Cost of ID cards rockets by £840m

Alan Travis, Manchester Guardian, May 10, 2007

The official estimated cost of the controversial national identity card scheme has soared in the last six months by an extra £840m to a total of £5.75bn, according to new Home Office figures published today.

The latest six-monthly estimate makes clear that this is unlikely to be the final figure as the £5.75bn excludes the costs to other government departments using ID cards to verify identities, such as GPs registering new patients.

In fact, in an attempt to keep the official estimate confined only to costs directly attributable to the ID card scheme, the Home Office’s Identity and Passport Service has now stripped out a figure of £510m from its first official cost report published last October.

The Home Office said that because it covered the cost of all Foreign Office consular services abroad, including embassies, it should not have been included in the ID cards costs.

Conservatives and Liberal Democrats claimed the government had broken the law in delaying the publication of the second six-monthly report to parliament beyond its April 9 deadline. Its publication was postponed during the local elections campaign.

The October cost report—the first published as a result of a government defeat over the identity cards legislation—put the cost of issuing combined passports and identity cards to British citizens and the 1 million Irish citizens resident in the UK over the next 10 years at £4.91bn.

The latest estimate, published today, says that cost has now risen to £5.55bn because it is now thought that many more staff will be needed in the early years of the scheme to vet applications and to implement increased anti-fraud measures. The increased figure also takes account of inflation.

“Estimates of the staff necessary to deliver the national identity scheme and associated support functions have been increased to reflect the current view of the effort required,” said a Home Office spokesman.

But £5.55bn is not the final figure. For the first time, the Identity and Passport Service has published a £200m estimate for the cost of ensuring that all foreign nationals resident in Britain for more than 3 months also carry an ID cards.

From next year, the Home Office’s Borders and Immigration Agency will require all foreign nationals to have a ‘biometric’ ID card when they apply to extend their leave to remain in the UK.

The extra £200m drives up the final figure for the new cost estimate to £5.75bn—an increase of £840m.

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