By 2013 all UK citizens will be carrying ID cards, Home Secretary David Blunkett has told MPs.
Another move he announced today is the inclusion of such details as fingerprint and iris recognition technology on all new passports.
Supporters claim that ID cards will help track down illegal immigrants and reduce benefit fraud.
However, opponents say they will be prohibitively expensive to introduce and have serious implications for civil liberties.
Do you think a system of national ID cards will work? Are you happy to have fingerprint recognition on your passport? Send us your views.
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:
ID cards are rubbish. If you live in the country and lose it what will happen if the police ask to see it?
Of course the government needs these cards. How else is it going to exert greater levels of control over the population? Orwell's prediction is just running a bit late! We all need to send out a clear NO to Blunkett.
Cailean Watts, UK
Why not go that little bit further to "protect" us by implanting small microchips in all UK citizens? It's the logical follow on from ID cards. They give government far too much power to monitor our lives.
Steve R, India
Many people seem to complain about ID Cards saying they will infringe their civil liberties and privacy. However they don't complain about their supermarket Loyalty cards which record what they buy and where they live.
In the BBC Q&A, it is mentioned that the US has not tried to persuade its citizens that they should have ID cards because they already do, in the form of drivers' licenses and Social Security Numbers. ID cards are essential for the future. It will make our life easier and only people who want to hide something will be against it. Small sacrifice in my so called 'liberty'? I think that's a price worth paying for security.
Bulent Yazici, UK
If it's good enough for some of our EU partners, it's good enough for us. Anybody worried about a Brave New World should be far more concerned about GM crops and food. But I bitterly resent having to fork out yet more of my hard-earned money. If THEY want me to carry it, THEY should pay for it.
Richard West, UK
I've lived in Spain and Japan for the past sixteen years, and in both countries ID cards of one sort or another are obligatory, but more so for foreigners than for people from those countries. In Japan, however, the requirement for a fingerprint has recently been removed. In Spain, Spanish nationals can use their ID card instead of a passport for travel within the EU.
The rest of Europe has them without any problem. If one has nothing to hide, cannot see it makes any difference, as long as they don't bill us for them. Denmark didn't when they introduced them
Gert Schwartz, UK
If an unscrupulous boss employs illegal immigrants (with no NI number) to work in appalling conditions for the princely sum of £1 for a day's hard labour, why will they suddenly stop because the workers don't have ID cards? They'll still be as willing as they are now to work for a pittance and it's not as if the dodgy boss's profits will be harmed.
Definitely, if people have nothing to hide, it prevents terrorism and illegal immigrants it seems a great idea, especially if 15 other European nations have it and have happily accepted it. My only problem is £77 sounds a bit much.
Neil Smith, Scotland
The point about invasion of privacy is nonsense of course. If you have ever earned a wage, opened a bank account or owned a telephone, you are already known to the government. Only those who have something to hide are not in favour of this scheme. Others have mentioned the funding point. So let's fund it using the revenue earmarked for all those freeloaders who seek residency or asylum in the UK by false representation and end up as a liability to an already over stretched social security system.
Neil K, UK
David Blunkett wishes to lower crime levels with the introduction of ID cards, but what happens when these cards begin to be forged and sold on the black market? There is no technology that is currently available that cannot be mimicked for fraudulent purposes, and with Identity Theft the highest growing crime in the Western World, having a single card as "ultimate proof" of who you are is entirely pointless. These cards will just be another way for the criminals to gain more money, at the innocents expense.
Danielle Rose, UK
ID cards - good idea. Brings the UK in line with the rest of Europe.
People here are commenting about catching illegal immigrants easier; if the BBC's Panorama can find them without a problem now why can't the police? It's nothing to do with an ID card.
Wouldn't make too many odds either way to me - although I am TOTALLY against us having to pay for it. We put enough into this country through taxes etc, why should we be made to prove we live here.
ID cards are symptomatic of a shift in attitudes, fuelled by people's paranoia about crime. We are not accountable to the government or the police - they are there to serve US. They should stop treating everyone as potential criminals and get back to fighting crime by traditional measures.
I don't have anything to hide so I think these cards if they do reduce crimes etc then yeah all good for me!
Catherine Chalk, UK
I have no idea why people seem to think this is an infringement of civil liberties, personally I cannot wait for them to come and hope that one day one card can be ID, passport, driving licence, travel card, student ID, work ID - anything and everything on one simple card - means only one number has to be phoned to cancel and reissue and only one card takes up space in your wallet! The big question is - what are people afraid of really?
S Lunson, UK
Remember being told how credit cards with holograms would be impossible to forge thus ending card fraud within years? Passports were also introduced as a sure fire means of crime prevention yet now they are not adequate. My point is, ID fraud has been an arms race between the authorities and the criminals for many, many years. The Home secretary would have us believe that the Government can end this within the next 5-10 years with a technology that doesn't even work yet! Civil liberties aside, he's pushing hard for solutions to problems to be identified later, using tools we don't yet have. Why? Is it coincidence that the US wishes to introduce biometric border controls (i.e. biometric passport control) within a few years? In reality is the UK spending billions on US security? Watch what happens to the US Visa Waiver scheme over the next few years to find out...
I have something to hide! I am an opponent of the Government, and I don't want them holding more information on me than is absolutely necessary.
Perhaps I am paranoid, but our freedom to challenge our administrators already seems diminished, and Blunkett's cards will push us further under their control.
I suppose we could always protest - unless George Bush happens to be in town, of course!
Given the governments past record with computer systems I have zero faith that any ID computer system will be accurate
I have lived in two countries with an ID system. It really is no big deal and has lots of benefits for the system. For example, in my present location - Hong Kong - the ID system is the most effective way of catching illegal immigrants. The police randomly ask to see ID and radio in the number, etc. By doing so they catch are to able to control illegal immigrants. This system could greatly reduce a number of problems in the UK. However once again, political over correctness hinders progress.
Lyn Hudson, HK/UK
No. There would be no need if every citizen was hand and finger printed. A policeman armed with a wireless pocket pc could then scan and check the person's finger/hand print against the database to prove the person's identity. This would remove many of the worst limitations of ID cards and cost very little in comparison. The technology is here now !
So ID cards will start in four years for foreign nationals. I suppose, as an ESOL teacher this will help me identify with those of my students who already carry the card (asylum seekers). Its hard enough to have tried to get away from the illiberal ties of my native country (USA) 20 years ago and to find them catching up with me here. But now I am being targeted for my wish to live in a 'more civilised country'. Can you hear me laughing?
Magda, Living in UK/US citizen
I would like to ask all those in favour of the cards how they think they will reduce crime and illegal immigration? Blunkett keeps telling us they will, but doesn't explain how, so maybe you can answer for him.
What's wrong with ID cards? If you want to go away, you have to take your passport; if you want to drive you need to carry your licence; if you are a student, you carry a card to prove this; there are cards for your NHS number, cards for your National Insurance number. The police and government can already get whatever information they want off us in one form or another- why not simplify it by putting it all in one place?
When applying for an ID card I assume you will need to show passports, drivers licence, birth certificates. Who's to say these won't be forged.
There seems to be some assumption that passports and driving licences are going to have biometric data held on them. Let's think about this for a minute. How many driving licences have already been issued? How many passports have already been issued? Out of those numbers how many are suspected fraudulent? The only way this can possibly work is if all the fraudulent documents are found before new documents are issued with biometric data. Lets then assume that a fraudster may have multiple fraudulent documents. After all, you only need a birth certificate to get one of these documents and its still supposedly possible to obtain birth certificates fraudulently. Once you have a driving licence or a passport you can get the other. What will need to be done is a search, and the search will need to be done on the biometric data so that people who have fraudulently acquired multiple identities through these types of document can be found.
Then if we extend this to the European community it is going to be necessary for the UK to accept documents from any number of issuing authorities all over Europe. How confident are we now of it being as good as Mr. Blunkett says?
Not certain it will be as effective as Mr. Blunkett is making out.
Car Licence/bank cards/etc. although having so much information on one card would worry me.
I remember Tomorrow's World TV series stating by the year 2000 we would all have a single card, in the same way we would all be driving hover cars which when you placed your card in, would drive you to work!
Geoff Hirst, Scotland
Colin Bartlett, Oxford UK
English but living and working in the States for 6 years as a police officer. Given my profession, I fail to see the reason for yet another form of government ID. Using all the current methods people can be tracked, all it equates to is manpower to do it in the first place. If the various departments did their job in the first place of checking people's National Insurance numbers...which you have to have to work and pay tax anyway, then there seems little reason to introduce a new card, unless the government is going to actively phase out all the other forms of ID.
Elly Elder, US/UK
Every criminal will carry one - a fake one! So what's the point?
P. Greasby, UK
Who owns this technology? I suspect this is just another American big business that our government has fallen under the spell of. It's all linked to the new American visa requirements and we've fallen for Uncle Sam's sales patter again. It's going to go the same way as air traffic control and the NHS computer system. The only winner will be corporate America. Special relationship, ha!
Ian Maynard, UK
I think ID cards are an excellent idea! I don't drive and so have to carry around my passport (and what is a passport if not an identity card in another form?) whenever I go out so I can get served. ID cards will also make daily transactions a lot easier, no need for all those utility statements, authorisations etc whenever you want to open bank accounts. Shame it's not coming in until 2007 though!
Kevin Larkin, London, UK
Why should we have to pay even more money just to prove who we are? It's expensive enough having to pay for driving licences and passports when they run out, get damaged, get lost or stolen. I certainly don't want to keep paying out for cards every time one goes through the wash, or when my wallet gets stolen again.
Steve Phipps, UK
I congratulate David Blunkett on his persistence to get ID cards for the UK. It could not come soon enough. I think it is a disgrace that it will take 10 years to complete. I think it will work and I'm happy to have finger and iris recognition on my passport. We need to bring our national security procedures into the 21st century.
