Annual Report and Accounts 2000-01


OFFICE REPORTS

Record Office (The Parliamentary Archives)
(Clerk of the Records: Stephen Ellison)

1  Purpose

The Record Office provides an archive service and a records management service for both Houses of Parliament, answers enquiries about the history and records of Parliament, and makes historic Parliamentary records accessible to the public through the Search Room.

2  Organisation

The complement of 5 archivists was increased from August 2000 by the appointment of an additional archivist/records manager. The Office has 4 support staff, 6 conservation officers and a part-time supervisor (seconded from the British Library), and 3 reprographic officers (seconded from The Stationery Office).

3  Activities and Financial Performance

Archive Service: A business case for bringing the environmental conditions and fire safety systems of the Victoria Tower repository up to standard was submitted. Some 300 cubic metres of records, equivalent to the holdings of three floors of the tower, were removed to off-site storage for the duration of the project, from where they can be returned within 48 hours for consultation.

A review of the Office's outreach activities was undertaken in the context of the Government's policy for access by all to archive services and on the use of archive materials in schools, higher education and for lifelong learning. Scope to implement the recommendations in full is limited by resources but the Office will seek to use internet technology to promote the wider use of archives, imaginatively, effectively and economically.

A business case was approved for an online archival catalogue conforming to international standards of archive description that will enable participation in the national archive network. After competitive tender, appropriate software was selected for the system, which has been installed and populated with 3,500 catalogue records.

Records Management Service: The Clerk of the Records chaired a House of Lords working group on the implications of freedom of information legislation. The group recommended that a Freedom of Information Officer should have responsibility for supervising and co-ordinating arrangements for ensuring House of Lords' compliance and that requests for information should be processed, so far as possible, using established current practice. A 3-year strategy for the management of Parliamentary records in all media, which will ensure compliance with the legislation, was launched. A corporate file classification, which is adaptable to the requirements of individual offices, is being developed.

A corporate approach to electronic records management was endorsed by a working group of both Houses under the chairmanship of the Record Office. The group recommended that decisions to move to document management systems for electronic documents and records should be made within a Parliament-wide framework. Other recommendations focused on the need for the Record Office to give specialist advice to project boards and IT steering groups.

Financial performance: The costs of the Record Office are shared by the Lords and Commons in the ratio of 60:40. Expenditure was £745,539. There were receipts of £12,599 from the sale of photocopies and royalties, and £27,209 from VAT recoveries. The comparable figures for last year were £669,691, £13,759 and £26,032. The House of Commons' contribution for 2000-01 was £309,000. The increase in expenditure was mainly attributable to the budgeted costs of the electronic cataloguing project.

4  Future Activities

  • In April 2001, a 4-year programme for the retrospective conversion of paper finding aids for inclusion in the electronic catalogue (launched in April 2001).

  • A 4-year programme for the installation of new air conditioning, electrical wiring and a fire protection system for the Victoria Tower repository will begin in Summer 2001.

  • A joint Lords and Commons staff review to assess the need to strengthen the records management team (June 2001).

  • Roll-out of a corporate file classification for Parliamentary records will begin.

  • The appointment of a Freedom of Information Officer, based in the Record Office.



 
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