Smith dismisses ID card fingerprint problem

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith unveiled the new ID card today, but revealed it will be impossible to include a full set of fingerprints for everyone carrying a card.

Concerns have been raised that scanners will not be able to record the prints of people whose ridges have worn down, such as older people and manual labourers.

The Home Office said it was "looking at mechanisms" to deal with the problem but pointed to a 12,000 person trial in which some prints were collected from everyone.

Ms Smith said: "It's not a problem that will undermine the effectiveness of the scheme."

Up to 60,000 cards, which are pink and blue and resemble driving licences, are to be issued to foreign workers by April at centres in Croydon, Sheffield, Glasgow, Liverpool, Birmingham and Cardiff.

They will be compulsory for anyone from outside the EU needing to renew their visa. Each one carries the owner's picture, and details of their residence and work allowances on the front.

On the back is their name, date and place of birth, nationality and benefit entitlements. Biometric data, such as the fingerprint scans and an electronic version of the picture, will be stored on a special chip.

Ms Smith said the cards would protect against identity fraud, illegal working, and help people prove who they are.

"Many people want securely and quickly to be able to prove their identity and want to be able to check people are who they say they are," she said.

The scheme will start on November 25, and ministers predict one million cards a year will be issued each year from 2010.

The first phase will target people suspected of abusing the immigration system, such as foreign students and people claiming the right to stay through marriage.

Workers at sensitive sites such as airports will also be issued with cards from next year.

The cost of the ID card database, biometric passports and ID cards is predicted to hit £4.7bn.

But the Tories have pledged to abandon ID cards which they claim are being introduced "by stealth".

Shadow home secretary Dominic Grieve said: "The Government are kidding themselves if they think ID Cards for foreign nationals will protect against illegal immigration or terrorism - since they don't apply to those coming here for less than three months."

The cards will be made available to everyone from 2011 at a cost of £30. Ministers could still make them compulsory by a vote in Parliament.

Ms Smith said she expected "broad coverage" but would not put a figure on how many people she expected to buy one.

MigrationwatchUK chairman Sir Andrew Green said the cards were "essential" to tackle illegal immigration.

But civil liberties campaigners and opposition groups said they were an infringement of people's liberties, and would prove both expensive and ineffective.

Former shadow home secretary David Davis, who resigned over the creation of what he called a "database state", said the announcement was the "thin end of the wedge".

"There is no justification for requiring every British citizen to have an identity card and for innocent citizens to be required to submit their fingerprints to a state controlled database, with all the risks that go with that."

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne said cards were a "grotesque intrusion" on the liberty of the British people and would be regarded as a "laminated Poll Tax" if made compulsory.

Liberty Director Shami Chakrabarti said: "It's going to take more than pastel colours and flowery design to persuade us to surrender our privacy and billions of pounds to boot.

"Picking on foreign nationals first is the nastiest politics; as costly to our race relations as to our purses."

Each card is etched with four flowers representing the nations of the UK: the rose, the thistle, the daffodil and the shamrock.

Like other EU countries, the UK ID card shows a bull to represent the Greek myth in which Zeus turns himself in to a bull and abducts Europa.

Britons were last issued with ID cards during the Second World War but the cards were dumped in the early 1950s.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: ICT Infrastructure Manager

£27000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Edinburgh city centre Scho...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Assistant

£17900 - £20300 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An enthusiastic Marketing Assis...

Recruitment Genius: Chef / Managers

£24000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This contract caterer is proud ...

Day In a Page

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Attwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
10 best waterproof mascaras

Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'