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Massive net surveillance programme on schedule

Home Office makes 2016 year of the snoop

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A £2bn scheme to monitor all electronic communications remains within the Home Office's financial plans, despite the government postponing the relevant legislation.

The Interception Modernisation Programme (IMP) is planned for completion in 2016, having started in April 2006, according to a written parliamentary answer from Home Office minister Phil Woolas.

A bill to establish the scheme, which would require communications service providers to greatly increase the data they hold on customers for the benefit of the police and security agencies, has been dropped by the government from this week's Queen's Speech.

However, the information from Woolas shows the Home Office does not anticipate that this will delay the IMP, with 2016 as both the original and the current planned date for completion.

The written answer says that IMP's cost will be up to £2bn: "Initial estimates of the implementation costs are up to £2bn over a 10 year roll out period. The running costs will be offset by the phasing out of the costs of current systems."

The information, a list of all Home Office IT projects worth more than £5m produced in response to a question from Conservative home affairs shadow minister James Brokenshire, also shows that the identity cards for foreign nationals scheme is more than a year late and will cost 30 per cent more than expected.

The scheme, which started in April 2007, was originally planned for completion in March 2009 at a cost of £9.6m for the IT – a small proportion of its total cost of £272m, according to the last cost report on identity cards. The IT is now estimated as costing £12.4m, with completion scheduled for August 2010.

Two other departmental projects are likely to cost more than expected. The Office for Security and Counter Terrorism's OSCTNet project will cost £20.9m rather than the planned £16.2m, although £2m is to cover extra users. It is also late, with delivery planned for March next year rather than September this. The department's shared services programme will cost £36m rather than £32m, due to its scope being widened.

However, the Home Office also expects some of its IT projects to come in below budget. These include e-Borders, the IT for which was planned to cost £849.5m but is now expected to cost £827.1m. The same is true of the UK Border Agency's Immigration Casework and Points Based System projects, which are expected to cost £366m and £39.3m respectively, £4m and £500,000 cheaper than originally planned.

This article was originally published at Kable.

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