Margaret Thatcher – 1985 Statement on European Council in Luxembourg

Below is the text of the statement made by Margaret Thatcher, the then Prime Minister, in the House of Commons on 5 December 1985.

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I shall make a statement about the European Council held in Luxembourg on 2 and 3 December. My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs accompanied me to this meeting. I have arranged for the conclusions of the Council to be put in the Library of the House.

The European Council reached agreement in five main areas. The first was the completion of the Community’s internal market. This has been an important United Kingdom objective for a long time, with the strong support of British industry and business. The target of completing the Common Market by 1992 will be established in the treaty, and we agreed that there should be greater use of majority voting on a number of treaty articles dealing with goods and services. But unanimity will be retained for all decisions on taxation. The free movement of persons and the rights and interests of employees.

We also retain the right to take national action where required to protect public, animal and plant health.

The United Kingdom’s position and the position of this Parliament are thus properly protected on such vital questions as frontier controls in relation to terrorism, crime, drugs and immigration from outside the Community; and on essential controls in health—for example, on rabies. The Luxembourg compromise, whereby a member state can invoke a very important national interest to prevent a decision being taken, is unaffected.

Secondly, the European Council agreed that the treaty should be brought up to date by new articles on technology, environment and the regional fund. Action has hitherto been taken in these areas on the basis of the general article in the treaty. The new articles will provide a more precise basis for action in these areas in future. Unanimity will be preserved for all-important decisions.

Thirdly, we agreed on procedural changes to improve consultation with the European Assembly. There will be better arrangements to enable the Council to take account of amendments to Community legislation suggested by the Assembly. But in all cases the last word on such legislation will rest with the Council. There will be no transfer of power on these matters from this House to the Assembly.

Fourthly, on monetary co-operation between member states, an amendment to the treaty was agreed which describes what has already been achieved in the Community framework, without entering into new commitments.
Finally, agreement was reached on a separate treaty of co-operation in foreign policy on the basis of the draft presented last summer by the United Kingdom. This formalises existing arrangements for consultation among the Ten on foreign policy matters and looks to a steadily closer co-operation.

The European Council’s decisions on all these matters remain subject to general reservations from Italy and Denmark. The proposed amendments to the treaty will go forward only if these reserves are lifted. The United Kingdom has reserved its position on the voting arrangements in a proposed new treaty article on working ​ conditions. We insist that unanimity be preserved, in view of the risks that this article might be used to impose unfair burdens on our small and medium-sized business.

The European Council also discussed the economic and social situation and confirmed existing economic policies designed to reduce inflation and encourage sustained growth. On deregulation, the Commission gave an undertaking that in future all new proposals would be accompanied by an assessment of the effects on business and job creation; that the most important existing regulations would be re-examined to simplify them and to reduce the burden on industry; and that there should be a regular procedure for monitoring progress towards this objective. The United Kingdom’s initiative earlier this year has thus been formally adopted.

In my statement in this House following the last European Council in June, I made it clear that we would have been ready then to take the steps necessary to complete the internal market, to improve decision taking, to formalise foreign policy co-operation and to improve procedures for consultation with the European Assembly.

Those objectives are now embodied in the conclusions of the Luxembourg European Council together with some tidying up of the treaty to reflect the Community’s development. The amendments to the treaty have to be approved by each sovereign Parliament and accordingly will be submitted to this House.

I believe that the conclusions on completing the Common Market and reducing the burden of regulations will be of long-term benefit to British firms selling their goods and services in the European Community. Together with the arrangements to reduce the scale of Britain’s budgetary contribution agreed last year, they will be an important step towards enabling this country to realise more fully the benefits of our membership of the European Community.

Margaret Thatcher – 1985 Statement on the Anglo-Irish Agreement

Below is the text of the statement made by Margaret Thatcher, the then Prime Minister, in the House of Commons on 26 November 1985.

I beg to move,

That this House approves the Anglo-Irish Agreement (Cmnd. 9657) signed on 15th November by the Prime Minister and the Taoiseach, Dr. Garret FitzGerald.
Since 1969, nearly 2,500 people have lost their lives in Northern Ireland as a result of terrorism, more than 750 of them members of the security forces. As the House is only too well aware, there has also been further loss of life among the armed forces, police and civilians in the remainder of the United Kingdom, including three of our colleagues in this House.

That is the stark background to today’s debate and it takes us immediately to the historic divisions between the two communities in Northern Ireland, which we cannot ignore.

Whatever the differences that may emerge in our debate, I believe that we shall all be united in our determination to end the violence and to bring to justice those who are guilty. We shall all be united in our deep sympathy for the thousands of families whose lives have been darkened by the shadow of the gunman and the bomber; and we shall all be united in our admiration and gratitude for the men and women of the security forces in Northern Ireland and, indeed, from all parts of Great Britain, so many of whom have paid the price of protecting us with their own lives.

But it is apparent that any initiative, however modest, to bring the people of Northern Ireland closer together to beat the terrorists raises emotions and fears rooted deep in the past. I understand those fears, although I do not believe them to be justified.

Faced with all that we have seen in the past 16 years, it was not enough for the Government to rely solely upon the security forces, valiant though they are, to contain and resist the tide of violence. Let me make it clear that there can be no such thing as an acceptable level of violence, whether in Northern Ireland or elsewhere in the United Kingdom. The Government owe a duty to the security forces and to all the law-abiding people of Northern Ireland, Protestant and Catholic alike, to do everything within their power to stamp out terrorism—not by giving in to the terrorist, not by giving him a single inch. Indeed, the fact that the terrorists have condemned the agreement is a demonstration that we have done no such thing.

The fight against terrorism is greatly weakened if the community is divided against itself, and it is greatly strengthened if all people committed to democracy and the rule of law can join together against the men of violence. That, the Government felt, required a further attempt to reconcile the two communities in Northern Ireland.

The Unionist community, firmly loyal to the Crown and to the United Kingdom, represent a proud tradition of devotion to the Union which everyone in these islands should respect, and which this agreement does respect. They have a right to feel secure about Northern Ireland’s position as part of the United Kingdom. This agreement, by reinforcing the principle of consent, should make them ​ feel more secure, not only today but in the future. Unionists have the assurance that neither an Irish Government, nor of course a British Government, will try to impose new constitutional arrangements upon them against their will.

The nationalist community think of themselves as Irish in terms of their identity, their social and cultural traditions and their political aspirations. The House can respect their identity too and acknowledge their aspirations, even though we may not see the prospect of their fulfilment.

The only lasting way to put an end to the violence and achieve the peace and stability in Northern Ireland is reconciliations between these two communities. That is the goal of this agreement.

I now draw the attention of the House to what I consider to be the most significant points of the agreement. The preamble sets out the commitment of the United Kingdom and the Irish Republic to work for reconciliation; our utter and total rejection of violence; our recognition and respect for the separate identities in Northern Ireland; and our acceptance of the right of each to pursue its aspirations by peaceful means. These principles reflect the hopes of both communities.

Article 1 of the agreement makes it abundantly clear that there is no threat whatsoever to Unionists’ heartfelt desire to remain part of the United Kingdom. It provides, in a formally binding international accord, a recognition by the Irish Government that the status of Northern Ireland will remain unchanged as long as that is the wish of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland. It recognises also that the present wish of a majority is for no change in that status. There can be no better reply to the fears that have been expressed in the House than this explicit recognition of the legitimacy of the Unionist position.

Article 2 of the agreement acknowledges in a practical and strictly defined way the concern that the Irish Republic has with matters relating to Northern Ireland. In the past, that concern has sometimes been expressed in critical or negative terms which did not help the cause of harmony between the communities in Northern Ireland. Article 2, therefore, establishes an Intergovernmental Conference. This will have no executive authority either now or in the future. It will consider on a regular basis political, security and legal matters, including the administration of justice, as well as cross-border co-operation on security, economic and cultural matters.

This co-operation will not be a one-way street. The Irish Government will be able to put forward views and proposals on certain matters affecting Northern Ireland. We for our part shall be able to pursue issues of concern to all peace-loving people in Northern Ireland. Notably cooperation in the fight against terrorism—co-operation which goes beyond the borders of Northern Ireland.

The matters within the scope of the conference are spelled out in greater detail in articles 4 to 9 of the agreement. I should like to draw the House’s attention to three particular points about these articles. First, if devolution is restored, those matters that become the responsibility of the devolved Government will no longer be within the purview of the intergovernmental conference. We hope that the agreement will encourage the constitutional representatives of both communities to come together to form a local administration acceptable to both. This hope has been specifically endorsed by the Irish Government. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern ​ Ireland will be exploring with the constitutional parties how best to make progress. Meantime, the Assembly continues in being, with all its statutory responsibilities.

Secondly, article 8, which deals with legal matters, says that consideration will be given to the possibility of establishing mixed courts. Let me say straightaway that we have absolute confidence in the judiciary in Northern Ireland. Indeed, the integrity and courage which they have shown in recent years in maintaining high standards of judicial impartiality have been outstanding.

We know the difficulties which would be involved in mixed courts both in Northern Ireland and in the republic. We recognise the reservations which are held by the legal profession. We see no easy or early way through these difficulties. That is why, although we are prepared to consider in good faith the possibility of them at some future time, we have made it clear that we are under no commitment to introduce them.

Thirdly, I draw the House’s attention to the proposals for improved security co-operation in article 9. This provides for a programme of work to be undertaken by the Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the Commissioner of the Garda to improve co-operation in such matters as threat assessment, exchange of information, technical co-operation, training of personnel and operational resources.

The really vital element in this programme is fuller and faster exchange of information, especially pre-emptive intelligence which helps to prevent acts of terrorism.

These are specific measures which I believe will lead to real improvements in security—improvements which will be welcome above all to those men and women who live in the border areas and who have been subjected to so many merciless attacks designed to drive them from their homes and farms.

That improvement should be further reinforced by the Irish Government’s intention to accede to the European convention on the suppression of terrorism.

The convention’s purpose is to ensure that those who commit terrorist offences should be brought to justice and that any offences involving the use of explosives or firearms should not be regarded as political.

Irish accession should greatly increase our prospects of securing extradition from the republic of persons accused or convicted or terrorist crimes. This will be a major and a welcome step forward in the war against terrorism.

I draw the House’s attention to the reference in article 12 to the possible establishment of an Anglo-Irish interparliamentary body. Both we and the Irish Government felt that this was a matter for our Parliaments themselves rather than for Governments to pursue. I hope that contacts will be established through the usual channels to consider how discussions on an interparliamentary body can most effectively be taken forward.

I have tried to explain to the House the most significant points of the agreement. In view of some of the mistaken claims about it, I want also to say something about what is not in the agreement. The agreement does not affect the status of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom. It does not set us on some imagined slippery slope to Irish unity, and it is nonsense to claim that it might.

The effect of article 1 is to confirm the provision in section 1 of the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973 that Northern Ireland remains part of the United Kingdom as long as a majority there so wish. That again is a ​ recognition of reality. The guarantee for the majority lies in the fact that it is a majority. That fundamental point is reinforced by this agreement.

Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)

I have listened carefully to the right hon. Lady. Can she explain why the Irish Government signed the agreement?

The Prime Minister

I believe that the Irish Government signed the agreement because they share with us its objectives: to try to defeat the men of violence and to try to achieve peace and stability for all the people who live, and who will continue to live, in Northern Ireland. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to read it, all of this is set out fully in the preamble to the agreement.

Second, I want to make it clear that the agreement does not detract from British sovereignty in Northern Ireland—or, for that matter, from Irish sovereignty in the republic. We, the United Kingdom Government, accountable to Parliament, remain responsible for the government of Northern Ireland. Yes, we will listen to the views of the Irish Government. Yes, we will make determined efforts to resolve differences. But at the end of the day decisions north of the border will continue to be made by the United Kingdom Government and south of the border by the Irish Government. This is a fundamental point. There can be no misunderstanding.

Third, I want to dispel the absurd notion that the Government will listen to the views of the republic on Northern Ireland matters, but not to the views of our own unionist community.

There are already many ways in which the majority community in Northern Ireland can and do put their views to the Government. The right hon. and hon. Members of this House who represent the unionist parties are themselves an important channel. Another is the Northern Ireland Assembly, an important and experienced body which could be used to improve the arrangements for consultation. Yet another is the many representations that unionists make to Ministers. The unionist voice is clearly heard and will continue to be heard.

If the Anglo-Irish agreement is to bring about a real improvement in the daily lives of the two communities in Northern Ireland, it must be matched by a determined effort on the part of all law-abiding citizens to defeat the men of violence. And that effort must rest on clear and consistent principles of justice, equity and fairness. For if democracy is the rule of the majority, the other side of the coin is fairness and respect for the minority, for all are citizens of the United Kingdom.

On the economic front, we will continue to pay special attention to Northern Ireland’s needs. During direct rule, spending on economic and social programmes has risen since 1972–73 by 50 per cent. in real terms to £3,600 million last year. That amounts to nearly £2,500 a head, far more than in any other part of the United Kingdom. Spending on that scale shows the high priority given by successive Governments to the needs of Northern Ireland and its people. Our concern will continue.

On security, our efforts will also continue. Thanks to the magnificent work of our policemen and soldiers, we have already made some progress, but we still have much to do. I believe that our security forces can take new heart from the promise of greater security co-operation that will flow from the agreement.
In commending this agreement to the House, I should like first to pay tribute to Dr. Fitzgerald, who has worked ​ honestly and sincerely for an agreement to bring reassurance to both communities and a real prospect of peace and stability.

Second, I say to the members of both communities in Northern Ireland that, if Parliament approves the agreement, the Government will steadfastly implement it. This House represents all the people of the United Kingdom and its decisions are binding on all of them. We shall not give way to threats or to violence from any quarter. We shall look to the co-operation of all men and women of good will who want a better future for Northern Ireland and for their families.

Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson (Newbury)

Before my right hon. Friend leaves the point about the accountability of Parliament, will she say whether there will be any opportunity for Parliament to know about the deliberations of the Anglo-Irish conference? Will its deliberations be made public anywhere, or debated?

