Public Records Act: 20 year rule

Under the Public Records Act 1958, government departments are required to identify records worthy of permanent preservation to transfer them to the National Archives and destroy the rest. In January 2013, the mandated time period for transfer reduced from 30 years to 20 years, with a 10 year transition period.

The FSA was established in 2000, so records produced by ourselves are not yet subject to transfer to the National Archives. However, in 2004 the FSA was given custody of about 85,000 Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Foods (MAFF) records, relating to food science, from the 1960s to 1999. In 2007 a large scale project was commissioned to assess the MAFF files, and as result nearly 800 files were transferred to the National Archives.

In 2012 the FSA implemented a transition plan to meet the requirements of the 20 year rule. We developed a set of criteria and set process for the annual review of two years’ worth of files. This was based on the high level National Archives selection policy and the records previously transferred by the FSA, to ensure the right records that ‘tell the story’ of food policy are identified.

The FSA is committed to meeting the requirements of the Public Records Act and so far has:

  • transferred 694 files dating from pre-1984
  • transferred 202 files from 1985/86
  • holds no files dating from before 1987