Government claims 'no change' in ID cards policy

Despite rumours that the scheme may be scrapped, the government claims it is still set to introduce the cards in 2009
Written by Tom Espiner, Contributor

The ID cards scheme will not be scrapped, despite rumours to the contrary, according to government sources.

The Guardian on Monday reported that Gordon Brown had ordered a review of the technology to be used in the scheme due to cost. The Sunday Mirror also reported that the prime minister plans to scrap the scheme altogether, due to cost and the advice that ID cards will be ineffectual against threats such as terrorism.

However, speaking to ZDNet.co.uk on Thursday, a spokesperson for the prime minister's office denied that there had been any U-turn regarding ID cards.

"There has been no change in policy on that," said the spokesperson, who declined to give any details of whether there would be a change in policy announced in Tuesday's Queen's speech.

The Home Office also denied any reversal of policy on ID cards.

"The key thing is there's no policy change," said a Home Office spokesperson. "Next year foreign nationals will be required to have [ID cards], and we're looking at late 2009 for [ID cards for] UK nationals."

A spokesman for NO2ID, an anti-ID cards lobbying group, said that he had seen no appetite in government for any change to the scheme.

"No-one in government has given us any indication there's been a cooling or real desire to knock this on the head as a bad idea," said the NO2ID spokesman. "Even a cursory look at the technology would show that a rigorous biometric-checking database for 60 million people is pie in the sky."

However, the NO2ID spokesman added that the government may try to mitigate any potential political damage caused by the unpopularity of the scheme by promising a review.

"There may well be [an upcoming] election. If the electorate get wind that the ID card system will involve a lot of being scanned and prodded and poked and checked by civil servants, the government may want some kind of smokescreen, like the Crosby review."

The Crosby review, which scrutinised the business case for ID Cards from a financial perspective, was due to be published in spring of this year. However, it has yet to be published, leading critics to assert that the government is delaying its publication due to the review being unfavourable.

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