July 30, 2009
Home Secretary Alan Johnson has unveiled the final design of the controversial national identity card.
The card will be offered to members of the public in the Greater Manchester area from the end of this year.
Ministers plan to launch the £30 biometric ID Card nationwide in 2011 or 2012 – but it will not be compulsory.
Opposition spokesmen said it was a “colossal waste of money” and civil liberty groups said it was “as costly to our pockets as to our privacy”.
Ministers say the card, which follows the launch of the foreign national ID card, will provide an easy way of safely proving identity.
They say this system, backed up by a national identity register, will help combat identity fraud, crime and terrorism.
The card is very similar in look to a UK driving licence but holds more data, including two fingerprints and a photograph encoded on a chip.
This chip and its unique number in turn links the card to a national identity register which, under current legislation, could hold more information about the identity of the individual.
If the scheme goes ahead, the card could be used as a travel document within Europe, separate to the passport, similar to arrangements between other EU member states.
Like the UK passport, the front of the card displays the royal crest as well as the thistle, the rose, the shamrock and the daffodil to represent the four parts of the UK.
The Home Office denied the union jack had been left off the card for fear of antagonising Northern Ireland’s nationalist community. A spokeswoman said the card was based on the British passport, which did not have a flag on it.