The cost of issuing biometric ID cards and running the data base that underpins the system will be £5.4 billion over the next 10 years, the Home Office said yesterday.
A biometric ID card which includes start-up and running costs, was immediately denounced as an underestimate by opponents of ID cards.
Academics have already predicted that the cost of the scheme could rise to almost £20 billion.
The report, produced at Parliament’s behest, is the first to set out the total costs of the project. Although it is far less than critics of the scheme anticipate, it is still £2 billion more than the Government officially estimated before the legislation went through Parliament.
The truancy rate in English schools rose last year to a record high, Government figures showed.
The results released by the Department for Education and Skills found pupils missed 0.79% of school sessions through unauthorised absence in 2005-06.
This was 0.01 percentage points higher than the final figures for the previous school year.
Total absences from school, including agreed holidays and sick days, also rose for the first time since 2001, the figures showed.
Opponents warn that linking police databases with the private sector to beat crime will lead to a ‘surveillance state’ and a big assault on privacy
Gordon Brown is planning a massive expansion of the ID cards project that would widen surveillance of everyday life by allowing high-street businesses to share confidential information with police databases.
Far from intending to dump ID cards once he is in Downing Street, Brown is quietly studying how biometric technology – identifying people by unique markers such as fingerprints and iris patterns – could be expanded over the next 20 years to fight crime.
Police could be alerted instantly when a wanted person used a cash machine or supermarket loyalty card. Cars could be fingerprint-activated, making driving bans much harder to disobey.
British children, possibly as young as six, will be subjected to compulsory fingerprinting under European Union rules being drawn up in secret. The prints will be stored on a database which could be shared with countries around the world.
The prospect has alarmed civil liberties groups who fear it represents a ‘sea change’ in the state’s relationship with children and one that may lead to juveniles being erroneously accused of crimes. Under laws being drawn up behind closed doors by the European Commission’s ‘Article Six’ committee, which is composed of representatives of the European Union’s 25 member states, all children will have to attend a finger-printing centre to obtain an EU passport by June 2009 at the latest.