ID cards: economic fault lines cracking open?

Charles Clarke has been in the headlines again lately, for his public statement that recent events have made him “ashamed to be a Labour MP”. Well-founded as that shame may be, we should not leap to the inference that Mr Clarke’s past contains nothing to be ashamed of. Let’s not forget, for instance, his frankly scurrilous personal attacks on Simon Davies (Visiting Professor at the LSE, and one of 60 contributors to a lengthy and critical report on the then fledgling ID Cards programme).

What has recalled this to memory? Well, a couple of things; Simon Davies has a piece in the Guardian, here, in which he examines some of the entrails which might suggest to a reasonably qualified haruspex that the ID Cards programme is fast approaching its sell-by date. And this piece on the ComputerWeekly site, giving a slightly more cold-blooded financial assessment.

Bottom line: the current government balance sheet puts it as follows –

  • Cost of ID Cards: ~£5bn over 10 years;
  • Economic benefit of ID cards: £6bn.

Cut and dried, then. Except for one thing. That’s apparently now £6bn over 30 years, not 10.

On that basis, the invitation to Manchester citizens to sign up for an ID card looks economically irresponsible.

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