Your request and our response
1. Why are some tranches open upon transfer from MoD and others are closed?
In accordance with the Freedom of Information Act 2000 government records are transferred to The National Archives as open records unless the transferring body considers them to contain sensitive information as identified under the exemptions listed within the Act.
Of the 3,329 AIR 81 records transferred to the National Archives 2,964 have been transferred as open and 342 have been transferred as closed, 21 of these closed records have subsequently been opened as a result of Freedom of Information requests.
The closed records were transferred as closed as when reviewed by MOD they were found to contain information which was considered exempt from release under sections 40(2) and 41 of the Freedom of Information Act.
For more information on sections 40(2) and 41 please see the explanatory annex at the end of this response.
2. Why are some closed for 82 years and others opened after less?
If a record is closed because it relates to an individual who is assumed to be living, the closure period is based on the individual’s age if this is known. If the age is not known, the personal information in and the contextual evidence of the record may be used to estimate an age and therefore the appropriate closure period. Such reasoning is recommended under the Code of Practice for Records Managers and Archivists under section 51(4) of the Data Protection Act 1998.
Contextual evidence within the AIR 81 series suggest that the individuals named within the files were at least 18 years old. The closure period has been based on the lifetime of the individual, which is assumed to be 100 years. As such the records are closed for 82 years to cover the remainder of the assumed lifetime of 100 years.
Those files which have been opened before the expiration of the 82-year closure period have been subject to Freedom of Information requests in which the sensitive information has either been redacted or the individuals named within the files have been found to be deceased.
For more information on the calculation of closure periods please visit the following webpage.
3. Why are the most recent listings open when some from a number of months ago are closed?
As previously noted the closure of records is determined on the sensitivity of the information within the files. As such we can state that, when reviewed, the majority of records transferred to date were found to contain no sensitive information and were therefore transferred as open while a small number (around 10%) were found to contain sensitive information and therefore transferred as closed.
4. When does the closure period run from in each case?
In each case the closure period is calculated from the end date of the record.
5. What decision process decided upon 82 years and why was this taken after opening of the initial tranches?
Please refer to the previously provided information on the calculation of closure periods. The decision process used to determine whether an individual record can be transferred as open or closed is taken prior to the record’s transfer to The National Archives. A review of the records within the initial tranches did not locate any sensitive information and hence the records were transferred as open. Records within subsequent tranches were found to contain sensitive information and were therefore transferred as closed.
6. Please also provide the latest schedule for future transfers and openings with rationale behind same.
The National Archives has been working with the Ministry of Defence to complete two AIR 81 transfers containing two batches of records ranging from piece number 3330-4751 and 4752-5746, which arrived on 1st February 2018. This included two records which are closed for 82 years.
Once files have been transferred to The National Archives, we will process them for release in line with our normal practices and timescales. From the time we receive a record here at Kew we generally reckon on 60 working days before it is released, whilst internal cataloguing and other administrative tasks including the update to our on-line catalogue Discovery are completed. This timeframe is an estimate based on general processing times and as such the length of time from transfer to release may be greater, although in practice it is often less.
For the remaining AIR 81 records which are still held by the Ministry of Defence, we are working closely with them to develop a plan for transfer.
Following a review of your enquiry we determined that part of your request should be considered as a general enquiry and part should be considered a Freedom of Information request. Consequently, we have treated questions 1-5 as general enquiries and question 6 as a Freedom of Information request.
In the simplest sense, an FOI request is a request for recorded information and the Act only extends to requests for recorded information. As we do not hold recorded information specific to the AIR 81 series which answers all of the queries posed under questions 1-5 we have drawn upon our knowledge of the transfer and closure process in general to answer these questions. As we do hold information specific to the future transfers of AIR 81 records we have treated this question as an FOI request.