The government has said it will continue its increasingly controversial plan to make British citizens acquire identity cards despite documents coming to light that postpone the deadline to 2012.
The new start date, three years later than originally indicated, was contained in a leaked document, "NIS Delivery Strategy". The document, classified as "restricted", was prepared by the Home Office's Identity & Passport Service. The Identity & Passport Service is responsible for the ID cards project, which the government says will cost £5.4bn, but which the London School of Economics estimates could cost as much as £19.2bn.
Under the title "We have agreed a high-level roll-out strategy for the National Identity Scheme", a time line shows Borders phase 1, which covers foreign nationals, starting in late 2008. Borders phase 2, for UK citizens, is slated for 2012.
An Identity & Passport Service spokesman said, "We do not comment on leaked documents. We have always said that the scheme will be rolled out incrementally. We will begin issuing ID cards for foreign nationals this year, and the first ID cards for British citizens in 2009."
Notes to the leaked document say, "The scheme will build on and incorporate the work of the Borders Agency, which is introducing high levels of identity management for foreign nationals when they apply for visas and residence permits."
Immigration minister Liam Byrne said, "Customs and immigration officers are sharing more intelligence about threats to the country and are increasingly making use of each others' powers to protect the border."
He said that in "the next few years", the Border Agency would know in advance of tickets bought for travel to the UK. Foreign nationals who apply for visas to visit the UK already have to provide fingerprints under the government's £1.2bn e-Borders programme.
The Identity & Passport Service said it has issued more than eight million biometric passports since it started in 2006. "The next move is to include [citizens'] fingerprints in a second-generation biometric passport, in line with international developments in passport security. The date for that switchover to happen is currently under consideration as the UK is not bound by the EU passport Schengen regulations to do this in 2009," said a spokesman.
"The framework procurement for the scheme is currently underway. We will make further announcements about the roll out of ID cards in due course."