The government has been ordered to publish key Gateway Reviews into the identity cards scheme, after a four year battle to keep the reports under wraps.
In an historic victory for campaigners backed by the Information Commissioner, the Information Tribunal has ordered the government to publish the reports’ findings within 28 days.
The forced disclosure of the findings is an embarrassing turn of events for the government, which has for four years sought to suppress the results of the reports, which were published in 2003 and examined the technological merits of the £4.7 billion scheme. The government had argued that the findings needed to be kept confidential in order to protect future reviews.
The news comes a week after unions representing airline pilots, the first British nationals to receive the cards, reiterated that pilots did not want to be “guinea pigs” for the controversial project.
In its judgement, the Information Tribunal states that it “upholds the decision of the information commissioner ... and orders the disclosure of the two Gateway Reports” within 28 days. There was “an undoubted debate as to the merits of the scheme”, it said.
In a damning condemnation of the government’s handling of large IT schemes, the tribunal said: “Of particular importance is the fact openly recognised by many witnesses that there ... remains a perception that central government does not have a particularly good track record with regard to IT projects.”
The public deserved to know if the ID cards scheme was “properly scrutinised and implemented”, it said.
The government's Office of Government Commerce, which runs the Gateway Review scheme, said the ruling did not set a precedent for reviews of other projects.