HC Deb 02 July 1959 vol 608 cc62-3W
Sir K. Pickthorn

asked the Prime Minister what action he proposes to take to implement the Public Records Act, 1958, in relation to Cabinet records.

The Prime Minister

The Public Records Act, 1958, provided that public records should in general be available to public inspection after they have been in existence for fifty years. The Government think it right that, for the purposes of this Act, Cabinet records should be treated in the same way as Departmental records. They therefore decided after consultation with the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Orkney and Shetland, to recommend that the memoranda and minutes of the Cabinet and of Cabinet Committees should be opened to public inspection in the Public Record Office when they are fifty years old unless there is strong objection, in any particular case, to doing so. Her Majesty The Queen has been graciously pleased to approve this.

There will doubtless be some cases in which the public disclosure of Cabinet records, or indeed of Departmental documents, would be contrary to the public interest, even after the lapse of fifty years. For example, some papers relating to individuals, including Royal personages, may need to be withheld for a longer period, at any rate until the death of the person concerned. Or there may be some special security consideration which would require a document to be withheld for a longer period. In such cases, whatever the class of public record, the Act gives my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor, who is now responsible for the direction of the Public Record Office, power to vary the period, subject to the approval of the Minister or other person concerned.

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