Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Margaret Thatcher

Speech to Conservative Central Council

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: City Hall, Newcastle
Source: Thatcher Archive: speaking text
Editorial comments: 1200-1245.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2694
Themes: Conservatism, Conservative Party (organization), Economy (general discussions), Education, Higher & further education, Employment, Industry, Privatized & state industries, Pay, Taxation, Health policy, Housing, Law & order, Local government, Local government finance, Religion & morality, Society, Social security & welfare, Trade union law reform, Strikes & other union action

INTRODUCTION

Mr. Chairman, it is a great pleasure for me to be at the Central Council here in Newcastle. Today, I am literally on a flying visit. But I hope to return soon to the North East for a longer visit.

I am also delighted that Basil Feldman is taking the Chair. He brings energy and enthusiasm to everything he does. He runs a campaign called “Better made in Britain” , and so is helping to bring work to Britain. That's the spirit! We need more like him. [end p1]

COAL

Mr. Chairman, it has been an eventful year since the Central Council last met in Birmingham. For almost the whole of that time, the country lived through a coal strike.

Yes, it cost us dear. But nothing like the price we would have paid had we given in to violence and intimidation. [end p2]

The coal strike has cost the industry a year. The striking miners have gone a year without pay. The customers of coal have gone a year without their proper supplies.

Companies selling machinery to the Coal Board have seen their order books halved. Strikes kill jobs inside and outside the mining industry.

Nevertheless good offer after good offer was rejected by a ruthless leadership without a ballot. [end p3]

Mr. Chairman, the strike is over. This dark shadow has passed from our industrial landscape.

The end of the strike should mark a historic watershed. All those working miners who walked across picket lines to a barrage of abuse and stones were walking purposefully towards the future —a future in which their views counted. [end p4]

Through their courage, they showed the way forward; The values of freedom and democracy are flourishing today in Britain. These are the things they cherish, Mr. Chairman, so do we.

In the coal industry and elsewhere in our industrial heartlands, we have to move away from the old class-based conflict towards new styles of management. [end p5]

If we act with a sense of common purpose; if we think of managers as workers, and of workers as potential owners, then we can create prosperous industry out of the barren lands of our old industrial areas. [end p6]

OUR ACHIEVEMENTS

Mr. Chairman, the coal strike may have dominated last year's news. But we should not allow it to obscure what we have achieved. The economy is producing more than ever before. Living standards are at an all-time high. Investment has hit new records. That is the sign of a fundamentally strong economy. [end p7]

Before our time in Government, the conventional wisdom had been—don't try and reform the trade unions, they're too powerful. Well, that's precisely why we did reform them.

Our reforms changed attitudes. No longer could trade unions behave as if they were above the law.

It used to be the conventional wisdom that we couldn't denationalise any State-owned companies. Not any more. Privatisation is popular. [end p8]

In the last year alone, we have denationalised Jaguar, Sealink and British Telecom to name just a few. And there are more to come. [end p9] Our achievements go wider than this.

Thanks to Keith Joseph, we are raising standards in our schools. It is not all a question of money. But we don't say often enough that we are spending more on every pupil and have the best ever teacher-pupil ratio.

It's a similar story in the National Health Service—more resources than ever before; far more than any Labour Government. And so the NHS can now treat a record number of patients. [end p10]

And we've always kept faith with the pensioner. Their pensions too have record buying power. [end p11]

JOBS AND WEALTH CREATION

But you will say—we accept that you have done all of this. But what about jobs?

So yes, what about jobs? How are they created?

Socialists often start by distributing wealth. They forget it first has to be created. [end p12]

You only provide new jobs if you generate more wealth and build up more businesses. It's Government's task to see that the citizen is not overtaxed, not overregulated, not overgoverned. Then private enterprise can get on with the rest. [end p13]

Yet there is a consistent tendency in our society to down-grade the creators of wealth. And nowhere is this attitude more marked than in cloister and common-room. What these critics apparently can't stomach is that wealth-creators have a tendency to acquire wealth in the process of creating it for others!

But the truth is, Mr. Chairman, that the creation of wealth is the most fundamental of all social services. [end p14] For it is the wealth-creator alone who has the enterprise, the resources and the vigour to build the business which will put the unemployed back into work.

When I was in Washington recently, they told me that 20 million jobs had been created in the last fifteen years. And that nine out of every ten had come from companies employing less than one hundred people. [end p15] Note—the jobs were not created by Government (they stressed that)—but by private enterprise.

