Archive

Treasury Private Office papers

In 2012 www.margaretthatcher.org uncovered through an FOI request the existence of a vast cache of secret papers stored at H.M. Treasury, some 4,850 files from the Private Office of successive Chancellors (and Chief Secretaries) between 1979 and 1997.

The files contain the most politically sensitive documents from the very top of the Treasury, the small circle of Ministers, Special Advisers and Private Secretaries, which were stored, when in use, only a few doors from the Chancellor's room for convenience and security. Their like is rarely found at the National Archives in Kew. These documents are of deep historical interest, an intact Private Office collection in scale and importance exceeded only by that from No.10 itself, relied on by Treasury ministers when writing their memoirs. It is an un-looted tomb in Whitehall's Valley of the Kings - the Palace accountant's rather than the Pharaoh's, but well worth the ticket.

When it first revealed the existence of the files the Treasury stated that it intended to destroy the whole lot, waiting politely till the various Chancellors died off. It was claimed, quite mistakenly, that the contents of these files are either ephemeral or copied elsewhere, and so should not be considered part of "the definitive policy record" maintained by its various divisions for archiving at Kew.

Later, and following representations, officials denied that destruction was ever intended. The first section, covering the Chancellorship of Sir Geoffrey Howe, 1979-83, was released at TNA in 2016; the files have been digitised and uploaded to the list below. The bulk of Nigel Lawson's files, 1983-89, were released at TNA in early 2018 and have also been digitised; they are being uploaded progressively and many are now available on this page. The spreadsheet giving the full list 1979-97 can be downloaded below.

Although some of the files relate to 1979 and 1980, the filing system glimpsed here only got into full operation in 1981, so earlier records are something of a legacy from what went before and are significantly fewer.

The Treasury has also released Nick Ridley's surviving Private Office files as Financial Secretary to the Treasury. These are diferent in form to the Chancellor's files, consisting largely of photocopies of minutes and meetings records relating to directly to Ridley with very little incoming correspondence. They are not listed in the spreadsheet already mentioned, so must derive from the 'unstructured' files already referred to. They are in rough chronological order - a sort of day file.

How to use this page?

Below are links to the downloadable files in numerical order. The original file names have been modified to convey content more readily.

An average file has around 100 pages.

Some of these downloads are very big, as large as 50MB, though most are in the range 1-10MB.

Where documents within a file have been selected for the site database, they can easily be viewed by clicking the file name link.

Selected documents in site database

Documents from the files selected for the site database can be read here. Progressively more will be uploaded over time.

