One of the core aims of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act is to encourage public authorities to be clear and proactive about the information they make available to the public.

Section 19 of the Act requires all public authorities to have a publication scheme that has been approved by the Information Commissioner. Publication schemes explain what information is made available as a matter of course, when and how you can see it, and whether the information is available free of charge or on payment. All public authorities must release the information promised in their schemes.

Through our publication scheme, The National Archives is ensuring that a significant amount of information is regularly made available. The scheme allows quick and easy access to much material without any need for a formal written request.

We also make organisational information available through our Transparency pages.

Find out more

About The National Archives

We give detailed guidance to government departments and the public sector on information management, in order to ensure the survival of records, and advise others throughout the public and private sectors about the care of historical archives. We also publish all UK legislation and advise upon and encourage the re-use of public sector information.

The National Archives' multiple roles and functions include:  

  • overseeing records management in government and the selection of public records to provide an information resource now and for future generations, and supporting the efforts of other public authorities to manage their records
  • preserving the public records in accordance with professional standards and promoting similar arrangements for other archives
  • providing access, online and on site, to public records while at the same time disseminating information about archives held elsewhere
  • promoting the value and use of public records and other archives as a national information and educational resource
  • advising owners, custodians and users of archives on all issues relating to their care, preservation and access
  • advising government on records and archives issues, including the allocation of archives accepted in lieu of tax, and grant-awarding bodies on applications in respect of archives and manuscripts
  • leading the UK implementation of the Re-use of Public Sector Information Regulations
  • delivering an Information Fair Trader Scheme (IFTS) founded on the principles of openness, transparency, fairness, compliance and challenge
  • managing the Information Asset Register (IAR) that lists information assets held by the UK Government with a focus on unpublished material
  • supporting the Advisory Panel on Public Sector Information (APPSI), which advises ministers on how best to encourage the re-use of public sector information
  • procuring major contracts with the private sector to ensure the UK government printing and publishing services are delivered
  • ensuring through the Queen's Printer that all legislation, Command Papers and the official Gazettes are published
  • ensuring the publication of all UK legislation simultaneously on the internet and in printm both with media carrying official status
  • being responsible for Crown copyright and database rights, and advising departments on official publishing matters, issuing Guidance Notes and licensing parliamentary copyright material n behalf of the Westminster Parliament

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Some basic facts about our publication scheme

Our publication scheme is available in two formats: on The National Archives website (from which a printable version is available) and in print. The scheme lists what are termed 'classes of information'. In all cases, the class is defined as the most specific level of entry. The classes are arranged within a hierarchical structure to make information easier to find.

The scheme is divided into seven broad categories:

  • Who we are and what we do
  • What we spend and how we spend it
  • What our priorities are and how we are doing
  • How we make decisions
  • Our policies and procedures
  • Lists and registers
  • The services we offer

These categories of information are further divided into more specific sub-categories. The first category, Who we are and what we do, for example, consists of four sub-categories: Roles and responsibilities; Governing legislation and instruments; Our locations and public access arrangements; Contact details. Individual classes sit within sub-categories.

Most of the classes of information in the scheme apply to The National Archives as a whole. Where classes of information relate to only one part of the organisation, particularly where the class of information relates to activities carried out before the creation of The National Archives in 2003, an explanatory note has been added to the class.

The term 'publication' refers to information available on our website, on our premises, one-off printed documents from a desktop computer, electronic documents, some printed books, reports and leaflets. However, please note that our website contains further information that is not listed in our scheme.

The scheme is not, generally, retrospective. For example, we have not prepared summaries of past meetings. Information will not necessarily be available through the scheme indefinitely. Information relating to a specific date, such as summaries of meetings, will be removed after five years; it will then only be available if an FOI request for information is made. Policies and similar documents will be removed when they are no longer current.

Overall responsibility for the scheme is taken by the head of the Freedom of Information Centre, in the Information Management and Practice Department. Day-to-day responsibility for the operation of the scheme has been delegated to the business support team in the Information Management and Practice Department.

