The Independent (1993)
A single, worn ledger in brown mock-leather binding sums it up: in gold lettering it says, ‘Secret Service Accounts’. Half-an-inch thick, in copperplate handwriting – much of it barely legible – it
itemises payments from 1826 to 1882, down to the last farthing. The totals penned at the end of each year would be voted through Parliament as a secret list. The secret service did not officially exist until two years ago when, as part of his commitment to open government, John Major admitted that it did.
Yesterday, as a consequence of the Prime Minister’s announcement, some 20 cardboard boxes of documents spanning the years 1791-1909 were released in the Public Record Office. More recent papers should follow when they are not considered a threat to national security or to anyone still living.