Page last updated at 20:00 GMT, Tuesday, 23 September 2008 21:00 UK

Children's ID cards plan denied

Sample ID card reader
ID cards will be offered to 16 and 17 year olds from 2010

The government has denied considering issuing ID cards to children as young as 14, after a minister told a Labour fringe event it was being discussed.

ID cards are due to be offered to 16 and 17-year-olds from 2010 but Meg Hillier said the age range could be lowered "if they prove popular".

She was criticised by anti-ID card campaigners and the Conservatives for "foisting" them on children.

On Tuesday she said there was "no intention" to offer them to under-16s.

At the 'No ID, No Sale' fringe event at the Labour Party conference on Monday, Ms Hillier said a ministerial working group was thinking about extending the scheme to younger children and discussing the move with universities and youth groups.

'Soft targets'

She said she was "struck" by a visit to Hungary where 14-year-olds routinely carry ID cards, are issued with cards, and pointed out that six-year-olds already have their fingerprints taken for visas.

But her comments were criticised by NO2ID spokesman Phil Booth, who said: "Having failed to convince the unions, the airline industry or the public at large, the government is now seeking any soft targets it can."

I have made it clear that we have no intention of changing the minimum age for ID cards to below 16
Meg Hillier

And shadow home secretary Dominic Grieve said: "It speaks volumes that ID cards, originally spun as vital to border security and counter-terrorism, are now being foisted on children."

On Tuesday the Home Office denied there were any plans to offer cards to younger children.

A spokesman said: "It is wrong to suggest we are considering lowering the minimum age at which young people can apply for ID cards, which is laid out in law as 16."

In a statement released later, Ms Hillier said: "I have made it clear that we have no intention of changing the minimum age for ID cards to below 16.

"What I did say is that other countries with ID card schemes, in the EU that is 24 out of 27 states, they have brought huge benefits and in some are available to younger teenagers.

"Despite what critics have tried to claim, the scheme continues to have popular support with 59% in favour and we are delivering on our commitment to introduce ID cards, starting with foreign nationals in November this year."

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