ID card changes will cut £1bn from costs

ID card changes will cut £1bn from costs

Identity and Passport Service chief reveals benefits of new approach

Changes to government plans for the rollout of identity cards are expected to cut more than £1bn from the current £5.43bn price tag for the programme.

Previously everyone applying for a passport renewal after 2010 would have to get an ID card as well – now they can choose a passport or an ID card, though their biometrics will still be put on the national identity register.

This will reduce government spending according to James Hall, chief executive of the Identity and Passport Service, in an exclusive Computing interview.

"A significant number of people will have one or other, rather than both - this will cut down our costs," he said.

The second change concerns who collects the biometrics.

Originally the government was to be responsible for collecting biometrics, but it will now look to co-opt the private sector to do this instead.

"We've made a decision that rather than as previously assumed we would collect fingerprints and biometrics from each citizen ourselves, we will work with the private sector to have them do that on our behalf," said Hall.

Now the public will pay a company to collect biometric details in the same way they pay to take a photograph for a passport – transferring the costs from the government to the citizen.

Hall said the changes are motivated by cost but also by taking on board the recommendations of Sir James Crosby's report on identity management – which was also published yesterday.

Other changes to the ID plans see the government targeting minority groups – airport workers, foreign nationals, and young people.

ID cards are to become compulsory this year for foreign nationals from outside the EU living in Britain, and for airport workers and security staff from next year.

And young people and those who work in the public sector will be able to apply for an ID card from 2010.

Incentives to do so include making it easier to apply for student loans and open bank accounts for young people, and faster criminal records checks for those who need to be vetted to work in the public sector.

Cards will cost about £30 – a rejection of Crosby's recommendation they should be free.

Recently Steria became the third supplier to drop out of the ID card programme, after BAE and Accenture dropped out in January.

The remaining companies in the running – four of whom will be picked to be strategic suppliers in May this year - are EDS, IBM, Fujitsu, CSC and Thales.

Hall denied that Steria, BAE and Accenture dropped out because of changes in the rollout plans.

"There aren't any delays in the rollout so if they [Steria, BAE and Accenture] do have that perception I'm not sure why - our core technical approach is the same as it was originally," he said.

Last month home office minister Meg Hillier told the Commons Home Affairs Committee that a number of EU institutions would have access to the National Idenitity Register for criminal investigations - but only through the UK's Serious and Organised Crime Agency (Soca).

Hall said any costs generated by these requests would be absorbed by the UK government.