Leaked emails predict ID card failure

Senior civil servants have serious doubts about the viability of the Government's ID card project, leaked emails have revealed

Leaked emails from senior civil servants have revealed their fears that the ID cards project is heading for disaster.

In the emails David Foord, mission critical director of identity and defence at the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) criticised the high costs of the project, the "very serious shortage" of qualified staff and the lack of clear benefits on which to demonstrate a return on investment.

According to the emails, published in The Sunday Times, Foord also raised concerns about the National Identity Register (NIR).

One email reportedly said: "Even if everything went perfectly (which it will not) it is very debatable (given performance of government ICT projects) whether... [the NIR] can be procured, delivered, tested and rolled out in just over two years."

And he added: "I conclude that we are setting ourselves up to fail."

The NIR is the heart of the ID cards project. This database will hold personal identity information and biometric data for everyone who has enrolled in the scheme. But concerns have already been raised about the security and viability of such a massive system.

Foord also warned that plans for the introduction of a watered down ID card if botched "could put back the introduction of ID cards for a generation".

Critics of the project were quick to seize on the comments. Phil Booth, national co-ordinator of anti-ID cards group No2ID, called for a permanent halt to the project, saying it is "too dangerous" to continue with.

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Nick Clegg MP waded in claiming the project is an "uncosted and untested experiment".

But the Home Office insisted the project is still viable. A spokeswoman said: "Any suggestion that we have abandoned the introduction of ID cards is wrong. We have always made it clear that the introduction would be in stages and that remains the plan. We are still committed to the introduction of the national identity scheme."

At the time of writing the OGC had not returned calls requesting comment.