First Thatcher ministry

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First Thatcher Ministry
85th Cabinet of United Kingdom
1979–1983
Margaret Thatcher.png
Date formed 4 May 1979
Date dissolved 9 June 1983
People and organizations
Head of government Margaret Thatcher
Head of state Queen Elizabeth II
Member party Conservative Party
Status in legislature Majority
Opposition party Labour Party
Opposition leader

James Callaghan (May 1979 – November 1980)

Michael Foot

(November 1980 – Oct. 1983)
History
Election(s) 1979 general election
Outgoing election 1983 general election
Previous Callaghan ministry
Successor Second Thatcher ministry

Margaret Thatcher was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom between 4 May 1979 and 28 November 1990, during which time she led a Conservative government. She was the first woman to hold that office. During her premiership, Thatcher moved to liberalise the British economy through deregulation, privatisation, and the promotion of entrepreneurialism. This article details the First Thatcher Ministry, which existed from 1979 until 1983.

Formation[edit]

Following the vote of no confidence against the Labour government and prime minister James Callaghan on 28 March 1979, a general election was called for 3 May 1979. The Tories won the election with a majority of 44 seats and their leader Margaret Thatcher became Britain's first female prime minister.

Thatcher inherited some of the worst economic statistics of postwar Britain. The nation was still feeling the effects of the endless strikes during the recent Winter of Discontent. Inflation stood at 10.3% in May 1979. 1,500,000 were unemployed – a increase of 50% in five years.[citation needed]

Thatcher's monetarist and deflationary economic policies saw a cut in the inflation rate from a high of 22% in May 1980 to just over 13% by January 1981, and by June 1983 it had fallen to a 15-year low of 4.9%.

She also oversaw union reforms which saw strikes at their lowest for 30 years by 1983. However, her economic policies also resulted in the loss of much of Britain's heavy industry. Coal pits, steel plants, machine-tools and shipyards were particularly hard hit, most of all in Scotland and the north of England. Unemployment rose from 1,500,000 at the time of the 1979 general election to a record 3,200,000 four years later.

The Labour opposition, who changed leader from James Callaghan to Michael Foot, was in no position to exploit the situation. The change of leader saw the party shift dramatically to the left, and in 1981 a host of disenchanted Labour MP's formed the breakaway Social Democratic Party. The new party swiftly formed an alliance with the Liberals with a view to forming a coalition government at the next election. For a while, opinion polls suggested that this could happen, with support for the Alliance peaking at 50% in late 1981.

However, when the Falkland Islands (a British colony in the South Atlantic) were seized by Argentine forces in March 1982, Thatcher was swift to declare war on Argentina which was won on 14 June when the Argentines surrendered. The success of this campaign saw a swift turnaround in support for the Tory government, who by the summer of 1982 were firmly in the lead in all of the major opinion polls.

Fate[edit]

Thatcher had the option of waiting until May 1984 before calling a general election, but the opinion polls remained in her favour as 1983 dawned and so she called a general election for 9 June. With all the pollsters pointing towards a Tory majority, the most interesting outcome of the election was the guessing game as to whether it would be Labour or the Alliance who formed the next opposition.

In the event, the Tories were re-elected with a 144-seat majority. The election was an unmitigated disaster for Labour, who polled a mere 27.6% of the vote and were left with just 209 MPs in the new parliament. The Alliance came close to Labour in terms of votes with 25.4% of the electorate voting for them, but won a mere 23 seats.

Cabinets[edit]

May 1979 – September 1981[edit]

Changes[edit]

  • January 1981: Francis Pym succeeds Norman St John-Stevas as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. Pym succeeds Angus Maude as Paymaster-General. John Nott succeeds Pym as Secretary of State for Defence. John Biffen succeeds Nott as Secretary of State for Trade and President of the Board of Trade. Leon Brittan succeeds John Biffen as Chief Secretary to the Treasury. St John-Stevas resigns as Minister for the Arts. His successor is not in the cabinet. The post of Secretary of State for Transport is brought into the cabinet and Norman Fowler is given the post.

