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Volume 175: debated on Tuesday 3 July 1990

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To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer 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.

[holding answer 2 July 1990]: No document falls due 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 Departments may retain documents over 30 years old are set out in section 3(4) of the Public Records Act.

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what criteria he uses when deciding which documents to pass on to the Public Record Office.

[holding answer 2 July 1990]: My right hon. Friend's Departments comply 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 Public Record Office for this purpose are taken in consultation with PRO inspecting officers.

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what systems he employs to classify, log and otherwise record each document generated by his Department; and if he will make a statement.

[holding answer 2 July 1990]: The Treasury does not record each document generated. Papers are collected on to files which are given specific titles. These files are then registered on to a records management computer system. These practices are in accordance with the Public Records Acts 1958 and 1967. Each file bears the classification of the highest classified document enclosed in each file.