Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

Speech to British Radio and Electronic Equipment Manufacturers Association

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Savoy Hotel, central London
Source: Thatcher Archive: speaking text
Editorial comments: MT spoke at a dinner which was to begin at 1930.
Importance ranking: Minor
Word count: 1504
Themes: Conservatism, Economic policy - theory and process, Industry, Monetary policy, Privatized & state industries, Public spending & borrowing, Taxation, Trade, European Union (general), Media, Trade union law reform

My Lord ThorneycroftLord President, ladies and gentleman. I am grateful to you, my Lord President, for your kind welcome.

The association has been exceptionally fortunate in having as its President for so many years a man whose experience has included office as Chancellor of the Exchequer, Secretary of State for Defence, President of the Board of Trade, and within the industry itself, Chairman of Pye. [end p1] I suppose, my Lord President, you could be said to have moved from high office to high fidelity.

You resigned your office as Chancellor over excessive public expenditure. That has proved to be no little local difficulty. If only all politicians had had the courage to take difficult decisions when they were needed.

Breema clearly chooses for its Presidents men of principle and distinction. [end p2]

In asking Lord Chapple to be its next President the association has engaged the services of someone who has done much to change trades unionism in this country. You, my Lord, have worked with the utmost zeal to bring democracy to trades unions, an endeavour which this government wholly supports. Your observations may not always be comfortable, but they are born of experience and independence of mind. Indeed in the past week or so, I have sometimes thought I would prefer a chapel to a church. [end p3] and if technology breaks down, Breema will always be able to rely on your expertise with racing pigeons.

Consumer electronics

My lord President, the industry in which you work has done more than any other to change the way we live, the way we think, the very way we see our world.

Yours is an industry which enlarges the lives of millions —it has enlarged them through music: classical, jazz, and pop, of a quality and [end p4] variety undreamed of only a generation ago; through programmes like Face the Music (how I Miss Joyce Grenfell—how marvellous she was!) or masterclass, which gave us insight into the genius of the composer and the performer—it has enlarged our lives through films, plays, programmes about the world of nature. —And televised sport. (And let me say how much I enjoy watching snooker—they spend so much time potting the reds!) and through news and educational programmes, [end p5] your products bring a new dimension to politics. Instant reaction is the order of the hour. Gone are the days when views were given time to mature. Some of our problems do not yield to such superficial treatment. So I am all the more grateful for the programmes that do take time to study issues in depth.

Indeed your industry has helped transform our whole perception of the world. The scenes we saw on television aroused our sympathy for the victims of famine in [end p6] Ethiopia, earthquake in Mexico, and volcanic eruption in Colombia. They prompted an unparalleled response which showed that the spirit of human charity is alive and vigorous in Britain today. Television can also help to bring greater understanding between nations, as when President Reagan and Mr Gorbachev met in Geneva and Russian T.V. viewers saw and heard a live broadcast of the President of the United States speaking direct to them and to the rest of the world. [end p7]

The media in the last thirty years have gained a new power, and television is by far the most powerful means of communication ever known. I shall not labour the point but such power requires great responsibility, especially with regard to its effect on young impressionable minds.

The industry

My lord President, in recent years the members of this industry have had a more immediate concern: how to survive against strong international competition. there were some who argued that the industry [end p8] could not survive against imports.

How wrong they were.

More investment, better technology, higher quality, and improved design have begun to make their mark, along with keener prices.

Exports have increased substantially. The members of the Federation of British Audio succeed in exporting well over half of what they make. In teletext and in viewdata British technology leads the world. [end p9]

Your industry has been fighting back with growing success against international competition. You are showing the way for others.

My lord President, I welcome extensive investment in Britain from overseas. Of the top 100 American companies, 96 operate in the U.K. Your industry has benefitted from investment by Japanese companies. I am glad to see some of their representatives here tonight. [end p10]

The economy

My lord President, I congratulate you all here this evening, not only for the improved performance of your own industry, but because you are the wealth creators. You develop products. You find markets. You create jobs.

The recovery in your industry these past four years is part of a recovery in the economy as a whole—not in every industry, because not all have been ready to adapt to change. But a recovery which has now continued for [end p11] five years at a steady pace, even through a year long coal strike.

Government's role is to create the framework within which recovery can happen. You make it happen by your flair, your enterprise.

Of course both you and we face uncertainties. We always have and always will. It was one of my predecessors, Disraeli, who said “Change is inevitable. In a progressive country change is constant.” [end p12] I cannot tell you precisely what will happen to oil prices, although the Chancellor did anticipate some fall in his autumn statement. I cannot predict the size of the US budget deficit or the strength of the dollar. The government has to make its best assessment of those things and to set its policies accordingly, and we do.

Government can and does all in its power to keep the economy on a footing sound enough to withstand sudden change. [end p13]

That is why we have to keep down public borrowing. The analogy with companies is not exact but, you could say we have reduced the nation's financial gearing. Indeed the amount of borrowing this year proportionate to our national income will be the lowest for fourteen years. Some people say we have only achieved that by selling off state owned companies. That's not true. Even if there had been no receipts from privatisation and we had borrowed the money instead, total borrowing as a proportion of G.D.P. Would still be the lowest for 14 years. [end p14]

We shall continue this cautious approach. And that has to apply to interest rates too. Of course I know that business would like lower interest rates. So would people with mortgages. But if we were to take risks with interest rates gratitude would soon go sour if the result were a return to higher inflation which would affect the future of every business in the land.

We are determined to keep inflation down and to reduce it further.

We also want to reduce taxation, for high taxation [end p15] damages incentives. But we are not prepared to put at risk our paramount objective of lower inflation.

We have, of course, already abolished some taxes and we have reduced others. You will recall that from next April the rate of corporation tax goes down to 35 per cent, the lowest rate, we believe, in the Western world. Now it is really worthwhile for companies to be profitable again. And profits are the source of investment for the future. [end p16]

But economic strategy involves more than financial policies.

Industrial relations are of course vitally important. The legislation brought in by this government has transformed the industrial scene. The ballot of the rank and file is replacing the diktat from the top. And the number of strikes this year has been the loWest for fifty years.

We must also cut red tape. We have to reduce regulations both from our own government and the Community. At the last two European councils I have had [end p17] a go at the number of detailed directives which pour out of Brussels. The commission has now agreed that before they introduce any new regulation they will consider the burdens it would impose on business. And they will also review existing regulations in that light. But we shall need to keep an eye on them. Some nonsenses are still emerging from Europe—like that proposal we heard on the radio this morning to require chocolate to be called vegolate if it contained vegetable fats. What a dotty idea! [end p18] It sounds like one of the scripts “Yes Minister” rejected.


And so, my Lord President, sound financial policies. Stronger incentives. Better industrial relations. Deregulation. And your business enterprise. Those are the ways—the only ways—to new jobs. And new jobs are coming—over 650,000 since 1983. Better than any other country in Europe. [end p19]

With your support and your efforts, we can I believe look forward to a sixth year of growth in our economy, of steady growth with falling inflation.

How fitting a context, my Lord President, in which to thank you for your contribution to the work of this association. We congratulate you on your long and distinguished term of office. We look forward to a successful year for the members of this association, a year of new products, growing output and rising profits. Your success will be part of the continued economic recovery and growing strength and influence of our nation.