Thursday, September 25, 2008

UK will now have an ID card for all

Smith unveils design for ID card

By Jack Doyle, PA
Thursday, 25 September 2008
London Independent

The design for the new identity card was unveiled by Home Secretary Jacqui Smith today.

Each card will carry a picture and a chip holding the person's name and date of birth, fingerprint record and other biometric data.

It will also detail the holder's visa status and right to work.

The cards will be issued to foreign nationals from November and from next year to people working in airports and other high security jobs.

From 2011 everyone over the age of 16 applying for a passport will have their details added to a national identity register.

Ministers argue the cards will boost national security, tackle identity fraud, prevent illegal working and improve border controls.

But opponents say ID cards are unnecessary, costly and impinge liberty.

There are also fears about the security of personal data after a string of government data loss blunders.

Liberty Director Shami Chakrabarti said: "This week the Prime Minister said he doesn't do PR but clearly the Home Secretary wasn't listening.

"The public will yawn at yet another re-launch of this scheme and if the card came with loyalty points, we still wouldn't buy it.

"Picking on foreigners first is divisive politics; as costly to our race relations as our purses."

Earlier this week Home Office minister Meg Hillier was forced to row back after claiming ID cards could be issued to children as young as 14

Britain unveils new ID card amid criticism
By Michael Holden
Reuters/Washington Post
Thursday, September 25, 2008; 9:30 AM

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain unveiled its new biometric identity card on Thursday which the government says will be vital in fighting illegal immigration and terrorism, while critics call it an expensive attack on civil liberties.

The controversial multi-billion pound scheme, which involves one of the world's most ambitious biometric projects, will see ID cards used in Britain for the first time since they were abolished after World War Two.

Initially only foreign nationals from outside the European Economic Area will be required to have one if they come to Britain to work or study, but the scheme will be expanded to Britons and some others over the next few years.

"We all want to see our borders more secure, and human trafficking, organized immigration crime, illegal working and benefit fraud tackled," said Home Secretary Jacqui Smith.

"ID cards for foreign nationals, in locking people to one identity, will deliver in all these areas."

Despite a series of embarrassing data losses recently, including the admission that the personal details of half the population had been mislaid, the government insists that both the cards and their related databases will be secure.

But critics of the cards, which will contain personal details, fingerprints and a facial image, remain unimpressed.

Both major opposition parties have vowed to ditch cards for Britons should they win power, and with the Labour government trailing in the polls, the 4.7 billion pound national identity scheme's days may already be numbered.

"It does not matter how fancy the design of ID cards is, they remain a grotesque intrusion on the liberty of the British people," said Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman.

"When voting adults are forced to carry ID cards, this scheme will prove to be a laminated poll tax," he added, referring to the local charge whose massive unpopularity led to Margaret Thatcher being ousted as prime minister.

The first cards for foreign nationals will be issued in November while from next year anyone working in sensitive areas, such as airport staff, will need one at a cost of 30 pounds.

Smith said opinion polls showed the majority of the public supported the cards and that people would warm to them once they saw the advantages, allowing them to easily verify who they are and helping the authorities at the same time.

(Editing by Steve Addison)

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