UK Tribunal wants the Gateway reviews on ID scheme made public

By EDRi · March 11, 2009

This article is also available in:
Deutsch: [Britisches Tribunal plant Veröffentlichung der Gateway-Revision des ID-Modells |]

On 19 February, the UK tribunal ordered the disclosure of two internal
reviews called the Gateway reviews regarding the national identity card
scheme of the government.

The Gateway reviews are independent and expert reviews carried out at key
decision points of significant programmes or programs of those deemed risky.

The reviews are performed by independent practitioners from outside the
programme/project by using a series of interviews, documentation reviews and
their expertise to provide valuable additional perspective on the respective
programmes/projects and on the external challenge of the processes.

The ID government programme was subjected to two “Gateway zero” reviews, in
2003 and 2004. The Treasury’s Office of Government Commerce (OGC) operating
the Gateway system did not wish to disclose the reports stating that it was
in the public interest to maintain them out of the public eyes and argueing
that making the reports public would make them “bland and anodyne”.

The tribunal refuted OGC argument considering OGC had to prove a “real and
weighty” causal relationship between disclosure and damage and as OGC failed
to do so, secrecy would be far from being in the public interest. The
tribunal concluded that “disclosure of the requested information would
clearly add to the public’s knowledge in this respect and therefore to the
public interest which sought to ensure that schemes as complex albeit as
sensitive as the ID cards scheme were properly scrutinised and implemented.”

OGC claimed that the disclosures of the report might have “adverse press
reactions … if any form of criticism were contained in the report in
question” and that the reviews should be kept away from citizens because
they might seem “uninformative or hard to understand”. It also argued that
the respective information did not bring any valuable addition to the debate
on the merits of identity cards as a whole.

The tribunal considered that none of the arguments presented was OGC’s
problem. “It is not for the tribunal, let alone the OGC or the (information)
commissioner, to second-guess the scope and content of the possible public

In the UK, the Freedom of Information Act 2000 which came into force in 2005
requires 100 000 public authorities to respond promptly to requests for
information and provide that information, including emails, meeting minutes,
research and reports, with a series of exceptions. These exemptions range
from sensible data (personal data, national security) to materials deemed to
be commercially sensitive. An authority can deny requests considered
vexatious or too expensive to carry out.

The tribunal decision was promulgated on 19 February, giving the OGC 28 days
to comply.

Public interest is not served by secrecy (3.03.2009)

What is an OGC Gateway Review? – OGC Gateway Review for Programmes &

Explainer: Freedom of information (24.02.2009)