Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

Speech at Lord Mayor’s Banquet

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Guildhall, City of London
Source: BBC Sound Archive: OUP transcript
Editorial comments: The banquet began at 1900; MT usually spoke around 2100.
Importance ranking: Key
Word count: 2983
Themes: Executive, Civil liberties, Defence (arms control), Economic policy - theory and process, Monetary policy, Privatized & state industries, Public spending & borrowing, Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Law & order, Terrorism, Strikes & other union action


My Lord Mayor, my late Lord Mayor, Your Grace, Premier Swan, Your Excellencies, Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen.

My Lord Mayor, congratulate you on your assumption of office and on the splendour of the procession through the streets of London on Saturday. [Applause]

And may I thank you for the kind and eloquent way in which you have proposed the toast to Her Majesty's Ministers.

Your speech tonight was remarkable—among other things—for your statement that you did not feel qualified to give me advice on the economy, foreign affairs or industrial disputes.

In my experience, my Lord Mayor, lack of qualification is rarely a consideration which inhibits advice. [Laughter and applause]

Indeed, some commentators remind me very much of Mark Twain who you will recall said: “When I was fourteen I thought my father was a fool: when I was twenty-one I was amazed how much he had learned in seven years” . [laughter]

May I also follow you in paying tribute to your predecessor, Dame Mary Donaldson.

It always causes me some distress to see a lady leave high office [laughter and applause]—even at the expiry of the customary term.

But the grace and energy with which Lady Donaldson has borne the office of Lord Mayor have added to the distinction both of the office and herself—and have, no doubt, brought forward the day when we will see another Lady Lord Mayor. [applause]

I am glad to see, my Lord Mayor, that you have chosen the theme of harmony for your year.

In our troubled times, no theme could be more appropriate. Of course, even in the world of music, harmony is not always easy to achieve.

This summer I had the great pleasure of visiting the Salzburg Festival and heard of the musician who was telling his wife that he had been playing under a guest conductor.

“Oh, yes” said his wife, “what was he conducting?” “That I couldn't tell you” , said the orchestral player, “but we were playing Beethoven's Sixth Symphony.” [laughter]

When I think of the word “harmony” , my Lord Mayor, I think of the marvellous words of The Merchant of Venice, so beautifully set by Vaughan Williams in the Serenade to Music:

“Such harmony is in immortal souls But while this muddy vesture of decay doth grossly close it in We cannot hear it”

All your guests will join me, My Lord Mayor, in wishing you success in helping more people to hear those harmonies.

American Election

Tonight, My Lord Mayor, we also congratulate President Reagan on the overwhelming vote of confidence which he received from the American people. [hear, hear and applause]

By giving him one of the greatest election victories in American history, they demonstrated their wish that he should lead them and the free world for another four years. [end p1]

And proved once again something which I believe to be as true of politics as it is of television: all the best programmes run for more than one series. [laughter]

People, I feel, admire President Reagan not just for his personal qualities but for the values for which he stands: honesty, self-respect, endeavour, pride in one's country.

And particularly striking was the attraction of those values for young people.

I believe young people here, and in the United States, do want values to believe in, rules to live by, a country to be proud of.

We can count ourselves fortunate that this is the spirit of the United States as we look to the future together.

A unique measure of cooperation and consultation has been the hallmark of British-American relations for over forty years. You, my Lord Mayor, with your passion for Shakespeare, will recognise Polonius 's words which are so fitting:

“The friends thou hast, and their adoption tried, Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel.”

On the morrow of the United States elections, there are three matters which must concern us above all:

—first, while preserving our strength, to seek negotiation on the issues which divide East and West;

— second, to close ranks against terrorism wherever it rears its head; [hear, hear and applause]

— and third, to maintain the economic recovery on which our jobs, our hopes and our futures depend.

East/West Relations

May I turn first to East/West relations? We want a real lasting improvement in East/West relations.

Of course we realise:

— that the differences between our two systems are fundamental

— and that Soviet ideology is implacably opposed to our own;

Why then is it that we in the West seek to negotiate? For two powerful reasons:

— because the destruction and devastation of conflict would be so terrible for East and West alike that it must never happen, and

— because both sides want to spend more on the well being of their people and less on the weapons of war, but can only do so if each can secure its own defence.

And we have to start negotiating soon:

— soon, because we are on the verge of new technologies in space which would cost so much to develop;

— and soon, because the generation in Government on both sides have experienced the horrors of war and are the more resolved that those sufferings shall not be inflicted on future generations.

No rose-tinted spectacles, no premature concessions.

A common interest in peace, and the character of modern weapons compel us to seek agreement.

The battles of peace are the battles of ideas.

It is the human values of our way of life to which men aspire, but which many regimes reject.

