Information Commissioner release ID card report

07 September 2006

Hazel Grant

In June 2006 the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) ordered the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to make public the details of their report on the full impact, costs and benefits of introducing ID cards.

This ruling may be of interest to businesses contemplating tendering for contracts connected with the ID card scheme. The information contained in the DWP report will reveal the possible effect of the introduction of ID cards on the operation of the benefit system. This information could be used by technology suppliers to make their own products more attractive, because they will be able to tailor their systems to the needs of major ID card-users such as the DWP.

Each central government department has conducted a feasibility report into how it plans to use ID cards and what the costs, risks and benefit are likely to be. If the DWP report is made public, it is likely those for other government departments will also be released. However, the DWP has appealed against the ruling and it will be several months before we have a final decision. Therefore, it is advisable for interested suppliers to keep a close eye on the government’s release of these reports and other information concerning the ID card’s design and use.

In the ruling, the ICO dismissed the DWP’s argument that the release of the requested information would prejudice the Home Office’s commercial interests – and stated that in fact it would result in the Home Office obtaining better, rather than worse, value for public money. This indicates that government departments may in future take a more open approach to the release of feasibility studies and other reports on potential projects and procurements. Using freedom of information requests suppliers may therefore be able to obtain such information promptly and without having to wait for release during a formal tendering exercise.

The full report of the ICO decision can be found here.