The recently published Retention of Records Bill 2019 represents a very important measure in that it provides for the retention of the records of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, the Residential Institutions Redress Board and the Residential Institutions Review Committee. I must stress that under the legislation establishing these bodies the bulk of their records would, on the dissolution of those bodies, fall to be destroyed. The records held by these bodies represent the personal testimony and stories of many survivors of residential institutional child abuse and related papers. I believe that these records should not be destroyed both to ensure that future generations will be aware of and understand what happened and out of respect to the victims who came forward. Therefore, if the Bill is enacted these highly sensitive records will be retained.
The redress bodies operated under stringent confidentiality requirements as laid down in statute and persons engaged with them on that basis. The proposals in the Bill strike a balance between those requirements and the need to preserve these historically important records.
The proposals contained in the Bill were the subject of normal consultations with other Government departments both at the time the General Scheme of the Bill was finalised in early 2015 and more recently when the text of the Bill was approved for publication. Neither the Information Commissioner nor the Data Protection Commissioner was consulted directly by my officials as part of that process as that would be a matter for the relevant departments. However I can confirm that informal discussions took place with the Data Protection Commissioner.
I should point out that the legislation under which the three bodies currently operate restricts the application of the provisions of the Freedom of Information Acts and the Data Protection Act. The Bill proposes to continue that dis-application in the case of the Freedom of Information Act. If the Bill is enacted and the records are transferred to the National Archives, further processing will be for archiving purposes and the provisions of section 61 of the Data Protection Act 2018 will therefore apply.