Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

Speech to Conservative Central Council

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Spa Pavilion, Felixstowe
Source: Thatcher Archive: speaking text
Editorial comments: MT was expected to speak about about 1215. The paragraph on victim support schemes was excluded from the press release.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2914
Themes: Conservatism, Conservative Party (organization), Employment, Industry, Monetary policy, Privatized & state industries, Energy, Public spending & borrowing, Health policy, Labour Party & socialism, Law & order, Leadership, Media, Trade union law reform


Mr. Chairman, we come to this conference confident in your support, confident in our policies, confident in the future of our country.

Of course, there are the professional grumblers who will always complain whatever we do.

And if they ever got to the Pearly Gates, they'd grumble there.

Because the gates squeaked; or they weren't pearly enough.

And St. Peter didn't bow low enough after all they'd done—or should I say, after all they had left undone. [end p1]

Mr. Chairman, if we let the grumblers have their way, we would be bending and turning with every twist in the opinion polls.

That is not this Government's style, nor this Prime Minister's.

Our style is to decide what is right for the country, not what is temporarily convenient.

Applause dies with the day.

Belief lives on.

We look to the future, for we are more than a one generation society. [end p2]

Soon we will enter our eighth year of Government.

We are a free people: free to choose our way of life; free because of the rule of law.

But that freedom can never be taken for granted.

From one age to another, threats to its precious qualities come stealthily by different paths.

Seven years ago, that freedom was challenged by the Winter of Discontent.

And the will of a Labour Government bowed to the might of the trade unions.

More recently, it was challenged again by the miners' strike.

But a Conservative Government stood firm. [end p3]

This Government has, step by step, diminished the industrial and political power of centralised trade unionism and restored strength to the hands of their own members.

That battle for freedom wasn't won by the faint hearts but by the stout hearts.

There are some things on which you can never give way.

Today, Mr. Chairman, there is a whole new atmosphere in industrial relations. [end p4]

There can be no better example than here in the Port of Felixstowe where we see trade unionists and employers equally committed to their enterprise. They know that if you work together, then the team can achieve great things.

Pull apart and you perish.

Pull together and you succeed.

Mr. Chairman, a nation will not long remain free if its currency is debased.

Money does not buy freedom; but misuse of money, the filching of its value by the State, can swiftly diminish freedom.

We have restored honest money.

And by so doing we have given more confidence to men and women that what they give to their work, they will harvest. [end p5]

And we have recovered much of the freedom of the individual from the socialist concept of the corporate state.

Not only in home-ownership, where the most remarkable increase has been among manual workers and among young people in their twenties.

We have also dismantled state industries and spread their ownership.

In Jaguar, Cable and Wireless, Amersham, British Telecom, and many more such as National Freight.

And I always like to see, on the National Freight vehicles, the slogan: “Now we're in the driving seat” . [end p6]

Not the Government.

Not the bureaucrats.

Not the bosses.

Not the militant unions.

But the workers and management working together.

Seven years ago, who would have dared forecast such a transformation of Britain.

This didn't come about because of consensus.

It happened because we said: this we believe, this we will do.

It's called leadership. [end p7]


Conservative policies are winning the day; and even the grudging support of a few politicians elsewhere.

Yet, at the time, they fought us tooth and nail. Today, they can see our success, and they want to claim it as their own.

But does anyone seriously think that Conservative achievements would be safe in their hands?

So I warn you:

— Don't take it for granted that inflation will stay low.

If it weren't for the Tories, pensioners would have to watch out.

Inflation destroys your savings. [end p8]

— Don't take it for granted that mortgage interest relief will continue.

If it weren't for the Tories, many young people wouldn't be able to buy their own home.

— Don't take it for granted that trade unionists will continue to have a vote in their union.

If it weren't for the Tories, they wouldn't have one today.

— Don't take it for granted that you'll be allowed to keep all your shares.

Nationalisation lies right at the heart of Labour's policy. [end p9]

— And don't take it for granted that this country will always have the defences we need.

If it weren't for the Tories, far from being defended, Britain would be defenceless against any nuclear power in the world.

— Don't take any of these things for granted, Mr. Chairman.

Conservative achievements are safe only in Conservative hands. [end p10]


Now let's look ahead a little.

There has been the odd report recently that Thatcherism has run its course, and is on its way out.

As an informed source close to Downing Street, I have to report that those reports are eyewash. We're only just beginning.

We've barely got past the stage of excavation, let alone of topping out!

You may feel that the first seven years of Conservative Government have produced some benefits for Britain.

And so they have. [end p11]

But the next seven are going to produce more—many more.

And the next seven after that, more still.

Let me tell you why.

Conservatism is not some abstract theory.

It's a crusade to put power in the hands of ordinary people.

And a very popular crusade it is proving. Tenants are jumping at the opportunity to buy their own council houses.

