Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Margaret Thatcher

Speech to Conservative Rally in Solihull

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Solihull Conference Centre, West Midlands
Source: Thatcher Archive: speaking text
Editorial comments: The press release (403/87) was embargoed until 1915. MT departed at 2030. Sections of the text have been checked against an IRN Report 29 May 1987.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 4663
Themes: Arts & entertainment, Conservatism, Defence (general), Defence (Falklands), Economic policy - theory and process, Education, Secondary education, Industry, General Elections, Monetary policy, Privatized & state industries, Public spending & borrowing, Taxation, Health policy, Labour Party & socialism, Law & order, Local government, Liberal & Social Democratic Parties, Religion & morality, Social security & welfare, Trade unions, Voluntary sector & charity

INTRODUCTION

The West Midlands is the industrial heartland of Britain. Birmingham is a City whose whole history and strength are rooted in industry. Many companies with worldwide reputations have grown up in the enterprising climate of this area.

And all this long before a Department of Industry. That's what I call Thatcherism. [end p1]

I know that for a time, with world recession, some industry faltered. But manufacturing industry in the West Midlands is now back on course and the recovery is securely based. We said that if we got the Government's finances under control, if we got inflation down, that if we got taxes reduced, the economy would respond. It has. Magnificently. [end p2]

Britain is now in its seventh successive year of growth, the largest sustained period of growth since the end of the war. In fact, we're at the top of the growth league of major European countries.

Last year, Britain exported more manufactured goods than ever before. And only last week, the CBI said:

“For the first time in a long time, our share of world trade is likely to increase.”
[end p3]

Privatisation is a success.

The companies we have sold to the people are doing superbly. In particular, Jaguar, whose fantastic engineering centre I visited this afternoon.

And the Birmingham Evening Mail each week has page after page—dozens of them—of job vacancies. [end p4]

Only this week, the British Chambers of Commerce reported that “the West Midlands economy is now looking much healthier” . The challenge now is to ensure that recovery continues, ever stronger, into the 1990s. Labour would throw it all away.

This election is about keeping Britain strong, prosperous and free. This is why Britain needs the Conservatives for a third term. To do this we want to see all Conservative MPs in the West Midlands returned again to Westminster. [end p5] And we hope to win a few more seats on top. [end p6]

ECONOMIC STRENGTH

Mr Chairman, it is people who are the engine of economic prosperity. The more incentives people have, the harder they work and the more they produce.

It must be right for people to keep more of the money they earn—because it is, after all, their money. And Government should take no more than they need to. [end p7]

It is no good the state being so generous with other people's money, that people are not left with enough to be generous to their own families.

It is right and good that we should take responsibility for our families.

To work against that grain is to stand morality on its head. It is the very reverse of a moral crusade. [end p8]

And the Labour Party? They are embarked on a moral crusade to increase income tax. They have already promised to reverse the recent cut of two pence in the basic rate of income tax. But that would not begin to pay for their programme of spending.

Suppose Labour were to go back to the income tax regime in force when they left Government. A staff nurse could find her income tax going up by £7.10 a week. [end p9] A married teacher would find Labour's 1979 tax regime cut his weekly take home pay by £11.80.

That seems to be Labour's moral crusade. They talk of pay increases. Indeed, they back every strike in sight. But their income tax policy is not to increase take home pay, but to cut it.

What duplicity! [end p10]

Conservatives never forget that flourishing public services depend on flourishing industry. [end p11]

REAL CARE

Mr Chairman, the words “care” and “compassion” have become part of the language of politics. They are words the Opposition uses very freely. But their record is altogether more modest.

Caring is not just a matter of sloganising. It asks from us more than merely demanding that the Government should do more for others. It is how we behave to each other. It is reflected in our concern for our family, our friends, our neighbours, our country and our fellow human beings. [end p12] And in politics it finds expression, not in what politicians and parties say but in what they do in all their programmes.