How we make information available, and what charges may apply

Information listed in the scheme will be made available in a number of ways. Note that information is not necessarily made available in all these ways; see individual classes for details of which options are available. Note also that information is made available in the language in which it is held. Translation is an added-value service which requires special arrangements and is not part of our normal response to a request for information.

The availability options are:  

  • website: when information is available on The National Archives or another website, the web address will be given and a link provided. The National Archives website can be accessed from our reading rooms as well as remotely. Note that when the link is to another organisation's website, provision of the information is the responsibility of that organisation.
  • by post: information supplied by post is readily available and will be despatched as soon as possible on receipt of a request, or payment, if applicable. Please note that requests for information in classes under sub-category 'The Archives' are subject to normal FOI deadlines (up to 20 working days for archives open to inspection by the public, and up to 30 working days for archives which are not already open). We do not provide printouts from external websites or of whole databases on our website.
  • by email: information supplied by email is readily available. Information not on the website will be supplied via email where possible. Information will be sent free of charge, unless otherwise specified, and as soon as possible on receipt of a request, or payment, if applicable. Requests for information in classes under sub-category 'The Archives' are subject to normal FOI deadlines (up to 20 working days for archives open to inspection by the public, and up to 30 working days for archives which are not already open). Upon receipt of a first request for particular information to be sent by email, we will consider whether the material should in future be made available on our website. Where we decide not to make material available on our website, we will continue to provide it by email, usually using our DocumentsOnline service. The entry in the scheme will be modified accordingly.
  • The National Archives library: some information is made available in The National Archives library at Kew. The library is open during regular opening hours and can be found in the Open Reading Room.
  • The National Archives reading rooms: the archives held at Kew can be seen during regular opening hours.
  • The National Archives shop: information available for sale on a commercial basis can be purchased from The National Archives bookshop or other specified vendors.

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Our charges

Some information is available free of charge; for other information a charge may be levied. The charge will vary according to how information is made available, which is specified for each class within the scheme. Charges will apply as follows:

  • website: free of charge unless otherwise specified. For example, a charge may be payable for information supplied through DocumentsOnline. Limited access to the internet is provided free of charge on site at The National Archives.
  • email: free of charge unless otherwise specified. For example, a charge may be payable for information supplied through DocumentsOnline.
  • copies by post of information other than the archives: for documents not on the internet, we will provide up to 5 pages to each person making a request for a minimum charge of £1. There will be an additional charge of 20 pence for each additional page requested. For documents available on The National Archives website, a single printout of that document will be provided free of charge (note that this does not apply to databases). Charges will apply to further copies as for documents not on the internet. We do not provide printouts from websites other than our own.
  • copies of the archives: copies are available on payment of the fee, specified in the current PRO Fees Order, through Record copying, the 1901 Census site, DocumentsOnline, NDAD (The National Digital Archive of Datasets), and the image library, as applicable. Where a search of the archives is required to identify and locate requested information so as to confirm or deny it is held, a search fee, set out the PRO Fees Order, will apply.
  • The National Archives reading rooms: information in original or film copies of archives can be viewed free of charge. When The National Archives is asked to search the archives to identify and locate requested information so as to confirm or deny it is held, a search fee, set out the PRO Fees Order, will apply.
  • The National Archives library: information can be viewed free of charge; photocopies can be made for 20 pence per copy.
  • The National Archives shop or other vendor: commercial prices will apply as specified.
  • HMC publications: hard-copy publications are individually priced. HMC's online electronic publications can be downloaded free of charge.

The fees regime is reviewed annually in September.  The introduction of any further statutory obligations will also trigger a review.

Copyright and the publication scheme

Information available through the scheme is protected by Crown copyright unless otherwise indicated. The information contained in such Crown copyright protected material (except the Royal Arms and departmental or agency logos) may be copied, distributed or published free of charge in any format or medium under the terms of the Open Government Licence. If you copy any of the Crown copyright information available through the scheme, distribute it to others or republish it, you must identify the source of the material and acknowledge its copyright status.

