Freedom of Information (FOI)
The Freedom of Information Act gives anybody the right
to access information held by public authorities including
Central Government. This means that members of the public
have a right to access information held by the Home
An overview of the Act can be found below. Full details
of the FOI Act are detailed on the Department of Constitutional
Affairs (DCA) website at http://www.foi.gov.uk/.
The Act was implemented in two parts. The first stage
required central government departments (including the
Home Office) to make information available through their
Publication Schemes from 30 November 2002.
The aim of the Publication Scheme is to explain what
information the Home Office makes available to the public
and, where possible, provide an easy method of accessing
The second stage of FOI implementation began in January
2005. From this date, everybody became entitled to ask
a public authority in England, Wales and Northern Ireland
for any recorded information that they keep.
The Home Office and its Agencies are committed, under
of Information Act to:
- promote informed policy making and debate;
- provide timely and accessible information to explain
the Department's policies, actions and decisions;
- respond to reasonable requests for information.
Any request to the Home Office for information will
be handled in accordance with the provisions of the
Freedom of Information Act.
There are two ways of accessing information –
by making a specific request in writing or by checking
whether a document is already available through the
Office Publication Scheme.
The scheme lists the information routinely made available
and whether you need to pay for it. Check the scheme
to see if the information you want has already been
published, as this could save you both time and money.
If the information is not included in the publication
scheme, you can make a separate request after January
2005 when the General Right of Access comes into force.
Requests for information must be
made in writing, which can include email. When requesting
information please make sure you state your name and
If you know which part of the office might deal with
the information you require, please contact them direct
(see our list of department contact
details further down this page). If not, please
contact general enquiries:
The Home Office aims to respond to written requests
for information within 20 working days. We will also
endeavor to provide advice to people who have made,
or who are thinking of making, a request. This will
help applicants understand their rights under the Act
and identify the information they want.
Some of the exemptions outlined in the Limits
on Disclosure section will require the Home Office
to consider whether it is in the public interest to
withhold information. In some instances consideration
of the public interest may take longer than the 20 days.
In these cases we will provide an estimate of when we
will have reached a decision within 20 days of receiving
Requests for personal data
The Data Protection Act 1998 governs the processing
of personal data (information relating to living individuals).
This legislation makes it possible for you to request
access to personal data that the Home Office may hold
about you. A request for disclosure of such information
is called a Subject Access Request.
Should you wish to know more about your rights under
the Data Protection Act 1998 you should consult the
of the Information Commissioner's website.
Limits of Disclosure
The Home Office will disclose information wherever
possible. However, in certain limited circumstances,
it will be necessary to preserve confidentiality where
it is not in the public interest to disclose. These
are set out in Part II of the FOI Act (http://www.foi.gov.uk).
In any case where information is refused, the Home
Office will specify which exemption is being claimed
and why. All requests for information will be carefully
considered on their own merits and with close regard
to the public interest.
The FOI Act provides 23 exemptions from the general
rights of access.
For example, certain information relating to national
security, information that would prejudice international
relations, commercially sensitive information and confidential
information. Personal data about other people cannot
be released if to do so would breach the Data Protection
If the information requested is already reasonably
accessed through the Home Office publication scheme
we will simply direct the applicant to its area of the
Anyone not satisfied with the response to their request
may seek an independent review by writing to:
You must clearly state when and to whom the original
request was made.
The Home Office target for a substantive response
to a complaint is 30 working days unless particularly
complex, those more complicated cases may take longer.
Complainants will be kept informed if any delays appear
Anyone who remains unsatisfied with the outcome of
a review may apply to the Information
Commissioner who enforces and oversees the Freedom
of Information Act.
Details of the latest Central Government charging
regulations are outlined on the Department
for Constitutional Affairs website.
If the Home Office charges a fee we will inform the
applicant in writing.
The 20 days target for responding to FOI requests
will be put on hold until the fee is paid. If the fee
is not paid within three months it is assumed the applicant
no longer wants the information.
Contact Points for FOI
|Information Access Manager/Complaints
Address and telephone number available on the Direct
Communications Unit page.
|Public records over 30 years old
Departmental Records Officer
50 Queen Anne's Gate
|Research, Development and Statistics Directorate
Communication Development Unit
50 Queen Anne's Gate
|Tel 020 7273 2084
Fax 020 7273 0211
|National Offender Management Service (Includes
the Prison Service)
Open Government Unit,
John Islip Street
London, SW1P 4LH.
|Tel 020 7217 2125
Open Government Co-ordinator
89 Eccleston Square
|Tel 020 7901 2452
Fax 020 7901 2459
|Immigration and Nationality Directorate
Freedom of Information Unit,
Immigration and Nationality Directorate,
5th Floor East,
|Tel 0870 606 7766
Fax 020 8760 3084/3085
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