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Last Updated: Sunday, 21 September, 2003, 21:51 GMT 22:51 UK
Blunkett's ID card plans 'flawed'
Mock up ID card
Many parts of Europe already use ID cards
Attempts by Home Secretary David Blunkett to push on with his plans for ID cards have been criticised as "half-baked".

Mr Blunkett said he wanted a bill for the introduction of national identity cards to be included in the Queen's Speech.

The home secretary also warned the government must "change or die" in the current atmosphere of public distrust.

He told BBC1's Breakfast with Frost programme that Labour faced a "very big challenge" to ensure victory at the next general election.

His ID card plans met with strong opposition from the Conservatives.

Shadow home secretary Oliver Letwin said the government had not thought the system through.

And civil liberties groups are worried the cards would be abused by the authorities.

Other countries' ID cards are costly, unwieldy, unhelpful and a real threat to civil liberties
Mark Littlewood, Liberty

Mr Letwin said illegal immigrants, who the ID cards are aimed at tracking, would not apply for them.

"What we've had from ministers is a confusing set of semi-indications of a half-baked policy and that's no way to proceed," he said.

"What's to stop someone from giving a false name if they are stopped by a policeman on the street and not produce their ID card, if they are to be voluntary?"

Campaign group Liberty said it could lead to thousands of ordinary people being criminalised if they refused to carry the cards.

"Experience from other countries with ID cards show they are costly, unwieldy, unhelpful and a real threat to our civil liberties," said campaigns director Mark Littlewood.

"The government should take a step back, a long deep breath and put these proposals where they belong - in the dustbin of history."

Claiming benefits

He urged the cabinet to "rein in" the home secretary.

Mr Blunkett told the BBC on Sunday he wanted to persuade cabinet colleagues that proposals for ID cards should be included in the Queen's Speech on 26 November.

Pressed on whether carrying a card would be mandatory, he said at the very least no-one should be able to work or claim benefits without one.

Mr Blunkett admitted he did not know how many illegal immigrants were currently in the UK, but said ensuring they do not work illegally or draw from public funds and services remains a priority.

Date of birth
Employment status
National insurance number
Passport number
Driving licence number
Electronic fingerprint

He said the government was likely to remain in the dark over exact numbers until it introduced an enforceable identification system linked to a register of all immigrants in the country.

"That is what we are debating in cabinet at the moment... [whether] we have a register of all those in the country and... an identification system that relates to it," he said.

In the same interview, Mr Blunkett acknowledged the Iraq war and the Hutton inquiry had affected public attitudes towards the government.

Asked whether the government had to change the way it related to voters, Mr Blunkett said: "I think if we don't change we die ...

"We are renewing ourselves now. We know we have got to.

"We need to renew our connection with the electorate so that they know what we stand for, where we are going, above all that we are looking to a new Britain."

The BBC's Margaret Gilmore
"The ID card would have a microchip with an imprint of our eye or fingerprint"

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