September 1981 – June 1983[edit]

September 1981: A substantial reshuffle took place:

Changes[edit]

  • April 1982: Francis Pym succeeds Lord Carrington as Foreign Secretary. John Biffen succeeds Pym as Lord President of the Council. Baroness Young succeeds Humphrey Atkins as Lord Privy Seal. Cecil Parkinson succeeds Baroness Young as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. Lord Cockfield succeeds John Biffen as Secretary of State for Trade.
  • January 1983: Michael Heseltine succeeds John Nott as Secretary of State for Defence. Tom King succeeds Heseltine as Secretary of State for the Environment.

List of Ministers[edit]

Members of the Cabinet are in bold face.

Office Name Dates Notes
Prime Minister,
First Lord of the Treasury
and Minister for the Civil Service
Margaret Thatcher 4 May 1979  
Minister of State, Civil Service Department Paul Channon 7 May 1979 – 5 January 1981  
Barney Hayhoe 5 January 1981 – 12 November 1981  
Lord Chancellor The Lord Hailsham of St Marylebone 5 May 1979  
Lord President of the Council The Lord Soames 5 May 1979 also Leader of the House of Lords
Francis Pym 14 September 1981 also Leader of the House of Commons
John Biffen 5 April 1982 also Leader of the House of Commons
Lord Privy Seal Sir Ian Gilmour, Bt 5 May 1979  
Humphrey Atkins 14 September 1981  
The Baroness Young 6 April 1982 also Leader of the House of Lords
Chancellor of the Exchequer Sir Geoffrey Howe 5 May 1979  
Chief Secretary to the Treasury John Biffen 5 May 1979  
Leon Brittan 5 January 1981  
Minister of State, Treasury Peter Rees 6 May 1979 – 14 September 1981  
Francis Cockfield 6 May 1979 – 6 April 1982  
Jock Bruce-Gardyne 15 September 1981 – 11 November 1981  
Barney Hayhoe 11 November 1981  
John Wakeham 6 April 1982  
Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury Michael Jopling 5 May 1979  
Financial Secretary to the Treasury Nigel Lawson 6 May 1979  
Hon. Nicholas Ridley 30 September 1981  
Lords of the Treasury John MacGregor 7 May 1979 – 5 January 1981  
Hon. Peter Morrison 7 May 1979 – 5 January 1981  
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton 7 May 1979 – 1 October 1981  
Carol Mather 7 May 1979 – 1 October 1981  
David Waddington 16 May 1979 – 5 January 1981  
John Wakeham 9 January 1981 – 15 September 1981  
Hon. Robert Boscawen 9 January 1981 – 17 February 1983  
John Cope 9 January 1981 – 13 June 1983  
Tony Newton 1 October 1981 – 5 March 1982  
John Gummer 1 October 1981 – 6 January 1983  
Hon. Peter Brooke 1 October 1981 – 13 June 1983  
Alastair Goodlad 16 February 1982  
Donald Thompson 14 January 1983  
David Hunt 23 February 1983  
Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs The Lord Carrington 5 May 1979  
Francis Pym 5 April 1982  
Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Peter Blaker 5 May 1979 – 29 May 1981  
Hon. Nicholas Ridley 6 May 1979 – 29 September 1981  
Hon. Douglas Hurd 6 May 1979 – 11 June 1983  
Richard Luce 30 September 1981 – 5 April 1982  
Cranley Onslow 5 April 1982 – 13 June 1983  
The Lord Belstead 5 April 1982 – 13 June 1983  
Timothy Raison 6 January 1983 also Minister of Overseas Development
Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Richard Luce 6 May 1979  
The Lord Trefgarne 14 September 1981  
