MT's official files as Prime Minister, 1979-90

MT's official files as PM can be read on this site as they are released, in full and free to all - the confidential files originally stored at No.10, the core record of her premiership.

This is the first time in Britain - in fact as far as we can tell, in any country - that the declassified archive of a head of government has ever been published in full, paper or online.

The files have been copied at the British National Archives (TNA) at Kew in London and can be downloaded precisely as they appear in the reading room.

We are doing something more to help people make sense of this mass of information. The files are subject-based, logically enough, but that system makes it difficult to reconstruct the flow of paper across the Prime Minister’s desk at any point in time, depriving us of a sense of context and cross-winds, some of them overwhelming.

To combat this effect we are uploading a large selection of the most important documents from these files – thousands in total - to our powerful site database. You can search and sort by date, subject and other parameters, getting as close as anyone can now get to reconstructing the Prime Minister’s daily "Red Boxes", the rich diet of foreign and domestic policy papers submitted to her by the No.10 Private Office.

list & links to the PM's files

Secret no more

Below are links to the downloadable files in numerical order. The subject terms are those used in the original filing system. Files held back from release are listed in red.

An average file has around 200 pages.

You can read here an account of how filing worked at No.10, and the system for archiving MT's Prime Ministerial papers, both of which had their quirks.

Some of these downloads are very big, as large as 75MB, though most are in the range 1-10MB. To keep sizes down, images have been compressed, though legibility should never be a problem. High quality copies can also be supplied, where a need is established, on application to the site editor.

Where documents within a file have been selected for the site database, they can easily be viewed by clicking the link after the file name ("Selected PREM19/959"), as well as via conventional searches from the archive search screen. Over time most files will have had documents selected in this way, but it will take time and care is being taken not to allow the site database to become so large as to be unmanageable.

You can sort each column by clicking on its title in bold at the top, a powerful tool to find all the files on a particular subject over several years.

You can also search the list from the box on the right. The term "Public Spending", for example, will produce all the parts of the main file on that topic.

Chancellor of the Exchequer's Private Office files, 1979-89

1979-89: Chancellor's Private Office files [links to hundreds of digitised files from the Chancellorships of Sir Geoffrey Howe and Nigel Lawson]

engagement diaries

An alternative way through the material is to read MT's engagement diaries, jumping day to day.

The engagement diaries link directly to relevant documents in the site database, so this is a good way to recover the perspective from the Red Box.


File name Title Beginssort descending Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pages
PREM19/2967 Environmental Affairs (Environmental pollution: climate change; Environment White Paper) (Part 15) Begins: 1990 Mar 1 Ends: 1990 Apr 30 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3172 South Africa (Internal situation: relations with UK; policy on arms sales to South Africa) (Part 22) Begins: 1990 Mar 1 Ends: 1990 Jun 29 Date of release: 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/3790 Home Affairs (Report of inspectors appointed under section 432(2) of the Companies Act 1985 to investigate the affairs of House of Fraser Holdings plc)​​ (Part 6) Begins: 1990 Mar 2 Ends: 1992 Jan 8 Date of release: 2030 Jan 1
PREM19/2975 European Policy (European Community budget: developments in the European Community) (Part 45) Begins: 1990 Mar 2 Ends: 1990 Apr 27 Date of release: 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/4454 South Africa (Visits to the UK by Nelson Mandela) Begins: 1990 Mar 5 Ends: 1993 Oct 15 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28 Any docs withheld? 8 File classification: Secret Cab One Pages: 243
PREM19/3137 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to Bermuda, April 1990: administrative arrangements) Begins: 1990 Mar 9 Ends: 1990 Jul 12 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20 Any docs withheld? 11 File classification: Secret Pages: 223
PREM19/3014 Government Machinery (The Government's accountability for events under previous Administrations) Begins: 1990 Mar 12 Ends: 1990 Mar 22 Date of release: 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3127 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Dr Hans Blix, Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), 19 June 1990) Begins: 1990 Mar 12 Ends: 1990 Jul 11 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20 File classification: Confidential Pages: 25
PREM19/3939 Security (Operational file) Begins: 1990 Mar 15 Ends: 1992 Sep 18 Date of release: Date of release: Retained Under Sec 3.4
PREM19/4464 Trade and Industry (Government purchasing policy and Buy British policy) (Part 6) Begins: 1990 Mar 15 Ends: 1993 Mar 8 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/2950 Economic Policy (Review of policy on film finance: Prime Minister's seminar for the British Film Industry, 15 June 1990) (Part 2) Begins: 1990 Mar 16 Ends: 1990 Jun 18 Date of release: 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/3115 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's meeting with Fred Naylor, Honorary Secretary of Parental Alliance for Choice in Education (PACE), 18 June 1990) Begins: 1990 Mar 23 Ends: 1991 Jul 10 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20 Any docs withheld? 1 File classification: Confidential Pages: 42
PREM19/3542 Social Services (Review of social security benefits: equality in the state pension age) (Part 7) Begins: 1990 Mar 26 Ends: 1991 Nov 27 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20 File classification: Secret Pages: 345
PREM19/3386 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 24) Begins: 1990 Apr 1 Ends: 1991 Mar 28 Date of release: 2018 Jul 24
PREM19/3805 Industrial Policy (Future of Rover Group) (Part 17) Begins: 1990 Apr 1 Ends: 1992 Mar 11 Date of release: Date of release: Temporarily Retained by Department