Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

Speech to Hanson Trust Achievments Awards dinner

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Guildhall, City of London
Source: Thatcher Archive (THCR 1/7/62 f7): speaking text
Editorial comments:

1930 for 2015.

Importance ranking: Minor
Word count: 1622
Themes: Voluntary sector & charity, Economic policy - theory and process, Industry, Monetary policy, Foreign policy (USA), Defence (general)

Sir Gordon WhiteSir Gordon, Your Excellency, Lord Hanson, {Ladies and} Gentlemen.

It is a great pleasure to be able to address this trans-Atlantic gathering this evening. In particular I join in the welcome to our American visitors. You are able to see here this evening some of the splendour of the history of the [end p1] City of London which is your heritage as well as ours.

I am also very pleased that this occasion is marked by Awards for Achievement. The focus has been on the achievements of particular individuals within Hanson. I add my congratulations to them for their efforts and their success. But I also pay tribute to the collective [end p2] achievements of Hanson. They are an example of the response of private enterprise to the right government policies. As I read your annual report it occurred to me that by substituting ‘Government’ for ‘Hanson’ I needn't strive further to make up a speech! For example [end p3]

Quote 1

“1987 has been another excellent year for Hanson.”

Mr. Chairman, 1987 has been another excellent year for the Government. [end p4]

Quote 2

“We operate your company with entrepreneurial drive and a realistic sense of every dollar's importance …   . The underlying strength of our companies has not yet reached its potential.” [end p5] Mr. Chairman, we operate the Government with entrepreneurial drive and a realistic sense of every pound's importance …   . The underlying strength of the Government has not yet reached its potential.

But one thing did give me difficulty—and will do so for some time to come. You have now had your twenty-fourth consecutive year of increased growth and [end p6] dividends! I am only starting on my ninth year of Government! But as the final sentence of your annual report said (and it could as well apply to Government)

“We are confident that the coming years will show that our proven management formula will continue to succeed on your behalf.”
[end p7]

Mr. Chairman, the company's record is outstanding and there must be very many others on both sides of the Atlantic who wish they could make the same claims.

Sir Gordon, I am grateful to you for what you said about our achievements. Moreover, in your usual clear way you set out the strategy for Government: [end p8]

“to recreate the environment in which those who accept risk, and work hard to create the nation's wealth and prosperity are encouraged and rewarded.”

The words flow easily but you speak as a practitioner not as a commentator. It is much easier to say what you have to do than it is to do it. [end p9]

That environment … what does it mean for a country like us? It means first —holding down inflation. —not just for one year or two years or even for nine years but every year. It means second —sound financial policies every year. —Thank goodness we made the correct [end p10] decisions in our early years, namely that if we couldn't get down spending as much as we wished, we would have to finance it honestly—not by more borrowing, but by taxation. And we did. With that decision came, not the recession forecast by economists, but a return of confidence, the prerequisite to growth and the [end p11] beginning of the growth that has lasted ever since.

It [the right environment] means third, —getting the legal framework right. —That is removing the obstacles to growth sometimes called deregulation. But also retaining the safety provisions and standards and the codes of good [end p12] practice, for these are the outward and visible guarantee of integrity so important for our country's reputation.

These three fundamentals are necessary conditions for national success but of themselves they are not enough. Certainly they provide a stable foundation; but a prosperous industry and commerce in all its infinite variety has to be built by the [end p13] teeming vitality of human beings in their boundless talent, ability, resourcefulness, craftsmanship, professionalism and business instinct.

No Government can achieve that.

But the right policies can encourage it to happen, and for that we need real incentives both to companies and individuals. [end p14]

For people work first of all for their families and for their immediate community. That is why we need three further policies as well as low inflation, sound finance and the right legal framework. So the fourth one is —the right taxation system to encourage enterprise and work; [end p15] And fifth —policies to spread capital ownership ever more widely so that people are more involved and families build not only for one generation but for the future.

