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Public Records: Colonial Documents and FCO Archives

Volume 572: debated on Thursday 12 December 2013

On 5 May 2011, My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary informed Parliament of his intention to release to the public every paper from a large collection of colonial administration files, subject only to legal exemptions, Official Report, column 24WS. On 5 December 2011, I informed the House of our plans to release these files over a two-year period, Official Report, column 5-6WS.

I am pleased to report that the final tranche of files was opened to the public at the National Archives on 29 November. This tranche included files from Malta, Singapore, Tanganyika, Trinidad, Turks and Caicos Islands, West Indies, western Pacific, Uganda and Zanzibar as well as files relating to land transfer in Kenya and files documenting the management of the migrated archive. Professor Badger, the independent reviewer appointed by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary in June 2011, is expected to submit his final report shortly on these files and a copy of his report will be placed in the Library of the House.

In my statement of 30 November 2012, Official Report, column 36WS, I also informed the House that an up-to-date inventory of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s (FCO) archival holdings had brought to light a large accumulation of other material outside the FCO departmental file series, known as the “Special Collections”, much of which was over 30 years old and therefore overdue for review. A copy of this high-level inventory was published on the FCO website at that time. This high-level inventory has since been updated, with additional detail, and was published on www.gov.uk. It can be found at, www.gov.uk/archive-records. Plans to review and release this legacy material are under development and our aim is to prioritise material that is likely to be of greatest public interest and to release this over a six-year period, starting in 2014. More detailed information will be published in the new year on the archive records pages at, www.gov.uk.

I am pleased to announce that Professor Badger will continue in his role as independent reviewer to oversee the selection, review and release of the remaining legacy material

I can reassure all that we remain fully committed both to complying with our public records obligations and to doing so with maximum transparency.