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UK ID card costs climb £600m in six months

£5.5bn and counting

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The government's cost estimate for its identity card scheme has risen at least £600m in the six months since its last disclosure.

According to the May 2007 Identity Cards Scheme Cost report, at last count the project was going to cost £4.9bn between October 2006 and October 2016 (although we reported the estimate was £5.4bn).

But the Identity and Passport Service said it would have to spend more money than anticipated on people to implement the scheme, people to vet passport and identity card applications, and counter fraud measures.

The total cost is now expected to be £5.5bn.

The revised figure doesn't include a further £510m of costs incurred by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office "in running consular services abroad", said the report. These could be recovered as a surcharge on the passport fee, so had been deducted. Another £200m estimated cost of giving "Biometric Immigration Documents" to "foreign nationals" would be recovered by charging them directly.

However, the report said the costs did not include the expenses incurred by other government departments that wanted to use the cards. Neither did they include IPS's income from fees.

Phil Booth, national coordinator of anti-ID campaign group No2ID, said in a statement: "In effect, this report says that the total cost to British citizens has gone up by over a billion pounds in six months."

As well as shunting £510m of the costs onto the Foreign Office, said a No2ID statement, the estimate "fails to quantify the additional cost to the Department for Work and Pensions - whose Citizen Information Service database must now be upgraded to form a key part of the National Identity Register".

The cost report noted how the IPS had concluded that it could use the DWP's CIS database as the foundation of the National Identity Register without breaking the law. This was expected to have saved the government the cost of doing it from scratch.

Writing in The Guardian newspaper today, home secretary John Reid said identity cards were needed to help people protect their identities from criminals and terrorists.

In "a modern society", he said, people needed to prove their identity when they applied for jobs, allowing "businesses to vet new employees more effectively".

A modern society also required people to prove their identities when they crossed borders, and when they opened a bank account.

"Our own, unique, identity is inexorably becoming our most precious possession. But when so much of this is now done remotely, how can we be sure who we are interacting with?"

He said identity cards would make people "feel" safe. "This is not about control, Big Brother, or the loss of liberty." ®

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