The government plans for identity cards for British citizens to be scrapped within 100 days it was announced today.
The National Identity Register, the database which contains the biographic and biometric fingerprint data of card holders, would also be destroyed by the first piece of legislation introduced to Parliament by the coalition government.
Home Secretary Theresa May said:
“This bill is a first step of many that this government is taking to reduce the control of the state over decent, law-abiding people and hand power back to them.
“With swift Parliamentary approval, we aim to consign identity cards and the intrusive ID card scheme to history within 100 days.”
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said:
“The wasteful, bureaucratic and intrusive ID card scheme represents everything that has been wrong with government in recent years.
“By taking swift action to scrap it, we are making it clear that this government won’t sacrifice people’s liberty for the sake of Ministers’ pet projects.
“Cancelling the scheme and abolishing the National Identity Register is a major step in dismantling the surveillance state – but ID cards are just the tip of the iceberg. Today marks the start of a series of radical reforms to restore hard-won British freedoms.”
The Identity Documents Bill is part of a first wave of priority legislation set out in the Queen’s Speech on 25 May. The Bill invalidates the identity card, meaning that holders will no longer be able to use them to prove their identity or as a travel document in Europe.
The government aims to have the Bill pass through Parliament and enacted by the Parliamentary recess in August, in a move that will save the taxpayer around £86m over the next four years once all cancellation costs are taken into account. It would also avoid around £800m of ongoing costs over the next ten years which were to be recovered through fees.
The Identity and Passport Service will inform customers, overseas governments, borders and airports of the change in law as soon as the Bill gains Royal Assent.
The role of the Identity Commissioner would also be terminated. The public panels, designed to scrutinise the identity cards scheme, have already been disbanded.
Cancelling identity cards requires primary legislation to repeal the existing Identity Cards Act. The new Identity Documents Bill is designed to ensure the identity card scheme can be cancelled and decommissioned by the summer of 2010.
Cards would become invalid within one month of the Identity Documents Bill receiving Royal Assent. This is to allow the use of the ID card for those who are immediately about to travel or are currently travelling. The National Identity Register would be physically destroyed shortly after.
On Royal Assent of the Bill, all remaining enrolment equipment for identity cards will be decommissioned and the Identity Commissioner’s role will terminate.
Customers, overseas governments, borders and airports will be informed of the date on which the cards will become invalid.
Cancelling identity cards will save the taxpayer around £86m over the next four years once one-off costs like decommissioning costs, contract termination and asset write-offs are taken into account. It will also save ongoing operation costs, creating a gross saving of more than £800m over ten years, which would be funded through income from fees.
Despite the demise of the national identity card, a separate but technically similar scheme for some foreign nationals will continue.
That scheme, run by the UK Border Agency, is still being rolled out. Immigration minister Damian Green said the scheme was an EU obligation and that the previous Labour government had rolled it into the main ID card programme.
Some 200,000 of these cards, now known as biometric resident permits, have already been given to migrant workers, foreign students and family members from outside the European Economic Area.