Malcolm Rifkind 6 April 1982  
Minister for Overseas Development Timothy Raison 6 January 1983  
Secretary of State for the Home Department William Whitelaw 5 May 1979 also Deputy Prime Minister
Minister of State for Home Affairs Leon Brittan 6 May 1979 – 5 January 1981  
Timothy Raison 6 May 1979 – 6 January 1983  
Patrick Mayhew 5 January 1981 – 13 June 1983  
David Waddington 6 January 1983  
Under-Secretary of State for Home Affairs The Lord Belstead 7 May 1979 – 6 April 1982  
The Lord Elton 6 April 1982 – 13 June 1983  
David Mellor 6 January 1983  
Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Peter Walker 5 May 1979  
Minister of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food The Earl Ferrers 7 May 1979 – 13 June 1983  
Alick Buchanan-Smith 7 May 1979 – 13 June 1983  
Under-Secretary of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Jerry Wiggin 7 May 1979 – 29 September 1981  
Peggy Fenner 14 September 1981 – 13 June 1983  
Minister for the Arts Norman St John-Stevas 5 May 1979 also Leader of the House of Commons
Paul Channon 5 January 1981  
Secretary of State for Defence Francis Pym 5 May 1979  
John Nott 5 January 1981  
Michael Heseltine 8 January 1983  
Minister of State for Defence The Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal 6 May 1979 – 5 January 1981  
The Viscount Trenchard 5 January 1981 – 29 May 1981 Office abolished 29 May 1981; Trenchard appointed Minister of State for Defence Procurement
Minister of State for the Armed Forces Peter Blaker 29 May 1981  
Minister of State for Defence Procurement The Viscount Trenchard 29 May 1981  
Geoffrey Pattie 6 January 1983  
Under-Secretary of State for the Army Barney Hayhoe 6 May 1979 – 5 January 1981  
Philip Goodhart 5 January 1981 – 19 May 1981 Office abolished 29 May 1981; Goodhart appointed Under-Secretary of State for the Armed Forces
Under-Secretary of State for the Navy Keith Speed 6 May 1979 – 18 May 1981 Office abolished 29 May 1981
Under-Secretary of State for the Air Force Geoffrey Pattie 6 May 1979 – 29 May 1981 Office abolished 29 May 1981; Pattie appointed Under-Secretary of State for Defence Procurement
Under-Secretary of State for the Armed Forces Philip Goodhart 29 May 1981 – 30 September 1981
Jerry Wiggin 15 September 1981 – 11 June 1983  
Under-Secretary of State for Defence Procurement Geoffrey Pattie 29 May 1981 – 6 January 1983  
Ian Stewart 6 January 1983  
Secretary of State for Education and Science Mark Carlisle 5 May 1979  
Sir Keith Joseph 14 September 1981  
Minister of State, Education and Science The Baroness Young 7 May 1979 – 14 September 1981  
Paul Channon 5 January 1981 – 13 June 1983  
Under-Secretary of State, Education and Science Rhodes Boyson 7 May 1979 – 13 June 1983  
Neil Macfarlane 7 May 1979 – 15 September 1981  
William Shelton 15 September 1981 – 13 June 1983  
Hon. William Waldegrave 15 September 1981 – 13 June 1983  
Secretary of State for Employment James Prior 5 May 1979  
Norman Tebbit 14 September 1981  
Minister of State, Employment The Earl of Gowrie 7 May 1979 – 15 September 1981  
Michael Alison 15 September 1981 – 13 June 1983  
Under-Secretary of State, Employment Jim Lester 7 May 1979 – 5 January 1981  
Patrick Mayhew 7 May 1979 – 5 January 1981  
David Waddington 5 January 1981 – 6 January 1983  
