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The identity minister has indicated that passports will account for a smaller proportion of the national identity scheme's overall cost than previously stated.

Meg Hillier told Parliament on 11 March 2009 that introducing and producing passports containing fingerprints will cost "about 70%" of the ten year budget of the National Identity Scheme for UK nationals, currently £4.785m. This would put the specific costs of identity cards at around £1.44bn.

Ministers, including defence minister Des Browne in Parliament last June, have previously put the proportion required for such passports at around 80%, leaving 20% for identity card specific costs.

This contrasts to a degree with the biannual cost reports on the scheme, which have shown the proportion required purely for identity cards rising from 18.5% in November 2007, equivalent to £1bn, to 23.6% in May 2008 (£1.12bn, although this followed changes to the scheme last spring which transferred the cost of taking biometrics to applicants) then 24.9% in the November report (£1.19bn).

A Home Office spokesperson said that the cost proportion in the reports is rising because the 10 years included within each new estimate includes more of the full volume production period for identity cards.

Hillier, who was speaking in a Westminster Hall debate, also conceded that "the government have not been clear enough about their reasons" for identity cards, adding that since the Identity Cards Act of 2006, "there probably was not a strong enough counter-voice from the government about the benefits".

Separately, in a parliamentary written answer on 13 March, Home Office minister Shahid Malik said that the Identity and Passport Service has budgeted to spend 0.25% of the scheme's 2008-09 budget on publicity and marketing.

The Home Office said this equates to a budget of £222,000, which covers printed publicity, leaflets, market research and online media. The actual spending will not be available under the end of the financial year.

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

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