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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."

Special relationship strained over Grenada invasion

The close bond between Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan was almost broken over the US invasion of the Caribbean island of Grenada in 1983.

Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan during an official White House visit
Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan during an official White House visit Credit: PA

Official documents released by the National Archives reveal the then-US President only informed Downing Street of the plan the night before troops moved in.

Mrs Thatcher said she was "deeply disturbed" by the military action.

Click here to read more on the National Archives release

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Hague 'bore no hard feelings' after Thatcher's veto

William Hague bore no hard feelings after Margaret Thatcher vetoed his appointment as a special adviser in 1983, a source close to the Foreign Secretary has said.

Mrs Thatcher, the then-Prime Minister, noted at the time, "Promising though he is, it is a bit difficult to see what a 21-year-old will contribute as a special adviser".

Margaret Thatcher and William Hague in 1997, when he was a Conservative Party leadership contender.
Margaret Thatcher and William Hague in 1997, when he was a Conservative Party leadership contender. Credit: Tony Harris/PA Archive/Press Association Images

Mr Hague, who instead was offered a role at the Conservative Research Department, felt his time there had been "a wonderful introduction to politics at a high level", the unnamed source said.

"The Foreign Secretary thinks that Margaret Thatcher was, as usual, right", they continued.

"He is still very proud that Margaret Thatcher gave him her backing when he stood for the leadership of the Conservative Party 14 years later."

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."

Margaret Thatcher 'fought' to knight Savile

Margaret Thatcher with Jimmy Saville outside No 10 Downing Street. Credit: PA Archive

Former prime minister Margaret Thatcher made repeated attempts to get Jimmy Savile knighted - despite pleas from her concerned aides - it has been reported.

Previously unseen Cabinet Office documents from Lady Thatcher's premiership obtained by The Sun newspaper admit to advisers' "worries" about Savile being made a "Sir" against a backdrop of "unfortunate revelations" about his private life.

The television star was knighted for his services to charity in 1990.

One adviser's letter to the PM, published in The Sun today, stated: "Mr Savile is a strange and complex man."

It adds: "Fears have been expressed that Mr Savile might not be able to refrain from exploiting a knighthood in a way which brought the honours system into disrepute."

One in eight voters support 'Margaret Thatcher Day'

Only one voter in eight would support renaming a bank holiday "Margaret Thatcher Day" in honour of the late prime minister, a poll published today suggests.

The proposal was one of the most eye-catching ideas tabled by a group of Conservative backbenchers in their so-called "Alternative Queen's Speech".

Margaret Thatcher pictured outside the White House in February 1985.
Margaret Thatcher pictured outside the White House in February 1985. Credit: Arnie Sachs/DPA/Press Association Images

However, it also proved to be the least popular - just 13% of those questioned in the poll for Tory donor Lord Ashcroft backed the move.

Also failing to win public support were proposals to allow employees to opt out of the minimum wage (backed by 23%), privatise the BBC (28%) and scrap the office of the Deputy Prime Minister (29%).

Some 2,013 adults were interviewed online between June 28 and 30 for the poll.

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Costello plays Thatcher protest song at Glastonbury

Elvis Costello performs on the Pyramid stage at the Glastonbury Festival. Credit: PA

An anti-Margaret Thatcher protest song was performed at Glastonbury Festival today, just months after the former Prime Minister's death.

Elvis Costello, playing an afternoon set on the main Pyramid Stage, Costello introduced Tramp the Dirt Down by saying at the time he wrote it, many years ago, he thought everyone would have jetpacks by 2013.

The controversial song was broadcast as part of the BBC's coverage of the festival.

Costello, whose fans watching onstage included Mary McCartney and the Arctic Monkey's Alex Turner, told the audience that while he would not wish dementia on anyone: "The things she did to this country are still being done today."

Blairs 'receive' puppies that 'gave comfort to Thatcher'

Tony and Cherie Blair have been given two of the dachshund puppies that gave comfort to Margaret Thatcher in her final hours, reports the Telegraph.

Tony Blair and wife Cherie attend Margaret Thatcher's funeral. Credit: PA

The Blairs are said to be acquiring the puppies that were among the new litter belonging to Baroness Thatcher’s former private secretary Lord Charles Powell.

Lord Powell showed Baroness Thatcher a video of the puppies on his iPad when he visited her at the Ritz Hotel in her final hours, and which he said prompted “her last smile”.

The late Baroness Thatcher. Credit: PA

The puppies are owned by Lord Powell’s wife Carla, who helped deliver them two months ago, and the couple decided to give them away.

Lady Powell said Cherie agreed a month ago that she would take two of the litter and during Lady Thatcher's funeral they spoke again, according to reports.

Margaret Thatcher's funeral security cost £1.1 million

In a statement the Cabinet Office said that the estimated costs for Lady Thatcher’s funeral ceremony are around £500,000.

This includes the costs incurred by St Paul’s Cathedral, the Ministry of Defence, the Foreign Office, the invitation printers, and staff overtime.

The coffin bearing the body of Baroness Thatcher outside St Paul's Cathedral.
The coffin bearing the body of Baroness Thatcher outside St Paul's Cathedral. Credit: David Crump/Daily Mail/PA Wire

The provisional estimate of the direct policing and security costs for the funeral are around £1.1 million.

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