Advisory Council on National Records and Archives
The function of the Advisory Council on National Records and Archives (the Council)1 is to advise the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (the Secretary of State), on matters relating to records and archives. It is chaired by the Master of the Rolls.2
The Council has responsibilities in relation to both historical public records and independent archives; its terms of reference are set out below.
The Council is to consider and advise on matters including:
- applications from departments for the retention within those departments of public records beyond the age of 20 years, when those selected for permanent preservation are normally transferred to The National Archives
- the balance of the public interest in relation to applications from departments for the extended closure of historical public records and other ‘matters relating to the application of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) to information contained in public records that are historical records within the meaning of Part VI of that Act’3
- the balance of the public interest in the release or non-disclosure of historical records, an application for the disclosure of which has been made under the FOIA
- preservation of public records in places of deposit and facilities for public access to them
In addition, the Council may be required to advise on:
- major objectives, programmes and policy changes for The National Archives
- proposed legislation affecting The National Archives
- the implications for records and public services of any proposed change to the status of The National Archives
- any subject brought to its attention by the Secretary of State
The Council’s responsibility relating to historical manuscripts (private archives) is to be discharged through the work of its sub-committee, The Forum on Historical Manuscripts and Academic Research (the Forum). The Forum advises the Keeper of Public Records in his capacity as Historical Manuscripts Commissioner. The Forum will consider and provide advice to the Secretary of State through the Council on matters relating to manuscripts, records and archives, other than public records, and particularly:
- the location, collection, care, custody, preservation, acquisition, sale, and use in all formats of such documents
- the compilation and dissemination of information about them
- any questions affecting such documents as may be referred for its consideration, including issues relating to the statutory duties of the Master of the Rolls in respect of manorial and tithe documents, and the making of recommendations to Arts Council England on the allocation of archives and manuscripts accepted for the nation in lieu of tax
- other issues that would formerly have come within the terms of reference of the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts
In addition, on behalf of the Council, the Forum is to:
- act as a vehicle for the development of constructive and collaborative engagement between The National Archives and its academic stakeholders, sharing knowledge and developing trust and understanding
- provide an open, independent and authoritative advisory voice to The National Archives, to support its research and academic liaison
1. The Advisory Council on National Records and Archives was created in 2003 and encompasses two bodies, the statutory Advisory Council on Public Records and the non-statutory Advisory Council on Historical Manuscripts. Since then these Councils have functioned as one body and now advise the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. The Advisory Council on Historical Manuscripts was turned into a subcommittee of the Advisory Council on National Records and Archives in 2010 to provide a means through which recommendations can be made to the Advisory Council about activity relating specifically to historical manuscripts (independent archives), as well as a place for discussion about academic research issues. The subcommittee is known as the Forum on Historical Manuscripts and Academic Research.
2. Public Records Act 1958 s1(2): ‘There shall be an Advisory Council on Public Records to advise the Secretary of State (Digital, Culture, Media & Sport) on matters concerning public records in general and, in particular, on those aspects of the work of the Public Record Office (The National Archives) which affect members of the public who make use of the facilities provided by the Public Record Office (The National Archives). The Master of the Rolls shall be chairman of the said Council and the remaining members of the Council shall be appointed by the Secretary of State on such terms as he may specify.’
3. Inserted as s1(2A) of the Public Records Act 1958 by sch 5 para 1 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.