A majority of the Cabinet is opposed to compulsory cards. The fierce divisions within the Cabinet on the issue led Mr Howard to emphasise the possibility of a voluntary, single card. That provoked heckling from representatives demanding a harder line.
Mr Howard pointed out during the law and order debate that even the voluntary option would mean three- quarters of the population would carry a card, because it could be used as a driving licence and for identification when claiming social security benefits such as pensions. In time most people would choose to carry a card.
His initiative won the backing of senior police officers, but civil liberty groups saw it as a step down a slippery slope towards a compulsory card, which would raise questions about police powers.
Andrew Puddephatt, general secretary of Liberty, the civil liberties group, said last night: 'It's going to cost half a billion pounds, there are going to have to be new police powers to stop people in the street and ask them to produce these cards. It's bound to affect black and young people disproportionately.'
Conference report, page 7
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