GOV.UK content retention and withdrawal policy

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v1.0, May 2015


1. GOV.UK content is a ‘public record’ within the definition of the Public Records Act 1958. Government is therefore under an obligation to make sure the way in which it publishes and manages GOV.UK content is commensurate with its obligations under the Act, and consistent across publishing bodies.  GDS has drawn up a policy for how this can be achieved on GOV.UK.

GOV.UK content as public record

2. GOV.UK content is a ‘public record’, within the definition of the Public Records Act 1958. Cabinet Office, and the Government Digital Service, as holders of this information, are therefore subject to the The Lord Chancellor’s Code of Practice on Records Management. This Code of Practice describes how bodies which are subject to the Public Records Act should manage their information.

3. Of particular relevance to GOV.UK are the directions to holders of information to:

  • set business rules identifying which records should be kept (section 8.2).
  • ensure that records kept are reliable (i.e. they can be trusted as a full and accurate record) (section 8.3); and usable (i.e that they can be easily retrieved and read) - this includes the preservation of metadata (section 10.9 - 10.14).
  • ensure that disposal of records should only take place in line with clearly established policies, and should take into account “the potential value of the records for historical or other research”.
  • record reasons for disposal of records (section 12).

4. These directions also reflect what we know to be critical user needs. GOV.UK is the primary online destination for members of the public wanting to know what the government has said, and when it has said it. It is of critical importance that information published on the site, no matter which administration it relates to, is:

  • comprehensive: users are able to trust that information on GOV.UK is a full and complete record of government activity
  • reliable: that users can trust the accuracy and integrity of information on the site, and act accordingly

5. The GOV.UK content retention and withdrawal policy  was drawn up by GDS in consultation with digital teams from government departments, to meet the needs outlined in sections 2 and 3.

6. The National Archives hold the permanent public record. In accordance with the Public Records Act, The National Archives collects public records from all public bodies, and periodically take snapshots of GOV.UK for preservation and public access as part of the UK Government Web Archive. Government Digital Service will continue working closely with The National Archives, to ensure that its approach to content preservation and archiving is in line with user needs, and best practices for information management.


Document version history

v0.1 Draft guidelines published in March 2015 for comment 

V1.0 Guidelines and policy approved by GOV.UK steering group, May 2015