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ID cards: Home Office pursued over LSE rebuttal

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Home Office attempts to quash academics' criticism of the planned national identity system appear to have backfired badly, prompting a fresh round of questions about the scheme's chances of success.

The London School of Economics says the Department's recent rebuttal of their critique of the Government's identity cards scheme was misleading and inaccurate, containing "substantial errors and misrepresentation of fact".

Last month the Home Office fiercly attacked the LSE's highly-critical findings, particularly on the ID scheme's potential cost, rejecting the report as "confused" and based on "misguided assumptions". Officials also dismissed out of hand their alternative model for a safer, more secure identity system.

In the latest controversy, the LSE claims the Home Office mispresented their analysis and made irrelevant and unfounded assertions to support its arguments. Their concerns are detailed in a point-by-point commentary of the Department's rebuttal, released late on 5 August.

As just one example, the LSE's cost-analysis of the scheme assumed that one in 10 ID cards would need replacing. The Home Office responded that the damage and loss rate for passports was just three per cent. The LSE says this figure "bears no relation whatever to the higher rate for cards that are in general and constant use".

The Home Office's response also appears to have made a number of new claims about the project which the LSE says need to be clarified.

Among these is the Department's claim that background checks on applicants would be "largely automated", which according to the LSE, seems to contradict what officials and ministers have said publicly.

In its rebuttal. the Home Office also stated that its scheme would involve "one central register". The LSE highlight that elsewhere, officials said that data would be stored in a "small number" of environments.

More seriously, there are claims that the Home Office also mispresented the European Commissioner for Human Rights' stated opinion on identity cards, regarding the legality of their scheme. "The Home Office's proposal could not be further from the requirements set out by the Commissioner", said the LSE.

The academics plan to use the new information disclosed by the Home Office to inform 'Version Two' of its report, due for publication in the autumn.

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eGov monitor Weekly is a free e-newsletter covering developments in UK eGovernment and public sector IT over the last seven days. To register go here.

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