Quod Erat Demonstrandum

Since the first formally proposed by this government, opposition to the introduction of identity cards and, particularly, the national identity register has gone down two interlinked routes; one has been objections on civil liberties grounds and the manner in which ID cards alter the relationship between the citizen and the state, the other has been technical/cost objections, under which  we’ve long argued that the whole project would be fraught with technical problems and impossible to deliver on time and within the government’s publicly-stated costs, not least because of the state’s abysmal record in delivering large scale IT projects.

And so we come this report in the Times:

TONY BLAIR’S flagship identity cards scheme is set to fail and may not be introduced for a generation, according to leaked Whitehall e-mails from the senior officials responsible for the multi-billion-pound project.

The problems are so serious that ministers have been forced to draw up plans for a scaled-down “face-saving” version to meet their pledge of phasing in the cards from 2008.

However, civil servants say there is no evidence that even this compromise is “remotely feasible” and accuse ministers of “ignoring reality” by pressing ahead.

One official warns of a “botched operation” that could put back the introduction of ID cards for a generation. He added: “I conclude that we are setting ourselves up to fail.” Another admits he is planning Home Office strategy around the possibility that the scheme could be “canned completely”.

The Times have also, helpfully, published the full text of the leaked emails, from which one finds not only a litany of problems, none of which come as any surprise to those of us who’ve campaigned against NIR from the outset, including:

the (un)affordability of all the individual programmes,

the very serious shortage of appropriately qualified staff and numbers of staff,

the lack of clear benefits from which to demonstrate a return on investment,

the concerns about the lack of requirement documentation, and in addition:

that ministers probably will not make a quick decision on papers submitted so the July date will slip badly,

the likely hiatus caused by the summer holidays,

the need surely to at least brief the new cabinet committee (IM),

the need to involve the players on the yet to be established Public/Private forum,

almost certainly a requirement for a Gate 0 on the programmes and Gate 2’s on the projects,

All of which looks to be a recipe for disaster if ever there was one. with the admission that there is a lack of clear benefits from which to demonstrate a return on investment being partcularly pertinent at a time when the government is fighting tooth and nail to keep a DWP report on the costs , benefits and risks of ID cards out of the public domain.

What is also worth noting here is that this appeal relates to the refusal of the DWP to release this report to a Member of Parliament, Mark Oaten, following a question in the House of Commons – so much for  for the government being accountable to parliament then…

2 thoughts on “Quod Erat Demonstrandum

  1. Can you confirm that Blair/the muppets set a 2008 deadline mainly so the Tories couldn’t scrap the project after the next election (thus making it all but impossible to deliver ‘on time’)?

  2. In practical terms, the more extensively the government can embed NIR into its IT systems, that harder it will be to rip it out if the get voted out in 2009/10.

    However, ‘we’ve got it so we’re stuck with it’ is not an absolute get out for a future government – the worst aspects of it, such as the audit trail and disclosure of the NIRN could still be crippled with having a major impact on internal govenrment systems.

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