Margaret Thatcher secretly tried to press ahead with a politically toxic plan to dismantle the welfare state even after a “cabinet riot” and her famous declaration that the “NHS is safe with us”, newly released Treasury documents show.
The plan commissioned by Thatcher and her chancellor Sir Geoffrey Howeincluded proposals to charge for state schooling, introduce compulsory private health insurance and a system of private medical facilities that “would, of course, mean the end of the National Health Service”.
Some of her cabinet ministers believed they had buried the plan, drawn up by a seconded Treasury official, Alan Bailey, from the Central Policy Review Staff (CPRS), at a special cabinet meeting on 9 September 1982.
Nigel Lawson in his memoirs said the paper of “long-term public spending options” had been buried after what he described as “the nearest thing to a cabinet riot in the history of the Thatcher administration”. In her own memoirs, Thatcher claimed to have been “horrified” by the CPRS paper and insisted that she and her ministers had never seriously considered it.
The CPRS paper had been partially leaked and she was only able to quell the subsequent furore by famously pledging the “NHS is safe with us” at the October 1982 Tory party conference. Downing Street briefed that the toxic plan had been “shelved”.