The government was yesterday denying it had made a u-turn on the computer system behind the national ID card scheme.

The home secretary, John Reid defended plans to hold information on three existing databases instead one new, clean national identity register.

He argued the move would save money on original estimates of a £5.4-billion implementation bill. The separation of systems, he added, would be more efficient and lower the risk of fraud.

Reid also announced plans to add 700,000 foreigners’ fingerprints who live in Britain in 2008 as well.

The schedule for introducing the ID cards begins in 2009, followed by compulsory biometric passports to follow in 2010.