1 Jul 2009

Britain drops plans to make ID cards compulsory

6:14 am on 1 July 2009

Britain is dropping plans to bring in compulsory biometric identity cards for airport workers. However, the scheme would remain voluntary for all Britons.

Home Secretary Alan Johnson said on Tuesday the government is going ahead with the introduction of the cards, which contain personal details, fingerprints and a facial image, but ruled out making them compulsory.

Civil rights campaigners and opposition politicians oppose the project, saying it is unnecessary, expensive and an intrusion into private life.

The Conservative Party has pledged to scrap the scheme as part of public spending cuts to help deal with Britain's spiralling debt.

Under the government's original plans, the cards were to be issued this year to airport staff at Manchester and London City airports, before the project was rolled out across Britain by 2012.

Further legislation would have been required before the cards were made compulsory.

Unlike in many European countries where citizens are expected to carry ID cards, Britons have not been issued with them since their abolition after World War II.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his predecessor Tony Blair have argued that ID cards are essential to help fight organised crime and terrorism, as well as making it easier for people to access public services such as healthcare.