Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Margaret Thatcher

Speech to Welsh Conservative Party Conference

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Llandudno Conference Centre
Source: Thatcher Archive: speaking text
Editorial comments: 1200-1245.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2802
Themes: Agriculture, Conservatism, Conservative Party (organization), Employment, Industry, Monetary policy, Privatized & state industries, Pay, Taxation, Foreign policy (Asia), Foreign policy (USA), Health policy, Housing, Labour Party & socialism, Science & technology, Social security & welfare, Trade unions, Trade union law reform, Strikes & other union action

Introduction

Mr. Chairman, first of all I want to thank everyone in the Party, here in Wales, for all their hard work.

Last year, Wales came top of the league in the raising of the constituency quotas. The top three constituencies all came from Wales :-

Cardiff West;

Cynon Valley and

Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney.

This is a magnificent effort.

And you have set a splendid example to the party as a whole. [end p1]

It is always a great pleasure to address this Conference—the Conference of the fastest-growing political party in Wales.

In 1966, Wales returned 3 Conservative Members of Parliament.

In 1983 you returned 14.

Welsh Conservative MPs—under the outstanding leadership of Nick Edwards—do a marvellous job, for the Party and for Wales, at Westminster—and we thank them all. [end p2]

Tragically, their number has been reduced by the premature death of Tom Hooson.

Tom was the best of Backbenchers—hard working, conscientious, committed to his constituency with time to care for everybody and their problems.

I know that Chris Butler, whose family is also rooted in Wales, will do his utmost to follow in Tom's footsteps.

I look forward to him joining us at Westminster. [end p3]

And beyond that, I look forward to the next General Election when I want to see our Welsh Tory MPs make up a full rugby 15 with at least a couple of reserves.

The advance of our Party in Wales should come as no surprise. The Welsh are natural individualists, with a heartwarming pride in home and family. You have made a great contribution to literature, theatre, music and sport; enriching British life, but always retaining your own character, your own identity. [end p4]

It should come as no surprise that so many people in Wales own their homes. This is part of the Welsh tradition; part of the Welsh determination to have—and hold on to—your own identity. [end p5]

Freedom and Ownership

Mr. Chairman, look around the world today and you will see that in countries where property is widely owned economies are more likely to flourish; where there is economic freedom, prosperity grows.

West Germany is more prosperous than East Germany; the United States is more prosperous than the Soviet Union.

It is not natural resources which account for these differences.

Free enterprise is the spur.

Personal ownership provides incentives.

State control destroys both. [end p6]

Farming is a good example.

The West produces plenty—for ourselves, and more to help countries stricken by famine and drought.

In the Soviet Union they produce shortages.

If they had more people working the land for themselves they too would produce enough to feed their people as well. And they would have a higher standard of living. [end p7]

It was de Tocqueville, the famous French writer on democracy, who—over a hundred years ago—looked at our industrial success and said:

“Do you want to test whether a people is given to industry and commerce? Do not sound its ports, or examine the wood from its forests or the produce of its soil.

The spirit of trading will get all these things …

Examine whether this people's laws give the men the courage to seek prosperity, Freedom to follow it up, the sense and habits to find it, and the assurance of reaping the benefit. “ [end p8]

The Ingredients of Success

So let us take a closer look at the most successful economies—the United States and Japan—where they have a very high standard of living and where unemployment is considerably lower. Let us see what we can learn from them.

They believe in success.

They believe in freedom and enterprise.

They believe in getting ahead of their competitors.

They're always designing and producing new things.

They don't resist the latest technology; they invent it and use it. [end p9]

Overmanning and restrictive practices are not for them.

They believe in co-operation between workforce and management.

They know that one can't be prosperous without the efforts of the other;

That owners and earners aren't necessarily different people.

Indeed, in the United States, one person in every four owns company shares. [end p10]

Personal taxes are lower, all the way up the income scale.

No guilt or envy doesw success.

People applaud it. [end p11]

Every country needs great captains of industry:- The Nuffields The Pilkingtons The Beaverbrooks The Charles Fortes The Laura Ashleys The Alf Goodings. [end p12]

The rest of us depend on them.

For it is their ideas, their instinct for what people want, their flair, which are turned into big business, profits, investment and jobs.

Small businesses follow.

They all produce jobs.

But you cannot have a prosperous economy unless each one of us makes our positive contribution. [end p13]

When I was Leader of the Opposition, I once asked the Leader of one of the most successful economies in the world, a former British colony: how have you done it? He told me “By practising everything you taught us—but which you then forgot.”

