Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

Speech at Lord Mayor’s Banquet

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Guildhall, City of London
Source: Thatcher Archive: speaking text
Editorial comments: MT arrived at the Guildhall at 1845. The text is marked "check against delivery". There is no evidence that it was checked.
Importance ranking: Key
Word count: 2404
Themes: Commonwealth (South Africa), Conservatism, Defence (arms control), Economic policy - theory and process, Employment, Monetary policy, Public spending & borrowing, Trade, Foreign policy (Africa), Family, Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Law & order, Race, immigration, nationality, Society, Transport, Voluntary sector & charity

My Lord Mayor, My Late Lord Mayor, Your Grace, Your Excellencies, My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen,


May I first congratulate you, my Lord Mayor, on the assumption of your distinguished office. I wish you all success and happiness in the coming year.

And I thank you most warmly for your welcome, your hospitality and your most excellent speech.

I should like to join you in saying how delighted I am that Margaret Tebbit is with us. [end p1] Hers is an example of the most tremendous courage which we salute.

Speaking for myself, I enjoy this great occasion more and more with every passing year.

But three hundred years ago Samuel Pepys did not enjoy the Lord Mayor's Banquet. He noticed a lack of pretty girls. (Things have changed since then.) He also complained about the absence of knives and plates. “Many were the tables,” he said, “but none in the hall save the Mayor and the Lords of the Privy Council had napkins or [end p2] knives. It was very unpleasing,” he went on “that we had no change of trenchers, drank out of earthen pitchers and had wooden dishes.”

I wonder, had someone sold off the family silver?

It is a pleasure once again to be in this historic hall surrounded by that noble blend of the ancient and modern which has brought such success to the City of London.

It recalls the City guilds which are a living testament to the life, friendship and prosperity which [end p3] enterprise can bring:- Goldsmiths to emblazon; merchant taylors to adorn; apothecaries to cure; barber surgeons to take more drastic action if they failed! Tallow chandlers to illuminate; vintners to light up in another way.

One wonders who could best help a Prime Minister? Perhaps the carpenters would be good advisers on Cabinet making. I know My Lord Mayor that you are a painter/stainer, and so is my husband. You could be very helpful with presentation. Then there are the plumbers. They might be helpful with Whitehall leaks. [end p4]

The Guilds still have much to teach us. They offered apprenticeships to young people—a kind of Youth Training Scheme hundreds of years before the Manpower Services Commission had been dreamt of.

They set standards and encouraged quality: so much so that the bakers often put 13 loaves to the dozen for fear of delivering short weight.

And as they grew in prosperity the Guilds served the [end p5] community, by endowing schools, hospitals and almshouses.

It is therefore very appropriate, My Lord Mayor, that service is your theme, for it is deep in the City's traditions, and as relevant now as when the City was founded.


The City of London exists to provide a worldwide service. It has always done so.

As far back as the figures go this country has enjoyed [end p6] a surplus on its trade in financial services. Thanks to its accumulated skills and reputation the City contributes massively to our national wealth. And it creates thousands of jobs.

Indeed, I believe the elegant facades can no longer contain you all. The City menagerie of bulls, bears and stags may soon be joined by Canary Wharf and the Isle of Dogs.

Hardly a day goes by without a report of major changes in one or other financial institution. Brokers and analysts change teams, and [end p7] command transfer fees, like star football players.

You are indeed passing through a revolution. The markets of your forebears were like clubs. Individual traders knew each other. Conduct was strictly governed by unwritten codes which they flouted at their peril. These things are changing. We now have a global trading-floor with bargains struck between computer terminals in London, New York, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Frankfurt and elsewhere. [end p8]

In this new environment the border-lines between innovation and manipulation are less easily defined. Yet the City is, as it always has been, only as healthy as its reputation. That reputation is in your hands.

The Economy

As you know, My Lord Mayor, Nigel Lawsonthe Chancellor will be making his Autumn Statement in the House of Commons tomorrow. It is most inconsiderate of him. [end p9] Last year he did it before this banquet. In the time-honoured phrase, I cannot anticipate my right hon. Friend's Statement. But I will say this.

