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Reduce “thirty year rule” for release of Cabinet papers

Comment 6th July 2010

Currently, Cabinet papers are only released to the public 30 years after they were created. This should be lowered as explained below.

Why does this matter?

The last Cabinet papers to be released were from 1979. Soon the ones from the 1980s will start to come out. For someone like me in their 20s, the 1980s seem like a different age, and in a few years some in their 30s will be able to say the same thing.

 

Yes, releasing Cabinet papers is important for historical reasons, but that shouldn't be the only reason. We should be able to hold contemporary politicians to account for the decisions and views they took in government not that long ago. Thrity years is far too long a time period to do that.

 

I read that an independent inquiry into this recommended 15 years as the timeframe. That is one possibility, and it certainly would be an improvement. But I would go further than that. The maximum length of Parliament is 5 years. I would change the timeframe for release to 5 or 6 years. That might sound short, but it would mean that any 5 year long government had the freedom to discuss views in Cabinet in order to be elected for a second time, but they would see their Cabinet papers from their first term slowly be released during their second, and this would improve their accountability if they wanted to stand for a third or even fourth time.

 

If that sounds too short for those reading this, then I hope you'll at least give me 3/4 stars if you agree with the general theme of reducing the timeframe!


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