Government creates ID card agency

The drive to issue biometric identification cards to UK citizens is already underway, following the compromise hammered out last week

The government wasted no time in starting work on the ID card scheme after the bill became law last week; a new agency that will be tasked with introducing ID cards has been set up.

The ID cards bill is now on the statute book after receiving royal assent on Thursday. The new Identity and Passport Service (IPS), which is in charge of managing the ID cards scheme, became operational on Saturday.

The bill finally got approval following a deal between MPs and peers earlier this week, and it allows people to opt out of receiving an ID card when renewing their passport until 2010.

But the compromise means that those who choose to opt out will still have to pay for the ID card — and have their fingerprints, iris scans and personal details taken and stored on the national identity register (NIR) when they get a new passport.

Charles Clarke, the home secretary, has already announced that the Labour government will make the scheme compulsory if it wins the next general election and a new agency to issue passports and ID cards has already been set up.

The position of chief executive of the new IPS agency, which will incorporate the existing UK Passport Service, has yet to be advertised but the Home Office said it expects the role to be filled later in the year.

The IPS will be responsible for issuing ID cards and providing the means of verifying the identity of individuals for accredited organisations, setting up the NIR and promoting the use of ID cards in the public and private sectors.

Clarke said in a statement: "Building on the experience and proven excellence of the Passport Service, the IPS will ensure the UK is at the forefront of the worldwide drive to increase document security, safeguard borders and protect identities for use by those who are entitled to them."

But critics of the ID card scheme have vowed to fight on. Phil Booth, national co-ordinator for the No2ID campaign group, said the problem has always been the national identity database rather than the card.

He said: "Millions are already vehemently opposed. The Home Office will have to round them up and force them to be fingerprinted which will bring home to the public the true nature of the scheme. This is a self-destructive policy to dwarf the Poll Tax."


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