10,000 volunteers to trial ID cards

A trial will test biometric elements proposed for the government's compulsory identity-card scheme

The government has announced the launch of a trial to pave the way for its compulsory ID card scheme.

The trial will use 10,000 volunteers and test out various biometric elements for the card, including iris identification, facial recognition and fingerprinting.

The volunteers will carry their own card with their personal data stored on it and the results of the trial are intended to set the stage for the introduction of mandatory identity cards, as well as help the government in its roll-out of biometric passports and driving licences.

The trial will last from January to June 2004 and will be run by the UK Passport Service in conjunction with the DVLA and the Home Office. Among the elements under review will be the effectiveness and use of the biometric element, the cost, and public reaction.

Beverley Hughes, Home Office Minister, said in a statement: "We are building the foundations for a compulsory national identity card scheme, and are moving ahead with the development and testing of this cutting-edge technology. This large-scale trial into the practicalities of recording and verifying biometrics will play an important part in that process. The issuing of upgraded biometric passports from 2005 will help build the base for the identity card scheme."

The on-again, off-again passage of the ID card scheme has been fraught with political tension, and it's predicted that David Blunkett will have to overcome some massive obstacles before he can get the cards into UK wallets.