Compare our Conservative achievement with the record of the last Labour Government (of which the David OwenSDP Leader was a member and which the David SteelLiberal Leader assiduously kept alive). That Government cut all manner of welfare spending because the economy blew up in its careless hands. And if Labour were ever to sidle into power again, you could count on the economy breaking apart again in their profligate hands. [end p13]

As for the Alliance—I nearly forgot the Alliance—their recipe is to split everything down the middle. They would not quite go the whole hog with Labour.

They would just be moderately inflationary; Moderately indebted; Moderately incompetent. And despite their best intentions, they would be able to provide no more than a moderate standard of care. [end p14]

Moreover, Mr Chairman, if you don't care about inflation, there is no point in pretending that you care at all. And if you are prepared to risk galloping inflation—as our opponents most clearly are—then you are not entitled to claim that you care about the unemployed or the elderly. For inflation kills jobs, inflation destroys the value of Pensioners' life savings. Inflation makes all the struggles of a hard life much, much harder. [end p15]

We Conservatives have cut inflation down to 4 per cent. I want it down to zero. But it's going in the right direction. That's real care.

And how can parties claim to be compassionate if they intend to put power back in to the hands of trade union bosses. Bosses who see the consumer—whether bus passengers or hospital patients—as mere pawns in a power Game. [end p16]

Yet by repealing our union legislation or by negotiating so-called income policy deals with union bosses—the Opposition parties would do exactly that. The sick, the vulnerable, the general public—their interests would go by the board. Where is the caring in that?

Mr Chairman, we Conservatives may not be always ready with the slick phrases of social concern. But it is Tories—yes, and particularly Tory women—who do so much of the voluntary work to help the sick, the elderly and the deprived in our society. [end p17] And in the last eight years, we have shown as a Government that our opponents have nothing to teach us when it comes to the practical business of really helping people.

Hidden way in our manifesto is one small token of that simple but potent fact: giving to charities has doubled since we first took office.

Why, because we Conservatives, by tax incentives, have encouraged others to care—and to care more generously too. [end p18]

We have not simply been a caring Government, we have helped to make this a more caring society. [end p19]

A BETTER HEALTH SERVICE

Winston Churchill set out Conservative policy on health, way back in 1944, before Labour had come to power:

“The discoveries of healing science must be the inheritance of all.

Disease must be attacked, whether it occurs in the poorest or the richest man or woman simply on the ground that it is the enemy.”

He went on: “Our policy is to create a national health service in order to ensure that everybody in the country, irrespective of means, age, sex, or occupation, shall have equal opportunities to benefit from the best and most up-to-date medical and allied services available.” [end p20]

That was our policy. That is our policy. That will be our policy. Few things anger me more than the assumption of the other parties that the NHS belongs to them.

The NHS belongs to all the citizens of this country. We are its guardians on their behalf. We have discharged that duty honestly and well over the past eight years. The figures prove it. When this Government took over from Labour, spending on the national health service was less than £8 billion. Today, it has increased to nearly £21 billion. [end p21] — Under Labour, nurses lost out. Their pay rose less than inflation. Under us, their pay has risen almost thirty per cent more than inflation. [Notes] Two years fall in real resources for NHS under labour. Moreover they forget the way in which the hospitals were affected during the winter of discontent. Labour cares by talking, and tries to talk down the care we have actually delivered. — Waiting lists always increase under Labour. We always cut them. Under the last Labour Government, waiting lists rose by a quarter of a million to reach a record level. We have brought them down by 70,000 and our new initiative could take another 100,000 people off the waiting list. [end p22] — Labour closed over 200 hospitals and cut the hospital building programme by a third. Since 1979 we have started and completed 200 major projects and provided in England alone 151 new x-ray rooms, 189 new operating theatres, 27 accident and emergency theatres.

