To make a request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 you must make a request in writing/email/fax to the relevant goverment department/agency.
This information must include
- Your name
- An address for correspondence
- Describe as fully as possible the information you are seeking
The correspondence does not have to be in writing and an email or fax are equally acceptable. The Act sets a time limit of 20 working days for dealing with a request for information.
The agency/department may charge a fee for processing a request:
The fee will be calculated based on the fees regulations published by the Department of Constitutional Affairs.
The fees can be charged for “time spent efficiently” locating or copying records, based on a standard hourly rate if £25.
However as long as the cost does not exceed a limit of of either £450 or £600 (depending on the nature of the department) then there will be no fee charged. No charges can be applied for simply considering the if the information should be provided.
If a fee is required, the limit of 20 working days will be extended by up to three months until the fee is paid.
There are several exceptions to the freedom of information act, i.e just because an application has been made it does not mean that the information will be, or needs to be, provided. The Act does not allow for people to put in numerous spurious requests, nor ask for requests that are already in the public domain.
There are also numerous other exceptions, such as national security, commercial interest (you can not ask for information about a competing company), personal information.
A list of exceptions will be posted later
Rights to information
Any individual will be able to make a request to an institution for information. The individual does not have to be the subject of that information, or be affected by its holding or use. If an individual is the subject of that information then the principles of the Data Protection Act to protect the data subject will take precedence over any Freedom of Information right.
The Act gives applicants two related rights:
- to be told whether the information is held by the institution
- to receive the information, where possible in the manner requested, for example as a copy or summary, or in paper or electronic format. An individual may also request to inspect records in person
There is no obligation to comply with ‘vexatious’ requests, or repeated requests, if the institution/agency/department has recently responded to an identical or substantially similar request from the same person, but there is a duty to provide advice and assistance to anyone making a request.