Prime Minister’s Office files (PREM)

In this release

Middle East

Situation in the Middle East: Gulf War; part 23

Catalogue reference: PREM 19/3076

Date range: 13 August 1990 – 19 August 1990

This file contains correspondence relating to the conflict between Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, and the UK’s policy towards the conflict. It covers operational matters (the formulation of operational activities in the Gulf, the deployment of UK troops, the American Demarche on setting up a multinational naval force), and particularly the issues arising from the lack of standardisation in the Rules of Engagement. The file also covers the American and Soviet positions, the oil embargo and the visit of Minister for Defence Procurement, Alan Clark, to the Gulf.

Situation in the Middle East: Gulf War; part 24

Catalogue reference: PREM 19/3077

Date range: 20 August 1990 – 23 August 1990

This file covers the issue of rules of engagement, Jordan’s refugee problem, economic sanctions and enforcement actions in support of the UN embargo, the Armilla Patrol, Operation Granby and Saddam Hussein’s peace initiative. It also contains correspondence relating to the American, German, Soviet, Israeli and French positions towards the conflict, American public opinion, psychological warfare, counterpropaganda, and the situation in embassies in Kuwait.

Situation in the Middle East: Gulf War; part 28

Catalogue reference: PREM 19/3081

Date range: 06 September 1990 – 13 September 1990

This file covers the American burden-sharing initiative, the question of financial support for Turkey, Jordan and Egypt, the situation of foreign nationals in Kuwait, the policy towards Israel, and humanitarian assistance. It also contains briefing notes, notes on the views from France, the USSR and the US as well as from Morocco, Tunisia and Iran. The file also covers the possibility of resupplying the British embassy in Kuwait by Special Operations, and the deployment of UK troops to the Gulf. It contains small pictures of the main equipment used for Operation Granby.

Situation in the Middle East: Gulf War; part 31

Catalogue reference: PREM 19/3084

Date range: 09 October 1990 – 21 October 1990

This file contains briefing and speaking notes and the subsequent record of a phone conversation with President Bush. Also included is the record of a meeting with Secretary Dick Cheney, a note on the military options and the record of a meeting with Yevgeny Primakov. The file also covers burden-sharing issues, the rules of engagement, American public opinion, the relations of Israel with Arab States, regional security arrangements and Jordan’s attitude towards the conflict. It also contains correspondence relating reactions to postings in the Gulf.

Situation in the Middle East: Gulf War; part 32

Catalogue reference: PREM 19/3085

Date range: 14 October 1990 – 31 October 1990

This file covers the French and American positions, as well as the CIA’s views on Iraq/Kuwait politics, economics and technical and scientific aspects of the conflict.

It contains a letter from Japanese Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu to Margaret Thatcher giving an account of his visit to the Middle East, the Iraqi missile deployment capability (with a map), the situation in Kuwait, and financial assistance for the countries most immediately affected by the Gulf crisis. This file also covers the hostage situation, the Primakov Mission, a meeting between Thatcher and Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia, and military operations in the Gulf.

Situation in the Middle East: Gulf War; part 33

Catalogue reference: PREM 19/3086

Date range: 01 November 1990 – 17 November 1990

This file covers the American position, military planning and public opinion; the German position and Willy Brandt’s mission to Iraq; the Syrian and Soviet positions, and the possibility of a visit by Margaret Thatcher to the Middle East. It contains notes on Iraq’s nuclear and missile capability, the effects of the Gulf Crisis on the UK’s main aid recipients, the potential Soviet influence on Iraqi army operations, and advice and protection for civilians at risk from chemical warfare. This file also covers the situation in Kuwait, and contains the summary of a phone call from a British national in hiding as well as a telegram on ‘haute cuisine’ sent by the British ambassador in Kuwait, then besieged in the embassy.


Possible sale of BAe 146 aircraft to Iran

Catalogue reference: PREM 19/3215

Date range: 01 July 1991 – 27 August 1991

This file concerns the UK attempts to negotiate a cash sale of BAe civil aircraft to Iran and the active US opposition to this despite Washington’s previous support for other European countries’ trade deals with the Middle Eastern nation.


Assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, former Prime Minister of India

Catalogue reference: PREM 19/3248

Date range: 21 May 1991 – 19 June 1991

This file contains details of the Prime Minister’s messages of condolence to the Indian president and acting prime minister following the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi and their responses.


Piper Alpha oil platform explosion, 6 July 1988: part 1

Catalogue reference: PREM 19/3264

Date range: 07 July 1988 – 25 March 1991

On 6 July 1988, a series of explosions destroyed the Piper Alpha oil platform in the North Sea, killing 167 people. Piper Alpha was operated by the Occidental Petroleum Corporation. This file contains messages of sympathy addressed to the Prime Minister, from many international leaders, and the Prime Minister’s replies. Dominic Morris, Private Secretary writes to Stephen Haddrill, at the Department of Energy, on 8 July 1988 giving a brief account of a private briefing given by chairman and CEO Dr Armand Hammer and the Occidental Management Team to the Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Scotland, Malcolm Rifkind, on the events surrounding the disaster which includes some reported comments made by the Prime Minister.

