Posted by John Brindley (Staff Author) Posted on 1 February 2020

Former Government minister claims Royal secrecy is getting worse in era of Freedom of Information

LONG may The Queen reign – in secret!

Former Government Minister Norman Baker has lifted the lid on the astonishing extent of secrecy surrounding the Royal Family.

Baker attempted to access National Archives whilst researching for his enlightening book And What Do You Do? And reveals: ‘It is the policy not to release anything that relates to the present reign.

‘That means that the most recent file you can possibly access, if it has not been specifically closed or destroyed, will date from 1952 – a 67-year rule and counting.’

This is in stark contrast to the general policy to release information from the National Archives more rapidly after a review by Gordon Brown’s government.

But Baker adds: ‘But some files stay locked up beyond the 20 and even 30-year period, and it is no surprise that the biggest bulk of these relate to Royal matters.

‘A visit to the excellent National Archives at Kew is an unrewarding experience if Royal files are your subject of interest.

‘On the day of my visit, there were 3,629 closed files on the Royal Family’

Baker lists some of the titles of files still unavailable to the general public as including

.PM’s office: Correspondence- Family name of Royal Family members (1951-1964)

.Relations between the media and the Royal Family  – possible legal measures (January 3-18 1984).

.Future career of the Prince of Wales (May 1979 to December 1981).

.Visit of Duke of Edinburgh to countries in Far East and Pacific (1959)

.British nationality for German descendants of British Royal Family (1957).

Baker reflects: ‘On the face of it, there would seem to be no good reason why these files, all of them over 30 years old, and the vast majority of the rest, cannot be released with names redacted when necessary. Yet many closed files, it has been decided, will stay that way for 100 years.’

Baker, who served in the coalition government whilst a Liberal Democrat MP, says that alongside this prohibition on access to National Archives there has also been a tightening on the release of information held by public bodies on the Royals.

He claims that the Freedom of Information Act of 2000 opened up a gulf between other material and Royal matters.

He writes: ‘Its original terms, despite throwing open the doors of state, made it quite difficult to release documentation relating to the Royals. Access was far from automatic. A public interest test had to be met.

And further legislation enacted by New Labour in 2010 tightened the vice still further.

‘The new position in law is that even if the release of information is overwhelmingly in the public interest, it cannot be provided.

‘The draconian regime applies to The Queen, Prince Charles and, added as an afterthought, Prince William. The public interest test remains valid for other Royals.’

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