The Information Commissioner’s Office has ordered the Department of Work and Pensions to release its internal feasibility study on the impact of the ID card scheme.
The study – one of a series produced by government departments – covers the anticipated benefits of the scheme, for example in detecting benefit fraud, the impact of the scheme on DWP work and the department’s assessment of the risks involved.
Information about the DWP feasibility study was first requested in November 2004 by Liberal Democrat MP Mark Oaten in a parliamentary question. He referred the matter to the Information Commissioner’s Office under the Freedom of Information Act in July last year.
The DWP had refused to release details of the study on the grounds that it related to the formulation or development of government policy and that release of the information would prejudice the Home Office’s commercial interests.
But the Information Commissioner’s Office ruled that disclosure of the study was in the public interest, and the DWP must now release the information within 30 days. There was “a strong public interest in the public knowing whether the introduction of identity cards will bring benefits to the DWP, and to other government departments, and if so what those benefits will be”, the ICO’s decision notice says.
The Information Commissioner’s Office rejected the DWP’s argument that disclosure would prejudice the Home Office’s commercial interests in procurement for the ID card scheme. “Release of the information is likely to result in the Home Office obtaining better, rather than worse, value for public money, because suppliers will be able to tailor their systems to the needs of major identity card-users such as the DWP,” the decision notice says.