Prime Minister's Office files (PREM)
ARGENTINA. Frederick Forsyth's proposed book on the Falklands crisis
- Catalogue ref: PREM 19/611
- Date: 1982 June 15 - 1982 August 4
On 15 June 1982, Frederick Forsyth, author of several bestselling novels, wrote to the Prime Minister to congratulate her on victory in the Falkland Islands and to share his idea for a book about the crisis 'to tell it the way it was'. He wanted to conduct interviews with as many participants in the conflict as he could. Mrs Thatcher's reaction was positive, as revealed by a handwritten note to an adviser: 'I find this idea very attractive. He writes superbly'. However, there are indications in the file that the proposal ran into difficulties. Bernard Ingham, the Prime Minister's Chief Press Secretary, was concerned that if Forsyth was assisted, other authors would expect the same level of help. It was also suggested that some of the proceeds from book sales should go to the South Atlantic Fund.
Postscript: Frederick Forsyth co-authored a book on the Falklands conflict entitled 'Invasion 1982' which was published in 2007.
ARGENTINA. The Falklands crisis: the visit of the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary to New York; the Peruvian peace initiative; sinking of HMS 'Sheffield'; continuing dialogue with the United States Secretary of State; part 13
- Catalogue ref: PREM 19/624
- Date: 1982 May 3 - 1982 May 5
This file contains a letter from the Prime Minister to President Reagan requesting a ban on American imports from Argentina. She wrote: 'So many young lives are at risk - British and Argentinean - that I feel we must make a supreme effort to prevent a major military clash.' Meanwhile, US Secretary of State, Al Haig, became increasingly concerned that an Argentine defeat would lead to the fall of the government and chaos on the streets of Buenos Aires. Another letter from Thatcher to Reagan shows the Prime Minister using her strong personal friendship with the President to gain favour. She later stated that Reagan was 'the only person who will understand the significance of what I am about to say' which was that the principles of democracy, liberty, justice, and self-determination were at stake.
ARGENTINA. The Falklands crisis: further diplomatic activity including ceasefire proposals; conversation between the Prime Minister and the President of the United States in Paris; part 22
- Catalogue ref: PREM 19/633
- Date: 1982 June 1 - 1982 June 5
A note recording a late-night telephone call between President Reagan and the Prime Minister can be found in this file, in which the President stated that the US considered it imperative that the UK showed willingness to talk before the Argentines were forced to withdraw. The Prime Minister found this impossible, stating: 'Britain had not lost precious lives in battle and sent an enormous Task Force to hand over The Queen's Islands,' and that she was sure that Reagan would act in the same way if Alaska had been similarly threatened. The file also contains a draft telegram from Thatcher to Argentine President Leopoldo Galtieri, which begins: 'The decisive battle in the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) is about to begin. With your military experience you must be of no doubt as to the outcome,' and that the British flag would fly over Port Stanley once again.
ARGENTINA. The Falklands crisis: surrender of Argentinean forces on the Falkland Islands; proposals for the repatriation of Argentinean prisoners of war; part 24
- Catalogue ref: PREM 19/635
- Date: 1982 June 12 - 1982 June 16
As late as 13 June 1982, just two days before the end of hostilities in the Falkland Islands, US Secretary of State Al Haig was still calling for a 'negotiated settlement'. Accepting the surrender of General Menendez of Argentina, the Commander of the British Land Forces, Brigadier Moore sent this message: 'The Falkland Islands are once more under the Government desired by their inhabitants. God Save The Queen.' When a 'Service of Thanksgiving' in St Margaret's Church, Westminster was suggested, the Prime Minister wrote, 'I think we should leave it to a bigger occasion in St Paul's'.
ARGENTINA. The handling of the Falklands crisis: briefs for the Prime Minister, intelligence summaries and general correspondence; part 5
- Catalogue ref: PREM 19/647
- Date: 1982 May 5 - 1982 May 14
This file includes a copy of the Attorney General's legal advice concerning a possible attack on the Argentine aircraft carrier, 25 de Mayo, as well as a message from Foreign Secretary Francis Pym on the same subject warning of the dangers of outraging international opinion. If the carrier remained on its present course, wrote Pym, any justification for the attack would be 'questionable'. Cabinet Secretary Sir Robert Armstrong's note to the Prime Minister summarised the advice given at the time. The file also contains notes relating to an offer of assistance from the South African government and the British government's response which Mrs Thatcher felt should be 'a bit warmer' than that proposed.
