Public Records Act 1958

JurisdictionUK Non-devolved
Citation1958 c. 51


Public Records Act , 1958

(6 & 7 Eliz. 2) CHAPTER 51

An Act to make new provision with respect to public records and the Public Record Office, and for connected purposes.

Be it enacted by the Queen's most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:—

S-1 General responsibility of the Lord Chancellor for public records.

1 General responsibility of the Lord Chancellor for public records.

(1) The direction of the Public Record Office shall be transferred from the Master of the Rolls to the Lord Chancellor, and the Lord Chancellor shall be generally responsible for the execution of this Act and shall supervise the care and preservation of public records.

(2) There shall be an Advisory Council on Public Records to advise the Lord Chancellor on matters concerning public records in general and, in particular, on those aspects of the work of the Public Record Office which affect members of the public who make use of the facilities provided by the Public Record Office.

The Master of the Rolls shall be chairman of the said Council and the remaining members of the Council shall be appointed by the Lord Chancellor on such terms as he may specify.

(3) The Lord Chancellor shall in every year lay before both Houses of Parliament a report on the work of the Public Record Office, which shall include any report made to him by the Advisory Council on Public Records.

S-2 The Public Record Office.

2 The Public Record Office.

(1) The Lord Chancellor may appoint a Keeper of Public Records to take charge under his direction of the Public Record Office and of the records therein and may, with the concurrence of the Treasury as to numbers and conditions of service, appoint such other persons to serve in the Public Record Office as he may think fit.

(2) The Keeper of Public Records and other persons appointed under this Act shall receive such salaries and remuneration as the Treasury may from time to time direct.

(3) It shall be the duty of the Keeper of Public Records to take all practicable steps for the preservation of records under his charge.

(4) The Keeper of Public Records shall have power to do all such things as appear to him necessary or expedient for maintaining the utility of the Public Record Office and may in particular—

(a ) compile and make available indexes and guides to, and calendars and texts of, the records in the Public Record Office;

(b ) prepare publications concerning the activities of and facilities provided by the Public Record Office;

(c ) regulate the conditions under which members of the public may inspect public and other records or use the other facilities of the Public Record Office;

(d ) provide for the making and authentication of copies of and extracts from records required as evidence in legal proceedings or for other purposes;

(e ) accept responsibility for the safe keeping of records other than public records;

(f ) make arrangements for the separate housing of films and other records which have to be kept under special conditions;

(g ) lend records, in a case where the Lord Chancellor gives his approval, for display at commemorative exhibitions or for other special purposes;

(h ) acquire records and accept gifts and loans.

(5) The Lord Chancellor may by regulations made with the concurrence of the Treasury and contained in a statutory instrument prescribe the fees which may be charged for the inspection of records under the charge of the Keeper of Public Records, for authenticated copies or extracts from such records and for other services afforded by officers of the Public Record Office and authorise the remission of the fees in prescribed cases.

(6) Fees received under the last foregoing subsection shall be paid into the Exchequer.

S-3 Selection and preservation of public records.

3 Selection and preservation of public records.

(1) It shall be the duty of every person responsible for public records of any description which are not in the Public Record Office or a place of deposit appointed by the Lord Chancellor under this Act to make arrangements for the selection of those records which ought to be permanently preserved and for their safe-keeping.

(2) Every person shall perform his duties under this section under the guidance of the Keeper of Public Records and the said Keeper shall be responsible for co-ordinating and supervising all action taken under this section.

(3) All public records created before the year sixteen hundred and sixty shall be included among those selected for permanent preservation.

(4) Public records selected for permanent preservation under this section shall be transferred not later than thirty years after their creation either to the Public Record Office or to such other place of deposit appointed by the Lord Chancellor under this Act as the Lord Chancellor may direct:

Provided that any records may be retained after the said period if, in the opinion of the person who is responsible for them, they are required for administrative purposes or ought to be retained for any other special reason and, where that person is not the Lord Chancellor, the Lord Chancellor has been informed of the facts and given his approval.

(5) The Lord Chancellor may, if it appears to him in the interests of the proper administration of the Public Record Office, direct that the transfer of any class of records under this section shall be suspended until arrangements for their reception have been completed.

(6) Public records which, following the arrangements made in pursuance of this section, have been rejected as not required for permanent preservation shall be destroyed or, subject, in the case of records for which some person other ,than the Lord Chancellor is responsible, to the approval of the Lord Chancellor, disposed of in any other way.

(7) Any question as to the person whose duty it is to make arrangements under this section with respect to any class of public records shall be referred to the Lord Chancellor for his decision.

(8) The provisions of this section shall not make it unlawful for the person responsible for any public record to transmit it to the Keeper of the Records of Scotland or to the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland.

S-4 Place of deposit of public records.

4 Place of deposit of public records.

(1) If it appears to the Lord Chancellor that a place outside the Public Record Office affords suitable facilities for the safe-keeping and preservation of records and their inspection by the public he may, with the agreement of the authority who will be responsible for records deposited in that place, appoint it as a place of deposit as respects any class of public records selected for permanent preservation under this Act.

(2) In choosing a place of deposit under this section for public records of—

(a ) courts of quarter sessions or magistrates' courts, or

(b ) courts of coroners of counties or boroughs,

the Lord Chancellor shall have regard to any arrangements made by the person for the time being responsible for the records with respect to the place where those records are to be kept and, where he does not follow any such arrangements, shall, so far as practicable, proceed on the principle that the records of any such court ought to be kept in the area of the administrative county or county borough comprising the area for which the court acts or where it sits, except in a case where the authorities or persons appearing to the Lord Chancellor to be mainly concerned consent to the choice of a place of deposit elsewhere.

(3) The Lord Chancellor may at any time direct that public records shall be transferred from the Public Record Office to a place of deposit appointed under this section or from such a place of deposit to the Public Record Office or another place of deposit.

(4) Before appointing a place of deposit under this section as respects public records of a class for which the Lord Chancellor is not himself responsible, he shall consult with the Minister or other person, if any, who appears to him to be primarily concerned and, where the records are records of a court of quarter sessions the records of which are, apart from the provisions of this Act, subject to the directions of a custos rotulorum, the Lord Chancellor shall consult him.

(5) Public records in the Public Record office shall be in the custody of the Keeper of Public Records and public records in a place of deposit appointed under this Act shall be in the custody of such officer as...

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