Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

Speech opening Central Milton Keynes Shopping Centre

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire
Source: Thatcher Archive: speaking text
Editorial comments: 1145. A section of the text has been checked against BBC Radio News Report 1800 25 September 1979. Several hundred trade union demonstrators barracked MT during her speech, forcing her to shout. After declaring the centre open she commented: "I think we won", receiving an ovation from the crowd (see Milton Keynes Standard, 28 September 1979).
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 928
Themes: Economic policy - theory and process, Employment, Pay, Public spending & borrowing, Housing, Strikes & other union action

I am delighted to be here today to open this marvellous Shopping Building, which marks an important milestone in the development of Milton Keynes.


Building a city for nearly 100,000 people in some 10 years is an immense and complex undertaking. It requires skill, resources and confidence. It is to the great credit of the Development Corporation that it has been able to attract to Milton Keynes so many people, so many firms, and so much investment. [end p1]

This morning I have seen something of the progress already made. It is worth listing some of the achievements. 25,000 new jobs have been created, mostly in small businesses. 15,000 houses and 40 schools have been built. There are now 38 miles of city road. And many community facilities, including this splendid shopping centre, are now in place.

You have created an excellent setting for parents, children and pensioners; for industry, commerce and recreation. [end p2]

Housing Opportunities

This morning, at Willey Court on the Galley Hill Estate, I visited Mr. and Mrs. King who are buying their house from the Corporation. Encouraging people to own their homes, whether in new towns or Council estates, is something to which this Government attaches great importance.

We shall be making the necessary changes in the law, so that sitting tenants all over the Country will be given the chance to become home owners.

This is what many tenants want; it will save tax-payers' and rate-payers' money; it will help earners to become owners. Already, more than 2,000 Corporation tenants here in Milton Keynes have expressed an interest in buying their own homes—a good start. [end p3]

Business Opportunities

I also visited the Kiln Farm Small Business Centre and was impressed by what the Corporation are doing to help people to start up in business.

Our future prosperity will depend on the birth of successful new enterprises.

This Government aims to create the conditions in which small business, and free enterprise generally, can flourish.

Conditions in which their efforts are worthwhile and their success is applauded.

We have made a start on improving incentives and cutting out unnecessary and costly controls. [end p4]

Economic Realities

But industry won't flourish, or our living standards really improve, until more people accept some simple economic truths:

—if we are to stop prices rising, higher pay has to be earned by higher output;

—pay increases not so earned will eventually lead to fewer jobs;

—printing more money will lead to more inflation, not to more jobs;

—a nation which turns its back on new technology is turning its back on its own future.

For too long we have tried to ignore these truths. They are now catching up with us. The result has been lost trade and lost jobs. [end p5]

Industrial Action

At the present time, our prospects are being further jeopardised by strikes and industrial action. Beginning of section checked against BBC Radio News Report 1800 25 September 1979:

Resolving these disputes is the responsibility of the employers and employees concerned. And democracy is about people taking responsibility for their own actions. Governments, too, have responsibility. But let me make it clear: this government has no intention of printing more money to finance big pay settlements. We shall stick to the monetary target announced by the Chancellor in his Budget of the 12th June. To do otherwise would mean to abandon the battle against inflation. End of section checked against BBC Radio News Report 1800 25 September 1979. [end p6]

Recent unemployment figures have shown a welcome fall. But if we have a winter of strikes and pay settlements which our industries cannot afford, there is little chance of this fall continuing. Companies would find themselves losing out on price, delivery, quality, and on reputation. We have been losing ground for years—and it is no coincidence that our living standards have fallen so far behind our competitors. We have been obsessed by incomes, while they have been obsessed by output. Until we compete with them on output, we cannot enjoy their living standards.

Public Expenditure

If unemployment is a continuing concern, so also is the amount of taxpayers' money taken and spent by Government. [end p7]

First, let me give some facts about Government expenditure Last year, total public spending came to £65,000 million.

This year, it will be about £75,000 million—15%; higher.

Taking inflation into account, that spending will be worth the same as last year.

Not less, not more, but the same.

So, we are not cutting the total level of expenditure. Our aim is to stabilise it this year and next in real terms.

Within the total, we are spending more on police and defence, as we promised we would.

They are vital for our safety and security. So there are some reductions in other areas. [end p8]

What is the alternative?

Do those who urge us to spend more want higher taxes?

Do they want yet more Government borrowing which would mean still higher interest rates?

Or are they really saying print more money and don't bother about inflation?

Each one of these things would be another blow to our hopes for industrial revival—a revival on which we depend for a more successful Britain.

The Building

Here in Milton Keynes we can see success.

I have no doubt that the Corporation—in partnership with the local authorities—will complete its task with distinction.

This fine building provides a wonderful new facility for the communities which make up Milton Keynes. It is with great pleasure that I perform this opening ceremony.