Margaret Thatcher's inner circle at No 10 were so determined to distance her from a communist French politician during a lunch meeting that they placed him "at a table as far as possible" from her, according to official papers made public today.
Charles Fiterman served as transport minister to socialist president Francois Mitterrand, and although he was the most senior minister accompanying the French head of state for a visit in 1981, he was treated with a great deal of caution.
Previously confidential papers revealing the government's preparation for the Anglo French summit were released today by the National Archives in Kew, west London.
An internal memo dated September 3 1981 discusses the seating arrangements for a working lunch at 10 Downing Street during the visit on September 11 and 12.
Despite one of the key issues for the UK and France at the time being the proposal for a rail link across the English Channel, the transport minister was edged away from the top table.
It said: "The problem of sensitive discussion is not an insurmountable one, one could for example place M. Fiterman at table as far as possible from the Prime Minister and President Mitterrand, though he is the most senior of the accompanying ministers."
Elsewhere in the files, Mrs Thatcher appeared to change plans to avoid a car journey with Mr Mitterrand.
The prime minister made handwritten notes in the margin of a letter to her from Michael Alexander, her personal secretary for overseas affairs, which discusses the president's trip from RAF Northolt in west London to Downing Street.
In the memo dated September 4 1981, Mr Alexander refers to a private conversation in which Mrs Thatcher suggested she did not want to spend time with Mr Mitterrand, but would accompany him for the drive from the airfield.
He wrote: "I have assumed, in the light of our conversation on Wednesday, that you are prepared (if not overjoyed) to spend more time with the President."
But her notes refer to a conversation with her principal private secretary Clive Whitmore in which she alters the arrangements.
"I have discussed this with Clive. Mitterrand will come with the Ambassador and I will go ahead to be at No 10 to greet him."
In the same memo, Mr Alexander informs the prime minister of the plans to seat Mr Fiterman at a different table to her during the lunch.
She noted: "Yes.
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