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The United Kingdom National Identity Card is a personal identification document and European Union travel document.

The cards are linked to a database known as the National Identity Register (NIR). The Act specifies fifty categories of information that the NIR can hold on each citizen,[1] including up to 10 fingerprints, digitised facial scan and iris scan, current and past UK and overseas places of residence of all residents of the UK throughout their lives and indices to other Government databases (including National Insurance Number [2]) — which would allow them to be connected. The legislation on this resident register also says that any further information can be added.[3]

The legislation further says that those renewing or applying for passports must be entered on to the NIR. It is expected that this will happen soon after the Identity and Passport Service (IPS), which was formerly the UK Passport Service, starts interviewing passport applicants to verify their identity.[4] Various degrees of concern about the scheme have been expressed by human rights lawyers, activists, security professionals and IT experts. The concerns focus mostly on the databases which underlie the Identity Cards rather than the cards themselves.


Timescale and implementation progress

On 11 October 2006 the Government announced a timescale described as "highly ambitious" by computer experts.[5] The Home Office said they would publish an ID management action plan in the months from November 2006, followed by agreements with departments on their uses for the system. There was to be be a report on potential private sector uses for the scheme before 2007 Budget.

On 25 September 2006 Home Office Minister Liam Byrne said that "There are opportunities which give me optimism to think that actually there is a way of exploiting systems already in place in a way which brings down the costs quite substantially".[6]

Emails leaked in June 2006[7] indicated that the plan was already in difficulty, with plans for the early introduction of a limited register and ID card with reduced biometrics known as the 'early variant' described as a "huge risk".

The schedule for putting passport applicants' and renewers' details on the National Identity Register (NIR) has not been and may never be announced. A nationwide network of 68 interview offices for first time passport applicants started opening in June 2007 and is now complete. The interview requirement may in future be extended to other types of passport applications. IPS will in any event need to see all customers in person to enrol fingerprints from 2012 when the UK, in line with international developments, adds fingerprints to passports. The interview consists mainly of asking applicants to confirm facts about themselves, which someone attempting to steal their identity may not know. The Government has stated that all personal information used in the interview not required for the application is destroyed shortly after the passport is issued.[8] Fingerprints are not being taken as of 2010. Plans to take iris scans have been dropped, although the Government has not ruled them out as a future option.[9]

In March 2008 the Home Secretary announced that people could choose to have an identity card, a passport, or both when they become available (although they cannot opt out of having their details recorded on the NIR). On 25 November 2008 people making applications to remain in the United Kingdom as a student or based on marriage were required to have an identity card and the Government announced that all new foreign nationals and those extending their stay will have a card within three years. Under these plans it is estimated that by the end of 2014/15 about 90 per cent of all foreign nationals will have been issued with one. On 22 January 2008, the Home Office confirmed that large volumes of cards will be not be issued until 2012, however, ID cards will be issued to workers in critical locations starting with airside workers in Manchester and London City airports in 2009, and young people will be offered cards from 2010.

A leaked document, published on 29 January 2008, suggests that 'universal compulsion should not be used unless absolutely necessary... due the need for inevitably controversial and time-consuming primary legislation' but that 'various forms of coercion, such as designation of the application process for identity documents issued by UK ministers (e.g. passports) are an option to stimulate applications in a manageable way'.[10]

In January 2008 the Financial Times reported that Accenture and BAE Systems had withdrawn from the procurement process. Fujitsu Services, CSC, EDS, IBM, Steria and Thales Group were still negotiating framework agreements with the government.[11]

On 1 August 2008 it was confirmed that Thales Group has been awarded a 4 year contract to work on the design, building, testing and operation of the National Identity Scheme.[12]

On 25 September 2008 Jacqui Smith unveiled replicas of the first actual cards to be issued as residence permits to foreign nationals.[13][14]

The first to receive ID cards were foreign nationals, from 25 November 2008. National Identity Cards for UK nationals became available to people resident in the Greater Manchester area on November 30, 2009 [15]. Ordinary British citizens will then be offered (on a voluntary basis at first, but later in larger volumes) ID cards from 2011 to 2012.[13] A Home Office minister, Meg Hillier, said that they would be a "convenient" way for young people to prove their age when going to bars and that at £30 they are cheaper than purchasing passports[16], although the total cost including processing fees is expected to be up to £60[17], more expensive than a passport cost before the introduction of the ID card and database scheme - the Tories and Liberal Democrats have criticised the increase in passport costs as being needed for the ID card scheme[18][19]. In December 2009, while on a trip to promote identity cards, Meg Hillier had to admit she had forgotten hers and was left unable to display one for photographers[20][21].



