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Home Office staff offered early bird ID cards

It's not like their jobs depend on it

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The government has made another attempt to invest some cachet into ID cards by revealing that civil servants working on the scheme will be able to apply for the cards early.

Borders and immigration minister, Phil Woolas, told the Commons yesterday: "I am pleased to announce that provisions in the Identity Cards Act 2006 are being commenced as from Tuesday 20 October 2009 so as to enable applications to be made for identity cards at a fee of £30."

Woolas said the early bird offer would apply to staff at "the Home Office, the Identity and Passport Service and elsewhere who are engaged on work relating to the issue of identity cards."

This, of course, robs residents of Manchester and workers at Manchester and City airport of the honour of being the first UK citizens to get their mitts on ID cards.

The lucky Mancunians will get their chance "later in 2009", while "other locations in the North West" will be able to apply for the cards next year.

Airport staff reacted rather badly to being used as guinea pigs for the scheme, and the government was forced to back down and make their participation voluntary. Plus who is going to want to emulate gruff baggage handlers and jet-lagged pilots.

How much nicer to see smiling, besuited inhabitants of Whitehall flashing their cards as if their jobs depend on it. Which of course they do, in a way.

A spokesman for the Home Office today said it would not be compulsory for civil servants to take up the cards.

So, we can look forward to some bright spark, probably in the next parliament, asking whoever inherits this poisoned chalice exactly how many Home Office staff have taken up the card. ®

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