Britons want to know more about controversial ID card scheme

Published 13 June 2006

Liberal Democrats have been granted their request to have the DWP release the a feasibility report concerning the national biometric ID card plan; the DWP says this is not a good idea, but the commissioner ruled that the people have a right to know

After having been denied his parliamentary request to have secret documents concerning the national biometric ID study released by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), Liberal Democratic MP Mark Oaten is finally what he wants. Last week British information commissioner Richard Thomas ordered the government the release a feasibility study which highlights the costs, benefits, and risks of the national ID initiative. Oaten filed a complaint to the data-protection and freedom of information watchdog group two years ago after his denial by the DWP. In defense, the DWP argued that releasing such information found in the report would “prejudice the government’s assessment of the ID card initiative,” and make it more difficult to get the best prices from the private industry. Commissioner Thomas disagreed and ruled that the public curiosity of the disclosure of the documents outweighed the need to keep the study private. After assessing the report, he found “no information that would put the work of the DWP or any other government department at risk”.

The DWP has until 5 July to decide whether to seek an appeal or to release the survey. A spokeswoman for the Liberal Democrats said that the government can expect a barrage of requests for other studies carried out by government departments if the DWP is unsuccessful in their appeal of the ruling. “If we get the precedent [from the DWP ruling] we’ll put in other FoI requests to try to get [the feasibility reports] all released,” she added.

A spokesman for the commissioner’s office said that this ruling would not stand as a precedent for all ID card reports, and that each future request would be judge on their own merit.

-read more this Computing report