The Prime Minister

It is not expected that everything that is said in the intergovernmental conference will be made public. I am giving consideration to how we can report to the House, for obvious reasons. We attend many intergovernmental conferences in Europe and elsewhere and usually report to the House about those that we attend. I am giving urgent consideration to this matter because I realise that there is concern about it.

Finally, I address myself once more to those among the unionist community who have openly expressed their fears and worries about this agreement. Far from representing any threat to the union of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom, the agreement reinforces the union, and that should bring reassurance and confidence to the unionist majority. It clearly recognises—as it should—the validity of their great tradition, and it holds out the prospect of greater success in the struggle against terrorism from which the majority have suffered so much. As one who believes in the union. I urge the unionists to take advantage of the chance offered by the agreement.

We embarked on this agreement because we were not prepared to see the two communities for ever locked into the tragedies and antagonisms of the past. The younger generation, above all, has a right to expect more than that. The price of new hope is persistent endeavour. That is what we ask, and ask equally of all.

Margaret Thatcher – 1985 Statement on the Heysel Stadium Tragedy

Below is the text of the statement made by Margaret Thatcher, the then Prime Minister, in the House of Commons on 3 June 1985.

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I shall make a statement about the events at the European Cup Final in Brussels last week and the measures which have been put in hand in this country to deal with football violence.

Last Wednesday, television viewers throughout Britain and the world witnessed the appalling scenes of violence at the European Cup Final in Brussels, which resulted in 38 deaths and a much larger number of injuries; 27 people are still in hospital. I know that the whole House will share the nation’s profound sympathy for the bereaved and injured, and the sense of outrage and shame at the behaviour of some of our citizens which led to the tragedy. The House will also wish to associate itself with the message of sorrow and condolence sent by Her Majesty the Queen to President Pertini of Italy and King Baudouin of Belgium. I have sent similar messages on behalf of the Government to Signor Craxi, Mr. Martens and President Mitterrand. The immediate contribution that we have announced of £250,000 for the families of the victims is an expression of our deep sympathy and support for those involved.

The Belgian authorities and UEFA are conducting formal inquiries into the arrangements for the match and into the disaster. They will no doubt report on the extent to which the internationally agreed guidelines and precautions for spectator safety were followed. We cannot prejudge the outcome of those inquiries, but we must recognise that there has been a terrible record of violence at European football matches in which, I regret to say, English supporters have played a large part over many years.

In those circumstances, the Government welcomed the initial decision of the Football Association to withdraw English clubs from participation in European competitions next season, and we fully understand the subsequent decision of UEFA to ban English clubs from European competition for an indefinite period, and we believe it to be right. This withdrawal gives English football authorities the opportunity to introduce effective measures to combat violence and to convince other countries that they have done so.

Last week, I was able to have discussions with several people, including the chairman and secretary of the Football Association, who returned immediately from Mexico after receiving news of the tragedy, the chairman of Liverpool football club, my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Employment, who happened to be present at the match and was an eyewitness to the events, and a number of football correspondents, who were also present at this and similar occasions in the past.

The following measures will be taken, or are already in hand, to put our own house in order.

First, we shall introduce as soon as possible legislation similar to that contained in the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980. That Act makes it an offence to be drunk or to possess alcohol on football coaches, on entry to grounds and in most areas of grounds. It also makes it an offence to be in possession of containers that could be used as missiles. Subject to discussions through the usual ​ channels, it is our intention to have this legislation on the statute book by the summer recess, in time for the coming football season.

Second, we shall proceed next Session with the legislation envisaged in the Government’s White Paper on the review of public order. The proposals on assemblies in the open air will considerably strengthen the powers available to the police to guard: against the risk of disorder. Wherever they have reason to expect disorder at a football match, the police will, in effect, be able to limit the gate and impose other conditions. Under this provision, the police should be able to stipulate whatever steps they judge necessary to minimise the risk of disorder.

Third, Mr. Justice Popplewell will continue with his inquiry into the events at Bradford City and Birmingham football grounds on 11 May. His terms of reference are already wide enough to allow any lessons learnt from Brussels to be taken into account. I understand that Mr. Justice Poppelwell hopes to submit an interim report before the beginning of next season.

Fourth, my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary has set in hand the procedure for designating under the Safety of Sports Grounds Act 1975 all clubs in the third and fourth divisions. We have, in addition, agreed with the football authorities on a number of measures, including acceleration of the introduction of closed-circuit television, with the help of the Football Trust. I have been informed today that the trust is proposing to allocate £500,000 for this purpose as a first step. That would give cover in more than 30 grounds, in addition to the 11 at which experiments are already taking place.

Events at Brussels last week have, however, made it clear that more is now needed. I shall be discussing urgently with the football authorities proposals for the introduction of a practical scheme of membership schemes, either on a club or national basis, proposals for far more all-ticket matches and stricter controls or, in some cases, a ban on visiting spectators.

I recognise that such measures would mean a radical change in the way in which football is conducted in this country, but radical change is needed if football is to survive as a spectator sport and if English clubs are once more to be acceptable abroad.

Fifth, in parallel with our own action, we shall continue to co-operate in developing international measures to deal with hooliganism. Next week, my hon. Friend the Minister with responsibility for sport will be attending a meeting of European Ministers for that purpose.

In the meantime, we are anxious to give the Brussels authorities every possible assistance in bringing to justice and dealing appropriately with people from this country who have committed offences in connection with last Wednesday’s match. My right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary has sent a message to the Belgian Minister of the Interior offering the assistance and co-operation of British police forces. The Merseyside police and the Metropolitan police are examining television film closely to see whether they can identify those responsible for last Wednesday’s violence.

We also want to do everything within our power to remove any possible difficulty in the way of any charges that the Belgian authorities may decide to bring. Arrangements already exist between the United Kingdom and Belgium for the extradition of those accused of serious offences of violence such as murder, manslaughter, ​ wounding or serious assault. If the Belgian authorities were to seek the extradition of someone accused of such an offence, we should naturally give them every assistance to meet our requirements on evidence.

One disincentive for the Belgian authorities may be that it is less trouble simply to expel Britons who may have committed offences rather than to prosecute and sentence them appropriately. We intend to offer the Belgians the opportunity, in accordance with the Repatriation of Prisoners Act, of removal to prison in this country of anyone who may be given a prison sentence in Belgium.

I hope that last Wednesday’s sickening events will unite all decent people in helping to eradicate hooliganism. To curb violence requires effort and commitment from us all. If English clubs are to play football in Europe again, they can do so only when their good name, and that of their followers and supporters, has been restored.

Margaret Thatcher – 1983 Statement on Falkland Islands Report


Below is the text of the statement made by Margaret Thatcher, the then Prime Minister, in the House of Commons on 18 January 1983.

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I will make a statement about the report of the Falkland Islands review committee.

The House will remember that I announced the setting up of the review committee in July 1982, after consultation with the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and with leading Privy Councillors in other parties. At that time I expressed the hope that the committee would be be able to complete its work within six months.

The committee has justified that hope. I received its report on 31 December 1982, and I am presenting it to Parliament as a Command Paper this afternoon. Copies are now available in the Vote Office.

I should like to express the Government’s gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Franks, and to his colleagues for the amount of time and effort which they have devoted to producing such a thorough and comprehensive report in so short a time.

The report makes it clear that the committee was provided with all the papers relevant to its terms of reference, including a comprehensive collection of reports from the intelligence agencies. The committee’s report contains a number of references to intelligence matters which would not in other circumstances be divulged. These references are essential for a full understanding of the matters into which the committee was asked to enquire, and the Government have agreed that the public interest requires that on this occasion the normal rule against public reference to the intelligence organisation or to material derived from intelligence reports should be waived.

The Government have, however, agreed with Lord Franks amendments to certain of the references to intelligence reports with a view to minimising potential damage to British intelligence interests. Lord Franks has authorised me to tell the House that he agrees that, first, all the references to intelligence reports included in the committee’s report as submitted have been retained in the report as presented to Parliament, most of them without amendment; secondly, none of the amendments that have been made alters the sense, substance or emphasis of the reference to the intelligence report concerned, or removes anything of significance to the committee’s account of the matters referred to it or to its findings and conclusions; thirdly, apart from those agreed amendments, no other deletions or amendments have been made to the committee’s report as submitted.

The report is unanimous and is signed by all the members of the committee without qualification. It falls into four chapters. The first gives an account of the dispute from 1965—when the issue was first brought formally to international attention by a resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations—to May 1979.

The second chapter covers the period from May 1979 to 19 March 1982. The third deals with the fortnight from 19 March to 2 April 1982, which included the South Georgia incident and which led up to the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands. The fourth and final chapter deals with the way in which the Government discharged their responsibilities in the period leading up to the invasion. There are six annexes, the first of which deals with 10 specific assertions that have been made by some who have commented on the matters in question.

In the fourth chapter of the report—that is, the one that deals with the way Government discharged their responsibilities—the committee notes a number of points where, in its judgment, different decisions might have been taken, fuller consideration of alternative courses of action might have been advantageous, and the machinery of government could have been better used. That chapter defines and addresses itself to two crucial questions: first, could the Government have foreseen the invasion of 2 April 1982; secondly, could the Government have prevented the invasion?

The committee emphasises that its report should be read as a whole. At this stage, therefore, I shall do no more than quote the committee’s conclusions on those two crucial questions. On the first question, whether the Government could have foreseen the invasion of 2 April, the committee’s conclusion is: In the light of this evidence, we are satisfied that the Government did not have warning of the decision to invade. The evidence of the timing of the decision taken by the Junta shows that the Government not only did not, but could not, have had earlier warning. The invasion of the Falkland Islands on 2 April could not have been foreseen. I have quoted the whole of paragraph 266.

On the second question, whether the Government could have prevented the invasion, the committee’s conclusion, contained in the final paragraph of the report, is: Against this background we have pointed out in this Chapter where different decisions might have been taken, where fuller consideration of alternative courses of action might, in our opinion, have been advantageous, and where the machinery of Government could have been better used. But, if the British Government had acted differently in the ways we have indicated, it is impossible to judge what the impact on the Argentine Government or the implications for the course of events might have been. There is no reasonable basis for any suggestion—which would be purely hypothetical—that the invasion would have been prevented if the Government had acted in the ways indicated in our report. Taking account of these considerations, and of all the evidence we have received, we conclude that we would not be justified in attaching any criticism or blame to the present Government.

May I finish the conclusion of the Franks Committee? It was its conclusion and has nothing to do with the Government. It said: we conclude that we would not be justified in attaching any criticism or blame to the present Government for the Argentine Junta’s decision to commit its act of unprovoked aggression in the invasion of the Falkland Islands on 2 April 1982. I have quoted in full the final paragraph of the Franks report.

Time will, of course, be found for an early debate, and that will be discussed through the usual channels. The Government will welcome an early opportunity of discussing the matters contained in the report more thoroughly than is possible this afternoon.

Margaret Thatcher – 1999 Statement on General Pinochet


Below is the text of the statement made in the House of Lords by Baroness Margaret Thatcher on 6 July 1999.

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Lamont has done the House a service by initiating this short debate on a matter of great importance to Britain’s reputation, to Chile’s stability and to the orderly conduct of international relations. I shall try to deal with each of those matters while seeking to avoid remarks about the case itself.

Britain’s reputation should be of vital importance to the government of the day. Our reputation sustains our interests. The Pinochet case has sullied that reputation. Senator Pinochet came here last September as a long-standing friend of Britain. Though I shall not go into the details, I can say that without President Pinochet’s considerable practical help in 1982, many more of our servicemen would have lost their lives in the South Atlantic. The country thus owes him a great debt.

After leaving power he was accordingly received here as an honoured guest on a number of occasions. Similarly, on 22nd September last year, when he entered Britain on a diplomatic passport charged with a special mission by the current Chilean President, he was accorded all the privileges of an ambassador, including the protection of the Metropolitan Police Diplomatic Protection Squad.

However, some weeks later the general was arrested in hospital at dead of night, when under heavy sedation following a serious back operation. There is a widespread suspicion that there had been collusion between the British and Spanish authorities prior to the arrest, when the Chileans were not given the warning they might have expected about the imminent risk. That inhumane arrest was in any case made on the basis of an unlawful warrant. Senator Pinochet was then held for six days illegally under that warrant. Those circumstances left Britain’s reputation for loyalty and fair dealing in tatters.

Secondly, I want to speak about the situation in Chile—this country’s oldest and truest friend in Latin America. The great majority of Chileans, even the political opponents of Senator Pinochet, feel wounded at the way we and the Spanish have treated them. They are right to do so. Until the Senator’s arrest last October, Chile had achieved three remarkable successes, all of them in large measure due to former President Pinochet.

First, it had seen the total defeat of communism at a time when that ideology was advancing throughout the hemisphere. As Eduardo Frei, the former Christian Democrat president of Chile put it: “The military saved Chile”. Secondly, Chile has seen the establishment of a thriving, free-enterprise economy which has transformed living standards and made Chile into a model for Latin America. Thirdly, Chile is also remarkable because President Pinochet established a constitution for a return to democracy, held a plebiscite to decide whether or not he should remain in power, lost the vote (though gaining 44 per cent support), respected the result and handed over power to a democratically-elected successor.

Chile thus enjoyed prosperity, democracy and reconciliation—until we and the Spanish arrogantly chose to interfere in her affairs. So far, the Chileans have behaved with great restraint. But we should not assume that this will continue, particularly if Senator Pinochet, who is not now in the best of health, were to die in Britain or is taken to Spain. Anything that happens then will be the direct responsibility of this Government and, in particular, of the Home Secretary.

My final point concerns the implications of the Pinochet case for the conduct of international relations, which are essentially based on trust between nation states. This trust has now been shattered by the prospect of the courts in one country seeking the extradition of former heads of government from a second country for offences allegedly committed in a third country.

Senator Pinochet is, of course, being victimised because the organised international Left are bent on revenge. But on his fate depends much else besides. Henceforth, all former heads of government are potentially at risk; those still in government will be inhibited from taking the right action in a crisis, because they may later appear before a foreign court to answer for it—

Lord Carter My Lords, perhaps the noble Baroness would be kind enough to give way.

Baroness Thatcher My Lords, I am nearly at the end of my speech.

