Transfer of government records and the status of the ‘Zinoviev Letter’

FOI request reference: F0051278
Publication date: January 2018

Request

The newspaper, ‘The Scotsman’ published 27 December 2017 reports that the, ‘Zinoviev Letter’ is among allegedly missing documents, lent from the National Archives to Government departments but not returned.
Please will you take as a Freedom of Information request this enquiry:  on what terms are documents lent from the National Archives; are copies kept when originals are lent out;  does National Archives continue lending documents to Government departments which have lost documents National Archives have loaned to them and, finally, if the, ‘Zinoviev Letter’ is among those documents lost please state to whom the Letter was lent and when ?

Outcome

Successful

Response

It might be useful to you if I first explain government departments requirements for accessing records, and their responsibilities when doing so under Section 4(6) of the Public Records Act 1958.  Government departments can request the return of records for the conduct of official business, for a loan or exhibition or for publication. In some cases, a large number of records will be recalled for the purposes of preparing for a public inquiry.

Under the Public Records Act, departments are temporarily responsible for loaned records in their care.

On what terms are documents lent from The National Archives?

All orders from other government departments must come via an authorised requestor.  A list of authorised requestors is held by The National Archives and updated each year.  Orders are submitted using an online or electronic document request form, and tracked throughout by our document retrieval system (DORIS.) Confirmation messages for the receipt and return of all records are archived in our electronic storage system (Objective). We also print and keep paper records of each order and return.

The National Archives sends out a list of all outstanding records to each department twice a year.  This communication requests confirmation that the records are still with that department, and the return of the records.  If records are still in use, the department submit a business case for their continuing requirement.

Are copies kept when originals are lent out?

The National Archives does not make copies of records when originals are recalled by government departments. However, we often provide copies to government departments and we are increasing the proportion of orders fulfilled in this manner.

Does the National Archives continue lending documents to Government departments which have lost documents National Archives have loaned to them?

Temporary suspensions are possible if The National Archives find that correct standards of care are not being observed, but this is only in exceptional circumstances.

If the ‘Zinoviev Letter’ is among those documents lost please state to whom the Letter was lent and when?

We do not share details of who makes a specific requisition, but can advise that it is normally the originating department.  Any department requesting records that are not their own will require authorisation from the originating department.

In order to assist your research I would like to confirm that the record HO 45/13798, is not the ‘Zinoviev letter’ itself, but is instead a collection of Home Office registered papers under the heading ‘DISTURBANCES: Soviet propaganda in Great Britain: the Zinoviev letter’.