Lifecycle of a Freedom of Information (FOI) request –
corporate or business information
Lifecycle of an FOI request for corporate or business
1. Make a
2. Request
passed to
FOI Centre
3. FOI
Up to 20 working days
4. If
is held it is
for release
5. Public
interest test
– if
6. Decision
is reached
– requester
+ reasonable time allowed if
Stage 1 – Make a request
The request comes through to our Remote Enquiries Team, usually from our online contact form. The
Remote Enquiries Team will decide where it should go:
1. Paid search
2. General queries
3. FOI Request for a closed record and/or The National Archives’ corporate information
(A request for an applicant’s own personal information will be treated as a subject access request
under the Data Protection Act 1998)
Stage 2 – Request is passed to
the FOI Centre
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
Stage 3 – FOI Centre consult with
appropriate business area/s
The FOI Act gives public authorities 20 working days to respond to an FOI request (this increases to 30
working days for requests for transferred public records – see closed public records’ lifecycle for more
Upon receiving your FOI request we will contact the appropriate business area/s who may hold the
information you are seeking. We will work with them to establish whether the information is held by
checking relevant records and consulting staff as appropriate.
If we do not hold the information we will let you know or direct you to a more appropriate public authority.
If we hold the information we will check that the cost of complying with the request does not exceed the
appropriate limit as set out in the Freedom of Information and Data Protection (Appropriate Limit and
Fees) Regulations 2004 (Fees Regulations). For bodies listed in Schedule 1, Part 1 of the FOI Act, such
as The National Archives, this limit is set at £600. Based on the calculated rate of £25 per person per
hour this equates to just over three working days of staff time spent on any of the following:
• Determining whether the information is held
• Locating the information
• Retrieving the information
• Extracting the information from documents
Stage 4 – Information is
considered for release
Once it has been established that The National Archives holds the information that has been requested,
and that the cost of complying with the request will not exceed the cost limit, we will then consider whether
the information is suitable for release.
Depending on the nature of the information it may be necessary to consult with other relevant parties such
as other business areas or even government departments.
The National Archives is committed to releasing what we can, but protecting what we must. Making these
decisions is often a carefully balanced exercise.
Stage 5 – Public Interest Test (if
If some or all of the information requested is being considered under a ‘qualified’ exemption under the FOI
Act, then The National Archives must conduct a public interest balancing test in order to decide whether
the information should be released.
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 considered 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 we are obliged to consult with all relevant
government departments and/or other relevant parties. 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.
Stage 6 – Decision is reached
Once a decision has been reached we will inform you immediately in writing.
If your request is a corporate information request we will normally provide the requested information at
the same time as our response, if the decision is to release it. However, this may vary depending on the
particular circumstances of the request.
If the request is for a public record 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 record is now orderable to the public.
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
transferred record will result in that record being opened to the public at large and will be available to view
in our reading room to everyone.

corporate information - The National Archives