The Home Office said last week it will roll out its £5.3bn ID card programme gradually, in a process that will allow the government to learn lessons as it goes along, rather than risk a big bang approach.
The government plans to simplify the project by building the ID card programme on top of the UK Passport Service programme to roll out biometric passports, card programme director Katherine Courtney revealed.
ID cards will be issued gradually to people from 2008, when their passports expire, allowing the government to gradually ramp-up the number of ID card holders from a few hundred thousand to the whole population, she said.
"The delays in the ID Cards Bill have allowed some preliminary work with the UK Passport Service. We have decided to build on developments going forward in the UK Passport Service," she said.
Courtney said the Home Office had learned from the experience of other government projects and was confident that the project would work.
The Home Office had conducted consultations, and put in place a proper project management team, systems to monitor risks, reporting and plan lines before the project was announced in 2003, she said.
"In the past, some projects have done all of this in the programme stage. In this case the Home Office has tried to do these things in parallel."
When the general election caused the ID Cards Bill to run out of parliamentary time earlier this year it gave the project team further opportunities to work with user groups and suppliers, said Courtney.
However, providing the ID Cards Bill receives royal assent next year, the project would remain on track for roll-out in 2008 she added. "If there is further slippage the timetable may need to be rethought."
Government chief information officer Ian Watmore said the Home Office was minimising the risk of the project by working with suppliers, using IT supplier organisation Intellect's jointly agreed "concept viability" process.
"The major risk is, is it feasible? Will it work? Can we get the business case right? Have we done enough planning in advance?" he said.
The Home Office is carrying out in-depth consultations with suppliers to evaluate the most appropriate way to develop the project. It will be managed through a new Home Office agency.