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).

Work on the release of some 20,000 colonial administration files over the 2011 to 2013 period regrettably caused a backlog in the regular transfer of Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) annual files to The National Archives (TNA). Our resources are now deployed onto the current release programme which includes both annual departmental and non-standard files.

Timetable for preparing annual departmental files for release

The timetable below shows the order in which the FCO is preparing 1986 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 two 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 2024 or 2025 we expect to have completed the preparation for transfer of high priority annual geographic and some thematic files created between 1983 and 2022. 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 priority files for 1983, 1984, 1985 and 1986 have been transferred to TNA.

Class description TNA Class Record year Readiness for transfer to TNA
Defence 46 1986 Available at TNA
    1987 Transferred to TNA
    1988 2018
    1989 2019
    1990 2020
East Africa 31 1986 Available at TNA
    1987 Available at TNA
    1988 Available at TNA
    1989 Available at TNA
    1990 Available at TNA
    1991 2019
Eastern European and Soviet 28    
    1986 Available at TNA
    1987 Available at TNA
    1988 Transferred to TNA
    1989 2019
    1990 2019
European Community External 98 1986 Available at TNA
    1987 Available at TNA
    1988 Available at TNA
    1989 Transferred to TNA
    1990 2018
European Community Internal 30 1986 Available at TNA
    1987 Available at TNA
    1988 Available at TNA
    1989 Transferred to TNA
    1990 2019
Far Eastern 21 1986 Available at TNA
    1987 Available at TNA
    1988 Available at TNA
    1989 Available at TNA
    1990 Available at TNA
    1991 Available at TNA
    1992 2019
Hong Kong and General 40 1986 Available at TNA
    1987 Available at TNA
    1988 Available at TNA
    1989 Available at TNA
    1990 Available at TNA
    1991 Available at TNA
    1992 Transferred to TNA
Latin America 7 1986 Available at TNA
    1987 Available at TNA
    1988 2018
    1989 2019
    1990 2019
Mexico and Caribbean 99 1986 Available at TNA
    1987 Available at TNA
    1988 Available at TNA
    1989 Available at TNA
    1990 2019
Middle East 8 1986 Available at TNA
    1987 Available at TNA
    1988 2018
    1989 2019
    1990 2020
Near Eastern and North Africa 93 1986 Available at TNA
    1987 Available at TNA
    1988 2018
    1989 2019
    1990 2020
North America 82 1986 Available to TNA
    1987 2018
    1988 2018
    1989 2019
Republic Of Ireland 87 1986 Available at TNA
    1987 Available at TNA
    1988 2018
    1989 2019
    1990 2020
South Asian 37 1986 Available at TNA
    1987 2018
    1988 2018
    1989 2019
    1990 2020
South East Asian 15 1986 Available at TNA
    1987 Available at TNA
    1988 Available at TNA
    1989 Available at TNA
    1990 Available at TNA
    1991 Available at TNA
    1992 Transferred to TNA
    1993 Transferred to TNA
Southern Africa 105 1986 Available at TNA
    1987 Available at TNA
    1988 Available at TNA
    1989 Available at TNA
    1990 2018
Southern Europe 9 1986 Available at TNA
    1987 Available at TNA
    1988 2018
    1989 2019
    1990 2020
United Nations 58 1986 Available at TNA
    1987 Available at TNA
    1988 Available at TNA
    1989 Available at TNA
    1990 2019
Western Europe 33 1986 Available at TNA
    1987 Available at TNA
    1988 Transferred to TNA
    1989 Transferred to TNA
    1990 2019

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
1987 391
1988 2,809
1989 4,279
1990 6,519

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

Published 17 November 2015
Last updated 11 September 2018 + show all updates
  1. Timetable for preparing annual departmental files for release updated.
  2. tables updated.
  3. Page updated
  4. Preparation for transfer to The National Archives of FCO annual departmental files updated
  5. Timetable updated.
  6. Timetable updated.
  7. Document updated
  8. First published.