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Last Updated: Monday, 24 May, 2004, 15:56 GMT 16:56 UK
Firm chosen to develop ID cards
ID card protesters
Protesters say ID cards infringe civil liberties
A private company has been appointed to be the Home Office's "development partner" for the proposed national identity card scheme.

PA Consulting Group has a two-year contract to work on the design and implementation of the cards.

Home Secretary David Blunkett said: "We are determined to get it right and bringing in (outside) expertise... at this early stage will help us do that."

The first ID cards are due to be operational in 2007/2008.

Mr Blunkett said: "The Government's plan to bring in a national UK identity cards scheme will bring enormous benefits to us as individuals and as a society.

"This is an ambitious, long-term project which will be introduced incrementally over a number of years.

"Experience from previous projects has shown that early detailed work on feasibility and testing reduces the risks and increases success."

The Home Office says "a number of companies" were approached and it was allocated on a competitive, "value for money" basis.

The introduction of ID cards has proved controversial inside and outside government.

A survey last week by YouGov suggested that up to 5 million people (28%) would demonstrate against ID cards.

The UK Government published draft legislation last month to bring in a compulsory national identity card scheme.

The trial is taking place in four sites including the London passport office, Newcastle registrar's office, Leicester post office and Glasgow DVLA office.

The government intends to introduce identity cards on a phased basis from 2007.

Volunteers will receive a demonstrator smart card containing their details on an electronic chip.

The UKPS trial will investigate the practicalities of the biometric enrolment process.

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