Select Committee on Public Administration Memoranda




  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.

Criterion (as stated in the 1993 White Paper Cm2290) Nature of Record Closure Period

Exceptionally sensitive records containing information the disclosure of which would not be in the 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 this criterion, including commercial and personal information supplied in confidence. 40 years, or until death where known (where appropriate)
Tax Information75 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:
(1) substantial distress, or
(2) endangerment from a third party, to persons affected by disclosure or their descendants.
Records meeting this criterion and containing sensitive personal information which would substantially distress or endanger a living person or his or her descendants. 40-100 years.
Records containing information from which it is likely that a woman could be identified as a rape victim. 100 years.

Source: Open Government (Cm2290, 1993).

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Prepared 16 August 1999