The Eastern European countries have different characteristics:-

1. They have detailed State control. I once asked one of their leaders—tell me, how do your factories know what to produce? In a flash, he said—we tell them. [end p14]

2. They have little personal freedom and

3. virtually no private ownership at all. [end p15]

The Choice

Mr. Chairman, a nation has to choose whether it wishes to take the path of freedom or the path of state control;

Britain under Socialism

By the late 1970s, our country was drifting dangerously close to an over-mighty state. —the state nationalised more and more industry —the state controlled incomes —the state controlled prices —the state controlled dividends [end p16] —the state controlled how much money you could take abroad —at home, the top rate of tax was 98 per cent. The Socialists imposed and relished imposing high taxes on the wealth-creators and job-creators. —the state tied up business in ever-more regulations, like some Gulliver, whose independence they feared. —the state shirked the difficult questions: for every problem there was a subsidy.

No wonder the queues for grants grew, and the pressure groups for hand-outs multiplied. [end p17]

But there was something more insidious than that.

The unions, in return for temporary wage restraint, exacted from the Government of the day promises of more nationalisation and legislation to give the unions yet more powers and a greater say in the life of our nation.

That was Socialist Britain. It was a Redprint for ruin

And you will remember that the unions virtually did run the Government in the Winter of Discontent. [end p18]

Our task and our achievements

A Conservative Government was elected and re-elected to change all that—to recapture the freedom and the genius of the people, which is a nation's only true strength.

Do not underestimate the extent of our achievements during our first 6 years.

1. We have changed the powers of the trade unions especially by giving union members democratic rights over their union bosses. The Labour Party fought us tooth and nail all the way. And so did some of those who now belong to the SDP. [end p19]

2. Britain is becoming a property-owning democracy Owner occupation has reached an all time record

And at long last the ideals of wider share-ownership are being realised.

Individual share ownership had been falling consistently in Britain until, in 1979, the number had fallen to only and three quarter million. [end p20]

In one bold step, over two million people bought shares in British Telecom.

And how delighted they must have been with the profits of the first year of privatisation. Whenever we de-nationalise, we give employees a special opportunity to buy shares on preferential terms. And we shall go on doing so.

We have a long way to go before we attain American levels of ownership.

But as Tories, not only do we believe in the widespread ownership of personal property, and its importance to freedom and democracy but we are putting our beliefs into practice. [end p21]

3. Industry and commerce are transforming themselves.

They are adopting new technologies. Indeed some of our companies are not only abreast of those in other countries, they are ahead.

This has meant high investment at home. Last year was an all time record for investment in Britain—£55 billion in one year.

And overmanning?—on the way out.

Restrictive practices?—fast disappearing. [end p22]

So productivity is at an all time high.

Alas, every silver lining has a cloud. As we all know, one of the real causes of unemployment is the changing nature of all industrial societies, and the greater emphasis on labour-saving technology. [end p23]

That's one reason why the whole of Western Europe has an unemployment problem.

But we cannot solve it by hanging on to outdated equipment and old-fashioned products. Where would our generation have been had our forefathers done that at the turn of the century?

They didn't stop progress.

They used it to their benefit and to ours.

But change does cause hardship to people and communities.

And it's good Conservative policy to try to cushion that hardship. [end p24]

That's why we have such generous redundancy payments.

But that's not enough.

We have to do everything possible to help new businesses and small businesses develop.

So we have set up new Enterprise Agencies and Zones to help those places hit by closures, whether in coal, steel or other industries.

We encourage inward investment.

And may I congratulate Nick Edwards and his team in bringing so many new companies to Wales.

To help young people, we have the biggest ever Youth Training Scheme. [end p25]

To help the long-term unemployed we have recently expanded, the community programme to give them a chance of a job in something worthwhile.

Let no-one say this Government doesn't care about unemployment.

We take and will continue to take every possible step to bring fresh hope to our communities, to our young people and to everyone affected. [end p26]

4. Tax incentives are necessary for a thriving economy.

Therefore we have cut personal taxes.

Top rates of tax are down to 60 per cent.

And thresholds (tax free personal allowances) are—up —that helps everyone.

If Labour's rates of income tax were still in force, an average family would be paying an extra £260 a year in tax.

Yes we are cutting personal taxes. [end p27]

Not yet enough—but we are going in the right direction.

We have abolished three taxes completely —The National Insurance Surcharge, Labour's tax on jobs—gone —The Investment Income Surcharge, the tax on savings—gone —Development Land Tax, Labour's tax on building land and new investment—gone. [end p28]

5. We have carried out the largest denationalisation programme ever tackled by any Government.

And there is more to come.

Output has been growing steadily for four years; and has reached a new record.

That success has not been confined to industry and commerce.

