The recent announcement that the role and position of the National Archives within government is to change comes at a dangerous time for openness within government. The National Archives has always been responsible to the Ministry of Justice and has been part of that department’s public information portfolio. Now the Archives is to be transferred to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and to lose its policy for government records management to the Cabinet Office.
This is a potentially damaging development. As many researchers will testify, the Cabinet Office is not known for its love of openness or for encouraging the use of archives. The Department of Culture, Media and Sport is focussed on its role as the Ministry of Fun and has not previously demonstrated a concern with the scholarly use of archives. The danger is that, stripped of its policy role, placed under the control of an unsympathetic ministry, and with further austerity looming and driving the need for revenue generation, that the National Archives will rapidly descend into an organisation which provides services to family historians.
The Information Commissioner’s Office blog has issued a statement by the Information Commissioner .