Page last updated at 12:05 GMT, Friday, 7 November 2008

Smith ID comments 'beggar belief'

Jacqui Smith with the new ID card
Jacqui Smith is phasing in the introduction of the new ID card

Government claims of widespread public enthusiasm for ID cards "beggar belief", critics have said, as it emerged the cost of cards may double.

Remarks by Home Secretary Jacqui Smith that people "can't wait" for cards to be introduced would "haunt" her in the future, campaign group No 2 ID said.

The fresh criticism came amid concerns about the cost of providing biometric data and fingerprints needed on cards.

This requirement could add an estimated 29 on top of the 30 cost of the card.

Applicants will have to foot the cost of supplying their fingerprints and biometric data such as an iris scan.

She must be ignoring twice the number of people who are coming up to her and saying I don't want my details on any database whatsoever
Phil Booth, No 2 ID, on Jacqui Smith

The Identity and Passport Service estimates this could cost 29 each but stresses that this figure is not set in stone and is dependent on several factors.

Opposition parties have criticised the ID scheme as a huge waste of money.

Phil Booth, national coordinator of the No 2 ID campaign, said Jacqui Smith's claim that people were saying they wanted an ID card "beggared belief" and would "come back to haunt her".

"She must be ignoring twice the number of people who are coming up to her and saying I don't want my details on any database whatsoever," said Mr Booth.

'Associated costs'

The first biometric cards are being issued to students from outside the EU and marriage visa holders this month.

It is already accepted there are associated costs when people apply for identity documents
Home Office

Cards will then be issued on a voluntary basis to young people from 2010 and for everyone else from 2012.

But speaking on Thursday, Ms Smith said there is strong public demand for the cards and she has been "regularly" approached by people who say they do not want to wait several years to register.

She said: "But I believe there is a demand, now, for cards - and as I go round the country I regularly have people coming up to me and saying they don't want to wait that long.

"I now want to put that to the test and find a way to allow those people who want a card sooner to be able to pre-register their interest as early as the first few months of next year."

She told the BBC: "We'll see where that interest is, and then we'll see if we can issue some cards to those who've expressed an interest by the end of next year."

Costs rising

People applying for cards and passports from 2012 will have to provide fingerprints, photographs and a signature.

Retailers and the Post Office are likely to be among those competing to provide this service.

The Home Office said the 29 figure was strictly an estimate and depended on a range of factors, including the number of people applying and which firms were supplying the service.

"It is already accepted there are associated costs when people apply for identity documents including driving licenses and passports such as the Post Office's check and send service or costs for photographs," a Home Office spokeswoman said.

Arguments over the cost of ID cards continue to dog the initiative, with the Tories and Lib Dems calling for them to be scrapped.

The overall cost of the scheme over the next 10 years has risen by 50m to 5.1bn in the past six months, the government's latest cost report has indicated.



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