Agriculture is a success story too. [end p29]

But farmers not only contribute to prosperity.

They also bring stability to our whole way of life. [end p30]

That's why we have done so much to help hill farmers;

And to extend special help to those farmers in Wales who face particular problems.

You won't find this Government talking of rating agricultural land like the Liberals and SDP.

You won't find us talking about nationalising agricultural land like some members of the Labour Party.

We know what a fantastic job farmers do. [end p31]

7. Record output has brought in its wake—a record standard of living for our people. And although inflation is far too high at present, it is lower than the Labour Government ever achieved.

These are things we can be proud of.

They are good, so good that our opponents shout to try to drown them. [end p32]

How I detest the belitters, the cynics, the denigrators.

They are a corrosive influence on our society.

But it's up to us to proclaim our achievements.

Nobody else will do it for us.

Labour—Some brotherhood

Indeed, the Labour Party's propaganda machine is busy churning out myths and scares about health [end p33] and welfare.

They're trying to frighten the sick, the disabled and the elderly.

They talk of compassion but deliberately create fear. [end p34]

They talk of caring but they backed the health workers' strike which hit patients.

They pay lip service to the needs of our children in school, but back to the hilt those teachers who put the strike before the children.

They talk of humanity, yet backed the computer strike in the Department of Social Security designed to prevent last November's increases from reaching the pensioners. [end p35]

It was only the determination of the Secretary of State, backed by the dedication of the majority of civil servants, which got the money through to the pensioners.

It is the Labour Party which talks about brotherhood but which backed a strike conducted by violence and intimidation against the working miners.

Some brotherhoold!

Some humanity! [end p36]

It is we Conservatives who stood out against the strikes which harmed pensioners, patients and pupils.

It is we Conservatives who backed the right of the working man to go to his place of work unharmed and unhindered. [end p37]

Health and Welfare

Mr Chairman, the record of this Conservative Government in health and welfare is second to none. And people are discovering it for themselves.

I was interested to see in a recent poll that eight out of ten people thought that the National Health Service was providing a good service.

It is not surprising that people think that—because it is. [end p38]

After six years of Tory Government it's better than ever before.

In Wales there are now more doctors, dentists, nurses and midwives than when we took office. There are new hospitals, started and completed since 1979.

You know them—Bridgend, Wrexham and Mold.

And there are more under construction.

This Government has stood by the NHS. [end p39]

We have also stood by the nurses—whose devoted service commands our gratitude.

The Royal College of Nursing, to which so many nurses belong, has never called a strike.

That was why this Government agreed to give the nurses a special pay review body.

The new pay scales, recommended by the review, and accepted by the Government will mean that a ward sister will be up to £2,000 a year better off, over and above inflation, than when Labour left office. [end p40]

We have also kept our pledge to the pensioners to protect them against rising prices. Only this week Norman Fowler announced further increases of £4 a week in the basic retirement pension for a married couple—so that the pension buys more than ever it did under Labour.

But we must also look to the future and make provision for pensioners in the next century. [end p41]

Nothing would be more irresponsible than to make promises which would burden our children with bills they simply could not meet.

That's not social security.

It's social insecurity.

So we believe that everyone should have both a basic state retirement pension and an occupational or personal pension, where their contributions can be saved and accumulate in a fund. [end p42]

Knowing that sound pensions take a time to build up, we are tackling the problem now. And pensioners and contributors of the next century will be very grateful that we did.

If we were the sort of Party which ran away from problems we would have just shrugged our shoulders and let the next century look after itself.

But we are Party which faces this country's long term responsibilities. [end p43]

Peroration

“The worth of the state, in the long run is the worth of the individuals composing it … A State which dwarfs its men—in order that they may be more docile instruments in its hands—will find that with small men, nothing great can be accomplished.”

So said one of our great philosophers [John Stuart Mill]. [end p44]

Because we “Trust the people” .

We set out to enhance the rights and responsibilities of the citizen and to limit the power of the State. [end p45]

Mr Chairman, we've brought about an historic change.

Those who fought the sale of council houses now grudgingly admit, we were right.

Those who fought our trade union legislation, now have to admit that it was the rights we gave to individual trade unionists which brought them dignity and strength in their fight for democracy. [end p46]

Those who fought de-regulation now have to admit that it encourages enterprise.

Those who fought privatisation and fought wider share ownership now have to admit they are popular with the people, especially with employees who want to have a stake in their company. [end p47]

It is right to trust the people.

It is right to give them responsibility.

It is right to give them greater independence.

That is the way to rise to the challenge of the coming century.

When the next election comes, this Party will be proud to defend our record and carry forwards the flag of liberty under the law.