Orders of the Day — Identity Cards Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:21 pm on 28th June 2005.

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Photo of Mark Oaten Mark Oaten Shadow Secretary of State for Home Affairs, Home Affairs 5:21 pm, 28th June 2005

The hon. and learned Gentleman makes my point. The Government state a figure, make out that there is a major problem and suggest that ID cards can solve it. In reality when we break down the figures we realise that the cards will not help to deal with the problem.

Even if we were to accept that all those problems could be solved by the use of ID cards, and even if we bought into the Government's arguments, from terrorism to ID theft, we would still have to consider whether we can set up such a system at a reasonable cost. That is the most complex part of the debate.

The Liberal Democrats accept the need to upgrade passports, so we are arguing not against the total cost, but against the costs that are additional to what we accept needs to be done under our international responsibilities. However, the problem is that the Government are, yet again, being disingenuous; they are suggesting a level of upgrade for passports that is not actually needed, and in doing so they are trying to hide and bring in the full cost of ID cards under a passport scheme. That is wrong both in my judgment and in that of the authors of the LSE report, who state:

"We find that the Government is unnecessarily binding the identity card scheme to internationally recognised requirements on passport documents. By doing so, the Government has failed to correctly interpret international standards, generating unnecessary costs, using untested technologies and going well beyond the measures adopted in any other country that seeks to meet international obligations."

We are gold-plating-plus what is required for the upgrading of passports, and the Government are using that to hide some of the costs of ID cards.

We do not need to look at the recent LSE report for the costings or to listen to Kable's assessment of the costs; we simply have to look at the Government's own costs to realise that they are spiralling out of control. When the House last debated the costs involved, we were told that the cost for an individual would be about £77 and that the overall cost would be £3.1 billion—yet according to the Government's figures today the cost will be £93 for an individual and the overall total has risen to £5.8 billion. In such a short time, there has been a huge increase. That is not a dodgy LSE report but the Home Office's estimate of the costs.

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