FOI release

Ministerial 'red boxes'

5 requests regarding ministerial 'red boxes'




From 1st May 2008 to 1 February 2011

  • How many new ministerial ‘red boxes’ have been purchased?
  • What was the cost?
  • How many ‘red boxes’ went out of use and why?
  • Have there been any changes in the specifications for new ‘red boxes’
  • Have staff have received any notifications of new protocol or instructions on how to use the ‘red boxes’, since 1st May 2010.


Ministers are permitted to use ordinary lockable briefcases to transport information which has been classified ‘Confidential’ or below. For information with a higher security level (such as ‘Secret’) they are required to use dispatch boxes, which offer a higher level of security, and which are usually red. However a travel version of the despatch box is also available in black, which offers the same level of security as a red despatch box, but is designed to be less conspicuous. In practice Ministers use despatch boxes for transporting the majority of their documents due to the greater level of security they offer.

The following information covers all despatch boxes regardless of colour.

Between 1 May 2008 and 1 May 2009 the Treasury purchased six despatch boxes at a total cost of £4,212.36 and from 1 May 2009 to 1 May 2010 purchased one box for £865.43. No new boxes have been ordered since 1 May 2010.

The Treasury does not hold any information on the number of despatch boxes which may have gone out of service during this time period or about any changes to box specifications made during that time.

The Cabinet Office provides guidance to Departments on the appropriate use of despatch boxes as part of HMG’s Security Policy Framework. No new guidance has been issued since 1st May 2010.