Blunkett: Cabinet split over ID cards

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Cabinet members have expressed "perfectly reasonable scepticism" at plans for a national ID card, the Home Secretary said yesterday.

David Blunkett told a cross-party group of MPs that opinions on his plans for microchip cards varied among senior ministers.

He said a decision on whether to go ahead with the project would be taken by the end of the year - much later than initially predicted. Some commentators had been expecting an announcement at this month's Labour Party conference in Bournemouth.

Mr Blunkett told the Home Affairs Select Committee: "I noted this morning at Cabinet that several members who are great enthusiasts were named in Sunday newspapers as being against and several who had expressed perfectly reasonable scepticism were named as being in favour. I would take this with a considerable pinch of salt and rely on me to persuade them that it will be all right."

He added: "We have got to make a decision as to whether we have the inclination or the space available to bring forward empowerment legislation in the coming session of Parliament."

Mr Blunkett did not reveal the stances of specific ministers. The Home Secretary said that he gave the Cabinet a progress report on the plans for compulsory ID cards, which would be designed to help stamp out benefit fraud, illegal working, abuse of the NHS and other types of identity crime.

He said his presentation yesterday was intended to ensure that he had the authority to go ahead with more preparatory work. The Government has estimated that it would cost £1.5bn to bring in an ID card, with people being charged about £40 a head.