Thatcher pushed for plug to be pulled on noisy acid house parties

Margaret Thatcher urged the Government to combat the "new fashion" of acid house parties as noisy all-night raves plagued 1980s Britain, according to newly released official files.

Friday, 30th December 2016, 10:43 am
Updated Monday, 9th January 2017, 1:02 pm
The prime minister called for immediate action

The prime minister called for immediate action to prevent the spread of parties celebrating the new genre of electronic dance music in 1989, as residents complained of being kept up late at night by revellers.

Officials were concerned by the disruption the parties were causing but warned proposed legislation should not affect those attending "innocent events" such as barn dances, Cabinet Office papers released by the National Archives at Kew, west London, show.

Mrs Thatcher was alerted to an acid house party held in Bentley, Hampshire, on August 19 1989 by Archie Hamilton, MP for Epsom and Ewell.

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He forwarded the Prime Minister a letter from his uncle, Gerald Coke, who was "very disturbed" by the noisy rave which had lasted until 7.30am.

There was a "feeling of collective anger and helplessness" among residents who had been told police "could do nothing" because it was a private party, Mr Coke said.

In a handwritten note on Mr Hamilton's letter, the Prime Minister was asked if the Home Office should provide a briefing on the powers police had to control the parties.

Mrs Thatcher responded: "Yes if this is a new 'fashion' we must be prepared for it and preferably prevent such things from starting."

Acid house music, which was linked with the rise of recreational drugs such as ecstasy, gained popularity in Britain in the late 1980s.

Huge unlicensed parties were held across Britain between 1988 and 1989 as the dance music movement spread, earning the period the nickname "the second summer of love".

Despite the link between acid house and ecstasy, Carolyn Sinclair, of the Government policy unit, said illegal substances were not the "main issue" with the "craze".

In a memo to the Prime Minister on October 12 1989, she wrote: "The main problem with acid house parties is the nuisance caused by the noise. The police wish that they were called 'pay parties'.

"Drugs are not the main issue. The parties are a form of unlicensed public entertainment for which people buy tickets."

She added: "What is needed is a way of hitting at the profits made by the organisers. This should discourage the craze."

But as officials discussed introducing a private member's bill to halt the trend, Malcolm Rifkind, Secretary of State for Scotland, stressed legislation should not discriminate against those having harmless fun.

On December 5 1989, he warned Home Secretary David Waddington: "The point has been made that the offence to which the relevant penalties would attach will have to be very carefully drafted if we are to avoid catching entirely innocent events such as a barn dance."

Legislation to tackle the dance movement was introduced by the Entertainments (Increased Penalties) Act 1990, also referred to as the Acid House Bill, which heightened punishments for those organising parties without licences.