National ID cards compulsory for UK airport staff

Enrollment for foreign nationals starts at month's end. By next fall, workers at two U.K. airports will be using the cards as part of a pilot program.
Written by Tom Espiner, Contributor

A pilot program of the U.K.'s national identity card plan will be compulsory at one of the two participating airports.

Workers will be required to enroll in the program at London city airport, the Home Office said Thursday. The move comes despite repeated assurances from the Home Office that U.K. citizens will not be compelled to have an ID card or enter their biometric details onto the National Identity Register.

Also on Thursday, the government said that retailers, post offices, and banks can apply to become biometrics enrollment sites for the cards.

At the end of this month, foreign nationals will need to apply for the cards. It will be several years before any nationwide enrollment for citizens takes effect under the highly controversial plan.

Richard Gooding, chief executive of London city airport, said the cards would be required for workers.

"Our intention is that, working with the Home Office, all staff will be enrolled over an 18-month period," Gooding said. "We shall make it compulsory."

Gooding said U.K. airports already have compulsory biometric identification systems, but that they only work on an individual airport-by airport basis. He added that the compulsory ID card will work at London city airport and at the other location in the pilot program, the Manchester airport.

Geoff Muirhead, the group chief executive of the Manchester Airports Group, said that the Manchester airport also plans to make the cards compulsory, once it has had discussions with unions.

"For new workers and renewals, we expect the cards to be compulsory, but we need to talk to the unions," he told ZDNet Asia sister site ZDNet UK.

Anti-ID card campaigner Phil Booth derided the plan.

"It's a pilot, and yet it's compulsory," Booth said. "These people will be in the National Identity Scheme for life, subject to a lifetime of surveillance. That's appalling. What [is] London city airport doing?"

The British Air Transportation Association (BATA), a trade body that represents airlines, said that its members could "see no benefits" from participating in the plan.

"It's clear we've been picked on as guinea pigs for the scheme," said Roger Wiltshire, secretary general of BATA. "We've yet to see any benefits. As far as our members are concerned, they have not been asked whether they would be happy to participate in the trial."

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