Record copying orders received by The National Archives

FOI request reference: F0061863
Publication date: September 2020

Request
Would you be able to provide information for the last 5 full years (either calendar or financial):

1) For the requests received by post for (copies of) documents or records, excluding the Open Government Licence, where the documents were delivered by post;
2) And for the requests for (copies of) documents and records, excluding the Open Government Licence, received by other means which required delivery of records or documents by post;
3) And for the requests received by post for copies of the Open Government Licence, where the documents were delivered by post;
4) And for the requests for copies of the Open Government Licence received by other means which required delivery of records or documents by post:
a) The number of such requests, broken down by category of information requested.
b) The number of requests that were completed successfully (where at least one document requested was delivered).
c) The income received in fees for these requests.
d) Postage costs incurred in carrying out these requests.
e) Details of postage services used (including number of times each service was used).
f) Other costs incurred in carrying out these requests.

Outcome
Partially successful.

Response
I can confirm that The National Archives holds some information relevant to your request. We are pleased to be able to provide this information to you.

We are unable to provide you with some of the information you have requested because it is covered by the exemption at section 12(1) of the FOI Act. Section 12(1) removes the obligation for a public authority to comply with a request for information if the cost of complying with the request would exceed an appropriate limit. For further information about why this exemption has been applied, please see the explanatory Annex at the end of this letter.

Questions 1 and 2
1) For the requests received by post for (copies of) documents or records, excluding the Open Government Licence, where the documents were delivered by post;
2) And for the requests for (copies of) documents and records, excluding the Open Government Licence, received by other means which required delivery of records or documents by post;

A new record copy system was introduced in February 2016. As such, two systems were in place in the 2015-2016 financial year. Whilst we have attempted to extract the relevant information from the old system, we have found that the data that has been produced is unreliable and cannot be used accurately to answer your questions. We are therefore unable to provide data for the 2015-2016 financial year.

The National Archives has not accepted record copying requests made by post since February 2016, when the new record copy ordering system was introduced.

The following information concerns the total number of paper copy orders received by other means over the last 4 financial years:

a) The number of such requests, broken down by category of information requested.

Financial Year Number of paper copy orders
2019-2020 2747
2018-2019 3642
2017-2018 2864
2016-2017 3174

The number of paper copy orders includes those that were delivered by post or collected in person. This data is collected conjunctively and so we are unable to distinguish between the number of copies delivered by post and the number of copies collected in person. It is estimated that less than 5% of paper copy orders are collected in person.

The National Archives does not record the category of information requested when processing record copying orders.

Whilst we do hold information from which we could categorise these orders according to the covering dates, topic and source of the requested information, due to the volume of orders we are unable to perform this categorisation as to do so would exceed the appropriate cost limit and is therefore considered exempt under section 12 of the Freedom of Information Act.

b) The number of such requests that were completed successfully (where at least one document requested was delivered).

Financial Year Number of paper copy orders
2019-2020 2747
2018-2019 3642
2017-2018 2864
2016-2017 3174

* Please note that data concerning cancelled requests and undeliverable mail items is not recorded and therefore the above figures are an approximation. Returns are rare and are treated on a case by case basis.

c) The income received in fees for these requests.

Financial year Income from paper copy order page checks* Income from paper copy orders Total paper copy order income
2019/2020 £6,502 £109,548 £116,050
2018/2019 £11,777 £154,281 £166,058
2017/2018 £7,476 £122,410 £129,886
2016/2017 £9,047 £120,296 £129,343

Please note, figures have been rounded to the nearest pound

* Please note, the majority of current copying requests start with a non-refundable page check. This charge covers a member of staff finding the original document and reviewing it to assess if the information can be located. They will also identify the cost and the document’s suitability for copying.

Copy orders for certified copies of naturalisation certificates and copy orders received over the counter in our reading rooms do not incur a page check fee as the aforementioned review process is not required in these instances.

The National Archives cannot easily determine the precise number of paper copy orders received over the counter in our reading rooms as to do so would involve manually interrogating each order to distinguish between paper and electronic copy orders, consequently this information is exempt under section 12 of the Freedom of Information Act. For more information on the application of this exemption please see the explanatory annex. In the above table we have incorporated an approximate figure for over the counter paper copy orders based upon statistical reporting which shows that 25% of all orders we receive are for paper copies.

d) Postage costs incurred in carrying out these requests.

Financial year Postage costs
2019-2020 £8,605
2018-2019 £11,368
2017-2018 £9,209
2016-2017 £11,844

Please note, figures have been rounded to the nearest pound

e) Details of postage services used (including number of times each service was used).

Financial Year Royal Mail 1st Class Parcelforce recorded delivery:
Parcelforce tracked 24 or 48*
International air mail
2019-2020 2195 69.5 (average) 637
2018-2019 3250 25.5 (average) 905

We are unable to provide a breakdown of the type of postal services used prior to the 2018-19 financial year as to do so would require contacting former contractor(s) and would exceed the appropriate cost limit. This information is therefore exempt under section 12(1) of the FOI Act. For further information on the application of this exemption please see the explanatory annex and the end of this response.

Please note that the aforementioned figures include details of postal services utilised by our record copying service to dispatch public and government copy orders as this data is collected conjunctively and cannot be separated.

* We have provided an annual average figure in regards to The National Archives’ use of Parcelforce as we were unable to gather specific figures due to technical issues with the reporting portal.

f) Other costs incurred in carrying out these requests.
The National Archives does not hold information which accounts for other costs incurred in the provision of our record copying service specific to paper copy orders. These costs, such as staffing, equipment and corporate overheads, account for the provision of both paper and digital copy orders and we are unable to separate this data.

Questions 3 and 4
3) And for the requests received by post for copies of the Open Government Licence, where the documents were delivered by post;
4) And for the requests for copies of the Open Government Licence received by other means which required delivery of records or documents by post:

The National Archives has received no requests for copies of the Open Government Licence (OGL) via the post or by other means which resulted in a copy of the OGL being delivered to the requester in the post.

The OGL was designed for the digital age, has always been available from the TNA website, and links are included in the attribution statements of government publications.

Prior to an update in 2017 previous versions of the OGL did invite members of the public to request hard copies of the document but as noted above, no such requests were received by The National Archives.

EXPLANATORY ANNEX
Exemptions applied

Section 12 – Section 12 – Exemption where cost of compliance exceeds appropriate limit]
Section 12 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) makes provision for public authorities to refuse requests for information where the cost of dealing with them would exceed the appropriate limit, which for central government departments like The National Archives, 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 the information.

This exemption has been applied to questions 1(a) and 2(a) concerning the categorisation of copy order requests, 1(c) and 2(c) concerning the number of over the counter copy orders for paper copies and questions 1(e) and 2(e) concerning the postal services utilised by The National Archives between 2016 and 2017.

We estimate that it will take us in excess of this to identify the appropriate information, and locate, retrieve and extract it in response to your request because it is so wide ranging. Therefore, this section of your request will not be processed further. You may wish to consider refining your request. Further guidance can be found at:
http://ico.org.uk/for_organisations/guidance_index/~/media/documents/library/Freedom_of_Information/Detailed_specialist_guides/costs_of_compliance_exceeds_appropriate_limit.pdf

We are unable to guarantee that any refined requests would fall within the cost limit.