Advice on ID cards came from firm 'set to make millions'

Key Points

Deloitte bidding to advise on design & structure of ID card system.

• Concerns ID cards could lead to state infringements on personal freedoms.

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Home Office confirm government to appoint partner to research ID cards

Key Quote: "The design and build of a national ID card is definitely the sort of work we’d be interested in." Ian Burrows, a Deloitte spokesman

Story in full: THE Home Office was advised on David Blunkett’s controversial identity card scheme by a company that stands to make millions of pounds from the project, The Scotsman can reveal.

Deloitte, one of the world’s biggest financial and IT consultancies, seconded one of its staff to work at the Home Office advising on the planned ID card network from September until March.

Mr Blunkett, the Home Secretary, last month set out plans to legislate for a national ID card - Britain’s first since 1952 - later this year.

The first voluntary cards will be introduced in 2007, and could become compulsory two years later.

Deloitte is now understood to be one of two firms left in the Home Office bidding process to determine who will act as the government’s main commercial adviser on the design and structure of the ID card system.

The contract, set to be decided in weeks, is worth more than 10 million, and will open the way to more work advising on the procurement of equipment for the scheme.

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The Home Office last night confirmed that the contract will be awarded by the end of this month.

MPs and civil rights groups condemned the government for letting the company get so close to the decision-making process on ID cards.

Jim Cousins, a Labour MP who has pursued the issue of commercial secondments in parliamentary questions, said he was "extremely concerned" about the Deloitte secondment, which he said will fuel "public concern about private companies getting involved in such a sensitive area".

Mark Oaten, the Liberal Democrat spokesman on home affairs, said: "This would appear to leave the Home Office open to accusations of favouritism."

Deloitte’s involvement at the Home Office is "a clear conflict of interest," said a spokesman for Liberty, the civil rights campaign.

Ian Burrows, a Deloitte spokesman, said: "The design and build of a national ID card is definitely the sort of work we’d be interested in." He declined to comment on a report in Computing magazine that the firm was on the final shortlist for the Home Office contract.

Mr Blunkett won Cabinet approval for the ID plan with backing from Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, overcoming opposition from Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, and Patricia Hewitt, the Trade Secretary.

Mr Straw is a former civil rights lawyer and Ms Hewitt once led the National Council for Civil Liberties. Both are known to worry that ID cards could lead to state infringements on personal freedoms.

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The Home Office confirmed that the Deloitte employee had worked at the department, "managing delivery risks on the Identity Cards Programme".

Last night, a Home Office spokesman also confirmed that the government would soon appoint a commercial partner "to support feasibility studies" and assess other requirements of the ID card scheme.

He said that experience from previous projects had shown that detailed work on feasibility and testing helped reduce the risks associated with implementation.

The secondment underlines how successful Deloitte has been at securing staff inside government departments.

Parliamentary answers to Mr Cousins show that since 2001 Deloitte has seconded six staff to the Office of Public Service Reform, which was involved in discussions on the ID card project. Another worker was placed at the Treasury’s Public Services Directorate.