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Government Papers (Disclosure)

Volume 35: debated on Monday 17 January 1983

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asked the Prime Minister whether she was consulted as to the text of the article by Lord Hunt in "Public Law" regarding the disclosure of Government papers to successor Governments or outside bodies.

Lord Hunt informed the Secretary of the Cabinet that he had been invited to write an article on this subject, and was told that no objection would be made to his doing so.

asked the Prime Minister if she will set out the rules governing the extent to which official papers of a previous Administration may be made available to a successor Administration.

Ministers of a former Administration, whether currently in office or not, may see but may not retain official documents which they saw as members of that Administration. Ministers of a current Administration may not see documents of a former Administration of a different political party, other than documents which can be regarded as being in the public domain, official communications to overseas Governments, and written opinions of the Law Officers. Ministers of a current Administration may normally see documents of a former Administration of the same political party, whether or not they saw those documents as members of that Administration, provided that the requirement to see them arises in the course of their Ministerial duties.Before access to documents of a former Administration (whether of the same political party as or of a different political party from the Government of the day) is given to anybody not entitled to see them either in an official capacity or in accordance with these conventions, the agreement of the former Prime Minister concerned or, if he is not available, of the current leader of the political party concerned is sought.