HC Deb 01 December 1999 vol 340 cc212-3W
Mr. Alexander

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the extent to which the 30 year rule is proposed to be relaxed in the Freedom of Information Bill; and(a) what kind of records will be released which would otherwise have been held for 30 years and (b) on what grounds records will continue to be held for the 30 year period. [100659]

Mr. Mike O'Brien

Freedom of Information legislation will not affect the 30 year rule, as the principles governing the release of records at 30 years will remain broadly the same.

However, under the proposals in the Freedom of Information Bill, many more records will be released earlier, and therefore, fewer records will fall to be released at 30 years.

It is not possible to specify particular records which will be released under Freedom of Information, as earlier releases will be spread across a range of records which would otherwise have been held until 30 years.

The Freedom of Information Bill contains certain exemptions which provide the grounds for withholding information beyond 30 years. These grounds are: information supplied by, or relating to, work of the security services; national Security; defence; international relations; the economy; information from confidential sources in the course of investigations and proceedings; law enforcement (until 100 years); honours (until 75 years); health and safety; personal information (for the lifetime of the individual concerned); information provided in confidence; and specific statutory bars on disclosure.

However, even where an exemption in the Bill applies, the Public Record Office, or the authority holding the information, must consider on a case by case basis any discretion it may have to disclose the information, deciding whether the public interest in disclosure outweighs that of maintaining the exemption.