Defence

Military uses of laser technology in space; anti-satellite systems and arms control; ballistic missile defence; the US Strategic Defence Initiative; part 11

  • Catalogue ref: PREM 19/1188
  • Date: 1979 December 24 - 1984 December 22

This file primarily deals with the British government's response to President Reagan's March 1983 speech on US plans to develop missile defence in space. A joint MoD and FCO paper on anti-satellite systems and arms control stated that the West had a good deal to lose from 'a free for all in space'. It also noted that an effective system of Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) would not eliminate the threat from nuclear weapon-carrying aircraft or submarines. Both departments concluded that the 'overwhelming weight of scientific opinion even in the US believes that a totally leak proof system will never be achieved'.

Economic policy

Public expenditure; Public Expenditure Survey 1984; expenditure and taxation; longer term prospects; Autumn Statement 1984; part 30

  • Catalogue ref: PREM 19/1194
  • Date: 1984 November 6 - 1984 December 14

Ian Gow, the Housing Minister at the Department of Environment, expressed concern about cuts to the Housing programme. John Redwood wrote that 'we should be robust about increasing council house sales and reducing the level of new build' in a memo dated 6 November 1984. David Willets provided some 'ammunition' for the Prime Minister to use at Cabinet and railed against the failure to reduce public expenditure: 'is this rolling back the frontiers of the state?' John Redwood continued to urge further spending cuts.

An anonymous confidential note to the Prime Minister dated 7 December 1984 stated that: 'The Chief Secretary's minute reports that the Secretary of State for Defence has offered manpower cuts of 1,000 by 1988. He is playing games as he has boasted on a number of occasions that he can do much better. He is making a gesture of protest that other colleagues have not offered enough'.

The Budget, 1983 and 1984; part 11

  • Catalogue ref: PREM 19/1197
  • Date: 1983 March 17 - 1984 February 28

This file contains a record of a lobby briefing from John Biffen, the Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Commons, on 9 February 1984 in which he said: 'Cabinet this morning had been one of the most bland, miserably disappointing and boring meetings he had ever been at; there was no lively debate, just unctuous self-satisfaction'. Referring to Biffen's briefing, a note from Andrew Turnbull to Robin Butler stated that: 'The Chancellor is angry about it and may raise it himself'.

On 17 February 1984 John Redwood stated that 'the Chancellor's proposals will be seen as…favouring the rich at the expense of the rest'. Redwood was also concerned about the effect of leaks about the budget which made it difficult to gain favourable press. He wrote on 28 February 1984 that 'early reaction has centered on condemning the widening of the VAT base: a tax on newspapers and fish and chips is just too much for the media to stomach'.

The Budget, 1984; part 12

  • Catalogue ref: PREM 19/1198
  • Date: 1984 March 1 - 1984 March 14

In early March 1984 the press reacted to suggestions that the Chancellor was thinking of imposing VAT on newspapers. In a note to the Prime Minster, dated 2 March 1984, Bernard Ingham wrote 'it is not simply that this will set Fleet Street against you - and this will aggrieve Murdoch, Harmsworth and Matthews (who account for 10 on the whole well-disposed newspapers). But it will make critics of the local and regional press who are almost entirely on your side'.

He expanded on his argument and also commented: 'but that is still not a good reason for setting Fleet Street against you. Look what happened to Mr Macmillan'. On 7 March 1984 it was reported that the Chancellor and the Prime Minister had agreed to drop VAT on newspapers and instead increase the duty on cigarettes.

Industrial policy

Industrial relations legislation; Employment Bill; democracy in Trade Unions; strikes in essential services; part 10

  • Catalogue ref: PREM 19/1281
  • Date: 1983 March 4 - 1984 April 28

Norman Tebbit proposed reversing the 'clearly unsatisfactory situation whereby trade union members who do not wish to pay the political levy have to 'contract out'' by substituting a system of 'contracting in', and to ballot the full union membership every 10 years regarding political funds. Mrs Thatcher commented: 'I would leave out the political levy'. Norman Tebbit, referring to a private unpublished survey of public opinion, wrote back on 27 April 1983 that 'both the general public and trade unionists support a change to 'contracting in' by a margin of more than 2 to 1'.

