Page last updated at 14:14 GMT, Tuesday, 28 April 2009 15:14 UK

Blunkett seeks 'end to ID cards'

By Jane Wakefield
Technology reporter, BBC News website

ID Card
ID cards were first suggested by David Blunkett in 2001

Former Home Secretary David Blunkett says the government should scrap plans to introduce ID cards for all in favour of mandatory biometric passports.

Speaking at InfoSec 2009, a security conference held in London, the MP for Sheffield Brightside said biometric passports could do the job.

He said he had put the idea to the current Home Secretary Jacqui Smith.

He mooted the idea of ID cards when Home Secretary in 2001, but has changed his position in the last few months.

Asked whether ID cards could be dropped, Mr Blunkett told the BBC: "I think it is possible to mandate biometric passports.

"Most people already have a passport but they might want something more convenient to carry around than the current passport and may be able to have it as a piece of plastic for an extra cost."

Using existing databases to hold the same information already gathered to issue passports could be a way of allaying fears over a new "database of information", one of the key criticisms of the ID scheme.

"People don't worry about the Passport Agency but they do worry about some mythical identity database," he said.

Last month Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said government plans for introducing ID cards were "on track" but there have been reports that the scheme could be dropped.

The Independent newspaper reports that senior cabinet ministers are privately discussing a plan to scrap ID cards as part of a public spending savings plan.

The Home Office has estimated that universal ID cards could cost £1.25bn over the next 10 years. Mr Blunkett said mandatory biometric passports would be considerably cheaper.

"Most of the cost is borne by the person purchasing the passport," he said.

The government began issuing passports containing biometric information in March 2006.

Conservative leader David Cameron has already signalled that ID cards would be scrapped if his party wins power in next year's elections.

A spokesman for the Home Office said the government was still committed to ID cards.

He said: "There is no large fund of money to spend if ID cards were cancelled.

"ID cards will provide the public with a single, simple and secure way for individuals to prove their identity and safeguard their personal details - protecting the community against crime, illegal immigration, and terrorism."

The Home Office added: "The Home Secretary already announced last year that that as the National Identity Service rolls out in 2011/12 we will be offering British citizens the choice of having an identity card, a passport or both."

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