Reasons for introduction

Initial attempts to introduce a voluntary identity card were made under the Conservative administration of John Major, under then Home Secretary Michael Howard. At the Labour party conference in 1995, Tony Blair demanded that ‘instead of wasting hundreds of millions of pounds on compulsory ID cards as the Tory Right demand, let that money provide thousands more police officers on the beat in our local communities.’[22] Although included in the Conservative election manifesto, it seems that the proposal was halted by a Labour party victory in the 1997 General Election.

A proposal for ID cards, to be called 'entitlement cards', was initially revived by the Home Secretary at the time David Blunkett following the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001,[23] but was reportedly opposed by Cabinet colleagues. However, rising concerns about identity theft and the misuse of public services led to a proposal in February 2002 for the introduction of entitlement cards to be used to obtain social security services and a consultation paper, Entitlement Cards and Identity Fraud, was published by the Home Office on 3 July 2002.[24] A public consultation process followed, which resulted in a majority of submission by organisations being in favour of a scheme to verify a person's identity accurately. However, it was clear that the ability to properly identify a person to their true identity was central to the proposal's operation, with wider implications for operations against crime and terrorism.

In 2003, Blunkett announced that the government intend to introduce a 'British national identity card' linked to a national identity database, the National Identity Register. The proposals were included in the November 2003 Queen's Speech, despite doubts over the ability of the scheme to prevent terrorism. Feedback from the consultation exercise indicated that the term 'entitlement card' was superficially softer and warmer, but less familiar and ‘weasely’, and consequently the euphemism was dropped in favour of identity cards.[25]

During a private seminar for the Fabian Society in August 2005, Tony McNulty, the minister in charge of the scheme, stated 'perhaps in the past the government, in its enthusiasm, oversold the advantages of identity cards,' and that they 'did suggest, or at least implied, that they might well be a panacea for identity fraud, for benefit fraud, terrorism, entitlement and access to public services'. He suggested that they should be seen as 'a gold standard in proving your identity'.[26] Documentation released by the Home Office demonstrated analysis conducted with the private and public sector showed the benefits of the proposed identity card scheme could be quantified at £650m to £1.1bn a year, with a number of other, less quantifiable, strategic benefits - such as disrupting the activities of organised crime and terrorist groups.[27]

Legislative progress

The Identity Cards Bill was included in the Queen's Speech on 23 November 2004, and introduced to the House of Commons on 29 November.

It was first voted on by Members of Parliament following the second reading of the bill on 20 December 2004, where it passed by 385 votes to 93. The bill was opposed by 19 Labour MPs, 10 Conservative MPs, and the Liberal Democrats, while a number of Labour and Conservative members abstained, in defiance of party policies. A separate vote on a proposal to reject the Bill was defeated by 306 votes to 93. Charles Clarke, the new Home Secretary, had earlier rejected calls to postpone the reading of the Bill following his recent appointment.

The third reading of the bill in the Commons was approved on 11 February 2005 by 224 votes to 64; a majority of 160. Although being in favour in principle, the Tories officially abstained, but 11 of their MPs joined 19 labour MPs in voting against the Government. The Bill then passed to the House of Lords, however there was insufficient time to debate the matter, and were unable to do a deal with the Conservatives in the short time available in the days before Parliament was dissolved on 11 April, following the announcement of the next General Election on 5 May 2005.[28]

Labour's manifesto for the 2005 election stated that, if returned to power, they would "introduce ID cards, including biometric data like fingerprints, backed up by a national register and rolling out initially on a voluntary basis as people renew their passports". In public speeches and on the campaign trail, Labour made clear that they would bring the same Bill back to Parliament. In contrast, the Liberal Democrat manifesto opposed the idea because ID cards "don’t work",[citation needed] while the Conservatives made no mention of the issue.

After the 2005 election

Following their 2005 election victory, the Labour Government introduced a new Identity Cards Bill, substantially the same as the previous Bill, into the Commons on 25 May. The Conservatives have now joined the Liberal Democrats in opposing the Bill, saying that it does not pass their 'five tests'. These tests include confidence that the scheme can be made to work, and its impact on civil liberties. In December 2005 the Conservative party elected a new leader, David Cameron, who opposes ID cards in principle.

The second reading of the Bill on Tuesday 28 June was passed, 314 votes to 283, a majority of 31.