Lord Carter My Lords, I should just like to remind the noble Baroness that this is a timed debate and the limit for each speaker is four minutes. The noble Baroness is now in her seventh minute. I wonder whether she could now bring her remarks to a close.

Baroness Thatcher My Lords, I am very close to the end and I very rarely take up the time of this House. It will now take me longer because the noble Lord interrupted me in the middle of a sentence.
Henceforth, all former heads of government are potentially at risk; those still in government will be inhibited from taking the right action in a crisis, because they may later appear before a foreign court to answer for it and—this is where I was when I was interrupted—in a final ironic twist, those who do wield absolute power in their countries are highly unlikely now to relinquish it for fear of ending their days in a Spanish prison. This is a Pandora’s box which has been opened—and unless Senator Pinochet returns safely to Chile, there will be no hope of closing it.

Margaret Thatcher – 1992 Speech on the European Community


Below is the text of the speech made by Margaret Thatcher at The Hague on 15th May 1992.


Mr Chairman,

We are fortunate to be meeting in the Hague, a beautiful city kept beautiful by a country which values its architectural heritage.

Goethe described architecture as ‘frozen music’.

And in a city like this it is not hard to imagine the grand symphonic melodies and subtle chamber music harmonies that might be released if we could defrost the Town Hall, the great urban squares, or some of the smaller side-streets.

Because it is a public art with which we all have to live, architecture tells us a lot about ourselves, about our idea of God, about our relationship with our fellow-men, about our vision of Man’s destiny.

The great medieval cathedrals gave us an exalted spiritual view of Man’s place in a universe governed by an all-loving and all-seeing Creator.

The Age of Reason pictured civilised man in a neat geometrically ordered landscape dotted with neo-classical structures at regular intervals — with no more than one small folly to each estate.

The revival of Religion and Moral Seriousness under Queen Victoria saw also a Gothic Revival that again pointed man’s eyes heavenwards.

And in our own day, the vision of New European Man walking purposefully towards the Common Agricultural Policy was exquisitely realized in the Berlaymont building in Brussels.

What music would Goethe hear if he could look upon the Berlaymont, perhaps while acting as an advisor to the Commissioner responsible for developing a policy for European culture (which has languished so long without one)?

Surely the music would be something atonal and very long, perhaps performed by an orchestra including vacuum cleaners, scrubbing boards, and taxi-horns, with Songs of Harmonisation sung by a mixed choir from the Paris School of Deconstructionism.

And what a climax of discord and disharmony!

For the Berlaymont — its halls lined with cancer-causing asbestos — is to be pulled down.

We might say of such architecture that it is modern in conception, but uncomfortable to live in, and likely to fall down in a few years.

But is it even modern in conception?

It was once.

But look at the architecture of the last fifty years — look, in particular, at the architecture that went beyond the modern to the futuristic.

It was certainly a very dramatic architecture but the one thing it no longer expresses is the Future.

What it expresses is yesterday’s vision of the future — one captured by the poet John Betjeman in 1945:

“I have a vision of the future, chum.

The workers’ flats, in fields of soya beans,

Tower up like silver pencils, score on score.”

But the Berlaymont school of architecture is a convenient symbol for the political architecture of the European Community.

For it too is infused with the spirit of “yesterday’s future.”

Mr Chairman, the European Community we have today was created in very different circumstances to deal with very different problems.

It was built upon very different assumptions about where the world was heading.

And it embodied political ideas and economic theories that in the light of recent history we have to question.

Today I want to do exactly that. In particular, I shall try to answer three questions.

First, how can we best deal with the imbalance in Europe created by the re-unification and revival of Germany?

Second, how can we reform European institutions so that they accommodate the diversity of post-Communist Europe and be truly democratic?

Third, how can we ensure that the new Europe contributes to — rather than undermines — the world’s economic prosperity and political stability?

Our answers to these questions can no longer be bound by the conventional collectivist wisdom of the 1940’s and 50’s.

That is yesterday’s future.

We must draw on the ideas of liberty, democracy, free markets and nation-hood that have swept the world in the last decade.


The European Community which we now have was set up for circumstances that were quite different from those of to-day.

It was Winston Churchill who, with characteristic magnanimity in 1946, with his Zurich speech, argued that Germany should be rehabilitated through what he called ‘European Union’ as ‘an association between France and Germany’ which would ‘assume direction’.

This could not be done overnight, and it took American leadership.

In 1947, after travelling through Europe in that terrible winter, when everything froze over, George C. Marshall , the then Secretary of State, promoted the idea of American help.

Marshall Aid was administered by institutions set up ad hoc.

The initial impetus was for European recovery.

It owed much to simple American good-heartedness.

It owed something to commercial calculation — the prosperity of Europe, in free-trade conditions, would also be the prosperity of America.

But the main thing was the threat from Stalin .

Eastern Europe had shown how demoralized peoples could not resist cunningly executed Communist take-overs, and Marshall Aid was intended to set western Europe back on its feet.

It was a prodigious success. Who, in 1945, would have guessed that defeated and ruined Germany would, by 1951, be exporting more than the British?

But we have found, again and again, that institutions devised for one set of problems become obstacles to solving the next set — even that they become problems in their own right. The Common Agricultural Policy is one such.

As originally devised, it had a modest aim that was not unreasonable.

Over-numerous peasant farmers had been unable to earn a decent living between the wars, and in those days subsidy and regulation were the conventional wisdom.

We in Great Britain had not suffered nearly as badly as our continental neighbours, because we had, even in 1900, almost no peasants: nonetheless we had, in the 1930’s, a Milk Marketing Board which was supposed to control prices, and therefore had the precise function of not marketing milk — instead, pouring it down mine-shafts and regulating various cheeses out of existence.

Yet we all know that the CAP, is now an expensive headache, and one quite likely to derail the Uruguay Round.

Because of agricultural protection we stop food-imports from the poorer countries.

They themselves are nowadays vehement supporters of market-principles: it is from the Cairns Group of developing countries that you hear demands for free trade.

Yet in the industrialized part of the world, the tax-payer and the consumer stump up $270 billion in subsidies and higher costs; and the World Bank has calculated that, if the tariff and other barriers were cut by half, then the poorer countries would gain at once, in exports, $50 billion.

In case you might think that these sentiments are somehow anti-European, I should say that they come from an editorial in the economic section of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung of 4 May.

Here we have a prime example of yesterday’s solutions, becoming to-morrow’s problems.

You could extend this through the European institutions as a whole.

They were meant to solve post-war problems, and did so in many ways extremely well.

Western Europe did unite against the Soviet threat, and, with Anglo-American precepts, became free and very prosperous.

That prosperity, denied to the peoples of eastern Europe and Russia, in the end caused demoralization among their rulers, and revolt from below. We are now in a quite different set of circumstances, with the Cold War over.

Looking at European institutions today, I am reminded of a remark made about political parties in the French Third Republic.

Some of them had names which reflected radical republican origins from the 1870’s, but years later they had become conservative.

These radical names, ran the remark, were like the light reaching Earth from stars that were long extinct.

Equally with the end of the Cold War we have to look again at the shape of Europe and its institutions.


Mr Chairman, let me turn first to the new situation created by the re-unification of Germany.

And let me say that if I were a German today, I would be proud — proud but also worried.

I would be proud of the magnificent achievement of rebuilding my country, entrenching democracy and assuming the undoubtedly preponderant position in Europe. But I would also be worried about the European Community and its direction.

The German taxpayer pays dearly for its place in Europe.

Britain and Germany have a strong joint interest in ensuring that the other Community countries pay their fair share of the cost — and control the Community’s spending more enthusiastically — without leaving us to carry so much of the burden.

Germany is well-equipped to encourage such fiscal prudence. Indeed I would trust the Bundesbank more than any other European Central Bank to keep down inflation — because the Germans have none too distant memories of the total chaos and political extremism which hyper-inflation brings.

The Germans are therefore right to be increasingly worried about the terms they agreed for economic and monetary union.

Were I a German, I would prefer the Bundesbank to provide our modern equivalent of the gold standard rather than any committee of European bankers.

But there is an understandable reluctance on the part of Bonn to defend its views and interests so straightforwardly.

For years the Germans have been led to believe by their neighbours that their respectability depends on their subordinating their national interest to the joint decisions in the Community.

It is better that that pretence be stopped.

A reuinited Germany can’t and won’t subordinate its national interests in economic or in foreign policy to those of the Community indefinitely.

And sometimes Germany will be right, when the rest are wrong, as it was over the recognition of Croatia and Slovenia.

Indeed, if the Federal Republic had led the way in recognising these countries earlier, Serbian aggression might have been deterred and much bloodshed prevented.

Whether rightly or wrongly exercised, however, Germany’s new pre-eminence is a fact.

We will all be better off if we recognise that modern democratic Germany has come of age.

Nevertheless Germany’s power is a problem — as much for the Germans as for the rest of Europe.

Germany is too large to be just another player in the European game, but not large enough to establish unquestioned supremacy over its neighbours.

And the history of Europe since 1870 has largely been concerned with finding the right structure to contain Germany.

It has been Germany’s immediate neighbours, the French, who have seen this most clearly.

Both Briand in 1929 and Schuman after the Second World War proposed structures of economic union to achieve this.

Briand’s proposal was made just at the moment when the rise of the Nazis made such a visionary scheme impossible and it failed. But Schuman’s vision of a European Community was realised because of an almost unique constellation of favourable circumstances.

The Soviet threat made European co-operation imperative.

Germany was itself divided.

Other Western nations sought German participation in the defence of Western Europe.

West Germany needed the respectability that NATO and the Community could give.

And American presence in, and leadership of, Europe reduced the fears of Germany’s neighbours.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union and reunion of Germany, the entire position has changed.

A new Europe of some 30 states has come into being, the problem of German power has again surfaced and statesmen have been scrambling to produce a solution to it.

At first France hoped that the post-War Franco-German partnership with France as the senior partner would continue. Chancellor Kohl ‘s separate and successful negotiations with Mr Gorbachev quickly showed this to be an illusion.

The next response of France and other European countries was to seek to tie down the German Gulliver within the joint decision-making of the European Community. Again, however, this quickly proved to be an illusion.

Germany’s preponderance within the Community is such that no major decision can really be taken against German wishes.

In these circumstance, the Community augments German power rather than containing it.

Let me illustrate this point with two examples where I agree with the German position.

The first, as I have mentioned, was the German decision to recognise Croatia and Slovenia which compelled the rest of Europe to follow suit.

The second, is the refusal of the Bundesbank to pursue imprudent financial policies at the urging of some of the countries of the G7.

However much I may sympathise with these policies, the blunt fact is that Germany has followed its own interests rather than the advice of its neighbours who have then been compelled to adjust their own stance.


What follows from this is that German power will be best accommodated in a looser Europe in which individual nation-states retain their freedom of action.

If Germany or any other power then pursues a policy to which other countries object, it will automatically invite a coalition against itself.

And the resulting solution will reflect the relative weight of the adversaries.

A common foreign policy, however, is liable to express the interests of the largest single actor.

And a serious dispute between EC member states locked into a common foreign policy would precipitate a crisis affecting everything covered by the Community.

The general paradox here is that attempts at co-operation that are too ambitious are likely to create conflict.

We will have more harmonious relationships between the states of Europe if they continue to have room to make their own decisions and to follow their own interests — as happened in the Gulf War.

But it would be idle to deny that such a balance of power — for that is what I have been describing — has sometimes broken down and led to war. And Europe on its own, however organised, will still find the question of German power insoluble.

Europe has really enjoyed stability only since America became a European power.

The third response therefore is to keep an American presence in Europe.

American power is so substantial that it dwarfs the power of any other single European country.

It reassured the rest of Europe in the face of Soviet power until yesterday; and it provides similar comfort against the rise of Germany today — as the Germans themselves appreciate.

Why aren’t we worried about the abuse of American power? It is difficult to be anxious about a power so little inclined to throw its weight around that our principal worry is that American troops will go home.

And there’s the rub.

There is pressure isolationist opinion in the USA to withdraw from Europe.

It is both provoked and encouraged by similar thinking in the Community which is protectionist in economics and “little European” in strategy.

In trade, in the GATT negotiations, in NATO’s restructuring, we need to pursue policies that will persuade America to remain a European power.


If America is required to keep Europe secure, what is required to keep Europe free and democratic?

When the founders of the European Community drew up the Treaty of Rome, they incorporated features from two quite different economic traditions.

From Liberalism they took free trade, free markets and competition.

From Socialism (in guises as various as Social Catholicism and Corporatism) they took regulation and intervention.

And for thirty years — up to the signing of the Single European Act — these two traditions were in a state of perpetual but unacknowledged tension.

Now — with the Commission exploiting the Single European Act to accumulate powers of greater direction and regulation — Europe is reaching the point at which it must choose between these two approaches.

Is it to be a tightly-regulated, centralised bureaucratic federal state, imposing uniform standards throughout the Continent?

Or is it to be a loose-knit decentralised free-market Europe of sovereign states, based upon competition between different national systems of tax and regulation within a free trade area?

M. Delors at least seems to be quite clear.

Before the ink is even dry on the Maastricht Treaty, the President of the European Commission, who has always been admirably frank about his ambitions, is seeking more money and more powers for the Commission which would become the Executive of the Community, in other words a European Government.

And this initative comes on top of a Treaty that met the Commission’s demand for a “single institutional structure” for the Community.

So there is no doubt what the President of the Commission is aiming at — it is a tightly centralised European federal state.

Nor is there any mystery about the urgency with which he presses the Federalist cause.

Even though he may wish to defer the “enlargement” of the Community with the accession of Eastern Europe, he realises it is impossible.

A half-Europe imposed by Soviet tyrany was one thing; a half-Europe imposed by Brussels would be a moral catastrophe depriving the Community of its European legitimacy.

The Commission knows it will have to admit new members in the next few decades.

But it hopes to construct a centralised European super-state in advance — and irrevocably — so that the new members will have to apply for entry on federalist terms.

This is not so much constructing a common European home — as a Common European Prison.

And it’s just not on.

