ID Cards – Secrecy equals something to hide

ID cards – some of
the main corporate beneficiaries so far 

Some in the IT industry are concerned about facets of the ID
cards programme: the costs, the lack of a robust business case, and
uncertainties over how well the technologies will work when applied to millions
of people. 

But not everyone is complaining. Indeed a by-product of the
government’s decision to award a plethora of contracts under the ID Card scheme
is that parts of the IT industry have signed up to non-disclosure terms, which
has reduced significantly the number of cognoscente who could speak openly
about the scheme even if they wanted to.

These are some of the organisations and individuals that
have won contracts so far under the Identity Cards scheme …


PA Consulting
(in part including Electronic Commerce Associates Ltd.) Approx £29.5m to £33.5m
– up to £5m
Fisher Waterhouse
Appox £1.1m
Origin IT Services UK Ltd
– £1m+
Parity Resources
– up to £1m
Glotel Technology – up to £1m
Sirius consortium (Fujitsu
Services Ltd
and Global Crossing Ltd and PWC) – £184,000
CESG Communications
Electronic Security Group
– £140,000+
— £135,000+
Ernst and
– £111,000
– £93,000+
KPMG – £90,000+
Cornwell Management
– £48,000
Shreeveport Management Consultancy – £43,000+
The Metropolitan Police – £35,000
Axon Group Plc
Excel Recruitment
Whitehead Mann Ltd – £17,000
Alan Hughes – £16,000+
Office of Government
– £12,000
Abbey Consulting – £4,000
– £2,000


Contracts worth up to £500,000


Adecco UK Ltd
Allen Lane
ASE Consulting

Interim Management



Crystal UK Ltd
Elan Computing Ltd
Computer Associates
(novated from PA Consulting contract)

Hedra Ltd
Global Resources Ltd

Kelly Services
Logica CMC
Methods Consulting
Montpelier Contracting and Consulting
Northern Recruitment
Group plc

Accounting Service

Pendragon Information Systems
Consultants plc



Total Recruitment Solutions

Security Printing Systems Ltd
Spring Technology

Nesco Group


Contracts under £50,000:


Angela Mortimer

Anite Public Sector

British Print
Industries Federation

Brook Street
and Darby Associates

in the Community

Callcredit plc
CE Williams
Central Office of

Centre for

Diane Bailey


ER Consultants

Excel Recruitment
Office Cashiers

Farrand HR Management Consultants



Insight Consulting
Josephine Sammons Ltd
Communications plc.

Smith Hampton

Page UK Ltd

Minority Matters Recruitment
Associates Ltd


Parity Training Ltd

Plain English Campaign
Procurement Services Ltd
Computer Consultants


Accounting Personnel

Analysts Ltd


Robert Walters
Services Group

Siemens Business Services
St. John’s
Ambulance Services

Step Ahead
Financial Solutions

UK Ltd

TK Cobley
The Whelan Partnership
The Whitehall and Industry Group
and Townsend Project Management Ltd


Yale Data Management
Consultant Ltd



It doesn’t matter how many people they corrupt and who sign
NDAs, sooner or later someone will talk and spill the beans.

It is the people who are going to suffer at the hands of
these people who matter. It is the public and their rights that matter, and no
matter what anyone says, the answer is ‘NO’ and these people are wasting your
money because in the end, this scheme will be dismantled if it ever goes
into production. 

There are some other interesting aspects of this list; the
potential points for leaks are high in number. It cannot be possible that every
one of the thousands of people who are going to be working on this will keep
quiet. We can expect some leaks, if anyone decent with a conscience works in
any of these companies.

And finally, all the talk about open government (not that
anyone with a single brain cell believed it) is further put to rest by everyone
in this list being held under an NDA.

If this ID card scheme is so secure, then, like peer reviewed crypto (GPG
etc) it should be possible for everyone to know how it works without
compromising security. Security through obscurity
is no security at all. It just means they have something to hide.


But you know this… 

And now you can read about why this scheme is doomed to

BBC’s File on 4 reveals defects in ID Cards scheme – with
wide implications for government IT


A BBC Radio Four “File on
4” programme on 31 July 2007 on ID cards gave a useful insight into how
ministers approve a major new IT-based project, then leave the rest to
committed civil servants who have no clear what they’re supposed to be doing.

The broadcast included an interview with Computer Weekly’s
news editor and several experts from the identity and IT community.

It was apparent from the interviews that co-ordination and
genuine accountability were lacking, or even absent, from the ID cards scheme,
and that civil servants were trying to implement something indefinable that
their leaders had decided to implement, nobody having a clear idea of the task
that lay ahead. 

This was the government machine at its worst: working in secret, having meetings
whose minutes were secret, keeping secret “gateway” reviews of the scheme,
and nobody having to account to ministers, stakeholders, the public, Parliament
or the public over any decisions taken or not taken, finally having those Gateway
reviews destroyed
on the express instructions of Gordon Brown.

More than 2,000 Gateway reviews have
been carried out – but the OGC has published none of them.

Carl Jung said that in all disorder there’s a secret order.
Not in the case of the ID cards scheme, I suspect. Listening to the experts
interviewed by the BBC I began to visualise
the ID cards scheme as clusters of arms convulsing on an empty floor, none of
them attached to a torso.


Peter Tomlinson an IT consultant and specialist in smart
card technology told File on 4 he had attended government meetings where the ID
card programme was discussed.

He was puzzled when officials from the Home Office, which
was the department in charge of ID cards, didn’t appear to be present. “The
meetings were called by people in the Cabinet Office. There were topics on the
agenda that were set by people in the Cabinet Office and we kept on thinking:
why are we not seeing people from the Home Office. 

