Immigrant workers could be protected by national identity cards, Home Secretary David Blunkett has said.
A six-month trial of the card technology began in January
He said an identity card scheme would help the police to "get a grip" with gangmasters who are able to hide illicit workers.
The cockle pickers who drowned in Morecambe Bay last week - 17 of whom were Chinese workers - could have benefited from such a scheme, he said.
Plans for an identity card system were unveiled in last year's Queen's Speech.
Mr Blunkett told BBC Radio 4's The World at One that identity cards "would ensure that anyone who was here couldn't actually present themselves for any other service or for work without identifying themselves properly".
A six-month technology trial for the cards began in January, involving 10,000 volunteers having their fingerprints or iris scans put on cards.
The scheme will be rolled out through passports and driving licences - but a decision on whether to make the cards compulsory will not come until 2013.
Five people were arrested on Sunday on suspicion of suspicion of manslaughter regarding the deaths of the 19 cockle pickers.
The 17 men and two women died after being caught by high tides in Morecambe Bay on Thursday.
The tragedy has prompted calls for more protection of migrant workers and licensing of cockle pickers.