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Volume 175: debated on Monday 2 July 1990

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To ask the Prime Minister what systems she employs to classify, log and otherwise record each document generated by her office; and if she will make a statement.

Documents to and from my office are dealt with in accordance with established registry practices.

To ask the Prime Minister what criteria she uses when deciding which documents to pass on to the Public Record Office.

The guidelines issued by the Public Record Office on the selection of documents for permanent preservation.

To ask the Prime Minister what percentage of and how many documents in 1989 she estimates were (a) passed on to the Public Record Office intact, (b) passed on to the Public Records Office in censored form, (c) retained in full, (d) retained in part, (e) destroyed, (f) otherwise disposed of and (g) otherwise unaccounted for.

No document falls for selection and transfer to the Public Record Office until it is at least 30 years old. A document's suitability for permanent preservation under the terms of the Public Records Act 1958 will be reviewed during that period. The Act does not require statistics to be kept in the form requested and to do so would inevitably incur disproportionate cost. However, in order to comply with their duties under the Act, Departments are obliged to ensure that all documentary records are properly preserved with a view to possible transfer to the Public Record Office and eventual release to the public. The general criteria under which the Department may retain documents over 30 years old are set out in section 3(4) of the Public Records Act.