UK Liberty

Cost of ID cards

Posted in ID Cards, politicians on liberty by ukliberty on April 23, 2008

[hat-tip Geraint on the NO2ID forum]


Home Office minister Meg Hillier has said the government wants industry to help drive down the cost of ID cards to the public.

Hillier said that, although the public was largely supportive

That’s debatable!

of the National Identity Scheme, many people had concerns about the fee involved.

The first cards will be issued at a charge of £30, but Hillier said that, as the volume issued increased, companies should be able to produce them more cheaply.

So will that reduction in price be passed along to the consumer at point of sale or will it make the business of supply more profitable?

She emphasised, however, that most of the cost of the scheme was created not by the cards themselves, but by databases and supporting systems.

Indeed, some five and a half billion pounds sterling just for that (not any supporting infrastructure eg biometric readers, training etc).

But just hold on there!

If I recall correctly, the early plan(s) said that the cost of setting up and running the scheme over the first ten years would be largely recouped by the fees for passports and ID cards (leaving a £1bn deficit to be recouped in other ways, for example the Identity Verification Service).

Who then will pick up the tab for the scheme if the price of ID cards at point of sale is reduced?

We the taxpayer? The private sector? Who?

“Cost is a very important part of this and I am pleased that the work we have done over the past year or so has meant that we have reduced the cost of the scheme by around £1bn,” Hillier told a conference on document security in London on Tuesday.

Hillier said that some 60 percent of citizens are in favour of ID cards and that the percentage has remained steady, despite the huge data loss at HM Revenue and Customs. She predicted that, as ID cards are rolled out, people will realise the benefits of carrying them.

That’s strange, considering that as plans stand at present there are no direct benefits to members of the public. It is all about benefits to the state.

ID theft is a growing problem and it is estimated that two percent of all UK adults are victims. Hillier gave the example of pensioner Jean Hutchinson who “hijacked” other peoples’ identities in one of Britain’s biggest benefit scams. The 65-year-old would look for newspaper stories about people who had emigrated and then use their identities. She defrauded the benefits system of £2.4m, before landing a five-year jail sentence.

“She would not have been able to do that if there had been ID cards,” said Hillier .

If benefits claimants were required to be on the National Register and have ID cards or passports, and if benefits staff were required to check the photos and/or fingerprints and other details against the National Register and the benefits claimant database. Will they be?

A correspondent tells me he has written to Meg Hillier with those very questions.

But this begs the question, why aren’t benefits claimants already subjected to such checks (if they are, why don’t they work?) and why are students and airport workers being picked on as the first victims guinea pigs beneficiaries?

I’m not having a go at benefits claimants. But identity fraud-related benefit fraud is estimated to cost us £50m a year. What problems do airport workers pose? They already have identity cards!


5 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. guy herbert said, on April 24, 2008 at 6:17 am

    You do know where the estimated £50 million a year in identity-related benefit fraud comes from, don’t you? It is from the Cabinet Office “study” on Identity Fraud of 2002, confected in order to justify the ID scheme, and founded on no evidence whatsoever. The DWP has no statistics to support it. It is scarcely measurable compared with the error-bars in the estimates of fraud (£2-3 billion) and under-claim (£1-2 billion) in the system.

    It is questionable whether adding a biometric check to a the claims process could possibly cost less than £50 million a year. It would mean processing all benefits claims in person, whereas they are currently mostly dealt with on paper. That means lots of new money for offices and staffing them, as well as the hardware and software for the verification checks, its callibration, security and maintenance, and potential hardship payments for people with no money to find ways of travelling to the offices.

  2. ukliberty said, on April 24, 2008 at 10:22 am

    “You do know where the estimated £50 million a year in identity-related benefit fraud comes from, don’t you?”

    Yes – and there is supposed to be a new version of the ‘study‘ out soon, based on new ‘methodology’.

    They are still working on it!

  3. ukliberty said, on April 24, 2008 at 11:35 am

    I should make it clear when I accept things for the sake of argument. In this case I accept for the sake of argument that identity fraud relating to benefit fraud costs £20-50m a year (I have questioned the figure itself before).

    So then, where is the business case (justification for change)? Where is the cost-benefit analysis? In other words, how much will it cost to save £50m?

    As Guy points out, what will be the cost of the infrastructure and training? As I have said before, it’s worth noting that the cost of the NHS programme went from £2.3 bn, to £5 bn, £6.2 bn, £12.4 bn, and £20 bn – the last not for the central services themselves, Lord Warner has explained, but for enabling everyone to use them!

    Of course, this wasn’t in the initial estimate… it’s like getting a plumber round, and he installs a new heating system, but there are no thermostats.

    “Oh sorry,” he says, “I only quoted for the pipes and labour, the thermostats are extra.”

  4. Cayce Pollard said, on April 27, 2008 at 9:40 pm

    Hillier was badly briefed: benefit claimants cannot be asked for ID cards. But they will be asked to verify their identity against the register, as the Home Security said in her DEMOS speech. It’s important to remember that — whether you agree with ID cards or are against them — the management consultants have created cards that are security theatre, not security.

  5. ukliberty said, on April 28, 2008 at 9:08 am

    But Jacqui Smith didn’t say that benefit claimants will be asked to verify their identity against the Register – she implied it, she didn’t say it:

    Would Jean Hutchinson have been able to commit her crimes if she had been asked to give a photo and fingerprint as proof of her identity when she registered each new benefit claim? The answer is no.

    A simple check against the National Identity Register would have revealed the real person’s face and fingerprints.

    Dave Birch was at DEMOS:

    In the question time, I asked her if all claimants would have to do this. As Jacqui didn’t answer, I was able to ask Meg, and she told me that not only will benefit claimants not be asked for fingerprints and photos, they won’t be asked for ID cards either, so I don’t think the scheme will have any effect on benefit fraud: either Jacqui was briefed incorrectly on this or I must have misunderstood Meg.

    And if I understand correctly it would be unlawful without further legislation to require a person to provide fingerprints, photos, or ID cards as a condition of receiving benefits.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: