Q&A: Why does Mr Blair want me to have a card, and what will it cost?

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Indy Politics

What is an ID card?

What is an ID card?

It will be a piece of plastic resembling a credit card and will store your registration number which, like your National Insurance number, will be unique to you. It will also hold biometric information - fingerprints, facial measurements, and an imprint of your irises, which are also unique and cannot be faked. The same information will also be held on a new national register.

Will I have to have one?

The current Identity Cards Bill will set up a voluntary scheme, which means that you will not be obliged to own an ID card unless you renew your passport or your driving licence, or the Home Secretary makes an order that applies to you. Later, another piece of legislation will make ID cards compulsory for everybody.

What will it cost me?

The Home Office has indicated a figure of £93 for a card that lasts for 10 years. The scheme is meant to cover its own running costs, which the Government believes will run to £584m a year. However, a study by the London School of Economics has suggested that the true cost could be three times the present estimate coming from Whitehall. That implies that the Home Office will have to charge £300 a card - or beg the Treasury for a subsidy.

Will I have to carry my card with me at all times?

No. Charles Clarke and others have specified that the card need not be produced on demand. Some have wondered, therefore, what would be the point of compelling people to have these cards if they are not compelled to produce them when stopped by the police.

What is the point of it?

Tony Blair believes the ID card will help tackle a range of serious problems, from terrorism to benefit fraud. The Government is particularly emphasising that it will help combat identity theft. The cards will also make it hard for illegal economic migrants to find jobs.

Will the technology work?

No one knows. There have been so many horror stories about the problems thrown up by new computer systems, especially in departments such as the Passport Office and the Child Support Agency, that there is a real fear that it will all go horribly wrong.