ID cards plan has cost £46m since 2003

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DEVELOPING the controversial ID cards scheme has cost the government £46.4 million over the past three years, it was disclosed yesterday.

The figure comes out amid complaints about secrecy surrounding the project and speculation over its future.

Lembit Opik, the Liberal Democrat MP who tabled a question in parliament to find out how much had been spent, said it was "real money wasted" on an "unworkable scheme".

"The money the government has spent on the ID cards scheme so far could have put over 150 new police officers on our streets for a decade. Instead of throwing away public money on pointless plastic, the government could be focusing on increasing effective measures which tackle the root causes of crime."

Joan Ryan, a Home Office minister, revealed in her written reply to Mr Opik that 46.4 million had been spent on the ID card project between May 2003 and May 2006.

Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, reaffirmed his commitment to ID cards earlier this month, when he said they would be a "major plank" of Labour's election manifesto.