Below is the text of the statement made by Michael Gove, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, in the House of Commons on 6 July 2020.
The Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 amended the Public Records Act 1958 and introduced a 20-year rule for the transfer of historic government records to the National Archives. This replaced the 30-year rule in force since 1967. The Act made provision to phase in this change over 10 years, beginning in 2013. The transitional arrangements require the Cabinet Office to transfer records of 1997 and 1998 by the end of this year. The Cabinet Office’s historic records include those of the Prime Minister’s Office. This statement provides an update on the impact of covid-19 on our work in this area.
Since 2015, the Cabinet Office has made two transfers a year, in July and December. The July opening is discretionary and reflects the Cabinet Office’s commitment to opening as much as possible as early as possible.
Measures to contain covid-19 have inevitably had an impact on work in this area. It will not, therefore, be possible to transfer records in July this year. Whilst work has continued as normal in many areas across the Department, archival work requires physical access to hard copy files to complete the review and preparation of documents for transfer.
In addition, the National Archives building in Kew closed to the public and staff on 17 March 2020 and at present is unable to facilitate the transfer of new records.
I remain fully committed to meeting our obligations under public records legislation. The Department is undertaking an assessment of the wider impact of the covid-19 restrictions on work in this area. We will work with the National Archives and the advisory council on national records and archives and will provide a further update to the House in due course.