Orders of the Day — Child Migrants

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:16 pm on 22nd November 1993.

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Photo of Mr John Bowis Mr John Bowis , Battersea 10:16 pm, 22nd November 1993

I shall give way when I have completed this point.

Nevertheless, the recent White Paper on open government encourages Departments to reconsider the need for extended closure of files. We have therefore looked again at all the files. My view is that 30 of the files could be opened now and I intend to ask my departmental records officer to seek the Lord Chancellor's approval for accelerated opening.

I have also decided to recommend that the Child Migrants Trust be given privileged access to all 26 remaining files in this group held by the Public Record Office, subject to certain safeguards to ensure confidentiality for those who do not want their names to be known as former child migrants.

That leaves the 15 files that have not yet reached the 30-year limit. By definition, they include matters relating to the final years of the scheme from 1964 to 1968. After careful consideration I have decided to recommend the early opening now of 12 of the 15 former Home Office files. To ensure that there is no doubt or speculation regarding the remaining three, I have also decided to give privileged access to the British Child Migrants Trust to the remaining three, which refer to individual migrants.

In that way, the British Child Migrants Trust will have access to all the files held at the Public Record Office or transferred from the Home Office. I hope that that significant step towards open government, while safeguarding the interest of private citizens, will be welcomed by the House and the migrants themselves.