Cost of UK public ID cards to nearly double

THE cost of every new ID card could nearly double, it was revealed last night.

Every person wanting a card will have to pay to have their fingerprints and other biometric data taken, in addition to the cost of the card.

Ministers will sign contracts for biometric collection services early next year, and providers could include the Post Office and high street stores.

Jacqui Smith said yesterday the "market" for providing the service was estimated at pounds 200m.

With seven million adults expected to sign up for cards, the cost for each individual of having their fingerprints and other biometric data taken would be around pounds 29.

That is on top of the charge for the card, which has been set at pounds 30.

The charge will also apply to anyone wanting a new passport.

Shadow home secretary Dominic Grieve said: "We already know that ID cards will do nothing to improve our security but may make it worse.

"Now we see that the already substantial cost to the taxpayer is going to increase. This is particularly outrageous given the current economic crisis.

"The Home Secretary should stop kidding herself, admit this project is dead and devote her energies to carrying out her primary responsibility, which is ensuring the safety of the citizens of this country."

The Liberal Democrats said the "hidden" charge was an "incredible cheek".

Chris Huhne said: "The Government is using all its ingenuity to hide the true cost of this woe-begotten intrusion into hard-won freedoms."

In a speech to the Social Market Foundation think tank, Ms Smith defended the cards, saying they would become an accepted replacement for lots of different forms of ID used now.

She said they would provide the "security" and "convenience" lacking for the use of birth certificates, utility bills and driving licences.

She said: "The time is fast approaching when the use of bills and bank statements to prove our identity will no longer cut it, and when our personal dictionary of different passwords for different purposes will become too unwieldy to work effectively."

New figures out yesterday revealed the estimated cost of the scheme to taxpayers has increased by pounds 45m. It will now reach nearly pounds 4.8bn.

Ministers also sought to fight off claims the extension of the scheme to airport workers had been rolled back after opposition from unions and airlines.

From October next year, new workers at Manchester and London City Airport will be given ID cards instead of airside passes.

But opponents of the scheme claimed it was originally intended to apply to all airports and accused ministers of trying to "buy off" opponents.

Phil Booth of the NO2ID campaign said ministers had performed a "complete roll back" by restricting the cards to the two airports.

He also criticised the "sweetener" that will see the Home Office paying the pounds 30 cost of the cards and offering a half-million-pound fund to cover the airports' costs.

ID cards will be issued to foreign workers from the end of this month. From the start of next year the public will be able to signal their interest in having a card.

A handful will have one issued by the end of next year - many months ahead of the rollout for the rest of the public.