Imagine a European Community of 30 nations, ranging in their economic productivity from Germany to Ukraine, and in their political stability from Britain to Poland,

– all governed from Brussels;

– all enforcing the same conditions at work;

– all having the same worker rights as the German Unions;

– all subject to the same interest rates, monetary, fiscal and economic policies;

– all agreeing on a common Foreign and defence policy;

– and all accepting the authority of an Executive and a remote foreign Parliament over “80&% of economic and social legislation”.

Mr Chairman, such a body is an even more utopian enterprise than the Tower of Babel.

For at least the builders of Babel all spoke the same language when they began.

They were, you might say, communautaire.

Mr Chairman, the thinking behind the Commission’s proposals is essentially the thinking of “yesterday’s tomorrow”.

It was how the best minds of Europe saw the future in the ruins after the Second World War.

But they made a central intellectual mistake.

They assumed that the model for future government was that of a centralised bureaucracy that would collect information upwards, make decisions at the top, and then issue orders downwards.

And what seemed the wisdom of the ages in 1945 was in fact a primitive fallacy.

Hierarchical bureaucracy may be a suitable method of organising a small business that is exposed to fierce external competition — but it is a recipe for stagnation and inefficiency in almost every other context.

It can collect and use only a fraction of the information that the market picks up, and acts upon minute by minute — and so it gets it wrong.

The top cannot be sure that its orders are carried out by the bottom.

And the organisation as a whole has no feedback that would indicate whether it is performing well or badly.

Such flaws might be of minor importance in a monastery where, after all, the wishes of the monks are not the criteria of success.

In a Government, however, they produce the economic chaos and alienation we saw under communism.

Yet it is precisely this model of remote, centralised, bureaucratic organisation that the European Commission and its federalist supporters seek to impose on a Community which they acknowledge may soon contain many more countries of widely differing levels of political and economic development, and speaking more than fifteen languages.

“C’est magnifique, mais ce n’est pas la politique.”

The larger Europe grows, the more diverse must be the forms of co-operation it requires. Instead of a centralised bureaucracy, the model should be a market — not only a market of individuals and companies, but also a market in which the players are governments.

Thus governments would compete with each other for foreign investments, top management and high earners through lower taxes and less regulation.

Such a market would impose a fiscal discipline on governments because they would not want to drive away expertise and business.

It would also help to establish which fiscal and regulatory policies produced the best overall economic results.

No wonder socialists don’t like it.

To make such a market work, of course, national governments must retain most of their existing powers in social and economic affairs.

Since these governments are closer and accountable to their voters — it is doubly desirable that we should keep power at the national level.


Mr Chairman, in 1996, when the arrangements agreed at Maastricht are due to be reviewed, and probably a good deal earlier, the Community should move in exactly the opposite direction to that proposed by the President of the Commission.

A Community of sovereign states committed to voluntary co-operation, a lightly regulated free market and international free trade does not need a Commission in its present form.

The government of the Community — to the extent that this term is appropriate — is the Council of Ministers, consisting of representatives of democratically elected national governments.

The work of the Commission should cease to be legislative in any sense.

It should be an administrative body, like any professional civil service, and it should not initiate policy, but rather carry it out.

In doing this it should be subject to the scrutiny of the European Parliament acting on the model of Commons Select Committees.

In that way, whatever collective policies or regulations are required would emerge from deliberation between democratic governments accountable to their national parliaments rather than being imposed by a bureaucracy with its own agenda.


But need this always be done in the same “single institutional structure”?

New problems arise all the time. Will these always require the same level and type of co-operation in the same institutions?

I doubt it.

We need a greater flexibility than the structures of the European Community have allowed until very recently.

A single institutional structure of its nature tends to place too much power in the central authorities.

It is a good thing that a Common Foreign Policy will continue to be carried on under a Separate Treaty and will neither be subject to the European Court nor permit the Commission to fire off initiatives at will.

If “Europe” moves into new areas, it must do so under separate treaties which clearly define the powers which have been surrendered.

And why need every new European initiative require the participation of all members of the Community?

It will sometimes be the case — especially after enlargement that only some Community members will want to move forward to another stage of integration.

Here I pay tribute to John Major ‘s achievement in persuading the other 11 Community Heads of Government that they could move ahead to a Social Chapter but not within the treaty and without Britain’s participation.

It sets a vital precedent.

For an enlarged Community can only function if we build in flexibility of that kind.

We should aim at a multi-track Europe in which ad hoc groups of different states — such as the Schengen Group — forge varying levels of co-operation and integration on a case-by-case basis.

Such a structure would lack graph paper neatness.

But it would accommodate the diversity of post-Communist Europe.


Supporters of federalism argue, no doubt sincerely, that we can accommodate this diversity by giving more powers to the European Parliament.

But democracy requires more than that.

To have a genuine European democracy — you would need a Europe-wide public opinion based on a single language; Europe-wide political parties with a common programme understood similarly in all member-states; a Europe-wide political debate in which political and economic concepts and words had the same agreed meaning everywhere.

We would be in the same position as the unwielding Habsburg Empire’s Parliament.


That parliament was a notorious failure.

There were dozens of political parties, and nearly a dozen peoples were represented — Germans, Italians, Czechs, Poles and so on.

For the government to get anything through — for instance, in 1889 a modest increase in the number of conscripts — took ages, as all the various interests had to be propitiated.

When one or other was not satisfied, its spokesmen resorted to obstruction — lengthy speeches in Russian, banging of desk-lids, throwing of ink-wells and on one occasion the blowing of a cavalry trumpet by the Professor of Jurisprudence at the German University of Prague.

Measures could not be passed, and budgets could only be produced by decree.

The longest-lasting prime minister, Count Taaffe , remarked that his highest ambition in politics was the achievement of supportable dissatisfaction on all sides — not a bad description of what the European Community risks becoming.

And because of the irresponsibility of parliaments, the Habsburg Monarchy could really only be ruled by bureaucrats.

It took twenty-five signatures for a tax-payment to be validated; one in four people in employment worked for the state in some form or another, even in 1914, and so many resources went to all of this that not much was left for defence: even, the military bands had to be cut back, Radetzky March and all.

Of course it was a tremendous period in cultural terms both in Vienna and in Budapest.

We in England have done mightily well by the emigration, often forced, to our shores of so many talented people from Central Europe.

But the fact is that they had to leave their native lands because political life became impossible.

This example could be multiplied again and again.

Belgium and Holland, which have so much in common, split apart in 1831.

Sweden and Norway, which have even more in common, split apart in 1905.

It does seem simply to be a straight-forward rule in modern times that countries which contain two languages, even if they are very similar, must in the end divide, unless the one language absorbs the other.

It would be agreeable to think that we could all go back to the world of the Middle Ages, when the educated classes spoke Latin, and the rulers communicated in grunts.

But we cannot.

Unless we are dealing with international co-operation and alliances, freely entered-into, we create artificial structures which become the problem that they were meant to address.

The League of Nations when the Second World War broke out, resolved to ignore the fact and to discuss, instead, the standardization of level-crossings.


Mr Chairman, I am sometimes tempted to think that the new Europe which the Commission and Euro-federalists are creating is equally ill-equipped to satisfy the needs of its members and the wishes of their peoples.

It is, indeed, a Europe which combines all the most striking failures of our age.

– The day of the artificially constructed megastate has gone. So the Euro-federalists are now desperately scurrying to build one.

– The Swedish style welfare state has failed — even in Sweden. So the Euro-statists press ahead with their Social Chapter.

– Large scale immigration has in France and Germany already encouraged the growth of extremist parties. So the the European Commission is pressing us to remove frontier controls.

If the European Community proceeds in the direction which the majority of Member State Governments and the Commission seem to want they will create a structure which brings insecurity, unemployment, national resentment and ethnic conflict.

Insecurity — because Europe’s protectionism will strain and possibly sever that link with the United States on which the security of the continent ultimately depends.

Unemployment — because the pursuit of policies of regulation will increase costs, and price European workers out of jobs.

National resentment — because a single currency and a single centralised economic policy, which will come with it, will leave the electorate of a country angry and powerless to change its conditions .

Ethnic conflict — because not only will the wealthy European countries be faced with waves of immigration from the South and from the East.

Also within Europe itself, the effect of a single currency and regulation of wages and social costs will have one of two consequences.

Either there will have to be a massive transfer of money from one country to another, which will not in practice be affordable.

Or there there will be massive migration from the less successful to the more successful countries.

Yet if the future we are being offered contains so very many risks and so few real benefits, why it may be asked is it proving all but irresistible ?

The answer is simple.

It is that in almost every European country there has been a refusal to debate the issues which really matter.

And little can matter more than whether the ancient, historic nations of Europe are to have their political institutions and their very identities transformed by stealth into something neither wished nor understood by their electorates.

Yet so much is it the touchstone of respectability to accept this ever closer union, now interpreted as a federal destiny, that to question is to invite affected disbelief or even ridicule.

This silent understanding — this Euro-snobbism — between politicians, bureaucracies, academics, journalists and businessmen is destructive of honest debate.

So John Major deserves high praise for ensuring at Maastricht that we would not have either a Single Currency or the absurd provisions of the Social Chapter forced upon us: our industry, workforce, and national prosperity will benefit as a result.

Indeed, as long as we in Britain now firmly control our spending and reduce our deficit, we will be poised to surge ahead in Europe.

For our taxes are low: our inflation is down: our debt is manageable: our reduced regulations are favourable to business.

We take comfort from the fact that both our Prime Minister and our Foreign Secretary have spoken out sharply against the forces of bureaucracy and federalism.


Our choice is clear: Either we exercise democratic control of Europe through co-operation between national governments and parliaments which have legitimacy, experience and closeness to the people.

Or, we transfer decisions to a remote multi-lingual parliament, accountable to no real European public opinion and thus increasingly subordinate to a powerful bureaucracy.

No amount of misleading language about pooling sovereignty can change that.


Mr Chairman, in world affairs for most of this century Europe has offered problems, not solutions. The founders of the European Community were consciously trying to change that.

Democracy and prosperity in Europe were to be an example to other peoples in other continents.

Sometimes this view took an over-ambitious turn with talk of Europe as a third force brokering between two superpowers of East and West.

This approach was always based upon a disastrous illusion — that Western Europe could at some future date dispense with the military defence offered by the United States.

Now that the forces of Communism have retreated and the threat which Soviet tanks and missiles levelled at the heart of Europe has gone, there is a risk that the old tendency towards de-coupling Europe from the United States may again emerge.

This is something against which Europeans themselves must guard — and of which the United States must be aware.

This risk could become reality in several ways.


First, there is the question of trade.

It is a terrible indictment of the complacency which characterises the modern post-Cold War world that we have allowed the present GATT round to be stalled for so long.

Free trade is the greatest force for prosperity and peaceful cooperation.

It does no good to the Western alliance when Europe and the United States come to regard each other as hostile interests. In practice, whatever the theory may be, economic disputes do sour political relations.

Agricultural subsidies and tarriffs lie at the heart of the dispute which will not go away unless we in Europe decide that the Common Agricultural Policy has to be fundamentally changed.

That will go far to determine what kind of Europe we are building.

For, as I have said before, I would like to see the European Community — embracing include the former Communist countries to its East — agree to develop an Atlantic free trade area with the United States.

That would be a means of pressing for more open multi-lateral trade throughout the world.

Europe must seek to move the world away from competing regional trade blocs — not promote them.

In such a trading arrangement, Britain would have a vital role bridging that Atlantic divide — just as Germany should provide Europe with a bridge to the East and to the countries of the former Soviet Union.


Secondly, we must modify and modernise our defence.

The dangers on Europe’s Eastern border have receded.

But let us not forget that on the credibility of NATO’s military strength all our wider objectives depend — reassurance for the post-communist countries, stability in Europe, trans-Atlantic political co-operation.

Communism may have been vanquished.

But all too often the Communists themselves have not.

The chameleon qualities of the comrades have never been more clearly demonstrated than in their emergence as democratic socialists and varieties of nationalist in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe.

From the powerful positions they retain in the bureaucracy, security apparatus and the armed forces, from their places in not-really-privatised enterprises, they are able to obstruct, undermine and plunder.

The systems of proportional representation which so many of these countries have adopted have allowed these tactics to succeed all the more, leading to weak governments and a bewildering multiplicity of parties.

All this risks bringing democracy into discredit.

If Eastern European countries which retain some links with a pre-communist past, and have some sort of middle class on which to draw, falter on the path to reform, how will the leaders of the countries of the former Soviet Union dare to proceed further upon it?

We can help by allowing them free access to our markets.

I am delighted that Association agreements have been signed between the European Community and several of these countries.

I would like speedy action to include the others in similar arrangement.

But, ten years is too long to wait before the restrictions on trade are removed.

And I would like to see these countries offered full membership of the European Community rapidly.

Above all we must offer these countries greater security.

Russian troops are still stationed on Polish territory.

Moreover, it is understandable that the central and eastern European countries are alarmed at what conflict in the old USSR and the old Yugoslavia may portend.

Although I recognise that the North Atlantic Cooperation Council has been formed with a view to this, I still feel that the European ex-Communist countries are entitled to that greater degree of reassurance which a separate closer relationship with NATO would bring.


But, Mr Chairman, most of the threats to Europe’s and the West’s interests no longer come from this Continent.

I believe — and I have been urging this on NATO members since 1990 — that the American and Europeans ought to be able to deploy our forces under NATO outside the area for which the present North Atlantic Treaty allows.

It is impossible to know where the danger may next come.

But two considerations should make us alive to real risks to our security.

First, the break up of the Soviet Union has led to large numbers of advanced weapons becoming available to would-be purchasers at knock-down prices: it would be foolish to imagine that these will not, some of them, fall into the worst possible hands.

Second, Europe cannot ignore its dependence for oil on the Middle East.

Saddam Hussein is still in power.

Fundamentalism is as strong as ever.

Old scores are still unsettled. We must beware.

And we must widen our ability to defend our interests and be prepared to act when necessary.


Finally, the European Community must come to recognise its place in what is called the new world order.

The ending of the Cold War has meant that the international institutions created in the post-War years — the UN, the IMF, the World Bank, the GATT — can work much more effectively. This means that the role for the Community is inevitably circumscribed.

