A £400m scheme put forward by the chancellor, Gordon Brown, to create a new national population database dubbed a building block of the "surveillance society" was finally killed off yesterday. The initial plans for the citizen information project won the Office of National Statistics the 2004 Big Brother award for the "most heinous government organisation" from the campaigning organisation, Privacy International.
The aim of the project, which was to go live in 2008, was to create a "master list" of everybody's name, address, date of birth, sex and a personal identifying number which could be shared across the public sector.
But Des Browne, chief secretary to the Treasury, yesterday said this should be done through the national identity card scheme instead, "on the basis that the scheme eventually becomes compulsory". The decision is expected to add £200m to the cost of the ID card scheme.
It's almost as though the cost of the ID card just went up by several hundred million without any Parliamentary approval and hardly anyone noticed. Oh wait, that has just happened.
Anyone thinking that we've just 'saved' £200m due to the 'rationalisation' of two schemes should remember that a) the national identity base has no spending cap on it, so it's a saving on a figure that has no upper limit anyway because b) we're apparently going to have a national identity database regardless of cost, or indeed anything else.