Lifecycle of a Freedom of Information (FOI) request – closed public records. Lifecycle of an FOI request for a closed public record…. + reasonable time allowed if required. Up to 30 working days. Stage 1 – Make a request.
closed public records
+ reasonable time allowed if required
Up to 30 working days
If the request is for the FOI Centre it will be passed to us and will be allocated to the appropriate FOI Assessor or FOI Researcher.
We will not send an acknowledgement of the request other than the auto-generated response that comes when a request is submitted through our online Catalogue. The National Archives receives more than 2,500 FOI requests per year and we are unable to dedicate resource to sending acknowledgements. Instead we concentrate our energies on dealing with your request as soon as it is received.
The FOI Act gives public authorities 20 working days to respond to an FOI request. However, under The Freedom of Information (Time for Compliance with Request) Regulations 2004, TNA can extend the time for compliance with the FOI Act by ten working days (from 20 to 30) if the request relates to information contained in a public record which has yet to be opened. What this means is if your FOI request is for one of our archival records as opposed to The National Archives’ own corporate business information we are allowed to extend the time allowed to consider the request to 30 days.
In simple terms this is because we have a legal requirement to consult with the department which transferred the record to us, if the record is ‘closed’ under Section 66 of the FOI Act. Any decision regarding access to a record is made in full consultation with the original transferring department in recognition of its continuing interest in access decisions affecting these records.
If we need to use our extra ten days we will inform you of this on or before day 20.
The FOI Centre will consider the information which has been requested by examining the record and writing a report on its contents. This report will then be sent to the transferring department along with a recommendation on whether the information can be released or is exempt from disclosure.
The National Archives is committed to releasing what we can, but protecting what we must. Making these decisions is often a carefully balanced exercise.
If some or all of the information requested is being considered under a ‘qualified’ exemption under the FOI Act, then a public interest balancing test must be undertaken. This involves assessing whether the public interest in releasing the information is greater than the public interest in applying the exemption. This test is undertaken by the department that transferred the records.
Under the Act The National Archives are allowed a reasonable amount of time for this process to take place. However, we will keep you informed if this test is being carried out and which exemptions are in question. We will provide an estimated date when the test will be completed and the outcome known.
The public interest test process can be complex and lengthy as other government departments or other parties may need to be consulted. We do understand that delays can be frustrating and your patience is appreciated.
Read more about the public interest test on the Ministry of Justice website.
Once a decision has been reached we will inform you immediately in writing.
We will explain how you can access the information and when the record will become available for ordering a copy and/or viewing in the reading rooms here at Kew. This will allow time for the record to be redacted (if it is only being part-opened) and our Catalogue and record ordering system to be updated to reflect the fact that the public can now ask to see the record.
Visiting The National Archives to view a record:
How to order a copy using the Record Copying service:
It should be remembered that the FOI Act is a public access regime and a successful FOI request for a public record will result in that record being opened to the public at large and will be available for viewing in our reading room by everyone.
Stage 6 – Decision is reached