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Gov targets boozers as Manc ID card scheme launches

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A handful of lucky Mancunians should be getting their hands on ID cards within ten days, after the government officially kicked off the much-anticipated scheme in the Northern city today.

The government has thrown open the appointments book at Identity and Passport Offices in the city and at Manchester Airport.

So far, there are no reports of congestion at either site due to a mad stampede of ID-challenged individuals wishing to confirm they are who the government says they are. So far, only 1,386 people in the area have so much as asked for an application form.

Still, Home Secretary Alan Johnson flashed one as he travelled to a ministerial meeting in Brussels yesterday.

"It can be used by young people as a convenient and universal proof of age and as a credit-card sized alternative to the passport when travelling in Europe," said 59-year-old Johnson in a canned statement.

Meanwhile, ID minister Meg Hillier reiterated how important the ID card scheme would be for city's booze economy - Manchester has one of the highest student populations in Europe.

"With research by the Identity and Passport Service showing that nearly ten per cent of passports are lost by young people on nights out and tough legislation introduced this month to clamp down on underage drinking, it will be more important than ever for young people to have access to a universally accepted proof of age."

Anti-ID card group No2ID sought to shoot down Johnson, saying that to get a card, you first had to have a passport.

It added that at £30, the ID card is much more expensive than other approved age verification schemes, and will mean individuals must comply with the National ID Register for life.

And it does seem odd that the government has been reduced to encouraging youngsters to sign up for the ID card, so that they can continue to binge drink. Then again, this is the same government that brought in round the clock drinking, so they can't be all bad.

If you're in Manchester and you're subjecting yourself to the ID card process, do let us know how you get on. ®

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