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Guidance notes on making an FOI or EIR request

This page provides guidance on what to consider before you make a request under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act or the Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) to DfT.

Be clear about what you want

If you are going to make a request for information to DfT there are some things you should consider first. DfT staff will only be able to deal with your request if they have a clear understanding of what you need.

  • When you make your FOI or EIR request please explain which information you are trying to find out about.
  • If you know exactly what you want, be specific about the material you need.
  • If the information is within a range of dates or a specific timescale please include this in your request.

If you need background material remember that DfT's record keeping is extensive and information about the subject you have requested may be contained within a large number of documents. Requests asking DfT for 'everything you have' about a subject will mean that we have to contact you to clarify your request.

Is it too big a request?

If you are asking for a lot of material it may be more than we can cope with.

  • Our policy, along with all other government departments, is to release as much information as possible without charging a fee
  • But if it will cost the department more than £600 to deal with an FOI request or be manifestly unreasonable to handle one under the EIR, we do not have to respond to it
    • Factors we are allowed to take into account in deciding whether a request is too big are:
    • Checking whether the information is held
    • Locating the information or documents containing the information
    • retrieving such information or documents
    • extracting information from documents
  • The rule of thumb is that if it takes more than three and a half days of staff time to deal with your request, it will exceed the £600 FOI cost limit.
  • You may therefore be asked to clarify your request to reduce the amount of information required or it will be refused.

FOI and EIR requests are dealt with by staff in DfT divisions

Requests sent to DfT will be dealt with by the staff who are responsible for the subject matter on a day to day basis. If your request covers more than one subject it will be split and handled by different groups of staff. But our response will be a single co-ordinated one.

If you send the same request to more than one part of DfT or another government department please tell us. This will help our staff to ensure your request is properly co-ordinated by the department.

We may still have to discuss your request with you

Even once processing the request has begun; we may need to contact you to confirm exactly what information you need. We will do this by telephone, e-mail or letter depending on the contact details that you supplied when you sent your request.

In most cases, if we do contact you, the 20 working day deadline to respond to your request will only start when the Department is clear about what you require.

Is the information you want available from us or is it available elsewhere? How you can check

DfT central directorates are mainly responsible for supporting Ministers, making legislation and developing government policy for Road, Rail, Sea and Air transport

The left hand navigation on the website can help guide you around the areas of policy for which we are responsible. And our campaign websites - like Think! (http://www.thinkroadsafety.gov.uk/) and Hedgehogs (http://www.hedgehogs.gov.uk/) - may be where you will find what you are looking for.

In some cases other parts of the DfT family may be the best placed to respond to your request depending on the information you need.

If the information you need is not about supporting ministers, new legislation, or the development of transport policy, it is more likely to be the responsibility of one of DfT's six Agencies and may be available on their websites.

DfT's agencies deal with members of the public, businesses, and other organisations for vehicle licences, road tax and other transactions.

Information about many of the transactions is also available via the Direct.Gov http://www.direct.gov.uk/Homepage/fs/en portal which provides an on line route to all central government.

Other public bodies that have transport information

There are other public bodies that hold transport information, but that are independent of DfT. Among them are:

Most information that is over 10 years is kept by The National Archive http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/. That might be a sensible first port of call for older material.

Remember: if your request is not sent to the correct authority it may be delayed while responsibility is confirmed and it is transferred.

Where to find information that DfT has already released

DfT responses to FOI and EIR requests are available on the DfT website at http://www.dft.gov.uk/foi/responses/. This section provides details of information that has already been released following FOI and EIR requests that may be of wider public interest. You may find a response has already been made to the request you want to make.

Format of the material you need - electronic, hard copy, or a visit to see it

Please think about the format in which you would like the information to be supplied to you and make this clear in your request. If you need information to be supplied in a particular format, and it is reasonable to release the information that way DfT will do so.

Please remember that a lot of older material is only available on paper, or as photos, maps and plans. During the last 5 -10 years information was usually stored electronically and these files will usually be released as Word documents or portable document format (PDF) files.

In a limited number of circumstances, due to the volume, size or format of our recorded material, the only way the Department can make information available is by arranging for you to come and see it. The Department has facilities for visits to view information if necessary, which would be arranged at a mutually convenient time.

Remember it may be subject to certain exemptions

The EIRs and their exceptions are explained on the DEFRA (http://www.defra.gov.uk/) website.

Further information about the Act and the Regulations and your rights is also available on the Information Commissioner's website http://www.informationcommissioner.gov.uk/eventual.aspx?id=1024 .

If you have any questions about this guidance please contact us.
http://www.dft.gov.uk/contact