U.K. Freedom of Information

Parliament passed the Freedom of Information Act in 2000 but delayed its implementation for five years; it came into effect on 1 January 2005.

Many government departments post copies of the most interesting releases on their own websites. Those relevant to MT are gathered here. (Copies of the documents have been stored in the Thatcher Digital Archive, where they will remain available even if removed from government sites.)

There is material too from a group of 50,000 files released under FoI on 4 January 2005 and available for study at the National Archives in Kew. These include many files from the archive of the National Coal Board during the year long miners' strike of 1984-85.

1979 November: Dublin European Council

A handful of background papers relating to the Dublin European Council have been released by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Following internal review in 2008 a much larger release took place. Extracts will be placed online here in 2009.

[released by FCO, 20 February 2005; internal review 2008]

1981 march: development of monetary policy in the late 1970S and in the 1981 budget

The Treasury has made a massive release of documents on these topics.

[released by Treasury, 9 Nov 2006]

Treasury site

1984 January 11: Miners' union hugely exaggerated impact of overtime ban

At the end of October 1983 the National Union of Mineworkers began an overtime ban, anticipating the strike soon to come. NUM leaders claimed publicly that the ban was having a massive impact on coal stocks and on the profitability of the publicly-owned coal industry, the National Coal Board (NCB). The NCB denied it, but understandably released no exact figures as to coal stocks at pits and power stations.

So who was in the right? Finally, the NCB's own figures are available to check the claims (file reference COAL 31/352). Coal stocks fell only 2 per cent between 31 October and 11 January, a rate so low that it would have taken twenty years to exhaust the coal in NCB's own yards. And the NCB's were not the only stocks. Power stations had been building up coal reserves for years and had enough to maintain production for six months even without further deliveries from the pits. (In fact, during the overtime ban weekly deliveries were 1.4 million tons.)

The financial impact of the ban was also hugely exaggerated by the NUM, while the miners themselves had lost more than £33 million in wages over the nine weeks of the ban.

[released at TNA, 4 January 2005]

Download NCB note of overtime ban impact

1984 June: Fontainebleau European Council

Some background papers relating to the Fontainebleau European Council have been released by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Following internal review in 2008 a much larger release took place. Extracts will be placed online here in 2009.

[released by FCO, 20 February 2005; internal review 2008]

1985 February 12-20: N.C.B. negotiations with N.U.M. curtailed by Government

In the last fortnight of the strike, with the NUM's defeat imminent, the NCB management entered into a negotiation with the union through the offices of the TUC, to the dismay of the Government which had deep doubts as to the tactical skills of the NCB and preferred to see the strike collapse.

The file from his office archive (COAL 31/438) show that the NCB chairman, Ian MacGregor, personally drafted an agreement for transmission to the NUM (the handwritten note at the beginning of the file extract is his). The Energy Secretary, Peter Walker, was appalled to discover what MacGregor was doing and wrote a stinging letter to make his point. MacGregor's ill-advised draft was revised a week later.

The strike ended with the union unilaterally returning to work.

[released at TNA, 4 January 2005]

Download documents from Ian MacGregor's office files

1987 October: Treasury papers on "Black Monday" (stock market crash)

The October 1987 stock market crash triggered close Treasury study of the cause and possible consequences of such events.

[released by Treasury, 29 June 2005]

Treasury site

1988-93: Treasury papers on an independent Bank of England

During early 1988 the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Nigel Lawson, requested officials to study the case for, and practicalities of, giving the Bank of England statutory independence.

The Treasury reached an agnostic verdict, but Lawson nonetheless prepared a memorandum for the Prime Minister urging an independent Bank. The initiative came to nothing, because MT rejected the proposal. But after she left No.10 work continued on Bank of England independence on the initiative of officials, preparing in case ministers asked for a reexamination of the issue. In the event that moment came only with the arrival of the new Labour Government in May 1997.

[released by Treasury, 7 March 2005]

Treasury site

1992-97: Treasury papers on "Black Wednesday" (Sterling's exit from the E.R.M.)

The ejection of sterling from the European Union's Exchange Rate Mechanism in September 1992 was an event of fundamental significance for British politics. The Treasury released documents analysing the debacle on the request of the Financial Times. The timing of the request - months before a General Election - guaranteed controversy, compounded when sections of the papers held back from release were sent to the BBC.

[released by Treasury, 9 February 2005]

Treasury site

"Treasury document accidentally sent to BBC" (BBC site)

1992 September-October: Treasury papers on the adoption of inflation targeting

In October 1992, weeks after sterling's exit from the ERM, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced a new monetary regime based on inflation targeting.The Treasury has released papers relating to the formulation of the policy.

[released by Treasury, 14 October 2005]

Treasury site