Papers reveal Thatcher secrets

New government papers reveal some of the secrets of Margaret Thatcher's term as Prime Minister. Government files have traditionally been withheld for 30 years, but the National Archives is now releasing papers after 20.

National

Thatcher vetoed Hague's first foray into politics

William Hague's first attempt to enter politics was blackballed by then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, newly-released Government papers show.

Mrs Thatcher had been among those cheering the future Foreign Secretary when, as a 16-year-old schoolboy, he delivered a speech that took the Conservative Party conference by storm.

Margaret Thatcher and William Hague pictured in October 1977 when he made his speech to the Tory conference.
Margaret Thatcher and William Hague pictured in October 1977 when he made his speech to the Tory conference. Credit: PA/PA Archive

Mrs Thatcher was less impressed when - as a 21-year-old Oxford graduate - he tried to secure a prestigious posting as special adviser to the Chancellor.

Papers released by the National Archives at Kew, west London, show she angrily blocked the move, denouncing it as a "gimmick" and an "embarrassment" to her Government.

When senior Treasury official John Kerr requested approval for his appointment in a letter dated March 17 1983, Mrs Thatcher scrawled across the top in thick black ink, "No [triple underlined] - this is a gimmick and would be deeply resented by many who have financial-economic experience."

National

Laser weapon was deployed to Falklands, papers show

Britain deployed a laser weapon to the Falklands that was designed to "dazzle" Argentine pilots during battle, newly-released Government papers reveal.

Despite being quietly and hurriedly developed, the weapon was never used in action, according to a 1983 document released by the National Archives today.

Margaret Thatcher and Michael Heseltine in May 1983 at a Conservative Party press conference.
Margaret Thatcher and Michael Heseltine in May 1983 at a Conservative Party press conference. Credit: PA/PA Archive

The letter is dated January 1983 and marked "Top Secret and UK Eyes A," from the then newly-appointed Defence Secretary Michael Heseltine to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Mr Heseltine wrote: "We developed and deployed with very great urgency a naval laser weapon, designed to dazzle low flying Argentine pilots attacking ships, to the Task Force in the South Atlantic.

"This weapon was not used in action and knowledge of it has been kept to a very restricted level."

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National

Thatcher declared IRA jailbreak 'worse than we thought'

Margaret Thatcher declared it was "even worse than we thought" after learning the details behind the break out at the top security Maze prison in which 38 IRA inmates went on the run.

Undated file photo of the Maze Prison in Northern Ireland.
Undated file photo of the Maze Prison in Northern Ireland. Credit: PA Wire

The then-Prime Minister penned her thoughts across the top of a secret Government document which landed on her desk five days after the mass escape from the Northern Ireland jail on 25 September, 1983, became the worst prison break-out in British history.

In the immediate aftermath, strongly-worded advice sent by telegram from the Foreign Office to its territories stressed, "You should take every opportunity to limit the propaganda benefit the IRA will reap from the outbreak ... The Government regard the outbreak most seriously."

National

Thatcher's troops plan for striking miners revealed

Margaret Thatcher secretly considered the use of troops to break the on-going strike by coal miners, documents released by the National Archives show.

The papers show that ministers and officials repeatedly warned that a confrontation with the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and its leader, Arthur Scargill, was inevitable.

Margaret Thatcher pictured in May 1983.
Margaret Thatcher pictured in May 1983. Credit: PA Wire

A secret Whitehall working group - codenamed MISC 57 - was established to lay the ground for the battle to come.

Plans were set in train quietly to purchase land next to electricity power stations - which were nearly all coal-fired - so that coal could be stockpiled to keep them running through a strike.