Geoffrey Howes battle with Margaret Thatcher to get No 11 Downing Street

first_imgLord Howe with his wife Elspeth and dogin 1994Credit:Rex Features The files revealed other changes were planned, totalling thousands of pounds in additional costs.They included curtains, a swivel desk chair and two lamp shades being added to the Chancellor’s study, at a cost of £800. “Not unnaturally, the Chancellor would like to proceed with at least some of this work. I am sorry to nag you about this – but time is slipping by,” he wrote.Mr Hall also appeared to be having difficulty getting other work approved, namely changing the telephone system in the Chancellor’s property.“I was dismayed to find that you had now been gone for a week’s leave, and that we had not had an opportunity of discussing my minute [about the telephone system],” Mr Hall wrote in a letter to Mr Uden in December 1979.“As I have mentioned to you more than once, the Chancellor is increasingly exercised about the lack of any action.”Finally, two days later, Mr Peterson addressed the concerns involving the work, apologising that the issues had 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.”In an interview with Amanda Ponsonby, Mrs Thatcher later remarked that she had been annoyed by the refurbishment, stating: “I can make do. Why should No. 11 have a bigger kitchen?” Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the kitchen of her flat at 10 Downing Street The Camerons later moved into the Number 11 flat and spent a further £25,000 redoing the kitchen (above)  The Camerons later moved into the Number 11 flat and spent a further £25,000 redoing the kitchen (above) Credit:Press Assocation  The first letter – sent on September 17, 1979, four months after the Conservative’s won the election – provided three estimates to Number 10 “to replace and modernise the kitchen entirely”, ranging from £2,400 to £6,400.Staff decided it would be best to go for a “middle” scheme, costing £4,150, despite admitting the most expensive was “the most desirable if the current economic climate had allowed it”.It was at this point where decisions came to halt with letters from Treasury staff seemingly becoming increasingly frustrated.Two days after the estimate was discussed, Martin Hall wrote to Clive Uden at No. 10 saying the Chancellor had instructed that the majority of the work in the property would not proceed “until we had a received a reply from No. 10 and the Chancellor had seen it”. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. Show more center_img Later, in his memoir, Lord Howe, who is best known for resigning from Mrs Thatcher’s cabinet in 1990, revealed Mr Healey had been the first person to ring him following his appointment and said his wife, Edna, had some advice for Lady Howe about the kitchen.“She urged Elspeth to insist, as a condition of our occupancy, that these features might be put right,” he wrote. Lord Howe with his wife Elspeth and dog in 1994 Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the kitchen of her flat at 10 Downing StreetCredit:PA Wire The Chancellor would like to proceed with at least some of this work. I am sorry to nag you about this – but time is slipping byMartin Hall He added later that Mrs Healey was “certainly right about the kitchen”, which had an “antiquated institutional-sized gas cooker and surely the first dishwashing machine ever made, which persistently leaked”.Now, files released at The National Archives in Kew, west London, have shown that despite Treasury staff keeping Number 10 in the loop about required changes, Mrs Thatcher was reluctant to get involved due to how “sensitive expenditure of this kind can be”. Most people would expect top government buildings to have state-of-the-art kitchens, complete with modern equipment to ensure a minister’s every need can be fulfilled at the push of a button.But newly released documents reveal Lord Howe of Aberavon had to battle with Margaret Thatcher in a bid to get the 11 Downing Street kitchen updated.Lord Howe moved into the property in 1979 after being appointed Chancellor – but files show that despite months of pleading by Treasury officials, the Prime Minister was reluctant to give permission for some of the work in the property to go ahead.He was determined to get the kitchen updated after being pre-warned about it by his defeated Labour predecessor Denis Healey, who, in an unexpected phone call, described the room as “positively antediluvian, [with] iron gas rings, antique sinks and somber décor”. In December that year, he wrote to Colin Peterson, also at No. 10, complaining that three months had passed but there had been no response – despite three follow-up telephone calls. Meanwhile, one member of staff questioned whether the telephone system should be louder because Lady Howe was “hard of hearing”. Lord Howe, who died last year, revealed later that it was his wife’s interior designer sister, Mary, who in the end “organised an attractive, not too elaborate kitchen/breakfast room, which looked straight down Downing Street”.But he confessed that during the 11 years of living in a government-provided house, his family was forced to think about how to “strike the right balance” by “maintaining a historic house, without incurring odium for living it up”.David Cameron later moved into the larger flat above No 11 Downing Street, spending a further £25,000 doing up the kitchen, which, during his time, included an American-style fridge freezer, modern hood cooker and £795 marble table. His Chancellor, George Osborne, instead lived in the smaller flat at No 10. last_img

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