§ Dr. Murrison
To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs what progress has been made in improving access to public records for amateur historians. 
§ Mr. Leslie
In recent years The National Archives (TNA) has made considerable progress in improving online and onsite access for amateur historians. The online catalogue (PROCAT), with references to over nine million records, is available over the internet. Users can identify the original documents relevant to their research and place an order for them in advance of a visit to TNA at Kew. In addition, digital images of the entire series of wills from 1384 to 1858, which are of considerable interest to family historians, can be downloaded from the TNA website. TNA also provides digital copies of other records on demand over the internet. Many of TNA's online services are free of charge, including the award winning Learning Curve gallery, which provides online content for school teachers and pupils working on Key Stages 2 to 4 of the History National Curriculum, and the Pathways to the Past section of the website, which includes a wide variety of online material aimed at lifelong learners. The Moving Here project, led by TNA, comprises online exhibitions focusing on the historical experience of immigration to the UK in the last 150 years, and has opened archives up to entirely new audiences.
Since 1997, the public reading rooms have been open six days a week, with late opening until 7pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays. New users are given an induction tour on their first visit to Kew and can ask trained staff on duty in the reading rooms for further expert advice. All users are encouraged to make suggestions for further service improvements. The Public Record Office (PRO) first gained the Charter Mark Award in 1998 and achieved re-accreditation in 2001. Surveys of users onsite regularly achieve satisfaction levels of 90 per cent. and above.
The completion of the merger between the PRO and the Historical Manuscripts Commission in December 2003, resulting in a shared physical location and website, will provide increased access to records, benefiting historians still further.