The announcement tomorrow will confirm the prospects for lower inflation and for continued growth of output. We are now in our fifth successive year of growth and we look forward to a sixth.

City forecasters predict continued growth in new jobs. And that is what we want most of all. Not only because jobs provide work but because with work comes a sense of being [end p10] needed and of belonging.

The Chancellor's announcement will also predict further high investment in buildings, plant and machinery—already at record levels.


This is part of a process of renewal which is spreading throughout the country. [end p11]

You have only to travel to see it. —180 miles of new trunk roads being built; —railways being electrified; —tube stations vastly improved; —new power stations; —£900 million next year to improve the water supply; —hospitals—51 major projects under construction;

This is a colossal programme. And that is just the public sector. But it has been outpaced, and rightly so, by the sheer weight of investment in the private sector, in factories, in shops, [end p12] in offices, in telecommunications, in new homes, and much more besides.

But the single most exciting prospect ahead is the Channel Fixed Link. Bridge or tunnel or both, I know not. But I am sure Brunel, wherever he is, would be very happy with either.

And I congratulate the companies and financiers who have come forward to tender for this exciting venture. The spirit of enterprise which built Britain still lives.


My Lord Mayor, your theme of service goes far beyond economics, beyond material things into strengthening and renewing the very fabric of [end p13] society—a fabric which is always under challenge.

In a democracy nothing but nothing justifies a resort to violence. People are entitled to look to their Government to defend them against those who have recourse to it.

That is why we are right to provide the police and Courts with whatever means are necessary to defend and protect us all against those who would undermine our society. —The traffickers in drugs who seek to spread their poison. [end p14] —The international terrorists who do not hesitate to kill and maim. —Those who foment racial tension in our cities. —And those who exploit real or imagined grievances and turn them into violence.

Yes, My Lord Mayor, there are areas of real deprivation in our great cities. Where money can help —we are spending on housing and reclaiming derelict land; —we are supporting local enterprise; —we are helping employment through the special measures [end p15] —and we are doing more to train young people.

But money alone is no answer to violence, brutality, and the rule of the mob. These are not evils bred of a parsimonious Treasury. They would not wither away under the benign influence of a bigger budget deficit. Their root lies in a breakdown of authority.

Natural authority starts in the home, in the family.

And beyond the family, it runs through school, church, work—and our many institutions. [end p16]

But some parents opt out of their duty to their children. Just as some teachers ignore the need to educate their pupils in the obligations of citizenship. And some neighbours just don't want to know.

The debt we owe to the police is enormous, but we can't expect them to make up for these shortcomings, however great their courage, however great their sense of duty.

It is natural authority which we must now seek to [end p17] strengthen. And that does not lie in the gift of government.

There is nothing inevitable about the freedoms we enjoy. Keeping them depends on every one of us.


My Lord Mayor, I want this evening to pay a tribute to the late Lord Mayor, Sir Alan Traill, who travelled exceptionally widely in his year of office. I congratulate him—as I am sure all here do [end p18] —on his outstanding work in support of Britain's overseas trade. With only a minor paraphrase some lines of Kipling fit him down to the ground: “You have heard the beat of the off-shore wind And the thresh of the deep sea rain You have heard the song—how long? How long? Before the Mayor's on the Trail again” .

It's good for all of us, especially Prime Ministers, to escape their offices sometimes, though you should not underestimate the difficulties. [end p19] I am reminded of the story of a former American President who decided at short notice one weekend to escape the loneliness of the White House and pay a fleeting visit to New York. An energetic young Duty Officer made all the arrangements and the President had a good time. On the Monday morning the Duty Officer reported the New York visit to the White House Chief of Staff expecting a word or two of praise, only to be told: “Listen, buddy, just because they rattle the bars on the cage, it doesn't mean you let them out” . [end p20]

I have rattled my bars and been let out quite a lot this year. My travels have shown me a good deal of the work of British business in different parts of the world. And a very impressive and determined effort it is.


