Co-conspirators point out, this excuse is hardly watertight.
As Yes, Minister puts it:
“It is possible to remove everything of significance from a file released under the 30-year rule by saying that it is complete except for:
a. A small number of secret documents.
b. A few documents which are part of still active files.
c. Some correspondence lost in the floods of 1967.
d. Some records which went astray in the move to London.
e. Other records which went astray when the Department was reorganized.
f. The normal withdrawal of papers whose publication could give grounds for an action for libel of breach of confidence or cause embarrassment to friendly governments.”
Appropriately, Sir Humprey’s quote is from an episode called Skeleton in the Cupboard.