Page last updated at 17:05 GMT, Friday, 24 July 2009 18:05 UK

Don't call me Shirley, says peer

By Ross Hawkins
Political correspondent, BBC News

Home Office minister Lord West has written to a hereditary peer to reassure him will be able to use his full title on his identity card.

Earl Ferrers
Earl Ferrers is concerned about ID card confusion

Conservative peer Earl Ferrers was concerned he might simply be named 'Robert Shirley' on the card, causing confusion.

Earlier this month, he told the House of Lords: "If I go to a place overseas and ask to cash a cheque and I am asked my name - Ferrers - and my card says Shirley, that will not marry up."

A former Home Office minister himself, Earl Ferrers warned the government this little-discussed issue might become a "big elephant trap".

In a letter, Lord West made it clear it would be possible to have the words "the Holder is the Right Honourable Robert Washington Shirley, Earl Ferrers" printed on the back of the card.

He said members of the House of Lords, their wives and families, and holders of knighthoods and baronetcies and their wives would all be able to have their proper titles included on ID cards.

Despite clarifying government policy in his letter, Lord West, who last month became Britain's first cyber security minister, may need to offer a further explanation.

Lord West's letter
Peer pressure: Lord West's letter

Although he correctly identifies Earl Ferrers' title, he gets the Tory peers' forename wrong - repeatedly calling him Richard.

Earl Ferrers' first name is Robert.

Last month, Home Secretary Alan Johnson dropped plans to make ID cards compulsory for pilots and airside workers at Manchester and London City airports.

He also ruled out making the cards compulsory - but said he wanted to speed up the introduction of voluntary cards, with a pilot for British citizens to begin on London next year.

ID cards are already compulsory for foreign migrant workers from outside the European Union.

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