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UK ID Card Officially Unveiled By Government

Alan Johnson, the home secretary, has shown the final design of the national identity card, which is set to cost £30 but could be axed as early as next year.

Mr Johnson said at the launch that the card is a "no brainer" and would provide with a "safe and secure" way of proving their identity.

The card will be rolled out in the Greater Manchester area over the next few months before eventually going nationwide between 2010 and 2012, just in time for the Olympic games.

The national ID system - which will rely on a central database - is supposed to solve a variety of problems including identity fraud, crime and terrorism according to its backers (ed: ID cards wouldn't prevent something like the parliamentary expenses scandal though).

The card physically looks like a driving licence but will also contain two fingerprints and a photograph or facial scan encoded on a non-volatile memory chip.

Identity cards - which do not carry the Union Jack - have already been issued for some segments of population residing in the UK including spouses and students.

The Tory party has already said that they would cancel the scheme which they consider as a waste of public money; the total cost of the national ID project is set to rise to around £5.4 billion and the government has already spent £215 million so far on the scheme.

According to Alan Johnson, the card will never become compulsory and there were signs that the government was unsure about whether the scheme itself would go ahead after a £500 million contract did not go ahead.

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Our Comments

The Tories' Shadow home secretary Chris Grayling told the FT that "The government has already wasted £200m that we cannot afford. The scheme will cost hundreds of millions more, even if the cards are voluntary. It is time it was completely scrapped."

Related Links

Johnson reveals new ID card design (opens in new tab)

UK ID cards: images unveiled by Home Secretary (opens in new tab)

Spending on UK identity scheme hits £215m (opens in new tab)

Photos: ID cards for Brits (opens in new tab)

Picture: UK ID card unveiled (opens in new tab)

Désiré Athow
Désiré Athow

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.