Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

Speech to Conservative Women’s Conference

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Horticultural Hall, central London
Source: Thatcher Archive: transcript (extracts)
Editorial comments: MT did not give a formal speech. She took questions from the audience, two of her answers being partially transcribed. The Independent on Sunday, 24 June 1990, has additional material on the Community Charge: "Everyone pays something in community charge and the difference between the less-well-off and the better-off is income tax which is progressive and much of which goes to local authorities. ... I think we have got some more amendments to things like the standard charge and to make it more difficult for local authorities to over-spend. You will find the community charge is far fairer than the rates have ever been". The BBC Radio News Report 1300 23 June 1990 has additional material on the Iranian earthquake, John Sergeant reporting. "The Prime Minister emphasised that the government’s reaction to the earthquake had been immediate and humanitarian. It had stemmed from the spirit of freedom and democracy. Where we find
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 1326
Themes: Conservatism, Education, Privatized & state industries, Economic, monetary & political union, European Union Single Market, Family, NHS reforms 1987-90, Housing, Law & order, Local government, Transport, Community charge (“poll tax”), Foreign policy (Middle East)


Last Question

On the doorstep there is a feeling that enough is enough. Do you think that the time has now come to slow down on the introduction of radical policies giving those involved and the British voter time to adjust to the changes already made, such as the denationalisation programmes, the Community Charge, the National Health Service, and Education?


Well now, do you know what would happen if we did? They'd accuse us of running out of steam. Now I must say in your favour that we have had over the years a major denationalisation programme and all of the industries are run very much better in the private sector. And of course there aren't anything like the number still to go. We've done the main ones. There are one or two still which could have some privatisation, but the main ones have been done, and its been doubly beneficial.

Let me take steel. When we first came into power, you the taxpayer were having to find £1 billion a year out of tax to subsidise steel. That was the nationalised steel industry. Now we actually privatised it since 1987. It now is running a £500 million profit, which we tax to help the Health Service, Education and so on. So its from £1bn subsidy out of taxpayers' money, to contributing to the pool from which we run the great services. But certainly the main nationalisation has been done. Now we did need to pass the legislation, indeed its still going through the House, to reform the Health Service, because I think some of the complaints we hear about the Health Service, the great waiting times in out patients departments, sometimes that you do not get all the information you should need, and of course the waiting lists, even though there may be in another hospital empty surgical capacities to do the operations. We felt that with the reforms we are bringing in, we would free up the hospitals and the doctors to make more of their own decisions instead of always having to go back to a committee. To run their own budgets, and they will run them better. So that will go through and the education reforms. But let me tell you, already people are talking about some other things that need doing. Let me tell you, Cecil ParkinsonCecil would like to get more private [end p1] finance into doing some roads. Because I think that there are many, many businesses who would be quite prepared to put up money if they could have an extra road beside some of the Ms for lorries only. It would be much quicker. It would pay them to do so. And we would have to have legislation to do that and that then wouldn't come out of taxpayers' money. There are many many complaints about planning. For example, when you have to have compulsory purchase, either for a road scheme, or for a new sewage plant (because you have to replace your old sewage outfall by sewage plants), or new railways, and people have to give up their houses against compulsory purchase. There are many many people, including myself, who say it's not enough to compensate with the full market value, that does not recognise all of the costs which you get when you have to leave one home and go out and buy another. The cost of removal. And so we want new legislation in fact to increase the amount that you can give for compulsory purchase to make it easier and it will be quicker and it will give people extra money in their pockets so they can go and buy something else more quickly.

Now there are a whole lot of people saying we've got to be doing something about dangerous dogs. And again I am among them. Frankly, I don't think that registration will be the answer, because I think that people who have got dangerous dogs are the people who wouldn't register anyway. So we've got to do something about that.

Now we had to have a major Children's Bill this time following the Cleveland case. And we are also looking now at the whole question of family life and looking at the question of divorce, and it may be that we shall have to have some more legislation about that. A tremendous number of things come up that really do require the kind of legislation as people's ideas move on. If we were to do in England rents into mortgages, we should need some legislation to do that. I think what you mean is we have really had a very great chunk of reforming legislation. Many of the big reforms are over, but not all of them. You see, Grant Maintained Schools—We got that legislation to enable people to get their school out of the grip of a local authority which was often not teaching them the right things, or sometimes not teaching the right things and not enabling them to run their schools well. [end p2]

Now there's not the slightest shadow of doubt that there are quite a lot of schools that would like to come out into that system. They are still state schools because we pay it directly from the Department of Education and Science, instead of through the local authority but also help with Community Charge. There are still some local authorities who are doing all they can to hinder parents exercising their rights. So we might have to look at legislation about that.

So you see what I'm saying is, once you have got up to a certain standard, it really is like climbing a hill. You think you are near the top and you see another peak beyond you. But certainly a good deal of the fundamental legislation has been done. Water, and electricity have been done, and water privatisation meant a lot more shareholders. Electricity will get away before the next Election. We must have a look at one or two others, but the big ones I think are over. But I beg you, we'll never run out of steam and there are always things which need to be done. And there are always things which need to be changed. For example in the Criminal Law. All those things that we needed to change to enable us to have higher sentences or to get at drug dealers. Those we shall continue to do. You'll have plenty of ideas I assure you for new legislation.

You clapped, I understand, one of the things which we are putting into operation now: making certain that if there's a separation that in fact you can have the arrangements made so that a divorced or separated wife gets the money immediately as part of the settlement. That too. This kind of thing does in fact mean sometimes legislation. And those are the things which you would wish us to do. [end p3]


Now it had been suggested that we lose our control over monetary policy and budgetary policy, because it would go over from each of us to a group of twelve central bank governors accountable to no-one. And we said “NO” . If you lose sovereignty over monetary and budgetary policy, you haven't got much sovereignty left, and in any case that's what our Parliament, which was the oldest Parliament in Europe by far, was created to protect—the citizen against an Executive and not in fact to hand those powers over to other people.

So that is why we have put up a totally different scheme and said, look we each have our own currencies but if you want a common currency which can be used anywhere in Europe, we will each keep our own currencies, but each of us will deposit some of them with the European Monetary Fund and only from those they can create something called the European Currency Unit. What they could create would be limited because they could only create it out of the small amounts that we deposited with them. But we did think that there might be many businesses or young people that in the course of time would wish to have a common currency to take around Europe which they could take anywhere. It's run in parallel with our own currency and we thought that that would be a very very good compromise which the whole of Europe could agree with and which we hope would meet the wishes of some commercial people and also of young people to be able to take one single currency around Europe.

We shall, when it comes to 1992, get a common market. Don't be afraid of that. That's why we joined the Community. That means that we all can compete on a fair basis.