Home Secretary Jacqui Smith spoke on Wednesday of Government plans to roll out ID cards to the entire UK Population by 2017. The cards will become a primary form of identification when opening bank accounts, applying for jobs or dealing with Government Departments meaning the end to photocopied birth certificates or three months worth of utility bills. The scheme will not be compulsory for all UK residents, only those working in sensitive locations such as airports, power stations or at the 2012 Olympics will be required to hold ID Cards.
The press have launched an attack on the new plans suggesting that this is an underhand way of forcing UK Citizens into accepting a scheme that has been widely opposed. The cards, costing from £30 for a basic ID card to £100 for a biometric passport, could be funded by the taxpayer making them seem more attractive if you are already paying for them anyway. Similar to the Oyster Card system, life could be made very difficult if you choose not to own an ID Card, with young people suffering the most as access to services such as student loans and bank accounts are restricted for non-ID holders.
NUS President, Gemma Tumelty, commented on the situation saying:
"We are extremely concerned at the Government's plan to use young people and students as guinea pigs for their ID card scheme.
"They say that the card will be 'voluntary', but those students who decide not to have an ID card may encounter difficulties when applying for student loans and bank accounts. Student loans are an essential service, so we have to question just how 'voluntary' this system will be in practice.
"We would also be concerned for the safety of students' personal information if they were coerced into entering the ID card system in this way."
The system, which relies on the creation of a £5 billion national database, will hold a wide range of personal data including addresses, qualifications, occupation and even finger prints. More biometric techniques are being developed to include face recognition and iris scans. Sceptics are unsure how this database will protect people from identity theft or terrorism with the track record for security of Government held personal details at an all time low.
The first cards could be seen within a few months with those at 'most risk of committing immigration offences' to receive the first batch. This will include any students studying on an International Student Visa who reside outside the European Economic Area. Trade Unions are already calling for plans to be reconsidered with Unite voicing fears about discrimination and the right to protect personal information.