Newly released secret documents have given key insights into decision-making of Margaret Thatcher's government, over the Falklands War, Libya, the Cold War and the World Cup.]
The key findings of the files released to the National Archives in Kew are:
- The British government considered pulling out of the 1982 World Cup as war broke out with Argentina over the Falkland Islands, with sports governing bodies were urged to pull out of competitions with Argentinian teams both in England and in Argentina.
- Thatcher tried to keep politics out of a Falklands Thanksgiving Service at St Paul's Cathedral, saying in a private communication that it would be "wrong" for her to read a lesson and could "leave a bad taste".
- A secret plot by Libyan dictator Colonel Muammar Gaddafi to supply arms to the Argentinian junta in the midst of the Falklands War was dramatically unmasked by British agents, who discovered the Argentines were using the airport at Recife in Brazil as a staging post for shipping weapons from Libya into neighbouring Argentina.
- Thatcher insisted on paying nearly £2,000 towards the search for her son after he went missing in the Sahara desert amid concerns of a public backlash over taxpayers' money being used. Mark Thatcher went missing for six days in January 1982 during the Paris to Dakar car rally.
- Thatcher upbraided Chancellor of the Exchequer Sir Geoffrey Howe for his long-winded Budget speeches.
- Fears France could allow Argentina to acquire deadly Exocet missiles at the height of the Falklands War strained Margaret Thatcher's relationship with president Francois Mitterrand close to breaking point.
- The Soviet Union used civil airliners to conduct secret Cold War spying missions over Britain. Some aircraft would switch off their transponders, alerting air traffic controllers to their position before veering off their approved flight paths to carry out aerial intelligence-gathering missions over sensitive targets.