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Ditching ID cards would save £3bn

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If the Tories win the next election and stick to their promises to cancel the ID card scheme, they will save the UK economy over £3bn.

Some of the scheme will need to be kept in order to support upgraded passports, but even so the potential savings are huge. The Tories, if they win in June 2010, could cancel adding fingerprints to passports, end the production and distribution of ID cards and reduce IBM's £265m database contract.

Researchers from Kable looked at four different scenarios ranging from leaving the scheme exactly as it is to canning the cards entirely. They found possible savings of between £1.8bn and £3.1bn. Even if the Tories chose to continue the move to adding fingerprints to passports, which they do not have to do, they could save £2.2bn over 10 years.

Philippe Martin, senior analyst at Kable, said: "The cancellation would impact almost every aspect of the National Identity Scheme. Not only will it avoid the cost of producing the cards, but it will also reduce the large distribution costs associated with sending new or renewed cards for those which have been lost or stolen. It would also reduce the cost of application, enrolment and call centre processing." Martin expects the passport to stay as the main identity document for travel and other services.

Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling has warned contract winners that he will cancel the ID cards and the National Identity Register - the megadatabase which underpins the scheme - if the Conservative party win the forthcoming general election.

The government was due to award the contract to actually produce and distribute the cards this autumn. It has now confirmed this contract will not be awarded until autumn 2010 - after the general election.

There have also been problems with readers for the cards. Official advice is to flick the card with a fingernail because it gives a distinctive noise. There is currently no timetable for a rollout of readers.

Grayling is presumed to want to keep the cards for foreign nationals from outside the EU, however, as these cards are already in use.

Trialling the cards with airside workers at City and Manchester airports will now be limited to new staff members, not all workers. ®

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