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The Freedom of Information Act

The Freedom of Information Act gives the public right of access to information held by government (with some exemptions).

The UKHO is an information provider and makes much of its information available by selling a range of hydrographic products and services.

As a trading fund agency of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) our policy is to follow guidance issued by the MoD. For more information about the UKHO and its status as a trading fund, see About us.

Useful tips

  • Before submitting an FoI request, please search our website for the information you need. Any hydrography-related query may fall under the UKHO’s business-as-usual activities
  • The Publication Scheme lists the categories of information we already make available. It is accessible here.
  • You’ll find more detailed information about our products and services in the online catalogue. If you cannot find what you need and want information on another topic or would like to make a query to our Commercial Section you can submit a request for information to:
    Telephone: +44 (0)1823 723 366 (direct line)
    Fax: + 44 (0)1823 330 561

UKHO Freedom of Information Statement

Under Schedule 1 of the FOI Act 2000, the Ministry of Defence is defined as a public authority. The MoD's status as a public authority includes its agencies and trading fund. As a MOD Trading Fund the UKHO is subject to the requirement of the act.

This statement sets out the UK Hydrographic Office’s position in respect of its conformance with the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOI), and the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR).

Access to Information

UKHO publications and services are summarized on the Ministry of Defence’s FOI Publication Scheme, and are fully described on the UKHO website which includes an on-line catalogue. The UKHO FOI Policy can also be accessed online.

A substantial proportion of the data which the UKHO holds is made available at an appropriate market-based charge or, in many cases, without charge. Conditions and charges are listed in the Publication Scheme, the UKHO’s online catalogue, or elsewhere on the UKHO website.

Categorisation of Requests

Due to the substantial number of requests for information (RFI) of a general nature, or for information which UKHO already publishes, or for services which the UKHO already provides and which are advertised on its website, the UKHO will treat such requests as business-as-usual, and will not record them as requests under FOI or EIR.

The following categories will be treated as business-as-usual:

  • Requests for general hydrographic or navigational information (except where the information is to be legitimately withheld under an EIR exception).
  • Requests for information currently listed in the published catalogues, and available from appointed Admiralty Chart agents.
  • Requests for historical research in the UKHO archive.
  • Requests for data listed in the UKHO Publication Scheme.
  • Requests for other data which is published on the UKHO website.
  • Requests for UKHO consultancy services advertised on the UKHO website.

Handling of FOI Requests

The UKHO will handle requests for information according to following procedures:

  • Where additional time is legitimately required for the provision of information, the applicant will be informed of the reason for, and the expected length of, the delay.
  • Where necessary, the UKHO will request further information from an applicant to clearly identify the information being requested, or to establish the context of the RFI where this would assist the identification of the information.
  • Where a series of RFIs are received relating to the same topic, the UKHO will consider placing a response on its website, rather than providing multiple responses, or making the information available by publishing it.
  • RFIs from unidentifiable sources will be considered to fail to comply with section 8 of the Freedom of Information Act, and will not be processed.
  • Information will only be released with appropriate authority. Similarly, a refusal to disclose information will only be authorized at an appropriately senior level.
  • Reasons for a refusal to disclose information will be given in writing, along with details of the UKHO’s complaints procedures for those who do not agree with the refusal to publish or release.
  • The UKHO will respond to requests for information within 20 working days.

A substantial proportion of the data which the UKHO holds is made available at an appropriate market-based charge or, in many cases, without charge.

Exempted/Excepted Information

Under the FOI Act 2000, the Environmental Information Regulations 2004, and the Data Protection Act 1998, there are certain exceptional circumstances in which requests for information may be refused. The UKHO will only refuse to disclose information where it has given careful consideration to the request, and has come to a decision that the information requested is clearly categorised under one or more of the exceptional circumstances as defined in the appropriate piece of legislation, and (where appropriate) the UKHO considers that the public interest would not be best served by waiving the exemption or exception.

Charges for Undertaking Research and the FOI Act

In compliance with the FOI Act the UKHO will not charge applicants for answering an RFI where the effort involved does not exceed the limit specified by legislation (currently £600). If the UKHO estimates that the cost of responding to the request will be in excess of this figure, and the UKHO is prepared to proceed with the request, then we will contact the applicant to help refine the request, or alternatively, gain agreement from the applicant that they are willing to pay the charge.

The Charging Process

  • Where the expected effort of answering an RFI is estimated at being in excess of the limit specified by legislation, the RFI may be refused on the grounds of excessive cost (FOI Act section 12).
  • An applicant will then be sent notification of this decision with a Fees Notice of the costs involved and our accepted methods of payment (debit/ credit card).
  • At this point the applicant is also given the option to restrict the scope of the enquiry so that it falls within the limit.

Please note that any charges levied will not exceed an amount which the UKHO is satisfied is reasonable.

For further information on the charging policy please contact our helpdesk:

Telephone: +44 (0)1823 723366
Fax: +44 (0)1823 251816