Gordon Brown in a speech to Chatham House today appeared to back Home Office plans for government-wide and commercial access to personal information on the back of ID cards. A report to parliament yesterday on the costs of the scheme revealed next to nothing new about costs, but did contain outlines of the government’s ambitions for “a new national identity management scheme”. Civil liberty campaign NO2ID  says that Brown expects the public to believe two contradictory
ideas at the same time – the definition of ‘doublethink’ in 1984 – twice over: about the potential cost-effectiveness of the scheme AND the safety of personal data in government hands.
Phil Booth, NO2ID’s National Coordinator said:
This is classic doublethink: In fact it is double-doublethink. Mr Brown appeals to fear, saying this is a security measure with “safeguards” for privacy, but at the same time he is studying how to let thousands of public bodies swap information about you, and share (or sell) the information with the private sector too  – which is a
spy’s and fraudster’s charter. The government claims the scheme will make our lives easier and it more efficient, while creating a vast new bureaucratic tangle for us to answer to.
And the appeal to fear – of terrorists, of foreign immigrants, of criminals – is all there is. There are no explanations how it is supposed to work; no answer to the charge that nationalising identity creates new dangers. Pointing to trivial ’savings’  and discredited announcements , while giving no realistic assessment of the costs and risks of the scheme itself, doesn’t cut it. Has the Treasury finally done the sums, then? The Home Office hasn’t. 
The scheme won’t do anything useful at all about the problems they are trying to scare us with. But ministers hope that if they repeat this impossible nonsense often enough the people will believe it.
Notes for editors:
1. Identity Cards Act 2006 – First section 37 report to parliament about the likely costs of the ID cards scheme 9th October 2006. 1 page out of the 9 with any content is devoted to prospective estimates, and it gives only headline totals. The rest is not a costs report but a policy justification. Section 1.2(5) on “Transforming services” is particularly relevant.
2. NO2ID is the non-partisan national campaign against ID cards and the database state. See http://www.no2id.net
3.See, e.g., “Chancellor appoints Sir James Crosby to lead Public Private Forum on Identity” eGov Monitor, 12th July 2006
4. E.g. £50 million of social security fraud guessed by the DWP, an estimated £20 million of NHS services to foreigners unrecovered, £200 million once a decade on the census. No figures have been offered for the costs of using the ID scheme for any of these prospective applications.
5. The Section 37 ‘Dobson’ report quotes a figure of £1.7 billion a year for “identity fraud” that was widely derided when it appeared.
See for example: Silicon.com, 2 Feb 2006, “Government ID fraud claims are they all they seem?”
6. The Dobson report states: “The cost estimate excludes [...] Costs falling to other organisations [i.e. outside the IPS, even within the Home Office] using ID cards to verify identities.” It is implicit that no account has been taken of the costs to other organisations of using, or integrating their systems with the identity management
database, which would be required for any of the functions suggested for it.