Guidance

FCDO non-standard files

A guide to non-standard files outside the standard Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office corporate file plans.

The term ‘non-standard’ denotes files that are held outside the departmental file plans of the former FCO and DFID departments of which a significant proportion were created by predecessor organisations. The historical value of the non-standard-files, as with all FCDO records, is determined through an appraisal and selection process which is compliant with the Public Records Act (PRA).

Under the Public Records Act, government departments are required to transfer files selected for permanent preservation to The National Archives (TNA) in line with TNA’s record collection policy and the statutory timetable. However, the FCDO’s transfer of non-standard files has been delayed because in the past we have largely given priority to the transfer to TNA of standard departmental files. This means we continue to hold a large collection of non-standard files. We are committed to the release of our historical records so that they can be freely consulted by the academic community and the wider public. We are not retaining records simply because they are embarrassing or because they shed a particular light on the past.

All files overdue for review are now legally retained under a Retention Instrument.

Non-standard material that we have so far assessed to be of high historical value (and a high priority for FCDO to review for release) includes FCO intelligence-related records and FCO Private Office papers. Lower priority non-standard files (such as Foreign Compensation Commission records) may have a more specialised audience but any records of historical value will be selected for permanent preservation.

Our non-standard collections include records of the Hong Kong government returned to the FCO in 1997. The FCDO has developed technology to enable a review of these records to take place, as they are currently held on microfiche and require digitisation.

There is some duplication between records currently held by the FCDO in certain non-standard file series and records already held at TNA. We work with TNA to decide whether such records should be selected for permanent preservation. In some cases, the reason for the transfer of these records to TNA is the unique way in which records are organised and presented rather their unique content.

On 12 December 2013 the then FCO Minister for Europe announced in a written statement to Parliament the appointment of Professor Tony Badger as Independent Reviewer of FCO non-standard records. Professor Badger previously provided independent oversight of the review of colonial administration files over the 2011 to 2013 period.

Professor Badger will be continuing as Independent Reviewer of FCDO non-standard records.

Following the merger of the FCO and DFID into the FCDO we will be determining the most effective way to prioritise our integrated collection of non-standard files in consultation with Professor Badger and the independent Advisory Council on National Records and Archives

Published 17 November 2015
Last updated 28 May 2019 + show all updates
  1. Updated availability of FCO non-standard records

  2. Independent reviewer statement and table of non-standard records updated

  3. Release of the non-standard records paragraph updated.

  4. Document updated

  5. First published.