The Conservative Party has written an unprecedented letter to potential suppliers for the government’s £5.4bn ID card scheme, warning that the party would scrap the project if it was returned to government.
Shadow home secretary David Davis reminded would-be contractors that his party intended to “cancel the ID cards project immediately” if elected, adding: “In light of this unqualified position, your company may wish to consider carefully the financial viability of any contract, with the present Government, to participate in this project.”
Davis said he wanted to ensure suppliers were “fully appraised of the commercial risks involved” before entering into any ID card scheme contracts. “Furthermore, your company’s reputation is unlikely to be enhanced through involvement in a project, which squanders an enormous amount of public money in this way,” the letter said.
Davis also wrote to cabinet secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell, to put him “formally on notice” of the Conservatives’ position and asking whether the government had made provision to protect public finds against the costs that would be incurred if contracts were cancelled.
“I urge you to consider very carefully the government's position, in advance of the roll-out of the scheme later this year,” the letter said. “As a matter of financial prudence, it is incumbent upon you to ensure that public money is not wasted, and contractual obligations are not incurred, investing in a scheme with such a high risk of not being implemented.”
The Conservatives’ latest volley against the scheme follows a retreat by the government on aspects of its implementation. strategic action plan published in December presented a slimmed down vision of the scheme, abandoning moves to create a dedicated National Identity Register database in favour of using existing government databases and ditching plans to include iris scans on the ID cards. The timescale for the mass roll-out of ID cards has also slipped back to 2010.