Select Committee on Public Administration Third Report


GUIDING PRINCIPLE: All records not retained in departments should be released after 30 years unless a) it is possible to establish the actual damage that would be caused by release, and b) the damage falls within the three criteria set out below.




(as stated in the 1993 White Paper Cm2290)

Exceptionally sensitive records containing information the disclosure of which would not be in public interest in that it would harm defence, international relations, national security including the maintenance of law and order or the economic interests of the UK and its overseas territories.

All records meeting this criterion, including those concerned with national security and those containing information the premature disclosure of which would impede the conduct of the policy of HM Government abroad.

40 years

Documents containing information supplied in confidence the disclosure of which would constitute a breach of good faith.

Most records meeting this criterion, including commercial and personal information supplied in confidence.

40 years, or until death where known (where appropriate)

Tax Information

75 years

Personal information subject to a statutory bar during the lifetime of the person concerned

75 years, or until death where known

Records of the decennial census of population

100 years

Documents containing information about individuals the disclosure of which would cause either:

Records meeting this criterion and containing sensitive personal information which would substantially

distress or endanger a living person


his or her descendants.

40 - 100 years

1) substantial distress, or

2) endangerment from a third party, to persons affected by disclosure or their descendants.

Records containing information from which it is likely that a woman could be identified as a rape victim

100 years

Source Open Government (Cm. 2290, 1993)

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Prepared 29 July 1999