Declassified files: Thatcher scarred by storm after ending free school milk

Margaret Thatcher ended free school milk while education secretary in the 1970s
Margaret Thatcher ended free school milk while education secretary in the 1970s

Almost two decades after she ended free school milk Margaret Thatcher still recoiled at memory of the political storm she unleashed, newly released government files reveal.

As education secretary in Edward Heath’s government her decision in 1970 to stop the provision of milk for junior school pupils prompted the playground taunt “Thatcher, Thatcher, milk snatcher”.

Files released by the National Archives show that 19 years later, Mrs Thatcher – by then prime minister – was horrified when health secretary Ken Clarke proposed finally ending free milk for nursery schoolchildren as well.

“No – this will cause a terrible row – all for £4 million. I know – I went through it 19 years ago,” she scrawled in a handwritten note.

“Health has enough to do to get the white paper and community proposals through. Any scheme for saving £400 million or more I will look at. But not £4 million.”

Mrs Thatcher was also appalled when, six years after the Falklands War, foreign secretary Sir Geoffrey Howe suggested he should make a courtesy call on the Argentinian foreign minister, who had just been elected president of the United Nations General Assembly.

“I utterly recoil from this, and so I think would the relatives of all those who lost their lives in the Falklands. Argentina has not announced a cessation of hostilities,” she wrote.

Her foreign policy adviser Charles Powell added: “I must say this rather sticks in my gullet. I don’t see why we have to offer to call on representatives of a country which is still technically at war with us. But perhaps I am old-fashioned!”