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Last Updated: Sunday, 4 November 2007, 12:58 GMT
ID cards 'not being scrapped'
A sample ID card
Foreign nationals will need ID cards to access jobs and benefits
Ministers have played down reports that compulsory ID cards for all Britons are to be scrapped, in favour of other measures in next week's Queen's Speech.

Cabinet minister Peter Hain told the BBC it was "not true" that the scheme was being put on the backburner.

The Sunday Mirror reported that Gordon Brown will shelve plans for compulsory ID cards for Britons "indefinitely".

The controversial 5.3bn scheme will require all foreign nationals to carry biometric ID cards from 2008.

The Sunday Mirror reported that the plans to introduce the cards for Britons from 2010 will be "shelved indefinitely" because Mr Brown has been advised ID cards for all will inevitably be challenged in the courts and he does not want to be tied up in litigation.

Foreign nationals

Instead he will concentrate on improving existing anti-terrorism laws and on new measures to be unveiled in the Queen's Speech on Tuesday, the newspaper reported.

Asked whether the scheme had been put on the backburner, Work and Pensions Secretary Peter Hain told the BBC: "That's not true."

As far as I am aware universal ID cards remain on the agenda
Tony McNulty
Home Office

He emphasised that Immigration Minister Liam Byrne was recently discussing requirements for foreign nationals to have biometric ID cards "which means we will be absolutely certain they are who they say they are."

And Home Office minister Tony McNulty told Sky News: "As far as I am aware universal ID cards remain on the agenda".

Civil liberties

The former immigration minister, was asked whether the government was committed to the same timetable laid down by former PM Tony Blair - that everyone applying to renew a passport from 2010 would also have to get an ID card.

He replied: "As I understand it we will roll it out with foreign nationals first, as indicated.

National identity cards will play an important part, a very important part, in countering terrorism
Lord West
Security minister

"Those seeking asylum already have them in an early form and that will be developed and the thing as I understand it rolls out as planned."

Both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats have opposed the scheme, questioning whether it is worth the money and arguing it will damage civil liberties.

The Tories say they would scrap it and use the money to finance a dedicated border police force.

The government says ID cards are needed to help control immigration and to combat identity fraud and other forms of crime.

Speaking later to the BBC, security minister Lord West, who has been conducting a review of security in critical national infrastructure, transport and crowded places, said he was "not aware" of any plans to "go cold" on ID cards for all.

"National identity cards will play an important part, a very important part, in countering terrorism," he said. "They will be extremely useful."

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