The tenth anniversary of the Helsinki Accords falls during your year of office, my Lord Mayor.

Those agreements between East and West called for greater freedom of movement of people and of ideas.

And in pursuing their fulfilment, we in the West ask of others only what we ourselves already enjoy.

For it is by force of ideas, not by force of weapons, that we seek to bring to others that freedom to choose which is fundamental to the dignity of man. [end p2]

The Helsinki Agreements are freshly in my mind because tomorrow we shall be welcoming the Mauno KoivistoPresident of Finland on an official visit.

Relations between our two countries were not always good, because centuries ago the Finns beheaded the first British visitor to Finland. [laughter]

He was a bishop. [loud laughter]

Nevertheless, I think that was going a bit far. [laughter and applause]

We sentence them to the House of Lords [laughter], to the custody of the Lord HailshamLord Chancellor whose advocacy and theology are the equal of any Lord whether spiritual or temporal. [laughter and applause]


My Lord Mayor, let us never forget the good fortune we have to live in a free society. [hear, hear and applause]

But ironically it is the free societies which are most exposed to the evil of terrorism, to those who use freedom to destroy freedom.

The terrorist is obsessed with power, but knows he cannot get it by democratic means.

Reasoned debate means nothing to him.

He despises it.

He scorns the arts of persuasion.

Democratic institutions he holds in contempt.

His weapons are the gun and the bomb.

Whether he pursues his callous trade in Brighton or in Beirut, in Belfast or in St. James's Square, he must be brought to understand that his savagery will only strengthen our resolution. [applause]

For the terrorist there must be no hiding place, no safe haven.

Nations must work with each other to defeat this abomination.

Just as NATO defends our liberty, so at the London Economic Summit in June, the final conclusions of which were read in this Hall, we sought a much broader alliance to defend democracy against terrorism. And I would like to assure you tonight that we are receiving—and giving—that whole-hearted cooperation, because we recognise that a crime against one democracy is a crime against all. [hear, hear and slow applause]

World Economy

At the London Economic Summit we also discussed the state of the world economy and the problems of unemployment and international debt. Among other things, we agreed that lower interest rates are essential to sustain the recovery. [hear, hear]

As we have seen in the past week here in Britain, firm control of money can bring the rates down.

But as we all know the position of the United States is also crucial.

The problem is not that the US budget deficit is very high as a proportion of its national income.

Some European countries deficits are higher.

The problem is the sheer size of that deficit in relation to world savings. It is that which has driven interest rates to very high levels in real terms.

And I very much hope that the new Administration will give urgent attention to reducing the deficit.

This would help to bring lower interest rates in the US, would promote recovery in the rest of the world and would ease the problems of international debt.

Coal Strike

As the Nigel LawsonChancellor of the Exchequer [end p3] announced in the House of Commons today, he expects growth in Britain this year to be about two and a half per cent—enough to create new jobs, but not yet sufficient to secure a reduction of unemployment, which we are all so anxious to achieve.

But for the coal strike, the outcome would be around one per cent higher.

Apart from that, it is remarkable—eight months into a coal strike—how little effect there has been on the rest of the economy … [hear, hear and light applause] … though we are painfully aware of the effect on the areas concerned.

It is remarkable, too, that there have been no power cuts, nor are any in prospect. [hear, hear and applause]

But although the measured effects on the rest of the economy have been great, Britain's reputation as an efficient competitor and a reliable supplier, restored with such effort over the last five years, has suffered badly.

The coal dispute presents a fundamental challenge

— to the Coal Board in seeking to carry out its statutory responsibilities to manage and develop the industry efficiently.

— to the Government both in upholding law and order and in limiting the calls on the taxpayer's purse.

— to those miners whose rights as members … as members of the union are being treated with disdain and whose suffering is being callously disregarded by a ruthless leadership. [hear, hear, then after a delay, applause]

— and to trade unionists everywhere, the good name of whose movement is being tarnished by the conduct of this dispute.

This challenge will not succeed.

The Government will hold firm.

And the Coal Board can go no further.

Day by day, responsible men and women are distancing themselves from this strike.

Miners are asserting their right to go to their place of work.

Those in other unions now see clearly the true nature and purpose of those who are leading the National Union of Mineworkers.

There is … this is and has been a tragic strike. But good will emerge from it. The bravery and loyalty of the working miners and their families will never be forgotten. [hear, hear and applause]

Their example will advance the cause of moderate and reasonable trade unionism everywhere.

And when the strike ends, the victory will be theirs.

Public Order

My Lord Mayor, public concern about law and order has been rising in recent months.

I recognise it. I share it.

But for the skilful and courageous action of the police many coalfields, steelworks and coke … coke plants would now have been closed down, and many of our citizens who want only to go to their place of work would have been physically prevented from doing so.

