March 2005 Archives

Following the feeble disclosure from the Office of Government Commerce regarding our FOIA request for the now out of date Gateway Reviews of the Home Office's Identity Cards Programme, we asked for an internal review.

As feared, this has not elicited any more information about the Identity Cards Programme.

All the arguements used about why it is allegedly not in the public interest to disclose these Gateway Reviews, are exactly what the Civil Service marshalled against the whole concept of Freedom of Information. Where is the alleged "culture change" that the years of preparation and training for the Freedom of Information Act should have produced ?

Is "Sir Humphrey Appleby" still in charge ?

Has this FOIA request been deliberately delayed by the politicians and spin doctors, for the full statutory 20 working days, followed by a further 15 working days for "public interest balancing", followed by another month of "internal review", simply to avoid producing any answers which might have informed the debates during the various stages of the controversial Identity Cards Bill ?

How can it be that the high level details of actual project objectivesa and risks, for the Identity Cards Programme, a multi-billion pound project, with massive implications for the whole relationship between the State and the Citizen will not emerge until the project disaster that many people fear, has already wasted our money, and compromised both our civil liberties and national security ?

The Criminal Records Bureau disaster happened because the basic assumptions of how the public would use the service were wrong i.e. the assumption was individual disclosure applications via a web page, in real life there were multiple, bulk disclosure requests via post and by phone.

Why doesn't the Government publish these so called Gateway Reviews, without personally identifying any of the civil servants and consultants, only their conclusions and recommendations ?

Having exhausted the internal appeal process, only now is it possible to submit this FOIA request to the Information Commissioner for a ruling.

Presumably the "Department for Constitutional Affairs Clearing House for Freedom of Information Act enquiries" mentioned in the reply below, is the "secret spin unit" which this article in The Independent refers to ?

Internal Review reply:

One might have hoped that Paul Boateng, now that it has been announced that he is going to be the new High Commissioner (equivalent to Ambassador) to South Africa, would have properly complied with the spirit of the Freedom of Information Act and released some details abou the Office for Government Commerce Gateway Reviews of the Identity cards scheme.

However he is not even bothering to answer Parliamentary Questions on the matter, giving an excuse that could have been written by Sir Humphrey Appleby himself:

"Written answers
Wednesday, 16 March 2005
Identity Cards

Mark Oaten Mark Oaten (Winchester, LDem)

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what traffic light status was awarded to the identity cards scheme by the Office of Government Commerce at the Gateway Review 1 stage.

Paul Boateng (Brent South, Lab) holding answer 25 February 2005

The ID Cards programme has not yet undergone a Gate 1 Review. It has, however, undergone two OGC Gate 0 Reviews, in June 2003 and January 2004 respectively. The traffic light status awarded by these reviews is exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 as disclosure would be likely to prejudice both the ability of OGC to examine the effectiveness, efficiency and economy with which other Government Departments exercise their functions and also the formulation and development of Government policy. I believe the public interest in disclosure of such information is outweighed by the public interest in non-disclosure"

About this blog

This United Kingdom based blog has been spawned from Spy Blog, and is meant to provide a place to track our Freedom of Information Act 2000 requests to United Kingdom Government and other Public Authorities.

If you have suggestions for other FOIA requests,  bearing in mind the large list of exemptions, then email them to us, or use the comments facility on this blog, and we will see  what we can do, without you yourself having to come under the direct scrutiny of  "Sir Humphrey Appleby" or his minions.

Email Contact

Please feel free to email us your views about this website or news about the issues it tries to comment on:

email: blog @spy[dot]org[dot]uk

Here is our PGP public encryption key or download it via a PGP Keyserver. - FOIA request submission and publication website from

Campaign Buttons

Campaign for the Freedom of Information

NO2ID - opposition to the Home Office's Compulsory Biometric ID Card
NO2ID - opposition to the Home Office's Compulsory Biometric ID Card and National Identity Register centralised database.

Watching Them, Watching Us, UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign
UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign

Peaceful resistance to the curtailment of our rights to Free Assembly and Free Speech in the SOCPA Designated Area around Parliament Square and beyond

Parliament Protest blog - resistance to the Designated Area restricting peaceful demonstrations or lobbying in the vicinity of Parliament.

Amnesty International 's campaign

Yes, Minister

Yes, Minister Series 1, Episode 1, "Open Government" First airtime BBC: 25 February 1980

"Bernard Woolley: "Well, yes, Sir...I mean, it [open government] is the Minister's policy after all."
Sir Arnold: "My dear boy, it is a contradiction in terms: you can be open or you can have government."

FOIA Links

Campaign for the Freedom of Information

Office of the Information Commissioner,
who is meant to regulate the Freedom of Information Act 2000 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Scottish Information Commissioner,
who similarly regulates the Freedom of Information Act (Scotland) 2002

Information Tribunal - deals with appeals against decisions by the Information Commissioners.

Freedom of Information pages - Department for Constitutional Affairs

Friends of the Earth FOIA Request Generator and links to contact details for Central Government Departments and their Publication Schemes

UK Government Information Asset Register - in theory, this should point you to the correct Government documents, but in practice...well see for yourself.

Access all Information is also logging some FOIA requests - prototype FOIA request submission, tracking and publication website

Blog Links

Spy Blog

UK Freedom of Information Act Blog - started by Steve Wood, now handed over to Katherine Gundersen

Your Right To Know - Heather Brooke

Informaticopia - Rod Ward

Open Secrets - a blog about freedom of information by BBC journalist Martin Rosenbaum

Panopticon blog - by Timothy Pitt-Payne and Anya Proops. Timothy Pitt-Payne is probably the leading legal expert on the UK's Freedom of Information Act law, often appearing on behlaf of the Information Commissioner's Office at the Information Tribunal.

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