The government invited the Trades Union Congress (TUC) to make the payment of the political levy more of a free choice with the possibility of government action should this initiative fail. The TUC published a statement of guidance on the matter. The file also contains discussions concerning how strikes in essential services could be prevented.

Ireland

Situation in Northern Ireland; part 17B

  • Catalogue ref: PREM 19/1288
  • Date: 1984 October 6 - 1984 October 31
File dealing with the on-going talks between the British and Irish governments and the effect on negotiations of the Brighton hotel bombing on 12 October, 1984. In a handwritten note, Mrs Thatcher commented: 'the events of Thursday night at Brighton mean that we must go very slow on these talks if not stop them. It could look as if we were bombed into making concessions to the Republic'. Following a meeting between British officials and the Irish Taoiseach, Dr Garret Fitzgerald, Charles Powell wrote a note to the Prime Minister warning that Dr Fitzgerald was being 'wildly over-optimistic' about the results of the talks. He wrote: 'I am beginning to think that we may need a message from you to bring home to him that we are in a different world following the Brighton bomb and must proceed slowly'. In a further handwritten note, Mrs Thatcher emphasized the effect the bomb had had on negotiations: '"The bomb" has slowed things down and may in the end kill any new initiative because I suspect it will be the first in a series'.

The file also contains discussion of a venue for a proposed Anglo-Irish summit, with Cabinet Secretary Robert Armstrong suggesting that the Prime Minister take up the Taoiseach's offer to hold the meeting on British soil, in view of the security risks.

Situation in Northern Ireland; part 18

  • Catalogue ref: PREM 19/1289
  • Date: 1984 November 1 - 1984 December 18
Briefings relating to the Anglo-Irish summit held at Chequers on 19 November. In a memo to the Prime Minister, Robert Armstrong wrote that 'we cannot afford to do nothing' as the risks would be 'as great or greater than the risks that would be attended upon an agreed package'. He told Mrs Thatcher that her recent re-election with a substantial majority and 'enhanced political authority' had given rise to an 'opportunity of a kind which has not occurred for many years and may not occur again for some time'. However, comments made by Mrs Thatcher and Douglas Hurd at the post-summit press conference, in which she appeared to dismiss the problem of 'alienation' among Catholics in the north, led to a strong reaction in the Irish media.  

Libya

Anglo-Libyan relations; threat to Libyan dissidents in UK; shooting of WPC Yvonne Fletcher outside Libyan People's Bureau; severance of diplomatic relations; part 2A

  • Catalogue ref: PREM 19/1300
  • Date: 1984 April 17 - 1984 May 2

This file concerns the fatal shooting of WPC Yvonne Joyce Fletcher, a British police officer, during a demonstration outside the Libyan embassy (the Libyan's People's Bureau) at St James's Square, London, on 17 April 1984. Following the shooting, the embassy was surrounded by the Metropolitan Police Service for eleven days. In the meantime, Libyan soldiers surrounded the UK's embassy in Tripoli.

The file includes early reports concerning the shooting and a copy of Mrs Thatcher's letter of condolence to Yvonne Fletcher's parents. The file shows Mrs Thatcher's realpolitik approach to the situation - evidenced by the telephone conversation between the Home Secretary, Leon Brittan, and the Prime Minister on 20 April: 'The Home Secretary said…we had after all accepted that he would have to allow a murderer to go free. The Prime Minister did not dissent from this view'.

Anglo-Libyan relations; aftermath of shooting of WPC Yvonne Fletcher outside Libyan People's Bureau; severance of diplomatic relations; part 2B

  • Catalogue ref: PREM 19/1301
  • Date: 1984 April 24 - 1983 April 30

In the aftermath of the shooting of WPC Yvonne Fletcher, the Foreign Secretary decided to initiate a review of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. A key part of this Convention was Article 27 which stated that diplomatic bags shall not be opened or detained. The file records the decision to break diplomatic relations with Libya on 22 April and Colonel Gadaffi's support for the IRA is mentioned. The Home Secretary's draft statement revealed that the 'police investigations have been narrowed down to two principal suspects. Both of these possessed diplomatic immunity and could not have been prosecuted under English Law even if the evidence had been sufficient'.