I have seen these successes in my own visits to hospitals—ten in the past eighteen months. [end p23] Under this Government, more patients are being treated than ever before. 13,000 more hip replacements. Over 20,000 more cataract operations. And over 7,000 more heart by-pass operations.

Today, the National Health Service is treating more than one million cases every week—and they are being treated by more doctors, more nurses, with more resources and in newer hospitals. [end p24]

Of course, there is more to be done. There always will be. We keep finding new ways of treating people and so a new waiting list is born. That is the challenge of medical advance today. We will rise to that challenge because we know that to take care of the health of the people, you must first take care of the health of the economy, Britain is creating the wealth which we need to ensure that the challenge is met. [end p25]

EDUCATION

We have chosen to make education a major issue in this election. If I were asked to define the purpose of education I'd say: “Giving children the opportunity to develop their talents to the fullest in an environment where sensible discipline is maintained and good manners are taught” .>

For that is real training for society. Talent alone is not enough. Mere cleverness, without responsibility and respect for others, can be positively bad. [end p26]

Society depends upon the self-restraint and decent behaviour of its members.

Many of us, and no-one more than myself, owe an enormous debt to the state schools we attended.

It is because I value my school years, and because I care about the young people of today and the Britain of tomorrow, that I want others to enjoy the same advantages I received. [end p27]

And I know from my time as Secretary of State for Education how strongly you feel about these matters in Birmingham.

While there are many local education authorities and many excellent schools, there are I regret too many schools with low academic standards, indifferent teaching and inadequate discipline.

The result is that in a subject such as mathematics, children in this country at the age of sixteen, are not nearly as competent as those in France, Germany or Japan. Parents are concerned that schools are not equipping their children for life. [end p28]

Our proposals for reform of education have three major objectives: — to raise standards for all children in all schools — to give parents greater choice of schools — to give heads and governors greater freedom to manage their schools.

Every child in this country will benefit from these reforms.

Standards can be raised in our schools.

First, we shall introduce a core of basic subjects which will be taught to all children. [end p29]

It is essential that in our primary schools, children are taught to add and subtract, to multiply and divide, to read and to spell, and to write proper English. And it is equally essential that in our secondary schools they learn the essentials of mathematics, science, a foreign language, history and geography, as well as developing their skills in the English Language.

Parents have a right to know that their children are being taught these subjects in the classroom. [end p30]

They also have a right to know how well their children are doing. That is why we will introduce tests and other forms of assessment.

Of course, I am fully aware that this is not the sum total of education. Creative skills matter. Children need to develop an appreciation of the arts. All children need to be taught within a moral and religious framework. [end p31]

But over the past twenty years, far too little attention has been paid to teaching children basic skills.

Some parents find their children trapped in schools where they are not receiving a proper education or a proper discipline and are being taught things which many parents feel should have no part in education. Parents pay heavily in rates and taxes. They are entitled to a good education for their children. Only a Conservative Government will provide this choice. This Government is determined they shall have it. [end p32]

Our proposals will increase parental choice. Where parents, especially in inner cities, are not satisfied with the education their children are receiving, we shall give the parents and governors of a school the opportunity to become independent of the local education authority. Instead, they would be financed by the Government. These new grant-maintained schools as they will be called will have many advantages:- — they will be free from LEA control; — they will be able to employ the staff of their choice; — they will be free to establish their own high standards of discipline; [end p33] — they will be free to teach competitive games; — and they will be free of left-wing propaganda, and gay and lesbian militancy of certain local councils.

Far from centralising authority in Whitehall, we are giving authority to those at the chalk face. Power to the people—that's the Tory way.

Let me emphasis once and for all that first, these grant-maintained schools will not charge fees for the children's education, they will receive from the Government the same amount of money per child as the LEA school receives. Second, admission to these schools will not be by way of the eleven plus examination. [end p34]

Under our proposals, those schools which stay with the local education authority will also have higher standards. Because of: — the greater involvement of parents — the benefits which will come from delegation to heads and governors — the effects of the national core curriculum and the testing which will accompany it — and the fact that the amount of money spent per pupil will be the same for schools regardless of whether they stay with the LEA or become grant-maintained. [end p35]

We are wholly opposed to creating a divisive educational system. But we are committed to creating diversity of provision in order to raise standards in every school throughout this country.

