UK Liberty

PM’s press conference Monday 6 Nov 2006 – identity cards

Posted in ID Cards by ukliberty on November 8, 2006

For whatever reason, Tony Blair intended identity cards to be the focus of Monday’s press conference. However, the press seemed more interested in his opinions on Iraq, Saddam Hussein’s death penalty, and the role of the Attorney-General in the cash-for-peerages inquiry. But before they could ask him the tough questions, they had to endure some retreading of old ground.

The majority of the public seem to be in favour of identity cards in principle, but don’t seem sure that the Government can successfully deploy such a system. Here I attempt to analyse and hopefully refute some of his claims and arguments.

First, Blair set out what he called “four essential benefits”:

  1. “secure borders”;
  2. “a protective shield for the vulnerable”;
  3. “better detection of crime”; and,
  4. “fraud prevention”.

Now, I think most people would support these as aspirations. So how can the Identity Card and National Register scheme help (or hinder)?

Secure borders

Blair said,

  1. “we can be clear who is here”;
  2. “we can improve the integrity of our asylum system”;
  3. “we can reduce illegal immigration and disrupt terrorist activity”;
  4. “it gives us better access to services”;
  5. “the electronic border system will in time let us count people in and out”; and,
  6. “we will be able to screen individuals before they have left home.’

I believe most people would agree with the above as aspirations. Rightly or wrongly the public generally want to know who is here, how many there are, and whether or not they have the right to live and work here.

My inner cynic suggests that New Labour try to outflank the Conservatives on the issues on which the Conservatives are traditionally more trusted. Immigration is one of these issues. In addition, the Government’s immigration policies have received a lot of criticism. Over to Blair:

“Illegal working would obviously be very much harder. An employer would simply need to check a person’s unique reference number against the identity register to demonstrate that the employee was permitted to work in the UK.”

He is referring to the Identity Verification Service. As far as I know we have not yet been told how exactly it will work, but presumably in this context the job applicant gives his ‘unique reference number’ to the employer, and the employer contacts the IVS, which responds with whether or not the applicant has permission to work. The employer will be charged for the use of this service.

“I don’t see how you do it, there is no other way of checking who has a right to be here and who hasn’t.”

Three things spring to mind.

First, we already have systems and procedures intended to prevent illegal working – the problem here seems largely one of enforcement, perhaps due to a lack of resources or, more accurately, resources being concentrated on one type of problem at the expense of another, perhaps because of what is in the news this week.

For instance, the police have complained about a “routine” lack of enforcement with regard to when they inform the IND that suspected illegal immigrants are in the cells. At times the focus of the IND appears to have been the processing of asylum seekers, leaving less resources for dealing with illegal immigration. My inner cynic again pops up and suggests that this is because asylum seekers are easier to track. That aside, presumably it’s believed that the ID card and National Register will save money here.

Second, it seems to me that we will need some joined-up thinking in Government. Currently, an employer has a defence to a charge of employing a person not entitled to work if he can show the employee’s National Insurance number (even though NInos weren’t intended to prove entitlement to work) and another official document. But “hundreds of thousands” of National Insurance numbers are given to foreign nationals without any check on their status’. Will a similar problem arise with the National Register’s ‘unique reference numbers’?

Third, how will the system cope with employers who don’t mind whether or not they employ illegal workers?

In fairness, it seems to me that the new system could mitigate the problem of ‘overstayers’. These are people who are granted NI nos. because they have arrived on valid student or ‘working holiday’ visas, but who continue to work here after their visas have expired.

However, it seems to me that, unless there was some sort of automated system keeping track of relevant employees in the UK, this would only help if employers happened to checked the status of employees after the visas had expired. I cannot see employers volunteering to do this particularly if there is a charge for the use of the IVS (there apparently will be such a charge).

Then there is the problem of those on student visas who don’t bother attending educational courses once they are here.

Blair claims that detecting illegal immigrants at the border will be “obviously of significant benefit”. I cannot comment on this as, for instance, I do not know how much this costs the country (the public purse) in terms of lost revenue. But one figure I have seen puts the lost income tax at between £485m and £1bn. Could this be reduced by the identity card system?

