Content design: planning, writing and managing content

Withdrawing and removing content, and labelling content from previous governments

When you should withdraw content, when you should remove content, and what content gets labelled as from a previous government.


GOV.UK only shows up-to-date and current information that meets a user need. If there is not a user need or a statutory duty to publish, it should not be on GOV.UK.

There are 2 ways to deal with content when it has come to the end of its life - you can either withdraw it, or remove it.

Withdraw outdated content items

If you withdraw content, it will still be on GOV.UK but will not appear in internal search results. Withdrawn content will appear beneath a call-out box which tells the user it has been withdrawn and is no longer current.

Guidance formats should be edited and updated when they become out of date. Do not create a new content item unless there’s a new and distinct user need for it.

Other content items, especially time-bound pages such as news articles, press releases and newsletters, can be withdrawn when they’re no longer current (for example, if they’re over a year old).

You should withdraw expired schemes and services too, or policy papers that aren’t current or relevant. If you have policy papers that are mostly correct, but link to an expired scheme or service, edit the page to update it and remove the link.

The ‘history mode’ notices will appear higher on pages that were published under a former government, but have also been withdrawn.

A broad test to keep in mind when deciding to withdraw a content item is, ‘will leaving it as it is get in the way of a non-specialist user?’ For example, an old policy announcement about a benefit that’s appearing in search above the guide on how to claim that benefit.

Find out how to withdraw content.


Consultations are an important part of the policy-creation process, and are useful to people who scrutinise government. Do not withdraw them unless you know that a subsequent consultation directly supersedes an existing one.

Frequent infrastructure plan changes

Withdraw content items that show an earlier iteration of a plan, such as old plans for the HS2 train line route. Withdraw everything but the most up to date plans.

Include a link to a collection that includes the most up to date version, rather than an individual publication page. By linking to a collection, your link will always lead to a canonical list of up to date plans.

Editing withdrawn content

You can edit withdrawn content if you need to:

  • fix a broken link
  • edit a typo
  • improve the title or summary

Find out how to edit withdrawn content.

Removing content items

If you remove content, it will no longer appear on GOV.UK and users will not be able to find it. Publishers will still be able to access it through the publishing applications.

Content shouldn’t normally be removed from the GOV.UK website.

However, you can remove a page from the GOV.UK website when:

  • the content has been included in another page (make sure you redirect to it)
  • the user need is better met elsewhere on GOV.UK (redirect to it)
  • you published it in error, or before you were meant to
  • someone has exercised their right to erasure (right to be forgotten)
  • it contains someone’s personal details
  • it contains details of a spent conviction
  • it’s out of proposition for GOV.UK
  • it infringes copyright
  • it’s defamatory or obscene

If you remove a page because it has someone’s personal data on it (such as right to be forgotten or convictions), record the URL of the page you removed. You should also do this if you remove the page for copyright reasons or defamation.

The National Archives’ UK Government Web Archive might contain a snapshot of the page you’ve removed. You should ask them to remove the page from public view too, unless you’re just removing it because it’s included in another page, was published by mistake, or is out of proposition.

Find out how to remove content.

Content from previous governments (‘history mode’)

History mode tells users they’re reading something that was published by a previous government.

See what history mode looks like.

When a new government is formed, the following types of content are automatically put into history mode:

  • policy papers
  • news stories from organisations involved in the development of policy
  • press releases
  • speeches
  • consultations
  • government responses
  • impact assessments
  • corporate or annual reports

Content with history mode appears lower down on GOV.UK search - unless there’s evidence that users are still looking for it.

Content in history mode does not need to be ‘withdrawn’ as well.

Removing history mode to edit content

Content in history mode should only be edited if:

  • it contains an error like a typo or a broken link
  • you need to add a response to a consultation

Contact GDS to remove something from history mode.