Despite the Home Office press release, the details and cost estimates of their controversial ID Card and Compulsory Centralised Biometric Database scheme is still shrouded in vagueness and secrecy.
In general, the Home Office's response (.pdf) to the Home Affairs Committee report on ID Cards the Home Office has simply ignored any of the criticisms and cherry picked any words of support in the report, in classical Sir Humphrey Appleby ("Yes Minister") style.
To be fair to the Home Office, they have slightly modified the scheme, but not to any great extent. They do seem to have dropped the stupid idea of having a combined Driving lIcence and ID card or a combined Passport and ID Card, something which would negate any compliance with international standards for either Driving Licences or Passports. We did point this out in our reponses to the Home Office and the Home Affairs Committee - "told you so".
The role of the the National Identity Scheme Commissioner is promised to be widened slightly, to cover the whole operation of the scheme rather than just the narrow part regarding the data, but there are no promises of any actual enforcement powers or a budget for invesigatory staff etc. Presumably the Commissioner will still only subit an annual report, the "sensitive" bits of which will be censored as proposed under the Draft ID Card Bill.
The Government is promising a defence of reasonableness, on the face of the Bill, to the offences in clause 13 dealing with lost or stolen or damaged ID cards.
There is talk of various scientific and technical panels to oversee the progress of the project, although the names of those who are to provide such scrutiny have either not yet been selected or are still secret.
The Government has rejected calls for more transparency in the procurement process and is still trying to claim that Office of Government Commerce Gateway reviews, the details of which are still to be kept secret, will somehow magically ensure that the project will achieve its stated aims on time and under budget - this has not been the case for any other large Government IT project, why should we believe this now ?
The Government claims that
"However, there would be no question of other users of the Register, such as the police, being allowed routine access to medical records."
Which rather begs the question what about non-routine access and trawling of the National Identity Register for the usual "national security, serious crime or terrorism" reasons ?
At first glance, the Government seems to have killed part of the Treasury's Citizen Information Project which might have overlapped with the National Identity Register
"In the light of developments to the NIR, CIP is no longer actively exploring plans to develop a separate population register but rather will be exploring options to improve the quality and effectiveness of existing registers, including the possible use of personal reference numbers."
Presumably what this means is that the National Identity Register system will get bloated with extra Birth, Marriage and Death register datafields, but not run by the people at the Office of National Statistics who have a culture of data protection of census records from the prying eyes of other Government departments and the police etc.
The Government is promising to make available
"non-biometric cards for some categories of frail or elderly residents."
This idea was in the original "Entitlement Card" document, but not in the subseequent Draft ID card Bill.
If non-biometric cards are available for some people, and the systems are in place to make use of them, then why are they not available for everyone, especially in the "Voluntary" phase ?
Then there are various half truths, political spin, and actual lies: