British identity cards will be covered in EU symbols

Britain's first identity card in more
than half a century was unveiled yesterday - and turned out to be covered in EU symbols to satisfy Brussels.

The plastic card, which will be issued to foreign citizens in Britain starting in November, marks the first stage in the Government's ambitious scheme to issue biometric ID cards to all UK residents at a cost of billions of pounds.

But serious questions remain over whether the system will work or bring any practical benefits, and doubts were underlined yesterday as the Conservatives pledged to scrap the entire venture if they win the next General Election.
Foreigners issued with the cards will not have to show them to get a job or use services such as the NHS and schools, and it remains unclear if or when public services or private firms will install computerised scanners to make use of the costly biometric technology.

The card revealed by Home Secretary Jacqui Smith yesterday features a picture of a bull above EU- style golden stars, while the coloured background is made up of hundreds of tiny letters spelling 'EU'. The bull is a European Union symbol drawn from Greek mythology.

Last night the Home Office admitted that British ID cards had to follow a common design as set out in a Brussels directive to ensure that every card issued by EU states looks similar.

Each card, which will cost £30, carries unique biometric data in the form of a photograph and the individual's fingerprints stored digitally.
Miss Smith said up to 60,000 cards will be distributed by next March to non-EU foreign citizens resident in Britain as they renew their visas. These cardswill be compulsory.


Ministers hope the first cards for British citizens, featuring a slightly different design, will be issued next year, starting with workers in sensitive locations such as ' airside' staff at UK airports. These will also be compulsory, but airport operators and unions object strongly, and could yet scupper the plans.

From 2010 the Government will encourage all young Britons to apply for a card on a voluntary basis, extending the scheme to all citizens and foreign residents from 2011.
Ministers hope that when enough people have cards Parliament will agree to make them compulsory.

They claim the scheme will cost £4.7billion in its first ten years, although that does not include the substantial cost of installing scanners at huge numbers of sites including NHS clinics, town halls and benefits offices to check identities and entitlements.

Miss Smith insisted the cards would protect against identity fraud, illegal working, and help people prove their identity easily.

Critics claim the failure to make the cards universal for foreign citizens makes a mockery of the supposed security benefits.

Shadow home secretary Dominic Grieve dismissed the entire scheme as an 'expensive white elephant' which should be ditched.


He said: 'Ministers are kidding themselves if they think ID cards for foreign nationals will protect against illegal immigration or terrorism.'

Liberal Democrat spokesman Chris Huhne said: 'It does not matter how fancy the design is, ID cards remain a grotesque intrusion on the liberty of the British people.

'The Government is using vulnerable members of our society, like foreign nationals who do not have the vote, as guinea pigs for a deeply unpopular and unworkable policy.

'When voting adults are forced to carry ID cards, this scheme will prove to be a laminated poll tax.'

SOURCE

Tarn Lass

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