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Did ID card applications surge after scheme was scrapped?

Number of cards jumped in dying weeks

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A series of questions in the Commons yesterday suggest that the ID card scheme had a surge of applicants even after it became clear that the Tories would be scrapping the scheme.

The figures also shed some light on exactly how much insight the ID card scheme and its associated ID register gave to the government. The answer appears to be not very much.

Former Labour ID minister Meg Hillier asked Home Office minister Damian Green: "How many identity cards had been issued to British citizens on 31 May 2010; and how many people have registered for an appointment to enrol their biometric information but not received an identity card?"

Green replied that approximately 14,000 cards had been issued by May 31.

However, he added, "It is not possible to give the number of people who registered for an appointment but who did not receive an identity card as the information held on the appointment booking system is not directly comparable with that held on the National Identity Register."

Pete Wishart followed up by asking for a constituency and regional breakdown of ID card holders.

Green replied, "The Identity and Passport Service is not able to provide information relating to particular constituencies or regions for identity card applications. However, as of 14 June 2010, there have been just fewer than 15,000 identity cards issued in the United Kingdom."

So does that mean Labour's flagship scheme for joined up government never got so far as being joined up to its own booking scheme? Not as Orwellian as we'd thought, perhaps.

Even more bizarre though is that "fewer than 15,000" figure, just weeks after the figure stood at "approximately 14,000". If it was less than 14,500, presumably Green would said "just over 14,000". So, we could probably assume that the final figure was upwards of 14,500 and nearer to 15,000.

So even after the newly installed government committed to scrapping the screen was pushing the legislation through the Commons, the IPS ground on and cards were still being handed out.

And given the quick turnaround for the cards - 24 hours or so in the case of ID poster-girl Angela Epstein - it seems more than plausible that some of those were for people who applied for the cards safe in the knowledge that the scheme would be scrapped within weeks, and that they would not get refunds.

Which raises the question of who exactly was making these applications. Are there some kind of ID completists out there who will happily pay for any scheme that shows they are who say they are? Or think they are?

It's a scary thought. We'd like to think that they simply wanted a little personal memento of the Labour government. ®

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

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