FOI Requests

FOI request reference: F0043560
Publication date: October 2015


Advice given


Howa many Freedom of Information enquiry do you receive per year? What topics most often refer to these questions?’


Question 1

Information about the number of FOI requests received by The National Archives each year can be found here: can request the information in different formats using this website.

Section 21(1) of the FOIA does not oblige a public authority to provide information in response to a request if it is already reasonably accessible by other means.[1]

Question 2

I can confirm that The National Archives holds information relevant to your second question. Unfortunately, we are unable to respond to your question in its current format as to do so would exceed the appropriate cost limit for responding to requests under the FOIA. For central government departments like The National Archives, the cost limit is set at £600. This represents the estimated cost of one person spending just over three working days determining whether the department holds the information, as well as locating, retrieving and extracting it. Section 12 of the FOIA sets out the criteria by which a public authority can refuse such requests.[2]

Over 40,000 FOI requests have been made to The National Archives since the FOIA was introduced in 2005, so we would not be able to respond to this question, because it is so wide ranging. Therefore, this part of your request will not be processed further.

Advice and Assistance

You may wish to consider refining your request so that it falls within the cost limit. For instance, you may wish to ask for a list of the most commonly requested types of closed files under FOIA in a given month.

In order to provide you with some guidance in refining your research, please see below for further information about FOI requests made to The National Archives.

  • Requests for information about The National Archives as an organisation and our responses are published on our website: We receive a large number of requests about contacts (for example IT services, digitization services etc.) and for information about our staffing, legislation, and human resources.
  • A large proportion of our requests for archival records under FOI come from members of the public researching family history, while we also receive requests from requesters that indicate they are professional researchers or journalists. Requests under FOI for open records are dealt with by our paid research team, whilst requests for closed documents are dealt with by our FOI Centre.
  • The majority of our requests for closed documents come from a simple press of the request button on our catalogue ‘Discovery’. FOI requests are motive and applicant blind, so we do not know why an enquiry is being made – unless the enquirer chooses to provide additional information.

Some of the most commonly requested series of closed documents under FOI are as follows:

  • Home Office naturalisation files (HO 405 and HO 144 series)
  • SOE personnel file (HS 9 series)
  • Foreign and Commonwealth Office files (FO and FCO series)
  • Crown Prosecution Service files (DPP series)
  • Ministry of Justice files (J and ASSI series)
  • Metropolitan Police Service files (MEPO series)

The Information Commissioner’s Office also provides guidance on making an FOI request which could be useful in refining your request:

I hope that this information will be useful to you in refining your request. Please contact us if you require any further assistance and we will be happy to help you. Finally, please note that we are unable to guarantee that any refined requests would fall within the cost limit.

[1] Further guidance on Section 21 can be found at:

[2] Further guidance on Section 12 can be found at: