Thursday, July 23, 1998 Published at 00:19 GMT 01:19 UK
Drivers face new photocard licence
The new Licence: holders will have to change their photo every 10 years
Britain's motorists are to get new-look driving licences, which rather than revealing your driving history, will reveal how you look.
On Thursday, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) will begin issuing credit-card sized photocard driving licences.
The first to receive them will be those who pass their test in July.
There are no plans to recall the old paper licences just yet, but holders can apply for a photocard driving licence over the course of the next 12 months.
Everyone in Britain is however, expected to have on by 2001 to be in line with the rest of Europe.
The main purpose of the new licence is also to give the DVLA more accurate information on a driver's identity and to help the police combat car-related crime.
Noel Husband from the DVLA says: "If you are pulled over by the police, the card licence will establish that you are the person entitled to be driving that vehicle or that you are entitled to hold a driving licence."
Mr Husband says both sections are as important as each other: "The photocard licence is not a full licence on its own.
"It is important that both parts of the licence are carried together and they will be issued in a wallet so that drivers can easily do this. Therefore, should any additional information be request from the driver, this can be readily available."
Tried and tested?
Photocard driving licences have been in practice in America for many years now, but the decision to introduce them in Britain was not based on this.
Mr Husband says: "We are required by an EC Directive to issue photocard licences to all UK drivers by 29 July 2001.
"We've started early, so that drivers have enough time to meet this deadline and so that the DVLA too can monitor and review the current arrangements."
Mr Husband also says that the sole purpose of the new licence in Britain is to convey entitlement to drive, and is not an identity card although it does include the driver's address, telephone number, signature and date of birth.
He says: "At the moment, the driving licence is often used by banks, building societies and so on, as verification of a person's identification, but it is not advised as a stand-alone means of ID.
"However, if third parties are also willing to accept the new licence in this way, then that is entirely up to them."
But the National Council for Civil Liberties says the compulsory introduction of the photocard licence without stringent controls on its usage could lead to it becoming a de facto national identification card.