Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Goodbye ID Cards?

There's a lot of noise being made at the moment about the government potentially scrapping ID cards. Sunder is hopeful that recent headlines mark the end of ID cards, personally. Looking at the issues I'm not so sure.

Firstly, there's the question of cost, the £5.4 billion cost was over 10 years (although this detail was often omitted by the Porterites) and if we take the Home Office's claims at face value that 80% of the cost would have been incurred anyway for the implementation of biometric passports and the like, we are left with a saving of around £108 million a year. Given also that the scheme was intended to be self financing with a charge of around £30 (which would seem to roughly cover the cost) it's hard to see this as anything other than a £3 a year tax cut. As a pragmatic, cost cutting measure, scrapping the ID cards scheme would seem to be fairly minor in it's impact.

Secondly, there's the government's decision to scrap parts of the Interception Modernisation Programme. This could be an indicator that some of the more "database state" projects are first in line for aggressive cost cutting, although given that certain elements of the IMP will be kept. This would seem more like a cost saving measure than any kind of change of ideological direction.

Finally, we get to the political implications. The media don't seem to be rating it highly as an issue, although scrapping it would be bound to have a political cost since it is a pretty big U turn and a lot of media coverage will focus on money wasted so far. It might be enough to win some people back to Labour's banner, although I think that most people who feel pasionately on civil liberties issues would regard it as too little too late.

On balance, I'd have to say that it doesn't quite look like the government is going to call time on ID cards. There isn't much to be gained politically and it's hard to identify any great cost saving. Personally, although I've argued in favour of the the policy in the past, it's pretty low down on my list of priorities so I won't be shedding any tears if I'm wrong.

1 comment:

stephen said...

On balance, I'd have to say that it doesn't quite look like the government is going to call time on ID cardsBut the government in 13 months time will be.