July 2012


The National Archives was asked for copies of letters reporting the results of inspections since 2005 and further discussions of security since 2008.


Successful in part


Since 2005 there have been two inspections of the Bodleian Library's facilities for archives and manuscripts. One was in 2008 and the other last year in 2011. On each occasion a letter was written informing the Bodleian Library of the results of the inspections including detailed discussion of security.

The National Archives could provide most of the information in the aforementioned letters. Some of the information is exempt under section 31(1)(a) of the Freedom of Information Act.  This means those parts were not released and were redacted.

Section 31(1)(a) is engaged when, to quote the Freedom of Information Act, 'disclosure … would, or would be likely to, prejudice the prevention or detection of crime'. This type of exemption is known as a qualified exemption. This means that after it has been decided that the exemption is engaged, the public interest in releasing the information must be considered. If the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in withholding it then the exemption does not apply and must be released. In the Freedom of Information Act there is a presumption that information should be released unless there are compelling reasons to withhold it.

The information which engages the exemption at 31(1)(a) is highly sensitive, detailing recommended improvements in security (which have since been addressed) and the layout of storage facilities. Disclosure of this very detailed information would be highly likely to undermine the measures designed to protect the archival and manuscript collections exposing them to a much greater risk of theft. We have carried out a public interest test as to whether the benefits of releasing this security information outweigh the risks that release poses to the security of the Bodleian collections and  have concluded that security considerations are paramount in this case.

As for further discussions about security since 2008, beyond our direct discussions in the letters of security with the Bodleian Library arising out of the inspections of 2008 and 2011, we have not received any external communications about the security of the archival and manuscript collections held at the Bodleian Library and ancillary libraries. Thus The National Archives does not hold this information.

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