Within Europe, a wider role for NATO and the CSCE should also be reflected in more modest ambitions for the Community’s diplomacy.

In Yugoslavia, the Community has shown itself incapable of dealing effectively with security questions.

Outside Europe, GATT with its mandate to reduce trade barriers should be the body that establishes the rules of the game in trade.

The Community must learn to live within those rules.

All in all, the Community must be prepared to fit in with the new internationalism, not supplant it.


Mr Chairman, I end as I began with architecture.

The Hague is a splendid capital, and how much we should admire the Dutch for keeping it together so well, as they have done with so many other of their towns.

The Mauritshuis is a testimony to the genius which they showed.

It was here, and in Amsterdam that so much of the modern world was invented in the long Dutch fight for freedom.

Dutch architecture, here and in Amsterdam, has its own unmistakable elegance and durability — it was copied all around the north-European world, from Wick in northern Scotland to Tallinn in Estonia.

Some architecture does last. Other architecture does not.

Let us make sure that we build a Europe as splendid and lasting as the Mauritshuis rather than one as shabby and ephemeral as the Berlaymont.

Margaret Thatcher – Comments made when leaving Downing Street


Below is the text of the comments made by the departing Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, when leaving Downing Street in London on Wednesday 28th November 1990.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We’re leaving Downing Street for the last time after eleven-and-a-half wonderful years, and we’re very happy that we leave the United Kingdom in a very, very much better state than when we came here eleven and a half years ago.

It’s been a tremendous privilege to serve this country as Prime Minister—wonderfully happy years—and I’m immensely grateful to the staff who supported me so well, and may I also say a word of thanks to all the people who sent so many letters, still arriving, and for all the flowers.

Now it’s time for a new chapter to open and I wish John Major all the luck in the world. He’ll be splendidly served and he has the makings of a great Prime Minister, which I’m sure he’ll be in very short time.

Thank you very much. Goodbye.

Margaret Thatcher – 1984 Conservative Party Conference Speech in Brighton


This speech was given by the Conservative Party leader, Margaret Thatcher, in October 1984, just hours after the Brighton bomb.

The bomb attack on the Grand Hotel early this morning was first and foremost an inhuman, undiscriminating attempt to massacre innocent unsuspecting men and women staying in Brighton for our Conservative Conference. Our first thoughts must at once be for those who died and for those who are now in hospital recovering from their injuries. But the bomb attack clearly signified more than this. It was an attempt not only to disrupt and terminate our Conference; It was an attempt to cripple Her Majesty’s democratically-elected Government. That is the scale of the outrage in which we have all shared, and the fact that we are gathered here now shocked, but composed and determined is a sign not only that this attack has failed, but that all attempts to destroy democracy by terrorism will fail.

I should like to express our deep gratitude to the police, firemen, ambulancemen, nurses and doctors, to all the emergency services, and to the staff of the hotel; to our ministerial staff and the Conservative Party staff who stood with us and shared the danger.

As Prime Minister and as Leader of the Party, I thank them all and send our heartfelt sympathy to all those who have suffered.

And now it must be business as usual. We must go on to discuss the things we have talked about during this Conference; one or two matters of foreign affairs; and after that, two subjects I have selected for special consideration are unemployment and the miners’ strike.

This Conservative Conference, superbly chaired, and of course, our Chairman, Dame P. Hunter, came on this morning with very little sleep and carried on marvellously, and with excellent contributions from our members, has been an outstanding example of orderly assembly and free speech. We have debated the great national and international issues, as well as those which affect the daily lives of our people. We have seen at the rostrum miner and pensioner, nurse and manager, clergyman and student. In Government, we have been fulfilling the promises contained in our election manifesto, which was put to the people in a national ballot.

This Government, Mr. President, is reasserting Parliament’s ultimate responsibility for controlling the total burden of taxation on our citizens, whether levied by central or local government, and in the coming session of Parliament we shall introduce legislation which will abolish the GLC and the Metropolitan County Councils.

In the quest for sound local government, we rely on the help of Conservative councillors. Their task should never be underestimated and their virtues should not go unsung. They work hard and conscientiously in the true spirit of service and I pay special tribute to the splendid efforts of Conservative councils up and down the country in getting better value for money through greater efficiency and putting out work to competitive tender. This is privatization at the local level and we need more of it.

At national level, since the General Election just over a year ago, the Government has denationalized five major enterprises, making a total of thirteen since 1979. Yesterday, you gave Norman Tebbit a standing ovation; today, our thoughts are with him and his family.

Again and again, denationalization has brought greater motivation to managers and workforce, higher profits and rising investment, and what is more, many in industry now have a share in the firm for which they work. We Conservatives want every owner to be an earner and every earner to be an owner.

Soon, we shall have the biggest ever act of denationalization with British Telecom and British Airways will follow; and we have not finished yet. There will be more to come in this Parliament.

And just as we have stood by our pledge on denationalization, it is our pride that despite the recession, we have kept faith with 9 million pensioners and moreover, by keeping inflation down, we have protected the value of their savings. As Norman Fowler told the Conference on Wednesday, this Government has not only put more into pensions, but has increased resources for the National Health Service. Our record for last year, to be published shortly, will show that the Health Service today is providing more care, more services and more help for the patient than at any stage in its history. That is Conservative care in practice. And I think it is further proof of the statement I made in Brighton in this very hall two years ago; perhaps some of you remember it; that the National Health Service is safe with us.

Now Mr. President and Friends, this performance in the social services could never have been achieved without an efficient and competitive industry to create the wealth we need. Efficiency is not the enemy, but the ally, of compassion.

In our discussions here, we have spoken of the need for enterprise, profits and the wider distribution of property among all the people. In the Conservative Party, we have no truck with outmoded Marxist doctrine about class warfare. For us, it is not who you are, who your family is or where you come from that matters. It is what you are and what you can do for our country that counts. That is our vision. It is a vision worth defending and we shall defend it. Indeed, this Government will never put the defence of our country at risk.

No-one in their senses wants nuclear weapons for their own sake, but equally, no responsible prime minister could take the colossal gamble of giving up our nuclear defences while our greatest potential enemy kept their’s.

Policies which would throw out all American nuclear bases which, mind you, have been here since the time of Mr. Attlee, Mr. Truman and Winston Churchill, would wreck NATO and leave us totally isolated from our friends in the United States, and friends they are. No nation in history has ever shouldered a greater burden nor shouldered it more willingly nor more generously than the United States. This Party is pro-American.

And we must constantly remind people what the defence policy of the Opposition Party would mean. Their idea that by giving up our nuclear deterrent, we could somehow escape the result of a nuclear war elsewhere is nonsense, and it is a delusion to assume that conventional weapons are sufficient defence against nuclear attack. And do not let anyone slip into the habit of thinking that conventional war in Europe is some kind of comfortable option. With a huge array of modern weapons held by the Soviet Union, including chemical weapons in large quantities, it would be a cruel and terrible conflict. The truth is that possession of the nuclear deterrent has prevented not only nuclear war but also conventional war and to us, peace is precious beyond price. We are the true peace party. And the nuclear deterrent has not only kept the peace, but it will continue to preserve our independence. Winston Churchill’s warning is just as true now as when he made it many many years ago. He said this: “Once you take the position of not being able in any circumstances to defend your rights against aggression, there is no end to the demands that will be made nor to the humiliations that must be accepted”. He knew, and we must heed his warning.

And yet, Labour’s defence policy remains no Polaris, no Cruise missiles in Britain, no United States nuclear bases in Britain, no Trident, no independent nuclear deterrent.

There is, I think, just one answer the nation will give. No defence, no Labour Government.

Mr. President, in foreign affairs, this year has seen two major diplomatic successes. We have reached a detailed and binding agreement with China on the future of Hong Kong. It is an agreement designed to preserve Hong Kong’s flourishing economy and unique way of life and we believe that it meets the needs and wishes of the people of Hong Kong themselves.

A few weeks ago, the unofficial members of the Executive Council of Hong Kong came to see me. We kept in touch with them the whole time and they frequently made journeys to No. 10 Downing Street as the negotiations with China proceeded. We were just about to initial the agreement and we consulted them, of course, about its content. Their spokesman said this: he said that while the agreement did not contain everything he would have liked, he and his colleagues could nevertheless recommend it to the people of Hong Kong in good conscience. That means a lot to us. If that is what the leaders of Hong Kong’s own community believe, then we have truly fulfilled the heavy responsibility we feel for their long-term future.

That agreement required imagination, skill, hard work and perseverance. In other words, it required Geoffrey Howe.

And in Europe too, through firmness and determination, we have achieved a long-term settlement of Britain’s budget contributions, a fair deal for Britain and for Europe too. And if we had listened to the advice of other party leaders, Britain would not have done half as well. But patient diplomacy and occasionally, I confess, a little impatient diplomacy, that did the trick.

Also, we have at last begun to curb surplus food production in the Community. Now, we know that for some farmers this has meant a painful adjustment and we are very much aware of their difficulties. Their work and their success are a great strength to our country. Michael Jopling and his colleagues will continue to fight to achieve a fair deal for them.

We have also won agreement on the need to keep the Community’s spending under proper control. The Community can now enter on a new chapter and use its energies and influence to play a greater part in world affairs, as an example of what democracies can accomplish, as a very powerful trading group and as a strong force for freedom.

Now, Mr. President, we had one of the most interesting debates of this Conference on unemployment, which we all agree is the scourge of our times.

To have over 3 million people unemployed in this country is bad enough, even though we share this tragic problem with other nations, but to suggest, as some of our opponents have, that we do not care about it is as deeply wounding as it is utterly false. Do they really think that we do not understand what it means for the family man who cannot find a job, to have to sit at home with a sense of failure and despair? Or that we do not understand how hopeless the world must seem to a young person who has not yet succeeded in getting his first job? Of course, we know, of course we see, and of course, we care. However could they say that we welcome unemployment as a political weapon? What better news could there be for any Government than the news that unemployment is falling and the day cannot come too soon for me.

Others, while not questioning our sincerity, argue that our policies will not achieve our objectives. They look back forty years to the post-war period, when we were paused to launch a brave new world; a time when we all thought we had the cure for unemployment. In that confident dawn it seemed that having won the war, we knew how to win the peace. Keynes had provided the diagnosis. It was all set out in the 1944 White Paper on Employment. I bought it then; I have it still. My name is on the top of it. Margaret H. Roberts. One of my staff took one look at it and said: “Good Heavens! I did not know it was as old as that!”

Now, we all read that White Paper very carefully, but the truth was that politicians took some parts of the formula in it and conveniently ignored the rest. I re-read it frequently. Those politicians overlooked the warning in that Paper that government action must not weaken personal enterprise or exonerate the citizen from the duty of fending for himself. They disregarded the advice that wages must be related to productivity and above all, they neglected the warning that without a rising standard of industrial efficiency, you cannot achieve a high level of employment combined with a rising standard of living.

And having ignored so much of that and having ignored other parts of the formula for so much of the time, the result was that we ended up with high inflation and high unemployment.

This Government is heeding the warnings. It has acted on the the basic truths that were set out all those years ago in that famous White Paper. If I had come out with all this today, some people would call it “Thatcherite” but, in fact, it was vintage Maynard Keynes. He had a horror of inflation, a fear of too much State control, and a belief in the market.

We are heeding those warnings. We are taking the policy as a whole and not only in selected parts. We have already brought inflation down below 5%. Output has been rising steadily since 1981 and investment is up substantially. But if things are improving, why ‘you will ask’ does unemployment not fall?

And that was the question one could feel throughout that debate, even though people know there is always a time lag between getting the other things right and having a fall in unemployment. Why does unemployment not fall?

May I try to answer that question?

Well, first, more jobs are being created. As Tom King pointed out, over the last year more than a quarter of a million extra jobs have been created, but the population of working age is also rising very fast as the baby boom of the 1960s becomes the school-leavers of the 1980s; so although the number of jobs are rising, the population of working age is also rising, and among the population of working age a larger proportion of married women are seeking work, and so you will see why we need more jobs just to stop unemployment rising and even more jobs to get it falling.

Now, on top of that, new technology has caused redundancy in many factories, though it has also created whole new industries providing products and jobs that only a few years ago were undreamed of.

So it has two effects: the first one redundancies, the second and slightly later, new jobs as new products become possible. This has happened in history before.

A few days ago I visited York, where I saw the first railway engine, Stevenson’s Rocket. I thought of the jobs, the prospects and the hope that the new steam engines and the railways then brought to many people. Communities queued up to be on a railway line, to have their own station. Those communities welcomed change and it brought them more jobs.

I confess I am very glad we have got the railways, but if we were trying to build those same railways today, I wonder if we would ever get planning permission, it sometimes takes so long. And that is one thing that can sometimes delay the coming into existence of jobs.

That was one example from history, but let us go through during my lifetime as we have this same phenomenon, redundancies from new technology more jobs from new technology.

In the 1940s, when I took a science degree, the new emerging industries were plastics, man-made fibres and television. Later it will be satellites, computers and telecommunications, and now it is biotechnology and information technology; and today our universities and science parks are identifying the needs of tomorrow. So there are new industries and new jobs in the pipeline.

I remember an industrialist telling me, when I first went into business, and I have always remembered it, our job is to discover what the customer will buy and to produce it. And in Wrexham the other day, at a Youth Training Centre, I was delighted to see a poster saying ‘It is the customer that makes pay days possible.’ So those young people are not only learning new technology; they were learning the facts of business life and how we create new jobs. Because it is the spirit of enterprise that provides jobs. It is being prepared to venture and build a business and the role of Government in helping them to do that? It is in cutting taxes; it is in cutting inflation; it is keeping costs down; it is cutting through regulations and removing obstacles to the growth of small businesses. For that is where many of the new jobs will come from small businesses. And it is providing better education and training.