[We shall achieve greater choice for parents by allowing parents to send their children to good schools where space is available.

At present many schools have their admission numbers held down artificially by the local education authority. We will allow such schools to expand their intake to reach capacity, if that is the wish of parents. It's parents, not officials who should decide on the choice of their children's schools.] [end p36]

We are also committed to delegating as much responsibility as possible to heads and governors of schools.

By taking the lead in setting standards for the school to achieve, by constantly trying to improve quality in life of the school, and by developing the ethos of the school, heads have a crucial role to play in building successful schools. [end p37]

The dedicated, gifted, teacher is a priceless asset. He or she deserves the pay and prestige of the true professional. We are going to make sure that happens.

There will therefore be more promotion posts carrying higher salaries and greater recognition of the part teachers play in producing the citizens of tomorrow.

As parents, we expect our children to have a solid grounding in the three Rs. As taxpayers, we offer the teachers our three Rs: Reward for Responsibility and Results. [end p38]

Our proposals represent the greatest change to our school system since the 1944 Education Act.

Throughout our history, our greatest resource as a nation has not been our land, or our minerals but our people. It is this which has made this country creative, industrious and enterprising.

If we want our young people to be equipped for the world of work, to be responsible citizens and proud Britains, then we need schools with the highest standards of excellence. This is our goal. [end p39]

HOCUS-POCUS MANIFESTO

Mr. Chairman, no-one can accuse the Tory Party of hiding its intentions in a “secret manifesto” . We have published all our plans for the next five years in what even our critics admit is the most honest and detailed manifesto of modern times—seventy-seven pages of concrete, factual policies.

We have submitted ourselves to a daily inquisition on it, a press conference at which we've answered full and searching questions on every item in the policy package. We have left no doubt where this Party stands on housing, education, defence, the economy, law and order, trade unions and many other issues. [end p40]

Not so the Labour Party.

Theirs has been a campaign of concealment.

Beneath the advertising slogans and slick television films are concealed the extreme left-wing policies which Labour Conferences have passed and which Labour Shadow Ministers have quietly endorsed.

Under the cosmetic of moderation is the new hard face of left-wing Labour. [end p41] [Beginning of first section checked against IRN Report 29 May 1987]

Mr. Chairman, over the last thirty years we have seen the moderate reforming Labour Party of Attlee, Morrison and Gaitskell change into the extremist left-wing party of today. It has been a gradual process—obscured by the fact that for a long time Labour leaders continued to come from the moderate wing of the party. But while Harold Wilson puffed his pipe and Jim Callaghan played the voters' favourite uncle, the termites of the left were eating away at Labour's foundation. [End of first section checked against IRN Report 29 May 1987.] [end p42]

Left-wing militants rose to the top of Britain's unions. Once there, they used the block vote, the closed shop and the union rule book to dragoon their members into politically-motivated strikes and perpetual unrest.

Left-wing activists, taking bed-sits in constituencies where Labour's organisation was weak and decaying, gradually brought more and more constituency Labour Parties under their sway. And once that had been accomplished, the activists went on first to infiltrate and then to dominate Labour-controlled local authorities. [end p43] Their next step was to hire their revolutionary colleagues as council officers. Soon “little Kremlins” were springing up throughout local government, over-spending, driving rates up and industry out, sponsoring revolutionary groups, campaigning against central Government, and using the ratepayers' money to finance political propaganda.