ARGENTINA. The Falkland Islands Service held in St Paul's Cathedral on 26 July 1982
- Catalogue ref: PREM 19/658
- Date: 1982 July 2 - 1992 June 24
This file, concerning the arrangements for the Falklands Islands Thanksgiving Service at St Paul's Cathedral on 26 July 1982, shows Mrs Thatcher's desire to avoid any political element intruding into the service. The Prime Minister agreed with her Private Secretary for Overseas Affairs, John Coles, that it would not be desirable for her to read a lesson: 'It would be wrong of me to do so'. When it was suggested that the Prime Minister and the Chief of the Defence Staff might say farewell to HM The Queen after the service, Mrs Thatcher queried: 'Am I the right person to do it?'
ECONOMIC POLICY. 1982 Budget; National Insurance contributions; part 7
- Catalogue ref: PREM 19/701
- Date: 1982 January 30 - 1982 April 25
This file begins with Cabinet Secretary Sir Robert Armstrong investigating a leak about the Budget. The file contains suggestions for the Budget from Cabinet ministers and advisers to the Chancellor and the Prime Minister with the most significant recommendation - from economic adviser Alan Walters - that a cut in the Public Spending Borrowing Requirement would leave space for a £1.5bn net tax reduction. A note from Bernard Ingham advises on the presentation of the Budget in the House of Commons. The Prime Minister annotated the fifth draft of the Budget and criticised the speech for being too detailed, recommending that 'someone goes through the speech to cut the detail by at least 1/3. I remember the house got very restless at last year's detail.'
HOME AFFAIRS. Family policy group; renewing values of society
- Catalogue ref: PREM 19/783
- Date: 1982 May 26 - 1982 October 29
The head of the government's policy unit, Ferdinand Mount, prepared a paper on 'renewing values in society' which looked at everything from education and social policy, to law and order, unemployment, television, the economy, and the role of women. It was presented to the Cabinet in July 1982 and each minister was asked come up with ideas and policies to fit with the new approach. Mrs Thatcher said many of the problems faced by the government were the product of a general decline in discipline and authority in society, with the armed forces being the notable exception. Home Secretary, Willie Whitelaw, said school sports were important so that 'our teenagers unleash their physical energies through games rather than bricks and petrol bombs' while the Chancellor, Geoffrey Howe, blamed 'state paternalism' believing it was only by 'thinking the unthinkable' that public spending could be reduced. Keith Joseph, the Secretary of State for Industry, bemoaned the 'sharply rising trend' of irresponsible parents and believed that a television campaign modelled on anti-smoking adverts could be used to discourage underage pregnancy.
LEBANON. Internal situation; Israeli/Lebanese hostilities; UK/Lebanese relations; part 2
- Catalogue ref: PREM 19/824
- Date: 1981 November 16 - 1982 July 10
Following the Israeli invasion of Southern Lebanon in June 1982, King Hussein of Jordan wrote to the Prime Minister expressing his concerns. Mrs Thatcher thanked the King for the position Jordan had adopted during the United Nations debate on the Falkland Islands and expressed concern at the renewed fighting in Lebanon and the loss of life and human suffering of the civilian population. Later, in response to the proposed visit of a Lebanese delegation to Britain, Mrs Thatcher wrote: 'I will be delighted to see two foreign ministers but NOT a PLO representative'. The Prime Minister noted in the file that 'the US just does not realise the resentment she is causing in the Middle East'. The file also contains a letter from President Ronald Reagan in which he emphasised the need to deal effectively with the situation in Lebanon and to avoid further bloodshed. Mrs Thatcher stated that she did not want the United States and Britain to act alone in taking measures against Israel.
MANPOWER. Measures to counter unemployment; part 7
- Catalogue ref: PREM 19/838
- Date: 1982 April 30 - 1982 August 20
With unemployment rising above three million at the beginning of 1982, this file contains Cabinet discussions and suggestions for combating the problem. There was some debate over whether the Civil Service should take part in the Job Release Scheme which aimed to encourage older employees to take early retirement, thus freeing up jobs for the young employed. However the Prime Minister wrote: 'I am very strongly against this. The private sector has to pay for our trainees.' She later added 'when we have our own training and methods right we will be in a position to give good training to others.' Economic adviser Alan Walters responded to an update from the Central Policy Review Staff on their forthcoming report on unemployment, hoping that they would avoid 'descriptive material' and focus on an analysis of the labour market, finding support from the Prime Minister. The file also includes discussion ahead of the launch of the Youth Training Scheme. (See also PREM 19/837)
POLAND. Internal situation; UK relations; state of emergency; martial law; part 5
- Catalogue ref: PREM 19/871
- Date: 1981 December 19 - 1982 January 5
The imposition of military rule in Poland by General Jaruzelski in December 1981 led to a flurry of communications between the US and the UK, beginning with a telegram from President Reagan in which he expressed concern that further repression would lead to resistance and Soviet military intervention. Both he and Secretary of State Al Haig seemed certain that there was a Soviet influence behind the military crackdown. A transcript of a phone conversation between the Prime Minister and Lord Carrington offers an insight into their relationship with the American administration, with Thatcher describing Reagan's initial message as 'so vague I didn't think it was worth reading when it came in at half eleven last night'.
