Friends of the Earth have a useful Freedom of Information Act Request Generator on their website, with a list of email, fax , telephone and postal address contacts for Central Government Departments and their Publication Schemes
Their letter/email/fax generation form asks sensible questions such as do you need this information quicker than the statutory 20 days response time, the format you would accept it in e.g. email or CDROM etc. The form letter reminds people to ask about any fees or charges, and any reasons for refusal of an FOIA request.
Please provide me with the following information:
[description of the information you are after goes here: e.g. pre-stage Zero, the Stage Zero, and the Stage One Gateway Reviews of the Identity Cards and National Identity Register project.]
[Additional details which might help track down the information]
Please provide the information by email. If you are not able to provide the information in this format then please explain why when you provide the information in another format.
If you decide to withhold any of the information requested you should clearly explain why you have done so in your response by reference to the legislation. If your decision to withold is based upon an evaluation of the public interest then you should clearly explain which public interests you have considered and why you have decided that the public interest in maintaining the exception(s) outweighs the public interest in releasing the information.
If you are proposing to make a charge for providing the information requested please provide full details in advance together with an explanation of any proposed charge.
I look forward to receiving the information requested as soon as possible and in any event within 20 working days of receipt.
Thank you in advance for your assistance. If you require any clarification of this request please contact me as soon as possible.
There is also other useful advice such as :
"The FOI Act requires applicants to give their name and "an address for correspondence". If you only want to receive the information by post there is no requirement to give an email address. There is never a requirement to give your telephone number although it may be useful to allow an authority to call you if they have questions about your request."
Obviously a personalised letter or email is best, but this Friends of the Earth Request Generator is a useful tool upon which to base your Request.
Beware of sending lots of identical or similar FOIA requests, as the Act specifically allows these to be ignored if they are deemed to be an attempt at disruption. Any charges that the Department might make for, say photocopying or CDROM duplication costs also depend on how many requests they get from individuals or from "organised campaigns", although mu;tiple independent requests should make it more worthwhile for them to publish information for free on their departmental public websites.
In order to establish the time line of how long the FOIA request takes to be dealt with, wee are will be sending both an email request, and a copy via a recorded deliivery postal letter, delivery of which can be monitored online through the Post Office Track and Trace system.
It is also worth clicking on the Email Request Receipt options in your email software client, as many Government email servers are set up to honour these, and you may even get interesting Receipt Messages back such as "This message was Deleted without being Read" etc.