Public Sector Records In England

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Public Records Acts 1958 and 1967

Until 2000, the Public Records Act 1958 had been substantially amended once (by the Public Records Act 1967) and in detail many times by other statutes and statutory instruments. Most of these minor changes brought bodies within the scope of the Act.

In 2000, however, the Freedom of Information Act 2000 introduced very significant changes, which came into force in January 2005.

Selection of public records takes place in two stages. The first, when the records have passed out of active use, usually takes place five years after a record has been created. At this point, records which are obviously worthless are destroyed, and those which have been identified as valuable for future administrative need, or future research are kept for further review at a later date. This process, known as second review takes place when the record is 15 to 25 years old. The lapse of time gives perspective to the judgment of which of these records are worthy of permanent preservation.

The Public Records Act also provides for the deposit of records in places other than The National Archives, at the discretion of the Lord Chancellor. Examples of such records include records of certain courts, and semi-independent local bodies which are of local interest, films and sound recordings, and certain records of the national museums and galleries.

The Act sets up arrangements for the selection and transfer of public records to The National Archives or a place of deposit by a specified deadline. This was reduced from 01/01/13 from 30 to 20 years, but there is a 10 year transition in place covering records from the years 1984-2001 and a 'saving' provision means that records from 1983 remain subject to a 30 year transfer rule

The National Archives is the archive for the UK government and for England and Wales. Section 146 of the the Government of Wales Act 2006 Section 146 of GOWA 2006 provides that Welsh public records are governed by the Public Records Act until such time that the Lord Chancellor makes an Order under section 147 imposing or conferring functions in respect of them (for example, a duty to preserve them) on either the Welsh Ministers, or a member of staff of the Welsh Government. In the event that such an order were made, this would, in effect, provide the authority to create a Welsh National Public Record Office. Until an Order under section 147 has been laid, The National Archives will continue to carry out its statutory functions in regard to Welsh public records in accordance with the Public Records Acts 1958. A Concordat between the Welsh Government and the National Archives has been recently updated in order to formalise this arrangement.

Citations and References

Public Records Act 1958 http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/Eliz2/6-7/51