Over the past week, nearly four thousand miners have crossed picket lines for the first time. [pause; applause] Violence in the coalfields has reached a new pitch because the miners' leaders will resort to anything to try to stem the tide. Violence will not succeed, for the police and courts will not bow to it. They are the servants, not of government, but of the law itself. [hear, hear and applause]

By the end of this year the Leon BrittanHome Secretary will have completed his review of the whole question of public order including the Act of 1936 which has stood largely unchanged since that time.

If the police and courts are lacking in the powers necessary to keep order in a free society and necessary to protect the weak against the strong, then we shall introduce measures which give them what they need. [end p4]

For our purpose is to support and strenuously to defend the institutions which are the foundations of a free society.

Let there be no doubt where Her Majesty's Government stands on this issue.

Public Expenditure

But it is also the stewardship of the Nation's finances by which the Government's purpose and resolve will be put to the test.

Earlier today, the Nigel LawsonChancellor of the Exchequer published this year's Autumn Statement, which sets out the Government's spending plans for the coming financial year.

You may have seen a little press comment over the last few weeks about disagreements between the Treasury and the spending Ministers.

The press has conjured up lurid scenes of tense bargaining in Lord Whitelaw 's group.

Suggestions of browbeaten, angry spending Ministers ranged before their peers with only a hanging jury between them and the gallows. [light laughter]

Yes, there was a debate about the priorities: about which type of spending was more worthwhile than another; about exactly how the books should be balanced.

Yet when I looked around the Cabinet table last Thursday, as we brought to a conclusion the annual spending round, what I saw was a group of Ministers, regarding themselves not only as heads of spending Departments, but as members of a Cabinet united behind a single strategy—a strategy of keeping public expenditure under control, so that (as befits a free society) people may keep more of their own money to spend or save as they choose, a very worthy and laudable aim. [applause]

My Lord Mayor, for centuries alchemists believed that, if only they could spirit up the right formula, base metals could be transformed into gold.

It is an art which could have come in useful here in the City of London, not to mention the Treasury.

Although, of course, had they succeeded, the wiser amongst you know that the price of gold would have fallen leaving the purpose of the alchemy frustrated—fool's gold, indeed.

In making its decisions, the Government has clung instead to its principles of sound finance.

For you cannot build a sound economy on unsound money.

Since I came into Parliament twenty-five years ago central and local government expenditure has more than doubled in real terms, taking a larger share of the national income.

I came into Parliament in 1959, when Harold Macmillan was Prime Minister. Then, the share which the Government took of the national income was barely more than a third.

By the mid-1970's it had risen to 45 per cent.

But this trend, I am happy to report, is now being reversed. Next year it will be 41 per cent—still too high, but going in the right direction. [applause]

The City

My Lord Mayor, the very qualities of competition and adaptability to change which our economy needs are what have made the City the powerful trading centre it is today.

And small though it is in area, its contribution to the influence to the economic life is enormous, and I gladly pay tribute to it.

Not only does the City contribute over £5 billion to the balance of payments, but millions of our citizens have an interest in the City, whether through their pension funds, insurance or savings.

This Government wants to see ownership of companies spread more widely, every man a capitalist.

The City has joined enthusiastically in our privatisation programme, which has seen eleven major enterprises returned to the private sector, with more to come. [end p5]

Many institutions here in the City have great power for spend and invest.

That power brings with it, as all power does, responsibilities:

— a responsibility to see that the best in our manufacturing industry as well as our commerce is encouraged.

— a responsibility to see that not just established names can raise finance, but that those new to enterprise can find the venture capital they need.

— a responsibility to see that a citizen's capital market develops to which small investors and those coming to share ownership for the first time can have ready access.

— finally, a responsibility to maintain the City's fine tradition of honest dealing, for without that no amount of competitive vigour or innovation will preserve London as one of the world's major financial centres.


My Lord Mayor, as we meet in this hall of ancient fame what can we learn from the echoes of its history?

We are drawing to the end of a year in which our people has seen violence and intimidation in our midst:

— the cruelty of terrorists;

— the violence of the picketline

— the deliberate flouting of the law of the land.

Those forces are not new in the experience of mankind. We have withstood them before and we shall do again.

The customs and traditions which we see in our ancient capital city—the cenotaph ceremony yesterday where we remembered those who fought for our freedoms in two world wars; — the opening of a new Parliament assembling Crown, Lords and Commons — and this occasion, and your office, with their centuries of history all these remind us of the strength of our heritage, a heritage of liberty under the law, indissolubly linked with personal responsibility.

That responsibility is once again re-asserting itself in our society. It is that which gives us the confidence that we shall weather the tempests of our time.

This people is a free people.

This country a free country.

And so long as we stay true to ourselves, so it shall forever remain. [applause]