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 was due to arrive at the Guildhall c1845. She would have spoken after 2100. The text is marked "as at 10.11.86".
Importance ranking: Key
Word count: 2393
Themes: Civil liberties, Conservatism, Conservative Party (history), Defence (general), Defence (arms control), Economic policy - theory and process, Industry, Monetary policy, Privatized & state industries, Public spending & borrowing, European Union (general), Foreign policy - theory and process, Foreign policy (Central & Eastern Europe), Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Law & order, Leadership, Northern Ireland, Religion & morality, Society, Terrorism

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


My first very pleasant task is to congratulate you, My Lord Mayor, on assuming your ancient and most distinguished office. [end p1]

Few people perhaps, realise that yours, like mine, is an elected position. But I understand your electors stand on a dais strewn with sweet herbs and carry nosegays of flowers when they cast their votes.

I really must recommend it to my colleagues in the House of Commons.

And I thank you my Lord Mayor for your [end p2] eloquent and most generous toast to Her Majesty's Ministers.

It won't altogether surprise you that I find myself in agreement with everything you said.

Your speech has added to my pleasure at being with you on this splendid occasion.

You, as you implied, are the 659th person [end p3] to hold your office, a number that rises each year.

I am only the 49th to hold my office.

But let me assure you that I shall do my level best to see that that particular number will not change for a good few years yet.

The Big Bang

My Lord Mayor, it is just a fortnight since the Big Bang. [end p4]

The months of careful preparation, the rehearsals, the training, the heavy investment in new technology, all of these were a fundamental part of this enormous change.

There have been teething troubles, of course.

And a good deal of knocking copy. But I want to pay a very real tribute to the foresight of Sir Nicholas [end p5] Goodison and his team.

They take a positive view of change.

That's the right way to approach it.

I want to thank them for their strenuous efforts, and wish them well.

My Lord Mayor, I once asked the Leader of one of our most flourishing former colonies what was the secret of their [end p6] success.

His reply was to the point: “by practising all the lessons you taught us, which you then forgot” .

Well, we're learning them anew.

The City's growing confidence and drive owe a good deal to young people. Its vast new dealing rooms are run by [end p7] the young.

People who made it not because of who they know or what school tie they wear, but on sheer merit.

That is the kind of society I want to see.

Gone are the controls which hampered success.

Instead Government has established a [end p8] new legal framework—for we all have to live by certain basic rules.

Some rules apply to all times. Some have to change with the times.

The new technology does have a disadvantage: the people who are making deals need never meet.

You can't look a computer in the eye and shake its hand to close a [end p9] bargain.

Well not yet, anyway.

Nevertheless now as before the City's prosperity will depend on its reputation for probity and fair dealing.

The Stock Exchange has long had an impressive motto: “My Word is My Bond” . [end p10]

That principle is not only part of its history it is the basis of an even more successful future.

The framework may have been set by Government.

But it is you the City who are making London the place to be.

To be someone in the world of finance you have to set out your stall in our [end p11] Capital City.

The number of American banks here rivals that in New York, proof positive, if ever it were needed, that they and many others, from Europe and the Far East, give Britain and its prospects a triple A rating.

But to anyone who would take unfair advantage of our open market we say— [end p12] you should only come here provided our people have the same facilities in your market.

To us, competition is a two-way street.

The City and the Nation

The City serves not only the City, but the nation as a whole. [end p13]

As you My Lord Mayor pointed out the City makes an enormous contribution to this country's foreign earnings, a surplus of £7½ thousand million a year.

That's close to the contribution of North Sea oil at its height.

Financial services are now one of our major industries, employing more than [end p14] a million people.

And millions of people now own shares. Many more will do so in the years to come.

The response to the offers for sale of British Telecom and others has been spectacular. [end p15]

Popular Capitalism

It's called privatisation.

Not a word I'm particularly fond of. In fact a dreadful bit of jargon to inflict on the language of Shakespeare.

But how much hope it offers, and how great the benefits it brings.

