So, what's cooking on the planet of idiocy? Well, Charles Clarke has now announced that,
It will be affordable to set a charge of £30 at current prices for a stand-alone ID card which is valid for 10 years. This will be affordable within current Home Office spending plans.
-- actually most people will still be conned out of at least £93, which is still the best estimate of the combined cost of an ID card and passport. Of course, the total cost of the scheme (which has apparently already consumed £20 million in consultants, advertising, and Tony McNulty's ``biometric roadshow'') is still projected (by the Home Office) to be £5.8 billion or (by everyone else) much, much more: getting on for £150 per person. So where's the rest of the money coming from? Well, the FT reports that,
The home secretary does not plan to seek extra money from the Treasury. Instead, he hopes to meet any additional costs from within his own budget and from other departments such as health, education and work and pensions that he believes could benefit from the savings the scheme is expected to generate.
But he has yet to secure the agreement of ministers that he can recoup those savings. The Home Office said: ``We are looking at ways that other government departments that might benefit from the ID scheme can contribute to its financing.''
... the scam here being that other departments can be relieved of money that they would otherwise spend on actual public services, the proceeds being diverted to spending on a white elephant to go with the Home Office's safety elephant.
Now, this capping of the cost may be enough to convince Labour MPs that voting for the scheme tomorrow will not do catastrophic injury to their careers. But it does change the debate a bit. Previously the government have claimed that ID cards and the National Identity Register will be financed out of new spending, so that the 10,000 police officers, numerous hospitals or whatever that the money could pay for were completely hypothetical; now the plan is to take that money away from actual public services which are actually being delivered now.