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Complete classes from the CAB & PREM series in the Public Record Office

Series Three: CAB 128 & CAB 129 - Cabinet Conclusions and Cabinet Memoranda,

1945 and following

Part 7: The Heath Government - June 1970 - March 1974

Brief Chronology, June 1970 to March 1974



Conservatives win General Election with a majority of 30.


Iain Macleod dies and is replaced by Antony Barber as Chancellor of the Exchequer.


United States sinks 418 containers of nerve gas into the Gulf Stream near the Bahamas.

The Women’s Strike for Equality takes place in New York.


Detailed discussions begin on the question of Britain’s entry into the EEC. The resignation of Charles de Gaulle had removed one big obstacle. However, there were still many problems to overcome as the incoming Conservatives picked up proceedings following the initial application made by the previous Labour Administration.


Antony Barber announces on 27 October the main measures for his forthcoming Budget in 1971.

Edward Heath creates two new conglomerate ministries: the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of the Environment.


Control of the US air base on the Mekong Delta is handed over to the South Vietnamese. The US policy of Vietnamisation continues as US politicians look for a way out of the Vietnam conflict.

Charles de Gaulle dies on 9 November.

In a military coup on 13 November, Hafez al-Assad takes over power in Syria.

Vietnam War: Lieutenant William Calley goes on trial for the My Lai massacre on 17 November.

On 18 November, President Richard Nixon asks the US Congress for US$155 million in supplemental aid for the Cambodian government (including US$85 million for military assistance in order to help prevent the overthrow of the government of Premier Lon Nol by the Khmer Rouge and North Vietnam).

The United Nations Security Council demands that no government should recognize Rhodesia.

Pope Paul VI begins his Asian tour on 26 November.

Bolivian artist, Benjamin Mendoza, tries to assassinate Pope Paul VI during his visit to Manila on 27 November.


Introduction of the Industrial Relations Bill.



Edward Heath clashes with African leaders at the Commonwealth Conference.

Angry Brigade’ bomb attack on the home of Robert Carr, Secretary of State for Employment.


First British soldier killed in Ulster. There is an intensification of street violence throughout Northern Ireland.

Final collapse of Rolls-Royce Limited.


One day strike by 1.5 million engineers complaining against the Industrial Relations Bill.

Chichester-Clark resigns and is replaced as Northern Ireland Premier by Brian Faulkner.


Antony Barber’s Budget offers £550 million in tax reductions for the financial year 1971-1972. Corporation tax was cut to 40%.

Conference in London with representatives from Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Singapore agrees undertaking to consult together ‘in the event of any form of armed attack, externally organised, or the threat of such attack, against Malaysia and Singapore’.


Heath-Pompidou summit in Paris on 20-21 may resolves many of the difficulties surrounding the British application to join the EEC.


EEC negotiations are completed.


Edward Heath’s broadcast of 8 July on Britain’s application to join the EEC.

The Labour Party holds a special conference in London on 17 July to debate the issue. On 28 July the Labour Party National Executive rejects the terms negotiated by the Conservatives and decides to oppose entry.


The Government announces its plans for internment without trial in Northern Ireland.


Special House of Commons debate on Northern Ireland, 22-23 September.

TUC votes against registration under the Industrial Relations Act.


Crucial vote in the House of Commons about British entry into Europe following a debate from 21-28 October. Roy Jenkins leads Labour revolt to support entry.

Labour Party Conference overwhelmingly carries an anti-EEC resolution.


Draft agreement signed between Britain and Rhodesia: Rhodesia to become independent if majority of the population agrees to the negotiated terms.


Smithsonian Conference in Washington DC on exchange rate parity.



No sign of Antony Barber’s reflationary measures working; the unemployment total approaches 1 million.

Coal miners begin strike action having rejected a pay offer of up to £2 per week.

Pearce Commission visits Rhodesia to assess public opinion towards the proposed settlement of the constitutional dispute.

‘Bloody Sunday’ – 30 January. British paratroopers kill 13 civilians in Londonderry. Bernadette Devlin called it ‘Ireland’s Sharpeville’.


Emergency debate convened in the House of Commons on Northern Ireland on 1 February.

Miners start picketing power stations to prevent the movement of coal by road. They are supported by the railwaymen who refuse to move coal trains.

Second reading of the European Communities Bill in the House of Commons approved by a majority of 8 on 17 February.

State of Emergency declared in the fuel and power crisis; large scale power cuts begin, with 1.5 million workers laid off at the height of the crisis. Wilberforce enquiry’s terms for settling the miners’ dispute are published. The miners vote to return to work.


Antony Barber introduces a highly reflationary Budget with £1,380 million in tax reductions, mainly in the form of increased personal allowances.

Industry Bill introduced setting up the Industrial Development Executive with a spending programme of £250 million a year.