At its third reading in the Commons on 18 October, the majority in favour fell to 25, with 309 votes in favour to 284 against.[29] In the Report stage between the readings, the Bill was amended to prevent the National Identity Register database being linked to the Police National Computer.

In early 2006, the Bill was passed through the House of Lords committee stage, where 279 amendments were considered. One outcome of this was a vote demanding that the Government instruct the National Audit Office to provide a full costing of the scheme over its first ten years, and another demanding that a 'secure and reliable method' of recording and storing the data should be found. A third defeat limited the potential for ID cards to be required before people can access public services.[30] On 23 January the House of Lords defeated the government by backing a fully voluntary scheme.[31]

The committee stage ended on 30 January, and the third reading of the Bill took place on 6 February, after which it returned to the Commons. There, on 18 February, the legislation was carried by a majority of 25, with 25 Labour MPs joining those opposing it. Following the defeats in the Lords, the government changed the Bill in order to require separate legislation to make the cards compulsory, however an amendment to make it possible to apply for a biometric passport without having to register on the National Identity Register database was defeated, overturning the Lords' changes to make the Bill fully voluntary. The Lords' amendment requiring a National Audit Office report was rejected.

The Bill returned to the Lords on 6 March, where the Commons amendments were reversed by a majority of 61.[32] The defeat came despite ministers warning that the Lords should follow the Salisbury Convention by refraining from blocking a manifesto commitment. Both Conservatives and Liberal Democrats stated generally in 2005 that they no longer feel bound to abide by the convention, while in this specific case several Lords have stated that it would not apply as the manifesto commitment was for implementation on a "voluntary basis" as passports are renewed, rather than being compulsory as passports are renewed.

Subsequent votes:

  • 13 March: House of Commons - majority of 33 for Government (310 to 277)[33]
  • 15 March: House of Lords - majority of 35 against Government (218 to 183)[34]
  • 16 March: House of Commons - majority of 51 for Government (292 to 241)[35]
  • 20 March: House of Lords - majority of 36 against Government (211 to 175)[36]
  • 21 March: House of Commons - majority of 43 for Government (284 to 241)[37]

But on 29 March, the House of Lords voted in favour of a new plan with a majority of 227 (287 to 60).[38] Under this scheme, everyone renewing a passport from 2008 will be issued an ID card and have their details placed on the national ID card database. The Government has said that until 2010, people can choose not to be issued a card, though they will still have to pay for one, and still be placed on the database.

The Bill received Royal Assent and entered the statute book on 30 March 2006 as the Identity Cards Act 2006.

Pilot schemes and partial rollouts

  • non-EU foreign nationals on student or marriage/civil partnership visas (compulsory) - from November 2008, non-European Union foreign nationals with permission to stay in the UK on the basis of a student visa or a marriage/civil partnership visa will, when applying to extend their stay, be required to apply for an ID card.[39]
  • Air industry staff (compulsory) (cancelled) - a pilot scheme involving compulsory IDs for 30,000 air industry staff, planned to start in September 2009 at Manchester and London City airports, was cancelled in June 2009, after substantial opposition from unions.[40]
  • Greater Manchester residents (voluntary) - a pilot scheme open to all residents of Greater Manchester, from October 2009; to be expanded to other areas in the North-West in 2010.[41]
  • Air industry staff (voluntary) - a pilot scheme involving free, voluntary ID Cards for airside workers, began in November 2009 at Manchester and London City airports.[42]
  • Young people opening bank accounts (voluntary) - from 2010 young people will be encouraged to get ID cards when they open bank accounts.[43]
  • London residents (voluntary) - from 2010 a pilot scheme open to all residents of London[43]
  • over the age of 16 if registered for IPS newsletter updates (voluntary), began in 2010[44]
  • over the age of 16 applying for a passport from 2011/2012, optional, but applicants' details will be entered into the National Identity register[43]

Historical and international comparisons

ID cards during the World Wars

Adult Identity Card - 1943

Compulsory identity cards were first issued in the United Kingdom during World War I, and abandoned in 1919. Cards were re-introduced during World War II under the National Registration Act 1939, but were abandoned seven years after the end of that war in 1952, amid widespread public resentment. The National Register however, became the National Health Service Register and is maintained to this day.

