How do I make a request under the Freedom of Information Act?
If you would like to access information held by the FCO, please firstly check the Publication Scheme to see if it is already publicly available. If it is not, please then send your request to:
Information Rights Team
Information Management Group
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Old Admiralty Building
London, SW1A 2PA
Tel: + 44 (020) 7008 0123
Please remember that FOIA requests must be in writing, but this includes emails as well as letters. Your request should include:
Details of the information you would like to see (please be as precise as you can)
Your name and postal address
We will reply to your request within 20 working days of receiving it. Our reply to you will confirm or deny whether we hold the information you have requested, and either provide the information your requested, or explain why it has not been provided, quoting an exemption under the Act.
If you are dissatisfied with the information you have received or our response to you, you can ask us to conduct an internal review of our decision. If, after an internal review, you still remain dissatisfied, you may ask the Information Commissioner to take up your complaint (see www.informationcommissioner.gov.uk for further information).
What does the Freedom of Information Act do?
FOIA grants any person of any nationality the right to request to see information held by the FCO, or by any other public body.
There are three main features of the UK FOIA:
Any person of any nationality has the right to request access to information held by the FCO, or by other public bodies. The information can be requested for any purpose. The Act is fully retrospective, meaning that applicants can request information from one day to more that 100 years old. All FCO information is covered by the Act, in every recorded: requests apply to emails, personal notebooks, CCTV footage, miscellaneous collections of papers, as well as registered paper and electronic files.
As well as providing information when asked to do so, FOIA also requires public bodies to be proactive in the release of official information. As a result, each organisation covered by the Act must produce a Publication Scheme, giving details of what information it already makes available or intends to publish as a matter of course. The FCO Publication Scheme has been available since November 2002.
Records Management Requirements
FOIA introduces new standards for records management and changes the basis on which historical records are withheld from The National Archives. Records over thirty years old, but not suitable for release (currently about 1% of the FCO's annual total) will have to be retained under an exemption in the Act. Not all of the exemptions apply to historical records. Records retained in this way can still be requested under the access rights of FOIA.
FOIA covers all public bodies, from central government departments to local authorities – it even applies to schools and doctors' surgeries. More information about the FOIA can be found at www.foi.gov.uk
The Scottish Executive introduced its own FOIA to cover all of the bodies overseen by the Scottish Parliament. The UK Act applies to all other bodies in Scotland, as well as England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Details of the Scottish FOIA can be found at www.scotland.gov.uk
|All cartoons in Freedom of Information section © Chris Slane|
The FCO has produced guidance on the Freedom of Information Act. This guidance is mainly aimed at FCO staff, but it contains useful information about the Act and making requests.
|Freedom of Information: Getting it right (PDF, 444kb)|
Record Keeping: Keeping the record straight
The FCO has also produced guidance on Records Keeping.
|Record keeping guidance (PDF, 824K)|
Please send your comments, or requests for a hard copy of the guidance, to firstname.lastname@example.org .
More general guidance on the Freedom of Information Act is available from the Department for Constitutional Affairs at www.dca.gov.uk or www.foi.gov.uk.