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Queen's speech: Cuts start with ID cards, but broadband still a priority

The Queen has named high-speed broadband roll out and the abolition of the national ID cards project as priorities for the coalition government in the coming 18 months.

Her speech at the state opening of parliament also mentioned a commitment to removing barriers to flexible working.

The Identity Documents Bill, if enacted, will "scrap ID cards, and require the destruction of all personal information gathered from existing cardholders and currently held in the National Identity Register", the Home Office said in a statement after the Queen's speech.

The Freedom Bill will bring increased protection for those on the DNA database and enhanced regulation of CCTV use.

Details are continuing to emerge about how government departments will achieve the cuts they need to make to their budgets, with IT projects in the firing line after the government's first round of cuts yesterday.

The Department for Work and Pensions, which needs to reduce its spending by £535m, said it would save £70m by stopping or delaying IT projects and reducing spending on IT consultancy.

It will cut £25m by renegotiating contracts on medical and IT services, and IT staff will be subject to the recruitment freeze hitting the whole of central government.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) must reduce its annual budget by £836m, and has cut funding for the Institute of Web Science to help achieve this.

It planned to spend £5m in the first year on the project, which was only announced two months ago by then prime minister Gordon Brown. The department said it would continue to invest in the kind of research the institute would have carried out, but said it was a low priority project in the current economic climate.

A BIS spokesman said, "Future internet technologies represent an important area of research, which continues to be supported through the research councils and the Technology Strategy Board. The research councils are investing £117m in a Digital Economy Programme to help drive research in this area and more than £30m is being invested in specific projects relating to the semantic web.

"In light of the current pressures on public finances, the government has decided that it cannot support the creation of a new Institute for Web Science at Southampton University at this time."

The Ministry of Justice must cut £325m, and part of its plan to achieve the target is to review IT projects. It had no further detail on which projects were being reviewed, however.

A spokesman said, "£325m of savings will be delivered from cutting waste and inefficiency, including reviewing change programmes and ICT spend to ensure that only essential projects are taken forward."

The Department of Communities and Local Government must make one of the biggest reductions in budget, saving £780m, but a spokesman said it was still reviewing how it could achieve this.


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