Stephen Bishop, UK
The UK according to the latest population census has over 59m people (in the region of). Too many people, too little space - it is mathematically inevitable that some form of "people control" needs to swing into action in these changing, dangerous and uncertain times. ID cards are inevitable.
There will be the usual tirade about only those with something to hide will object to identity cards.
We could make the same argument about giving the police unrestricted access to any part of your life. If you have nothing to hide, you won't object to the police stopping you and searching you, or asking to be let into your house at any time in the day.
I think ID cards are a fantastic idea. As a publican, I find it very difficult to spot underage drinkers. An ID card would solve all that. I feel that if you have nothing to hide you shouldn't be opposed to the cards.
Emma Wilson, England
It's not the card which is the worry, it's the systems accessed behind it. Once in place, it will not be removed, and some day, regardless of politicians' assurances, the case will be made to tie this all up to employee records, wage slips, family details, medical records, bank accounts etc. Once introduced, the door will have been opened. Whether this is seen as good or bad depends on your point of view. The card itself is neither good nor bad - how it is used in the future may well be.
Chris W, UK
I was recently burgled and had personal documents stolen. The thief then managed to steal £300 from one of my bank accounts. I feel that any initiatives used to combat crime and reduce identity fraud should be welcomed, and are certainly long overdue.
An integrated system where members of the public must show an ID card in order to receive benefits of all kinds (whether it be income support or medical health cover, for example), is the best way of reducing benefit-fraud. We should all be required to carry such cards, and so long as the initial charge is minimal, what's the problem? In 12 months time, when £millions have been saved as a result, the Government can then cover the cost of card-issuing themselves
Drew Kearney, UK
I think we should take it a step further and add a person's DNA profile to the ID cards. Surely this would be a tremendous help to the police in tracing serious offenders. As far as civil liberties are concerned, only the criminal element could possibly have any objection. Personally, I have always been in favour of recording the DNA profile of each newborn (and by definition innocent) child at birth, to be kept in a national database. This could be of immense benefit to the world of medical research, as well as to the police for the reason mentioned previously.
A.J. Barrow, Holland
I strongly disagree with those that declare "only those with something to hide need object". The law is not a moral canon but a legislative one and is subject to all the fluctuations of ideology. If you have nothing to hide today
you may have tomorrow - through no change in your own thoughts or actions.
Blunkett says that ID cards will allow him to track illegal immigrants. Illegal immigrants will not have ID cards, so he won't be able to. He must realise this; therefore, I question his motives. The logical conclusion is that, contrary to his protestations, he does want to be Big Brother. To those who say "What have you got to hide?" I answer, "Why do we have secret ballots?" The answer is the same in both cases.
Peter R, UK
If carrying the card is compulsory, what will happen if someone refuses to carry one?
If they want to fine/prosecute the person, how will they identify them without the card?
If other existing forms of ID are enough to identify someone who refuses to carry the card, why bother having one at all?
Philip Sinclair, UK
The only major problem I have with ID cards, and driving licences is that I will carry it in my wallet. My wallet lives in my handbag with my house and car keys.
If my bag is stolen or lost then this ID card with my address on it will immediately tell anyone which house to head to and unlock.
I don't carry around bills, or a driving license for precisely this reason. I'm not neurotic, this is the standard advice from my friendly crime prevention officer. Precisely the people who ensure I carry around the ID card with my address on it.
And I have to pay for the privilege.
Caroline, Essex, UK
Never have I read so much paranoia as in these pages. Do these people peer out of their curtains in the morning just in case the Secret Police are watching them from some covert white transit van across the road?! This is a bit of plastic - rather similar to the current driving licence in fact. Most people do not even travel outside Europe for their holidays, so there's a saving in passports to start with - other countries in the EU allow pretty much unrestricted travel across borders with their cards, so I'd imagine we'd be exactly the same. How many people have spent months, if not years, trying to sort out fraudulent credit card transactions, ones that could be effectively eliminated with ID cards. I think it is vain beyond belief to think that the 'powers that be' are actually really that interested in what the 'masses' get up to on a daily basis. Get real folks!
I already have:
A birth certificate
A marriage certificate
A driving licence
A National Insurance Number
Every peddler of junk mail in the country has my address. So why do I need to pay another £39 just to be sure who I am?
Francis Jolley, UK
Lets make identity theft even easier than it already is by giving everyone in the country an id number that will be required to use a bank, interact with the government, get credit, a store card, rent, buy a home or get a job.
Good luck changing that number with the 500 organizations that require it when some crooked employee at the local chain store uses it to open accounts in your name and destroys your credit history.
Crime reduction? If it didn't work on the Continent, or the USA, why would it work here?
Andrew Thompson, UK
Having lived in Russia for ten years where everyone is required to carry an ID (internal passport) I have no objections whatsoever to carrying one in this country. Such cards are now essential given the level of illegal immigration and those absconding to disappear into the general public later to draw benefits. These cards should be introduced urgently not in ten years but as soon as is practicably possible. As for the cards to include some form of biometric data, such a safeguard is essential to minimise forgery. The cost, though should be financed through public funds not personally.
Philip G Penter, England