Hewitt is first minister to oppose identity cards

The rift in the Cabinet over compulsory identity cards deepened yesterday after Patricia Hewitt, the Trade and Industry Secretary, spelt out her "grave reservations".

She went public with her opposition to the move only days after the Home Secretary, David Blunkett, said he wanted the scheme included in the Queen's Speech in November. Under his plans, people not qualifying for an ID card would not have access to health care or education.

Ms Hewitt, a former general secretary of the Council for Civil Liberties (now Liberty), said the issue raised "enormous" questions of both principle and practicality. "Great big IT projects, data bases and the rest of it have a horrible habit of going wrong," she said.

But Ms Hewitt, appearing on BBC1's Question Time, avoided saying if she was prepared to resign over the issue, explaining that the eventual decision was unlikely to be one she "couldn't live with".

Ms Hewitt's concerns are supported by several ministers, including Charles Clarke, the Education Secretary. Some ministers - understood to include Gordon Brown, the Chancellor - are worried that the costcould exceed £2bn. Others fear antagonising Labour activists.

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