What will the new ID cards reveal?

They've all got something on you
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What sort of cards will there be?

They will be the size of a credit card and there will be a choice of the following cards:

a) a joint identity card and driving licence

b) a separate identity card

c) a photocard driving licence, for those who decide not to hold an identity card, or for non-resident citizens of the UK.

Will everybody have to carry one?

The photocard driving licences will be phased in for all drivers, but the identity cards are voluntary. The Government has, however, left the door open for compulsory cards in the future, which many believe is its real intention.

What information will they hold?

The main purpose will be as an identity card, which can be used instead of a passport in the EU and a small number of other countries, including Lie- chtenstein. They will bear photographs of the holder, together with name, signature, address and age. In future, they might contain basic health information, such as blood groups. The magnetic strip could also be used to store other information, such as social security details, but there are no proposals for this at the moment.

When will they be introduced?

The consultation period ends on September 20 this year and the Government will then introduce legislation, probably later this autumn, to make the cards available from the summer of 1997.

Will they bear a Union Flag?

Yes. The identity card will also have the Royal Crest. The combined driving licence and identity card will in addition bear the 12 stars of the EU logo. The photocard driving licence will bear the Union Flag and the EU flag. People in Northern Ireland will be able to keep existing driving licences which do not bear the Union Flag.

How much will they cost?

Initial estimates put the cost for the ID card at between pounds 10 to pounds 15, and the joint driver's licence and ID card at between pounds 20 to pounds 25.

Will the cards have an age restriction?

No. The Home Office hopes they will help to stop under-age youngsters buying alcohol, cigarettes, videos and lottery tickets.

Will the cards help cut crime?

The Government believes they will have a limited effect in stopping minor offences involving fraud or false identity, such as passing fake cheques or bogus officials conning the public. Police oppose compulsory cards, because they are afraid of damaging their relationship with the public.

What other advantages do the cards have?

They are smaller and therefore supposed to be more convenient than having a passport or several different items of identification.

The Government also believes they will help identify illegal immigrants.

Will it be easy to forge them?

No, the card has several special security features, although forgers are certain to attempt to overcome them.

Who will be responsible for issuing the cards?

The two possibilities at the moment are the driving licence authority (DVLA) and the Passport Office. No decision has been made yet.