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Last Updated: Sunday, 26 June 2005, 17:22 GMT 18:22 UK
ID card database 'not for sale'
Home Secretary Charles Clarke with an identity card
Ministers say ID cards could protect people from identity fraud
The Home Office has denied a report the personal details of millions of Britons could be sold to help pay for the introduction of identity cards.

The Independent on Sunday newspaper reported card-holders' details could be sold to private companies for an initial cost of 750 each.

Immigration Minister Tony McNulty said banks would be able to verify card details against a database - for a fee.

But he said any claim the information would be sold was "without foundation".

The bank will not get access to the database. No-one will be allowed to go fishing
Tony McNulty
Home Office minister

The paper said ministers had started talks with private companies to pass on personal details for "an initial cost" of 750.

It said firms could also be charged 750 for machines that could read a customer's biometric details, such as fingerprints and facial measurements, to check they correspond with the information contained on the cards.

Mr McNulty said a verification process would take place, but denied private firms would be allowed to "go fishing" for information.

"Verifying facts about an individual's identity is entirely the purpose of the database."

"The bank will not get access to the database. No-one will be allowed to go fishing in the database just looking for information."

Price tag

The Independent on Sunday reported the move was being considered amid "spiralling costs" for introducing the cards.

ID card
Both the Conservatives and Lib Dems plans to oppose ID cards
A report to be released by the London School of Economics (LSE) on Monday is expected to put a price tag of 18bn on the scheme.

In March, a draft report from the LSE said the cards could cost between 12bn and 18bn over the next decade.

That led some analysts to predict each card could cost up to 300.

Home Secretary Charles Clarke has dismissed that figure as "a complete nonsense" - although he did concede the official estimated cost of 93 was "merely indicative".

The Home Office predicts the total cost of running the scheme, in conjunction with a new biometric passport system, over 10 years would come to 5.8bn.

Shadow Home Secretary David Davis said the cost of carrying the card would be "another stealth tax" and that the government's money could be better spent elsewhere.

"It would, for example, cost just 26m to introduce proper checks on people entering and leaving the country through our ports," he said.

MPs' vote

A second reading of the Identity Card Bill is due to take place on Tuesday.

The vote will be first test of MPs' opposition to the bill since it was abandoned before the general election.

Then, 19 Labour MPs rebelled over the issue.

Lib Dem home affairs spokesman Mark Oaten urged backbench Labour MPs to side with the opposition parties.

BBC political correspondent Reeta Chakrabarti said Labour rebels did not think a government defeat was on the horizon.

See the technology for ID cards in practice

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