Anglo-Libyan relations; aftermath of shooting of WPC Yvonne Fletcher outside Libyan People's Bureau; severance of diplomatic relations; part 3A

  • Catalogue ref: PREM 19/1302
  • Date: 1984 May 1 - 1984 May 25

This file includes statements by the Foreign Secretary and the Home Secretary, and a list of the names of Libyans processed through Sunningdale on 27 April 1984. Dr David Owen raised questions about the case of Mohammed Shabli, brother-in-law of Colonel Gadaffi, who faced a drugs charge.

Nationalised industries

Financial position of the coal industry; mineworkers' pay; contingency planning - stock levels and power station endurance; pit closures; miners' strike; part 8

  • Catalogue ref: PREM 19/1329
  • Date: 1983 May 4 - 1984 March 30

This file includes Cabinet ministers' discussions on the subject of power station endurance throughout the second half of 1983, with the Chancellor Nigel Lawson, the Secretary of State for Energy, Peter Walker, and then-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, Cecil Parkinson, offering their opinions.

A note of a meeting on 15 September 1983 regarding miners' pay shows the Government's plans for the mining industry, including an extended closure plan for 1983-85. The Government wished such discussions to be kept to a small circle to avoid any possible 'misunderstandings'.

A note of a meeting between Walker and the Prime Minister on 12 January 1984 stated that the NCB envisaged a net reduction of manpower of 28,000 over the following two years. By the time industrial action by miners had started in March 1984 the small group of ministers had extended slightly and a Ministerial Group on Coal (MISC 101 - see CAB 130/1268) had been established.

At a meeting on 14 March 1984 ministers shared their concerns about flying pickets, a lack of ballots amongst miners, and intimidation.

Financial position of the coal industry; mineworkers' pay; contingency planning - stock levels and power station endurance; pit closures; miners' strike; part 9

  • Catalogue ref: PREM 19/1330
  • Date: 1984 April 3 - 1984 May 31

This file contains a note circulated by the Conservative Research Department on the policing of the strike. It describes how 'extravagant' members of the Labour Party had described the treatment of picketing as akin to the actions of a 'police state'.

A report from advisers John Redwood and David Pascall to the Prime Minister suggested the best courses of action: the Government and the National Coal Board (NCB) should show they are reasonable on funding the industry, and that compulsory redundancies for miners were unlikely. They also list the best options to increase the chances of winning a long strike. The file also includes the note of a meeting between the NCB leadership and the National Mineworkers' Union (NUM) Executive.

Financial position of the coal industry; mineworkers' pay; contingency planning - stock levels and power station endurance; pit closures; miners' strike; part 10

  • Catalogue ref: PREM 19/1331
  • Date: 1984 June 1 - 1984 July 18

This file covers the reaction to the 'Battle of Orgreave' including references to the debate among Chief Constables over whether civil proceedings should be pursued against pickets. The Law Officers at the Attorney General's Office also provide their view to the Ministerial Group on Coal as to whether criminal law can be used to counter violence and intimidation. In a note to the Prime Minister an official described Arthur Scargill's latest demands as 'outrageous' even though lan MacGregor had seemingly detected 'signs of realism'.

In July John Redwood declared that the NCB's position was 'crumbling' and that there was a need to revert to a war of attrition. A meeting on July 16 regarding the developing docks strike included a discussion regarding the possibility of using troops to transfer goods and the declaration of a state of emergency. The file also includes a letter from President Reagan expressing his confidence that the British government will 'come out of this well'.

Financial position of the coal industry; mineworkers' pay; contingency planning - stock levels and power station endurance; pit closures; miners' strike; part 11

  • Catalogue ref: PREM 19/1332
  • Date: 1984 July 19 - 1984 August 31

This file includes the response from Thatcher to Reagan: 'I am confident that in due course firmness and patience will achieve a victory for the forces of moderation and commonsense which are Britain's traditional sources of strength.' Former Attorney General Lord Shawcross offered his advice to MacGregor, suggesting that he might not be the best person to lead media engagement, giving 'the image of an American Tycoon.' Secretary of State for Trade and Industry Norman Tebbit wrote a secret and personal letter to the Prime Minister listing his concerns.

