Public Records Act 1958

5Access to public records

(1)Public records in the Public Record Office, other than those to which members of the public had access before their transfer to the Public Record Office, shall not be available for public inspection until they have been in existence for fifty years or such other period, either longer or shorter, as the Lord Chancellor may, with the approval, or at the request, of the Minister or other person, if any, who appears to him to be primarily concerned, for the time being prescribe as respects any particular class of public records.

(2)Without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing subsection, if it appears to the person responsible for any public records which have been selected by him under section three of this Act for permanent preservation that they contain information which was obtained from members of the public under such conditions that the opening of those records to the public after the period determined under the foregoing subsection would or might constitute a breach of good faith on the part of the Government or on the part of the persons who obtained the information, he shall inform the Lord Chancellor accordingly and those records shall not be available in the Public Record Office for public inspection even after the expiration of the said period except in such circumstances and subject to such conditions, if any, as the Lord Chancellor and that person may approve, or, if the Lord Chancellor and that person think fit, after the expiration of such further period as they may approve.

(3)Subject to the foregoing provisions of this section, subject to the enactments set out in the Second Schedule to this Act (which prohibit the disclosure of certain information obtained from the public except for certain limited purposes) and subject to any other Act or instrument whether passed or made before or after this Act which contains a similar prohibition, it shall be the duty of the Keeper of Public Records to arrange that reasonable facilities are available to the public for inspecting and obtaining copies of public records in the Public Record Office.

(4)Subsection (1) of this section shall not make it unlawful for the Keeper of Public Records to permit a person to inspect any records if he has obtained special authority in that behalf given by an officer of a government department or other body, being an officer accepted by the Lord Chancellor as qualified to give such an authority.

(5)The Lord Chancellor shall as respects all public records in places of deposit appointed by him under this Act outside the Public Record Office require arrangements to be made for their inspection by the public comparable to those made for public records in the Public Record Office, and subject to restrictions corresponding with those contained in the foregoing provisions of this section.