ID cards will be entirely voluntary for UK citizens
The government's plan for national ID cards is a "scheme without a purpose" which will not tackle crime or terror, the shadow home secretary has said.
Chris Grayling said Home Secretary Alan Johnson was "off his rocker" for spending billions on cards which would only help "young drinkers in pubs".
Mr Johnson denied he had backtracked on ID cards, insisting he was "accelerating their introduction".
Previously, he dropped plans to make them compulsory for some airport staff.
'No real grasp'
Debating a Conservative motion calling for the scrapping of ID cards, Mr Grayling said neither drug smugglers, traffickers nor benefit fraudsters were "rushing to sign up" for the scheme, rendering it pointless.
He reaffirmed the Tories' pledge to scrap ID cards if it won the next election, and attacked the government's argument that the voluntary scheme would be effective.
Mr Grayling added: "Where is the benefit to an individual of buying an ID card, and more to the point where is the benefit to the country of spending literally billions of pounds in the hope that enough people may buy enough of the cards to get the money back?"
But Mr Johnson said the National Identity Register - which will contain name, date, place of birth and address of passport and ID card holders - would help authorities "deal more effectively with the problems of identity fraud".
The home secretary added: "To scrap the scheme now, as the motion demands, would be an extremely expensive mistake which would deny the British people the practical and pragmatic step which they voted for in 2005 and have supported ever since."
For the Liberal Democrats, Chris Huhne suggested that "ministers have no real grasp of why they want ID cards and the database other than that it can be done".
He added: "The government believe that they can create an un-forgeable database using advanced technology, but history tells us this is completely misguided."
Keith Vaz, Labour chair of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, said he still supported the government's plans, but "less enthusiastically" than before they were scaled back.
On 30 June, Mr Johnson said he was dropping plans to make ID cards compulsory for pilots and airside workers at Manchester and London City airports.
As a result of Mr Johnson's announcement, foreign nationals living and working in the UK will be the only group of people who will have to have the cards, with 50,000 already having been issued.
The rollout of the ID card scheme will be accelerated on a voluntary basis for UK citizens, starting in Greater Manchester by the end of the year.
Residents in other locations in the North West of England will be able to apply from early 2010, while the government's intention is to roll out the scheme in London in the same year - 12 months early.
Some 3,500 UK citizens have already registered their interest in having an ID card.
But the Tories - who say they will scrap the scheme if they win the next general election - have written to five firms bidding to supply ID cards warning them not to sign any long-term contracts.