Government under fire over ID cards

Summary:The home secretary's announcement that carrying an ID card will never be compulsory for British citizens has prompted many to question its future

...the need for a national ID card scheme. It's very hard to see what a national ID card scheme would add to the proof-of-age standard scheme which is already in place and which actually works very well."

He added that the addition of another form of age verification would only serve to confuse shop staff who already have to deal with a large number of ID forms for age-restricted items.

"It is possible that [ID cards] could play a part in helping employers, including retailers, establish the eligibility to work of people from overseas, but of course there are other means of doing that anyway," he continued.

A spokesman for campaign group No2ID also questioned the benefits of the voluntary ID card scheme, telling "I largely hope that the British public will avoid the identity scheme for as long as it lurks in the wings like the dangerous, invasive and wholly illiberal scheme it is."

"Anyone who feels the need to voluntarily pre-register for an ID card should think long and hard about how they might benefit from a card that would see its holder's personal details held for life on a no doubt poorly run and secured government database, accessible to tens of thousands of civil servants if not more, where he or she can be fined for failing to keep the Home Office informed of changes in their details," he added.

The ID cards scheme has already cost the taxpayer tens of millions of pounds, according to figures provided by the Home Office — although it claims the exact cost to the public cannot be calculated.

The identity-card project's costs have become increasingly opaque following the creation of the Identity and Passport Service (IPS) in 2006. After its formation, the government has rolled up ID card costs with those attached to biometric passports as it says tech infrastructure and operational processes for the two projects can be shared, making it therefore impossible to break out expenditure for ID cards alone.

Asked how much has been spent on ID cards to date, the Home Office said £41.1m was spent between the financial years 2003/04 and 2005/06, along with £174.1m of costs shared by ID cards and biometric passports between 2006/7 and 2009/10, subject to the finalisation of the 2008/09 accounts.

In a response to a Freedom of Information request made earlier this year by the Home Office revealed it paid consultancy firm PA Consulting £33.8m between 2004/05 and 2005/06 for ID cards-related work — meaning the consultancy scooped the lion's share of early ID cards spending.

ID card costs for the 2009/10 year are projected to reach £50m and hit £1.31bn over the 10-year period to 2019, according to the government's latest Identity Cards Scheme Cost Report, published in May 2009.'s Natasha Lomas contributed to this report

Topics: Security

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