Civil liberties group Privacy International lodged a complaint of maladministration with the parliamentary ombudsman on Thursday against the government over its handling of the consultation into entitlement cards.
Privacy International claims that the Home Office has breached several key requirements of the Cabinet Office code of practice that governs such consultations, and has written to the prime minister asking for the consultation -- which is scheduled to finish on Friday -- to be extended for another six months.
"The Home Office has been guilty of maladministration throughout the entire consultation process. It should accept that an extension of the consultation period is squarely in the public interest," said Privacy International's director, Simon Davies, in a statement.
Privacy International claims that four breaches of the code of practice have taken place, involving the requirements for even-handedness, specificity, impact assessment and declaration of the relevant complaints procedure.
A number of representatives of business, welfare and political groups have joined with Davies in sending an open letter to the prime minister
In it they say that there has not been the necessary public debate on the issue of entitlements cards, warning that "by its very terms of reference, this consultation has proved to be largely invalid. We urge you to take action on these concerns by extending the consultation period until July 2003, during which time we would anticipate the publication of concrete proposals. The current documentation is clearly inadequate."
SchlumbergerSema, the world's largest maker of smart cards, said on Thursday that research showed that 80 percent of UK citizens are in favour of the introduction of entitlement cards.