September 26, 2008

Britain’s New ID Card Draws Disapproval

In the midst of heavy criticism, Britain launched a new biometric identity card on Thursday.

Government officials claim the card is a crucial tool in the fight against illegal immigration and terrorism.

Critics of the program call the card a waste of money and a breach of civil liberties.

The new program marks the first use of ID cards since the end of World War Two. Initially only foreign nationals from outside the European

Economic Area will be required to have one if they come to Britain to work or study, but the scheme will be expanded to Britons and some others over the next few years.

"We all want to see our borders more secure, and human trafficking, organized immigration crime, illegal working and benefit fraud tackled," said Home Secretary Jacqui Smith.

"ID cards for foreign nationals, in locking people to one identity, will deliver in all these areas."

The cards will contain personal details, fingerprints and a facial image.

Critics oppose the movement, and have vowed to ditch cards for Britons should they win power, and with the Labour government trailing in the polls, the 4.7 billion pound national identity scheme's days may already be numbered.

"It does not matter how fancy the design of ID cards is, they remain a grotesque intrusion on the liberty of the British people," said Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman.

"When voting adults are forced to carry ID cards, this scheme will prove to be a laminated poll tax," he added, referring to the local charge
whose massive unpopularity led to Margaret Thatcher being ousted as prime minister.

The first cards for foreign nationals will be issued in November while from next year anyone working in sensitive areas, such as airport staff, will have to purchase one at a cost of 30 pounds.


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