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4 January 2005 releases

January 2005

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Recent releases at The National Archives

The provisions under the Public Records Act - under which public records are closed until they are 30 years old - were replaced on 1 January 2005 by a statutory right to know under the Freedom of Information Act.

The so-called 30 year rule has disappeared. From 1 January, under the Freedom of Information Act, you can make a request for information at any time and have that information supplied to you unless an exemption applies.

To mark the full implementation of the Act, over 50,000 files that are less than 30 years old have been released at The National Archives. These records have been reviewed by government departments and we are delighted that so many of them have been made available.

These releases under the Freedom of Information Act provide living, breathing proof of the difference that the Act is making and will continue to make over the years ahead. Public discussion of Freedom of Information has concentrated on access to contemporary information. But Freedom of Information is also about access to the historical legacy. By pro-actively releasing files less than 30 years old, this initiative is designed to unlock a great wealth of historical information.

This batch of releases cover a surprising range of topics - from research at Porton Down to arranged marriages. They cover subjects topical today, such as Home Office files on a review of the gambling laws, cannabis and the vexed question of whether the BBC comedy Porridge could be filmed inside a prison. Another prison-related file contains the Metropolitan Police documentation on the escape from Durham Prison of John McVicar.

The Ministry of Defence is releasing a range of records, including ones about the Cod War, operations in Northern Ireland and more than thirty files about UFOs.

List of highlighted files

View selected images of the documents via Discovery

In April 1976, Harold Wilson resigned as Prime Minister and James Callaghan formed a new government. See the documents

In October 1968 John McVicar escaped from Durham Prison. He wrote a letter to the Home Secretary expressing fear for his safety on arrest. See the documents

In the 1970s the Ministry of Defence applied some unusual criteria for defining the numbers of "coloured" servicemen. See the documents