That is the message we have to get across here in Britain. Mr. Chairman, it's not always easy. [end p16]

Indeed, you may have noticed that recently the voices of some Rt. Rev. David Jenkins, Bishop of Durham reverend and Rt. reverend prelates have been heard in the land. I make no complaint about that. After all, it wouldn't be Spring, would it, without the voice of the occasional cuckoo! You may have noticed, too, that these clerical voices have been ranging fairly confidently into the sphere of economic management with their, quite detailed, advice. [end p17]

Well, perhaps I may venture to refer to the parable of the talents. Those who traded with their talents, and multiplied them, were those who won approval. And the essence of their performance was the willingness to take risks to make a gain.

That spirit of risk-taking and enterprise is back today. No government in years has made enterprise so worth while as the present one. [end p18]

Contrast what we have done with what the Labour Party want to do. They are now pledged to push income tax right back to where it was before we started bringing it down. And you remember what the top rate was then. It was 98 per cent. That's not taxation. That's confiscation. [end p19]

Wherever men or women with talents forgather today—in Boardrooms, or common-rooms, in clubs, or parishes—the real moral challenge should be: what opportunities are there or what opportunities have I missed, to launch some new, profitable business, and to offer a job to the jobless in the process? the challenge is open to all.

With capitalism and free-enterprise, there are no boundaries of class or creed or colour. Everyone can climb the ladder as high as their talents will take them. [end p20]

Some of our finest companies were started by people who came from modest backgrounds, or who fled to Britain from foreign oppression. They didn't speak with Oxford accents. They hadn't got what people call “the right connections” . They had just one thing in common. They were men of action.

And what was their driving force? They wanted to build a business. They wanted to demonstrate to the world their success. [end p21] They wanted to be independent, rather than depending on others. They were ambitious to make money—yes and what's wrong with that?—to give their children a better start in life than they'd had.

success earned through individual effort; sturdy independence—these are the virtues which we Conservatives applaud. And, Mr. Chairman, these are the virtues which create jobs for others—thousands, and thousands, and thousands of jobs. [end p22]

A PROGRAMME FOR JOBS

But we have to create many more jobs.

On Tuesday, Nigel Lawson gave us a budget for jobs. And it was good for confidence, too. He's told this Conference about it. It's the first in a series of Government measures in the coming months.

We have set ourselves six great tasks. [end p23]

First to make it easier for employers to take on more people and still stay competitive. How are we going to do it?

Nigel had already abolished the National insurance Surcharge. Now, he's cut the contribution for the lower paid and for the self-employed.

And we are looking at the whole future of Wages Councils because some of them kill jobs by insisting on wages higher than the employer can afford to pay. [end p24]

In addition, Tom King will be putting to Parliament amendments to the so-called Employment Protection legislation—a misnomer if ever there was one.

These measures will enable employers to take on more people, especially young people and to give them the dignity of a job.

The SECOND task is to cut through those regulations which hinder business. [end p25]

I have asked David Young to take personal charge of this and he will make his proposals by the end of July.

And we get a lot of complaints about planning applications. Some take ages.

So I have asked Patrick Jenkin to find ways of getting rid of delays and obstruction. For they can stop a business from starting and the jobs that go with it. [end p26]

The THIRD task is better education and training for our young people. Keith Joseph 's coming White Paper on Schools will set out what he's doing to achieve higher standards in Basic skills.

And we are adding a second year to our successful Youth Training Scheme, for the sixteens to eighteens. We are putting the biggest investment ever into training our young people. [end p27]

We want to reach the stage where unemployment is no longer an option for this age group. [end p28]

Our FOURTH task is to complete the present reviews of social security—the most comprehensive since the schemes began.

One of the matters for decision will be the relation between tax and benefits. That is vital in the problem of jobs. Mr Chairman, we have to make it worthwhile to work. [end p29]

This Budget has again raised the starting point of income tax. And if we hadn't cut income tax as much as we have, the married man on average earnings would now be paying an extra £260 a year.

The FIFTH task is ownership for all. The desire to have and to hold something of one's own is basic to the spirit of man. [end p30]

We are battling for a Britain free from class conflict, where property is the right of the many and not the privilege of the few. That is the way to build one nation.

Much has already been achieved.

Owner-occupation is at an all-time record.

Nearly twelve million people own property through their occupational pension schemes: others through employee shareholding schemes. [end p31]

And last year, two million people bought shares in British Telecom.

Not a bad start. But we've got a lot more to do.