Hon. Peter Morrison 5 January 1981 – 13 June 1983  
John Gummer 6 January 1983  
Secretary of State for Energy David Howell 5 May 1979  
Nigel Lawson 14 September 1981  
Minister of State, Energy Hamish Gray 7 May 1979 – 13 June 1983  
Under-Secretary of State, Energy Norman Lamont 7 May 1979 – 5 September 1981  
John Moore 7 May 1979 – 13 June 1983  
David Mellor 15 September 1981 – 6 January 1983  
The Earl of Avon 6 January 1983  
Secretary of State for the Environment Michael Heseltine 5 May 1979  
Tom King 6 January 1983  
Minister of State for Local Government Tom King 6 May 1979  
The Lord Bellwin 6 January 1983  
Minister of State for Housing John Stanley 7 May 1979  
Under-Secretary of State for Sport Hector Monro 7 May 1979 – 30 September 1981  
Neil Macfarlane 15 September 1981  
Under-Secretary of State, Environment Marcus Fox 7 May 1979 – 5 January 1981  
Geoffrey Finsberg 7 May 1979 – 15 September 1981  
The Lord Bellwin 7 May 1979 – 6 January 1983  
Giles Shaw 5 January 1981 – 13 June 1983  
Sir George Young, Bt 15 September 1981  
Secretary of State for Health and Social Security Patrick Jenkin 5 May 1979  
Norman Fowler 14 September 1981  
Minister of State, Health Gerard Vaughan 7 May 1979  
Kenneth Clarke 5 March 1982  
Under-Secretary of State, Health and Social Security Sir George Young, Bt 7 May 1979 – 15 September 1981  
Lynda Chalker 7 May 1979 – 5 March 1982  
Geoffrey Finsberg 15 September 1981 – 14 June 1983  
The Lord Elton 15 September 1981 – 6 April 1982  
Tony Newton 5 March 1982  
The Lord Trefgarne 6 April 1982 – 14 June 1983  
Minister of State, Social Security Reginald Prentice 7 May 1979 – 5 January 1981  
Hugh Rossi 5 January 1981 – 12 June 1983  
Secretary of State for Industry Sir Keith Joseph, Bt 7 May 1979  
Patrick Jenkin 14 September 1981 Merged with the Office of Trade 12 June 1983
Minister of State, Industry Hon. Adam Butler 6 May 1979 – 5 January 1981  
The Viscount Trenchard 6 May 1979 – 5 January 1981  
Norman Tebbit 5 January 1981 – 14 September 1981  
Norman Lamont 14 September 1981 – 12 June 1983  
Minister of State, Industry and Information Technology Kenneth Baker 5 January 1981
Under-Secretary of State, Industry David Mitchell 6 May 1979 – 5 January 1981  
Michael Marshall 6 May 1979 – 15 September 1981  
John MacGregor 5 January 1981 – 12 June 1983  
John Wakeham 15 September 1981 – 6 April 1982  
John Butcher 6 April 1982 – 12 June 1983  
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Norman St John-Stevas 5 May 1979 also Leader of the House of Commons
Francis Pym 5 January 1981 also Leader of the House of Commons
The Baroness Young 14 September 1981 also Leader of the House of Lords
Cecil Parkinson 6 April 1982  
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Humphrey Atkins 5 May 1979  
James Prior 14 September 1981  
Minister of State, Northern Ireland Michael Alison 7 May 1979 – 15 September 1981  
Hugh Rossi 7 May 1979 – 5 January 1981  
Hon. Adam Butler 5 January 1981 – 10 June 1983  
The Earl of Gowrie 15 September 1981 – 10 June 1983  
Under-Secretary of State, Northern Ireland The Lord Elton 7 May 1979 – 15 September 1981  
Philip Goodhart 7 May 1979 – 5 January 1981  
Giles Shaw 7 May 1979 – 5 January 1981  
David Mitchell 5 January 1981 – 13 June 1983  
