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Civil servants touted ID cards to friends, family as flop loomed

Well-founded fears led to ignominious effort

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Civil servants were asked to encourage their family and friends to sign up for a now-defunct ID cards amid Whitehall fears the scheme would flop, confidential documents have revealed.

The documents, reported today by the Daily Telegraph following a Freedom of Information Act request, show how senior officials were urged to act as cheerleaders for ID cards by emailing personal contacts.

In the end, any such efforts were moot. Only 13,200 ID cards were issued before the coalition scrapped the scheme, which had cost £292m. Those that paid the £30 fee for a card have been told it will not be refunded.

The newly-released documents detail opposition to ID cards from workers at Manchester Airport, who the government used as guinea pigs for the scheme. A full-time "National Identity Card Administrator" was appointed to drum up demand, but only 15 per cent signed up.

The documents also highlight interference problems reported by card holders.

"One participant complained that the identity card interfered with other cards kept in the same wallet," a report said.

Shadow education secretary Andy Burnham, who was a Home Office minister when ID cards were under development, defended the scheme.

"The Tory-Lib Dem government are trying to make the cards a totem of what our government stood for - but I think they were a good idea and many people are still in favour of them," he said. ®

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