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Government workers have hit the streets of Manchester to promote the ID cards scheme to shop owners, who currently outnumber members of the public who have volunteered for a card.

The city is the first place in the country the public can apply for an ID card, which requires a fingerprinting session.

This week Identity and Passport Service (IPS) staff have been visiting alcohol retailers in the well-to-do suburb of Didsbury to teach them how to recognise the £30 cards.

Meg Hillier, the identity minister, said: "ID cards will be launching in Greater Manchester very soon, so a huge effort is underway to ensure businesses are ready.

"Voluntary identity cards will provide a secure and convenient gold standard identity document, and we're keen to make sure people are able to use them as smoothly as possible."

The Home Office said 3,000 shops will get a visit and "ID Smart" leaflets would be sent to 8,000 businesses.

The figures dwarf the number of ID card volunteers so far. At the last count in October just 2,000 had come forward in the area.

IPS bosses said they expected this to increase rapidly once the scheme is marketed to the public. A recent survey commissioned by the campaign group NO2ID, however, found public support for ID cards at its lowest yet.

John Axon, proprietor of the Didsbury delicatessen Cheese Hamlet said he'd been visited this week, but didn't believe he'd see many ID cards, even if more volunteers come forward.

"We sell about three cases of wine a year, mostly in hampers," he said.

Manchester's shops may also find their role as a test bed for ID cards short-lived. If the Conservatives win the next general election, which must be called before 4 June, they plan to scrap the scheme and the accompanying National Identity Register database. ®

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