The file also includes a letter to the Prime Minister from 'Women Against Pit Closures', a group led by Anne Scargill and Betty Heathfield, who deposited a petition to HM The Queen on August 11. On August 29 Redwood wrote to the Prime Minister detailing all the options available to end the strikes. These included the possibility of announcing the closure of uneconomic pits in militant areas and the removal of safety cover to put pressure on non-working miners.

Financial position of the coal industry; mineworkers' pay; contingency planning - stock levels and power station endurance; pit closures; miners' strike; part 12

  • Catalogue ref: PREM 19/1333
  • Date: 1984 September 2 - 1984 September 20

A letter from Leader of the Opposition Neil Kinnock on September 3 reiterated a request to recall Parliament to debate the Government's responsibility for the industrial situation and 'its willingness to allow Britain's deterioration of economic, industrial and social condition.' Following the attempted mediation of Robert Maxwell, Thatcher met with MacGregor and expressed doubt about the usefulness of such mediation, as people like Maxwell 'sought not to clear obstacles but to represent to the different parties that there were no obstacles.'

Redwood's report on the coal industry sent on September 7 described it as 'comprehensively bust'. He suggested the need to consider splitting the NCB 'functionally and geographically', including the possibility of splitting deep-mining areas into free-standing separate companies and of allowing private capital to be invested to develop new mines.

Financial position of the coal industry; mineworkers' pay; contingency planning - stock levels and power station endurance; pit closures; miners' strike; part 13

  • Catalogue ref: PREM 19/1334
  • Date: 1984 September 21 - 1984 October 19

Andrew Turnbull, Thatcher's private secretary, expressed concern about the ability of MacGregor to lead the campaign against the striking miners. The file also includes the beginning of a series of letters between the Bishop of Durham and Peter Walker which was sparked by a sermon by the Bishop (the text of which is also available). This culminated in a meeting on October 3, described in the file as 'extremely unsatisfactory'. Walker described the Bishop as 'generally unrepentant' for his previous comments and said it was clear the Bishop was 'a man of the left'. Walker decided not to engage further with the Bishop as this would 'increase his status as a minor folk hero of the left'.

At a meeting at Chequers between the Prime Minister, Walker and MacGregor on September 29, the attendees discussed options to end the dispute. MacGregor claimed that a revolt in the NUM Executive was the least likely outcome, while they discussed the possibility of reorganising the NCB locally, allowing it to eventually be privatised.

Financial position of the coal industry; mineworkers' pay; contingency planning - stock levels and power station endurance; pit closures; miners' strike; part 14

  • Catalogue ref: PREM 19/1335
  • Date: 1984 October 20 - 1983 November 20

This file includes the note of a telephone call between the Prime Minister and the activist David Hart, who was concerned that the press had learnt that he had direct access to her. Peter Gregson's examination paper on the options available to the Government stated that if the National Association of Colliery Overmen, Deputies and Shotfirers (NACODS) strike held then power station endurance would last only until January 1985. If NACODS completely withdrew its labour then production would halt entirely. However, their strike was called off on October 24.

The file includes a note to the Prime Minister informing her that Chris Butcher aka Silver Birch had phoned Number 10, suggesting that he and a group of working miners should meet Thatcher. She is advised by Peter Walker to decline, describing the Silver Birch Group as 'something of a publicity exercise financed by the Daily Mail'. Later the Prime Minister declared in a handwritten comment: 'When the strike is over I will have all reps of working miners and their wives to No. 10'. The file also includes the note of a meeting between David Bennett, representing the Trades Union Congress (TUC) and Bernard Ingham, Press Secretary at Number 10.

Security

Forged recording of telephone conversation between Prime Minister and President Reagan during Falklands campaign

  • Catalogue ref: PREM 19/1380
  • Date: 1983 May 25 - 1984 April 6

In a note from Bernard Ingham to John Coles on 25 May 1983, Ingham explained that he had met with Mr Woltz, the editor of NRC Handelsblad - The Times of Holland, who had sought advice on an alleged tape recording of a conversation between the Prime Minister and President Reagan during the Falklands Campaign. Transcripts of this tape recording are included in the file. Ingham commented 'that the voice simply did not sound anything like that of President Reagan - it was far too fluent and articulate for the man in ordinary animated conversation'. His verdict was clear - it was 'a fabrication, a hoax, a put up job'.

