Lords back CW on ID card secrecy

Repeated refusals by the government to publish the results of Gateway reviews into the ID cards scheme were criticised during a parliamentary debate last week.

Repeated refusals by the government to publish the results of Gateway reviews into the ID cards scheme were criticised during a parliamentary debate last week.

The Earl of Northesk, a Conservative peer, referred in the debate on ID cards to Computer Weekly's efforts to persuade officials to publish Gateway reviews.

The reviews are independent assessments of how risky IT projects are progressing. They are carried out by the Office of Government Commerce, which has turned down repeated requests by MPs and under the Freedom of Information Act for the results of the reviews to be published.

Northesk said the cost of ID cards would be dependent on the technology used. "I note that various organisations, notably the IT magazine Computer Weekly, have resorted to the Freedom of Information Act to elicit information about the status of a variety of IT procurement projects across government," he said.

"The justification for refusing to release the information is, as far as I am aware, rooted in issues of commercial confidentiality.

"Perhaps I am being unnecessarily obtuse, but I simply cannot conceive of how the release of appropriate information about which stage of the Gateway process the ID cards scheme has reached, and the status of each stage within the traffic light system, could impinge upon commercial confidentiality."

Shadow Treasury spokeswoman Baroness Noakes raised the subject of the government's refusal to publish the results of the risk register - a list of risks - on the ID cards scheme. Computer Weekly had asked under the Freedom of Information Act for the risk register to be published, but the Home Office refused.

Noakes said, "Freedom of Information requests have produced no useful information on the Gateway reviews or the risk registers that government projects are supposed to draw up.

"When we add this secrecy to the secrecy about costs, we see one of the most opaque and unsatisfactory set of proposals parliament has ever had to consider."

The Lords blocked the ID cards scheme until the costs are known.

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