To ask the Secretary of State for Defence on what date he expects (a) the project to safeguard a number of files which had been stored in the Old War Office Building and were affected by asbestos to be completed and (b) (i) documents relating to the visit to London in 1974 of the then Turkish Prime Minister, Bulent Ecevit, and (ii) all other affected documents to be released.
It is anticipated that the project to scan the files affected by asbestos contamination of the Old War Office basement will be completed by early 2008. The project was originally expected to finish in July 2007, but the number of pages needing to be scanned has proved to be higher than estimated, requiring a six month extension.
Freedom of Information requests frustrated by the contamination of files are being addressed in the order in which they were received as the files reconstituted by the project become available, although it will take at least nine months to process the backlog. All files scanned as part of this project will, in due course, be reviewed in accordance with established procedures. Those that The National Archives require for permanent preservation will be transferred there in accordance with the Public Records Acts.
There is no file in the asbestos contaminated archive specifically related to Bulent Ecevit's visit to London in 1974. Although the archive contains a large number of files which have Turkey in their title, given the date in question only one of these could conceivably have covered the Ecevit visit. This file has been reconstituted and examined, but unfortunately holds no relevant information.