Our SIXTH task is to tackle the problem of our city centres. The Urban Development Corporations in Liverpool and London's Dockland have Done wonders. They've transformed whole areas. We must see that more of the derelict and empty properties held by the public sector are sold off and put to proper use. [end p32]

Whole blocks of council flats have been, and can be, modernised and brightened by selling them to the private sector.

But remember, business will not return to city centres if the rates are too high. Yet, after all the political posturing, rate capping is beginning to work. That is good news for the ratepayer.

Mr. Chairman, six tasks:- making it easier for employers to take on more people: cutting through red tape: better education and training: [end p33] completing the reviews of social security; ownership for all; and improving our city centres—together these represent a major programme of measures. They build on what we have done before.

Already there are signs of success: almost half a million new jobs since 1983. We are the only major country in Europe which, over the last year, had a rising number of people in work. [end p34]

And there are now a hundred thousand more businesses than when we took office.

Mr Chairman, a job creating culture can be nurtured, but not created by Government. Only when self-employment flourishes, when small businesses grow, when many new companies are formed, only then will an economy generate enough jobs.

It is for Government to set the conditions. It is for people to take the opportunities. [end p35]

LAW AND ORDER

Mr Chairman, every bit as important as rising prosperity is public order.

I am talking about the war against crime in our society: about people being afraid to go out after dark: about the soccer hooligans smashing up a football ground and its neighbourhood or tarnishing Britain's good name abroad.

Crime has risen almost every year since the War. Last year it rose again. [end p36] It isn't easy to turn back the tide. And it can't be achieved by Government alone.

But there are certain things which only Government can do, which Government must do, and which this Government is doing.

We have strengthened the police, in numbers and equipment, and we have put more of them back on the beat. [end p37]

Where the crime is severe, so too must the punishment. We're increasing the penalties for serious crimes—such as offences involving fire-arms or trafficking in drugs: both can destroy lives.

Those convicted of terrorist acts of murder, or the murder of policemen or policewomen, can expect to serve at least twenty years—and I mean AT LEAST.

If they still pose a threat to society they will NEVER be released. For them a sentence of life-imprisonment will mean life. [end p38]

But we must also look at the roots of crime and violence.

Some say that unemployment explains crime and excuses it. But the thirties were a time of unemployment. And there was no crime wave then.

It's not right to taint people with criminality because they are unemployed. [end p39]

We need to look deeper than that. It's at home that children first learn right from wrong. It's at school that children learn to have respect for the rights of others.

Young people are impressionable. How we behave—as parents, teachers, sportsmen, politicians—is bound to influence how our children will behave. [end p40]

There are so many good examples set by celebrities, especially in sport and entertainment. They do marvellous work for charities and good causes.

What a pity what they do is so often overshadowed by the bad example of others.

When teachers strike and cause distruption—that's a bad example. When football idols play foul—that's a bad example. [end p41] When local councils refuse to set a legal rate—that's a bad example. And when some trade union leaders and yes, some politicians scorn the law, the courts and the police—these are bad examples.

So too is picket-line violence. And who can help but worry about some of the violence we see on our television screens.

Mr Chairman, the standards of society are set by what we tolerate, by the discipline and conventions we expect. [end p42] combating crime is a task for all of us. No-one can opt out.

Every one of us has a responsibility to obey the law, to support the police, and uphold the courts.

Without the rule of law, there can be no freedom. With it, all things are possible. [end p43]

CONCLUSION

Mr. Chairman, on both sides of the Atlantic, the tide is running in favour of Western self-confidence.

We are a people capable of great deeds, blessed with great gifts, who for too long were mesmerised by the socialist mystique. By the concept that something called “social justice” is more equitable than “individual justice” . [end p44] That “classes” matter more than people. That in some strange way “collective rights” count for more than individual rights.

Mr. Chairman, the basic drives and instincts of the overwhelming majority of free men and women have nothing in common with “collectivism” . [end p45] They are more attracted by self-reliance than by dependence on the state, more impressed by the power of personal example than by other people's social conscience.

Let all of us, then, who believe passionately in the individual freedom of man go over to the offensive in the supreme battle of ideas.

Let us re-assert with pride and on the evidence that our way—the way of choice and dignity and quiet confidence in our cause [end p46] —is by far the best way of harnessing the energy and ambition of our people.

Mr. Chairman, a bright and confident future beckons—a future free of class division; its life blood is freedom; its infinite resource the British people themselves.

We have pointed the way. Let Government and people march along that road together.