John Patten 5 January 1981 – 13 June 1983  
Nicholas Scott 15 September 1981 – June 1983  
Paymaster-General Angus Maude 5 May 1979  
Francis Pym 5 January 1981  
Cecil Parkinson 14 September 1981  
Secretary of State for Scotland Hon. George Younger 5 May 1979  
Minister of State for Scotland The Earl of Mansfield 7 May 1979 – 13 June 1983  
Under-Secretary of State for Scotland Alexander Fletcher 7 May 1979 – 14 June 1983  
Russell Fairgrieve 7 May 1979 – 15 September 1981  
Malcolm Rifkind 7 May 1979 – 6 April 1982  
Allan Stewart 15 September 1981 – June 1983  
John MacKay 6 April 1982 – June 1983  
Secretary of State for Trade John Nott 5 May 1979  
John Biffen 5 January 1981  
The Lord Cockfield 6 April 1982
Minister for Consumer Affairs Sally Oppenheim-Barnes 5 May 1979  
Gerald Vaughan 5 March 1982  
Minister for Trade Cecil Parkinson 7 May 1979  
Peter Rees 14 September 1981  
Under-Secretary of State for Trade Norman Tebbit 5 May 1979 – 5 January 1981  
Reginald Eyre 7 May 1979 – 5 March 1982
The Lord Trefgarne 5 January 1981 – 15 September 1981
Iain Sproat 15 September 1981 – 12 June 1983
Minister of Transport Norman Fowler 11 May 1979 – 5 January 1981 became Secretary of State for Transport
Secretary of State for Transport Norman Fowler 5 January 1981  
David Howell 14 September 1981  
Parliamentary Secretary for Transport Kenneth Clarke 7 May 1979 – 5 January 1981 became Under-Secretary of State for Transport
Under-Secretary of State for Transport Kenneth Clarke 5 January 1981 – 5 March 1982  
Lynda Chalker 5 March 1982 – June 1983  
Reginald Eyre 5 March 1982 – 11 June 1983  
Secretary of State for Wales Nicholas Edwards 5 May 1979  
Minister of State for Wales John Stradling Thomas 17 February 1983 – June 1983  
Under-Secretary of State for Wales Michael Roberts 7 May 1979 – 6 January 1983  
Wyn Roberts 7 May 1979 – June 1983  
Attorney General Michael Havers 5 May 1979  
Solicitor General Sir Ian Percival 5 May 1979  
Lord Advocate The Lord Mackay of Clashfern 5 May 1979  
Solicitor General for Scotland Nicholas Fairbairn 7 May 1979  
Peter Fraser 28 January 1982  
Treasurer of the Household John Stradling Thomas 6 May 1979  
Hon. Anthony Berry 17 February 1983  
Comptroller of the Household Spencer Le Marchant 7 May 1979  
Hon. Anthony Berry 30 September 1981  
Carol Mather 17 February 1983  
Vice-Chamberlain of the Household Hon. Anthony Berry 7 May 1979  
Carol Mather 30 September 1981  
Hon. Robert Boscawen 17 February 1983  
Captain of the Gentlemen-at-Arms The Lord Denham 6 May 1979  
Captain of the Yeomen of the Guard The Lord Sandys 6 May 1979  
The Earl of Swinton 20 October 1982  
Lords-in-Waiting The Viscount Long 9 May 1979 – June 1983  
The Lord Mowbray and Stourton 9 May 1979 – 22 September 1980  
The Lord Lyell 9 May 1979 – June 1983  
The Lord Cullen of Ashbourne 9 May 1979 – 27 May 1982  
The Lord Trefgarne 9 May 1979 – 5 January 1981  
The Earl of Avon 22 September 1980 – 6 January 1983  
The Lord Skelmersdale 9 January 1981 – June 1983  
The Lord Glenarthur 27 May 1982 – 10 June 1983  
The Lord Lucas of Chilworth 6 January 1983 – June 1983  

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Preceded by
Callaghan ministry
Government of the United Kingdom
1979–1983
Succeeded by
Second Thatcher ministry