Monday, July 10, 2006

ID Reality Bites...Everyone Except Blair

Keep it real, yeah?

"Our estimate of the average annual operating costs of issuing passports and ID £584 million. Those costs will be met in the main by fees rather than by a call on public funds. I think the figure will end up being less than £584 million, although I think that is a firm and strong estimate." Home Secretary Charles Clarke, 13 February 2006.

"Just because ministers say do something does not mean we ignore reality - which is what seems to have happened on ID Cards until the Official Journal of the European Union [ie the published invitation for contractors to tender] was to be issued and then reality could not be ignored any longer. Doing this again is not a real option for the Home Office or the Identity and Passport Service so I really want to be sure that what IPS intends to do is based on the real world." David Foord, Director in charge of ID project at HM Treasury's Office for Government Commerce, 9 June 2006.

We've blogged the disastrous ID Cards project many times: while our fantasy government claims it would cost a "firm and strong" £584m, the real cost estimated by real experts at the LSE has been put in the range £10.6bn to £19.3bn. What's more, many senior IT professionals reckon it could well reduce our security (see here for BOM primer).

So confirmation- via leaked emails- that the whole thing is in disarray and may not happen at all is welcome. Especially to long-suffering taxpayers.

Except of course, that in time-honoured slimey slithery how-do-we-get-out-of-this-one fashion, our politicos are proposing burning another pile of our cash on some sawn-off face-saving ID cards lite "early variant" scheme. Specifically, the Beloved Leader- the driving force behind the original madness- is insisting on it.

Everybody concerned knows it's mad: laying into his Home Office oppo, Mr Foord lists no fewer than nine reasons why. And his Home Office punchbag readily admits the charge:

"In our defence... it was a Mr Blair who wanted the 'early variant' card. Not my idea..."

So now we know. In the days of Sir Humphrey doubtless the Civil Servants would have found some way of stopping it. No longer.

Can you just imagine what it's like as an official at today's "not fit for purpose" HO? According to ex-Second Perm Sec Martin Narey- now heading Barnardos- morale has collapsed, and unsuprisingly:

"Never a week goes by without them ringing me to ask how I got out. There’s going to be a haemorrhaging of talent.”

Big Government never worked with talented people at the controls. It sure ain't going to improve without them.

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