UK ID card scheme heading to failure
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Reports by The Sunday Times newspaper revealed an apparent failure of the UK
plans for ID cards resulting from an exchange of emails between David Foord,
the ID card project director at the Office of Government Commerce, and Peter
Smith, the acting commercial director of the Identity and Passport Service
The email sent in June by David Foord suggested ministers would be forced to
rethink the plans in order to meet the deadlines of introducing the cards by
2008. Peter Smith replied that his staff were prepared for the possibility
that ministers would drop the ID card plan altogether. He also said the Home
Office was making sure bigger contracts for projects linked to the ID card
scheme were being planned to compensate for the eventual sinking of the ID
Although it has denied claims that the national identity card programme was
in trouble, on 11 July, the Home Office said that the introduction of ID
cards would be dependent on the review of Home Office operations by the new
Home Secretary, John Reid.
A BBC report quoted Home Office sources as saying that tendering had been
postponed indefinitely. A Home Office spokesperson affirmed: “Any suggestion
that we have abandoned the introduction of ID cards is wrong. We have always
made clear that their introduction would be in stages – an incremental
process. That remains the position.”
David Blunkett, former Home Secretary, said that the project had always been
thought as staged and that it would make sense to issue cards to immigrants
and citizens of other EU countries as a first stage.
Prime Minister’s Official Spokesperson PMOS) claimed that a “slight
re-sequencing” of the plan would address the issue of foreign nationals
first. He apparently believes firmly that ID cards are a crucial tool in
dealing with migration and other identity issues.
The opinions are that the plan could be scaled down in an attempt to save
the face and that a downscaled version would only bring about an earlier
collapse of the entire project altogether.
The correspondence between the two civil servants suggested that the Home
Office and PM Blair were aware of the difficult situation of the programme
and Foord has shown that presently it has no approved business case, and has
described the construction and approval of one by March 2007 as “a
reasonable target but by no means guaranteed.”
Mr. Blair’s insistence on having the first ID cards in place by 2008 has
triggered an early smaller sized variant, as well as the creation of a TNIR
(Temporary National Identity Register) over which both Foord and Smith have
serious concerns especially regarding the timing.
Foord does not think TNIR can be procured, tested and run in such a short
period of time and he doubts the Government and industry have the necessary
resources two organise two overlapping procurements. Smith, in his turn,
stated TNIR was not part of the procurements that will allow IPS “business
as usual” to continue.
Emails from Whitehall officials in charge of ID cards (8.06.2006)
UK ID card scheme near collapse, as Blair pushes cut-down ‘variant’
Not delayed, not sleeping, dead – UK ID card scheme goes under (12.07.2006)
Home Office stands by ID cards (11.07.2006)
Does Reid plan to punish businesses mean ID card for immigrants?
EDRI-gram : PM supports UK ID Cards Act (24.05.2006)