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National Identity Card holding chumps have buyer's remorse

Can't use it, can't get their £30 back

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The horror that was the National Identity scheme may be dead - its end pronounced yesterday – but it is not altogether gone and now, zombie-like, supporters of the ID card are returning to haunt the Coalition.

And while el Reg has not been known for its support of the scheme – or the NI register that under-pinned it – it is possible that the complainers have a point.

In the months between the launch of the National Identity card and its abrupt termination at the hands of the Coalition, some 30,000 individuals are estimated to have signed up for the card, at a modest £30 a time.

Fingerprinted, photographed and details neatly recorded, the promise to these identity guinea pigs was that less hassle at banks and shops throughout the UK – where the demand for documentation grows ever more pressing – and the ability to carry their card with them at all times, while abroad, instead of the rather more cumbersome and costly UK passport.

Two individuals who took up the offer were Angela Epstein, a freelance journalist, frequently to be found writing for the Good Health section in the Mail, and Investment Banking Consultant Nicholas Hodder. They are not best pleased that the cards are being scrapped – though for slightly different reasons.

Ms Epstein, who was the very first individual in the UK to sign up for a card, feels that the card performed a useful function: she will mourn its passing. She is also less than amused that the government is scrapping her 10-year card without providing a refund.

Mr Hodder made extensive use of his card when abroad, presenting it at border checkpoints in excess of 30 times. He dislikes carrying a passport: he finds the card that much more convenient.

Both were on the BBC last week, on Rip-off Britain, making the case for the government to offer either a refund, or continued recognition of the card, over its lifetime, for those who do not opt to receive their money back. Mr Hodder points out that at UK Borders, the only check made is whether cards or passports are blacklisted. So there are no major database implications of retaining the card as a stand-alone identity document.

These views have gained some ground in Parliament. In November, the matter was debated in the Lords, where peers on both sides of the House expressed dissatisfaction at the proposal to scrap the cards without providing a refund.

Lord Brett pointed out that although the intention to scrap them had been made perfectly clear by both Tory and Lib Dem manifestoes, neither party had stated a position on whether it would offer a refund or not.

Lib Dem peer Lord Phillips of Sudbury reckoned that few ordinary members of the public would have read the manifestoes. Speaking of his own experience, he said: "I will be quite frank – I did not even read my own party's manifesto. It was 115 pages long, for a start."

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