The UK government has dismissed a report from the London School of Economics (LSE) which suggests ID cards could cost as much as three times as planned.
The LSE's analysis comes as the UK's plan faces a fresh challenge from human rights organisation Privacy International, which claims the cards discriminate against disabled people, up to four million of whom will not be able to use the cards.
According to The Observer, which has seen a draft version of the document, the LSE's report says additional technology costs, the relatively short useful life span of biometric data, and the administrative cost of dealing with those who are unwilling to have ID cards will all add to the price tag. In total, the report says, the cost could be as high as £18bn, or £300 per card.
Meanwhile, The Mirror reports that as many as 600,000 people will be unable to register any of their biometrics. This, according to Simon Davies at PI, puts the bill in breach of the Disability Rights Act. Davies told the paper: "The proposals will create a dark ages for the rights of the disabled."
Meanwhile, the LSE report states that the government has hugely underestimated the cost of the technology involved. For example, the LSE says that rather than the £250-£750 the government has budgeted for the readers needed to scan cards, a more likely figure is between £3,000-£4,000 per unit.
The researchers also suggest that the card will only last for five years, not ten as the government is expecting. The Observer quotes from the report: "All technical and scientific literature indicates that biometric certainty diminishes over time, and it is therefore likely that a biometric - particularly fingerprints and facial features - will have to be re-scanned at least every five years. This cost must be taken into account."
But the Home Office has dismissed the report, saying that it does not accept the figures being quoted. It would not comment directly on the findings, however, because commercial contracts are confidential.
It reiterated its own assessment of the costs, which it published along with the ID cards bill. It says the combined card and passport will cost £93 to produce, and that the scheme will cost £584m to run each year.
The LSE report highlights the government's reluctance to disclose details of the scheme as one of the main problems with trying to work out the actual cost of implementing a national identity card scheme. ®