Don’t move into Downing Street unless they put in a new kitchen, Denis Healey warned Tories

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the kitchen of her flat at 10 Downing Street, as Sir Geoffrey Howe repeatedly appealed to Mrs Thatcher for permission to refurbish the kitchen at No 11 Downing Street, according to newly-released official files.
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the kitchen of her flat at 10 Downing Street, as Sir Geoffrey Howe repeatedly appealed to Mrs Thatcher for permission to refurbish the kitchen at No 11 Downing Street, according to newly-released official files.
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CHANCELLOR Sir Geoffrey Howe repeatedly appealed to Margaret Thatcher for permission to refurbish the kitchen at No 11 Downing Street, official records show.

Following the Conservatives’ election victory in 1979 Sir Geoffrey was surprised when the first call he received was from his defeated Labour predecessor Denis Healey.

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He was even more surprised when Mr Healey revealed his reason for calling was to pass on a message from his wife, Edna, to Sir Geoffrey’s wife, Elspeth, warning her not to move into the flat in No 11 unless the “antediluvian” kitchen was updated.

Files released to the National Archives show that despite months of pleading by Treasury officials, Mrs Thatcher was reluctant to give the go ahead.

In December 1979, MA Hall wrote to Colin Peterson at No 10 complaining that three months after they had submitted an estimate for £4,150, there had been no response - despite three follow-up telephone calls.

Mr Peterson’s reply suggests Mrs Thatcher may have been reluctant to become personally involved in case it became public at a time when the new government was preparing for major spending cuts.

“I am very sorry that this has been so long outstanding. I was under the impression that the Prime Minister had had a word with the Chancellor,” he wrote.

“If not, I am sure that she would wish to leave this to the Chancellor’s discretion, keeping in mind how sensitive expenditure of this kind can be.”