Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

Speech to Conservative Trade Unionists Conference

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Wonderful World Building, Blackpool
Source: THCR 2/10/42: speaking text
Editorial comments: MT was due to speak at 1215. Questions followed the speech. One exchange is recorded in a press cutting found on THCR 2/10/42 f3. Asked whether all unions were bad for the country, MT replied: “I think if you did not have trade unions you would have to invent them. Some unions work magnificently and more and more are now working in the cause of their members”.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 1836
Themes: Conservatism, Conservative Party (organization), Conservative Party (history), Employment, Industry, Privatized & state industries, Science & technology, Social security & welfare, Trade unions, Trade union law reform


It's marvellous to be back at the CTU Conference. And I want to congratulate you on everything you have done and are doing: —your success in taking office in trade unions —your practical support for the working miners during the coal strike —and your contribution to the Government's trade union reforms. [end p1]


The whole point of our trade union reform has been to return power to rank and file trade unionists—to the decent, honourable, hardworking majority.

Remember the strikes that never got off the ground because the membership had the chance to say “NO”. —“NO” to a strike at Austin Rover —“NO” to a strike in the post office —“NO” to strikes on the London Underground and on British Rail. [end p2]

Trade unionists are discovering for themselves that they are volunteers, not conscripts.

This is the success of Tory trade union legislation. Labour would never have brought it in. And—if they ever had the chance—they would either reverse it or seriously damage it. Back would go the power to Arthur Scargill and to Ron Todd. Let us remind trade union members that their new freedom came from us and is under threat from labour. [end p3]


Mr. President, one of the subjects uppermost in your minds during this Conference will be the need for more jobs and how to create them. No subject occupies more of the Government's time.

Each month, we see the headline figure of total unemployment. Far too high, both here and across Europe. It seems stubbornly unchanging even though thousands of new jobs are being created. But that one headline figure doesn't tell the whole story. [end p4]

[MT added in margin:] In one part of the country compared with another. In some parts jobs are more plentiful. [End of marginal note.]

It doesn't distinguish between job prospects in Surrey and job prospects in South Shields. It doesn't distinguish between those who've been unemployed for a long time and those who are on the unemployment register for a short time, as they move from one job to another. In fact, some 350,000 people get new jobs each month.

I mention this, not to underestimate the real problems and worries of those who are without a job. But I want to dispel the myth that once you are unemployed, you can never find a job; and the myth that no new jobs are being created. Neither is true. [end p5]

Yes, unfortunately, there are people who can't get the kind of work they seek or in the place where they want it.

But we are doing all we can to help.

Many of you saw the Party political Broadcast on television last week. Until they saw it, lots of people had no real idea of all that the Government is doing through the Youth Training Scheme and the Community Programme. These titles by themselves don't really tell us what these schemes do or how many they help. [end p6]

With the Youth Training Scheme, which has been running some time, every school-leaver can be trained for work, most of them in industry and commerce. As from next year, no sixteen or seventeen year old need be on the dole.

Young people are taking advantage of this training in huge numbers. Indeed, yesterday, the millionth young person joined the scheme.

But there are still places unfilled in all parts of the country. —in Scotland —in Wales —in the North, and here in the North West [end p7] —in Yorkshire and Humberside —in the Midlands —in the South West —in the South East —and in London.

Altogether, there are about 70,000 unfilled places.

I don't like the idea of young people with nothing to do when there are Youth Training Scheme places which they could fill.

Nor do I like to see people of any age out of work for a long time. The Community Programme brings them jobs and new hope. What sort of jobs are they? They are varied. [end p8]

In Cornwall, St. Michael's Mount is being restored with jobs in carpentry, painting and gardening.

In Bristol, Temple Meads station is being returned to its former Gothic glory and is now a great tourist attraction.

Nottingham—Family First Trust [?]

And in Calder Glen County Park, valuable new footpaths, and play and picnic areas are being provided.

Shildon, Co. Durham-Derelict land—fishing & recreation park.

In other places, village halls are being repainted and rebuilt; elsewhere rivers and canals are being cleared and so on.

All of these are worthwhile jobs in the local community. [end p9]

In the last budget, we announced an increase in the number of places in the Community Programme to 230,000. But here, too, there are some 30,000 as yet unfilled places across the country as a whole.

You often hear people ask: why can't we give the unemployed something useful to do. That's exactly what the Community Programme does.