The World War I identity card scheme was highly unpopular, though accepted in the light of the prevailing national emergency. It is possible to take a small measure of how the national identity scheme was received from remarks by the historian A J P Taylor in his English History, 1914-1945, where he describes the whole thing as an 'indignity' and talks of the Home Guard 'harassing' people for their cards.[45]

After the war the government of Clement Attlee decided to continue the scheme in the face of the Cold War and the perceived Soviet threat, though it grew ever less popular. In the mind of the public it was more and more associated with bureaucratic interference and regulation, reflected, most particularly, in the 1949 comedy film Passport to Pimlico. Identity cards also became the subject of a celebrated civil liberties case in 1950. Clarence Henry Willcock, a member of the Liberal Party, refused to produce his after being stopped by the police. During his subsequent trial he argued that identity cards had no place in peace time, a defence rejected by the magistrate’s court. In his subsequent appeal, Willcock vs. Muckle, the judgment of the lower court was upheld, though in summing up Lord Goddard more or less accepted his defence:

This Act was passed for security purposes, and not for the purposes for which, apparently, it is now sought to be used. To use Acts of Parliament, passed for particular purposes during war, in times when the war is past, except that technically a state of war exists, tends to turn law-abiding subjects into lawbreakers, which is a most undesirable state of affairs. Further, in this country we have always prided ourselves on the good feeling that exists between the police and the public and such action tends to make the people resentful of the acts of the police and inclines them to obstruct the police instead of to assist them.

Protest reached Parliament, where the Conservative and Liberal peers voiced their anger over what they saw as 'Socialist card-indexing'. After the defeat of the Labour Government in the General Election of October 1951 the incoming Conservative administration of Winston Churchill was pledged to get rid of the scheme, 'to set the people free', in the words of one minister. Cheers rang out when on 21 February 1952 the Minister for Health, Harry Crookshank, announced in the House of Commons that national identity cards were to be scrapped. This was a popular move, adopted against the wishes of the police and the security services, though the decision to repeal the 1939 legislation was, in significant part, driven by the need for economies. By 1952 national registration was costing £500,000 per annum, (£ 31,974,800) a huge sum for the day, and required 1500 civil servants to administer it.

International comparisons

Identity cards

During the UK Presidency of the EU in 2005 a decision was made to "agree common standards for security features and secure issuing procedures for ID cards (December 2005), with detailed standards agreed as soon as possible thereafter. In this respect, the UK Presidency has put forward a proposal for EU-wide use of biometrics in national ID cards."[46]

Australia started work on a health and social services access card, but the government elected in the Australian federal election, 2007 cancelled it.

Biometrics in identity and travel documents

There has been an international move towards the introduction of biometrics into identity and travel documents. The ICAO has recommended that all countries adopt biometric passports, and the United States has made it a requirement for entering the US under the visa waiver programme. Biometric border control systems have been established in the United States and the United Arab Emirates, and the EU is introducing biometric visas.

The system

Legal requirements

Under the NIS UK Residents who want or are required to apply for an ID card will be required to fulfil certain functions:

  • Attend in person to have their fingerprints recorded at one of the Identity & Passport Service's High Street partners.
  • Promptly inform the police or Identity & Passport Service if a card is lost or damaged.
  • Promptly inform the Identity & Passport Service of any change of address.
  • Promptly inform the Identity & Passport Service of any prescribed change of circumstances affecting the information recorded about them in the Register.

National Identity Register

Key to the ID Card scheme will be a centralised computer database, the National Identity Register (NIR). To identify someone it will not always be necessary to check their card, since identity could be determined by a taking a biometric scan and matching it against a database entry.

ID cards for foreign nationals will be produced by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) in Swansea on behalf of the Home Office.

Identity Registration Number

One entry on the NIR is the Identity Registration Number. The Home Office have recognised that a unique identifier is needed as a primary key for the database.

The Home Office Benefits Overview document[47] describes how the IRN enables data sharing amongst police databases (including the Police DNA database), legal databases, and even corporate databases (including bank and travel operators).


Failure to inform the Government of a change of address, name, nationality, gender or other personal details, or if the card is tampered with, damaged, lost or stolen, will result in a fine of up to £1,000.[48] Fines for refusing to register have been removed until a later Bill; instead passports and/or other designated documents (e.g. driving licence) may be denied.[49][50][51]

Types of cards

There are three types of identity cards being issued:[52]

  • The National Identity Card, which is lilac and salmon in colour, is issued to British citizens only. It contains the text "British Citizen" and is a valid travel document for entry into any EEA state and Switzerland.
  • The Identification Card, which is turquoise and green in colour and does not mention the holder's nationality, is issued to EU and EEA citizens living in the UK (including Irish citizens living in Northern Ireland[53]). It is also issued to certain family members of EU/EEA citizens, to British citizens to whom certain conditions or restrictions apply, and as an additional card to a person living in two gender roles.[54]
  • The Identity Card for Foreign Nationals, which is blue and pink in colour[55], is issued to certain categories of immigrants from non-EU/EEA countries.


The announcement of the scheme has seen a mixed reaction from both the public and from figures connected to terrorism and law enforcement.

Public reaction

Over a period of time, public opinion, as measured by opinion polls, appears to have shifted away from support for the scheme towards opposition. This appears to have become more of a concern since the disclosure of the loss of 25 million records by Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs.

In 2003, the announcement of the scheme was followed by a public consultation exercise, particularly among 'stakeholder groups'. At March 2003 the government stated that the overall results were:

in favour: 2606 responses (61%)
against: 1587 responses (38%)
neutral: 48 responses (1%)

By July 2006, an ICM poll[56] indicated that public support had fallen to 46%, with opposition at 51%.

A further poll by YouGov/Daily Telegraph, published on 4 December 2006, indicated support for the identity card element of the scheme at 50%, with 39% opposed. Support for the national database was weaker, with 22% happy and 78% unhappy with the prospect of having their data recorded. Only 11% trusted the government to keep the data confidential. 3.12% of the sample were prepared to undergo long prison sentences rather than have a card.[57]

Terrorism and crime

Eliza Manningham-Buller, Baroness Manningham-Buller, the former head of Britain's counter-intelligence and security agency MI5 is on record in her support of the introduction of identity cards, as is Sir Ian Blair, former Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and his predecessor, Sir John (now Lord) Stevens. The Association of Chief Police Officers is also supportive.

However, in November 2005 Dame Stella Rimington, who was Director General of MI5 before Eliza Manningham-Buller, questioned the usefulness of the proposed scheme.[58] This intervention caused a good deal of controversy amongst supporters and opponents of the scheme, especially as Manningham-Buller stated that ID cards would in fact disrupt the activities of terrorists, noting that significant numbers of terrorists take advantage of the weaknesses of current identification methods to assist their activities.

Lord Carlile was appointed on 11 September 2001 to independently review the working of British Terrorism Act and subsequent anti-terrorist laws.[59] Talking on GMTV on 29 January 2006, he expressed his views on the proposed legislation, saying[60] that ID cards could be of limited value in the fight against terrorism but that Parliament had to judge that value against the curtailment of civil liberties. Speaking on the same programme, Lord Stevens of Kirkwhelpington, former Met Police Commissioner, argued in favour for the need for identity cards, saying they had benefits in tackling serious crimes, such as money laundering and identity theft.



Independent studies including one by the London School of Economics have suggested that costs could be as much as £12 billion to £18 billion. The reliability of this study has been challenged by the Government which disputed some of the assumptions used in the calculations such as the need to retake biometric information every 5 years. The government argued that this assumption had not been supported by any research in the London School of Economics report, and that biometric experts quoted in the LSE reports have sought to distance themselves from its findings. The Government also claimed that the authors of these estimates are established opponents to the scheme and cannot be considered unbiased academic sources.[61]

Tony McNulty, Home Office minister responsible for the scheme, responded by saying a "ceiling" on costs would be announced in October 2005.[62] There are now indications that the Government is looking at ways of subsidising the scheme by charging other Government Departments, with the implication that this would result in increased charges for other Government services to individuals or businesses.[63]

After the general election the Home Office stated that it would cost £584 million a year to run the scheme. In October 2006, the Government declared it would cost £5.4bn to run the ID cards scheme for the next 10 years.[64] In May 2007 the Home Office forecast a cost rise of £400m to £5.3 billion,[65] a figure revised in November 2007 to £5.612bn.[66]

The Government has abandoned plans for a giant new computer system to run the national identity card scheme. Instead of a single multi billion pound system, information will be held on three existing, separate databases.[67]

An estimate from the Home Office placed the cost of a 10-year passport and ID card package at £85, while after the 2005 General Election in May 2005 they issued a revised figure of over £93,[68] and announced that a "standalone" ID card would cost £30.[69] In 2009, it was announced that retailers would be collecting fingerprints and photographs, and that they would be able to charge for this, meaning that the total cost for a standalone ID card is expected to be up to £60.[17]


Then Home Secretary David Blunkett stated in 2004 said the cards will stop people using multiple identities and boost the fight against terrorism and organised crime. However, human rights group Liberty dispelled this as a myth, claiming that the existence of another form of ID cards in Spain did not prevent the Madrid train bombings.[70]

However, Mr Blunkett has since made a significant U-turn. At his opening speech for Infosecurity Europe on 27 April 2009, he stepped back from the concept of a full National Identity Database for every citizen, saying it would be sufficient to improve the verification of passports.[71][72] A video of his address is available here.

