Treasury ministers have approved a costly, cross-government legal case to stop the publication of Gateway reviews on identity cards - although the UK's information commissioner and three committees of the House of Commons want information on the reviews released.
Computer Weekly has campaigned for more than two years for the publication of Gateway reviews, which offer independent assessments by the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) on the progress of high-risk IT projects at various stages in their lifecycle.
Ministers have given the go-ahead for a test case to be brought by the OGC against the information commissioner's decision to publish reviews.
The OGC is an office of the Treasury which oversees IT projects and programmes in Whitehall departments. The case will be heard by the Information Tribunal, whose members are appointed by the government.
It will determine whether the results of initial Gateway reviews on the feasibility of the ID cards scheme can be published.
If the government loses, it will make it harder for the OGC to refuse to publish the results of other Gateway reviews, such as assessments carried out on the tax credits scheme and the £12.4bn National Programme for IT in the NHS.
Lawyers for the OGC will fight a ruling by information commissioner Richard Thomas under the Freedom of Information Act to allow Gateway "zero" reviews on ID cards, and their traffic light status to be published.
The OGC, on behalf of the government, will use external legal experts, the Treasury Solicitor's Department and a QC to contest the commissioner's decision.
Computer Weekly asked the OGC whether it was right for taxpayers' money to be used to fight the will of the information commissioner, the Public Accounts Committee, the Work and Pensions Committee, and the Science and Technology Committee, which want information from the reviews published.
The OGC's spokesman said there were good grounds for an appeal. "The OGC has carefully considered the information commissioner's decision notice on the disclosure of OGC Gateway information on the Home Office identity cards programme.
OGC has concluded that it has good legal reasons to appeal. We have therefore now served our grounds of appeal on the Information Tribunal."
MP Richard Bacon, a member of the Public Accounts Committee, said, "It is extraordinary that the government would go to such lengths to prevent the publication of Gateway reviews. This is all about protecting civil servants' backsides. Using expensive lawyers funded by taxpayers to do it is disgraceful."
In his ruling, the information commissioner said, "Disclosure is likely to enhance public debate of issues such as the programme's feasibility and how it is managed."