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Orders of the Day — Identity Cards Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:19 pm on 20th December 2004.

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Photo of John Denham John Denham Chair, Home Affairs Committee 6:19 pm, 20th December 2004

Having dealt with the point of principle, let me come to procurement, which is important. We do not conclude, as a House, that we should not have a Child Support Agency because we have had problems with the computer, or that we should not have a pensions system because we have had problems with the system. The critical thing is to get it right.

I will say to the Home Secretary that we need to adopt a more open procurement system, with more scrutiny and challenge to each component of that system than is so far apparent. That is what has been done in Italy, and that is why procurement in Italy has been more successful than our track record shows we have been. I hope that my right hon. Friend and his ministerial colleagues will look at the procurement system, which was raised by the Select Committee as a matter of considerable concern.

I want to touch briefly on a few more issues that the Government need to deal with to get things right. On cost, it is important that the Home Secretary, in seeking, understandably, to minimise, or at least not to overstate, the cost of the system to central Government must not assume that others will readily pick up the cost of the card reader system, the infrastructure system and so on. We should listen to the Local Government Association. When it gave evidence to the Home Affairs Committee, it saw the value of having the system but was worried about the costs that it would have to pick up to make use of it.

The infrastructure costs to support the register are critical to the success of the system. Forgery need not be a problem, provided there is an adequate infrastructure of card readers and that they are used regularly enough. There is a cost to that, although it is nothing like the mathematically erroneous £1 billion mentioned earlier. The Government will need to give detailed costings as quickly as possible.