Blair facing ID card defeat as cost soars to £500 each


Last updated at 14:44 15 January 2006

Tony Blair faces the risk of a crushing defeat tomorrow over his plan to introduce ID cards after reports that they could cost up to £500 each - more than five times the Government's estimate.

David Cameron aims to force Mr Blair to reveal the true cost to individuals by ordering Conservative peers to team up with Liberal Democrat peers and Labour rebels in a key Lords vote.

The revolt received a major boost last night after the London School of Economics accused Home Secretary Charles Clarke of a 'scurrilous' campaign to sabotage attempts to discover the true cost.

£28bn cost

The LSE says the real cost of introducing ID cards could be as high as £28billion compared to Mr Clarke's estimate of £5.8billion. It would put the cost of each ID card up to £500, compared to his figure of just £100.

Government Whips fear they may lose tomorrow's crucial Lords vote on a Tory bid to ban the Government from introducing ID cards without an independent analysis of how much they will cost.

Most experts believe that any such study would produce a similar figure to the LSE and effectively kill the scheme. Opinion polls show support for ID cards evaporates if the cost is more than £100.

A similar LSE report last year led to a furious row between Mr Clarke and the world-renowned college. In tomorrow's report, the college defends its original £18billion estimate of cost and says Mr Clarke has made it impossible for it to work out how much extra it will cost to extend ID cards to all Whitehall department computer systems.

However, LSE lecturer Simon Davies claims the additional sum could be £10billion, taking the final bill to £28billion - or £500 a head.

"The Government figures are impossibly low," said Mr Davies. "We wanted a breakdown of Home Office costings but they blocked us at every turn. This project could be the most costly technological disaster in the history of this country."

Proposals flawed

The report says the Home Office plans are 'dysfunctional and harmful to the public interest', adding: "Despite severe handicaps imposed by the Home Office, we were able to assess important new material that supports and strengthens the concerns raised in our first report."

Shadow Home Secretary David Davis said: "The LSE report exposes the true cost of ID cards and massive inconsistencies and flaws in Mr Clarke's proposals. This money would be much better spent on more effective ways of preventing serious crime, terrorism, identity fraud and protecting our borders."

Once ID cards are introduced, it will be impossible to get a driving licence or passport without first obtaining an ID card.

David Cameron's leadership has given the Tories a four-point lead over Labour, according to an opinion poll published today. The ICM survey for the News Of The World puts the Tories on 39 per cent and Labour on 35 per cent.