ID cards must be scrapped now, say MPs

By Philip Johnston

The future of Labour’s identity card project was increasingly in doubt yesterday as MPs called for the scheme to be scrapped following the loss of the child benefit records.

Even Labour MPs were questioning how Gordon Brown could proceed with the multi-billion pound scheme.

John McDonnell, MP for Hayes and Harlington, said: “This has demonstrated that the ID card scheme is unworkable. It will be a ghastly, expensive mess. The Government must now drop the whole idea.”

Karen Buck, a Labour member of the Commons home affairs committee, called for a “pause”.

“The worst thing would be to plough on and say ‘we’re going ahead with this’ until we have had a chance for proper reflection and measure where public opinion stands when this has calmed down,” she said.

The Tory leader David Cameron told the Prime Minister that the public would find it “bizarre” if the Government was not willing now to “stop and think” about ID cards.

Philip Davies, Tory MP for Shipley, said: “This fiasco makes it all the more imperative that the Government forgets once and for all the ID card project. Given Labour’s track record, they’d be risking potentially catastrophic consequences if they went ahead.”

A Downing Street spokesman insisted that the position was unchanged. He said: “In the design process, they are factoring in security measures so biometrics, such as fingerprints, will link a person securely and reliably to his or her unique identity, which means it should be much more difficult to misuse another person’s identity, even if the full details are known of his or her biographical information.”

IT experts warned that the security would only be as effective as the people who looked after the information. If procedures were not followed or if criminals corruptly obtained the details, everyone would be at risk of ID theft.

The Government has dropped plans, on cost grounds, to build a new database for the scheme. It will instead ”piggy-back” on an existing Whitehall IT system used for National Insurance numbers. The National Insurance numbers of every family with children aged under 16 are among the personal details now missing.

Ministers are also under pressure to publish the ID card Gateway Review, a Whitehall audit which assesses whether the project can work and is affordable.

The Government has refused to release its findings despite being ordered to by the Information Commissioner.