Britain Just ‘Found’ Another 170,000 Unlawfully Witheld Government Files


The UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) has uncovered a staggering 170,000 historic files that are overdue for review and release to the British public, VICE News has learned.

On January 21, the FCO’s Minister for Europe David Lidington notified parliament that a “substantial number of legacy paper files” — meaning papers overdue for transfer to The National Archives (TNA) — had recently been located, as part of a massive audit of UK government offices and overseas posts. But Lidington provided scant detail of the intelligence contained in the documents.

The audit was launched in July, after FCO staff “became aware” that a number of legacy files were being held outside the FCO’s main archives — in offices across Britain and abroad.

At least some of the files have been withheld from public view in breach of the Public Records Act, which requires that government documents be made public after 20 years (formerly 30 years), subject to legal exemption.

Dr. Tony Badger — a Cambridge University historian who serves as the independent reviewer of the FCO’s yet-to-be-released historic archives — told VICE News that the FCO undertook an “extraordinary troll” of its file holdings last year. “It was quite a disruptive process… They went through all sorts of departments. If you go into the Foreign Office, you see all sorts of filing cabinets all over the place. I had to drill into them..

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