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Minister embarks on charm tour

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The UK government has said it will go on a "charm offensive" this week, aimed at winning the general public around to the idea of a national identity register and identity card.

Home Office minister Andy Burnham is kicking off a seven day tour of the country today with a stop at Manchester Airport. He said he wanted to persuade people that ID cards will protect personal data and privacy, the BBC reports.

Shami Chakrabarti, director of the civil rights group Liberty, has described the tour as an attempt to "sell Tony Blair's £10bn white elephant", and called on the government to put the money from the card scheme into policing and national security.

Burnham accused opponents of the proposals of whipping up "fears that ID cards will create a police state", but said that "myths" like this were easy to counter.

"We have been slower to respond to more subtle claims that ID cards weaken the privacy of the individual against the state. In fact, the exact opposite is true," he told the BBC. "It may sound like a bold claim but our ID card system will protect personal data and privacy."

He did not go into detail as to how the card would do this.

He also repeated government denials that the card could cost as much as £300, as was suggested in a report from the London School of Economics. ®

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