May calls time on 'intrusive' identity card scheme

The Home Secretary, Theresa May, yesterday moved closer to scrapping the controversial £5bn national identity card scheme, declaring it "intrusive, bullying and ineffective".

She told the House of Commons that the cards represented "the worst of government" and were "un-British", and declared herself "very pleased" to be wielding the axe. Doing so would lead to a "Millennium Dome's"-worth of savings – nearly £900m for the taxpayer.

Ms May was speaking during the second reading debate of the Identity Documents Bill, which will invalidate all existing cards within one month of the Bill becoming law. The Bill will also destroy all information held on the National Identity Register, effectively dismantling it. The role of the Identity Commissioner, created in an effort to prevent data blunders and leaks, will be terminated.

Around 15,000 members of the public who had paid £30 for one of the cards would not be compensated, Ms May stressed. She confirmed that foreign nationals would still be required to hold a card confirming their identity, although she insisted it was a "biometric residence permit" and should not be labelled an identity card as it was "completely separate".

The shadow Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, said Labour would not vote against the Bill, as he accepted the mandate of the Government to abolish them, but he pointed out the "inconsistency" of the Tory position, as they had backed ID cards up to and through the 2005 general election.