By the late seventies, Mr. Chairman, the moderate parliamentary Labour Party was an empty shell. All the real power had been quietly accumulated by the hard left which now controlled the unions, Labour's inner city local government strongholds and the constituency Labour parties. [end p44]

The Left now owned Labour. It set about bending Labour's Parliamentary representatives to its will. It set about “de-selecting” moderate Labour MPs and replacing them with more reliable left wing fanatics.

Did the moderates fight this far-reaching advance of the left? Only on two occasions—when Hugh Gaitskell fought, fought, fought and fought against CND, and when Harold Wilson tried to reform the unions with “In Place of Strife” . These battles were lost. The Left's advance continued—remorselessly. Labour moderates learned to keep quiet—especially at Election time. [end p45] And today we see the consequences—a Labour Party in the grip of narrow ideological fanatics, men and women with a contempt for the rights and opinions of their fellow citizens—a party in which Mr. Michael Foot, the standard-bearer of Labour's Left twenty years ago, is not only a former Party leader but is regarded by the new Left as a feeble “moderate” . That marks how far Labour has shifted left.

But don't take my word for it. Listen to “The Guardian” , an anti-Tory newspaper. Last year, on the 8th July, it published a survey of what the parliamentary Labour Party would look like after the election. [end p46]

What that survey shows is that even if Labour doesn't gain a single seat in the General Election, the new Labour Party in the Commons would have a majority of left-wingers who think the Neil Kinnockpresent leader is too moderate.

And the more Labour MPs there are, the more extremist the parliamentary Labour becomes.

Listen to a certain Mr. Ken Livingstone who said only last week:

“The new intake of MPs will represent much the most radical bunch of MPs the Party has ever had.

They will change the whole balance of the Labour Party in Parliament.”
[end p47]

He went on to say that they had been keeping quiet in order not to frighten the voters.

And that calculated silence is the basis of Labour's campaign. It is the basis of Labour's hocus pocus manifesto in which the slickness of style deceives the eye. Now you see the extreme Left policies; now you don't.

Take Labour's proposal to extend political control of the police. “The police themselves will remain responsible for all operational measures,” the Manfiesto assures us soothingly. [end p48]

Now turn to the Labour policy document published just before the election was announced, which admits that the local authorities will be given “the power to determine the policing policies, priorities and methods of their force” . Nor much operational freedom for the police there—a bad day for law-abiding citizens who need protection against the flying picket and the mass demo.

Or turn to page 6 of Labour's hocus-pocus manifesto which reads:

“We shall extend social ownership of a variety of means as set out in Labour's details proposals” .
[end p49]

But see also the official Labour statement on Social Ownership to the 1986 Labour Conference. You will there discover that Labour proposes a massive extension of nationalisation and re-nationalisation.

Mr. Chairman, millions of workers in the industries we privatised bought shares in the company.

How would a Labour Chancellor compensate them for grabbing their investment in their own companies and in their own future? They would receive would Labour calls “special new securities” —in other words an I.O.U. signed by a Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer. That, Mr. Chairman, is no idle threat. [end p50]

It would be an I.O.U. endorsed and validated by the people who gave us financial crisis, 27 per cent inflation and the IMF at the door.

Mr. Chairman, we may believe in conserving the environment, but we're not that green. [end p51]

DEFENCE

Mr. Chairman, we cannot overestimate the seriousness of the debate over defence in this election. It is about the defence of liberty in the world, as well as the liberty of our country. For Britain has a unique and proud record in history of safeguarding and advancing the rights of small nations and oppressed peoples. It was the Royal Navy which abolished the Slave Trade—the most altruistic use of force by a great power the world has seen.

If Britain were to abandon its defence of liberty, we wouldn't just decline comfortably into a Swedish neutrality. It would be the abandonment of belief in ourselves, a cracking of the cornerstone of the atlantic Alliance. It really is that serious. [end p52]

We Conservatives believe in upholding the policy of nuclear deterrence which has kept the peace of Europe—peace with freedom and justice—for a generation. Labour does not. [Beginning of second section checked against IRN Report 29 May 1987]

Labour has argued from the start of the campaign that you can defend Britain and Europe without nuclear weapons—that you can deter a nuclear threat by using conventional forces.

