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Home Office stands by ID cards

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The Home Office has denied claims that the national identity card programme is on the skids.

This followed reports in The Sunday Times that the plan could be scaled down as part of a face saving exercise after a realisation that aspects of the programme are not feasible.

A Home Office spokesperson told GC News: "Any suggestion that we have abandoned the introduction of ID cards is wrong. We have always made clear that their introduction would be in stages – an incremental process. That remains the position."

The newspaper reported the previous day that an email sent by David Foord, the ID card project director at the Office of Government Commerce, which oversees the procurement process for the scheme, said that ministers are setting themselves up for failure and are "ignoring reality" by pressing ahead.

The emails suggested ministers will be forced to rethink the plans in order to meet the deadlines of phasing in the cards by 2008.

Peter Smith, the acting commercial director of the Identity and Passport Service (IPS), replied that his staff were planning for the possibility ministers will scrap the ID card plan altogether. He said the Home Office was making sure bigger contracts for projects linked to the ID card scheme were being designed to survive if the bigger scheme is dropped.

"The procurements we will (we hope) launch in the next few months...are all necessary (essential) to sustain IPS business as usual and we are designing the strategy so that they are all sensible and viable contracts in their own right even if the ID card gets canned completely," his email to Foord said.

Shadow home secretary David Davis is calling for the whole scheme to be scrapped.

"These are all the classic signs of a Whitehall IT project about to go disastrously wrong," he said. "These civil servants can see plainly what the government refuses to accept."

Davis claimed the prime minister's "obsession" with the project will weaken the country's security and cost at least £20bn.

Meanwhile, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is battling to ensure that estimates of the benefits and risks of identity cards remains secret.

The Information Commissioner's Office ordered the DWP to publish its findings about how the cards could fight ID fraud. The department has decided to appeal against the ruling.

Nick Clegg, shadow home secretary for the Liberal Democrats who requested the information be made public, said: "It is disappointing that the government is still trying to cover up the facts about ID cards.

"It is a measure of the government's failure to justify ID cards that during the passage of the Bill they never once released a full estimate of its costs and impact.

"I hope the Information Tribunal will rule in our favour and publish this vital report. We should not be kept in the dark any longer."

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

Kablenet's GC weekly is a free email newsletter covering the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. To register click here.

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