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UK.gov issues death warrant for ID cards

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ID cards will be history within 100 days, the government said today as it published laws to destroy the scheme.

The Home Office, for years tasked with promotion of the project under Labour, said it aims to pass the Identity Documents Bill before the Parliamentary recess starts in August.

It is the first legislation introduced by the ConDem coalition. Both parties campaigned against the scheme at the election.

The National Identity Register, the database that was set to centrally store an array of personal information about every British citizen, will also be consigned to the political dustbin. The next generation of biometric passports, which would also have fed the National Identity Register, will be scrapped in separate legislation.

"The wasteful, bureaucratic and intrusive ID card scheme represents everything that has been wrong with government in recent years," said Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

"By taking swift action to scrap it, we are making it clear that this government won't sacrifice people's liberty for the sake of Ministers' pet projects."

As previously announced, the 15,000 volunteers in the North West who paid £30 for an ID card in the final months of the previous government will not get a refund.

Their cards will become invalid one month after the Identity Documents Bill gains Royal Assent, to allow owners to fulfil travel plans. Shortly after the National Identity Register will be destroyed.

The decision will save £86m over the next four years, the Home Office said, taking into account decommissioning, contract termination and asset write-offs. The £800m operating cost of the scheme over ten years will also be saved, though Labour claimed this would be self-funding by charges to the public.

The oversight role of the Identity Commissioner, Sir Joseph Pilling, will be scrapped as soon as the Bill becomes law.

It will mark an abrupt end to the ID cards controversy, which has raged for almost 10 years since they were proposed by then-Home Secretary David Blunkett in the wake of 9/11. The Bill will mean contracts with IBM, CSC and Thales are torn up or changed.

A separate ID cards scheme for foreign nationals will go ahead. ®

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