The Home Office has dismissed reports that a "first principles review" of all major departmental policy decisions requested by new home secretary Alan Johnson means he has doubts about the Government's ID card programme.
A Home Office spokesman said the review involved was no more than " background briefings" on what was a manifesto pledge by Labour supported by legislation in 2006.
But Johnson faces the need to plan substantial spending cuts, estimated by some at about 10 per cent, in a Treasury squeeze due to start by 2011, intended to bring national accounts back into balance as soon as the worst of the recession is over. Many observers believe that the £2bn price tag attached to the ID card programme must make it a prime target.
Johnson, promoted by prime minister Gordon Brown to replace the departed Jacqui Smith, has a union background and will be anxious to avoid large-scale job cuts.
The spokesman said Johnson had stated the department is on course to bring in a policy for ID cards it believes to have widespread public support, but this conflicted with some reports that he had requested a review from "first principles" and was more sympathetic to civil liberties arguments.
Preparations for issuing biometric passports will continue regardless, fuelled by the need to meet international requirements, particularly for US travel.