His successor, Charles Clarke, said that ID cards "cannot stop attacks", in the aftermath of the 7 July 2005 London bombings, and added that he doubted it would have prevented the atrocities. However, he felt that on the balance between protecting civil liberties and preventing crime, ID cards would help rather than hinder.[73]

Ethnic minorities

The Government's Race Equality Impact Assessment[74] indicates significant concern among ethnic groups over how the Police would use their powers under an Identity Cards Act, with 64% of black and 53% of Indian respondents expressing concern, particularly about the potential for abuse and discrimination. In their January 2005 report[75] on the Bill, the Commission for Racial Equality stated that the fear of discrimination is neither misconceived nor exaggerated, and note that this is also an ongoing issue in Germany, the Netherlands and France.

The CRE are also concerned that disproportionate requirement by employers and the authorities for ethnic minorities to identify themselves may create a two tiered structure amongst racial groups, with foreign nationals and British ethnic minorities feeling compelled to register while British white people do not.[76][77]

According to the CRE, certain groups who move location frequently and who tend to live on low incomes (such as Gypsies, travellers, asylum-seekers and refugees) risk being criminalised under the legislation through failing to update their registration each time they move due to lack of funds to pay the fee that may be charged.

Concerns raised by the Information Commissioner

In a press release on 30 July 2004,[78] Richard Thomas the Information Commissioner's Office stated that a NIR raise substantial data protection and personal privacy concerns. He sought clarification of why so much personal information needed to be kept as part of establishing an individual's identity and indicated concern about the wide range of bodies who would view the records of services individuals have used. The Commissioner has also pointed out that those who renew or apply for a driving licence or passport will be automatically added to the National Identity Register, so losing the option of not registering. He subsequently stated: "My anxiety is that we don't sleepwalk into a surveillance society."[79] In February 2003, on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, he warned that ID cards could become a target for identity theft by organised crime.

Human rights

On 2 February 2005, Parliament's Joint Committee on Human Rights questioned the compatibility of the Bill with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the right to respect for private life) and Article 14 (the right to non-discrimination),[80] both of which are encapsulated with the UK's own Human Rights Act.

Feature creep

Even without new primary legislation, the Identity Cards Act allows the potential scope of the scheme to be much greater than that usually publicised by the Government.

For example, Gordon Brown was reported to be "planning a massive expansion of the ID cards project that would widen surveillance of everyday life by allowing high-street businesses to share confidential information with police databases."[81] He apparently described how "police could be alerted as soon as a wanted person used a biometric-enabled cash card or even entered a building via an iris-scan door."[82]

The wartime National Registration ID card expanded from 3 functions to 39 by the time it was abolished.[83]

Concerns have also been raised following Tony Blair's response to an ID card petition stating that the fingerprint register would be used to compare the fingerprints of the population at large against the records of 900,000 unsolved crimes.

Opposition MPs claim that the use of the biometric data in this way directly breaches promises given during the Commons debate that there would be adequate safeguards preventing the use of ID card data for "fishing expeditions".[84][85]

Database extent and access

Home Office forecasts envisage that "265 government departments and as many as 48,000 accredited private sector organisations" would have access to the database, and that 163 million identity verifications or more may take place each year.[86] However, the IPS has stated that only the data needed for the passport will be kept [visit] and that organisations that have permission to access the data held on the Register can only do so with the individual's permission, unless to prevent or investigate a crime.

Vulnerable individuals

The CRE have also recommended that more work is required to protect the interests of vulnerable individuals. For example, women escaping a violent lover or a forced marriage may be at risk if their previous names or addresses are disclosed. However, Minister Meg Hillier, in a letter to The Spectator magazine, pointed out that as the ID card would not have someone's address on it, it would protect such a person's privacy in a way currently unavailable.

Identity theft

Tony Blair said "ID cards are needed to stop the soaring costs of identity theft" in May 2005.[87] However, security experts have claimed that placing trust in a single document may make identity theft easier, since only this document needs to be targeted.[88]

Card tampering and forging

In addition to problems affecting the database, there may be the tampering or superficial forging of the actual biometric identity cards. In a recent case in Germany, criminals forged an ID card that included biometric data.[89]

A number of academics also point to problems of removing human interaction from security systems. Such problems can be seen with Chip and PIN credit card systems.[90] While not a criticism of the technology itself, the work notes that operators cannot simply leave the security up to the technology and must remain vigilant in preventing suspicious behaviour.


