ID cards scheme has cost nearly £50m

The Government has revealed the huge expense so far of the controversial project

The Government has revealed it has spent almost £50m on the controversial ID cards scheme before the project is even off the ground.

In a written answer to a parliamentary question by Liberal Democrat MP Lembit Öpik, the Home Office said £46.4m had been spent on the ID cards scheme up to the end of May 2006 since the start of the financial year 2003/2004.

Öpik called it a "catastrophic waste of taxpayers' money" and said the £46.4m spent to date could have been better used to pay for more than 150 new police officers for 10 years.

He said: "This is real money wasted on an unworkable scheme which won't achieve what the Government claims."

Prime Minister Tony Blair said earlier this month ID cards will be a central plank of Labour's next election manifesto, despite delays in putting the identity cards contracts out to tender and leaked memos from a senior official at the Home Office claiming the project is heading for disaster with a lack of clear benefits to demonstrate a return on the investment.