Parliamentary Question: sealed ME/CFS file in the National Archives, 2 February 2011

February 3, 2011

For the second time within a fortnight, the Countess of Mar has asked a question about the sealed ME/CFS file in the National Archives at Kew.

She asked Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord McNally on 24 January (WA 92-3), whether individuals who believe their details may be held in the National Archives file BN 1/141 are entitled to know whether that can be confirmed; and whether they or their relatives will be informed when the records are released in 2072.

In a written reply on 3 February 2011, Minister for Justice Lord Tom McNally answered:

Under the Data Protection Act, individuals are entitled to a right of access to information held about themselves. If an individual wants to exercise this subject access right, they should write to The National Archives, as the Data Controller for file BN 1/141. The National Archives is able to claim an exemption from the duty to provide the information when the request relates to records that are not available to the public but I can confirm that the exemption will not be claimed in this case.

The National Archives is unable to inform individuals, or their relatives, as to when information held about them is released to the public. The information will be released in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act 2000. In the case of BN 1/141, that is when the exemption at Section 40 of that Act no longer applies. Section 40 is used when disclosure of personal information about living individuals would be a breach of their data protection rights.

Click HERE to read the answer to the first question asked by the Countess.

1 thought on “Parliamentary Question: sealed ME/CFS file in the National Archives, 2 February 2011”

  1. Dr Charles Shepherd

    I met with the Countess of Mar after the House of Commons debate on Wednesday and discussed this further response from Lord McNally (Minister of State for Justice).

    I find it disturbing and difficult to understand why sensitive medical information on named (and living) individuals should be stored in the National Archives without their knowledge or permission, and that this information will eventually be released to the public, without relatives being informed, in 2072. I cannot see any benefit from the release of such information – even after the person has died.

    I will therefore be writing to the Information Commissioner to inform him about this situation and ask for his comments on the very valid concerns that are being raised.

    In the meantime, in relation to the second ministerial reply, individuals who feel that there could be a reason why their personal medical information is being stored in the National Archives should consider making a request for right of access, under the Data Protection Act, to the Data Controller at the National Archives.

    Feedback to the ME Association from anyone who does so would be much appreciated.

    Dr Charles Shepherd
    Hon Medical Adviser, MEA

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