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British businesses will face an extra layer of red tape when ID cards are introduced, according to the boss of the government's own regulation watchdog.

David Arculus, chairman of the Better Regulation Task Force (BRTF), believes businesses will be affected by the cards, despite claims from the Home Office that it is not possible to say whether they will feel an impact. He fears "regulatory creep" because the legislation has unclear objectives. The Task Force produced a report in late October which warned that legislation with unclear objectives tends to be interpreted over-zealously by organisations.

Arculus told the Financial Times that ID card legislation is a classic example of this. The introduction of ID cards has four stated objectives - cutting illegal immigration and working, fighting terrorism and organised crime, reducing identity fraud and improving the delivery of public services.

He told the paper: "The first question we ask when assessing the quality of regulatory proposals is 'what is the objective of the legislation?' Well, the objective of the ID cards is still not clear. It appears to have four or five different ones. And where the scope or intention of the legislation is not clear, then regulatory creep is likely to follow."

He said this lack of clarity is likely to cause "an explosion in unnecessary checks". He said he would be calling for a thorough analysis of the costs and benefits of ID cards for businesses, charities and the voluntary sector. David Arculus is also chairman of mmO2.

The BRTF advises government to ensure that regulation accords with five principles - proportionality, accountability, consistency, transparency and targeting. ®

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