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ID card scheme barely broke 13,000 mark, minister confirms

Wishful counting by previous incumbents?

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The Labour government's flagship ID card scheme attracted just 13,200 signups before it was finally put down by the new coalition, a Commons answer revealed yesterday.

The figure is even less than the 15,000 figure being bandied around when the ToryDems confirmed that they would indeed scrap the white elephant/albatross scheme last month.

And it really doesn't sit too well with the 10,000 cards issued and 1,000 applications per week Labour ministers were claiming in March.

Paul Goggins MP asked Home Office minister Damian Green how many cards had been issued before May 11 both in total, and to residents of pilot scheme area Greater Manchester.

Green replied, "There were approximately 13,200 identity cards issued before 11 May 2010, around 6,000 of which were issued in Greater Manchester."

Green added that once the bill to scrap the scheme gains Royal Assent, cards would only be valid for one month. "The Identity and Passport Service is writing to each cardholder informing them of progress and contact details for further advice," he confirmed. "Card refunds or credit for a future passport application will not be offered."

Green's answer seems to heap further ignominy on the scheme.

In March, former Home Sec Alan Johnson had predicted 17 million ID cards would be in circulation by 2017, a staggering 28 per cent of the population. He claimed the scheme would have paid for itself.

A week or two after that, erstwhile ID card minister Meg Hillier claimed that enrolments in Manchester alone were due to hit 10,000 in March.

The Home Office at the time was quite insistent that "Demand has been strong since identity cards were launched and recent improvements in capacity mean that enrolments are now running at around 1,000 a week".

This despite the fact that El Reg's admittedly crude slicing and dicing of ministers' Commons answers suggested applications never seemed to breach 100 a day, with 14.5 seeming more typical.

No surprise then then that the government never signed leases on a network of enrolment centres. It's almost as if they knew the thing had the stink of death about it. ®

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