National ID card project 'could cost £19bn'

The London School of Economics (LSE) says the government’s national ID card scheme could cost up to £19.2bn to implement, more than twice the government’s current estimate.

The London School of Economics (LSE) says the government’s national ID card scheme could cost up to £19.2bn to implement, more than twice the government’s current estimate.

According to the LSE, each card could cost as much as £230 to issue. The government says its current ID card scheme will see the public having to pay around £93 each for a card.

The LSE said the lowest cost of the government’s plans would be £10.6bn, assuming there were no cost over-runs or implementation problems, but that “key uncertainties” meant the cost could rise to £19.2bn.

The LSE published its figures after a six-month study into the proposed ID scheme. The parliamentary bill covering the project has reached its second reading, and is expected to face fierce opposition, not least from Labour rebels campaigning against a government with a greatly reduced majority.

Around 100 industry representatives were consulted by the LSE for the report, which raises key concerns about the scheme. 

Evidence from other national identity systems shows they perform best when established for clear and focused purposes. The LSE said the UK scheme had “multiple rather than general rationales”.

It also pointed out that no scheme on this scale has been undertaken anywhere in the world. Smaller and less ambitious schemes have encountered substantial technological and operational problems that are likely to be amplified in such a large national system. 

The use of biometrics is of particular concern to the LSE, as this technology has never been used on such a large scale. 

The LSE also said the proposed national data register database would create a very large data pool in one place, which could be targeted by hackers, and cause wide-ranging problems for the country if it were put out of action.

The legality of the identity cards bill is also challenged in the report, as it appears to be unsafe in law, according to the LSE. A number of elements potentially compromised articles 8 (privacy) and 14 (discrimination) of the European Convention on Human Rights, the report said.

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