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Volume 175: debated on Monday 2 July 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what percentage of, and how many documents in 1989 he estimates were (a) passed on to the Public Record Office intact, (b) passed on to the Public Record Office in censored form, (c) retained by his Department in full, (d) retained by his Department in part, (e) destroyed, (f) otherwise disposed of and (g) otherwise unaccounted for.

The records of the Scottish Office are specifically exempted from the Public Records Act 1958, but broadly similar procedures are followed with a view to transferring records to the Scottish Record Office. No document falls due for such selection and transfer until it is at least 30 years old. A document's suitability for permanent preservation will he 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. There is an obligation under the Act to ensure that all documentary records are properly preserved with a view to possible transfer and eventual release to the public. The general criteria under which a Department may retain documents over 30 years old are set out in section 3(4) of the Public Records Act.

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what criteria he uses when deciding which documents to pass on to the Public Record Office.

The Department complies with the guidelines issued by the Public Record Office on the selection of documents for permanent preservation. Decisions on which documents are transferred to the Scottish Record Office for this purpose are taken in consultation with the SRO inspecting officer.

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what system he employs to classify, log and otherwise record each document generated by his Department; and if he will make a statement.

Because of the large number involved no attempt is made to classify, log and record each document, although a standard registry system is in operation which provides for the opening, titling, indexing and maintenance of official files.