Identity Cards: Cost

– in the House of Lords at 2:53 pm on 12th July 2005.

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Photo of Lord Lyell Lord Lyell Conservative 2:53 pm, 12th July 2005

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is their current estimate of the cost of the identity card scheme.

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State (Criminal Justice and Offender Management), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

My Lords, the current best estimate of the average annual operating costs of issuing biometric passports and ID cards to UK nationals and operating identity verification services is £584 million, which was published on 25 May. Around 70 per cent of these costs will be incurred by issuing biometric passports, which we will have to do to keep our passports secure.

Photo of Lord Lyell Lord Lyell Conservative

My Lords, I am extremely grateful to the noble Baroness for that reply. However, if someone of my age does not want to renew a passport but does want a card, how much will it cost, and how will the shortfall between what everyone is paying and the total cost of the cards—£584 million as of last Wednesday—be covered?

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State (Criminal Justice and Offender Management), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

My Lords, I am delighted to have the opportunity to answer the noble Lord's Question, as I will the next Question—just to reassure noble Lords that I will be here for a while.

The figure, as I said, will be made up primarily—70 per cent—from biometric passports. Concessions for age or lack of ability to pay will be considered nearer the time.

Photo of Lord Marlesford Lord Marlesford Conservative

My Lords, does the Minister understand why someone such as me, who is fully in support of having foolproof biometric identity cards for the 50 million-plus people in this country, has absolutely no confidence in the capability of the Home Office to introduce it? That is for the simple reason that, after the seven years since Parliament required it, the Home Office has not even succeeded in introducing the electronic register of firearm certificates for a few hundred thousand people.

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State (Criminal Justice and Offender Management), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

My Lords, I know why the noble Lord has a particular anxiety in that regard, but I reassure him that the Passport Office, in its new form, will be responsible for dealing with identity cards. It has an exemplary record. It produces and delivers a very high quality service. I hear noble Lords opposite saying that they do not believe it, but I invite them to remember that the Passport Office is the only organisation that has now received two international awards for its superb service.

Photo of Viscount Montgomery of Alamein Viscount Montgomery of Alamein Crossbench

My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that I am one of the few people in this place who volunteered to be a guinea pig in the identity card scheme? I think that they are a very good thing.

Photo of Lord Dholakia Lord Dholakia Deputy Leader, House of Lords, Spokesperson in the Lords, Home Affairs

Will the Minister thank the Home Secretary, who has confirmed that the introduction of ID cards would have done nothing to stop the terrorist attack last week in London? However, has she had an opportunity to revisit and reconsider the London School of Economics report on the costing of ID cards? Will she now confirm that the estimate given by the LSE is correct? If those estimates were converted into police officer appointments, how many new police officers could we employ?

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State (Criminal Justice and Offender Management), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

My Lords, we do not accept the LSE figures; we have had the opportunity to consider them. Our figures are robust and are based on our data from operations that have been undertaken before. A number of the premises on which the LSE appears to have founded its assessment appear to be flawed. I will make a full response in due course, but that is certainly our initial view.

I can also confirm that we do not suggest that ID cards of themselves would have stopped what happened so terribly on the 7th. What we say—and it is confirmed by our colleagues in Madrid and elsewhere—is that identity cards are a very valuable tool and can certainly assist us in relation to false identity. I remind the House that we do not yet know whether false identity played a part in that most disgraceful incident.

Photo of Lord Davies of Coity Lord Davies of Coity Labour

My Lords, is my noble friend aware of the poll reported in the Times today that shows that an astonishing majority of the British people wants ID cards?

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State (Criminal Justice and Offender Management), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

My Lords, I am aware that the figure is high. In fact, the preliminary findings of a Taylor Nelson Sofres survey were published on 27 June this year and found that 70 per cent of citizens were willing to apply for a combined passport and ID card while fully understanding the personal investment they would need to make in terms of price, and 73 per cent support the Government's proposal to introduce an identity card scheme.

Photo of Lord Kilclooney Lord Kilclooney Crossbench

My Lords, as citizens of the Republic of Ireland have freedom of access into the United Kingdom and freedom of movement within it, can the Minister comment on press reports that Her Majesty's Government are now in discussions with the Dublin Government to have ID cards introduced into the Republic of Ireland as well?

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State (Criminal Justice and Offender Management), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

My Lords, I cannot comment on that. I hear what the noble Lord says. If there is information about it, I am afraid that I do not have it.