Page last updated at 08:46 GMT, Saturday, 2 August 2008 09:46 UK

Thatcher state funeral undecided

Margaret Thatcher at Royal Ascot in June
There is no indication that Lady Thatcher's health is causing concern

No decision has been made about whether former prime minister Margaret Thatcher should be given a state funeral, a senior cabinet minister has said.

Reports last month suggested officials of PM Gordon Brown and the Queen were in discussions with Lady Thatcher's office about arrangements.

But Labour's deputy leader Harriet Harman says the stories are inaccurate.

The reports are no indication of any concern for the health of the 82-year-old, who was PM from 1979 to 1990.

Ms Harman told the Guardian newspaper: "There is no arrangement on this and those stories are not accurate."

Ms Harman, who has been "minding the shop" during Mr Brown's holiday this week, declined to say whether she thought the former Conservative leader should have a state funeral.

Exceptional cases

State funerals are normally reserved for monarchs and reports that Lady Thatcher, a divisive political figure, would be given such a funeral sparked controversy.

If granted, it would make Lady Thatcher the first premier since Sir Winston Churchill who was given the honour in 1965.

Concerns were also raised that not enough soldiers would be available to line the streets as her coffin was taken to St Paul's Cathedral.

In the 20th Century there were two other state funerals for non-royals: military commander Frederick Roberts and ex-Ulster Unionist Party leader Edward Carson.

In the 19th Century, five state funerals were granted to non-royal personages.

The exceptional cases were Lord Nelson after his death at Trafalgar; Charles Darwin; and the Duke of Wellington, Lord Palmerston and William Gladstone, three former prime ministers.

The Queen Mother was given a ceremonial funeral rather than a state one in 2002 as it was her husband George VI who held the throne.

In effect there is little difference between ceremonial and state funerals - with the gun carriage during a state funeral drawn by Royal Navy ratings rather than artillery horses.

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