The Youth Training Scheme, now in its second year, was set up to give young people the necessary skills for the new technologies and the necessary approach to industry. A majority of the first year’s graduates are getting jobs. A much bigger proportion of those leaving the Youth Training Scheme are getting jobs than of those which left the Youth Opportunities Scheme, and so they should, because it is a much better training scheme and it will improve again this year. I was very interested in it. David Young started it and I offered to take a trainee for our office at No. 10 Downing Street. We would love to have one. Now, he or she might not have made it to be Prime Minister in one year, but the work at No. 10, because we have a staff, obviously, to run the office, of about a hundred, is varied and interesting and we really wanted to take on a trainee, and we also said we would take some trainees into the other parts of the Civil Service. So we were willing; we were really welcoming this person or people and looking forward to it.

At first, the union said yes, then they said no, and the result is that young people have been denied training places.

The same problem arose at Jaguar. First the union said yes, then they said no. So 130 unemployed teenagers have been denied training, and that means young people were denied jobs.

Mr. President, we cannot create jobs without the willing cooperation not only of employers but of trade unions and all of the workforce who work in industry and commerce as well.

Yesterday, in the debate, we were urged to spend more money on capital investment. It looks a very attractive idea, but to spend more in one area means spending less in another or it means putting up taxes. Now, in Government, we are constantly faced with these difficult choices. If we want more for investment, I have to ask my colleagues in Cabinet: ‘What are you going to give up or you or you? Or you or you?’ Or should I perhaps ask them: ‘Whose pay claim are you going to cut, the doctors, the police, the nurses?’ I do not find many takers, because we have honoured the reviews of pay for doctors, nurses and the police and others in full. And you would not have cheered me if we had not done so and quite right too, but I am bringing this to you because although people can say the way to solve unemployment is to give a higher capital allocation, I have to say what are we going to give up or I have to turn to Nigel Lawson and ask him which taxes would he put up. Income tax? The personal income tax is already too high. Value Added Tax? Well, I should get a pretty frosty reception from Nigel and I should get a pretty frosty reception from you. But I would be loth to ask him anyway.

But you see, governments have to make these difficult choices, because as you know, whether your own households or whether your own businesses, there is a certain amount of income and you are soon in trouble if you do not live within it.

But what I want to say to you is that we do consider these difficult choices in the public expenditure annual round and we are just coming up to it, and we have managed to allocate a very considerable sum to capital investment. Indeed, we have found the money for the best investment projects on offer and believe you me, it has been because of very good management in each and every department. It has been cutting out waste so we could make room for these things and be certain that we could say to you that we were getting value for money.

Let me just give you a few examples of some of the investment projects for which we have found money, by careful budgetting.

There is the M25 road for example. It is being completed. British Railways have been given the green light to go ahead with electrification, if they can make it pay. We have started or built forty-nine new hospitals since 1979. Capital investment in the nationalized industries as a whole is going up. Of course, we look at those things like new power stations and in a year after drought we look at things like more investment in the water supply industry. So we are going ahead with major capital investment.

So what is the conclusion that we are coming to? It is the spirit of enterprise that creates new jobs and it is Government’s task to create the right framework, the right financial framework, in which that can flourish and to cut the obstacles which sometimes handicap the birth of enterprise, and also to manage our own resources carefully and well.

That is more or less what that Employment Policy White Paper in 1944 said, so let me just return to it, page 1. It is getting a bit old.

‘Employment cannot be created by Act of Parliament or by Government action alone. The success of the policy outlined in this Paper will ultimately depend on the understanding and support of the community as a whole and especially on the efforts of employers and workers in industry.’

It was true then, it is true now, and those are the policies that we are following and shall continue to follow, because those are the policies that we believe will ultimately create the genuine jobs for the future. In the meantime, it is our job to try to mitigate the painful effects of change and that we do, as you know, by generous redundancy payments and also by a Community Enterprise Scheme, which not only finds jobs for the long-term unemployed, but finds them in a way which brings great benefits to the communities. And then, of course, where there are redundancy schemes in steel and now in coal, the industries themselves set up enterprise agencies both to give help to those who are made redundant and to provide new training. All of this is a highly constructive policy both for the creation of jobs and a policy to cushion the effects of change.

May I turn now to the coal industry?

For a little over seven months we have been living through an agonising strike. Let me make it absolutely clear the miners’ strike was not of this Government’s seeking nor of its making.

We have heard in debates at this Conference some of the aspects that have made this dispute so repugnant to so many people. We were reminded by a colliery manager that the NUM always used to accept that a pit should close when the losses were too great to keep it open, and that the miners set great store by investment in new pits and new seams, and under this Government that new investment is happening in abundance. You can almost repeat the figures with me. Two million pounds in capital investment in the mines for every day this Government has been in power, so no shortage of capital investment.

We heard moving accounts from two working miners about just what they have to face as they try to make their way to work. The sheer bravery of those men and thousands like them who kept the mining industry alive is beyond praise. ‘Scabs’ their former workmates call them. Scabs? They are lions! What a tragedy it is when striking miners attack their workmates. Not only are they members of the same union, but the working miner is saving both their futures, because it is the working miners, whether in Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Lancashire, Leicestershire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, North Wales or Scotland, it is the working miners who have kept faith with those who buy our coal and without that custom thousands of jobs in the mining industry would be already lost.

And then we heard unforgettably from the incomparable Mrs. Irene McGibbon who told us what it is like to be the wife of a working miner during this strike. She told us of the threats and intimidation suffered by herself and her family and even her 11-year-old son, but what she endured only stiffened her resolve. To face the picket line day after day must take a very special kind of courage, but it takes as much, perhaps even more, to the housewife who has to stay at home alone. Men and women like that are what we are proud to call ‘the best of British’ and our police who upheld the law with an independence and a restraint perhaps only to be found in this country are the admiration of the world.

To be sure, the miners had a good deal and to try to prevent a strike the National Coal Board gave to the miners the best ever pay offer, the highest ever investment and for the first time the promise that no miner would lose his job against his will. We did this despite the fact that the bill for losses in the coal industry last year was bigger than the annual bill for all the doctors and dentists in all the National Health Service hospitals in the United Kingdom.

Let me repeat it: the losses in the coal industry are enormous. 1.3 billion pounds last year. You have to find that money as tax-payers. It is equal to the sum we pay in salaries to all the doctors and dentists in the National Health Service.

Mr. President, this is a dispute about the right to go to work of those who have been denied the right to go to vote, and we must never forget that the overwhelming majority of trade unionists, including many striking miners, deeply regret what has been done in the name of trade unionism. When this strike is over, and one day it will be over, we must do everything we can to encourage moderate and responsible trade unionism so that it can once again take its respected and valuable place in our industrial life.

Meanwhile, we are faced with the present Executive of the National Union of Mineworkers. They know that what they are demanding has never been granted either to miners or to workers in any other industry. Why then demand it? Why ask for what they know cannot be conceded? There can only be one explanation. They did not want a settlement; they wanted a strike. Otherwise, they would have ballotted on the Coal Board’s offer. Indeed, one-third of the miners did have a ballot and voted overwhelmingly to accept the offer.

Mr. President, what we have seen in this country is the emergence of an organized revolutionary minority who are prepared to exploit industrial disputes, but whose real aim is the breakdown of law and order and the destruction of democratic parliamentary government. We have seen the same sort of thugs and bullies at Grunwick, more recently against Eddie Shah in Stockport, and now organized into flying squads around the country. If their tactics were to be allowed to succeed, if they are not brought under the control of the law, we shall see them again at every industrial dispute organized by militant union leaders anywhere in the country.

One of the speakers earlier in this Conference realized this fact, realized that what they are saying is: ‘Give us what we want or we are prepared to go on with violence,’ and he referred to Danegeld. May I add to what that speaker said.

“We never pay anyone Danegeld, no matter how trifling the cost, for the end of that gain is oppression and shame, and the nation that plays it is lost.” Yes, Rudyard Kipling. Who could put it better?

Democratic change there has always been in this, the home of democracy. But the sanction for change is the ballot box.

It seems that there are some who are out to destroy any properly elected government. They are out to bring down the framework of law. That is what we have seen in this strike, and what is the law they seek to defy?

It is the Common Law created by fearless judges and passed down across the centuries. It is legislation scrutinized and enacted by the parliament of a free people. It is legislation passed through a House of Commons, a Commons elected once every five years by secret ballot by one citizen, one vote. This is the way our law was fashioned and that is why British justice is renowned across the world.

“No government owns the law. It is the law of the land, heritage of the people. No man is above the law and no man is below it. Nor do we ask any man’s permission when we require him to obey it. Obedience to the law is demanded as a right, not asked as a favour.” So said Theodore Roosevelt.

Mr. President, the battle to uphold the rule of law calls for the resolve and commitment of the British people. Our institutions of justice, the courts and the police require the unswerving support of every law-abiding citizen and I believe they will receive it.

The nation faces what is probably the most testing crisis of our time, the battle between the extremists and the rest. We are fighting, as we have always fought, for the weak as well as for the strong. We are fighting for great and good causes. We are fighting to defend them against the power and might of those who rise up to challenge them. This Government will not weaken. This nation will meet that challenge. Democracy will prevail.

Margaret Thatcher – 1982 Speech to Conservative Party Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by Margaret Thatcher, the then Prime Minister, at the 1982 Conservative Party conference in Brighton on 8th October 1982.

Mr. President, thank you for that splendid welcome. You’re right. This has been a year of the unexpected, and in turning our thoughts to an issue which transcends party politics you do well to remind us of what happened in the spring of the year.

This is not going to be a speech about the Falklands campaign, though I would be proud to make one. But I want to say just this, because it is true for all our people. The spirit of the South Atlantic was the spirit of Britain at her best. It has been said that we surprised the world, that British patriotism was rediscovered in those spring days.

Mr. President, It was never really lost. But it would be no bad thing if the feeling that swept the country then were to continue to inspire us. For if there was any doubt about the determination of the British people it was removed by the men and women who, a few months ago, brought a renewed sense of pride and self-respect to our country.

They were for the most part young. Let all of us here, and in the wider audience outside, pause and reflect on what we who stayed at home owe to those who sailed and fought, and lived and died—and won. If this is tomorrow’s generation, then Britain has little to fear in the years to come.

In what by any standards was a remarkable chapter in our island history, it is they who this year wrote its brightest page.

In remembering their heroism, let us not forget the courage shown by those same Armed Forces nearer home. We see them and the other forces of law and order display these qualities day after day in Northern Ireland. Yes, and even closer at hand. I have seen no more moving sight in the last year than the Blues and Royals bearing their tattered standard proudly past the spot in Hyde Park where their comrades had been murdered in a cruel and cowardly bomb attack only two days before.

Terrorism is a deadly threat to our way of life, and we will not be cowed by it. We will continue to resist it with all our power and to uphold the principles of democratic government.

Mr. President, I cannot remember a better Conference. Our debates have been lively, good-humoured—indeed, at one moment I was very proud to think that I had served in John Nott’s Cabinet, and quite relieved to know that the Secretary of State for Employment will in future have confidence in the Treasury forecasts about the cost of living. He should. He actually compiles the index. He should be telling us.

They have been lively, good-humoured and humming with ideas, and they have tackled the real issues of the day.

There have been two other Party Conferences before this, and perhaps I will have a word to say about them later.

First, I want to come to something that dwarfs party politics—indeed, to an issue that dwarfs every other issue of our time.

We have invented weapons powerful enough to destroy the whole world. Others have created political systems evil enough to seek to enslave the whole world. Every free nation must face that threat. Every free nation must strain both to defend its freedom and to ensure the peace of the world.

The first duty of a British Government is the defence of the Realm, and we shall discharge that duty.

Ever since the War the principal threat to our country’s safety has come from the Soviet bloc. Twenty-six years ago the Russians marched into Hungary. Twenty-one years ago they built the Berlin Wall. Fourteen years ago they reconquered Czechoslovakia. Three years ago they entered Afghanistan. Two years ago they began to suppress the first stirrings of freedom in Poland.

Oh, they knew the strength of the human spirit. They knew that if freedom were allowed to take root in Poland it would spread across Eastern Europe and perhaps to the Soviet Union itself. They knew that the beginning of freedom spelt the beginning of the end for Communism.

Yet despite these regular reminders of the ruthless actions of the Kremlin there are still those who seem to believe that disarmament by ourselves alone would so impress the Russians that they would obligingly follow suit.

But peace, freedom and justice are only to be found where people are prepared to defend them. This Government will give the highest priority to our national defence, both conventional and nuclear.

I want to see nuclear disarmament. I want to see conventional disarmament as well. I remember the atomic bombs that devastated Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I remember, too, the bombs that devastated Coventry and Dresden. The horrors of war are indivisible. We all want peace, but not peace at any price. Peace with justic and freedom.

We seek agreement with the Soviet Union on arms control. We want to reduce the levels of both conventional and nuclear forces. But those reductions must be mutual, they must be balanced and they must be verifiable.

Oh, I understand the feelings of the unilateralists. I understand the anxieties of parents with children growing up in the nuclear age. But the question, the fundamental question for all of us is whether unilateral nuclear disarmament would make war less likely.

I have to tell you it would not. It would make war more likely, aggressors attack because they think they are going to win, and they are more likely to attack the weak than they are to attack the strong.

The springs of war lie not in arms races, real or imaginary, but in the readiness to use force or threaten force against other nations. Remember what Bismarck said

“Do I want war? Of course not. I want victory.” The causes of wars in the past haven’t, changed, as we know to our cost. But because Russia and the West know that there can be no victory in nuclear war, for thirty-seven years we have kept the peace in Europe, and that is no mean achievement.

That is why we need nuclear weapons, because having them makes peace more secure. Yet at Blackpool last week, the Labour Party, by a huge majority, adopted a new official defence policy. It went like this: Polaris to be scrapped; Trident to be cancelled; Cruise missiles in service to be removed. It is now clear beyond doubt that given the change the Labour Party wants, they would dismantle Britain’s defences wholesale.

And yet do you remember how Aneurin Bevan pleaded with an earlier Labour Party Conference not to send a Labour Foreign Secretary naked into the Conference chamber? Well, it is a good thing that there isn’t going to be a Labour Foreign Secretary.

Yet the Labour Party wants to keep Britain in NATO, continuing to shelter behind American nuclear weapons—so long as they are not on our soil. What utter hypocrisy. To expect an insurance policy but to refuse to pay the premium.

There must be millions of Labour supporters who are thoroughly disheartened by what they saw at Blackpool last week. I say to them “Forget about the Militant Tendency—come over and join the Tory tendency”.

