Friday, May 11, 2007

ID Cards: Calibrating Deceit

Where are they now?

Under cover of the Dear Leader's leaving do mediafest, the Home Office finally published its six-monthly update on the cost of the ID cards (it had been due on 9 April). And surprise, surprise, the numbers are up.

When we posted BOM's ID cards cost primer last year (More Lies Over Identity Cards), we highlighted then Home Secretary Charles Clarke's statement to the Commons on 13 February 2006:

"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."

We noted that it would provide a benchmark against which we could calibrate the government's deceit.

So how do the latest numbers stack up?

On the face of it, and quite extraordinarily, the costs seem to have gone down. Looking at the first ten years of the scheme (which is now the government's costing convention), the latest projections state that operating costs will total £5.3bn*, against the £5.8bn quoted by Clarke (*including costs supposedly to be passed on to foreign nationals). So a reduction of £0.5bn. Yippee.


First, we need to add the costs of actually setting up the system, entirely omitted by Clarke but now put at £0.3bn.

And second, we need to remember that the system as now "planned" is a heavily truncated Heath Robinson style lash up, compared to the all-weather Rolls Royce envisaged by Clarke (see this blog). Underlying costs must have escalated hugely.

True, the latest numbers are increased by being stated at 2006-07 prices, rather than 2005-06 as used by Clarke, but that would only have increased the total by about £0.1bn. More tellingly, on a fully comparable basis, the ten-year costs have escalated by £0.2bn since the first regular update last October (see here).

As we should have remembered, calibrating deceit using government figures is always problematical: for some unfathomable reason, no two sets of figures are ever quite the same.

But the bottom line is that the costs of this sinister scheme are going up as predicted. We are firmly on track for that £10-19 bn estimate produced by the expert group at the LSE.

PS Yesterday's Bliar mediafest was a classic, especially as relayed by NuLabour's state broadcaster. Newsnight surpassed even its own lamentable catalogue of anti-Conservative bias with a "legacy discussion panel" comprising NL propaganda chief A Campbell, left-wing playwright David Hare, NL "thinker" A Milburn, NL groupie Pol T, Champagne Charlie Kennedy, and oh yes we'd better have a bit of balance, Mike I'msorrybuttherereallyissomethingalittlebitspookyaboutyou Howard. No surprise that under Mr Paxman's masterly direction it turned out that, apart from the Iraq business, everything is pretty good. Why? Because Bliar has rid us of nasty people like Mikey and the Tories. Roll on privatisation.


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