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Response to the Home Secretary's comments on the LSE's identity cards study

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Today (Thursday 16 June) on BBC Radio 4's Today Programme, the Home Secretary Charles Clarke responded to recent media coverage of the LSE's assessment that the proposed Identity Card scheme will cost in the order of £300 per card. The Home Secretary said that this 'is a complete nonsense figure' and promised that the cost of the card would be much less.

The cost estimates in question were drawn from a leaked section of the LSE's Identity Project, a six-month project into national identity systems, with a specific focus on the UK Identity Card Bill. This project involves a steering group of 14 professors, and a research group of nearly 100 academics, experts, and industry representatives from around the world. The project is hosted by the Department of Information Systems at LSE. An interim report was released for review in March 2005, and is available here| 

The final report is due to be published next week - more details will be confirmed soon.

The draft section on costs from the LSE report did not suggest a unit cost for the ID card. Rather it predicted that the proposed identity and passport system would cost £12 - £18 billion over ten years. Some commentators have deduced a figure of £300 per card by taking the highest point of the estimate and dividing it by the UK population.

At no point has the LSE's report suggested such a figure. The project's team does, however, stand by its estimate that the scheme will cost between £12 and £18 billion. This figure takes into account public sector integration - a factor which had not been assessed by the government.

LSE staff involved in the project have attempted repeatedly throughout the six-month duration of this project to engage the Home Office, with no success until yesterday (15 June) when a Home Office official contacted the LSE research team to express an interest in principle to explore co-operation.

The project team is fully prepared to work with the Home Office on any subsequent research work on identity cards and offers up the interim report and some suggestions for an alternative model to be considered as this debate continues. These are available on the web at The Identity Card Bill debate: what model might work?|

We believe the process adopted by the project has been fully transparent at all stages. Director Howard Davies said: "The researchers involved have offered to discuss this work with the Home Office several times. Charles Clarke may not like the conclusions, but he has no basis to question the integrity of the LSE or those conducting the research."

Press cuttings

Times Online
ID card vote a taste of battles to come (17 June 05) 

Scots ID card to cover less than in England but cost the same (17 June 05) 

Letters to the editor: The advantages and downfalls of planned ID card scheme (17 June 05)
Readers letters on the issue of ID cards, with mention of Dr James Backhouse of LSE, who claims that the system would encourage identity fraud. 

Clarke attacks LSE over '£300 ID card' claim (16 June 05) 

The Sun
Clarke's ID rage (17 June 05) 

Daily Mail
You're mad, 'desperate' Clarke tells ID critics (17 June 05)
Patrick Dunleavy, professor of government, said its figures were not 'plucked out of the air'. The study was a serious body of work and there was a ' considerable area of doubt' about the Government's figures, such as the costs of enrolling people, checking data and making cards. The Home Office's cost figure 'does not seem to us to be realistic', he added.

BBC News Online
£300 price tag on ID cards 'mad' (17 June 05)

Glasgow Evening Times
No ID card needed to use NHS (17 June)  

Evening Standard
Clarke says £300 ID card cost is rubbish (16 June 05)
No link available

Clarke dismisses report on £300 ID cards (16 June) 

ID Cards on Trial: Charles Clarke slams "media scare campaign" (16 June 05) 

16 June 2005