Magazine article Public Finance

Critics Question ID Card Cost of £5.4Bn

Magazine article Public Finance

Critics Question ID Card Cost of £5.4Bn

Article excerpt

The Home Office has undervalued the cost of its controversial ID card scheme, critics have warned, despite ministers' claims this week that it would cost taxpayers £5.4bn over ten years.

Home Office minister Liam Byrne attempted to put an end to the argument over the cost of the proposed national ID card system on October 9, when he presented to Parliament a report estimating the 'likely cost' for UK nationals at £5.4bn by2016.

Byrne later told a meeting at the Institute for Public Policy Research think-tank that around 70% of the cost - £3.8bn - will need to be spent, regardless of any ID card system, so that the UK complies with international biometric passport requirements, designed to tackle illegal immigration.

Around 15% of the cost - £810m - would fund the IT system, he added.

But Byrne merely presented the cost of introducing and operating an ID card system, and its complementary register of biometric data, at the Home Office.

Other departments are involved in the project because Whitehall also wants to use ID cards to combat benefit fraud and wider identity fraud and to determine eligibility for NHS treatments.

William Heath, chair of Kable, the market research company that advises many of the government's potential IT partners, said: 'We really need an honest assessment of the whole cost of this exercise. …

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