1 August 2007
NO2ID  today commended an investigation by BBC ‘File On 4’  that highlights substantial problems with the national ID scheme. 16 months after passing the legislation, James Hall, head of the ID cards programme, admitted that – despite spending over £72 million to date  – the scheme is still not ready for tender. His department does not yet know “the precise details of how we deliver this”.
Further admissions by Mr Hall, that “there aren’t a formal set of costs” for the use of ID across government and that claimed savings had been “over-aggressive” confirm that the final price tag is bound to be much higher than the government’s current estimate of £5.5 billion.
Even more devastating is the revelation that the use of fingerprints as the key biometric will, according to Professor John Daugman of Cambridge University, fail to deliver “one person, one identity” . The ID scheme, originally sold to Parliament and the public on the basis that biometrics are “infallible” , will in fact produce errors as high as 1 in 1000 by the time just 10% of the UK population are enrolled.
Phil Booth, NO2ID’s National Coordinator said:
The Home Office clearly doesn’t know what it’s doing or even where it’s going. A supposed ‘gold standard’ for identity that fails for one person in
a thousand is a joke.
By failing to call a halt to a scheme that is so clearly off the rails, Gordon Brown is heading for the most dangerous and expensive disaster of his political career.
Notes for editors:
1) NO2ID is the UK-wide non-partisan campaign against ID cards and the database state. Scroll down http://www.no2id.net for a list of ‘database
state’ initiatives that NO2ID is actively opposing. NO2ID is affiliated to by the National Union of Journalists:
2) Full programme available for download in MP3 format until 7th August:
For unofficial transcript of James Hall’s quotes, see below. Please check against programme for delivery.
- ID cards spending hits £72m without procurement bill, Computer World UK, 27/7/07.
4) http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/file_on_4/6922882.stm – ID cards will give ‘false’ data, BBC, 31/7/07.
5) David Blunkett (as Home Secretary) on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’, November 2003: “[biometrics] will make identity theft and multiple identity
impossible… not nearly impossible, impossible.”
James Hall quotes:
Hall, ~6 mins: “The core of what we’re about, the core rationale for what we’re doing is to provide individuals with a secure means of protecting
their identity and subsequently, very easily, and quickly and reliably being able to prove their identity when they need to do so, whether that be
travelling, whether it be opening a bank account, taking out a loan, dealing with different government agencies, through it we are creating a capability
for individuals which have a wide range of uses across the public and private sector.”
Hall, ~13 mins: “The scheme has been through a process of refinement and improvement which was what we published in December. This is something that
is going to continue to evolve into the future. You would have every right to be critical if we weren’t continuing to evolve and develop the scheme.”
Hall, ~13.5 mins: “We have published a plan laying out how our approach to the NIS last December, since January we have been in continuous dialogue with the technology industry, we have taken on board some of their thinking about the shape of the scheme, and that will be reflected in the procurement activity, and I have no doubt that once we get into the procurement process, we will continue to get innovation and good ideas from the market, which will continue to refine our thinking about the precise details of how we deliver this.”
Hall, ~14 mins: “I obviously can’t comment on things that happened long before I became involved in October of last year.”
Hall, ~18.5 mins: “There aren’t a formal set of costs, a number of government departments have done preliminary work both on the cost, and on the benefits that will accrue, and other departments will do that work in ?due course for structure?.” [last word/phrase unclear, may be 'in the course of construction' ]
R4 ~19mins: “But you are going out to tender on this, surely you need to know how much it’s going to cost [other] government departments?”
Hall: “Well, no. The costs that we have produced, the costs of producing identity cards, and the procurement process that we are about to start, is a procurement process for the production of identity cards, the maintenance and management of the NIR, and the enrolment of UK citizens on to that NIR.”
Hall, ~19.5 mins: “It will happen many times, as part of the natural process of them overhauling and enhancing their systems anyway, that’s the way that they would logically plan to do it, in part of the recycle and refresh of their long-term technology.”
R4: “That’s another way of saying there’s no hard and fast figures, the work simply hasn’t been done yet.”
Hall: “Well we would quite willingly admit that we have not yet, and the government not yet produced costs for every single department because I think it’s something that the departments have got to do in due time when it’s appropriate for them.”
R4, ~20 mins: “But it’s a bit difficult though to say there will be cost benefits from the ID card scheme when these different government departments haven’t actually outlined the cost of integrating into the system. It’s all hot air really, isn’t it?”
Hall: “No I don’t think so. I think a lot of the specific benefits are quite easily identifiable and don’t necessarily involve [a] massive investment in information technology. For example, using an identity card as proof of identity in a range of situations doesn’t necessarily involve any technology investment.”
Hall, ~24 mins: “Gateway reviews, and this is not just for the National Identity Scheme, but across the whole of the government, are internal management tools which projects use… [R4 interr.]
Hall: “I think the government has taken the position, not just on the issue of the NIS, but across the bases, that gateway reviews are designed as an internal management tool, and their value is directly driven by the frankness with which reviewers can comment, on the basis that it’s a tool that management can use to help deliver projects. But if it starts to become the norm that these gateway reviews are always going be published, what will happen is people will feel less able to be frank in their commentary.”
Hall, ~28 mins: “When I arrived in the job in Oct I took a look at our planning assumptions, and I concluded frankly that although we believed long-term we could save money and reduce costs, and I still believe that to be the case, that we had an overly-aggressive profile of staff savings, and I made some adjustments. And you should expect to see I think movement up and down, over the next few years as we go through a procurement process, finalising and clarifying prices and what we are going to be charged for different things.”
R4, ~29 mins: “How much variation on costs?”
Hall: “We should put the cost of the scheme perhaps in context, what we have been talking about is a figure of in the region of 5.5 billion over the next 10 years, that averages out at about 550 million per year, now last year the cost of the IPS excluding any work on the identity cards programme, was 325 million pounds so the incremental costs over this period are just over 200 million pounds for which we get both an identity cards scheme and a series of significant developments and enhancements to the passport.”
Hall, ~34 mins: “We have always recognised that there will be question marks thrown up during the matching process that would need manual intervention, and the process cannot be 100 percent automated in all situations, and our costs include provision for dealing with all of that.”
R4: “For getting it wrong.”
Hall: “No, for questionable matches that come up that need to be resolved manually.”
Hall, ~36 mins: “I accept that there is always an element of risk in large-scale technology-based change, or indeed large-scale change in large organisations, whether it be in the government sector or the private sector. I think you would also accept that information technology is a necessary and pervasive part of any large-scale business or government department and I am confident that with the suppliers that we will select we will put in place the capabilities to successfully deliver.”