Private ownership—of companies, of [end p16] homes, of property of every kind—goes far deeper than mere efficiency. All of us in politics have dreams.

It is part of mine to give power and responsibility back to people, to restore to individuals and families the sense and feeling of independence.

The great reform of the last century was [end p17] to make more and more people voters. The great reform of our time is to make more and more people owners.

Popular capitalism is a crusade: a crusade to enfranchise the many in the economic life of Britain.

And by the way, I know something the advertisements don't: I'm told that Sid is thinking quite seriously about [end p18] buying a few shares in British Gas.

And so are millions of others.

People need incentives,

They need responsibility,

They need

— the freedom and the dignity which comes from having something they can call their own; [end p19]

— the resources to support their own family;

— a sense of security as they come up to retirement;

— something to leave to their children;

— and the ability to help others less fortunate than themselves.

Too often government is on the side of the [end p20] big battalions.

Not this one.

The strength of our policies is that they are founded on the best instincts of our people—an instinct for ownership, for thrift, for honest work and fair rewards.

Our aim is to consign to the dustbin that most damaging of phrases “the two [end p21] sides of industry” .

We want to see an end to the “them and us” attitude which has done so much harm to Britain.

We want everyone to have a real sense of commitment to personal endeavour.

A Responsible Society

My Lord Mayor, I believe we are also [end p22] beginning to see a new attitude towards social behaviour.

There is a growing feeling that freedom to choose what you do risks becoming licence to do almost anything regardless.

Parents feel there is something wrong.

And I believe the younger generation increasingly thinks so too. [end p23]

No-one wants to curb freedom of expression.

But people are realising that life without any rules isn't the sort of life we want.

It leads to hooliganism and dangerous irresponsibility.

People are looking for a reconciliation [end p24] between liberty to do as you please and the duty of respect and concern individuals owe to one another and to the rest of society.

This is a most welcome change and we must do everything we can to encourage it.

The Economy

My Lord Mayor, you drew our attention to [end p25] Winston Churchill 's statue over there.

The memorial to William Pitt the Younger over here catalogues achievements which seem beyond the capacity of any individual.

Among them it says:

“He repaired the exhausted revenues; he revived and invigorated the commerce and prosperity of the [end p26] country;

he re-established the publick credit on deep and sure foundations.”

I would like to think that the same will be said of this Government.

This year the Nigel LawsonChancellor was considerate enough to make his Autumn Statement before tonight. [end p27]

So I don't have to talk to you on Lobby terms.

Spending, borrowing, inflation, the economic prospects, all were discussed in his Statement.

The Nigel LawsonChancellor announced an increase in public spending and most attention has been focussed on this.

But equally worthy of attention is [end p28] the fact that public spending has been falling as a share of our national income every year since 1982.

And after this year's Autumn Statement it will continue to fall as a share of national income.

It should come as no surprise that we also insist that public spending should be [end p29] honestly financed.

You will remember that in the Budget last March the Nigel LawsonChancellor indicated a figure for public borrowing next year.

In the Autumn Statement last week, he reaffirmed that figure in the House of Commons.

We shall not betray the prudent policies [end p30] which have been the hallmark of this Government.

They have brought inflation down to a level undreamed of ten years ago.

It still isn't low enough, and I for one long for the day when we shall have stable prices; with a reasonable expectation that they will remain stable. [end p31]

Those policies have also helped to bring about an increase in national income every year since 1981, and a million new jobs in the last three years.

The prospect is for further growth next year.

It may surprise some people that since 1981 our economy has grown faster than that of France, Italy and [end p32] Germany.

We need no longer talk about Britain's relative decline.

You my Lord Mayor have asked for a continued commitment to ensure that we have a country where enterprise will flourish.

I assure you that this Government will provide the conditions. [end p33]

We'll set the scene, play the overture, ring up the curtain. But Government has no business running business.

So it's up to you the professionals to perform, to keep the wheels humming, and to provide the vigour and the enterprise.

