Experts wary over ID card plan

Experts wary over ID card plan

Home Office slows ID card rollout as independent Treasury study recommends fast implementation

The government’s failure to take on board the recommendations of independent reports on the national identity card scheme may lead to faults and extra cost, warn experts.

Last week, home secretary Jacqui Smith announced plans for a slower rollout of the £5.4bn ID cards programme, with the government retaining control of the national identity register.

But in a Treasury-commissioned report, also released last week, former HBOS chief executive Sir James Crosby recommends a fundamentally different, consumer-led approach.

“Our identity belongs to us, no one else,” said Crosby.

“The potential of any mass ID system such as ID cards lies in the extent to which it is created, by consumers for consumers.”

There are many reasons why the government may have ignored the Crosby report ­ which has been delayed by almost a year and was released through the Treasury web site ­ said Eric Woods, analyst at Ovum.

“Crosby’s recommendations on reaching a critical mass of card users quickly were always going to be unlikely due to the political and technical realities of the scheme,” he said.

Smith has delayed compulsory adoption of ID cards when renewing passports amid widespread criticism of the plan.

Crosby’s other recommendations ­ which were ignored by the government ­ include:

- ID cards should be free.

- The scheme should be subject to review by the information commissioner.

- Information should not be passed on to the police from the national identity register.

The government denies any Whitehall disagreement over ID cards. “The home secretary has talked to Sir James Crosby on each point of his report ­ there is no disagreement between the Home Office and the Treasury over the scheme,” said a home office spokesman.

The government previously ignored the recommendations of a London School of Economics (LSE) report in 2005, which said the scheme could cost £19.2bn, said Ian Angell, professor of information systems at LSE.

“The government only listens to what it wants to hear ­ current proposals are technically unsound and do not have public confidence,” he said.