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About Freedom of information

Information access policy

The HFEA's Information access policy outlines the organisation's duties and responsibilities under the Freedom of Information Act. 

On this page:

General right of access

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) gives the public the right to access information held by central government, local government and other public organisations. The Act is intended to improve openness and accountability in the public sector. There is also an underlying intention to improve the quality of information and records held by public authorities.

View the full text of theFreedom of Information Act 2000.

The general right of access to information came into force on 1 January 2005. From this date, applicants may submit requests for information to the HFEA. Such requests must be in writing and include a contact name, address and details of the information requested. Emails are included in the definition of ‘writing'.

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Requesting information from the HFEA

FOI requests should be directed to:

Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority
Finsbury Tower, 103-105 Bunhill Row, London, EC1Y 8HF
Tel: 020 7291 8238
Fax: 020 7291 8201
Email: foirequest@hfea.gov.uk
Online contact form

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Duties under FOI

The HFEA has several duties to fulfil in responding to the applicant. Subject to the 23 exemptions listed in the Act, these include duties to confirm or deny whether the HFEA hold the information requested; to communicate it to the applicant if it does; to advise and assist the applicant where necessary; and to reply promptly, ideally within 20 working days of receipt of the initial request.


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The HFEA will acknowledge in writing the receipt of all FOI information requests. Wherever possible, requests will be fulfilled by the HFEA within 20 working days of initial receipt. Applicants will be advised in writing if it is necessary to exceed this time period while the HFEA confers with third parties or assesses the public interest where exemptions apply.

Where requests are unclear or too voluminous, the HFEA will contact the applicant by telephone, if a contact number has been supplied, or in writing in order to help the applicant refine their request.

In cases where exemptions apply and either a request for information has been refused or information has been edited prior to release, the HFEA will explain its decision in writing to the applicant.

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In line with the Freedom of Information Fees Regulations, the HFEA will not charge for FOI requests for which the total cost of collating, assessing and releasing information is less than £450. All work by HFEA personnel is charged at a rate of £25 per hour per person.

Where the total cost of processing an FOI request exceeds £450, the HFEA may either refuse the request, communicate to the applicant that information which can be found within the cost threshold or, in exceptional circumstances, offer the applicant the choice of paying for the processing of their request in full.

Information applicants are required to cover in full the cost of having information communicated to them in their preferred format. This includes the cost of postage, photocopying, printing and media such as CD-ROM.

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A number of exemptions relating to the disclosure of information are identified in the FOIA. These fall into two categories: Qualified Exemptions, where it is necessary to determine whether the public interest would be best served by the disclosure or withholding of information, and Absolute Exemptions, where the public interest test does not apply.

Further guidance on the exemptions can be found on the web sites of the Information Commissioner and the Ministry of Justice.


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Recipients of information gained as a result of FOI requests should note that the HFEA maintains copyright control of all publications produced by the organisation.

A Guidance Note is available on the Legislation web site.

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Where applicants are unhappy with the level of support received from the HFEA or the information communicated to them, they have the right of complaint. Complaints should be directed in the first instance in writing to the HFEA. The HFEA will undertake to respond to all complaints within 30 working days.

Once the HFEA complaints process has been exhausted, complainants have the right to refer the matter to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO):

Information Commissioner
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Cheshire SK9 5AF

Full contact details are available on the ICO web site.

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Page last updated: 19 November 2013