The government's plans for a national identity card (ID) scheme moved up a gear with the launch of the procurement process.
A formal notice in the Official Journal of the European Union invited suppliers to bid for the contract to build the UK's first biometric-based ID card system.
The Home Office explained this would pave the way for contracts with some pre-qualified suppliers.
Meg Hiller said: "It has become increasingly clear that the methods we have traditionally relied on to prove ID are outdated, inefficient, and open to abuse," she said. 'That has to end, and that is why we are taking the scheme forward.
"We are committed to introducing the scheme carefully and securely, minimising both cost and risk."
Some of the world's biggest IT companies, including Accenture, BT, CSC, EDS, Fujitsu Services and IBM, will bid for the multi-million pound contract.
They will need to explain how they plan to deliver each part of the scheme, ranging from collecting fingerprints, producing the cards and managing the database.
Meg Hillier said every step of the process was important, with the National Identity Scheme set to become a crucial part of the UK's infrastructure.
The Conservatives have used the announcement to restate their opposition to the ID card scheme.
In February, shadow home secretary David Davis wrote to cabinet secretary Gus O'Donnell formally stating the party's opposition.
This followed the Tories' initial support for the ID card scheme, which was introduced under Tony Blair.
Mr Davis argued today that ID cards would do nothing to improve security.
He continued: "In fact independent experts like Microsoft and the LSE have pointed out that it could well make our security worse while costing the tax payer £20 billion in the process.
"This is why we have written to the Cabinet Secretary and the major companies likely to be involved in the bidding process putting them on formal notice that the Conservatives would scrap this costly white elephant."
Computing Magazine has previously warned the Conservatives' opposition risks pushing up the cost of ID cards. It claimed suppliers would have to increase their prices to cover the risks of a scheme that could be scrapped under a new government.
The Liberal Democrats have consistently opposed ID cards, arguing they are expensive, intrusive and ineffective.