Readers' reactions

February 5, 1999

Last week in The THES... Iain Mclean asked what academics would like to see included in the government's planned Freedom of Information Act.

Charles Woolfson Senior lecturer in industrial relations, University of Glasgow.

There is no doubt that the culture of secrecy is deeply embedded in the British establishment. It means that any serious academic research on how government policies come to be formed is mired in restrictive regulation. The paradoxical result is that I have become a minor cause cel bre because I have posed uncomfortable questions about health and safety matters to reluctant official bodies.

Anne Crowther

Chair, Scottish Records Advisory Council and professor in the department of economic and social history, University of Glasgow.

No Freedom of Information Act will do its job unless it includes a recognition of the value of archives and the work of professional archivists. Organisations generating important records should have an obligation both to conserve them and to ensure suitable access. In practice, this means maintaining an archive or being prepared to hand material to another archive for safekeeping.

Archives are not the preserve of historians, they are an essential guarantee of public information. The arrival of electronic records makes professional management even more necessary, since data may become irretrievable if not updated. Unthinking destruction of records may be a greater threat to freedom of information than wilful concealment.

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