And it helps people get back into the habit of work. It restores self-respect and it can get them a reference which helps to get another job. [end p10]

Some people would rather start up on their own. But they feel that to go from the safety of regular benefit payments to an uncertain income—possibly very small at first—would be too big a risk to take. Most of us understand that, especially if they have family commitments. That's why we introduced, what we called the Enterprise Allowance Scheme: £40 a week to those who have been unemployed and decide to start up their own business. This will help tide them over until their income builds up. So far this scheme has benefited over 110,000 people. [end p11]

We're all greatly concerned that although there are so many people without jobs, there are still businesses that cannot find suitably qualified people for some of the jobs available. That's why we're doing a lot more to provide people with the right basic education and training, with particular emphasis on engineering and technology. It is there, above all, that jobs are crying out for qualified people. [MT added in margin:] Stephensons, Arkwrights, Brunels—not only great inventors people of commerce & vision. [End of margin note.]

The Government is doing all these things. But there comes a point when the Government has to say to the men and women of enterprise: “Over to you”. For it is they who create the overwhelming majority of the jobs of tomorrow. [end p12]

The proof of what just one gifted individual can achieve was seen this week with the stampede to buy Laura Ashley shares. And what a tragic loss we all suffered with Laura Ashley 's death. From her very first doodles at the kitchen table, she had designs on success. She and her talented family fashioned a major international business out of her individual sense of colour, co-ordination and fabric. Today, the company employs a total of 5,000 people. [end p13]

There are countless examples of this kind. —the flair of Terence Conran of Habitat —the growth of ASDA and MFI —and the enterprise of individuals like Ralph Halpern of Burton who have turned old household names into new success stories.

Older companies have to anticipate—change change—not enemy of security—means of achieving it.

Yes, but we want more of enterprise. We are travelling in the right direction. New jobs are being created. 600,000 more people are at work than at the last General Election. Enterprise is flourishing. [end p14]


Governments are not experts at running businesses. They are far better run by free enterprise. Our future will then be shaped by millions of individual customers choosing what they want for their homes, their increasing leisure, their hobbies and holidays.

The job of government is to set the financial and legal framework and allow industry to work within it (and also to make it worthwhile for entrepreneurs to take risks)

That is why this Government has transferred so many companies from state control and state ownership into free enterprise. [end p15]

Those industries which have been privatised have done well: —for employees —for shareholders —and, for the future, by producing and investing good profits.

The nation does well, too—from increased business, and the extra tax it brings to help finance capital investment and the social services. Indeed the public sector as a whole.

This is the national dividend from privatisation. [end p16]

But there is another purpose behind privatisation: Wider share ownership. It should be as natural for people to own shares as to own their home or to own a car.

People should not be classified as either earners or owners; as either employees or shareholders. They should be both. An employee should not only be working on the shop floor or in the office. He should also be present at the Annual General Meeting as a shareholder. [end p17]

He should be wanting to satisfy himself that Management is efficient and that profits are as good as they could be. Not only in his own company but in others in which he has shares.

He should be turning to the financial pages of the newspapers—they're usually not far from the sports page—to keep a check on how his shares are doing.

For too long it has been difficult for employees to build up capital out of earnings. We want to change that and make it easier. [end p18]

Savings income, investment income or private income. Whatever you call it, it's best to have a little bit of your own.

All of this helps to build a more robust and more responsible society. The strength of our policies is that they are founded on the basic instincts of our people. An instinct: —for ownership —for thrift —for honest work —for fair rewards —and for helping others. [end p19]

It was Disraeli who talked about “One Nation”. We, his successors are bringing it about. [end p20]


Our vision is of a society that continues to enlarge freedom for individuals and families to live their own lives and shape their own destinies. We want still more people to grow in the independence that comes from owning their homes and building up private savings, investments and pensions. We Conservatives believe in responsible freedom which gives help more generous than Beveridge ever dreamed to the minority in special need. [end p21]

And with responsible freedom the prosperous majority do not constantly call on government to do what they can do for themselves.

Freedom is no more a dogma than fresh air and sunshine. Freedom is the necessary condition for all moral and material growth. And freedom alone makes success worth the effort of seeking and winning. [Press Release end here] [end p22]

We need personal enterprise to face the challenge of new technology.

We need personal discipline and the affectionate firmness of family life as a bulwark against disorder and moral anarchy.

We need personal service, gladly given, as the cement of a free society. [end p23]

Mr. President, our quest is inspired by what we believe and what our land and people have achieved in the past. So the renewed greatness we seek can be attained. Above all, it is attainable under Conservative leadership. For it is our Party, with its roots deep in our nation's history, which has the consistency, the confidence, the tenacity to lead our people boldly to the opportunities of the future.

It matters not your wealth, your creed or hue. Just remember it all depends on you.