New British government scraps ID card plans

27th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

Britain's new coalition government is to scrap a national identity card scheme introduced by former premier Gordon Brown's administration, it announced Thursday.

The scheme will be abolished within 100 days under legislation presented by Home Secretary Theresa May, the first bill to be introduced to parliament by Prime Minister David Cameron's government.

The move, which will invalidate cards that have already been issued on a voluntary basis, should save 86 million pounds (124 million dollars, 101 million euros) over the next four years.

The scheme was in the process of being introduced when the new government took power this month. People who paid 30 pounds each for the card will no longer be able to use them to prove their identity or travel in Europe.

The expected new legislation "is the first step of many that this government is taking to reduce the control of the state over decent, law-abiding people and hand power back to them," said May.

"With swift parliamentary approval, we aim to consign identity cards and the intrusive ID card scheme to history within 100 days," she said.

Cameron's Conservatives, who forged a coalition with the Liberal Democrats after May 6 elections left no single party with an absolute majority, had always said they would scrap ID cards.

Brown's Labour government had pushed through the scheme, arguing that they were a key aid for police in tackling crime and other threats, despite criticism from the opposition and lobby groups.

Civil rights group Liberty welcomed the move. "Liberty thanks the government for the bonfire of the ID cards and the junking of the National Identity Register," said its chief Shami Chakrabarti.

"We have spent many years arguing that this grand folly would cost our freedom, privacy and race relations dearly and the public agreed."

Liberty had argued the cards could have become an "internal passport" for immigrants.

"We hope that scrapping ID cards for foreign nationals will soon follow," she added.

© 2010 AFP

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