UK

Thatcher 'resisted' chancellor's new kitchen plea

Margaret Thatcher and Sir Geoffrey Howe in November 1985 Image copyright PA

Margaret Thatcher was reluctant to allow her first Chancellor Sir Geoffrey Howe to spend £4,150 on a new kitchen, newly released papers show.

The papers from 1979 show Edna Healey, wife of Sir Geoffrey's predecessor, warned of the "antediluvian" room at 11 Downing Street.

Three calls were made to "nag" Mrs Thatcher to approve the refurbishment.

Replies from a private secretary suggest the PM may have been wary of becoming involved amid spending cuts.

The exchanges are revealed in the late chancellor's secret papers in the National Archives from 1979-83.

They show his predecessor Denis Healey was the first person to contact Sir Geoffrey after he was appointed following the Conservative landslide general election win.

But the new chancellor was said to be even more surprised to hear Mr Healey was passing on a message from his wife, Edna, to Sir Geoffrey's wife, Elspeth, warning her not to move into the flat at No 11 unless the kitchen was updated.

'Chancellor's discretion'

An estimate for the work was submitted but it took three calls by Treasury officials over a three-month period to elicit a reply from Mrs Thatcher's staff.

In his reply, one of Mrs Thatcher's private secretaries, Colin Paterson, wrote: "I am very sorry that this has been so long outstanding. I was under the impression that the prime minister had had a word with the chancellor.

"If not, I am sure that she would wish to leave this to the chancellor's discretion, keeping in mind how sensitive expenditure of this kind can be."


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Another document in the National Archives outlines radical plans to end universal free healthcare.

The document stamped "secret" was called, in keeping with films and books of that era, "The Omega Project".

Civil servants noted that "for the majority it would represent the abolition of the NHS".

But in spite of what was described as the nearest thing to a Cabinet riot in the history of the Thatcher administration, the prime minister secretly pressed ahead with the plans - later backing down.

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