Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point
On Air
Low Graphics

Wednesday, June 3, 1998 Published at 16:50 GMT 17:50 UK


Saving the messages from the ministry

The Home Office: set to join the e-mail archive

Official archivists are making sure that historians in the future will have access to important government e-mails as well as printed documents.

The Public Record Office (PRO)has set up a special programme to store Whitehall e-mails and stop them disappearing into an "an electronic wastebasket".

The Lord Chancellor's Parliamentary Secretary Geoff Hoon said more than 95% of new official documents are either created or held electronically.

Every year government departments transfer 11 million sheets of paper to the PRO for storage and eventual release to the public.

But until now there has been a danger of computerised documents being deleted or amended, Mr Hoon said.

[ image: Potentially important messages can disappear in a couple of clicks]
Potentially important messages can disappear in a couple of clicks
"Anyone who has ever used a word processor knows how tempting it is to keep changing documents," he told a conference at the Public Record Office in Kew.

Should e-mail messages be treated in the same way as conventional letters, he asked.

"Can they ever constitute official records? On the one hand, they are so ephemeral and so immediate. Yet they are as valuable a record as more formal letters.

"We must ensure that, where the letter would have been preserved, the e-mail is not simply transferred into an electronic wastebasket.

"We cannot allow an information black hole to develop in which the electronic records being created today and tomorrow are lost."

To stop this the PRO has set up the Electronic Records in Office Systems Programme, to help ensure Whitehall departments create and store electronic records.

"Its aim is to guarantee that any electronic records of long-term value are available for future access," Mr Hoon said.

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

UK Contents

Northern Ireland
Relevant Stories

29 Apr 98 | UK
Blair nets place in history books

27 Apr 98 | oldBusiness
Spam fritters away £5bn

Internet Links

Public Record Office

UK government sites

Number 10 Downing Street

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

Next steps for peace

Blairs' surprise over baby

Bowled over by Lord's

Beef row 'compromise' under fire

Hamilton 'would sell mother'

Industry misses new trains target

From Sport
Quins fightback shocks Cardiff

From Business
Vodafone takeover battle heats up

IRA ceasefire challenge rejected

Thousands celebrate Asian culture

From Sport
Christie could get two-year ban

From Entertainment
Colleagues remember Compo

Mother pleads for baby's return

Toys withdrawn in E.coli health scare

From Health
Nurses role set to expand

Israeli PM's plane in accident

More lottery cash for grassroots

Pro-lifers plan shock launch

Double killer gets life

From Health
Cold 'cure' comes one step closer

From UK Politics
Straw on trial over jury reform

Tatchell calls for rights probe into Mugabe

Ex-spy stays out in the cold

From UK Politics
Blair warns Livingstone

From Health
Smear equipment `misses cancers'

From Entertainment
Boyzone star gets in Christmas spirit

Fake bubbly warning

Murder jury hears dead girl's diary

From UK Politics
Germ warfare fiasco revealed

Blair babe triggers tabloid frenzy

Tourists shot by mistake

A new look for News Online