Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary, has made it clear that ID cards will not be compulsory. In a press conference, he said that the pilot schemes for airside workers to have ID cards in Manchester and London City Airports would not now be compulsory for UK citizens.
“Holding an identity card should be a personal choice for British citizens – just as it is now to obtain a passport. Accordingly I want the introduction of identity cards for all British citizens to be voluntary and I have therefore decided that identity cards issued to airside workers, planned initially at Manchester and London City airports later this year, should also be voluntary.”
At the press conference, he was asked by journalists if ID cards would be made obligatory and said quite clearly that they would not be.
In a Parliamentary written statement he said:
“There will be significant benefits to individuals from holding an identity card which will become the most convenient, secure and affordable way of asserting identity in everyday life. Identity cards will also be valid for travel throughout Europe in place of a British passport. ….. However, holding an identity card should be a personal choice for British citizens – just as it is now to obtain a passport. Accordingly I want the introduction of identity cards for all British citizens to be voluntary.”
This is a sensible and proportionate approach to adopt.
I have always felt that identity cards were mis-sold when they were first announced. They were never going to be a magic bullet in the battles against terrorism or organised crime – although that was what was claimed when the proposals were first aired. However, a simple system enabling the citizen to demonstrate – should they wish to do so – who they are always seemed to me to have enormous value (certainly better than having to turn up at a bank with a driving license, a council tax receipt and a utility bill). In essence, that is the system that the Government is now saying we will be moving towards.