Presumably the system is to be integrated with the £540m (was £400m) e-borders systems (a subject for another post, but plenty of information is available from the web) checking travellers entering and exiting the country. This aspect of the two systems has been discussed elsewhere.

A protective shield for the vulnerable

Blair said,

“The second benefit is the improved protection we can offer to the most vulnerable. At the moment checking the identity of potential employees can be complex and it can be bureaucratic. The National Identity Register will allow people to know that their prospective, for example, child minder or carer is indeed the person that they claim to be. The criminal record can be searched rapidly and easily.”

But does Mrs Jones want to know that this person claiming to be John Smith is in fact John Smith, or that this person claiming to be John Smith isn’t a child abuser? I suspect the latter. Does Blair misapprehend the concern people have about carers and childminders?

It seems to me that here the identity card and National Register isn’t of much use at all – particularly with regard to criminal records, as these are prohibited from being held on the Register (primary legislation will be required to change this).

If the employer wants to know whether or not the applicant has a criminal record, the employer will still need to apply for a CRB disclosure.

Identity doesn’t tell us much at all about intention.

Better detection of crime

Blair said,

“Criminal detection is the third potential benefit. Over the past 50 years the detection rate halved. It has come back up again in the last 2 years but with the secure ID we can speed up these improvements. We will be able to compare, for example, some 900,000 outstanding crime scene marks with fingerprints held centrally.”

What he is implicitly claiming here is that there are some 900,000 reported crimes that would be solved if everyone in the UK was fingerprinted. This is good – but is it outweighed by the disadvantages of the scheme?

“If we do not use technology in order to combat it, then we will not be fighting crime effectively.”

But is the response proportionate?

For instance, crime would undoubtedly be reduced if we were all locked in our homes 24 hours a day. Is that a proportionate response to crime? Of course not.

Also, we were told that the police wouldn’t be allowed to use the system for fishing expeditions.

Fraud prevention

Blair said,

“There were somewhere in the region of 135,000 cases of identity fraud in 2005 with over 55,000 reported cases in the private sector. Identity fraud – the estimates vary – but roughly in the region of £1.7 billion a year is what it has cost the country. And the value of major fraud cases in the Crown Courts is also at record levels.”

I cannot comment on the numbers of cases, but in my opinion his latter two arguments seem fraudulent.

First, the claim that “identity fraud” costs the country “roughly in the region of £1.7 billion a year”. This figure was obtained from a Home Office Identity Fraud Steering Committee document entitled An updated estimate of the cost of identity fraud to the UK economy. This figure (and last year’s estimate of £1.3bn from the Cabinet Office) has been comprehensively discredited. For example,

The first misleading calculation is the inclusion of figures from card payments body APACS totalling £504.8m. The number equates to the simple theft of a credit or debit card as well as genuine ID fraud. APACS spokesman Mark Bowerman told that ID fraud actually cost the payments industry just £36.9m in 2004 and that for the first six months of 2005 it has actually dropped by 16 per cent, mainly due to the introduction of chip and PIN.

i.e. the appropriate APACS figure is an order of magnitude lower than the Government claim.

Skipping to the end,

When all these non-ID fraud figures are taken out of the Home Office calculations the actual total annual cost of ID fraud to the UK is just £494m.

i.e. a more realistic estimate is over three times less than the Government claim.

Never mind as, according to the Home Office, it’s ‘not an exact science’, and despite a more realistic estimate being three times less, the £1.7bn remains a ‘conservative estimate’. But then, the Home Office does have trouble with accounting.
Second, the claim that “the value of major fraud cases in the Crown Courts is also at record levels”. Apparently it is but these frauds are mainly accounting frauds, not identity frauds, so it seems dishonest to use all such cases in support of identity cards.

