As Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, unveiled plans for an ID card it became increasingly clear that the Government intends all British citizens eventually to carry one.
Although launched as a voluntary system, with cards costing between pounds 10 and pounds 15, the Government admitted that "the aim will be to introduce an identity card which achieves eventually a very wide coverage of the adult population".
John Woulds, director of operations for the Data Protection Registrar's Office, the official regulator, said: "What is voluntary today becomes compulsory effectively as time goes on ... you find you can't open a bank account or hire a television on credit without an ID card."
The Government is expected to bring in legislation in the autumn and the cards could be available by next summer.
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