That's the right way ahead for Britain. [end p34]

Foreign Affairs

My Lord Mayor, the new confidence at home is being reflected in Britain's role in the world.

Britain is once again a nation respected and listened to, because we are ready and able to give a lead.

A lead in fighting terrorism. [end p35]

Terrorism will only be defeated if Governments not only promise to act, which is easy, but take action. As we did over Syria.

We are constantly fighting terrorism within our own borders.

I should like to pay tribute tonight to the police and armed forces in [end p36] Northern Ireland for their courage and steadfastness.

We also, My Lord Mayor, see Britain giving a lead as President of the European Community.

Away from the Euro-this and Euro-that vocabulary.

Towards concentrating on practical issues. [end p37]

Lower air fares.

Easier movement through customs.

Giving our insurance companies a chance to compete on equal terms.

What matters is that Europe should meet the needs of business and the everyday needs of ordinary people, not that it should match up to the models of political theorists. [end p38]

Most important of all, we give a lead in maintaining a strong defence—the first duty of governments of free nations.

My Lord Mayor, it would be a grave mistake to conduct relations with the Soviet Union solely on the basis of arms control. [end p39]

There's a world of difference between what they mean by peace and what we understand by it.

We remember what happened thirty years ago to the brave men and women who took part in the Budapest uprising.

We remember the Berlin Wall. [end p40]

We remember Afghanistan.

We remember the broken promises of Helsinki.

Recently I have talked to Mr. Sharansky. And to Mrs. Bonner, the wife of academician Sakharov.

And I shall shortly be meeting Mr. Orlov. I have heard at first hand what happens in Soviet Society to [end p41] those who dissent.

To those who dare to ask to leave.

Theirs is a story of human rights withheld, of justice mocked, of freedom denied.

And their fate should remind us every day not to take our freedom, our justice, for granted, but to resolve to defend them. [end p42]

With so much at stake, any negotiations with the Soviet Union must be tough and realistic, so that our security shall never be put at risk.

It is also vital that the West should always be at the forefront of research into the latest technology.

What would have been our fate in the last war had our enemies been the first to make the atom bomb? [end p43]

That is why President Reagan was right to stand firm at Reykjavik against the Soviet Union's attempt to hinder American research into new defences against nuclear missiles.

We can never forget that the frontier of freedom cuts right across our continent, and renders Western Europe [end p44] vulnerable to attack by conventional forces and chemical weapons in a way which the United States is not.

The fact is that nuclear weapons have prevented not only nuclear war but conventional war in Europe for forty years.

That is why we depend and will continue to [end p45] depend on nuclear weapons for our defence.

Of course we should like to see the numbers of nuclear weapons reduced.

Since the Reykjavik meeting that goal has come a little closer, and I shall be discussing the way ahead with President Reagan when we meet at Camp David later this week. [end p46]

But nuclear weapons cannot be disinvented.

The knowledge of how to make them exists.

And the risk will always be that someone will make them or conceal them.

Living with that risk would be a recipe for uncertainty and insecurity. [end p47]

No one understood the importance of nuclear weapons more clearly than Winston Churchill.

In his last address to the United States Congress he said:

“Be careful above all things not to let go of the atomic weapon until you are sure, and more than sure, that other means of preserving peace are [end p48] in your hands.”

Other means are not yet at hand, and we should do well to heed his wisdom.


My Lord Mayor, in the last few years the prospects for our country have been transformed.

The unique role of the City. [end p49]

The return of enterprise.

A reputation for sound finance.

Our standing as a respected and reliable ally.

All make us a country which once again gives a strong lead in the world.

Not by searching for consensus at the lowest common denominator, but by taking problems head on and tackling [end p50] them with solutions which will endure.

We have a Britain with verve, with originality and with a strength that goes beyond material things.

And building on those qualities, we have a Britain of which we can all be proud. [end p51]

My Lord Mayor, Her Majesty's Ministers thank you, and wish you and the Lady Mayoress health and happiness in your year of office.