Moving on, Blair said,

“Searching through the rubbish can provide the person with all that they need to steal an identity”

But even if the state provided every household with a shredder at say £10 apiece, it would cost the public purse just £220m. That’s about twenty-five times less than the estimated cost of the scheme (£5.6bn). And I cannot think of any security problems or social costs that would be caused by this solution.

“but forging an ID card and a matching biometric record will obviously be quite another matter.”

But is forging these passports and cards going to be difficult? Of course, it depends on how the forgery is to be used.

At the top-end of security (and the most expensive), a scan of your fingerprint or iris and a link to the Identity Verification Service, the cardholder must have a corresponding entry on the National Register. But an organisation might choose not to use the IVS, instead relying on a visual inspection of the card. Clearly then the forgery and cardholder need only pass a visual inspection – and the Register will not play any part whatsoever.

Ok, let’s say the organisation to be fooled uses the highest level of security. Now the criminal must consider bribing a civil servant with access to the Register so that he can get a ‘real’ alternative identity or someone else’s, bribe a person within the target organisation, or chop off his fingers (say) in order to use his fingerprints.

Blair said,

“identity cards cannot make the situation worse in respect of people’s identity being stolen, because if you think about it for a moment you are going to have a far more secure way of protecting your identity because of the biometric technology.”

It might make this sort of fraud less prevalent nationally, but I can certainly conceive of how it can be made worse for individuals. The Identity Card and National Register is to provide the ‘gold standard’ of identity, and therefore it seems conceivable that there will be a market in identities, just as there is in passports and visas.

How much would a criminal be prepared to bribe a civil servant to ‘own’ one e.g. by having their biometrics – face, fingerprints and iris – substituted for the original owner’s biometrics? How difficult will life become for the original ‘owner’ of the identity?

Such problems – the security problems it can cause, how the system can fail, and what happens when it fails – have not as far as I know been discussed in public by the government.

On government IT

Blair said,

“People say for example this is a large-scale IT project, the government cannot do such projects. But if you take for example the DWP’s payment programme: 22.5 million accounts now paid directly, delivered on time and under budget. Or indeed a better analogy is the Identity Passport Service Database of the British Passports records holding 70 million records. They have issued 2.5 million biometric passports – the Passport Office – since March.”

The DWP recently abandoned an IT project, after spending £141m. Late last year the new benefit system (and job cuts) contributed to delaying first benefit payments from two weeks to six weeks. The CSA’s new IT system (CS2) was over budget, delayed, and the CSA itself was axed.

Problems with the new Passport Agency IT system in 1999 led to a cost of £12.6m (including £6m for additional staffing and umbrellas for those waiting in the rain at £16k) with at one point a backlog of over half a million passports and compensation to the public totalling over £161k. A new online passport applications system (EPA2) was due to be introduced in late 2004 but was delayed until May 2006. It was withdrawn, and the old system EPA1 brought back online, when its performance was such that applicants were in danger of having to cancel their holidays.

How many government IT projects aren’t delivered on time and under budget?

This is by no means an exhaustive answer:

  1. the NHS IT programme;
  2. the police computer system, Impact;
  3. the Magistrates Courts system, Libra;
  4. the National Insurance Recording System (NIRS2);
  5. the PAYE end-of-year filing system (ERIC);
  6. the Inland Revenue Tax Credits System;
  7. the Benefits Payment Card project;
  8. the Crown Prosecution Service’s case tracking computer system;
  9. the Criminal Records Bureau disclosure service;
  10. the Home Office’s Immigration and Nationality Directorate Casework programme;
  11. the Air Traffic Control system;
  12. the Probation Service system;
  13. the Ministry of Defence’s Project Trawlerman;
  14. the “flagship elearning project UKeU“;
  15. the Northern Ireland Vehicle System Replacement Project;
  16. the National Firearms License Management System;
  17. FiReControl, the IT contract for nine regional Fire Service centres replacing 46 local offices;
  18. the Treasury’s Child Trust Fund;
  19. the Treasury’s Pensions Schemes project;
  20. a project in the Treasury’s Actuary Department;
  21. the Rural Payments Agency’s IT; and,
  22. the DWP’s online retirement planner.

