Dear National Archives,
I understand from paragraphs 4 & 7 of a supplement to the Wanless/Whittam Review (today featuring in the press*), that the Cabinet Office holds a store of “assorted & unstructured” papers, and that the National Archives holds a volume of “unregistered” Home Office papers.
Please disclose to me,
1) The volume of unregistered/assorted/unstructured Home Office papers held by the National Archives, their subject matter, any index to those documents, and arrangement for public access
2) The volume of unregistered/assorted/unstructured Cabinet Office papers held by the National Archives, their subject matter, any index to those documents, and arrangement for public access
3) The measures being taken by the National Archives to secure access to any unregistered/assorted/unstructured papers that have been retained by the Cabinet Office/Home Office but not acquired by the National Archives (including “The Cabinet Secretary’s miscellaneous papers”).
Please note my interest is not solely confined to the topic of the Wanless/Whittam Review. I am keen to understand what volume of material and what other topics, are contained in those previously undisclosed & unregistered documents.
Thank you for your enquiry of 23 July
Your request has been handled under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) and I can confirm that The National Archives holds some information relevant to your request. In order to place this information in context and best assist you in finding the information you are looking for, it may be helpful if I first explain in more detail the role of The National Archives in the records selection and transfer process, before providing you with the information we hold that falls within the scope of your request.
The records selection and transfer process at The National Archives
Under the terms of the Public Records Act 1958 [PRA], government departments are responsible for ensuring that their public records are reviewed within the statutory timeframe. This is done under the supervision and guidance of the Keeper of the Public Records.
The National Archives is responsible for coordinating and supervising appraisal and selection of these public records. The National Archives provides advice, guidance and training to departments on how to carry out appraisal and selection. The National Archives has produced a Records Collection Policy, best practice guidance on the selection and appraisal of public records to which you may like to refer for further information.
The terms you have used in your request were provided to the supplementary report by the relevant government departments in order to define their own holdings. Although The National Archives does not use these terms to track or categorize records which we hold, we are pleased to provide the information which we consider most likely to fall within the scope of your enquiry below.
‘Legacy’ project material
The attached spreadsheet contains details of our accessioning ‘legacy’ project material. All incoming records at The National Archives are processed within a target 60-day accession window. Occasionally, however, this accessioning process may be frustrated or delayed, and consequently The National Archives has adopted measures to ensure that these records are monitored and progressed appropriately, so that they can be accessioned and displayed in the normal manner.
In order to progress the accessioning of these legacy items, we liaise with all individuals involved in the transfer process to ascertain the reason for the delay in processing the accession, determining any additional selection or appraisal that may need to undertaken in accordance with the Series Level Time Plan ‘gateway’ process outlined in our Records Collection Policy. The transferring government department is then informed or consulted about the completion of the accession.
We have collated this information in line with our six-stage transfer process, through which we advise and assist government departments in the selection and transfer of records under the PRA. If you would like more information about the way in which this process is managed by government departments, those departments where you have queries will be pleased to help you if you contact them directly.
Further advice and assistance
If you wish to contact the Cabinet Office and the Home Office, you may do so using the contact details provided below.
Freedom of Information requests
Direct communications unit
2 Marsham Street
1 Horse Guards Road
Having now explained a little more about the extent of the advice The National Archives is able to provide, I am please to now provide you with
Internal review requests must be submitted within two months of the date of this response and should be addressed to:
Public Services Development Unit
The National Archives
Please mark your complaint clearly. You have the right to ask the Information Commissioner (ICO) to investigate any aspect of your complaint. However, please note that the ICO is likely to expect internal complaints procedures to have been exhausted before beginning his investigation.
Freedom of Information Manager
Freedom of Information Centre
Information Management and Practice Department
The National Archives
 (PRA 3.2)