Elsewhere, doubts remain concerning the practicability of the scheme, and even the very best system will be liable to a small error rate. Existing government systems are not appropriate for the issuing to UK citizens from 2009.[5]

Tests of facial recognition software dating from 2006 showed error rates of up to 52 percent for the disabled.[91]

Opposition campaigns

In May 2006, NO2ID launched the "Renew for Freedom" campaign,[92] urging passport holders to renew their passports in the summer of 2006 to delay being entered on the National Identity Register. This followed the comment made by Charles Clarke in the House of Commons that "anyone who feels strongly enough about the linkage [between passports and the ID scheme] not to want to be issued with an ID card in the initial phase will be free to surrender their existing passport and apply for a new passport before the designation order takes effect".[93]

In response, the Home Office said that it was "hard to see what would be achieved, other than incurring unnecessary expense" by renewing passports early.[94] However, the cost of a passport was £51 at the time, then increased in 2006 and 2007 to £72, and it is set to rise to at least £93 once identity cards are introduced.

On 14 November 2007, the NO2ID opposition group called for financial donations from the 11,360 people who had pledged to contribute to a fighting fund opposing the legislation.[95] The organisation plans to challenge the statutory instruments that will be brought in to enable the ID card scheme.[96]

There have been widespread calls for campaigns of mass civil disobedience, generally urging citizens to refuse to register for an ID card, or to attend compulsory photographic sittings. These calls have been led by prominent public figures including Baroness Williams, Boris Johnson and Nick Clegg.[97]


Although policy on passports and the National Identity Scheme is not an area devolved to the Scottish Government, on 19 November 2008 the Scottish Parliament voted[98] to reject the ID card scheme, with no votes against the government motion, and only the Scottish Labour MSPs abstaining. In 2005 the previous Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition government had stated[99] that "the proposals for an identity card scheme confine themselves to reserved policy areas only", and that ID cards will not be needed to access devolved services in Scotland, eg. health, education, the legal system and transport.

Northern Ireland

The introduction of compulsory ID cards to Northern Ireland is likely to provoke serious opposition given the large Nationalist (Catholic) community who regard themselves as Irish and not British.[100] In an effort to counter this, the British Government has decided not to include the Union Flag on the card and has stated that a separate card will be issued to Northern Irish people who identify their nationality as Irish. The separate card will not include any statement of nationality, and as such, may not be used as a travel document as only the Irish Government may issue travel documents for Irish citizens. Home Secretary Alan Johnson has also stated that the inclusion of Northern Irish people on the National Identity Register of British citizens will not prevent such people from claiming full Irish citizenship rights [101].

