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banner Tuesday, 1 January, 2002, 00:35 GMT
Thatcher's appeal over free milk
Thatcher and Heath
Disagreement could have fuelled famous feud
Sir Edward Heath rejected an appeal by Margaret Thatcher for help when she was taking flak over the abolition of free milk, official papers reveal.

The then Conservative prime minister, turned down his Education Secretary Mrs Thatcher's appeals for help, letters released under the 30-year rule show.

Baroness Thatcher had found herself labelled "Thatcher, Thatcher, milk snatcher" after she was responsible for withdrawing free milk to Britain's school children.

The failure to announce the 73-74 school building programme is putting me in some political difficulty

Lady Thatcher

In a letter dated 18 May, 1971, Lady Thatcher appealed to Sir Edward to allow her to bring forward the announcement of extra cash for school building to counteract the effects of the School Milk Bill then going through parliament.

"You may not appreciate that failure to announce the 73-74 school building programme is putting me in some political difficulty," she wrote.

She signed off: "I'm afraid this letter sounds terse but you would be critical if it were long. Yours ever, Margaret."

Sir Edward was warned by his senior officials that to give in to her request would mean re-opening the whole government spending round (PESC).

'Tedious controversy'

"For a single minister to demand additional resources at the present point in time is a negation of the PESC procedure," Cabinet Secretary Sir Burke Trend wrote.

In another letter, Sir Edward's private secretary Peter Gregson wrote that while Mr Trend may be right, he would still need to find some way of mollifying his unhappy education secretary.

"If you agree, you then have to decide whether to see her or to write to her.

"A short letter would give offence and a long letter could involve you in tedious controversy.

"I think you probably ought to see her," he said in a handwritten note.

The exchange suggests that the roots of Lady Thatcher's and Sir Edward's famously long-running feud may have pre-dated their falling out after she became Conservative leader following his 1974 General Election defeat.


See also:

05 Jul 99 | Education
Fight to save school milk
15 Mar 99 | UK Politics
Pinta politics returns
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