BJP Fall, Private Secretary at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, stated that 'SIS have concluded that this is probably a 'voice patch' forgery, perhaps drawing on various statements which the Prime Minister and President Reagan have made publicly over recent months'.  It is noted that there were some similarities between the alleged recording and a Panorama interview that Mrs Thatcher gave to Robert Kee on 26 April 1982. Articles in the British press 'attributed the production of the tape to the anarchist punk band Crass'.

Soviet Union

UK/Soviet relations; visit to UK by Mikhail Gorbachev and meeting with Prime Minister; part 3

  • Catalogue ref: PREM 19/1394
  • Date: 1984 June 4 - 1984 December 22

This file includes various documents relating to UK/Soviet diplomacy during 1984, but centre on the preparations for and discussions during Mikhail Gorbachev's visit to the UK in December of that year. Although Gorbachev was yet to become Soviet leader, he was already an influential member of the Politburo. Ahead of his visit a character assessment from the Foreign Office described Gorbachev as a 'reformer', stating he could be 'the man who leads the Soviet Union into the 21st Century' but with the proviso that there was 'nothing to suggest he is not a convinced communist or that he intends (or would be able) to make fundamental alterations to the system itself'.

The note of the meeting on December 16 shows Gorbachev and Thatcher enjoyed a serious discussion, but the note of their less formal meeting over lunch describes a frank exchange of opinions. Thatcher accused the Soviet Union of funding the miners' strike, stated that communism was 'synonymous with getting one's own way by violence', and claimed that she could 'prove that the British system was better' than communism. The file also contains details about Gorbachev's unannounced visit to Number 10, when the Prime Minister was not in.

Ireland

Prime Minister's meetings with Taoiseach; Anglo-Irish summits; part 7.

  • Catalogue ref: PREM 19/1408
  • Date: 1984 November 1 - 1984 November 23

Ahead of the Anglo-Irish summit in November 1984, Alan Goodison, the British Ambassador to Ireland told Mrs Thatcher that the Taoiseach could not 'afford to come away from the summit empty-handed', to which she replied: 'That is not my problem'. Foreign Secretary, Geoffrey Howe, said there could be no 'simple solution to the Irish problem' which would be with us for 'many decades yet'. He told the Prime Minister that if Sinn Fein and the IRA continued their advance, her fear of a government of 'radical extremists' in Dublin 'on the Cuban pattern' could one day become a reality.

The record of the Prime Minister's difficult meeting with the Taoiseach on the 19 November is also included. The Prime Minister told her Irish counterpart of her concern that the 'IRA did not represent just an Irish dimension, it had a Marxist and an international terrorist dimension grafted onto it and she was beginning to understand what the United States felt about Nicaragua'. The Prime Minister questioned whether the Catholic minority's grievances in Northern Ireland were really so great since direct rule and accused the Taoiseach of wanting to create a 'Republican enclave' in Northern Ireland.

Dr Fitzgerald is said to have 'reacted strongly' to this and reminded the Prime Minister that 85,000 Catholic had been driven from their homes in mixed areas into 'ghettos' where they were terrorised by the IRA. Mrs Thatcher also asked the Taoiseach whether the IRA might not infiltrate the police if more Roman Catholics were recruited. The meeting left the Taoiseach 'rather depressed' according to the file but the press conference which followed the summit only served to deteriorate relations further.

Prime Minister's appointment diaries

These diaries are a record of appointments compiled by the Prime Minister's Diary Secretary and are a limited record of personal and official appointments.

Margaret Thatcher 1984 typed diary

  • Catalogue ref: PREM 32/6
  • Date: 1984 January 1 - 1984 December 31

The Prime Minister's daily appointment diary for 1984. Typical entries record hair and dentist appointments, interviews, visits and meetings. Details of domestic arrangements, for example 'Supper in flat' or 'Breakfast with Mr Thatcher' are also recorded, as well as theatre trips, lunches and overseas travel itineraries. See also PREM 32/1 (1979); PREM 32/2 (1980); PREM 32/3 (1981); PREM 32/4 (1982) and PREM 32/5 (1983).

Margaret Thatcher 1984 manuscript diary

  • Catalogue ref: PREM 32/18
  • Date: 1984 January 1 - 1984 December 31
Handwritten version of Mrs Thatcher's 1984 appointment diary.