A list that begs the questions,

  1. are big, centralised government IT projects a good idea?
  2. would it be better to run IT projects at a smaller scale and more local level?

The NAO recently published a report identifying twenty-four public and private sector IT projects considered a success, including eight from central government:

  1. DWP’s Payment Modernisation Programme;
  2. the DTI’s Consumer Direct single access number to free advice;
  3. the DTI’s website;
  4. DEFRA’s Warm Front Scheme;
  5. the Pension Service’s Pension Credit scheme;
  6. the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency’s Operator Self-Service;
  7. eSourcing;
  8. the Environment Agency’s Fishing Rod Licenses project.

So it’s not all bad!

But NAO reports and media articles reveal errors in common to many government IT projects: changing objectives and priorities, poor understanding of and management of risks, unrealistic timetables and budgets, and a lack of accountability and transparency. These are the errors that cause failure, and they are exactly the problems that critics have suggested the Home Office is encountering with the Identity Cards and National Register scheme. And it is already running a year late.

On who will have access to the system

Blair said,

“full accreditation will be required for any organisation to access the data with the individual’s consent”.

This ties into the “if you having nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear” argument used by many of the schemes proponents. An implicit assumption is that your data will not be abused, which flies in the face of the facts:

  • the DVLA sold on data without consent to convicted criminals;
  • a DVLA employee sold data to animal rights extremists;
  • ‘Security at the British Home Office’s Identity and Passport Service (IPS) database has been compromised four times, with individuals’ data used inappropriately by Home Office employees and contractors. A fifth breach has hit a Prison Service database.’
  • ‘Certified private sector agents of the CRB database had routinely abused their power, the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (Nacro) reported in January, after receiving 15,000 complaints from ex-offenders in the recent year.’
  • ‘Failing to collect, retain and pass on material to others to protect children and other vulnerable people is a misconduct issue as much as the misuse of PNC data which has been a consistent problem during the last 20 years – and still poses a challenge today for the new IPCC. The types of cases in which abuse occur include using the PNC to gain evidence for civil proceedings, to find evidence about a partner’s estranged husband, or to check out a daughter’s latest boyfriend. There is also the perennial problem of data being sold to private detectives.’
  • ‘A police officer has been jailed for two-and-a-half years for accepting money to pass on information to a Saudi Arabian intelligence officer. ‘
  • ‘Staff at the Inland Revenue are breaching the Data Protection Act by gaining unauthorised access to the computer records of taxpayers, including celebrities, and in some cases selling information. ‘
  • ‘A major security alert began at an east London police station when two workers used its criminal database to check up on their boyfriends, a court heard. ”
  • Jack and Zena ended up in Grimsby, where someone at the DSS leaked their whereabouts; three men turned up at the office claiming to be Zena’s brothers and demanding to know her address.’
  • ‘Two private investigators, John Boyall and Stephen Whittamore, civilian police worker Paul Marshall, and retired police officer Alan King, were involved in a conspiracy to sell details relating to actor Ricky Tomlinson, London Mayor Ken Livingstone and EastEnders actress Jessie Wallace. According to reports, on 19 occasions, Marshall, who worked at Wandsworth Police Station, carried out unauthorised Police National Computer searches and passed the information on through intermediaries King and sometimes Boyall, to Whittamore, who peddled the data to the newspapers.’
  • Investigations by [ICO] staff and police had uncovered “evidence of a pervasive and widespread ‘industry’ devoted to the illegal buying and selling of [personal] information”‘

On the argument that as other countries are doing it, we should too

Blair said,

“The key point is that biometric passports are going to be required anyway. The introduction of biometric passports this year has meant that British passport holders retain their right to visa-free travel to the US. The European Union has recently agreed to introduce both fingerprint and facial biometrics for Member States passports within the Schengen area, and the reality is biometric passports which we are going to have to do irrespective of what happens on the identity base. And the interesting thing also is that we are not alone in doing this.

