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'Absolute nonsense' - Huhne

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The home secretary has said that the identity scheme's budget will be recouped through charging the public for the cards.

Speaking during a crime debate on BBC Daily Politics programme on 20 April 2010, Alan Johnson said scrapping the identity card scheme at this stage would be counterproductive and a "waste".

"The money all comes back because we charge for ID cards. If we stop now you've wasted all the capital investment and you get no money back because we will charge for the ID card," said Johnson.

He was referring to Conservative and Liberal Democrat proposals to scrap identity cards if elected. The cards are part of the National Identity Service, which will cost an estimated £5.3bn over a decade.

Shadow home secretary Chris Grayling and Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesperson Chris Huhne also participated in the debate. Johnson accused them of making false claims about there being a "big pot of money" waiting if the scheme were to be dropped. Huhne labelled Johnson's claims "absolute nonsense".

"The reality is the government has made ID cards voluntary. It needs something like 13 million people to sign up to ID cards in order to cover the costs Alan Johnson is talking about and it's on course to get about 3,000," said Huhne.

"The Home Office is going to have to pick up the remainder of the tab and if we scrap the whole scheme there will be substantial savings," he added.

The Lib Dems revealed in its manifesto that as well as scrapping ID cards, it would also abandon the next generation of biometric passports. These will add 10 fingerprints to the photos already stored on chips and government databases.

Identity cards were first introduced for foreign nationals living in Britain in November 2008, but cards are now available to UK citizens living in the north west of England on a voluntary basis. The scheme expanded to London in February, where cards are now available to 16 to 24-year-olds.

This article was originally published at Kable.

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