HC Deb 11 June 1997 vol 295 c462W
Mr. Baker

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what percentage and how many documents in 1996 he estimates were(a) passed on to the Public Record Office intact, (b) passed on to the Public Record Office in censored form, (c) retained by his Department in full, (d) retained by his Department in part, (e) destroyed, (f) otherwise disposed of, and (g) otherwise unaccounted for. [2517]

Mr. Tony Lloyd

In 1996 records for 1965 held by this Department were due for transfer to the Public Record Office in accordance with the Public Records Acts of 1958 and 1967. Ninety-seven per cent. of those records selected for permanent preservation amounting to some 636 feet were opened to public scrutiny. Figures on the number of documents involved are not kept owing to the disproportionate cost of keeping such statistics. 1.5 per cent. of these records were released with parts blocked out and a further 1.5 per cent. were withheld in their entirety. All withheld documents will be re-reviewed at intervals of not less than 10 years and will be released when their sensitivity is judged to have passed. The criteria for release are set out in the White Paper on Open Government of July 1993 (Cmd 2290).

This Department generally selects records for permanent preservation when they are 27 years old. In 1996 402 feet of records were selected for permanent preservation and 2,743 feet were destroyed. This destruction rate of 85 per cent. was unusually high owing to the volume of duplicated material between the files of the Colonial, Commonwealth Relations and Foreign Office in that year. No records were otherwise disposed of and all were accounted for.