Mr. President, a strong and united Western alliance is a guarantee of our peace and security. It is also a beacon of hope to the oppressed people of the Soviet bloc. Mr. President, Britain is a reliable ally, and with a Conservative Government will always remain so—reliable in NATO, reliable beyond NATO, an ally and a friend to be trusted. And trusted not least by our partners in the European Community.

Of course, ancient nations do not always find it easy to live together. Yet our commitment to the Common Market is clear. We are all democratic countries where freedom and the rule of law are basic to our institutions.

At present, as you know, Britain pays quite large sums to Community partners often richer than we ourselves. That is fundamentally unjust. It is also shortsighted.

As you know, we have just come to the end of our first three-year arrangement. We shall really have to fight — courteously, of course — to make sure that we have a fair deal for the future. But those who would pull us out of Europe must come to terms with the damage that that would do to our people. Even the threat of withdrawal destroys jobs. Firms that invest in the Common Market often decide to come to Britain. Labour’s threat to withdraw makes companies hesitate and look elsewhere. That Labour threat is losing us jobs now.

Mr. President, the great economies of Germany and France, once the engine of growth of the European Community, are struggling with declining output and a growing army of unemployed. Across the Atlantic, the United States, Canada and the countries of Latin America, they have been faced with the most prolonged slump for fifty years. Even the miracle economies of the Pacific Basin—Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore—even they are now being hit.

But the economies of the Eastern bloc are in a far worse state, far worse state than the West. Poland and Romania are hard pressed to pay their debts, and the Soviet bloc countries generally are riven with shortages of everything, from seed corn to sewing thread.

Of course, none of us foresaw a world recession of such gravity. Last week in Blackpool the Opposition suggested that I, single-handed, had brought it about. What powers they attribute to me! If I had that sort of power I would banish recession forever. But we’ve no time for dreams and delusions. The main culprit, and there are others, is the greatest sustained inflation in modern times. Almost every developed country has suffered from it.

For more than a decade economic growth has been thwarted. For more than a decade savers in America and Europe have been systematically robbed by the steady erosion of their savings and for more than a decade the ranks of the unemployed have swollen in the wake of inflation. In 1979 many of us in Europe began the long hard job of wringing a inflation out of the system. As you know Governments had promised to do this over and over again. But when the going got tough they resorted to the printing press. No wonder people became cynical.

Journalists, many but not all of them on the Left, were almost daily predicting U turns. Some indeed, confidently went around the bend. Now most commentators, with attitudes varying from awe to rage, recognise that we are sticking to our policy. Oh yes, we have been to the IMF. But unlike the last Government we went not as a nation seeking help but as a country giving help to others—a much more fitting role for Britain. From Socialist supplicant to Conservative contributor.

With inflation falling, interest rates coming down, and honest finance, confidence is returning. In spite of hostilities in the South Atlantic, the exchange rate held steady. What a tribute to the determined and unruffled Chancellorship of Geoffrey Howe. No longer will the saver find his money devalued. No longer shall we have two nations, those who profit from inflation and those who lose by it. No longer will paper booms explode in confetti money.

Mr. President, there is no road to inflation-free prosperity except through our own efforts. Two hundred years ago, Edmund Burke blamed the French revolutionaries for trying everywhere to “evade and slip aside from difficulty.” He said they had a “fondness for trickery and short-cuts.”

Mr. President, there are just as many evaders and short-cutters around today, in the Labour Party, the SDP and among the Liberals, taken jointly or severally, according to taste. Inflate a little here, expand a bit there; it’s all so easy. Mr. President, in real life such short cuts often turn out to be dead ends.

In the 60s and 70s the fashion was to say that the long term does not matter very much because, as Maynard Keynes put it, “In the long run we are all dead.” Anyone who thought like that would never plant a tree.

We are in the business of planting trees, for our children and grandchildren, or we have no business to be in politics at all. We are not a one generation party. We do not intend to let Britain become a one generation society. Let us not forget the lesson of history. The long term always starts today.

For, Mr. President, falling inflation on its own will not ensure growth and jobs. We need other things, too. Whether we like it or not, things are changing. They are changing in technology, as we have seen at this conference, with this thing that comes up. We keep abreast of the times. They are changing on the map. Far-away countries scarcely heard of ten years ago now overtake us in our traditional industries. Suddenly we are faced with the need to do everything at once—to wake up, catch up and then overtake, even though the future is as hard to predict as ever.

So we have to look as far into that future as we can, make sure that all the best talents are free to work at full stretch to help to lead this country into that future. Now Socialists believe that the State can do this better than individuals. Nothing could be more misguided. They are wrong. We can’t opt out of the technology race and try to stand comfortably aside. If we were to do so we should lose not just particular products but whole industries. And we dare not leave our neighbours to inherit the world of the microchip. As one production engineer put it, “The real threat in new technology is the threat of your worst enemies using it.”

Mr. President, inflation has not been beaten, even when prices stop rising. It is beaten only when costs stop rising. That makes wage costs vital. Pay must relate to output, as every self-employed person will tell you. In the last five years of the 1970s the amount we in Britain paid ourselves for what we produced went up by nearly 100 per cent. One hundred per cent. In Germany their increase was only 15 per cent. In Japan it was zero nought. Of course Japanese workers got more pay, but only from more output.

So, they got the orders and we lost the jobs. The CBI put it starkly: “Because we have lost over 100 per cent. of the home market to imports” I’m sorry, that’s not what they said. “Because we have lost ten per cent of the home market to imports, and 2.5 per cent. of world export markets to our competitors in the last 12 years we have lost 1.5 million jobs.”

One and a half million jobs—through losing a fair chunk of our home market to importers and a fair chunk of the export markets to our competitors. Now there is a challenge to management and unions. Get those markets back and we shall get our jobs back.

And the public sector, well, as you know the Chancellor of the Exchequer has just announced 3.5 per cent. more available for next year’s public pay bill. And before you say “that’s not much”, just remember, for the German civil service it is not going to be 3.5 per cent. but 2 per cent. In Japan, the Japanese civil servants are getting no rise at all. So maybe that will put the 3.5 per cent. in perspective.

But it is important to keep wage costs down, to accept new technology. If it is important to do all that, then good management and good industrial relations are vital to our future. We heard a lot at Blackpool about how Labour would work with the unions. Of course, they don’t really mean that. What they mean is a cosy get-togethers at No. 10. That is the old pals’ act. It has nothing to do with life on the shop floor and that is where the real problems are sorted out.

When I travel overseas, time and again they say to me, “Strikes. You have so many strikes. If it were not for that we would give you more contracts. We would invest more in Britain.” In vain do I say that private industry has very few strikes. But the fact is that the much publicised disruptions in the public sector do Britain down every time. I only wish that some of those trade union members on strike in the public sector would realise how many jobs their actions lose—oh, not necessarily their own jobs, but the jobs of people in manufacturing industries, whose taxes pay their wages. We can’t say it too often—“Strikes lose jobs.”

Mr. President, it’s going to take a long time to get employment up sufficiently, to get unemployment down as far as we all want. The task is even harder because we are going through a phase in Britain when the number of people of working age is rising.

There are many more more young people leaving school and wanting jobs than there are older people reaching retirement. Over a period of eight years there will be 1.25 million extra people of working age. So even without the recession we should have needed a lot more new jobs just to stop the number of unemployed rising. That shows you the magnitude of the task. Today’s unemployed are the victims of yesterday’s mistakes.

Government destroyed jobs by fuelling inflation; trades unions destroyed jobs by restrictive practices; militants destroyed jobs by driving customers away. But that is the past and whatever the problems, we have got to tackle them, not with words, not with rhetoric, but with action. Rhetoric is easy but it does not produce jobs. Indeed, if rhetoric could cure unemployment we would have jobs galore by this time.

Now for the future, you heard from Norman Tebbit that every 16-year-old who leaves school next year will either have a job or a year of full time training. Unemployment will not then be an option, and that is right. But, of course, the Government can’t do everything.

If we are to beat unemployment—and we must—we have to do it together. The Government’s getting inflation down, interest rates down, reforming trade union law, cutting regulations and removing restrictions. The rest is up to industry, the work force and management in partnership. Because in the end it is private employers who will produce the great majority of jobs.

Mr. President time and again history beats out the same message. Competition is better for the consumer than State control. We are acting on that conviction. Three and a half years ago defenders of the status quo tried to brand denationalisation as irrelevant. Now the critics are finding it harder to ignore the evidence of their own eyes. They cannot help seeing the new, long-distance coaches speeding down the motor-ways, at very much lower fares. They cannot miss the success of Cable and Wireless or British Aerospace. Britoil will be the next to be denationalised and British Telecommunications after that. How absurd it will seem in a few years’ time that the State ran Pickford’s removals and Gleneagles Hotel.

Mr. President we are only in our first term. But already we have done more to roll back the frontiers of socialism than any previous Conservative Government.

And in the next Parliament we intend to do a lot more. And we are seeing increasing evidence of the savings that can be made. Local authority after local authority has found that even the prospect of contracting out their refuse collection produced amazing economies from their staff. As Dr. Johnson nearly said: “Depend on it, when you know you are going to be privatised in a fortnight it concentrates the mind wonderfully.”

And I hope that every Conservative councillor in the land will act on what Councillor Chope of Wandsworth told us. Wandsworth has gone out to private contractors and down have come the rates. And don’t we all want that. Where Wandsworth has led, let other Conservative councils follow.

Mr. President I would like to say a word about the Health Service. Because value for money is just as important in the Health Service. Our opponents’ picture of us as a party that doesn’t care about the Health Service is utterly untrue, and is particularly ridiculous from the Labour Party. When they were in office they had nearly 2,000 fewer hospital doctors and 40,000 fewer nurses than we have, and every one of them was then much worse paid than today. But that same Labour Party now supports those who are disrupting the National Health Service and lengthening the very waiting lists that we have brought down. What sort of twisted compassion is that?

“I believe that we should condemn industrial action with its damage to the Health Service, whether it comes from doctors, nurses or anyone else who works in the service.” Those aren’t my words; that were the Labour Minister of Health’s, David Ennals , when he was in charge. He supported him because it was true then, and it is true now. We have a magnificent record in the National Health Service. We heard that splendid speech from Norman Fowler in one of the best debates in this conference. This year we are spending 5 per cent. more in real terms on the Health Service than Labour, so under Conservatives we have more doctors, more nurses, more money. Hardly the behaviour of a Government bent on destroying the Health Service.

Naturally, we have a duty to make sure that every penny is properly spent, and that is why we are setting up a team to examine the use of manpower in the National Health Service. Naturally we have a duty to do that. It is part of our duty towards the taxpayer. Of course we welcome the growth of private health insurance. There is no contradiction between that and supporting the National Health Service. It brings in more money, it helps to reduce the waiting lists, and it stimulates new treatments and techniques. But let me make one thing absolutely clear. The National Health Service is safe with us. As I said in the House of Commons on December 1 last: “The principle that adequate health care should be provided for all, regardless of ability to pay, must be the foundation of any arrangements for financing the Health Service.” We stand by that.

But Mr. President, it is not only in the National Health Service that our record has been very good. Next month the old-age pension will go up by 11 per cent., and that despite the worst recession since the 1930s. That is some achievement too. Whatever our difficulties, nine million pensioners have been fully protected from inflation. We gave our promise and we’ve kept it.

But we do not measure our success merely by how much money the Government spends. The well-being of our people is about far more than the welfare state. It is about self reliance, family help, voluntary help as well as State provision. In a society which is truly healthy responsibility is shared and help is mutual. Wherever we can we shall extend the opportunity for personal ownership and the self-respect that goes with it. Three hundred and seventy thousand families have now bought their own homes from councils, new towns and housing associations. That’s the result of this Government’s housing policy carried through in the teeth of opposition from the Labour Party. We have fought them all the way, and we won. Half a million more people will now live and grow up as freeholders with a real stake in the country and with something to pass on to their children. There is no prouder word in our history than “freeholder”.

Mr. President, this is the largest transfer of assets from the State to the family in British history and it was done by a Conservative Government. And this really will be an irreversible shift of power to the people. The Labour Party may huff and puff about putting a stop to the sale of council houses. They may go on making life unpleasant for those who try to take advantage of their legal rights, and what a wicked thing it is to do that. But they do not dare pledge themselves to take those houses back because they know we are right, because they know it is what the people want. And besides, they would be making too many of their own councillors homeless, not to mention one or two of their MPs.

And we want to bring more choice to parents, too. Parents, we as parents have the prime responsibility to set the standards and to instil the values by which our children are brought up. And more of us has the right to blame the teachers for failing to make up for our shortcomings. But we have every right to be involved in what goes on in our children’s schools. As parents we want to be sure not just about the teaching of the three Rs, but also about the discipline and about the values by which our children are taught to live. We have given parents more say in the choice of school. We have put parents on governing bodies. For the first time in modern Britain a Government is really paying attention not just to school organisation, but to the curriculum; not just to the buildings, but to what is taught inside them.

And we are not afraid to talk about discipline and moral values. To us “Law and Order” is not an election slogan. It is the foundation of the British tradition. And I believe that, looking back on this first Parliament of ours, it will be said that we have done more to support the police than any British Government since the war. There are more of them, we pay them better, we train them better and we equip them better, and for that you know who we have to thank. I am eternally grateful for the good sense, good humour and loyalty of Willie Whitelaw. Perhaps only I know how staunch he was throughout the whole of the Falklands Campaign, and the difficult decisions we had to take. Thank you very much.

Mr. President, it cannot be the police alone who are on duty. As parents, as teachers, as politicians and as citizens, what we say and do, whether in the home, the classroom or the House of Commons is bound to leave its mark on the next generation. The television producer who glamourises violence may find his viewing figures ultimately reflected in the crime statistics. And a public figure who comments to the camera on issues of the day should be especially careful what he says.

The other day, the last Labour Prime Minister—and I do mean “the last Labour Prime Minister” — spoke of what he called “a contingent right” in certain circumstances to break the law. Mr. President, none of us has a right, contingent or otherwise, to uphold the law that suits us and to break the one that does not. That way lies anarchy. The last Labour Prime Minister.

