Page last updated at 15:55 GMT, Wednesday, 6 May 2009 16:55 UK

Retailers reject ID security fear

Jacqui Smith insists that people's personal data would be more secure

High Street retailers have rejected security fears about giving them the job of fingerprinting and photographing people applying for identity cards.

The Home Office has axed plans to set up ID card enrolment centres and instead wants pharmacies, post offices and photographic shops to do the work.

Trade bodies representing chains such as Boots and Snappy Snaps told the BBC they can be trusted with the data.

It came as it was confirmed that ID cards would be piloted in Manchester.

During the pilot Manchester residents who want an ID card will be able to apply for it online and then attend the city's passport office for fingerprinting, photograph and possible interview.

During the two year pilot phase they will not be able to register for cards at local shops and post offices.

'Real benefits'

The cost of the cards will be capped at £30 for the two years but once retailers are brought in to collect the data stores will be able to charge for processing it, with the total cost to applicants expected to be £60 per card.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said post offices and pharmacies could play an important role in the success of the ID scheme, allowing people to give their fingerprints and a face scan while "out doing the shopping".

2009: Workers at Manchester and London City airport
Autumn 2009: Manchester pilot
2010: Students opening bank accounts offered ID cards
2011/12: All UK passport applicants
2015: 90% foreign nationals covered
2017: Full roll-out?

She added: "ID cards will deliver real benefits to everyone, including increased protection against criminals, illegal immigrants and terrorists."

The Home Office is keen to cut costs and to make ID cards "consumer driven" rather than imposed from Whitehall, in line with the recommendations of a report last year by former HBOS bank chief executive Sir James Crosby.

The Identity and Passport Service is in talks with the Post Office and the Photo Marketing Association (PMA), the trade body for photographic outlets such as Snappy Snaps, where it is already possible to get passport photos taken.

The identity and passport service has been looking at community pharmacy, because we're very used to working with confidential and sensitive information
John Turk, national pharmacy association

Asked whether photographic shops could really be trusted to handle such sensitive data as people's fingerprints, the PMA's UK secretary Nigel McNaught said it would depend on the technology but shops would also be transmitting photographic data electronically for new biometric passports.

"In the same way the fingerprint data will also be collected - biometric data will be collected - and transmitted online to the IPS," he told BBC Radio 4's The World at One.

'Sensitive information'

The chief executive of the National Pharmacy Association, John Turk, who has also been in talks with the government, said security would be a priority.

"I think that is one of the main concerns and I think that is why the identity and passport service has been looking at community pharmacy, because we're very used to working with confidential and sensitive information.

"So there's already a high degree of security within a community pharmacy and they're very aware of confidentiality and information about individuals."

But the main opposition parties in the UK remain strongly opposed to ID cards and say they would scrap them if they win power.

Shadow home secretary, Chris Grayling, for the Conservatives, said: "The government is split down the middle on ID cards but it looks as if Jacqui Smith is carrying on regardless.

"Piloting the scheme in one city is nonsensical and will only serve as a tax on the people of Manchester.

"They should abandon this farce and scrap the whole scheme."

'Stop digging'

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne accused the government of "frittering away" billions of pounds on "an unnecessary and intrusive ID card scheme during the biggest crisis in public finances for a generation".

I have done nothing wrong and I have nothing to hide, why wouldn't I want a card?
Mike, Manchester

He added: "Instead of recruiting chemists and post offices, Jacqui Smith should save us all some money and scrap this ridiculous scheme. When in a hole, stop digging."

SNP Home Affairs spokesperson, Pete Wishart MP, said: "It says everything about Labour's priorities that, when they are slashing essential frontline investment, they are throwing away billions on an unwanted, expensive and unnecessary ID card scheme."

Campaign group NO2ID dismissed the Manchester pilot as a "publicity stunt" aimed at distracting attention from what it claims is a £250m increase in the cost of the project.

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