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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 May, 2005, 19:04 GMT 20:04 UK
Blair defends identity card plan
Home Secretary Charles Clarke with an identity card
Charles Clarke says he will listen to concerns about ID cards
ID cards are needed to stop the soaring costs of identity theft, Prime Minister Tony Blair has said as proposals for a national scheme were reintroduced.

The plan is for cards to be phased in from 2008, and made compulsory later.

The Conservatives have now decided they will join the Lib Dems and some Labour in opposing the measure.

Critics claim Mr Blair is highlighting ID theft as his other reasons for the cards have not won support. The cost of the scheme has risen since November.

Passport costs

The Home Office will not put a figure on the cost of setting up the cards system, saying it is commercially sensitive.

But the scheme will cost an estimated 584m to run every year - a cost of 93 per card, compared with an estimated cost of 85 per card in November.

Ministers stress they have not yet decided what fees people would have to pay directly to obtain the cards.

Covers whole UK
Establishes national ID register
Powers to issue ID cards
Ensures checks can be made against other databases to cross check people's ID
Lists safeguards on the sort of data that can be held
New criminal offence of possessing false ID documents
Provides a power to make it compulsory in the future to register and be issued with an ID cards

Discounts would be available to some card holders but Home Office Minister Tony McNulty refused to speculate whether other people would have to pay more than 93.

He said the latest cost estimate was more "robust" than the figure given last November.

And he argued that 70% of the cost would be spent on new biometric passports whether or not ID cards were introduced.

The latest Identity Cards Bill was published on Wednesday but it contains only "minor amendments" to the plans which were dropped when the election was called.

Changes include giving more responsibilities to the watchdog charged with overseeing the scheme and new checks on which government agencies can access ID card information.

Criminals won't be far behind the technology to forge these cards and steal identities
Oliver Spencer, Worthing, UK

Mr McNulty said: "A secure compulsory national identity cards scheme will help tackle illegal immigration, organised crime, ID fraud, terrorism and will benefit all UK citizens."

The results of a trial involving 10,000 volunteers were also published.

It said most people enrolled successfully on all the different types of biometric scheme.

But iris scan technology was less successful with black people and people aged over 59, said the report.

Mr McNulty denied the scheme was discriminatory and stressed the trials were not designed to test the technology.

"Those who know far more than I suggest that the technology is moving in the right direction," he said.

'Unproved' technology

The Conservatives and Lib Dems predict they could defeat the plans in Parliament.

The Tories initially voted for the ID card legislation in the last Parliament but abstained in the key Commons vote.

They will now vote against the scheme, saying it has not passed their five tests.

Shadow home secretary David Davis said: "The truth is the government has not taken our concerns seriously and as a result we have to oppose it."

Mr Davis said the scheme was very expensive and ineffective, using "completely unproved" technology.


He also had civil liberties concerns about the scheme.

The Lib Dems say they are opposed to the plans in principle and spokesman Mark Oaten seized on the latest cost figures.

"We have always argued this is a project that is going to run out of control financially," he said.

Labour backbencher Neil Gerrard said opinion polls suggested public support for ID cards would change once people knew the costs and if the scheme became compulsory.

Shami Chakrabarti, from civil rights group Liberty, urged MPs to reject what she said was a "rehashed bill that is more about political machismo than rational policy".

See how existing identity documents can be forged

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