Transparency data

Twenty-year rule on public records

From 2013 government papers will be progressively released to the public after 20 years. Previously, papers were released after 30 years.

Detail

Previously, at 30 years after creation, closed records were transferred to The National Archives. This rule was reviewed and, from January 2013, the move to 20 years began.

Most records created by government departments are either destroyed when they are no longer of use, or closed to the public for a number of years.

Twenty-year rule

To meet this new target, government departments must now review at least 2 years’ worth of records each year. Under the Public Records Act 1958, these records will be transferred to TNA.

The Home Office plans to conduct an accelerated transition programme. During 2013, the department reviewed 67 file series for transfer to TNA covering the years 1983 to 1991. This review programme consists of approximately 37,000 records, approximately one third of which will be selected for permanent preservation.

Review stages

The review consists of 3 stages:

  1. Selection review - files of historic interest are identified.

  2. Sensitivity review - the department will release all possible content; however, for reasons of sensitivity, some material may need to be withheld, such as:
    • personal information under the Data Protection Act 1998
    • information that might prejudice the health and safety of individuals
    • operational policing information relating to criminal cases or current procedures. Any closure of information is conducted in line with the Freedom of Information Act 2000. Where possible the Home Office will remove (redact) small amounts of information from files, enabling the majority of a file to be opened at TNA.
  3. Cataloguing and preparation - files are given descriptions that will aid searching and prepare for transfer to TNA.

Prioritisation

File series to be reviewed have been prioritised according to the expected research value of the contents. These are priority 1, 2 and 3 files.

All series require external consultations that can take longer than expected which may affect timing.

Progress

Statistics on progress against the Home Office annual review programme will be published at the end of each financial quarter (March, June, September and December).

Progress of historic review programme, 2013 to 2014: files dated 1982 or earlier

  31 Mar 2014 - number of files 30 Jun 2014 - number of files 30 Sep 2014 - number of files
Total volume (brought forward) 10,481 7,773 7,565
Awaiting review 0 0 0
Selection review 0 0 0
Awaiting TNA sign-off of selection review 891 (8.5%) 903 (11%) 903 (12%)
Sensitivity review 24 (<1%) 24 <1% 4 (<1%)
Preparation for transfer 9,202 (88%) 6,198 (80%) 5,719 (76%)
Awaiting TNA sign-off for transfer 364 (3.5%) 648 (8%) 939 (12%)
Transferred 452 469 661

Progress of historic review programme, 2013 to 2014: files dated 1983 to 1991

  31 Mar 2014 - number of files 30 Jun 2014 - number of files 30 Sep 2014 - number of files
Total volume (brought forward) 17,866 12,302 12,176
Awaiting review 0 0 0
Selection review 16,062 (89.9%) 10,197 (82.9%) 5,767 (39.5%)
Awaiting TNA sign-off of selection review 210 (1.2%) 4 (<1%) 4,416 (11%)
Sensitivity review 791 (4.4%) 669 (<1%) 642 (3%)
Preparation for transfer 543 (3%) 786 (<1%) 784 (1%)
Awaiting TNA sign-off for transfer 260 (1.5%) 664 (<1%) 567 (<1%)
Transferred 12 21 (<1%) 156 (<1%)

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