Britain and China agree to exchange ambassadors.

Cabinet decides on direct rule for Northern Ireland.

In protracted talks with Brian Faulkner, the Northern Irish Premier, and Jack Lynch, the Eire Premier, Edward Heath calls for plebiscites on the border issue, a start in phasing out internment and the transfer of responsibility for law and order to Westminster. The Northern Ireland Government accepted the first two suggestions, but refused to agree to the third. Heath decided to suspend the Government of Ireland Act and to impose direct rule for a period of 12 months. William Whitelaw is appointed Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

National Industrial Relations Court fines TGWU for contempt.


Roy Jenkins resigns as deputy leader of the Labour Party. George Thompson and Harold Lever also resign from the Labour Shadow Cabinet over the EEC.

‘Work-to-rule’ on British Rail.

National Industrial Relations Court orders ‘cooling off period’ and imposes a further fine for contempt on the TGWU.


Pearce Report concludes on 23 May that the proposed settlement in Rhodesia is not acceptable to the African population. Sanctions continue.


Sterling crisis – the Chancellor decides to allow the pound to ‘float’.

30,000 dockers stop work in sympathy for three colleagues arrested for contempt for refusing to appear in front of the new National Industrial Relations Court.

Anthony Royle, Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, becomes the first Foreign Office Minister of any West European country to visit China since the setting up of the People’s Republic.


The Home Secretary, Reginald Maudling, resigns on 18 July following allegations that he had received money from John Poulson, who was at the centre of a major corruption investigation. He is replaced by Robert Carr. In a Cabinet reshuffle, Peter Walker moves to the Department of Trade and Industry, Geoffrey replacing him at the Department of the Environment.

Third reading of the European Communities Bill in the House of Commons approved by a majority of 17 on 13 July.

Visit to the UK of the Portuguese Prime Minister, Dr Caetano. Disquiet over massacre by Portuguese troops of Africans in Mozambique.

Start of national dock strike following rejection of Jones-Aldington proposals for modernisation of the docks.


President Amin of Uganda expels over 40,000 British Asians from Uganda.

The Official Solicitor intervenes to release dockers imprisoned under the Industrial Relations Act.


Thirty-two unions are suspended by the TUC for registering under the Industrial Relations Act.


Cyril Smith wins Rochdale by-election for the Liberals.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home pays an official 5 day visit to China.


29 Conservatives vote against the order to renew sanctions against Rhodesia.

The Conservative Government reverses their previous policy on inflation and introduces on 6 November a Statutory Prices and Pay Standstill. A 90-day freeze on prices, pay, rent and dividend increases is imposed.

Government defeat in the House of Commons over new regulations on Immigration – the Opposition majority of 35 was the most substantial defeat of the Heath Administration.


Liberal victory in the Sutton and Cheam by-election of 7 December.



Britain joins the EEC.

On 17 January Edward Heath spells out the details of ‘Stage Two’ of the Wages and Prices Policy. Two new agencies are created: a Price commission and a Pay Board.

On 25 January, Robert Carr, the Home Secretary announces changes to the Immigration regulations and gives a report on the Government’s view on Asians wishing to come to Britain from Uganda following their expulsion by President Amin. Enoch Powell opposes the Government’s policy.


Panic selling of dollars produced an international monetary crisis. The US dollar was devalued by 10% on 13 February with serious consequences for sterling.

On 14 February gas workers begin a campaign of strikes and overtime bans in support of a wage claim exceeding ‘Stage Two’ limits. By 15 February nearly 4 million homes and over 600 industrial plants had been affected.

On 27 February about 200,000 civil servants went on strike in support of their pay claim.


Labour rebel Dick Taverne wins the Lincoln by-election on 1 March. Liberals also poll very strongly in the Chester-le-Street by-election.

Ulster referendum: overwhelming majority in favour of retaining links with Britain. White Paper proposes a Northern Ireland Assembly, elected by proportional representation.


‘Stage Two’ of the counter-inflation policy comes into operation. A price code is to be supervised by the new Price Commission. Wage increases restricted.

Budget of 1 April introduces VAT as a replacement for purchase tax and SET.

DTI announces a trade deficit for March of £197 million on 18 April.


On 7 May the Government introduces a subsidy of 2p a pound on the price of butter.

Antony Barber announces cuts in public spending of £100 million for 1973 and of £500 million for 1974-1975.


The Government authorises a 5% increase in rail fares on 8 June.

Ch’i Peng-fei, the Chinese Foreign Minister, makes an official visit to Britain.

Elections for the new Assembly in Northern Ireland held on 28 June.


The Bank of England minimum lending rate goes up to 11.5% on 27 July, the highest rate since 1914.

20 large bombs kill 11 people in Belfast and injure 120 on 21 July (‘Bloody Friday’).