Workers are jumping at the opportunity to buy shares in their own privatised companies. [end p12]

Trade unionists are jumping at the opportunity, which the ballot box now gives them, to decide “who rules” in their union.

And the rest of Britain is looking on with approval.

For popular capitalism is biting deep.

It used to be Socialists who talked of crusades.

Well, let them launch a new one on the old Socialist lines.

What about a Socialist crusade to rehabilitate that old favourite, the municipal landlord, and to lure home owners back into becoming council tenants?

Or a socialist crusade to re-nationalise Vickers, and take back the workers' shares. [end p13]

Or a Socialist crusade to abolish bothersome union ballots and get back to the good old days of Big Brother.

After all, these aims are the very heartbeat of Socialism.

But you may have noticed how muted nowadays are the trumpets for such Socialist crusades.

For popular capitalism, which is the economic expression of liberty, is proving a much more attractive means for diffusing power in our society.

Socialists cry “Power to the people” , and raise the clenched fist as they say it. [end p14]

We all know what they really mean—power over people, power to the State.

To us Conservatives, popular capitalism means what it says: power through ownership to the man and woman in the street, given confidently with an open hand. [end p15]


Mr. Chairman, today the climate for British industry is better than it has been for 30 years.

Last year investment was at an all-time record of £60 billion—new roads, modern factories, the latest equipment.

That augurs well for the future.

Industry is more profitable than it has been for twenty-five years.

Since 1980 productivity in manufacturing industry has risen faster than in France, faster than in Germany. [end p16]

And, for the last six years, Britain has had a balance of payments surplus.

This economic success story does not always get the credit it deserves.

Some people carry British understatement and self-criticism too far.

The renaissance of enterprise and the renewal of our national fabric often go unsung.

Maybe we feel about our industry as we feel about our weather: it is never quite right, the prospects are too often cloudy or overcast.

Yet it is our weather, about which we always complain, which gives us our green and pleasant land. [end p17]

What is it that now gives us such optimism for the future? First, oil.

Only a year ago a single barrel of oil cost around $25 to buy.

Today it costs about $13.

To read some reports you'd think we all ought to go into mourning to mark the death of expensive oil.

Yes, of course, it will lose us some revenue and some exports. But all those who thought the oil price explosion of the 1970s did harm to our industry and slowed our growth rate were right.

Falling oil prices are, on the whole, good news. There's more money to spend on other things. [end p18]

The spending power in the nation's pockets and purses is rising.

Industry's costs are being cut.

All this is a bit like a tax cut, but one for which, alas, the Government cannot take credit. Last year's Central Council came just after the budget.

This year it's 3 days before.

Can you hear me Nigel LawsonNigel?

Don't worry.

I'm not going to give away any budget secrets. [end p19]

Second, interest rates.

In the last few weeks the cost of borrowing money in several major countries has fallen.

That too is good for the world economy and helps our own companies trading overseas.

We are living at a time which calls for more partnership and co-operation, both between countries and between companies.

We have to work together.

Moreover, Britain receives a tidy income from our overseas investments—and will continue to do so long after North Sea Oil is a thing of the past. [end p20]

Third, exchange rates.

Every industrialist I speak to has a different view of the exchange rate he wants.

Markets, not governments, set exchange rates; and it's just not possible to satisfy everyone all of the time.

But the agreement reached last year between the five major industrial nations has contributed to a welcome change in the pattern of exchange rates.

And that benefits all of us—and brings great opportunities. [end p21]

But I must repeat my constant message to all industrialists.

Exchange rates go up and down.

Success comes from your own efforts and your own efficiency.

Never rely on the exchange rate to beat your rivals.

Mr. Chairman, I have already mentioned the reform of trade union law, privatisation, employee shareholdings, and lower inflation.

And there have been a number of tax reforms. [end p22]

In this favourable climate new jobs are coming—700,000 in under 3 years—more than in any other country in Europe.

We need jobs in both manufacturing and services.

What's the point of making a television set if there are no programmes to show on it?

Who would want to buy a car if there were no garages to sell petrol and service it?

What's the use of making radiators if there are no plumbers to install central heating? [end p23]

We need a well-serviced economy, which buys British—because British is best.

I recently held a meeting of businessmen at Number Ten, called “Better Made in Britain” .

The purpose was to see how British-made goods could win a bigger share of the home market and so create more jobs.

It's humbug to complain about unemployment if you drink French mineral water and drive an imported car. [end p24]

This Government is backing business with a dynamic policy for enterprise.

We're training people in the skills they need—high technology, design, marketing and engineering.

We're strengthening competition and small business.

We're battling for Britain in the export markets of the world.

And we're going for more privatisation, less regulation and wider share ownership. [end p25]

And it's not only happening in Britain.

Privatisation is on the agenda in Turkey, Malaysia, Japan, Mexico and Canada.

And China too is striving to create free enterprise.

