Estimates had suggested the cost of a card holding biometric face and fingerprint records could be as high as £300, raising fears among MPs of a new poll tax. But yesterday Charles Clarke said people without passports would be able to get a card valid for 10 years for £30. The Home Secretary, said: "No one who wants to protect their identity need pay more."
Mr Clarke had promised to outline the costs of a card before the Bill leaves the Commons. A crucial Commons debate on the issue is scheduled next week.
Critics insist the true cost of a card could prove far higher than Home Office estimates. Ministers hope to defuse anger over the scheme when MPs debate the third reading of the ID Cards Bill on Tuesday. A total of 20 Labour MPs rebelled when the Commons debated the Bill's second reading and the legislation faces a tough ride through the House of Lords.
Mr Clarke said: "Being able to prove who we are is a fundamental requirement in modern societies, for example when we travel, apply for a job, open a bank account or apply for benefits.
"In future, the recording of biometrics such as fingerprints, iris patterns or facial image means that we will have a much stronger way of linking identity to the person. A national ID card will be a robust, secure way to establish that identities are real, not fabricated."
But David Davis, the shadow Home Secretary, said: "Independent academics have estimated that the true cost of the ID card will be much higher. Whatever the cost it still beggars belief that the Government wants to make people pay this plastic poll tax.
"It will do nothing to prevent benefit fraud, to combat illegal immigration or to counter terrorism effectively. In fact, the one thing we can be sure of is that it will undermine our civil liberties."
Phil Booth, of the NO2ID pressure group, said the taxpayer would have to foot the bill for subsidising low cost cards for people without passports. He said: "You just can't magic the cost of this away. Either there is a massive blank cheque from the Treasury or they will sell data sharing and make verification charges. They are playing to the gallery of their loyal MPs. We are still quite clear that 70 or 80 MPs have expressed some concerns over this scheme."
A study by the accountancy firm KPMG said the costing methodology was robust and appropriate.