Mr. President, there are many people in Britain who share the hopes and the ideals of the Conservative Party. They share our great purpose to restore to this country its influence and self-respect. But they are anxious about the future and uncertain about the changes that we have had to make. They have not recognised how far the debating ground of British politics has moved to the Left over the last thirty years. Where the Left stood yesterday the Centre stands today. Yet the British people haven’t moved with it. Instinctively they know that we have to pull this country back to the real centre again. But the anxious say to us “You really cannot do everything at once. The recession and the international economic situation make things particularly difficult. Why not adapt your approach a little, give in for the time being, till things are getting better and then you can start again after the election, next election when you have longer time to do it.”

Mr. President, to do that would be a betrayal. People in Britain have grown to understand that this Government will make no false promises, nor will it fail in its resolve. How can the Government urge the people to save and build for tomorrow if the people know that that same Government is willing to bend and trim for the sake of votes today? That’s not trusting the people, and it is not the way to be trusted by them. Nothing could be more damaging to our prospects as a nation if this Government to throw away the reputation it has earned for constancy and resolve. It would throw away three years of hard-won achievement.

On what moral basis would we be entitled to ask for the nation’s support next time? Mr. President, the only way we can achieve great things for Britain is by asking great things of Britain. We will not disguise our purpose, nor betray our principles. We will do what must be done. We will tell the people the truth and the people will be our judge.

Margaret Thatcher – 1960 Maiden Speech


Below is the text of the maiden speech in the House of Commons of Margaret Thatcher, made on 5th February 1960.

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

This is a maiden speech, but I know that the constituency of Finchley which I have the honour to represent would not wish me to do other than come straight to the point and address myself to the matter before the House.

I cannot do better than begin by stating the objects of the Bill in the words used by Mr. Arthur Henderson when he introduced the Bill which became the Local Authorities (Admission of the Press to Meetings) Act, 1908, which was also a Private Member’s Measure. He specified the object and purpose as that of guarding the rights of members of the public by enabling the fullest information to be obtained for them in regard to the actions of their representatives upon local authorities.

It is appropriate at this stage to mention that the public does not have a right of admission, either at common law or by statute, to the meetings of local authorities. Members of the public are compelled, therefore, to rely upon the local Press for information on what their elected representatives are doing. The original Measure was brought as a result of a case in which the representatives of a particular paper were excluded from a particular meeting.

The public has the right, in the first instance, to know what its elected representatives are doing. That right extends in a number of directions. I do not know whether hon. Members generally appreciate the total amount of money spent by local authorities. In England and Wales, local authorities spend £1,400 million a year and, in Scotland, just over £200 million a year. Those sums are not insignificant, even in terms of national budgets. Less than half is raised by ratepayers’ money and the rest by taxpayers’ money, and the first purpose in admitting the Press is that we may know how those moneys are being spent. In the second place, I quote from the Report of the Franks Committee: Publicity is the greatest and most effective check against any arbitrary action. That is one of the fundamental rights of the subject. Further, publicity stimulates the interest of local persons in local government. That is also very important. But if there is a case for publicity, there is also a case for a certain amount of private conference when personal matters are being discussed and when questions are in a preliminary stage. It is in trying to find a point of balance between these two aspects—the public right of knowledge and the necessity on occasion for private conference—that the difficulty arises.

An attempt was made by the 1908 Act to meet this difficulty, and I now turn to the history of the Measure which I am about to present. Provision was made by the 1908 Act for Press representatives to attend meetings of local councils and meetings of education committees in so far as they had delegated powers, and, also a number of other bodies which have now ceased to exist because successive Parliaments have substituted new bodies to carry out the powers which the 1908 Act formerly permitted the Press to publicise.

Long before the events of the past summer, there was a very good case for amending the 1908 Act. The first good case arose when the Local Government Act, 1929, abolished boards of guardians, to whose meetings the Act admitted the Press. Boards of Guardians were responsible for the administration of hospitals and many other matters. The first attempt to bring the law of 1908 up-to-date came in 1930, when the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) introduced a Private Member’s Measure, which I am happy and relieved to learn received a Second Reading. It did not get any further because of a rather precipitate change of Government, which I do not think even the most optimistic hon. Member opposite would believe was imminent at the moment. The case for the Bill then was that boards of guardians no longer existed and the Act needed amending, firstly, by reference to its past performance, and secondly, by reference to the new legislation of 1929.

Then came another major local government Measure, the Local Government Act, 1933. That Act has very considerable significance, because in Section 85 local authorities were empowered to appoint any committees they chose. As a result, many authorities began to go into committee of the full council, not merely for the purpose which is in the spirit of the 1908 Act—that is to say, in order to discuss something which was truly of a confidential nature—but in order merely to exclude the Press, without addressing their minds to whether such exclusion was justified by reference to the matter to be discussed. That began to provide the first major legal loophole in the Act. Where previously local authorities had to deliberate in open council, with the exception of circumstances arising from the business which justified the exclusion of the Press, after that Act they were enabled to resolve themselves into committee merely as a matter of administrative convenience.

Two more Private Members’ Measures attempted to bring the 1908 Act up-todate—one introduced in 1949 by the hon. Member for Westbury (Sir R. Grimston), and the other introduced in 1950 by the hon. Member for Solihull (Mr. M. Lindsay). In the meantime, the need was becoming even greater, because in 1944 came the Education Act, which removed from the sharp light of publicity education committees which had been within purview of the 1908 Act. So we find that the purpose of this Act which governs the position now is no longer effective, because its provisions have become greatly out-dated. This is one of the major grounds for attempting now to bring the 1908 Act up-to-date and make its purpose effective by means of a new Act.

I now turn to the Bill before the House and will try to deduce its general principle from the Clauses there set down. There are six points I should like to make. The first point is, on what occasions in local authority work will this Bill entitle the Press to be present? I use the word “entitled” because there are many authorities which already practise the admission of the Press to a far greater extent than the Bill would necessitate their doing if it became law. This is meant to establish a minimum legislative code of practice for the local authorities. Therefore, the first question is to which meetings of local authorities would the Press be entitled to be admitted by virtue of the Bill. I would refer hon. Members to Clause 2 (2), which contains the major point with reference to committees, and I will try to put the point in fairly simple language —rather simpler than the complicated drafting we find here.

May I point out that committees of local authorities whose only power is to recommend a course of action to the council—a course of action which must be taken by the council and which cannot be taken by the committee without reference back—are not included at all in the Bill? Therefore, any committee of a local authority whose only task is to recommend a course of action to the council is not within the purview of the Bill.

I am well aware that a number of committees of local authorities have two different kinds of power—power to recommend and power to discharge the function of the local authority itself because that local authority has specifically delegated that task to the committee. Where the committee has both of these functions, it comes within the realm of the Bill if, and only if, a substantial Dart of its functions consists in discharging delegated powers. Where a committee only has the odd delegated power referred to it, it will not come within the Bill. Where local authorities have made a practice, as some have, of delegating their own functions to committees, these committees have substantial delegated powers, and therefore come within this Clause.

The Press will be admitted to the main council meetings of local authorities and to those meetings which effectively discharge the functions of the council; that is the committees with substantial delegated powers, but others are not included. I know that some authorities include them, and I would like to see more authorities include them, because I think it would be in the interests of local government, but they are not entitled to be included under this Bill.

Having got the Press in to these meetings, or having entitled them to be in, there must inevitably be occasions, such as personal circumstances coming under discussion, matters preliminary to legal proceedings, matters with regard to the acquisition of land, or such matters which would inevitably come up, when the Press were entitled to be present, unless some effective provision was made to exclude the Press on these occasions.

My second point, therefore, is: having got the Press in, upon what grounds is a local authority entitled to exclude it? There must inevitably be some occasions. We have had great difficulty in drafting the Clause to fit all cases. I had hoped to draw up a schedule of circumstances in which local authorities would be entitled to exclude the Press. That was not possible, and we have had to go back to a kind of omnibus Clause. I refer hon. Members to Clause 1 (2), which is the operative Clause for this purpose. I suggest most earnestly that when the Press is excluded it must be because of some particular reason arising from the proceedings of the local authority at the time, and there must be very good reason for the exclusion. The real reason for excluding the Press is that publicity of the matter to be discussed would be prejudicial to the public interest.

There are two prongs to this Clause. Publicity would be prejudicial for two main groups of reasons. The first group is where the matters under discussion are of a confidential nature. They may relate to personal circumstances of individual electors. They may relate to a confidential communication from a Government Department asking local authorities for their opinion on a subject which the Minister would not like to be discussed in open session until he is a good deal further on and has received the views of local authorities.

There is another group of subjects which perhaps could not be strictly termed confidential but where it would be clearly prejudicial to the public interest to discuss them in open session. They may relate to staff matters, to legal proceedings, to contracts, the discussion of which tender to accept and other such matters. On this prong the Press has to be excluded for a special reason which would need to be stated in the resolution for exclusion. Where the matter is confidential it would not need to be specified further in the resolution for exclusion. Where it was for a special reason, that reason would need to be specified in broad general terms in the resolution for exclusion. This subsection is effective and wide enough in its drafting to cover all occasions upon which a local authority could possibly have good grounds for going into private session. Those are the two main operative Clauses of the Bill.

My third point relates to documents. I understand that there is a very wide variation in practice between the number of documents which different local authorities give to the Press. I do not know how many hon. Members have tried to obtain information about a local authority of which they are not a member but happen to be a ratepayer. One sometimes goes to a council meeting without any idea of what is to be discussed. One sits there for about 15 minutes and all one hears is numbers being counted up to about twenty and starting all over again. Unless the Press, which is to report to the public, has some idea from the documents before it what is to be discussed, the business of allowing the Press in becomes wholly abortive. Therefore, Clause 1 (3, b) makes provision for a limited number of documents to be supplied to the Press at its request in advance of the meeting. It specifies that the agenda must be supplied to the Press if it so requests and is prepared to pay for it.

Agendas vary very much. Some are couched in terms which do not betray for one moment the subject which is to be discussed. One sees such items as “To discuss the proposal of Mr. Smith” and, “To receive the recommendation of Mr. Jones”. As distinct from the supporting accompanying documents, the agenda itself is usually a comparatively brief document. I have, therefore, thought fit to put into the subsection a provision that the agenda shall be supplied to the Press together with such further statement or particulars as are necessary to convey to an outside person the nature of the subject to be discussed. Therefore, the Press must have some idea from the documents what is the true subject to be discussed at meetings to which its representatives are entitled to be admitted.

If the whole agenda was supplied, it might include some things which would be likely to be taken when the Press was excluded. I understand that the practice in many councils is to have Part I and Part II, to take subjects in public session first, and then have a resolution and go into camera for the next group of subjects which come up in private. The corporation, acting through its proper officer, to whom it would have to give instructions, is entitled to exclude from the agenda matters which are likely to be taken in camera so that no confidential matters will leak out by that process. Another provision in the Clause is that the corporation may, if it thinks fit—not must—include supporting committee reports or documents, but it would have to exercise its mind to include them. The Press would not be able to demand such documents as of right.

Fourthly, I have been approached and asked about the question of qualified privilege for local councillors and people who serve on local authorities. I have been approached by people who suggest that the privilege should be made absolute. I could not possibly accede to that, as I think that absolute privilege should be given very rarely indeed. However, there is a consequential provision in the Bill which means that where qualified privilege at present exists for statements made by people serving on local authorities that qualified privilege shall not cease to exist merely because the Press is present. That retains the present position and removes one of the reasons why people can object to the Press being present, because unless there were a consequential provision it might serve to remove the qualified privilege.

Fifthly, I understand from various sources that my proposals are under some criticism because they contain no sanctions or penalties upon local authorities. I should therefore like to state briefly what I am advised the position is when any statute is breached. There are general sanctions available at law for this purpose. Where a public right is infringed, as it would be in the event of the Bill becoming law and local authorities wrongfully excluding the Press, any person can apply to either the Attorney-General or the Solicitor-General for what is known as a relator action. He must state on the application the grounds and enclose counsel’s opinion that there is a good cause of action, that is to say, that it is probable that the council wrongfully excluded under particular circumstances. The person must supply also—I have no doubt that this is very important—a solicitor’s certificate to the effect that the person to take action and to go to the courts is a person who is likely to be able to meet the costs, because the Attorney-General will not foot the bill. He only lends his name to the action.

When that is done, the courts can adjudicate on whether that exclusion was legal or illegal. In the event of the litigant getting a declaration that the exclusion was illegal, he would get costs, and the district auditor already has power to surcharge those costs upon the members of the local authority whose misconduct was responsible for the illegal action occurring. I submit that those sanctions that are available by the ordinary law are sufficient to enable this Measure to be enforced.

My sixth point relates to the Schedule. I shall not go through the Schedule in any great detail, except to point out that a considerable number of the bodies referred to in it are the successors in title to those mentioned in the 1908 Act—the divisional executives established under the Education Act, the regional hospital boards and so on. Hon. Members will note that some committees of authorities are specifically excluded—those whose functions consist solely of determining matters of a confidential nature.

For example, committees of regional hospitals boards are specifically excluded. Committees of executive councils are specifically excluded, which means that any disciplinary matter relating to doctors, nurses, and so on, would not come before the public eye because the committee discharging the function does not come within this Measure.

I hope it is evident from what I have said that we are trying very hard to put into the form of legislation a code of practice that will safeguard the rights of the public. There was, last summer, one instance of the letter of the 1908 Act being contravened, and in a number of instances certainly the spirit of that Act was contravened. It is not, therefore, only a matter of bringing the 1908 Act up to date; because of the abuse of the law, there is a case for safeguarding the rights of the citizen. I hope that hon. Members will think fit to give this Bill a Second Reading, and to consider that the paramount function of this distinguished House is to safeguard civil liberties rather than to think that administrative convenience should take first place in law.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, I should like to acknowledge the help given to me by my right hon. Friend and his Department which, I understand, has been as great as any Government Department could give to a private Member. I want also to acknowledge the help of those who have been good enough to subscribe their names to the Bill, and I should like to thank the House for its very kind indulgence to a new Member.