David Austick wins the Ripon by-election for the Liberals on 26 July. Clement Freud wins at the Isle of Ely. The Conservatives lost two of their safest strongholds to the Liberals on the same day.

The first meeting of the new Northern Ireland Assembly does not progress well and ends in uproar on 31


‘Operation Motorman’ – British troops occupy the ‘no go’ areas of Belfast and Londonderry.


Building Societies raise mortgage interest rates to 10%.


All-party talks on the future of Northern Ireland held at Darlington in County Durham, 25-27 September.


Arab-Israeli War.

Oil crisis and petrol shortages as Arab nations cut supplies to the West.

Firemen begin a series of unofficial strikes.

Consultative document on Northern Ireland outlining a plan for power-sharing drawn up as a result of the Darlington talks.

Details of ‘Stage Three’ of the counter-inflation policy announced on 8 October.


National Union of Mineworkers implements an overtime ban in support of a pay claim in excess of ‘Stage Three’. Electricity Power Engineers also stop all out-of-hours work. The Central Electricity Board starts to struggle to cope with the situation and there are shortages at various power stations.

The Government declares a State of Emergency on 13 November in response to the fuel crisis and industrial action. Minimum Lending Rate is raised to 13%.

OPEC announces major rise in oil prices.

ASLEF ban on overtime, Sunday or rest-day working. Coal delivery to power stations further disrupted. Train services badly affected in the South East.

Many Conservative MPs again rebel and vote against the order to renew sanctions against Rhodesia.

Eleven man power-sharing executive proposed for Northern Ireland.


Sunningdale talks on Northern Ireland. The result of these tripartite talks between the UK Government, the Northern Ireland Executive-Designate and the Irish Government is the Sunningdale Agreement to set up a Council of Ireland.

Rail drivers’ union, ASLEF, continues with industrial action.



Direct rule for Northern Ireland ended on 1 January. New power-sharing executive takes over.

Start of three day week on 1 January. Electricity is only provided to industry on three specified days each week. Speed limit of 50mph imposed on all roads. A maximum heating limit is imposed on all commercial premises. All offices and television are required to close down at 10.30pm.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer announces large cuts in expenditure and tighter controls on consumer credit.

Lord Carrington is appointed as Secretary of State for Energy.

Parliament is recalled for a two-day debate on the energy crisis.

TUC offer at the National Economic Development Council meeting on 9 January stating that ‘The General Council accept that there is a distinctive and exceptional situation in the mining industry. If the Government are prepared to give the assurance that they will make possible a settlement between the miners and the National Coal Board, other unions will not use that as an argument in negotiations for their own settlements’.

Edward Heath has talks in the evening of 10 January with TUC leaders. Further extended talks take place the following Monday and the TUC hold at special conference at Congress House at which all but two union groups give their backing for the TUC offer on 16 January.

The main theme of conversation at Westminster is the prospect of a General Election on the issue of ‘Who governs Britain?’

Cabinet rejects the TUC’s formula on 21 January. Edward Heath discusses the option of a four-day week or a five-day week on 80% supplies with union leaders.

On 23 January the National Union of Mineworkers decides to ballot the membership on an all-out strike.

On 24 January the Pay Board reports on the differences in the pay levels of various groups within industry.

By the end of the month the Coal Board and the Government were both eager to get discussions started on the Pay Board’s relativities report and to use this as a way to settle the miners’ dispute.

Loyalists expelled from the Northern Ireland Assembly after angry scenes.


On 1 February the TUC meets with the Prime Minister for talks on the relativities formula. Len Murray says he has ‘serious doubts’ about it and Lawrence Daly said that the NUM would not entertain any meeting with the Prime Minister unless there was definitely an assurance of more cash at the end of the negotiations. There was not and the talks failed.

The leaders of the miners’ union refuse an offer to come to Downing Street for further discussions. There is an 81% vote in favour of all-out strike action.

On 7 February Edward Heath sets the date of the General Election for 28 February.

Miners’ strike starts on 9 February.

Retail Price Index shows a 20p in the pound increase in food prices over the previous twelve months.

Trade figures published on 25 February show the biggest monthly deficit in history.

Enoch Powell arranges a postal vote and gives his vote to the Labour Party.

General Election on 28 February against a background of industrial relations controversy. The results are disastrous for the Conservatives but they still had 297 seats compared to 301 for the Labour Party. A stalemate resulted as no party had an overall majority. Edward Heath turned to Jeremy Thorpe, the Liberal Leader, to see if they could find a working agreement for a new administration.


Jeremy Thorpe turns down the idea of co-operating with the Conservatives.

Final Cabinet Meeting of the Heath Administration takes place on 4 March to discuss the situation following the General Election. Edward Heath resigns and Harold Wilson becomes Prime Minister again.

Wilson forms minority Labour Government.

End of the three-day week and miners’ strike. Food subsidies begin.




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