And sixth —policies to extend opportunity through good education—so fundamental, not only in a [end p16] technological world but in one in which good management matters more than ever before.

Mr. Chairman, the importance of past achievement is its promise for the future. The significance of pursuing courageous policies in the past is the confidence that they will be continued in the years to come. [end p17]

It was one Mr. Selfridge who put an announcement in the windows of his store when he started up: “The great principles on which we will build this business are as everlasting as the pyramids.”

Neither Selfridges nor the Government has yet acquired the longevity of the pyramids. But we have laid the right foundations. [end p18] The fact is, Sir Gordon, those policies have given us—both Government and your company—a good balance sheet good growth good people and good prospects.

May I also congratulate and thank you in this company for the work you do for the community. [end p19] You are providing a lot of money for a City Technology College; and you have been very generous to many other good causes as well. We greatly appreciate it.

This tradition has been at the heart of our approach on both sides of the Atlantic. As the early industrialists prospered so they used their resources to build cities of which they could be proud—cities with good [end p20] municipal buildings, schools, hospitals, churches, libraries, art galleries, orchestras. All these in the view of those early industrialists were necessary to build a great city. You only need to look at the history of places like Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham to see what I mean. And that same spirit of enterprise and [end p21] commitment is now returning to our life. It is that which will revivify our inner cities and build a new future.

Yes, Sir Gordon, you were so right to say Government's job is to create the right environment.

It was de Tocqueville, so well known both sides of the Atlantic, who put it very well when he [end p22] said: “Do you want to test whether a people is given to industry and commerce?

“Do not sound its ports, or examine the woods from its forests or the produce of its soil. The spirit of trade will get all these things …   . Examine whether this people's laws give men the courage to seek prosperity, [end p23] freedom to follow it up, the sense and habits to find it, and the assurance of reaping the benefit.”

That is how we have tackled things in this country in the last nine years, and how we intend to go on tackling them in the future. But you will say some recent economic problems have had an international flavour. [end p24]

World—Global Village

And it is true that with each passing year the world becomes more of a global village. Some pundits have superficial recipes for stable exchange rates. But superficial recipes don't last. They never could. The truth is that every major country has to put its own house in order and to pursue its trade in a free and fair way. [end p25]

The way to tackle these matters is to get the distortions out of the system—not to put more in. No international agreement will be of benefit unless we do these things. That I believe is one of the lessons of the last four months. [end p26]

Anglo-American Relations

I have spoken about the importance of sticking to fundamentals. Nothing is more fundamental than to keep the Anglo/American alliance strong.

Mr. Chairman, there is a closeness between Britain and the United States that neither country finds elsewhere. [end p27]

We are both English-speaking peoples, we have a common heritage of liberty and justice; which finds its greatest written expression in the United States Constitution.

This special relationship is as vigorous today as it has ever been. President Reagan deserves special credit for that. [end p28]

But it is not a one-way relationship. Both our Governments think and act globally, not just out of duty but because we believe it is in the interests of our people to do so.

Britain and the United States both keep substantial forces right on the front line in Germany. [end p29] It is our frontier of freedom as well as theirs.

Britain was the first country in Europe to station cruise missiles. We stood with the United States over Libya. We stand together in the Gulf.

It is sometimes suggested that Europeans don't [end p30] do enough on the world scene. So may I report that Britain's armed forces are present in over thirty countries round the world. We have substantial numbers in Hong Kong, in Cyprus, in the Falklands and in Belize, where we make our own contribution to sustaining democracy in central America. Our Navy is on duty across the world. [end p31]

In partnership with the United States we meet our responsibilities for the defence of freedom.

Many years ago Winston Churchill wrote: ‘where Britain and America are able to stand together and work together for righteous causes, we shall always be thankful and the world will always be free’. [end p32] It is my purpose to keep that as true today as when he wrote it.

So when our American friends return home after this evening, I hope it will be in the knowledge that when it comes to the defence of liberty, when it comes to standing by friends the world over, the United States can count on Britain, as we can count on you.