Home affairs

The problem of dangerous dogs: part 1

Catalogue reference: PREM 19/3376

Date range: 08 June 1989 – 29 March 1991

This file concerns government policy towards perceived ‘dangerous dog’ breeds following the spate of attacks by Rottweiler dogs and the RSPCA campaign for a dog registration scheme. The file includes discussions on amending the Dogs Act 1871 and lead up to the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991.

Disturbances in Newcastle and other provincial towns, summer 1991

Catalogue reference: PREM 19/3377

Date range: 10 September 1991 – 07 October 1991

This file details the government’s reaction to disturbances that took place on the Meadow Well estate in North Shields, North Tyneside, on 9 September 1991, and subsequent disturbances in the Newcastle area. Disorder broke out in Meadow Well when two youths died after crashing a stolen vehicle they were driving while being pursued by police. Included in the file is a report from Northumbria Police on the disorder and their response. The file goes on to detail further, linked unrest in and around Newcastle and government lines to take in response to public criticism.

Local government

The future of the rating system: rating revaluation; community charge; part 27

Catalogue reference: PREM 19/3428

Date range: 03 July 1991 – 31 October 1991

Consultations continue. This file includes exchanges between David Hunt, Secretary of State for Wales, and Michael Heseltine, Secretary of State for the Environment (with particular responsibility for reforming the Community Charge) over the issue of second homes in Wales. Council tax arrangements for Scotland also feature in this file, and there are many papers concerning the issue of how to handle Local Authority financial or service collapses.


Radcliffe report on ministerial memoirs: part 2

Catalogue reference: PREM 19/3438/1 and PREM 19/3438/2

Date range: 16 September 1988 – 06 February 1991

Prof Sir Alan Walters, economic adviser to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (1981-84, 1989) is working on a book, to be called ‘Sterling and Inflation in the 1980s’, with the subtitle ‘The economic consequences of Mr Lawson’. Having seen a rough draft, Private Secretary Andrew Turnbull is worried about the possibility of conventions being transgressed about confidentiality, and is particularly concerned about critical comments relating to former Chancellor Nigel Lawson. With Thatcher’s authorisation, Turnbull writes to Walters on 13 March 1990, asking him to postpone publication and ‘radically to recast’ two key chapters. This prompts further exchanges with Walters, and after various amendments, objections to publication are withdrawn. The file also contains the draft text of a proposed book entitled ‘Downing Street Cook – Recipes from the Thatcher Years’ by Sherry Warner, and related correspondence.

The second file includes a draft of Sir Alan Walters’ book ‘Sterling and Inflation in the Eighties’, with the subtitle ‘The economic consequences of Fixed Exchange Rates’.

Prime minister

Prime Minister’s occasional bi-laterals with various Cabinet colleagues: part 1

Catalogue reference: PREM 19/3496

Date range: 17 December 1985 – 05 April 1991

This file contains a great deal of material from the Thatcher era. There are many briefing notes from private secretaries and advisers addressed to the Prime Minister to help prepare for meetings with Cabinet colleagues.

Posts and telecommunications

Future of the Post Office: Telecommunications Duopoly Review; part 13

Catalogue reference: PREM 19/3509

Date range: 06 July 1990 – 28 February 1991

This file begins with a paper by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, Peter Lilley, giving recommendations after a strategic review of the Post Office. Also within the file is discussion about, and briefings on, the Communications Duopoly Review as well as Parcelforce’s finances and proposed price caps on British Telecom’s international calls.

Regional policy

Inner cities policy and problems: Action for Cities; regeneration of London Docklands; part 17

Catalogue reference: PREM 19/3512

Date range: 01 August 1989 – 12 April 1991

This file contains discussion on the regeneration of various inner city areas of the UK. It also contains discussion of improving transport links in the London Docklands area.


Terrorist attack on 10 Downing Street: part 1

Catalogue reference: PREM 19/3534

Date range: 07 February 1991 – 25 March 1991

The mortar attack on 10 Downing Street was carried out by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) on 7 February 1991. It was an attempt to assassinate Prime Minister John Major, his ministers, and officials, who were meeting to discuss the Gulf War. One of the heavy mortar shells exploded in the back garden of Number 10. Due to the bomb-proof windows, no members of the Cabinet were hurt, though four other people, including two police officers, received minor injuries. This file consists of messages to John Major from many international leaders expressing sympathy, shock and relief that there was no loss of life; and copies of Major’s thank you letters in reply.


Sporting relations with South Africa: part 2

Catalogue reference: PREM 19/3568

Date range: 01 March 1980 – 15 October 1991

This file includes correspondence about the British and Irish Lions rugby tour of South Africa in 1980, and an ‘unofficial’ English cricket tour. The file contains details of Zola Budd’s application for UK citizenship and the ensuing debate between the Home Office, Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Prime Minister’s Office concerning the wider implications of the decision. The file concludes with the re-admission of South Africa into international sporting events following the release of Nelson Mandela.