A selection of recently released files

August 2008

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Catalogue ref. Date Description
Records of the Cabinet Office
CAB 21/3043 1955-1956

Seat of government in war: signals organisation

In 1955, the UK government was actively contingency planning for the event of a nuclear war. In such a scenario the government would operate outside of London in a facility codenamed Subterfuge. This file contains the correspondence and plans of senior military, intelligence and civilian staff around communications and logistics at Subterfuge. Discussions include staffing numbers and levels, UK and diplomatic communications, and the extent to which various groups were prepared to share common networks. Although this file is focused on communications, other plans for wartime contingency are also discussed.

CAB 116/8 1942-1944

Telephone censorship: interception of telephone conversations

This file contains extracts of 'indiscreet conversations' by members of large firms and public utility companies during the Second World War. Examples include transcripts of conversations between employees of Rolls Royce or Vickers-Armstrong regarding delays in shipments, testing dates and opinions on the products manufactured. The file also charts the preparations for telephone tapping in Whitehall, in particular the Cabinet War Rooms. Topics overheard include experiments and shipping, Combined Chiefs of Staff meeting dates, as well as emotional personal telephone calls during air raids.

CAB 164/1333 1975-1976

Publication of the diaries of Richard Crossman MP

This file concerns the reactions of Prime Minister Harold Wilson and his chief advisers, including Cabinet Secretary Sir John Hunt, to the impending publication of the second volume of the Crossman diaries, which covered the period 1966 - 1968, when Crossman was Lord President of the Council. It shows the Government wrestling with the issues raised by possible prosecution under the Official Secrets Act, and other legal options. 

Records created and inherited by the Transport Ministries, and by related bodies, and by the London Passenger Transport Board
MT 102/390 1971-1973

Working party on compulsory wearing of seatbelts: including departmental interest in the policies of foreign countries

In 1970, a Cabinet Committee decided that they wished to make wearing a seatbelt compulsory, and asked for a review of how this could be done. This file charts the events of the following three years, including research evidence of the benefits of wearing a seatbelt, consideration of the legal issues involved and concerns from the police about the enforcement of a new offence. Practical considerations were also expressed, namely how a person with a collarbone injury would be able to drive with a seatbelt on. The file also contains correspondence with the RAC, who although opposed to the compulsory use of seatbelts, complimented the government on their 'persuasion campaign, which has been conducted most effectively'. Seatbelt wearing finally became compulsory in 1983.

Records of the Prime Minister's Office
PREM 11/3316 1961

Papers on meeting between President Kennedy and Mr Khrushchev, Vienna, June 1961

In the months following the unsuccessful invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs, the American administration was working behind the scenes to set up a meeting between President Kennedy and his Soviet counterpart, Nikita Khrushchev.  This file contains correspondence between the Prime Minister's office and the British ambassador in Washington about possibilities to include any such meeting during a presidential visit to London and Paris. Discussions are also concerned with the tone and purpose of the meeting.

PREM 11/4721 1960-1964

UK intelligence-gathering operations

Harold Macmillan initiated a review of British intelligence activities against Russia in the aftermath of the U-2 incident of May 1960 (in which an American U-2 spy plane had been shot down over the Soviet Union, and its pilot captured). Macmillan comments 'it seems to me that these incidents may become very dangerous'. The matter is referred to the Joint Intelligence Committee, which produces a report. The issues covered in this file include consultation with the United States about the control of US flights from bases in Britain, and counter-measures to deal with Soviet trawler-type vessels which apparently contained electronic spying equipment.

Records created or inherited by the Home Office, Ministry of Home Security, and related bodies
HO 319/237 1977-1978

Records of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs Working Group on Treatment and Rehabilitation

This file contains the first investigation into the ways drug addicts are treated in prison, which culminated in the December 1979 publication of the report 'Study of Treatment of Drug Dependents Within the Prison System in England and Wales'. This report recommended rehabilitation arrangements after release for those treated in prison to reduce relapse once out of custody.

The document includes statistics showing a marked increase in drug offences for both men and women serving sentences of two years and over.