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Blair under fire on ID cards

Tory leader attacks cost of ID cards scheme

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Tony Blair’s plans for a national identity card scheme could end up as being a "monument to the failure of big government", David Cameron has warned.

In PM's questions yesterday, the Tory leader attacked the proposed scheme as new research came to light suggesting it could cost more than £14bn to run.

Cameron asked the Prime Minister: "With rising deficits in the NHS, huge costs of pension reform and tighter pressures on public spending, how can the Prime Minister claim that spending at least £600m a year on his ID card scheme is a good use of public money?"

He referred to research published earlier this week by the London School of Economics, which suggested the scheme could cost between £10bn and £19bn over 10 years.

"What guarantee can the Prime Minister give that his estimates are right, whereas the London School of Economics, which talks about costs of £14.5bn - almost half the entire budget of the Department for Education & Skills - is wrong?"

Responding to the comments, Blair said the cards were needed to fight illegal immigration, crime and identity fraud.

He said the cost of the scheme would be offset by savings in other areas of government and to the costs of doing business.

And responding to the LSE research, he said: "The calculations made by the LSE, I think that I am right that, although the report was put out under the LSE’s name, it was actually written by the leading campaigner against ID cards on the grounds of civil liberties. So I do not think that it is an entirely objective assessment."

The Tory leader also cited reports that the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, is opposed to the scheme and would scrap it if he takes over from Blair as Prime Minister. "So will the Prime Minister give a guarantee that, when the Chancellor takes over his job, the scheme will continue?"

But Blair said the whole of the Labour Government was "absolutely behind" ID cards. "The Chancellor himself has provided the start-up costs," he added.

Cameron’s attack came only two days after the proposed ID scheme suffered a triple defeat in the House of Lords. The Government is now expected to try to overturn the Lords’ decision when ID cards return to the Commons.

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