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 Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld? File classification Pagessort descending
PREM19/2772 Manpower (Special employment measures: future of the Employment Service; Training and Enterprise Councils; Youth Training Scheme (YTS) review) (Part 21) Begins: 1989 Jan 6 Ends: 1989 Jul 31 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20 File classification: Secret Pages: 372
PREM19/1265 Hong Kong (Future of Hong Kong) (Part 14) Begins: 1984 May 1 Ends: 1984 Jun 30 Date of release: 2014 Jan 3 Any docs withheld? 9 File classification: Secret UK eyes Pages: 373
PREM19/966 Civil service (Annual scrutiny of departmental running costs) (Part 2) Begins: 1981 Aug 19 Ends: 1983 Sep 19 Date of release: 2013 Aug 1 File classification: Confidential Pages: 373
PREM19/1581 Nationalised industries (Coal mines) (Part 18) Begins: 1985 Jun 3 Ends: 1985 Nov 29 Date of release: 2014 Dec 30 File classification: Secret Pages: 375
PREM19/1315 Middle East (Arms sales and military assistance to Middle Eastern countries) (Part 3) Begins: 1982 Oct 13 Ends: 1984 Oct 22 Date of release: 2014 Sep 29 File classification: Secret Pages: 375
PREM19/3086 Middle East (Situation in the Middle East: Iraqi invasion of Kuwait) (Part 33) Begins: 1990 Nov 1 Ends: 1990 Nov 17 Date of release: 2017 Jul 20 Any docs withheld? 8 File classification: Top Secret - Cab One Pages: 375
PREM19/1565 Local Government (Future of the rating system: alternatives to domestic rates; rate limitation White Paper; rates in Scotland; Community Charge) (Part 3) Begins: 1983 Jul 4 Ends: 1985 Dec 31 Date of release: 2014 Dec 30 File classification: Secret Pages: 376
PREM19/2676 European Policy (European Monetary System (EMS)) (Part 4) Begins: 1989 Mar 1 Ends: 1989 Aug 31 Date of release: 2016 Dec 30 File classification: Secret Pages: 376
PREM19/1194 Economic policy (Public Spending) (Part 30) Begins: 1984 Nov 6 Ends: 1984 Dec 14 Date of release: 2014 Jan 3 File classification: Secret Pages: 376
PREM19/174 Economic policy (Strategy) (Part 7) Begins: 1980 Sep 19 Ends: 1980 Dec 31 Date of release: 2010 Dec 30 File classification: Secret Pages: 377
PREM19/3844 Local Government (Planning controls: Planning and Compensation Bill; Sainsbury Group on Planning Issues; planning policies and the South East) (Part 8) Begins: 1990 Aug 6 Ends: 1992 Jun 18 Date of release: 2017 Dec 29 File classification: Confidential Pages: 377
PREM19/3713 European Policy (Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)) (Part 20) Begins: 1990 Jul 18 Ends: 1992 Dec 31 Date of release: 2017 Dec 29 Any docs withheld? 5 File classification: Confidential Pages: 378
PREM19/1391 South Africa (Internal situation; relations with UK) (Part 3) Begins: 1982 Dec 9 Ends: 1984 Sep 30 Date of release: 2014 Jan 3 Any docs withheld? 18 File classification: Top Secret Pages: 379
PREM19/3757 Fishing Industry (EEC Common Fisheries Policy: proposed decommissioning scheme for the UK fishing industry) (Part 6) Begins: 1985 Jul 3 Ends: 1992 Jun 25 Date of release: 2017 Dec 29 File classification: Confidential Pages: 379
PREM19/1578 Nationalised industries (Coal mines) (Part 15) Begins: 1984 Nov 21 Ends: 1985 Jan 18 Date of release: 2014 Dec 30 File classification: Secret Pages: 379