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.