Top UK officials doubt national ID card plan

U.K. government officials doubt whether a national ID program will be ready by 2008 because of procurement and project management concerns, according to a series of leaked emails published Sunday.

The correspondence, published in the Sunday Times, said that if the government proceeds too quickly with an initial scaled-down version of the program as supported by Prime Minister Tony Blair, it could delay ID cards “for a generation.”

“I conclude that we are setting ourselves up to fail,” wrote David Foord, identified as the ID card project director at the Office of Government Commerce, which oversees the project for the U.K. treasury.

The e-mail, from early June, was leaked, an official with the Home Office said Monday. The official had no further comment.

The British parliament approved the ID card plan in March. Blair has pushed the program despite a backlash over privacy concerns, saying the cards will increase national security, reduce benefits fraud and strengthen immigration controls.

The plan calls for a National Identity Register, which will hold the details of some 50 million people. Citizens will get an ID card when they renew their passport, although a political compromise reached to pass the legislation means citizens can opt out of receiving the card until 2010.

The Home Office has estimated the program will cost C$1.2 billion per year, with citizens paying about C$190 for an ID card and a biometric passport. However, the London School of Economics has said the cost could be double government figures.

The U.K. government has come under frequent fire for its track record with other large-scale IT projects. The country’s National Health Service, which provide free health care, is modernizing its IT systems but wrangled with suppliers over missed deadlines and budget overruns.

Foord wrote that his conversations with stakeholders in the ID card plan have raised concerns over procurement, costs and program management. “This has all of the inauspicious signs of a project continuing to be driven by an arbitrary end date rather than reality,” he wrote.

Another e-mail showed maneuvering in case ID cards are cancelled. Peter Smith, acting commercial director at the Identity and Passport Service (IPS), wrote that upcoming contracts that will be let in the next few months should help IPS irrespective of where ID cards stand.

“We are designing the strategy so that they are all sensible and viable contracts in their own right even if the ID card gets canned completely,” Smith wrote.

An activist group aligned against ID cards, No2ID, said the e-mail shows government knew the plan was unworkable but proceeded regardless to fit Blair’s political agenda. No2ID has opposed the holding of personal data in a database.

“The Identity Cards Act is still far too dangerous to leave on the statute books,” No2ID said. “Now that the fraud is revealed, it must be repealed.”

Related Content:

Visit Vendor of Record, Canada’s online procurement directory

Would you recommend this article?


Thanks for taking the time to let us know what you think of this article!
We'd love to hear your opinion about this or any other story you read in our publication.

Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

Featured Download

Featured Articles

Cybersecurity in 2024: Priorities and challenges for Canadian organizations 

By Derek Manky As predictions for 2024 point to the continued expansion...

Survey shows generative AI is a top priority for Canadian corporate leaders.

Leaders are devoting significant budget to generative AI for 2024 Canadian corporate...

Related Tech News

Tech Jobs

Our experienced team of journalists and bloggers bring you engaging in-depth interviews, videos and content targeted to IT professionals and line-of-business executives.

Tech Companies Hiring Right Now