£300 identity cards could be Labour's poll tax, say Tories

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The introduction of identity cards could become Labour's poll tax, the Government was told after an academic study put a £300-a-card price tag on the controversial scheme.

The introduction of identity cards could become Labour's poll tax, the Government was told after an academic study put a £300-a-card price tag on the controversial scheme.

Research by the London School of Economics (LSE) concluded that the project could cost the country up to £18bn over a decade, more than three times the Home Office's estimate. Ministers strongly rejected the LSE's findings, which accused the Government of making a series of basic errors in calculating the price of the scheme.

The ID Cards Bill was reintroduced last week after running out of time before the election. The Government insists the introduction of ID cards, initially alongside biometric passports, is essential to combat identity fraud, terrorism and fraudulent use of public services.

The Bill's opponents, who include the Tories, Liberal Democrats and some left-wing Labour MPs, will seize on the LSE findings, which will be released next month.

Publishing the Bill last week, ministers put the cost of making and distributing cards at £5.8bn over 10 years, or £93 per card. But a draft of the LSE analysis calculated the cost of implementing the scheme at between £12bn and £18bn - up to £300 per card.

The report suggested the Government had underestimated the cost of the technology needed to run the system. Rather than £250 to £750 for each of the biometric card scanners, the LSE report concluded "a more likely figure would be ... £3,000 to £4,000 per unit".

It said cards might have to be renewed every five years, instead of the 10 calculated by the Government, and that the costs of dealing with "refuseniks" who would not co-operate with ID cards could be substantial.

A requirement for people to tell the authorities when they change name or address may add £10bn over 10 years, the LSE said.

The Home Office said: "We do not accept the figures quoted by the LSE."

David Davis, the shadow Home Secretary, said: "This project is turning into Labour's poll tax ... Many ordinary people who thought ID cards were a reasonable idea will baulk at this outrageous cost."

Phil Booth, the national co-ordinator of No2ID, said: "We've said from the outset that the cost of this scheme would spiral."

Under the scheme, people over 16 would be issued with a card that has a record of their face, fingerprints and iris on a chip. If approved by Parliament, it will start to be introduced from 2008.

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