“It is sometimes suggested this is almost a whim of myself or the government but unrelated to what is happening around the world. The same factors are leading countries right round the world to be doing similar things. 52 of the 55 largest passport issuing countries are developing biometric passports or have firm plans to do so, and for example Italy, Spain, Portugal and France are planning to introduce, or are debating the introduction of biometrics in their existing ID systems.”

The International Civil Aviation Organisation’s (ICAO) minimum standard for a biometric passport requires that the passport photo is stored on a chip in the passport, with the finger and iris being used at the discretion of the issuing State. As I understand it this is also the minimum required by the USA.

Are we to infer that the UK has little to no influence on these standards? The addition of the fingerprint biometric was proposed by the ‘UK’ during the UK’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union! Prior to our presidency the minimum requirement was again the digitally stored passport photo. I must add that we have two seats on the ICAO, and therefore a little influence.

But, more importantly, I find extraordinary the leap he makes from biometric passports to an Identity Card and National Register.

Other countries are developing or deploying biometric passports – and that is up to their populations – but are they storing the information that legally may be stored in our National Register? Are those countries going to make this information available for purposes other than border control? He does not say.

Germany seems a pertinent example. German citizens over the age of 16 are obliged to carry identity cards, but these are issued by local, not central, government. German law forbids the creation of a German equivalent to our National Register.

On how much it will cost

Blair went on to say,

“And the point is this: what this means is given that we have to do biometric passports, 70% of the cost will be incurred in any event.”

Well, 30% of £5.4bn isn’t an amount of money that I would so casually dismiss!

“Of the actual combined passport and ID card, 70% of that cost is necessary for the biometric passport. So the relevant cost of the ID card for the purpose of this debate is the premium over the cost of the new biometric passport, and on current estimates biometric passports will on average cost at round about £66 and then the ID card will add less than £30 on top of that. And if you take it over the 10 year period it is about £3 per year.”

But this is the cost to the individual at the point of sale – i.e. when you purchase your biometric passport or identity card – not the cost to the public purse. In other words, the estimated cost of the scheme of £5.4bn is the cost to the Home Office budget (a portion of which will be paid for at the point of sale), not other government departments, public authorities, and the private sector.

About the portion from point of sale: going on the Government’s assumptions about passport and identity card take-up, there is a deficit between the revenue from the take-up and the estimated cost of the scheme in the public domain. The Government assumes that, over ten years, the 80% of the population (80% of 60m) with passports will replace their passports, and the remaining 20% will purchase identity cards, so:

12m * £30 = £360m

48m * £66= £3,168m

360m + 3,168m = 3,528m

£5.4 bn – £3.528 bn = £1.872bn

That’s £1.872bn to found from somewhere. As I’ve said elsewhere they are planning to charge for use of the scheme, but don’t be surprised if the passport price increases again.

At this point it seems worth looking at the estimated cost of the NHS IT project – now approaching £20bn, but originally £5bn. Health Minister Lord Warner said of this,

“The latter figure covered only the national contracts for the systems’ basic infrastructure and software applications,”

…and not the additional money needed to train staff, integrate existing systems and so on.

“This has always been the case.”

But, as far as I know, the public was not told this was the case – that it would be £20bn instead of £5bn. We were told that it would be £5bn.

With this in mind, how much will it cost for the DWP to be able to use the identity cards and National Register in order to correctly administer benefit payments? How much will it cost for the NHS authorities to ensure that only those entitled to NHS treatment receive it? How much will it cost for police authorities to use the Register to clear up those 900,000 outstanding crimes and those that occur in the future?

The excuse reason for us not being told is that it is up to public sector organisations to decide how they want to use the scheme, if at all, and therefore this full cost to the public purse will not cannot be estimated at present. This logic falls down in at least two places:

  1. we are to believe that the Government does not know which government departments are going to use the scheme; and,
  2. if a department such as the DWP decides not to use the scheme, there is less benefit in continuing with it.

