Downing Street emails deleted to avoid Freedom of Information embarrassment


Closed door: Emails from 10 Downing Street are deleted in order to prevent embarrassing facts from reaching the public.

Downing Street has a “dysfunctional” email system which deletes messages after three months to prevent information being passed to the public in response to Freedom of Information requests, according to an incendiary report in The Independent.

It states: “Emails are only saved beyond three months if an individual saves them, which former Downing Street aides said caused ‘hugely frustrating’ problems over staff having different recollections of what was discussed an agreed at meetings.

“‘It means that people don’t remember things,’ a special adviser told the Financial Times. ‘It is dysfunctional. Then they check their emails and they don’t exist any more.'”

It seems a government official insisted the system had been introduced under a recommendation from the National Archives for “best records management”.

Yeah, right.

How can it be “best records management” to delete important information that should be saved for the record?

It will be interesting to hear the official point of view about this from the National Archives.

In the meantime – thank goodness – This Writer still has his copy of an email between the DWP and the Information Commissioner’s office, confirming that details of people who have died while claiming Employment and Support Allowance are available and may be published within the £600 cost limit for FoI requests.

The DWP may not have Downing Street’s automatic deletion system – or maybe it does. In any case, hard copy doesn’t lie.

Incidentally, at the time of writing, the petition in support of the DWP honouring the Vox Political FoI request stands at nearly 135,000 signatures. A lot of people want to know the facts.

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  1. hayfords June 17, 2015 at 10:09 am - Reply

    The system was set up in 2004, under the Labour government, shortly before the Freedom of Information Act came into force.

    • Mike Sivier June 17, 2015 at 10:44 am - Reply

      … and perpetuated by David Cameron’s government – which certainly negates his promise to be the most transparent UK government ever.

      • crazytrucker1951 June 17, 2015 at 11:47 am - Reply

        Honed and tweaked to perfection by Camoron’s Government Mike just as Duncan Smith has the DWP.

  2. hstorm June 17, 2015 at 1:02 pm - Reply

    In fairness, it is pretty much standard practise across all industries to auto-delete old e-mails from the primary server. 3 months is actually pretty longlasting, compared to where I work – everything is auto-deleted after 3 weeks there.

    But it is not difficult for any computer to be programmed to auto-archive older items and move them onto a storage hard drive before deleting them from the primary server, and that should be standard practise in Whitehall beyond doubt.

  3. Barney Turner June 18, 2015 at 2:02 am - Reply

    How ironic considering how much money has been written-off for IT systems for governmental depts over the last 5 years…

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