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ID cards not compulsory after all, says Home Office

Blunkett plan finding favour?

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Plans to make ID cards compulsory for UK citizens at some point in the middle distance have been officially abandoned, apparently. According to the Home Office's revised counter-terrorism strategy document, published today, "It is not our intention that identity cards should be mandatory for UK nationals."

This in some senses reverses the previous plan, which was for ID cards to be made compulsory via a vote in parliament after they had achieved significant penetration among the UK population. In most senses, however, it changes nothing. ID cards will be issued to airport workers "initially for an 18 month evaluation period" this year, offered to "young people to assist them in proving their identity" next year, and will "start to enroll people at high volumes" from 2011/12.

The hordes of people desperate for ID cards and the luckless population of Manchester seem to have fallen off this roadmap, possibly for reasons of space but more likely because both ideas were ridiculous.

Presuming (possibly a big presume) that the Home Office doesn't change its mind about compulsion again, the roadmap is now more closely aligned to David Blunkett's cunning plan to save the ID scheme. Once ID cards become available to the general UK population, people will be given "a choice between an identity card, a passport or both". Whatever they choose, their details will be added to the National Identity Register, and as it's the database that's the point, not the card, the Home Office is happy to let them decline the latter.

The two problems with this, from the point of view of the Home Office, are first that people who don't want or need a passport won't go onto the NIR (which is why Blunkett wants to make passports compulsory instead), and second that EU citizens living in the UK will escape the scheme entirely. So in the unlikely event of New Labour and Smith (majority 1,948) remaining in place after the next election, we can perhaps expect a compulsory passport announcement in a few years time.

Should the 2011 part of the 2011/12 general rollout actually happen, incidentally, it's likely to be the last time you will be able to collect a passport, and presumably ID card, without handing in your fingerprints. These will be required for passport renewals from 2012, according to today's document. ®

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