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Last Updated: Thursday, 30 March 2006, 16:01 GMT 17:01 UK
ID cards 'to be made compulsory'
A sample ID card
ID cards may become compulsory
Identity cards will be made compulsory if Labour wins the next election, Home Secretary Charles Clarke has said.

Under the current scheme all passport applicants from 2008 will have to get an ID card - although there will be a brief opt-out period until 2010.

But Mr Clarke said he plans legislation after the next election to make it compulsory for everyone to get a card, whether or not they have a passport.

The Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats both oppose ID cards.

But Mr Clarke said he did not think the opposition would be able to stop the scheme because by 2010 a "large number of people... should either have cards or hope to have cards".

"I would be very surprised if the next Conservative manifesto said 'stop the scheme'. It would be very difficult to do," he said.

'Foolish opt-out'

Between 2008 and summer 2010 people applying for a passport will be able to opt-out of having an identity card, but not from having their details entered on the ID card database.
Under a Conservative government, the scheme would be scrapped and the savings put to other uses
David Davis, shadow home secretary

And although Mr Clarke stressed prices had yet to be worked out there will be no discount for those who opt out.

He said the opt-out had been introduced to allay fears expressed in the House of Lords that cards would be "foisted" on people.

But he added: "I don't think there is any benefit in opting out at all. Anyone who opts out in my opinion is foolish."

He declined to give further details of the costs, but ministers have already said the combined cost of a passport and ID card will be 93.

Clarke 'ruse'

Conservative shadow home secretary David Davis said: "When people are told they will have to pay for an ID card whether or not they opt to have one, this will make them even more resentful of this system.

"Under a Conservative government, the scheme would be scrapped and the savings put to other uses - including strengthening our security."

But the Lib Dems accused the Conservatives of being duped by Labour into backing the opt-out plan in a crunch Commons vote on Wednesday.

Home affairs spokesman Nick Clegg said: "Within hours of parading their so-called compromise the Home Office is already making it clear that it was little more than a tactical manoeuvre to ram this legislation through Parliament without any substantive change to the Draconian reach and financial costs of the ID database.

"It begs the question whether the Conservatives really knew what they were doing when they fell into line with Charles Clarke's ruse."

'Potential benefits'

Mr Clarke said he believed there was an "appetite" among the public for ID cards, which he said would bring "massive benefits" for banks, law enforcement agencies and "the individual citizen".

The scheme would "enable every citizen in this country, over time, to protect their identity from people who seek to defraud," he added.

Banks will be able to check people are who they say they are on the government's national identity database.

The "potential benefits to the private sector" of ID cards added up to 425m a year, said Mr Clarke.

The Department of Work and Pensions would also be able to use the register to check the identity of benefit claimants and combat fraud.

'Background checks'

The government is launching a new Identity and Passport Service on 1 April, incorporating the existing UK Passport Service, to administer the scheme.

Interviews will begin "later this year" for passport applicants.

People applying for passports will have to visit their local passport office where they will be interviewed, fingerprinted and have "background checks" carried out on them.

Their details will be entered on to the database and they will be issued with an identity card, although they will not be forced by law to carry it.

About 80% of the UK population has a passport and all will have to be renewed within the next 10 years, at an initial rate of about 7 million people a year, a Home Office spokesman said.

Mr Clarke was not willing to set a date for ID cards becoming compulsory, saying it would depend on the rate at which passports were renewed, he told reporters in a briefing at the Home Office as the current plans became law.

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