Germany is the first country in Europe to implement the new biometric passport. This is the item that our government claims will cost 70% of the cost of the full ID card system.
So, how did they do it? Well the BBC report gives a few hints:
'Mr Schaar's main concern is unauthorised access to the confidential biometric data. He wants to see more safeguards.
The German government has ruled out a centralised database of the confidential information. "But who says this won't happen abroad?" he says. "We need an EU-wide ruling to prevent storage of this data. This has all happened too fast."'
No central database should mean a vastely reduced cost compared to the British version.
I'll see if I can find some documentation about the new German biometric passport, and how it conforms to the EU regulations, and how much it all costs (in real money, not vague claims of 'double').
Watch this space.
Edit: A swift Google translator tells me that the passport has a unit price of £40 for ten years (an increase of £20 from the non-biometric passport). I'm unsure whether that represents the total price, or whether it is government subsidised in some way - most likely the former.
Another Edit: I've just realised why the german quoted is so worried about the storage of this data - and it's nothing to do with his government and everything to do with ours. Spy Blog recently reported on the procurement documents released by the government for the ID card scheme. One of the items that is contained in the documents is that the British Biometric database should be able to contain 100million entries. This is an astonishing number, given that the British population elegible for the card is about 40million (possibly 50million, I forget). Where do the remaining 60million entries come from? Possibly the plan is to permanently store the biometric details of everyone who enters the country (legally - through the ports). No wonder the german is worried!