On evaluating the scheme

Even if you (like Blair) dismiss the civil liberties arguments, I hope I have shown there are other reasons to be troubled by the scheme, not least because of a lack of debate regarding how the system can (and will) fail, and a lack of openness about costs.

The scheme has been sold as a cure-all, but I believe it is snake-oil. It might make some of us feel better, but will it do more harm than good?

END NOTESOn Government ITHere is some more detail on the government IT projects listed that haven’t been delivered on time and under budget. Please note I do not seek to apportion any blame, and therefore I don’t mention the names of the private sector organisations involved. Those names can easily be found by following the links or looking at the results of a web search. Instead, the information is intended to provide some context to the discussion of delays and costs.CS2

After awarding the contract to create the CSA’s new IT system (CS2), the DWP requested 2,500 changes and increased the value of the contract by 7%. The PFI initiative was worth £456m, plus additional work of £30m, with £107m being withheld because of performance issues, another £17m retained depending on a step-by-step plan to fix 500 ‘known faults’. The supplier signed the ten-year deal in 2000, the system was due to go live in 2001, but was delayed until 2003. The system wouldn’t meet the original 2001 specification until 2007.

The system initially processed claims so slowly that it made a backlog of 30,000 new cases every quarter. Millions delayed, many were overpaid. There were 624,000 old cases on the old system, 546,000 new cases on the new system, and 305,000 old cases on the new system. Of the one million cases on CS2, 17,000 were processed clerically and tens of thousands more were stuck. Since its introduction the CSA wrote off £1bn in claims. The CSA contract was the last Private Finance Initiative deal for a technology programme before the Treasury ruled the model was unsuitable. And the CSA has been axed.


The NHS IT programme, “the world’s largest civil computer project”, running two and a half years late and much closer to £20bn than the original budget of £5bn, with 110 breakdowns in four months. The Government is still changing the system’s specifications. Doctors don’t like it, and have complained about not being consulted in the planning phase. Academics have called for a formal audit and there could be a cheaper alternative available from NHS in Scotland.


The police computer system, Impact, delayed for three years (orginally due for 2007), total cost increased from £164m to £367m and ‘it had emerged that the task was more complex than first thought’ (more detail here).


The Magistrates Courts system, Libra, costing £557m instead of £146m, with the main supplier twice threatening to withdraw unless it was paid more money, issuing deadlines for officials to make decisions on whether to renegotiate the contract, and as a result PFI is now banned from IT projects, and unpaid fines have now reached about a half a billion pounds.


A project once described as the “biggest/most complex in Europe” (the HMRC itself describes it as ‘one of the biggest IT systems in Europe’), the National Insurance Recording System (NIRS2) crashed soon after its introduction in 1999 (perhaps because of ‘1500 unresolved system problems‘?) leading to over £2m in compensation for “unreasonable delays” to benefit claimants, and over £36m in compensation to Pension Providers, with 4,500 ‘bugs’, and many payments made manually without the usual vetting for entitlement. More information here.


A four month delay in deployment of the PAYE end-of-year filing system (ERIC), intended to be “easier, quicker, and cheaper”, part of the first phase of the Modernisation of PAYE Processes for Customers (MMPC), with a total cost of £164m over six years, and the delay forced HMRC to defer the second phase for two years, to April 2007, and questions have been asked over the more than £50m in ‘financial aid‘ the Treasury gave to old and new suppliers.

Delay hit cashflow, halted end-of-year reconciliation work, and chasing of underpayments, because staff couldn’t see from their systems if PAYE had been paid in full. There was a backlog of millions of returns, problems with refunds of overpayments and cash incentives for filing online. HMRC had to temporarily switch off its PAYE validation engine and and drop penalties in order to receive an unexpected volume of electronic submissions.

Hundreds of millions of pounds in write-offs; the Inland Revenue Tax Credits System held up millions of claims and led to 375,000 emergency payments when it was launched in April 2003, and it later emerged that millions were overpaid because of faulty calculations.

In early 2006, HMRC was forced to apologise to 10,000 firms after fining them by mistake.


