Guidance

Preparation for transfer to The National Archives of FCO annual departmental files

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is required under the Public Records Act to transfer files selected for permanent preservation to The National Archives (TNA).

Timetable for preparing annual departmental files for release

The timetable below shows the order in which the FCO is preparing 1989 and later files for release and the year in which we expect the files to be ready for physical transfer from the FCO’s archive to The National Archives. Please note that for forthcoming releases, the timetable does not show the date at which the files will be available for public release at the TNA. Following physical transfer from the FCO, the TNA requires a further period in which to prepare the files for release. Files currently being processed at TNA are shown as ‘Transferred to TNA’.

In 2013 the UK government began its move towards releasing records when they are 20 years old, instead of 30. Government departments are required to transfer 2 years’ worth of their records to TNA each year until 2022. In the FCO’s case, we are prioritising the preparation for release of high priority annual departmental files created between 1983 and 2002. Due to the volume of annual departmental files and the resources required for our non-standard files release programme, we have had to postpone the review of lower priority annual departmental files. We have agreed this prioritisation with the Advisory Council on National Records and Archives.

In deciding how to prioritise annual departmental file series we take into account demand for the file series at The National Archives (as reflected in access statistics) as well as the historical significance of events reported in the files.

By 2025 we expect to have completed the preparation for transfer of high priority annual geographic and some thematic files created between 1983 and 2002. We will then start the review and preparation for transfer of low priority annual geographic and thematic files created over that period. The following table shows which series have already transferred to TNA and where known, when we expect to complete the preparation for transfer of high priority annual files:

All high annual departmental priority files for 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987 and 1988 have been transferred to TNA.

Class description TNA Class Record year Readiness for transfer to TNA
Central and Southern Africa 169 1991 Available at TNA
    1992 2020
Defence 46 1989 Transferred to TNA
    1990 2019
East Africa 31 1989 Available at TNA
    1990 Available at TNA
    1991 Transferred to TNA
    1992 2020
Eastern European and Soviet 28 1989 2019
    1990 2019
European Community External 98 1989 Available at TNA
    1990 Available at TNA
    1991 2020
    1992 2020
European Community Internal 30 1989 Available at TNA
    1990 Transferred to TNA
    1991 2019
    1992 2020
Far Eastern 21 1989 Available at TNA
    1990 Available at TNA
    1991 Available at TNA
    1992 Available at TNA
    1993 2020
Hong Kong 40 1989 Available at TNA
    1990 Available at TNA
    1991 Available at TNA
    1992 Available at TNA
    1993 Transferred to TNA
Latin America 7 1989 2019
    1990 2019
    1991 2020
    1992 2020
Mexico and Caribbean 99 1989 Available at TNA
    1990 Available at TNA
    1991 2020
    1992 2020
Middle East 8 1989 Available at TNA
    1990 2019
    1991 2020
    1992 2020
Near Eastern and North Africa 93 1989 2019
    1990 2019
    1991 2020
    1992 2020
North America 82 1989 Available to TNA
    1990 Transferred to TNA
    1991 2020
    1992 2020
Republic Of Ireland 87 1989 Available at TNA
    1990 Transferred to TNA
    1991 2019
    1992 2020
South Asian 37 1989 2019
    1990 2019
    1991 2020
    1992 2020
South East Asian 15 1989 Available at TNA
    1990 Available at TNA
    1991 Available at TNA
    1992 Available at TNA
    1993 Available at TNA
Southern Africa 105 1989 Available at TNA
    1990 Available at TNA
Southern Europe 9 1989 Available at TNA
    1990 Transferred to TNA
    1991 2020
    1992 2020
United Nations 58 1989 Available at TNA
    19890 Available at TNA
    1991 2020
    1992 2020
Western Europe 33 1989 Available at TNA
    1990 Transferred to TNA
    1991 2020
    1992 2020

Number of files awaiting transfer

The following list shows the number of high priority standard annual departmental files which have been selected for permanent preservation but which have not yet transferred to TNA:

Year Total files
1989 1,736
1990 3,115
1991 5,692
1992 6,968

Later high priority standard departmental files are being reviewed for permanent preservation under the Public Records Act.

Published 17 November 2015
Last updated 25 July 2019 + show all updates
  1. Updated table with 2019 information
  2. Timetable for preparing annual departmental files for release updated.
  3. tables updated.
  4. Page updated
  5. Preparation for transfer to The National Archives of FCO annual departmental files updated
  6. Timetable updated.
  7. Timetable updated.
  8. Document updated
  9. First published.