PRIME MINISTER. Communications with Jimmy Savile concerning tax deductions for charitable donations following his fund raising for Stoke Mandeville hospital
- Catalogue ref: PREM 19/878
- Date: 1980 February 5 - 1982 January 8
The file contains correspondence between the Prime Minister and Jimmy Savile concerning Savile's efforts to raise money for Stoke Mandeville hospital and his enquiries as to whether there could be a tax deduction for charitable donations. The file contains a handwritten letter from Savile to Mrs Thatcher stating how much he had enjoyed a recent lunch meeting with her. An official asked the Prime Minister to clarify whether she had 'made any promises to Jimmy Savile when he visited', for instance, 'Did you tell him that you would appear on Jim'll Fix it?' to which Mrs Thatcher wrote: 'No'.
PRIME MINISTER. Disappearance and rescue of Mark Thatcher in Algeria during Paris to Dakar car rally
- Catalogue ref: PREM 19/893
- Date: 1981 December 17 - 1982 September 13
Mark Thatcher, the Prime Minister's son, his co-driver Charlotte Verney, and a mechanic, went missing in the Sahara desert for six days in January 1982, while taking part in the Paris to Dakar motor race. This file tells the story of his disappearance and rescue and contains telegrams received by the FCO reporting various sightings, most of which proved unreliable. On 12 January Lord Carrington, Foreign Secretary, reported that 'The Prime Minister is now most concerned, since there has been no (no) reliable information for three days'. The Algerian, Mali and French governments provided assistance with the search. Denis Thatcher flew out to Algeria to witness the rescue efforts. The file contains the transcript of a telephone conversation between the Prime Minister and President Reagan on 14 January - which coincided with news of a 'hopeful sighting'. It was later confirmed that Mark Thatcher and his two companions had been located by an Algerian military aircraft, and were being airlifted to Tamanrasset. Following his rescue, questions were asked in Parliament about the cost of the operation and the file contains the FCO figures for this. The Prime Minister was at pains to avoid official funds being used and in a handwritten note wrote: 'I must pay the £1,191. We can therefore say that no extra cost has fallen on the British taxpayer. To who do I make out the cheque?'
UNITED STATES. Visit to UK by President Reagan, June 1982; part 1
- Catalogue ref: PREM 19/942
- Date: 1981 January 21 - 1982 April 30
Mrs Thatcher took a keen interest in the arrangements for President Ronald Reagan's visit to Britain in June 1982, including Reagan's desire to go horse riding with HM The Queen in Windsor Park. The Foreign Office initially expressed frustration at the lack of response from the White House to their invitation: 'Those surrounding the President are not deliberately rude it is simply that they are not very well organised'. There was some controversy over the decision to let the President address Parliament after the news was leaked. In a telegram to Mrs Thatcher, President Reagan said he regretted the embarrassment the premature press reports concerning his visit had caused. Mrs Thatcher wrote that 'Reagan is a strong and good friend of Britain and a staunch defender of the free world'. The question of what gift to buy the President was also discussed.
UNITED STATES. Visit to UK by President Reagan, June 1982; part 2
- Catalogue ref: PREM 19/943
- Date: 1982 May 5 - 1982 July 1
This file includes briefings prepared for the Prime Minister ahead of President Reagan's visit and a draft of her speech. Alan Walters and Geoffrey Howe both urged her to raise the subject of the United States' high interest rates. Secretary of State, Al Haig, is described in vivid terms. The file also contains a confidential briefing from FCO on the developing situation in the Falklands and its likely impact on US-UK relations. The potential of a threat to the President's life was also discussed. Although there was no specific intelligence of a planned attack, the threat from 'publicity seekers and the mentally unbalanced' could not be overlooked. The full extent of US support and assistance during the Falklands war is also detailed, although the US made it clear it did not want this to be publicised. After the visit, Reagan wrote to Mrs Thatcher: 'the news of your victory in the South Atlantic is most welcome. I look forward to working with you on a lasting solution to the situation there and to cooperation on the many other tough challenges facing the West.'