Minister rejects claims ID cards are high-risk


Minister rejects claims ID cards are high-risk

Bill Goodwin
The government launched a robust defence of its multibillion-pound ID card programme last week, rounding on critics that argue the scheme is too risky and too complex.

Tony McNulty, the Home Office minister for nationality, immigration and citizenship, attacked IT experts who have raised concerns that the project is too high-risk.

The fact that some large government projects have failed in the past does not mean the government should not attempt the ID card project, he said.

The government had learned lessons from previous IT failures, and had improved its risk assessment and project management processes.

"This is a large undertaking, a very ambitious undertaking, but that should not mean, as some of our detractors argue, that we shouldn't bother," he said.

McNulty defended the lack of technical detail in the ID Cards Bill, saying it was a framework that could not be expected to legislate for every dot and comma in the programme.

"Opponents make most noise about what the government is not proposing, and attack it in the context of what it is not going to do," he said.

There will be no Big Brother database, no new police powers to demand ID cards, and the government's powers will come under the scrutiny of a national ID cards commissioner, McNulty said.

The minister rejected claims that the ID card system could breach the European Convention on Human Rights, arguing that 21 out of 25 European states have already introduced some form of ID card, some of them electronic, without raising human rights issues.

Government departments will require separate parliamentary approval before they can ask for ID cards in return for public services, said McNulty.

"There will be no automatic requirement to produce an ID card to access a public service," he said.

Public and private sector organisations will be accredited to use ID cards to verify identities or to check addresses, but this will not give them a licence to go on a trawling exercise.

"There are strong criminal sanctions in the bill to protect privacy. Offenders can be given up to 10 years for tampering with the registry," he said

McNulty said the government and the private sector had been working on the technology for ID cards for more than two years.

It would not be a case of starting the project with a zero knowledge base once the bill passes through parliament.

The government aimed to put the project out for tender by the end of the year, McNulty said.

ID card programme director Katherine Courtney said IT suppliers would be invited to submit "imaginative solutions" and the government welcomed initiatives from niche companies as well as major suppliers.

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