The Benefits Payment Card project was scrapped after 3 years and an estimated expenditure of £1 billion because the card technology employed was already outdated.

CPS case tracking

The Crown Prosecution Service’s case tracking computer system was installed in just over half of CPS branches by 1997 before being scrapped “on the grounds that the technology was outdated”, the total capital cost of the system was initially projected at £8.0 million but, at the time of the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report, £9.6 million had been spent in implementing it in just over half of the Service and the revised projection for implementing the system nationally was £15.9 million.

The CPS told the then Tory Government that a new case tracking system would be its top information technology priority and estimated that it would be deployed by 1993-94. This did not proceed as quickly as planned, and by September 1997 the system had been introduced in only 53 of the CPS’s 96 branches. The total capital cost of the system was initially projected at £8.0 million but, at the time of the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report, £9.6 million had been spent in implementing it in just over half of the Service and the revised projection for implementing the system nationally was £15.9 million.

Delays in implementing the system had adversely affected the way in which branches operated. Deployment had been hampered by significant legislative changes, which meant that parts of the program had to be rewritten; by
organisational changes, notably the introduction of integrated teams of prosecutors and caseworkers; and by technological advances.

In December 1997, after the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report had been published, the CPS decided not to extend the system to the remaining 43 branches, because the benefits of continuing to roll out the system would be outweighed by the costs. The system did not have the capability or flexibility to meet its future needs, in particular for links with other agencies. The CPS accepted that, with hindsight, it could have taken this decision earlier, but stressed the difficulty of determining the optimal point in time to stop the project. As the system will not now be extended across the whole of the CPS, the final capital cost is expected to be £10.6 million, with a further £9.6 million to be spent on running costs.

CRB disclosure service
the Criminal Records Bureau disclosure service suffered backlogs and caused school closures, with the main supplier receiving a £19 million Government bailout, the cost of standard checks doubled from £12 to £24. and performance targets are to be cut. The CRB failed to meet its target of issuing 95% of standard disclosures within one week, issuing only 19.4%.

IND Casework

The Home Office’s Immigration and Nationality Directorate Casework programme suffered “backlogs of 76,000 asylum cases and 100,000 nationality cases”, was eighteen months late, missed three deadlines, and eventually dumped, at a cost of £77m.


The Air Traffic Control system, at a cost of £623m, almost double original estimate of £350m, was six years late, plagued by bugs and problems early on (such as on-screen text being too small to read) and has crashed a few times (no pun intended).

Probation Service

The Probation Service system cost 70% more than expected at a cost of £118m, and the management system CRAMS was budgeted at £4m but cost more than £11m.

Project Trawlerman

The Ministry of Defence’s Project Trawlerman abandoned with costs of £41m, a replacement system in 1997 cost £6m.


The “flagship elearning project UKeU” cost £62m but was abandoned after attracting only 900 students.

Northern Ireland

The Northern Ireland Vehicle System Replacement Project was abandoned and £3.7 m was written off.


The National Firearms License Management System was intended to be piloted in May 2002 and fully deployed by May 2003, then delayed until January 2005, now delayed until March 2007.


FiReControl, the IT contract for nine regional Fire Service centres replacing 46 local offices, worth aobut £160m, is “two years past the desired timetable”, with some fire services unprepared to sign up to it.

Child Trust Fund

The Child Trust Fund is six months late.

Pension Schemes project

The Pensions Schemes project is one year late.

Actuary project

One project in the Treasury’s Actuary Department is three years behind schedule.

Rural Payments Agency

According to the Register, ‘Computer problems played a significant role in the chaos affecting England’s Rural Payments Agency (RPA), according to a report by the National Audit Office (NAO).’

Online retirement planner

According to the BBC,

After four years of development, the government has suspended its plans for an internet retirement planner… …£11 million had been spent on the website, halting the work will save the government an estimated £14 million… …the work on the site was halted when the Department for Work and Pensions realised that “delivering accurate online information about state pensions would become increasingly difficult, given the uncertainty about the exact shape of future pension provision”.

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