My Lord Mayor, recently I attended the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting where South Africa was at the centre of our deliberations. [end p21]

I know that the City is also greatly concerned about what is happening in South Africa.

My Lord Mayor, I detest apartheid. I couldn't stand being excluded or discriminated against because of the colour of my own skin. And if you can't stand a colour bar against yourself, you can't stand it against anyone else. Apartheid is wrong and it must go.

Major changes are taking place in South Africa. We should welcome and encourage them. [end p22]

The right way to deal with legitimate grievances is not by violence but by a genuine dialogue between the South African Government and the black community. For that dialogue to succeed there must be a suspension of violence on all sides. The whole Commonwealth agreed on that.

Economic sanctions are not the way to promote peaceful change. Sanctions do not work. Indeed they make problems worse. They would be a blow to all those firms and people who are in the forefront of efforts to end apartheid by giving black Africans more [end p23] jobs and greater opportunities.

Our goal is a future for South Africa which guarantees people of all races their political rights and freedoms and which preserves South Africa's economic success.


My Lord Mayor, my journeys have also taken me to our Commonwealth War Cemeteries in Singapore and in Cairo. They were green, peaceful and lovingly-tended: corners of our native land far from home. [end p24]

As I walked along the lines of graves reading the simple inscriptions on the headstones what struck me was: how young most of them were, who fought and gave their lives so far away, whose sacrifice we specially remembered and honoured yesterday.

My Lord Mayor, our task is to see that this generation of our young people are not called upon to make a similar sacrifice.

It is with this thought uppermost in our minds that we approach next week's meeting between President Reagan and Mr Gorbachev—the first [end p25] between the leaders of the world's two most powerful countries for over six years.

We mustn't have unrealistic expectations about their meeting. It is not going to resolve in a trice the deep and abiding differences between the free west and the Soviet Communist system.

Nor should we judge it solely in terms of whether they can reach specific agreements to reduce nuclear weapons. Of course that is an important aim. But armaments are not themselves the root cause of international tension. [end p26] If we are going to succeed in bringing down the numbers of nuclear weapons from their present high levels, we have to tackle the basic reasons why they are there in the first place. There will be no solid foundation on which to build successful arms control agreements if the Soviet Union continues to try to extend its system by force or by subversion.

We don't expect to change the nature of the Soviet system. And we recognise the Soviet Union's right to equal security. but we need to be convinced by their [end p27] actions beyond their own boundaries that they too recognise the right of other countries to live in peace and security, and to choose their own way of life.

It has been suggested that the United States' strategic defence initiative is an obstacle to a successful outcome of the meeting. That really is not so.

You can't hold back scientific and technological advance. Throughout history the response to a new offensive weapon has been a new defence. [end p28] It would be strange if the most destructive weapon of all met no such response.

Moreover, the Soviet Union has for some years been devoting a massive effort to defence against nuclear weapons.

What is important is that the results of research on both sides are handled in accordance with Treaty obligations. President Reagan has left no doubt that the United States will do so.

My hopes for the Geneva meeting are therefore: [end p29] —that it will establish a better basis of confidence between the United States and the Soviet Union; —that it will give an impetus to negotiations on substantial reductions in nuclear weapons; —that it will strengthen existing arms control agreements; —that it will lead to a better understanding on the goals of their SDI research programmes and on the constraints which will be observed in developing them.

I believe this would be a realistic outcome. [end p30]

And let me just say just this: we in the west could not have a better or braver champion than President Reagan. All who truly long for a peaceful world will wish him Godspeed.


As you have so handsomely acknowledged, My Lord Mayor, this is the seventh occasion on which I have been privileged to respond to this toast on behalf of her Majesty's Ministers.

When I consider how much has been achieved in six [end p31] years, —when I hear of the continuing stream of scientific advances—many of them unsung and unremarked, —when I see the industrial and commercial successes which underlie our continued growth, —and when I contemplate the strength of our great institutions and the drive and ingenuity of our people,

Then I know we are entitled to look to Britain's future with sure and ever growing confidence.

On behalf of Her Majesty's Ministers, thank you My Lord Mayor.