Brief extracts or copies of any non-Crown copyright material included in the scheme may normally be published or reproduced under the fair dealing provisions of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (sections 29 and 30) for non-commercial research purposes, private study, criticism, review or current news reporting, so long as the publication or reproduction is accompanied by a sufficient acknowledgement identifying the work and the author. Fair dealing for the purposes of current news reporting does not apply to photographs. Any uses not covered by fair dealing will normally require permission from the copyright owners concerned.

Crown copyright material among unpublished public records may also be re-used under the terms of the Open Government Licence. Read more about copyright, Crown copyright and the use of material from The National Archives in the documents below:

Copyright and related rights (PDF, 0.13Mb)

Using materials from The National Archives (PDF, 0.14Mb)

The Open Government Licence applies only to public records material which is in Crown copyright. For any other material, you must seek authorisation for use from the copyright owners concerned.

You are not allowed to publish facsimile duplicates of any materials you have obtained through the publication scheme without written permission from The National Archives' image library. Please note that you may be required to pay a fee.

More information is available on our copyright page.

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Access to personal information under the Data Protection Act 1998

The Data Protection Act 1998 provides living individuals with a right of access to personal information held about them. The right applies to information in The National Archives' own administrative records and information in the archives (i.e., records transferred from other government departments) where it relates to identifiable living individuals. However, the right is subject to exemptions which will affect whether information is provided and requests will be dealt with on a case by case basis.

If you believe The National Archives holds personal information about you, please send a request for access to our Reader Enquiry Service, marking it 'Data protection request'. Please indicate whether you believe the information about you is in our own records or in the archives, and provide as much detail as possible to help us find the information. A fixed fee of £10 may apply.

Note that the Data Protection Act does not give third parties rights of access to personal information about living individuals for research purposes. Further information about how data protection affects us and the archives we hold is available on the data protection pages of our website.

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Environmental information

The Environmental Information Regulations 2004 give rights of access to information about the environment. The rights apply to information in The National Archives' own administrative records and information in the archives (i.e., records transferred from other government departments).

Some environmental information is made available through our publication scheme under the arrangements referred to in 'How we make information available, and what charges may apply'. Requests for environmental information should be directed to our Reader Enquiry Service. Please provide as much detail as possible to help us identify the information you are looking for.

The Environmental Information Regulations can be purchased from The Stationery Office Ltd or can be read free of charge at www.legislation.gov.uk.

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Complaints and appeals

If you are not satisfied with the way we have handled your request, with the fee we have charged, or with the reasons we have given for refusing to provide information, please complain to us directly in the first instance. Send your complaint to our Public Services Development Team.

You have the right to complain to the Information Commissioner, either directly or if you are dissatisfied with our response to your complaint. The postal address is provided below.

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Contact points

All enquiries and requests for information should be directed as follows:

Please use our online contact form, if possible. If you do not have web access, you can email enquiry@nationalarchives.gov.uk, or write to:

Reader Enquiry Service
The National Archives
Kew, Richmond
Surrey, TW9 4DU

Alternatively you can telephone +44 (0) 20 8876 3444 for advice on making a request for information. When making telephone requests, please be sure to provide full contact details including a telephone number so that we can clarify the details of your request if necessary.

Complaints
Complaints should be made using our online contact form, or by letter to:

The Quality Manager
Public Services Development Unit
The National Archives
Kew, Richmond
Surrey
TW9 4DU

Alternatively you can telephone +44 (0) 20 8876 3444, or email us at complaints@nationalarchives.gov.uk  


Complaints to the Information Commissioner should be sent to foi-enquiries@ico.gsi.gov.uk, or by post to:

FOI Compliance Team (Complaints)
Information Commissioner
Wycliffe House
Water Lane, Wilmslow
Cheshire, SK9 5AF

Read further information on The National Archives' publication scheme.

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