HL Deb 14 February 1992 vol 535 cc39-40WA
Lord Colnbrook

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What action is being taken to review the approval given in 1967 for the retention of security and intelligence records.

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Mackay of Clashfern)

The emphasis of the Government's policy, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Records Act, is on release rather than retention of records. However, it has long been accepted that certain security and intelligence related records cannot be released automatically after 30 years because this would pose a continuing risk to national security. In 1967 my predecessor gave approval to the retention of such records under Section 3(4) of the Public Records Act 1958.

I have now reviewed this approval in the light of the Government's acceptance of the Wilson Committee's recommendations (in Modern Public RecordsCmnd 8531) relating to greater ministerial involvement and more frequent consideration of such material. As a result of the review and following consultation with Ministers concerned, I am satisfied that the records concerned are properly retained in their departments and that the "blanket" exemption remains the most efficient way of providing the necessary protection. I have accordingly approved their retention for a further period of 20 years.

The "blanket" approval is permissive, not mandatory. Departments have therefore been asked to keep their records under review and to release them at the first opportunity. All records retained by departments under the "blanket" approval will be re-reviewed at least every 10 years.