ID cards scheme "in the long grass"?

There’s a nice, succinct article in the FT today (also available online here) reading the runes on the Home Office’s contractual arrangements for parts of the ID Cards scheme. At the heart of the story is the issue that contractual timescales and the policy-making calendar don’t always align very tidily, particularly when a general election has to be factored in within the next 350 days.

As the FT article notes:

“The Home Office has already signed four contracts in the ID programme: a pilot scheme run by Thales; a passport and ID card application system being developed by US-based CSC; an IBM contract to build a database to store fingerprint and facial biometrics; and a De La Rue contract to produce biometric passports.

These, however, could be left largely untouched by the Tories, because much of the technology would be needed to introduce biometric passports, which the party supports.”

So the current ID Card implementation policy may indeed have been ‘kicked into the long grass’ for the time being… but when the next election rolls around, I suspect the public will be looking much more closely than they did last time at any manifesto commitments relating to national-scale databases of identity data, facial/fingerprint/iris biometrics, DNA and the like.

PS – I should also include a link to this article in today’s Guardian, partly because it raises very lucid points about the future of a database state, and partly to note that any similarity between their opening paragraphs and my blog post of Monday 15th are doubtless entirely co-incidental :^)