Row over £30bn cost of ID cards

Summary:Critics claim the government has seriously miscalculated the cost of setting up a national identification system

The government's ID card plans have again come under fire after the LSE revealed the cost of the scheme could now rise to almost £30bn.

The LSE had initially claimed the ID card scheme would cost taxpayers up to £19bn — despite the Home Office maintaining the cost will be just £5.8bn over 10 years.

But in an as-yet-unpublished report the LSE is now claiming that cost could rocket by another £5bn to £10bn because of the cost of updating all government department IT systems in order to make them work with ID cards.

Dr Edgar Whitley, a member of the Identity Project team at the LSE, told ZDNet UK's sister site, silicon.com, the initial cost estimate of £19bn was based on the assumption that there would be just three main government users of ID cards — the Home Office, the UK Passport Service and the Department for Work and Pensions.

But the Home Office's 'market sounding' document published last month revealed that 265 government departments and public bodies are now expected to rely on the controversial biometric ID cards as the much-touted 'gold standard' for identification.

Whitley said that would raise the total cost of the scheme dramatically because all departments would need to update their IT systems and databases to incorporate the new ID number from the card and link with the national identity register and ID verification service."The first screen of every departmental system will need a new field to allow a search of records by ID number and there will be a transition period for the first 10 years where every database will need to search by both the new and old indexes," he said.

Whitley believes it will involve a time-consuming and costly data cleansing operation to avoid complications arising where departments hold duplicate records for one person.

Shadow Home Secretary David Davis told silicon.com the government is "in denial" about the cost of introducing ID cards. "This report confirms the cost of Labour's plastic poll tax will be billions of pounds above government estimates. It is unacceptable that they have so grossly miscalculated the costs and that estimates keep on rising. It is taxpayers that will pick up the bill for this if the government's ID cards bill becomes a reality," he said.

Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesman Mark Oaten MP told silicon.com: "These findings confirm what many of us fear — that the ID card scheme will re-shape our whole society. The national identity register will allow the state to control and record our access to a vast range of public and private bodies. The LSE are to be praised for demonstrating both the appalling financial and social costs of this project."

The Home Office had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.

Topics: Government : UK

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