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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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."

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