UK National Identity Cards Scheme

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The UK National Identity Cards Scheme is a programme to introduce biometric identity cards to the United Kingdom. The introduction of the cards was initially championed by former Home Secretary David Blunkett [1]. A key component of the scheme is the establishment of the National Identity Register, a centralized database of personal information [2].

Legislation to implement the scheme, in the form of the Identity Cards Bill, was introduced to the House of Commons by Blunkett on November 29, 2004 [3]. The bill fell victim to the legislative guillotine before the May 2005 general election. However, it was revived immediately afterwards, with Tony Blair apparently determined to fast track it through Parliament [4]. In June 2005, silicon.com reported that Home Office minister Tony McNulty had "confirmed the government expects the bill to pass through the House of Commons and the Lords by the end of October, with ID cards on the statute book by the end of the year." [5]

The bill will have its second reading in the Commons on June 28, 2005 [6].

Programme overview

The programme has a full-time team of civil servants working on it. The programme director is Katherine Courtney. [7] As at May 2004, Stephen Harrison was Head of Policy [8].

According to the Home Office website: "The Identity Cards Programme Team is responsible for the design and development of the national identity cards scheme, including enabling legislation. It is also responsible for co-ordinating public and private sector initiatives to reduce identity fraud and for policy on proof of age cards." [9]

Katherine Courtney gave a keynote presentation at the Biometrics 2004 conference, on Thursday 14th October 2004. The title of her presentation was simply "The UK National Identity Cards Scheme" [10].

Both Courtney and Harrison were participants in "ID Cards: The Next Steps", a one-day conference held in the UK on the 24th May, 2004 [11].

Ministerial team

After the 2005 general election, Home Secretary Charles Clarke appointed Tony McNulty MP as his lead junior minister on immigration, citizenship and nationality, supported by Andy Burnham MP [12].

Recruitment of a 'Head of Marketing' responsible 'for all aspects of positioning and promoting ID cards'

In late 2004, the Home Office advertised for a 'Head of Marketing' for the ID cards scheme. According to the job advertisement, "The Head of Marketing will take responsibility for all aspects of positioning and promoting ID cards and ID card services to its customers and stakeholders... In addition, there are a large number of other organisations that have an interest in ID cards (including some favourably disposed towards ID Cards, and some against the idea) whose views and concerns need to be understood and managed as the programme proceeds from consultation towards launch and beyond. As well as development of the Marketing Strategy for the ID Cards (covering the vision for the scheme, its positioning and branding) the role will have oversight of stakeholder management, research, and communications activities within the marketing function." [13]

Recruitment for the position, which has a salary of between £47,000 and £66,000 a year [14], was handled through The Whitehall & Industry Group (WIG), a body which describes itself as bringing "senior people together to improve understanding and co-operation between the public and private sectors" [15]. Candidates were invited to "complete the electronic application form available on the WIG website" [16].

Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) requests regarding the ID cards programme

In January 2005, the anonymous author of Spy Blog requested the following information under the FoIA: "The official meeting diaries, agendas of meetings, travel and entertainment expenses" for Katherine Courtney, Stephen Harrison, and the Head of Marketing [17]. After using various delaying tactics, the programme team finally responded to the request in April 2005. They provided only some aggregated expenses for the entire programme. They clamed that the other information asked for in the request was exempt because to release it would make life too awkward for civil servants:

"After a careful consideration we have determined that the information you have requested is exempt from disclosure by virtue of section 35(1)(a) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000... In applying the exemption to information which Section 35 applies the Home Office has to balance the public interest in withholding the information against the public interest in disclosing it. There is... a real risk that the release of this information would jeopardise the freeness, with which officials will meet to discuss various options as part of the formulation of government policy on Identity Cards." [18]

The response also claimed that the agendas of meetings would be too expensive to retrieve: "In addition I regret that we cannot supply the full set of agendas for meetings held since September 2001, as to comply with your request would exceed the cost limit beyond which we are not required to supply information. The Home Office is not obliged to comply with any information request where the prescribed costs involved in supplying you with the information exceed £600." [19]

Known private sector employees working on secondment to the ID cards team

Consultancy contracts for the ID cards scheme

On January 24, 2005, Lord Marlesford obtained the following information about contracts given to private sector consultants for work on the ID cards programme [21]:

Organisation Details Dates Amount
Sirius consortium Advice on feasibility and costs 27 Sept 2002 £78,724
SchlumbergerSema (Atos Origin) Programme and project management advice 1 Sept 2003 £56,000
PA Consulting Services Limited Provision of project management consultancy 5 Dec 2003 £27,200
Shreeveport Management Consultancy Facilitation of workshops and core proposition development 7 Jan 2004 £43,250
Axon Group plc Proposals relating to human resources 1 March 2004 £28,766
Cornwell Management Consultants plc Assessment of potential public sector delivery partners 30 March 2004 £47,548
PA Consulting Services Limited Provision of management consultancy for the development of the ID card scheme 7 June 2004 £5,716,259 to 1/12/04

Contact details

2 Marsham Street
London
SW1P 4DF
Tel: 020 7035 4848
E-mail: identitycards AT homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk

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