Why are we not seeing technical people from the Home Office,
or people involved in technical management? Eventually they began to come along
but they never produced anyone who had any technical understanding of large-scale
systems. We were just completely puzzled.”

File on 4’s researcher asked Tomlinson what questions had
been asked at the government meetings he’d attended.

“Other government departments were asking the basic
question: how will we use this system, and never getting an answer. No answer
at all. ..It was my first real introduction to silo government. Individual
government departments were completely independent of each other and now they
were going to have to start working together. But they just did not start to do

One of the government’s business justifications for the ID
card scheme is that departments will be able to link into the National Identity
Register to verify that citizens are who they say they are. But File on 4 found
that departments have not assessed the costs of providing systems or software
upgrades that integrate with the register.

Neil Fisher, vice president of identity management at
Unisys, was also interviewed for the broadcast. Unisys is one of the companies
that hope to join consortia bidding for ID scheme contracts. 

Fisher had been talking to the Home Office about other
computer projects he was involved in. He believed that work on these projects
should have fed into the identity scheme. He, too, criticised a lack of
co-ordination. He said it was difficult to find out who was in charge.

“I think there has been a realisation, as they have gone
through this, that there are a lot of projects, even within the Home Office,
being run by awful lots of different and smaller divisions in perhaps
immigration, in law enforcement, in passport, and in ID cards, all of whom have
a sort of relationship which was ill-defined.

“So [when I went] into a meeting invariably the wrong person
from the wrong department would be there who could not speak for their
colleagues in some other silo.” 

He added that suppliers liked to talk to those who work
within a well-organised chain of command. “But it just isn’t like that. I am
not giving away any secrets here. The Home Office is quite a difficult
department to run. It is like a herd of cats and it’s very difficult to herd
cats as you know.”

Tomlinson said that as he sat listening to officials
discussing the ID project at Cabinet Office meetings, he began to wonder
whether it had really been thought through. 

“We were asking questions like: how does one government
department that is not the Home Office connect up to the identity card system?
Where are the specifications for the communications protocols? How does the
equipment get to be security certified? There was no work going on any of these
technical topics…

“If you are going to design a large-scale system like this
you first go and look at the volumes of transactions that are going to take
place, how often are they going to take place and then we would see roughly how
big it was going to be. You can’t specify a system unless you have these
figures. There were about four of us who used to go to those meetings and we
were all very puzzled. We said that this project is empty. It has no


None of this can be blamed on James Hall, the affable,
experienced, open and business-minded Chief Executive of the Identity and
Passport Service. James Hall did not join the ID cards scheme until last
October – three years after its inception; and in any case no individual civil
servant, however deft his skills, can resolve the deep-rooted problems on the
ID cards scheme which are arguably more to do with the anachronistic, cosy,
closed-door culture of government than the action or inaction of any one

Several times during the File on 4 programme, Hall ably
defended the scheme saying that it would continue to evolve. But some of those
listening to him could be forgiven for thinking that he was saying in essence:
things are not clearly defined at the moment and we’re at least partially
reliant on suppliers defining things for us.

It’s the salesmen and consultants from suppliers that have
pushed for ID cards; and so it will be, it seems, the technical people from
some of the same companies that will be largely responsible for setting the
specifications they will contracted to deliver against. 

Very odd.

James Hall told the BBC’s
researchers: “We have published a plan laying out our approach to the national
identity scheme last December. Since January we have been in continuous
dialogue with the technology industry and we have taken on board some of their
thinking about the shape of the scheme and that’ll be reflected in procurement

And I have no doubt that once we get into the procurement
process we will continue to get innovation and good ideas from the market which
will continue to refine our thinking about the precise details of how we
deliver this.”

Martyn Thomas, a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering
and visiting professor of software engineering at Oxford University Computing
Laboratory, said the requirements for the ID cards scheme “are still not being

He added: “Without a very clear statement of what the
requirements are it won’t be possible to build a system that meets those
requirements cost effectively.”


File on 4’s programme was specific to ID cards, so it’s easy
to forget that there are much wider implications of the disclosures made in the
broadcast. The civil servants we have met have been bright and committed. But
it’s not their fault if they work without clear tasks, without leadership and
in secret – so mistakes and inefficiency are hidden. Its as if the NPfIT programme is being re-run all over again.

If the machinery of government is in such poor condition –
and some parts of it seem to be – how can it be exploited for the purposes of
huge, complex, risky, costly and ambitious IT-projects such as ID cards?



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About IanPJ

Ian Parker-Joseph, former Leader of the Libertarian Party UK, who currently heads PDPS Internet Hosting and the Personal Deed Poll Services company, has been an IT industry professional for over 20 years, providing Business Consulting, Programme and Project Management, specialising in the recovery of Projects that have failed in a process driven world. Ian’s experience is not limited to the UK, and he has successfully delivered projects in the Middle East, Africa, US, Russia, Poland, France and Germany. Working within different cultures, Ian has occupied high profile roles within multi-nationals such as Nortel and Cable & Wireless. These experiences have given Ian an excellent insight into world events, and the way that they can shape our own national future. His extensive overseas experiences have made him all too aware of how the UK interacts with its near neighbours, its place in the Commonwealth, and how our nation fits into the wider world. He is determined to rebuild many of the friendships and commercial relationships with other nations that have been sadly neglected over the years, and would like to see greater energy and food security in these countries, for the benefit of all. Ian is a vocal advocate of small government, individual freedom, low taxation and a minimum of regulation. Ian believes deeply and passionately in freedom and independence in all areas of life, and is now bringing his professional experiences to bear in the world of politics.
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