See also


  1. ^ Identity Cards Act 2006 (c. 15)
  2. ^ Johnson reveals ID register linked to NI numbers
  3. ^ Identity Cards Act 2006 (c. 15)
  4. ^ Webcam interview essential for new passports - Stornoway Today
  5. ^ a b Cost of ID card technology pencilled in at £800m -
  6. ^ BBC NEWS | Politics | Identity card cost 'may be cut'
  7. ^ Emails from Whitehall officials in charge of ID cards - Sunday Times - Times Online
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ Francis Elliott, ID cards may be issued by coercion, says leaked memo, The Times, 2008-01-28
  11. ^ Companies abandon ID card project, Financial Times, 2008-01-23
  12. ^ Thales awarded National Identity Scheme contract
  13. ^ a b Identity and Passport Service (25 September 2008). "First ID card unveiled by Home Secretary as scheme builds momentum". Press release. 
  14. ^ Christopher Hope (17 December 2008). "Jacqui Smith unveils the UK's new identity card - with no sign of Britain". The Daily Telegraph. 
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^ a b
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^ Lords Hansard text for 31 Oct 2005 (51031-10)
  23. ^ BBC News: A question of identity, 25 September 2001
  24. ^ Entitlement Cards and Identity Fraud - A Consultation Paper, 3 July 2003
  25. ^ A Summary of Findings from the Consultation Exercise on Entitlement Cards and Identity Fraud, page 45, November 2002
  26. ^ Labour admits ID card 'oversell', 4 August 2005
  27. ^ IPS
  28. ^ Casino and ID card bills hit in deal on legislation | Special Reports | Guardian Unlimited Politics
  29. ^ BBC NEWS | Politics | Labour survives ID card rebellion
  30. ^ ID Cards Bill in crisis after peers inflict defeat - UK Politics, UK -
  31. ^ BBC NEWS | Politics | ID cards scheme in Lords defeats
  32. ^ Clarke vows to overturn ID cards defeat | Special Reports | Guardian Unlimited Politics
  33. ^ - Clarke warns peers on ID cards
  34. ^ - ID cards remain in parliamentary limbo
  35. ^ - ID card law sent back to the Lords
  36. ^ - Ministers lose another ID cards vote
  37. ^ BBC NEWS | Politics | MPs stand firm on identity cards
  38. ^ BBC NEWS | Politics | Deal paves the way for ID cards
  39. ^ BBC, 25 September 2008, Foreign national ID card unveiled
  40. ^ The Guardian, 30 June 2009, Identity card trial for air industry staff dropped
  41. ^ Rochdale Online, 21 August 2009, ID cards rolled out in Greater Manchester
  42. ^ IPS Website, 30 November 2009, Press release
  43. ^ a b c BBC, 2 July 2009, Q&A: Identity cards
  44. ^
  45. ^ Id., pp. 563, 599.
  46. ^ UK Presidency advances EU-wide ID card standards, data retention and intelligence sharing to fight terrorism, 14 July 2005
  47. ^ Identity Cards Scheme - Benefits Overview, Home Office
  48. ^
  49. ^ Identity Cards Bill
  50. ^
  51. ^,000-fine-for-failing-to-update-identity-cards.html
  52. ^
  53. ^
  54. ^ The Identity Cards Act 2006 (Prescribed Information) Regulations 2009 (No. 2794), 1 (2) (d-j)
  55. ^
  56. ^ ICM Research - Media Centre - Polls
  57. ^ Survey Report
  58. ^ BBC NEWS | Politics | Ex-MI5 chief sparks ID card row
  59. ^ [1]
  60. ^ BBC NEWS | UK | UK Politics | ID cards are of 'limited value'
  61. ^ LSE: ID Cards - UK's high tech scheme is high risk
  62. ^ (BBC)
  63. ^
  64. ^ BBC NEWS | Politics | ID card scheme cost put at £5.4bn
  65. ^ BBC News: ID card cost rises above £5bn
  66. ^ BBC NEWS: ID card scheme 'to cost £5.6bn'
  67. ^ "Giant ID computer plan scrapped". BBC News (British Broadcasting Corporation). 2006-12-19. Retrieved 2007-12-22. 
  68. ^
  69. ^
  70. ^ [2]
  71. ^ [3]
  72. ^ [4]
  73. ^ BBC NEWS | Politics | ID cards 'wouldn't stop attacks'
  74. ^ pdf
  75. ^ doc
  76. ^ BBC NEWS | Politics | Race watchdog warns on ID cards
  77. ^ Identity Cards Bill, House of Lords report stage
  78. ^ (.doc file)
  79. ^ Beware rise of Big Brother state, warns data watchdog - Britain - Times Online
  80. ^ IDABC - UK: UK's ID Cards Bill wins parliamentary vote despite Human
  81. ^ Brown to let shops share ID card data | Politics | The Observer
  82. ^ ID plans: powers set to widen - UK Politics, UK -
  83. ^ BBC NEWS | Technology | Opponents take on ID card plans
  84. ^ ID cards 'will allow crime fingerprint checks' - Telegraph
  85. ^ Blair under fire over police access to ID card database | Special Reports | Guardian Unlimited Politics
  86. ^
  87. ^ BBC NEWS | Politics | Blair defends identity card plan
  88. ^ U.K
  89. ^ "ID cards". Lynne Featherstone. Retrieved 8 September 2006. 
  90. ^ Fraudsters show how to beat chip and pin | Money | The Guardian
  91. ^ The biometric delusion
  92. ^ renew for freedom - renew your passport
  93. ^ I beg to move, That this House does...: 21 Mar 2006: House of Commons debates (
  94. ^ BBC NEWS | Politics | Home Office questions ID protest
  95. ^ Calling in NO2ID's pledge "refuse", 14 November 2007
  96. ^ No2ID calls in pledge cash to 'probe' ID Act's enabling laws, 15 November 2007
  97. ^ See the BBC News website for details of both individuals.
  98. ^ Holyrood rejects identity cards, BBC News
  99. ^ Scottish government's position on ID cards - 16/06/2005
  100. ^
  101. ^

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