File namesort descending Title Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages
T639/1 Political (Notes from special advisers, briefings on US, etc) Begins: 1979 May 30 Ends: 1979 Dec 19 Date of release: Date of release: 2012 File classification: Secret Pages: 89
T639/2 Europe (Visit of West German Chancellor, May 1979; Belgian PM, Spt 1979 - briefing, meeting records) Begins: 1979 May 7 Ends: 1979 Sep 13 Date of release: Date of release: 2012 File classification: Secret Pages: 137
T639/3 Political (Chancellor's morning meetings ['Prayers'], 1979 - meeting records) Begins: 1979 May 11 Ends: 1979 Dec 21 Date of release: Date of release: 2012 File classification: Secret Pages: 158
T639/4 Monetary policy (Relaxation of Exchange Controls - minutes, drafts, correspondence, meeting records) (Part 2) [see T639/10 for Part 1 of this file] Begins: 1979 Jun 7 Ends: 1979 Jul 24 Date of release: Date of release: 2012 File classification: Secret Pages: 197
T639/5 Monetary policy (Relaxation of Exchange Controls - minutes, correspondence, meeting records) (Part 3) Begins: 1979 Jul 17 Ends: 1979 Oct 22 Date of release: Date of release: 2012 File classification: Secret Pages: 166
T639/6 Public spending (Social Security; decision to uprate long-term benefits historically & in line with prices - minutes, correspondence) Part A Begins: 1979 May 11 Ends: 1979 May 17 Date of release: Date of release: 2012 File classification: Confidential Pages: 61
T639/7 Public spending (Social Security; decision to uprate long-term benefits historically & in line with prices - minutes, correspondence) Part B Begins: 1979 May 18 Ends: 1979 Jun 21 Date of release: Date of release: 2012 File classification: Secret Pages: 77
T639/8 Budget (1979 - minutes, correspondence, meeting records) Part A Begins: 1979 May 8 Ends: 1979 Jul 3 Date of release: Date of release: 2012 File classification: Secret Pages: 144
T639/9 Monetary policy (Chancellor's meeting with the PM, 5 Nov 1979) Begins: 1979 Oct 22 Ends: 1979 Nov 5 Date of release: Date of release: 2012 File classification: Secret Pages: 120
T639/10 Monetary policy (Relaxation of Exchange Controls - minutes, drafts, correspondence, meeting records) (Part 1) [see T639/4 for part 2 of this file] Begins: 1979 May 4 Ends: 1979 Jun 5 Date of release: Date of release: 2012 File classification: Secret Pages: 169
T639/11 Political (Chancellor's speech in economic debate, 28 Nov 1979 - briefing, notes, speech drafts; two items from 1977 also) Begins: 1977 Sep 27 Ends: 1979 Nov 28 Date of release: Date of release: 2012 File classification: Secret Pages: 243
T639/12 Monetary policy ("Gilt Strike", Nov 1979) Part A Begins: 1979 Nov 2 Ends: 1979 Nov 15 Date of release: Date of release: 2012 File classification: Personal & Secret Pages: 339
T639/13 Political (presentation of economic policy (Jun 1979 budget; post-budget; European budget Oct 1979; ITV pay, BBC cuts) - briefing, articles, letters, notes, drafts) Begins: 1979 May 10 Ends: 1979 Dec 20 Date of release: Date of release: 2012 File classification: Personal & Secret Pages: 286
T639/14 Personal (Refurbishment of No.11 Downing Street) Begins: 1979 Apr 30 Ends: 1980 Mar 19 Date of release: Date of release: 2012 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 89
T639/15 Public spending (1979-80 - minutes from special advisers & Treasury ministers; meeting records; MTFS) Begins: 1979 Jul 23 Ends: 1980 Jul 10 Date of release: Date of release: 2012 File classification: Secret Pages: 110
T639/16 Administration (Handling of ministerial correspondence - Private Office policy) Begins: 1979 Aug 10 Ends: 1980 Jan 28 Date of release: Date of release: 2012 File classification: Confidential Pages: 52
T639/17 Political (Chancellor's morning meetings ['Prayers'], 1980 - meeting records) Begins: 1980 Jan 9 Ends: 1980 Sep 17 Date of release: Date of release: 2012 File classification: Secret Pages: 104
T639/18 Europe (ECOFIN, Oct 1980 - briefing, circulated papers) Begins: 1980 Jan 24 Ends: 1980 Oct 17 Date of release: Date of release: 2012 File classification: Confidential Pages: 121
T639/20 Monetary policy (Relaxation of Exchange Controls, follow-up justification - minutes, speech drafts) Part C Begins: 1979 Oct 22 Ends: 1980 Sep 25 Date of release: Date of release: 2012 File classification: Secret Pages: 127
T639/21 Public spending (Pay of non-industrial civil servants - minutes, correspondence, meeting records) Part A Begins: 1979 Dec 21 Ends: 1980 Dec 17 Date of release: Date of release: 2012 File classification: Confidential/Management in confidence Pages: 152
T639/22 Public spending (Social Security; decision to uprate long-term benefits historically & in line with prices - minutes, correspondence) Part C Begins: 1979 Jul 26 Ends: 1980 Jan 30 Date of release: Date of release: 2012 File classification: Secret Pages: 48
T639/23 Public spending (Social Security Bill removing earnings link, etc - minutes, correspondence) Part A Begins: 1979 May 22 Ends: 1980 Mar 13 Date of release: Date of release: 2012 File classification: Secret Pages: 52
T639/25 Political (Chancellor's morning meetings ['Prayers'], 1981 - meeting records) Begins: 1981 Jan 20 Ends: 1981 Dec 9 Date of release: Date of release: 2012 File classification: Secret Pages: 46
T639/26 Political (Chancellor's visit to Scotland, Jan 1981 - brief & debrief) Begins: 1981 Jan 28 Ends: 1981 Feb 2 Date of release: Date of release: 2012 File classification: Unclassified Pages: 40
T639/27 Political (Opening to the public of the cabinet war rooms) Begins: 1981 Jun 26 Ends: 1982 Jan 4 Date of release: Date of release: 2012 File classification: not classified Pages: 23

Pages

Pages