§ Mr. English
asked the Prime Minister to what classes of public documents the 30-year rule as to their opening to the public does not apply.
§ The Prime Minister
As I informed the House on 10th August last—[Vol. 733, cols. 1706–1708.]—the proposal to reduce the closed period for public records from 50 to 30 years will necessitate an amendment of the Public Records Act of 1958. The power which the Lord Chancellor possesses under Section 5(1) 129W of the Act to extend the closed period in respect of particular records will remain. It is exercised at present in respect of papers falling generally into the following categories:
- (1) Those containing information about individuals whose disclosure could cause distress or embarrassment to living persons or their immediate descendants, such as criminal records or those of suspected persons (including certain police records).
- (2) Those containing information obtained under a pledge of confidence —such as the census and various individual returns used in published statistical compilations.
- (3) Certain papers relating to Irish affairs.
- (4) Certain sensitive papers which affect the security of the State or the national interest.
In addition certain papers, the ownership of which is shared with other Governments, are not released until the Governments concerned have been consulted.