Mr. Chairman, that is nonsense. It is utter nonsense. It is like arguing that a man with a catapult could halt a battalion of tanks. [End of second section checked against IRN Report 29 May 1987] [end p53]

Has the Neil KinnockLabour Leader thought about the practical consequences for the very conventional forces in Europe he claims to support? He would deny battlefield nuclear weapons to the British Army of the Rhine—the BAOR in the front-line of defence against a Soviet attack. The Americans have them. The Germans have access to them. The Red Army certainly have them. Under Labour the British Army would be without them. [end p54]

Ask yourself this simple question. Which part of NATO's front-line would the Warsaw Pact forces attack with nuclear weapons? The Germans and Americans who could respond in kind? Or the British who could not? Mr. Chairman, it is British soldiers who would feel the brunt of a nuclear attack—an attack which they could not deter and to which they would have no reply.

Last weekend, however, the Neil KinnockLabour leader accepted that without a nuclear deterrent, he would indeed have to surrender to a nuclear threat. He seemed to accept defeat, invasion and occupation. [end p55] The British people under a Labour Government would then have to rely on guerilla resistance to the enemy army of occupation.

Mr. Chairman, that was a plain admission of what we have said all along—that conventional defence cannot deter a nuclear threat.

So Labour's policy to cancel Trident and spend the money on conventional forces would mean not more defence, as he alleges, not less defence, but no defence against the Soviet threat in Europe. [end p56]

And how practical, Mr. Chairman, is the Labour leader's idea of making the occupation that would follow surrender “totally untenable” ? The fact is that guerillas can no more prevail against overwhelming conventional forces than conventional forces can prevail over nuclear weapons.

It is absurd to argue, as the Labour leader has done, that the Afghan resistance has shown that military power cannot subdue a people devoted to their liberty. Five million Afghans have fled; more than a million have been killed; the country has been ravaged; and Afghanistan is still occupied. So is Hungary; so is Czechoslovakia; so is Poland. [end p57]

Europe was liberated from Nazi occupation not by its resistance movements, brave though they were, but by the Allied armies using the most modern weapons.

Who does the Labour leader think would liberate us? The Americans whose nuclear bases a Labour Government would have kicked out. There's only one sure defence—for America and Britain to stand together as reliable allies and trusted friends. [end p58] [Beginning of third section checked against IRN Report 29 May 1987]

Never before has the Labour Party offered the country a defence policy of such recklessness. It has talked of occupation—that would be a defence policy of the white flag. During my time in Government, white flags have only once entered into our vocabulary. That was the night, at the end of the Falklands War, I went across to the House of Commons to report: “The white flags are flying over Port Stanley” [applause] [End of third section checked against IRN Report 29 May 1987] That signified the victory of our troops over the army of occupation. [end p59]

As a result of our victory there, the world knows that we will defend ourselves against aggression or the threat of aggression. No-one is in any doubt about that. So long as a Conservative Government remains in office, the defence of our country will be secure. [end p60]

Mr. Chairman, through the wars and down the years, Britain has earned its renown as one of the world's great bastions of liberty. For a thousand years, invaders have been broken on the rock of British defiance, our love of independence.

But, Mr. Chairman, be our conventional forces never so strong, or our determination never so great, if they are bereft of our nuclear shield in the face of the overwhelming Soviet capabilities, then we are left weaker and more defenceless than when we faced the Nazi tyranny in 1940. [end p61]

That is the measure of the abdication that Socialists are proposing for Britain. But we will not counternance or consider this craven policy. We are stronger today than ever before—stronger economically, stronger in defence, stronger in health, stronger in spirit. We are in no mood for surrender.

Surely there is only one fitting response for our people to make on election day that is to rebuff socialist defeatism and to elect this Conservative Government for a third term.