Thursday, May 26

Cost of ID Cards

The Government's plans for [big brother style] identity cards have been dealt a fresh blow following news that the Tories will vote against the legislation at its second reading.

The move means that the prime minister is set to face an early but crucial test of his much reduced Commons majority.

To be phased in over coming years, the compulsory ID cards would include the holder's name and address along with 'biometric' data such as a computer scan of a person's iris, face or fingerprints.

It is clear from the rising costs of introducing ID Cards that chancellor Gordon Brown's original decision to back the scheme on the condition that it is self-financing, is now causing serious problems.

The overall estimated 10-year cost of the project has grown from £3.1bn three years ago to more than £5.8bn now as new problems emerged yesterday over the effectiveness of the new biometric technology that is supposed to safeguard the security of the cards.

Ministers said the £93 figure was only an estimate of the "unit cost" of the combined passport/ID card to be phased in from 2008. But since it does not include the start-up costs or cross-subsidies of free ID cards for pensioners and the poor, it is likely to top £100 by the time the scheme gets under way. It currently costs £42 to renew a 10-year passport.

Home Office ministers also announced yesterday that they intend to include three electronic biometric identifiers in the new ID cards, taken from the eyes, hands and face, instead of just one or two, after an enrolment trial placed question marks over the effectiveness of the technology.

But the home secretary, Charles Clarke, who reintroduced the bill scuppered by the general election to the Commons yesterday, said he was confident he could get it through despite opposition from the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.

He talked to rebel Labour MPs in the Campaign group but they have indicated that, despite voting against the legislation this year, they are likely to abstain on second reading this time.
The immigration and asylum minister, Tony McNulty, defended the reintroduction of the bill, saying: "A secure compulsory national identity card scheme will help tackle illegal immigration, organised crime, ID fraud, terrorism and will benefit all UK citizens."

Mark Oaten, of the Liberal Democrats, said: "If there was ever any doubt that the costs of this scheme were going to spiral out of control, the new figures should put paid to them; £93 is a ludicrous amount of money to ask people to pay, especially when you consider the combined cost for a family with children over the age of 16."

Making clear the Conservatives' official opposition despite Michael Howard's personal support, the shadow home secretary, David Davis, said: "Our concerns include the cost-effectiveness of the scheme."
This blog's concerns on ID cards inculude all the issues that neither Her Majesty's Government nor the Official Opposition wish to openly address.
More soon.

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