A campaign group against government waste has called on the government to cut its losses and scrap the compulsory ID card scheme.
"The money they have wasted so far is insignificant compared to the billions that will be squandered if they go ahead with the ID scheme," said Matthew Elliot, chief executive of the Tax Payers Alliance. "It is better they scrap it now. We just hope they are brave enough to do the right thing."
Critics say it will cost £5.5bn to complete the IT card scheme, according to the latest government figures released in May 2007.
Ministers have played down reports that compulsory ID cards for all Britons are to be scrapped, in favour of other measures in next week's Queen's Speech.
Cabinet minister Peter Hain told the BBC it was "not true" that the scheme was being put on the backburner. Meanwhile, Security Minister Lord West said he was "not aware" of any plans to "go cold" on universal ID cards. Home Office minister Tony McNulty told Sky News: "As far as I am aware universal ID cards remain on the agenda".
The government still has time to save face, insisted Elliot. They could even spin the withdrawal in their favour. "Imagine all the taxes that could be scrapped if they scrapped this scheme."