Tales from the vaults as the 30-year rule ends

50,000 files opened as act sweeps away 30-year rule (The Guardian, 4 January 2005)
Over 50,000 files that have been closed under the 30-year rule have now been released under the UK Freedom of Information Act. The National Archives also plan to review over 27,000 files which are classified as being of "closed description". These files are over 30 years old but are viewed as being so sensitive that even the one line descriptions of their contents are secret.

Army restricted ethnic recruits (BBC website, 4 January 2005)
Army had quotas for blacks and Asians (The Independent, 4 January 2005)
Revealed: the British Army’s 20 years of secret racism (The Herald, 4 January 2005)
The British Army secretly restricted the number of recruits from ethnic minorities for 20 years, newly released official documents show. From 1957 Army medical officers were instructed to note all new recruits with "Asiatic or Negroid features".

Whitehall's secret plan to let the IRA hunger strikers die: First documents to be released under the Freedom of Information Act are revealed today (The Times, 4 January 2005)
Government officials predicted the H-block hunger strikes of 1981 and had decided as early as December 1975 to let fasting prisoners die, according to newly released Ministry of Defence files.

Home Office cat history revealed (BBC website, 4 January 2005)
The cat o' 99 tales (The Guardian, 4 January 2005)
Papers on the history of the official Home Office cat were among 50,000 files delivered to the National Archives. A series of cats from a humble mouser in 1929 to a pedigree feline who could not be sacked for "diplomatic" reasons have been employed. The files were handed over under the Freedom of Information Act.

The U-bend of history (The Guardian, 4 January 2005)
The battle for soft toilet paper in the civil service lasted for 17 years, according to official documents released under the UK Freedom of Information Act. The bizarre file - including serious medical decisions about the porosity of rival brands of tissues and the financial implications - was not closed until 1981. Under the old government regulations, this controversy would have remained a state secret for a further 30 years. The new law, however, means that the dossier can now be read at the National Archives in London.