Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

Speech to Business in the Community/White House Private Sector Initiatives Conference

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Lancaster House, central London
Source: Thatcher Archive: transcript
Editorial comments: Around 1615. Questions followed the speech.
Importance ranking: Minor
Word count: 1458
Themes: Employment, Industry, Society, Voluntary sector & charity

Sir Hector LaingSir Hector, your Excellencies, Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen, I'm not on the programme. I'm a kind of extra. I've just been asked to say a few words. I was very pleased to have the invitation to come and be with you this afternoon.

We have so many things in common both sides of the Atlantic—the aspect which strikes me today is this one. I think we probably both have an expression when we are referring to the growth of big cities which refers to the ‘City Fathers’. The ‘City Fathers’ were the people who helped to build the cities originally. In your case they are among the early pioneers who had to get their own living by producing what they could and engaging in industry and commerce wherever they could. So did they here. And the great industries grew up but all as a part of a city and I think the difference between then and now was this: that those who started the industries, those who started the trade and engaged in both were very much a part of the city in which they lived.

The owners and managers lived in that city. They became the City Fathers. They were anxious to build a city of which they could be proud. That city needed not only industry and commerce it needed fine buildings, it needed libraries, it needed art galleries, it needed orchestras. All of these were part of the concept of the city. And the City Fathers as well as helping to earn the living from which all expenditure came, took part in the building of the city.

Somehow between the last century and now, the task of industry and commerce and the task of the city became different. Those who were responsible for the great industries and commerce often went to live outside the city. They didn't become City Fathers any more—that passed on to other people—and those who were the City Fathers went to live well outside the city and travelled in each day. And so we got a separation between those who created the enormous wealth of the country and those who had created the standard of living and those who ran the cities. That was bad. It was bad not only for the reasons of giving money but it was bad because the personal contacts broke. I see the movement of BIC here and the Ronald ReaganPresident's initiative in the US as restoring not only the integration of industry and commerce in the life of the City but something much much deeper than that.

To me some of the most exciting things that you are doing is saying to young people ‘look—we are interested in your future. We can help you with your future.’ It is not only money—yes of [end p1] course you can't do it without money—its because we want to get involved again with your future and are interested in you. I can't stress how important that is, particularly in a great technological age. In an age when everything got so big that people's cry was ‘please—do I matter?’ In the days of the City Fathers when you all lived in the city you'd have known the young boy and the young girl who wanted a job and you would have said ‘come on—I'll give you a chance, I'll take you on’. That again close friendship has gone. But it is returning now. It is returning because as Sir Hector said, because each and every company is interested now not only in the success of that company but interested in education and most of us are interested in seeing young people feel that they can build …   . just as their forefathers had to build it in the past.

So may I thank you for two things—three things really—firstly for creating the wealth which is so necessary for the state to have the things it wants. You create the wealth and governments consume it—for creating the standard of living which enables people by virtue of their own work to do better with their own hands, one of the strongest driving forces there is in our own country. But also for coming back into the cities, for becoming the City Fathers once again, for helping to rebuild the city, so that, to use one of your own phrases you may have a new rebirth of freedom within the city, a new rebirth of opportunity—but because too, you are saying to young people; ‘you are talented—you're future is longer than ours, we are interested in it—we are interested in extending opportunity, we are seeing if we can help you to give that talent and ability, which is within each one of us (a chance).

I hope you have had a marvellous time. I didn't really intend to speak. I hope it's been useful—thank you. Questions and answers followed. [end p2]


Couldn't the Government do a bit more to help the private sector?


But the Government gets its money from the private sector: where else do you think the money comes from? The creation of profits from selling goods that people want to buy which creates the wealth which Government taxes, either by taxing companies or by taxing the people who work for the companies. Government doesn't have a stock of money: this is where it gets it from. And because they are successful we are able to have such excellent social services and able to do a good deal more. What we're saying today is that it's not enough just to pay your taxes and say now leave it to the Government. This is not right. Life is lived at the level of companies, of cities, of schools, of people in them. That's what I was saying then. Don't just say, “Look, here's the money for the scholarship.” It's very much, “We'll take some of you on and give you a chance, because someone gave us a chance.”


…   . (inaudible).


…   . certainly Business in the Community and on to private sector financing …   . tax laws are different. Frequently you'll find that so much is financed by business in the United States. More is coming to be financed here, as I indicated. Carnegie, everyone knows the name Carnegie, and Nuffield. It's people like them who said, “Look, we have done well as we have fostered ourselves, so we'll start to give others a chance.” Carnegie thought that the main thing was that people had access to books wherever they were so they could learn. So it's really coming right round to the way we started again, and it's very interesting in that way. We're now getting the complete involvement of business. It is not just money, money is important, of course it is to build roads, for building schools, for building libraries, [end p3] to build orchestras, to build art centres. But it is the interest which industry is showing, the companies are showing, in going to a school and saying, we'll take on so many of your pupils. The fact that you can give them these sorts of skills and keep an interest in the way they are progressing in school and then we'll give them a chance. Giving young people a chance is extremely important. I think at a time when everything, so much is done by press buttons, people say “Well, please, do we matter?” and the short answer is that they matter very much, …   . someone has to tell the press buttons what to do and so we all have to be more skilled.


What do you think of the idea of having companies give more than one per cent of their income tax for this?


Look, don't think it's only that. We get a great deal of money into the Exchequer from the taxation of company profits. What this is doing is on top of that, on top of some help which they give locally, on top of the rates they pay locally, about a quarter of local authority expenditure is found by companies, whether it's industry or commerce. So they pay their national taxes, and they're now 35 per cent …   . they are successful and getting much, much more in than we used to. They pay their local taxes and on top of all that they are doing about one per cent—or more in your case, Business in the Community—and then personally they are doing a great deal because personal giving has more than doubled during the last nine years and I am saying, yes, that is marvellous and it's wonderful that companies and towns are developing again, are working together. Please don't just leave it at money. The real difficulties we have in life now really are the problems of getting young people motivated and making them feel wanted, of giving them a chance of involvement. Years ago one used to think, some people used to think, not all of us, that by the time you had given people good health, and we have a good health service, a good education, and they have eleven years of compulsory education, reasonable housing, a reasonable standard of living, all your problems would be over. We now know they're not. [end p4] We're down to the real behavioural problems of why do some people turn to crime when they have a great deal? Why do some people turn to drugs when they have a great deal? So down to the real behavioural problems. And these are the most difficult ones to solve and in a way the ones which need the most personal attention. And this is about that as well as about business in the community.