By Ray Fleming

The most attention-getting documents in yesterday's release of UK government papers under the 30-year rule are those dealing with the possibility of a new, perhaps nuclear, war. An address by the Queen to the nation begins: “Our brave country must again prepare itself to survive against great odds”. The speech, drafted by a civil servant , was part of a precautionary exercise, and fortunately was never needed.

The political year 1983 lacked major internal or international events -- although Mrs Thatcher is shown to have been misled by President Reagan over his invasion of Grenada -- there are interesting papers exchanged between Margaret Thatcher and some of her ministers which show her preoccupation with trade unions. She tells Frederick Mount, her policy unit head, that Norman Tebbit's proposals for trade union reform are “too timid” and that “we should neglect no opportunity to erode trade union membership.” Mount responds with “We must see to it that our new legal structure discourages trade union membership in the new industries.” Another minister, Nigel Lawson, says that the government must “do everything in our power to defeat Scargill, including ensuring that a strike results in widespread closures.” It did.

Thirty years on, it sometimes seems that Conservative attitudes to trade unions have changed little and that some ministers would much prefer an economy in which even their admired “hard workers” had no legal safeguards against ruthless employers.


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