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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.

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 and links to the PM’s files

Below are links to the downloadable files in numerical order. The subject terms are those used in the original filing system.

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.

Chancellor of the Exchequer’s Private Office files, 1979-1989

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 Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pagessort ascending
PREM19/1570 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 12) Begins: 1984 Jan 5 Ends: 1985 May 31 Date of release: Date of release: Temporarily retained
PREM19/2614 Defence (Military uses of laser technology in space: United States Strategic Defence Initiative) (Part 5) Begins: 1987 Oct 2 Ends: 1989 Jan 16 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/3531 Security ​​​​​​​(Miscellaneous leaks and security breaches)​​​​​​​ (Part 3) Begins: 1989 Jan 10 Ends: 1991 Apr 26 Date of release: Date of release: Retained Under Sec 3.4
PREM19/2044 Civil Service (Property Services Agency (PSA) restructuring) (Part 2) Begins: 1986 Feb 3 Ends: 1988 Feb 19 Date of release: 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2712 Government Machinery (The Central Office of Information (COI) and the future of the Information Services: Government advertising expenditure; repayment for services provided by the COI) Begins: 1979 May 18 Ends: 1989 May 11 Date of release: 2016 Dec 30
PREM19/1832 Libya (Internal situation: Anglo-Libyan relations) (Part 6) Begins: 1986 Apr 17 Ends: 1986 Apr 30 Date of release: 2014 Dec 30 File classification: Retained under Section 3:4
PREM19/3032 Housing (Housing policy: homelessness) (Part 16) Begins: 1989 Jul 3 Ends: 1990 Jun 22 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20
PREM19/1897 Prime Minister (Meeting with members of the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee) Begins: 1986 Jul 15 Ends: 1986 Aug 20 Date of release: 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2552 Trade (UK's international trade policies: non-tariff barriers and restraints on imports; consideration of export problems; recycling of OPEC surpluses) (Part 5) Begins: 1985 Jul 1 Ends: 1987 Jan 26 Date of release: Date of release: Retained File classification: Temporarily retained by Department
PREM19/1753 European Policy (Visits to UK by Presidents of the European Commission, Gaston Thorn (March 1983 - June 1984) and Jacques Delors (May 1985 - February 1987): meetings with Prime Minister) (Part 2) Begins: 1983 Feb 15 Ends: 1986 Dec 31 Date of release: 2014 Dec 30
PREM19/4435 Science and Technology (Intellectual property and innovation: problems faced by private inventors; Intellectual Property Bill) (Part 34) Begins: 1986 Apr 2 Ends: 1993 Dec 22 Date of release: 2018 Dec 28
PREM19/3815 Iraq (Exports to Iraq (Scott Inquiry)) (Part 4) Begins: 1990 Oct 18 Ends: 1992 Nov 19 Date of release: Date of release: Retained under Sec 3.4 (reconsideration in 2021)
PREM19/2327 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East) (Part 17) Begins: 1987 Oct 2 Ends: 1988 Feb 29 Date of release: Date of release: Review 2027 File classification: Retained under Sec 3.4
PREM19/1671 Aerospace (Westland Helicopters) (Part 6) Begins: 1986 Aug 1 Ends: 1986 Nov 19 Date of release: 2016 Feb 19
PREM19/2915 Brazil (Proposed visit to UK by President of Brazil, General Joao Figueiredo; visit of the President-elect, Fernando Collor de Mello, February 1990) Begins: 1981 Nov 9 Ends: 1990 May 24 Date of release: 2016 Dec 30

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