UK Foreign Office Bars Public From Attending Conference On How It Will Finally Release Illegally-Withheld Public Records
from the taking-the-'public'-out-of-'public-records' dept
The UK has a rule that nearly all government documents become public after a certain time has elapsed. But last year, it was revealed that the UK’s Foreign Office had failed to release a huge store of older documents — over a million of them:
The Foreign Office has unlawfully hoarded more than a million files of historic documents that should have been declassified and handed over to the National Archives, the Guardian has discovered.
The files are being kept at a secret archive at a high-security government communications centre in Buckinghamshire, north of London, where they occupy mile after mile of shelving.
Most of the papers are many decades old — some were created in the 19th century — and document in fine detail British foreign relations throughout two world wars, the cold war, withdrawal from empire and entry into the common market.
They have been kept from public view in breach of the Public Records Acts, which requires that all government documents become public once they are 30 years old — a term about to be reduced to 20 years — unless the department has received permission from the lord chancellor to hold them for longer. The secret archive is also beyond the reach of the Freedom of Information Act.
Now that it has been forced to admit that it holds all these records of great historical — and often great political — interest, the Foreign Office is making them public at last. But as The Guardian reports, it seems it still doesn’t quite get what that means:
The UK Foreign Office is holding a conference to explain how it will finally place into the public domain millions of public records that it has unlawfully held for decades — but is refusing to allow members of the public to attend.