Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010
House of Lords
Lord McNally (Minister of State, Justice; Liberal Democrat)
Today, I am announcing further details of how the Government will reduce, from 30 to 20 years, the point at which historical records are made available at the National Archives and other places of deposit. This is in response to a report delivered by a committee chaired by Paul Dacre, the editor of the Daily Mail, which was commissioned by the previous Government.
The change to a "20-year rule" is a key part of our Transparency Agenda and will see a wealth of historical material opened to the public much earlier than under current arrangements. The aim is to provide greater openness and accountability, strengthening democracy through more timely public scrutiny of government policy and decision-making.
This is a major change and it is therefore important that it is introduced in a manageable and affordable way. A phased approach will be adopted. The point at which records are transferred to the National Archives (largely central government records) will be reduced from 2013 over a 10-year transitional period, with two years' worth of records being transferred to the National Archives every year until transition is complete. From 2023, when this transition is complete, we will transfer the single year's worth of records which are caught by the "20-year rule" each year. This first stage of the change will affect an estimated 3.3 million records and cost an estimated £34.7 million to £38.5 million over 10 years.
We then intend to begin from 2015 a similar 10-year transitional period for records transferred to 116 local authority places of deposit, subject to the outcome of further detailed work on costs and the impact to the local authority archive sector. Current estimates of the cost of the second phase are £5.6 million to £15 million over 10 years. This will ensure that the "20-year rule" is implemented in an affordable way that achieves the greatest level of transparency.
The maximum lifespan of a number of exemptions provided by the Freedom of Information Act will be reduced for all public authorities in parallel with the first transitional period. From
The transition to a "20 year rule" will be a transparent process. The National Archives will report annually to the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice on the progress made by ministerial government departments. Department-level data will be published on the National Archives' website, including volumes due for processing each year, numbers transferred, and progress against declared transfer plans.