UK companies to profit from ID cards scheme

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The Independent Online

A string of British businesses are poised to benefit from a share of the Government's £3bn spend on identity cards, when it awards its contract for a partner on the project next month.

The Home Office is currently taking bids from a number of private sector organisations, believed to include Cap Gemini, Electronic Data Systems and Atos Origin, which is running the current pilot projects for the cards.

Once the initial contract has been awarded, which may still go to a foreign company, the successful party is then expected to sub-contract some of the work to several British firms. Paul Niblock, a spokesman for the International Association for Biometrics, said: "There is the knowledge and experience in the UK, so even if the contract is given to a foreign firm, they will almost certainly use UK companies to help with the work. There are going to be a lot of companies chasing that business - no one company will have the expertise to do this on their own."

UK firms such as Serco, De La Rue and TSSI are among the companies that are expected to try to cash in on the deal.

The Home Office said it would expect that whoever was awarded the initial contract next month, would also be employed to provide support once the project was up and running.

A spokesman for the Home Office said: "The contract will be let competitively and bids will be assessed on a value-for-money basis. We expect to award this contract in May 2004. Approaches are being made to a number of companies who have framework agreements with the Office of Government Commerce to provide management and business consultancy to Government departments. The development of the programme will remain at all times in the control of the Home Office."

QinetiQ, the former Government-run Defence & Energy Research Agency, said it had been involved with the scheme on a consultancy basis.

The trial, which was announced by the Government this week, will see 10,000 volunteers issued with cards, having their irises, face and fingerprints recorded. Mori, the surveys agency, has been commissioned by the Government to enrol volunteers for the scheme.

The Government is also entering into another private partnership to establish a website which will advise people against the dangers of identity theft. The site will go live this summer. The Credit Industry Fraud Avoidance Service says identity theft has trebled in the past few years. In 1999, there were just 20,000 reported cases, rising to about 74,000 by 2002.