Peter Lilley, formal social security secretary, told a meeting at the London School of Economics that the business case for electronic ID cards was tiny or non-existent, and was greatly outweighed by the risks the cards posed to privacy.
The Home Office is consulting on plans to spend an estimated £1.5bn on ID cards that incorporate biometric technology to verify the identity of the card holder.
But similar proposals were rejected by the previous Conservative government as having little practical benefit Lilley revealed. "This was the only case of the Cabinet being asked to assess a solution looking for a problem," he said.
The Conservatives found little evidence that ID cards would reduce crime, and police would rather the money was spent on putting more bobbies on the beat.
Similarly, ID cards would not reduce benefit fraud. "There is very little identify fraud. We carried out random checks but it was minuscule. To claim that an ID card would prevent fraud in the benefit system is playing with words," said Lilley.