Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

Speech to Hollinger Board

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Spencer House, St James’s Place, central London
Source: Thatcher Archive: speaking text
Editorial comments: Dinner.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 1346
Themes: British Constitution (general discussions), Civil liberties, Conservatism, Conservative Party (organization), Trade, European Union (general), Economic, monetary & political union, Foreign policy - theory and process, Foreign policy (Africa), Foreign policy (Americas excluding USA), Foreign policy (Asia), Foreign policy (Central & Eastern Europe), Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states)

It is good to be here this evening among so many old friends—as well as one or two well-tried sparring partners—and to mark another year of growth and success for Hollinger and its companies world-wide. [end p1]

Here in Britain when we think of Hollinger we think of the Daily Telegraph Group, which, under Conrad BlackConrad, has revitalised one of the oldest and most revered newspapers in the World. And when we think of the Telegraph and its success we think of London's Docklands, where the paper has had its home since 1987.

It is shortly to move into new premises. [end p2]

That new home—the development at Canary Wharf—is one of the most striking examples of the regeneration of Britain through private enterprise.

It is the most potent symbol of Canadian enterprise in Europe today, and a great tribute to the energy and hard work of Olympia and York.

London, and indeed Britain, will owe a great debt to the vision of Paul Reichmann and his company. [end p3]

And I am delighted, too, to see Peter Carrington here tonight.

It scarcely seems possible that it is ten years since Peter laid down his office as one of our most distinguished Foreign Secretaries.

For part of those ten years, as Secretary General of NATO, he helped guide the free World through its cold-war crises, and from that position of strength we remained strong and free when the Soviet bloc crumbled. [end p4]

We can only feel the deepest relief and joy that so much of the World is changing for the better.

And we should feel especially happy because the ideas now being put into practice in the liberated countries of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union are the ideas which most of us here have fought and argued for throughout our careers in politics, business or the media. [end p5]

We know, of course, that what has happened in the last two years in Eastern Europe, and especially in the last two months in what was the Soviet Union, has not come about by chance; nor only because we kept our defences strong and fought the battle of ideas.

It has been the result of the irrepressible human urge for freedom in all its forms. [end p6]

Freedom of expression; freedom of action; freedom to associate lawfully; freedom to own property; freedom to exist without the heavy hand of the interfering state: all of these are liberties we in the West take for granted.

All of them are liberties that the Soviet bloc suppressed for decades.

But it was not only a question of the citizens of those countries choosing to assert themselves. [end p7]

Their leaders, notably President Gorbachev, had to show that they too recognised the rottenness of the system and the urgency of reform.

And the lesson that Mr Gorbachev and the others eventually learned was one we have practised in this country for the last decade; that prosperity could only be achieved by free markets, private ownership and competition and enterprise.

You, as businessmen, hardly need to be told this. [end p8]

But you could be forgiven for thinking that, now Communism has died in Europe and on its borders, the threat it posed has died with it. I wish that were so.

But the nomenklatura and the system are strong and we must watch that they do not reassert themselves in some other guise.

Democracy is the limitation of government powers not merely their dispersal to the republics. [end p9]

Further, in China, the same dead weight of oppression that crushed Russia is still flourishing.

I saw this first hand on my visit to China last month.

But I also saw irrefutable evidence of the natural trading instinct and industry of the Chinese, longing to be put to a more constructive use than the totalitarian system there will allow. [end p10]

We have seen these qualities in the Chinese people demonstrated so successfully in Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan.

Put to use in China, they could revolutionise World trade and competition, and with it World prosperity. [end p11]

In Cuba, a Fidel Castrodictator will shortly enter the 33rd year of his power, 33 years in which he and his regime have posed a threat to the security of the United States—a threat now much diminished, fortunately, by the withdrawal of Soviet sponsorship. [end p12]

And, when we remember the sad effect that Cuban and Soviet influences had on armies of so-called liberation in black Africa, we must hope that the crumbling of communism gives a brighter future for that continent too.

Mr Chairman, the lesson of the decline and dismantling of the Soviet Union is that nations will not suppress their need and wish for sovereignty and independence once they have experienced it. [end p13]

When I spoke at Bruges in September 1988, I said that Warsaw, Prague and Budapest were also European Cities and that their countries, when free, would want to come into our European family of free nations.

I referred to the dangers of making the European Community an exclusive club, and then putting up around that club a wall so high to climb that the majority of East European countries would have no hope of joining. [end p14]

But the impossibility of joining the club is not the only problem newly capitalist countries face.

They are not even allowed to come into the club as visitors—as the French ban on Polish agricultural imports last month amply showed.

One of the principal ways in which we can help the newly free countries of Eastern Europe and of the third World too is through freer trade. [end p15]

What those countries need are full order books—and the help with technological progress and business practice that will enable them to win those orders.

Europe must not lead the way to a World of closed trade blocs. Our vision should not just be of a free-trading Community, but of a free-trading continent, and ultimately a free-trading World. [end p16]

Mr Chairman, the crucial summit at Maastricht is but eight weeks away. The decisions taken there will have a profound effect on our future and should be the subject of wide and open debate.

Unlike any other state in Europe, we have not been conquered for over nine centuries, and our taste for managing our own affairs is strong indeed. [end p17]

I cannot help but think of what I always saw as the basis for the Party which I was privileged for many years to lead.

Its fundamental purpose, as Winston Churchill said, was to protect and conserve the parliamentary constitution of this country. [end p18]

How this could be commensurate with any proposal to abolish the pound Sterling, or to undermine the powers of the First Lord of the Treasury, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the elected members of the British House of Commons, I cannot begin to imagine.

But then I cannot begin to imagine how anyone could support common foreign and defence policies either, when they would prevent us from acting on our own as sovereign states. [end p19]

For me, politics is about power given to us through the ballot box, for which we are accountable to the people.

It is unthinkable that a politician can come into office and then, using the power with which the people have entrusted him, seek to vote away not only that very power, but the powers of the generations that must follow. [end p20]

The year ahead holds, as always, great challenges for this Company, as it must hold for any business at a time when Europe is, we hope, coming out of recession.

But we politicians must never forget that the months ahead hold a greater challenge still for our country, for its future and for its place in the World. [end p21]

I sought, as Prime Minister, to make that place in the World secure, and I did so on the basis of a nation that was strong, free, and answerable to the people of Britain.

My greatest hope for the future is that that is how Britain will stay. Manuscript addition by MT

We must not be forced to choose between Europe and North America, as some Europeans jealous of the relationship between the principal English-speaking powers would wish; but remain part of a European family of nations, which we are, and staunch to the greatest partnership for liberty the world has ever known: the Anglo-American Alliance.