Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Margaret Thatcher

Article for Sunday Express

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: No.10 Downing Street
Source: Thatcher Archive (THCR5/2/375)
Editorial comments:

Published on 31 December 1989.

Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 923
Themes: Health policy, Social security & welfare, Economy (general discussions), Monetary policy, Foreign policy (general discussions), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Foreign policy (Africa), Foreign policy (Americas excluding USA), Commonwealth (South Africa), European Union (general), Economic, monetary & political union, European Union Single Market, Environment

After a decade of achievement let us herald the decade of hope.

And let us do so in the knowledge that never since the Second World War have hopes—indeed expectations—for peace and progress in the world stood so high.

Why? What has brought about this remarkable sea change in world affairs which has opened up entirely new and exciting possibilities?

The short answer lies in the 1980s—in the resolution of the West to defend our freedom and justice and the dawning realisation in the Communist bloc that their system simply could not compete with ours.

From those two facts—and the hour finding the man of courage and vision in the Soviet Union in Mr. Gorbachev—has flowed greater freedom across central and eastern Europe and the prospect of a massive extension of democracy under a rule of law.

Nor have the momentous and inspiring events of the 1980s been confined to the continent of Europe. In southern Africa, which I visited earlier this year, freedom and democracy are on the march.

After the successful election in Namibia the release of Nelson Mandela, which I hope to see in 1990, would surely speed the end of the decaying system of apartheid in South Africa. And we are working hard for peace and reform in Angola and Mozambique, too.

In Latin America we also rejoice in the steady advance of democracy—the latest example by Chile—and in the enormously courageous stand of President Barco against the drugs mafia in Colombia.

Is it too much to hope that the breaking of so many log jams in the 1980s will inspire settlements of hitherto intractable problems elsewhere? [end p1]

Certainly many problems remain. Central America, the Lebanon, the Arab/Israeli conflict, China's tragic relapse, drugs and terrorism, to name but a few.

Yet ten years ago no-one would have dared to think—let alone hope—that the world would enter the 1990s with such promise.

I personally, and the British Government generally, will strive to bring this promise to fulfilment in the decade ahead.

How?

First, by remaining staunchly committed to the Atlantic Alliance, secure in our defence against any threat from any quarter.

Second, by holding out the hand of friendship and assistance to all who genuinely choose freedom.

Third, by leading the European Community, as we have led it during the 1980s, towards the free trading, open, flexible and diverse group of nations whose prosperity and co-operation make it such a powerful and attractive force in the world.

I take some pride that we in Britain have put the EC in a position to advance towards the goal of a single common market by three major acts of policy: — bringing an end to our unfair budget contributions which by the end of next year will have saved the British taxpayer £10 billion. — securing the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy which, by reducing the food mountains and draining the wine and oil lakes, has rescued the EC from bankruptcy. — getting the Community off to a flying start on the long and intricate road to a single internal market.

The great debate in the 1990s will not be about Britain's commitment to the EC; it will be about the kind of Europe—freemarket and enterprising or centralist and bureaucratic—we should develop. No-one is in any doubt where Britain stands on that issue. [end p2]

Which brings me to the fourth strand of our programme for extending freedom and democracy across the globe. It is quite simply to maintain Britain's greatly increased respect and influence in the world. Our reputation stands high for straight talking, fair dealing and constructive, practical ideas.

But that reputation is also rooted in our transformation of Britain over the 1980s from a declining, strife ridden industrial society into a resurgent and vigorous economy.

We have topped the European league for growth, investment and productivity. Our public finances are in better shape than for a generation.

Our slashing of income and business taxation has released the national store of enterprise. New businesses are being created at a net rate of 1,200 a week. More people are in work than ever before. And manufacturing output is at its highest level—12 per cent up since 1979.

The Government has spread property and capital—by encouraging home and share ownership—more widely than ever before.

And the increased wealth, shared by all sections of the community, has enabled record sums to be spent on health, education and welfare.

This shows you what can be achieved when the Government liberates the talents of the people.

Our prime task now is to preserve the basis for continued growth and rising prosperity into the 1990s by damping down the fires of inflation. The remedy—high interest rates—is painful but necessary. And it works.

By driving down inflation we shall also be establishing the only basis for improving the whole quality of life in British society in the 1990s.

We have much to do to improve the efficiency with which our social and health services care for all those who finance them; to improve the quality of the education of our children on which we have incidentally made a good start; and not least to make Britain a safer and more beautiful place to live in. [end p3]

A huge task also confronts us in restoring the balance of nature and protecting the global climate.

The point is that by dint of carefully worked out, sound and prudent policies we can reasonably hope to build a Better Britain and a Better World in the 1990s.

A Happy New Year to you all—and a happy decade, too.