People are no longer worried about catching the British disease.

They're queueing up to obtain the new British cure. [end p26]


Mr. Chairman, we've done better for the health service than any previous government.

I could reel off facts and figures to prove it.

I do so regularly in the House of Commons, although the Opposition try to stop me.

That's because when they don't like the truth, they do everything they can to drown it. [end p27]

But there's something you must often have asked yourselves.

Why aren't we better at getting our excellent message across?

This Government hasn't cut investment in health—we've increased it.

— Yes, over 40 major hospital schemes have already been completed.

— and yes, a further 150 of varying sizes are under way.

— yes, there are 11,500 new hospital beds; over 100 new X-ray departments; and nearly 200 new operating theatres. [end p28]

— yes, there are more doctors, dentists and nurses.

— and yes, we can now treat more patients.

These are not just achievements of Government.

We owe a debt to all those in the health and social services who look after others with such commitment and dedication.

Yet, despite all these increases in the health service, people still talk of cuts, Why? [end p29]

We live in a television age—and television is selective.

One camera shot of a pretty nurse helping an elderly patient out of an empty hospital ward speaks louder than all the statistics in Whitehall and Westminster.

Never mind that the hospital is being closed because it's out of date.

Never mind that, a few miles away, a spanking new hospital is being opened—with brighter wards, better operating theatres and the very latest equipment. [end p30]

In today's world, selective seeing is believing. And in today's world, television comes over as truth.

I remember myself opening a beautiful new hospital. Virtually the only publicity was a demonstration outside—about cuts.

And there's something else.

Medical science is advancing so fast that now there's almost no limit to how much we could spend. [end p31]

Indeed the Royal Commission on the National Health Service which reported in 1979 said:

We had no difficulty in believing … that we can easily spend the whole of the Gross National Product” on the National Health Service.

The opportunities for spending money on health may not be limited, but taxpayers' money is.

There are other deserving causes:

the Police, education, pensions and defence. [end p32]

Yet we have ploughed more money into the health service, precisely to bring these medical advances within reach of more and more people.

And that is also the reason why we have prescription and health charges.

Together they bring in £500 million.

That £500 million can pay the salaries of some 60,000 nurses or buy half a million operations. [end p33]

There are always difficult choices to be made.

We choose to give priority to the Health Service, as you can see from one final statistic.

When we came into Office, spending on the National Health Service was £7½ billion a year.

This year it will be £17½ billion—an increase which goes way above inflation. [end p34]

The Opposition can keep on turning out their propaganda.

But it can't alter facts.

And it can't dislodge all the new doctors and dentists or destroy all the new hospitals. [end p35]


Mr. Chairman, I spoke earlier of freedom.

In the eyes of many of our people, the freedom most at risk today is freedom to walk in the street without fear; freedom to answer the door without fear; freedom to be safe and secure in your own home.

The recent crime figures for England and Wales have appalled us all, with their record of brutality, violence and rape. [end p36]

Lord LaneThe Lord Chief Justice has described rape as “a violation which obliterates the personality of victims.”

I'm sure you applaud the lead he has given in proposing sentences up to life imprisonment for this, one of the most savage of crimes.

Central and Local Government carry, as they have for years, a duty to protect the citizen:

— to provide and equip police forces

— to make by statute laws which will deter and punish the criminal

— to support and if necessary augment the numbers of those who administer justice. [end p37]

More police—we've seen to that.

Better equipment—they have it.

Another Criminal Justice Bill—it's in preparation.

But when crime is rife and people are troubled, they must not be passive.

A free people must share the burden of law and order, not remit it all to the State.

There are many tasks to be shared.

To check wrongdoing in home and school.

To take practical measures of crime prevention.

Not to shrug shoulders when crime is committed under our nose. [end p38]

Not to shield the offender.

Not to resist being a witness.

Never to turn away but to help the victims of crime to come through their traumatic experience.

And I would like to pay tribute here to Victim Support Schemes that last year helped 125,000 victims of crime.

They do wonderful voluntary work. [end p39]


Mr. Chairman, glancing back along the road we have come, and despite all the problems we have yet to face, I believe there are solid grounds for encouragement, to lift the spirit.

We are no longer seen by our friends abroad as Europe's poor relation.

Indeed, when I read what is written about us in other lands, I am tempted to think we are sometimes seen in higher regard than we see ourselves. [end p40]

In seven short years we have changed the face of this country of ours.

But I am only too well aware that there is always another hill to climb, another battle to be won.

In a nation of our history, in a Party of our traditions, it is the lamp at the top of the hill.

To which the leader must always be drawn, must never lose sight of, must strive with might and main to keep alight. [end p41]

Amid all the tasks before us, and the obstacles—and the distractions, which we shall surmount—for this Party, this Government, this Nation, the lamp on the hill shines like a beacon.

From that lamp our eye must not, and shall not, waver.