A Miners' strike in South Yorkshire in 1984/85 (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

13 July 2012

History: ten years earlier

The Government will move towards releasing records when they are 20 years old, instead of 30, from next year. This will make thousands of historical records public much earlier than previously possible.

From 2013, two years' worth of government records will need to be transferred to The National Archives over a ten-year transition period until a new '20-year rule' is reached in 2023. After this point, government will revert to transferring a single year's worth of 20 year old records to The National Archives each year.

The move from a 30-year rule represents a major change for government and must be managed in an affordable way. As such, a phased approach will be adopted. The transition beginning in 2013, will apply to the majority of public records transferred to The National Archives and 70 institutions that act as their own place of deposit, with the exception of records selected for transfer to one of the 116 local authority places of deposit, where the impact of introducing the change now could outweigh any benefit. The intention is to commence a second ten-year transitional period for these organisations from 2015, subject to the outcome of a full impact and cost assessment.

The announcement, made by written ministerial statement today, follows the completion of The Review of the 30 Year Rule in 2009 and the government's decision to introduce a 20-year rule.

'Significant events that shaped Britain's recent history'

These government records, created between 1983 and 2003, have the potential to provide new insight into significant events that shaped Britain's recent history and which still resonate today. A timeline of selected events from the 20-year period indicates the kind of records which could be finding their way to The National Archives over the next ten years.

Oliver Morley, Chief Executive and Keeper, The National Archives said: 'Releasing government records to the public earlier is a huge step forward and places The National Archives at the very heart of democratic transparency. As a result, we can look forward to more records being released on events within living memory, such as the Gulf Wars and the 9/11 terrorist attacks, providing the official view of events as they unfolded.'

The National Archives will report annually to the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice on ministerial departments' progress and will publish the data we collect on our website.

Read the written ministerial statement.