Government tries to keep ID card costs secret

Even a Freedom of Information Act ruling can't force the Department of Work and Pensions to release a report into ID cards

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is appealing against an order by the UK's data-protection watchdog to release a secret report on the costs, benefits and risks of introducing ID cards in the UK.

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) last month ordered the DWP to make the details of the report public after a complaint by Liberal Democrat MP Mark Oaten in 2004.

Oaten had complained to the ICO after the DWP refused to release its ID cards feasibility report in response to a parliamentary question he had tabled. Each central government department has conducted a secret feasibility report into how it plans to use ID cards and what the costs, risks and benefits are likely to be.

The ICO considered the complaint under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act and, after reviewing a copy of the report, information commissioner Richard Thomas ruled that the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in keeping it secret.

Thomas said in his ruling last month: "There is clearly... a strong public interest in the public knowing whether the introduction of identity cards will bring benefits to the DWP, and to other government departments, and if so what those benefits will be... It will allow the public to make a more accurate assessment of whether the significant costs of the scheme are justified by the benefits it is likely to deliver in areas such as the prevention of benefit fraud."

The DWP had 30 days to either comply with the order or appeal and a spokesman confirmed to ZDNet UK's sister site,, that the department lodged an appeal against the ruling earlier this week, just inside that deadline.

The appeal process is now expected to drag on for several months.


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