attacked in the streets or we or our property assaulted at home. And I believe, Madam Chairman, that above all else the people of this country wish to be protected against violence, theft and intimidation. [resounding applause] And they want children to be brought up to believe in the best of our traditional values and to know the difference between right and wrong.

Now our opponents claim to be compassionate and I'm sure they are. Yet the fact that hundreds of thousands of elderly people no longer feel safe from assault and robbery and that they fear to leave their homes for social or family visits, for worship, for entertainment, even for shopping, that seems to have no place in socialist compassion. They promise welfare but ignore well-being.

Now I think, Madam Chairman, that the whole nation has been absolutely shocked by reports of two horrifying attacks on elderly ladies, one of whom died and the other was systematically humiliated and robbed. But I think those two outrages do illustrate a much wider scandal. It is that all over the country, particularly in our large urban areas, old people do go in fear and trembling as never before during either the lifetime of their parents or grandparents. Now of course the great deterrent to crime is the probability of getting caught, but over the past four years that probability has receded. In London only 21 out of every 100 offenders are caught and convicted.

It's hardly a coincidence that were are over 5,000 resignations from the Metropolitan Police in 1977 … Now I think that there are three main causes for the dreadful decline in standards and the increase in crime during our lifetime. The first is that we don't give enough priority to getting the police force up to strength [applause]. Now that's going to cost money but it will be money very well spent. Because we must remember that nearly one in every five policeman suffers injury during the course of his career while on police duties. And those whom we expect to take such risks on our behalf really should be well paid and properly equipped for their dangerous work. applause End of first section checked against IRN Report 24 May 1978.

Conservatives believe that protection of the citizen as he goes about his lawful and peaceful pursuits is the Government's prime duty. [end p1]

The second reason is that we have been too ready to listen to those who believe that rising crime is due to things like higher unemployment, poor housing, poor pay. While it has always been part of Conservative policy to raise the standard of living of our people we must recognise that in the 1930's there were far more people out of work, far less prosperity and worse housing—but much less crime than now.

Further, so much crime today is committed by people who are neither poor nor badly housed nor unemployed.

Rising crime is not due to “society” —but to the steady undermining of personal responsibility and self-discipline—all things which are taught within the family.

That brings me to the third and perhaps most important reason for the fall in standards and increase in crime—the attack on traditional values.

It is not surprising that sometimes parents have been confused about the endless advice and the many rival theories on how to bring up children. There were times when I had to remind myself that our pare and grandparents brought us up without trendy theories and they didn' make such a bad job of it.

So it would seem that the tried and trusted values and commonsense application would lead to far better results than we are now experiencing.

We must teach that each of us is a responsible person who can choose his own course of action and who has a duty to others to do as he would be done by. That morality is largely based on religious values. Cut the stem and the plant withers.

That is why we have been so keen to keep religious teaching in our schools. To those who say that is indoctrinating children, I would reply—it is no such thing. [end p2]

It is a practical recognition of the truth that while an adult may, if he wishes, reject the faith in which he has been brought up, a child will find it difficult to acquire any faith at all without some instruction in the discipline of belief and practice.

Double-digit Inflation again?

But there is another quite different assault on the morality of the nation. I refer to the impact of inflation. Beginning of second section checked against IRN Report 24 May 1978

I don't boast that the level of inflation is still nearly 8 per cent. It's 8 per cent on top of about 16 per cent on top of about 25 per cent on top of about 13 per cent. [applause] That makes it a jolly sight bigger 8 per cent than our 13 per cent ever was, if you see what I mean. It's complicated and involves vast compound interest, but it does—you know it in your pockets. And the impact of inflation just undermines our standard of material value and unless we get it beaten it undermines therefore confidence in our society.

Now you remember that in October 1974 Mr. Healey announced that he'd brought the rate of inflation down to 8.4 per cent. Since then it's been up like that and it's now apparently down on the six month basis to that again.

Now he knew full well at the time that that was no more than a statistical quirk and that inflation would soon rise again, as it did to a record 27 per cent per annum. It was a quirk that created a headline and it helped to get his party re-elected. Now if we apply to the figures that have just come out the same arithmetic that he used then, known as the Healey basis [laughter], we're already back, ladies, to double digit inflation. For on that same three-monthly basis the annual rate of inflation has this month gone up to 10.5 per cent, it's back on its way up again.

But that's not all. You know all the debates about money supply and we had to agree with the IMF that we'd keep the extra money, which is money which is not backed by extra production, within certain limits because that's the only way to keep future inflation down. And we were going to keep it in the interests of future inflation, going to keep it down to a range of 9–13 per cent. Now that's quite a big range, isn't it, it's not a narrow range. The Germans go for 8 per cent and get very worried if it goes up to 9 per cent. We only aim for 9–13 per cent and what do you think it turned out to be? Sixteen and a quarter percent. Now headlines about massive increases in the nation's money supply tend to sound pretty remote from the day-to-day concerns of those who us who have to think about the cost of the Sunday joint. But they're not because in those figures are the seeds of the inflation of the future. End of second section checked against IRN Report 24 May 1978.

Let me remind you what one of the Treasury Minister's had to say to the Commons last month. [end p3]

“A faster expansion in the United Kingdom monetary aggregates” he told us, “would tend to weaken confidence in sterling, push the exchange rate down and prices up” .

The sting to that piece of jargon lay in the tail.

Day by day this Government is clipping our coinage, and it is we housewives who will have to bear the still higher increase in prices that will follow in the 12 months that lie ahead.