A case can be made that the price of a 10-year adult passport should now be about £23 and not the £77.50 that the Identity & Passport Service (IPS) charge today. That case is made in the correspondence collected together at http://dematerialisedid.com/BCSL/VFM.html. You have in the past kindly helped to elicit answers from IPS. I am not doing very well on my own (21 October 2010). May I ask you once again for help.
The price of a 10-year adult passport can be reduced if IPS stop spending money as they are at present on developing a new passport application system.
The development contract has been placed with a company called CSC and is worth £385 million. IPS state that "the current passport application system ... is coming to the end of its useful life" (3 November 2010). Computer systems do not, except metaphorically, have births or deaths or lives in between or, indeed, thereafter. IPS do not give reasons for believing that the existing passport application system, a "legacy system" as we sometimes call it, needs to be replaced. Ian Watmore, Permanent Secretary at the Cabinet Office and Chief Operating Officer of the Efficiency & Reform Group, has stated that "the legacy is there. You could wish it wasn't but it works. To replace it would be a colossal waste of money and a colossal risk. When you have something that works, stick with it and build around it ..." (4 March 2011). Mr Watmore's point was made to IPS, who responded merely by repeating "the current passport application system is nearing its 'end of life' and requires replacement ..." (25 March 2011).
With their woolly use of metaphor, IPS appear to be cocking a snook at the public, at the Cabinet Office, at the Efficiency & Reform Group and at the political will of the Coalition. Could I ask you please to see if you can get IPS to provide any cogent reasons for spending money on a replacement for the existing passport application system. If they can't, then perhaps the CSC contract can be cancelled and, together with other savings, the price of a 10-year adult passport can start to come down to something more like the £23 which it should be.
The "other savings" referred to include the use of unreliable biometrics by IPS and the UK Border Agency, the operation of unreliable smart gates at international airports in the UK, the patchy and pointless interviewing of first-time passport applicants, the deployment by IPS of the loss-making Passport Validation Service, RFID, PKI and the misuse of consultants, internal and external. Apart from mentioning them, these matters must remain in the background for the moment and are not pursued further here in this email, on the principle that it's best to keep the approach to IPS tightly focussed on a single issue -- if there is no good reason to give CSC £385 million, then let's not.