Geoffrey Howe’s Private Office papers 1979 – 1983

In this release

Relaxation of exchange control measures 1979

Catalogue reference: T 639/5
1 January 1979 – 31 December 1979

On 25 September 1979 Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher takes lunch with Treasury ministers and the Governor of the Bank of England. Thatcher’s view at this stage was that there should be no further relaxation of the controls for the time being – she was concerned about a large outflow of funds. Nigel Lawson, Financial Secretary, writes to the Chancellor on 4 October 1979 expressing his view that we should go ahead with the plan to remove virtually all remaining exchange controls on 23 October, and in a minute to Thatcher dated 11 October 1979, the Chancellor recommends this plan (unless there are new unfavourable developments.) At a meeting chaired by Thatcher on 17 October 1979, she expresses her concern about the risks involved, but in her summing up, she says that despite the risks, she agrees with the Chancellor’s proposals.

Refurbishing of No. 11 Downing Street

Catalogue reference: T 639/14
1 January 1979 – 31 December 1980

This file includes a list of items under a revised estimate of the cost of refurbishing No. 11 Downing Street, coinciding with the arrival of the new chancellor and his wife, Lady Howe. It is stated that work has started in the kitchen which is long overdue for a refit. Three schemes for modernising the kitchen are briefly outlined.

Opening to the public of the Cabinet War Rooms

Catalogue reference: T 639/27
26 June 1981 – 5 January 1982

This file begins with the Chancellor’s letter to the Prime Minister, dated 29 May 1981, discussing Secretary of State for the Environment Michael Heseltine’s proposal to open the Cabinet War Rooms. The Chancellor raises two issues: the public expenditure involved; and security, with the Treasury and Northern Ireland Office in the same building. The file’s focus then moves to November 1981 and the resolution of certain issues raised after the Prime Minister’s site visit in August. Also included in the file are notes on the Environment Secretary’s proposals made by Treasury officials.

Conservative Government’s mid-term report

Catalogue reference: T 639/29
1 January 1981 – 31 December 1981

A mid-term report shared by Alan Howarth of the Conservative Research Department looked at reiterating the government’s programme and took aim at the policies of the ‘Labour left’. The Q&A section at the end of the report provided ministers with a number of handy answers to questions regarding Conservative policy on monetarism, immigration, house building, and Britain’s relationship with the European Community.

Chancellor of the Exchequer’s visit to The Hague, 3 June 1981

Catalogue reference: T 639/50
1 January 1981 – 31 December 1981

This relates to a speech by Geoffrey Howe’s delivered during a visit to The Hague on 3 June 1981, covering themes including Britain’s commitment to Europe, reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, and budgetary imbalances. The file includes correspondence relating to the drafting of the speech.

Budget 1981

Catalogue reference: T 639/66
16 May 1979 – 10 February 1981

This file is concerned with early preparations for the 1981 Budget. Included in the file are responses by Treasury officials to a questionnaire about their views on how the budget should tackle various issues. Also included are minutes of meetings on matters such as Capital Tax changes. Towards the end of the file is an account of current budget ideas sent to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher by the Chancellor in which Howe states he would like to ‘re-establish confidence by bringing in a rather tough Budget’.

Pre-Budget Chevening meetings 1981-1982

Catalogue reference: T 639/86
1 January 1981 – 31 December 1982

This file contains a note to the Chancellor about an upcoming informal weekend meeting at Chevening, where a work programme is suggested. Within the note a dress code for the weekend is suggested: informal lounge suits and short dresses are suggested for dinner on the Saturday evening. Dressing gowns are additionally advised as some attendees may be sharing bathrooms.

Talks with United States Secretary of the Treasury, Donald Regan, on the British and American economies

Catalogue reference: T 639/108
1 January 1982 – 31 December 1982

This file covers talks with United States Secretary of the Treasury, Donald Regan, on the British and American economies. It includes an exchange of letters between Howe and Regan on US fiscal policy, correspondence on export credits ahead of Paris meeting held between 6 and 7 May 1982, and briefs and points to make. There is also a copy of Secretary of State for Industry Patrick Jenkin’s report on his visit to the United States, which took place in March and April.

UK trading policy and the French reconquest of internal markets

Catalogue reference: T 639/110
1 January 1982 – 31 December 1982

This file contains information on French plans to reconquer their domestic markets, and the British response. It covers the possibility of applying pressure on the European Commission, along with correspondence regarding British policy.

Defence equipment procurement

Catalogue reference: T 639/132
1 January 1979 – 31 December 1982

Included in this file is a speaking note to the European Council dated 13 May 1979: a week after the Conservative election victory. The note – heavily annotated by the Chancellor – posed questions about whether the European Community was delivering its objectives to reduce the economic disparity between member states. The Chancellor intended to underline the UK’s position as one of the less prosperous member states and that large net budgetary transfers hindered a convergence of economic prosperity. Handwritten notes about how various member states might react to such a speech are also included. Later, a disagreement between the Treasury and the Secretary of State for Defence, John Nott, saw the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Nigel Lawson, reject further investment.

Budget Speech 1983

Catalogue reference: T 639/161
1 January 1982 – 31 December 1983

Plans for the 1983 Budget were underway in January 1982. The Chancellor is keen to aim for a shorter Budget speech this time around, and Treasury officials carry out research into the longest and shortest budget speeches made since 1853. The most complete listing can be found attached to a note from N G Fray dated 07 March 1983, which includes comparisons of the structures of budget speeches over time. The information about longest speech (Gladstone, 1853) and shortest speech (Disraeli, 1867) finds its way into the Chancellor’s 1983 draft speech.

Visit to the Chancellor of the Exchequer by Jacques Chirac, 30 November 1983

Catalogue reference: T 639/238
1 January 1983 – 31 December 1983

This file relates to a November 1983 visit by Mayor of Paris, and leading French opposition figure, Jacques Chirac. The file includes a list of points to make and background information on the French economy, along with a record of their conversation.