All UK citizens in ID database by 2017
By Philip Johnston, Home Affairs Editor
All British citizens will have their fingerprints and photographs registered on a national ID database within 10 years under plans outlined by the Government.
Millions in sensitive jobs, including teachers, carers and health workers, will be among the first to be entered on to the identity register.
Tories think the National Identity Register could be a target for criminals, hackers and terrorists
In a bid to kick start the project - the world's biggest - foreign nationals working in Britain will begin to be issued with cards from November. Starting next year, the first British citizens will be enrolled beginning with some airport staff, power station employees and people working on the London Olympics site.
Fingerprint kiosks, modelled on existing photograph booths in stations and shops, could be set up around the country to help people enrol. Plans outlined by Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, yesterday envisage a fee of £30 for a stand-alone card, and more than £100 for a combined ID card and passport.
But ministers have been told by their own expert that enrolment should be free if the scheme is ''to win hearts and minds''.
A report commissioned by Gordon Brown from Sir James Crosby, a former banking chief, raised the prospect of the taxpayer stumping up the full cost. The Government has insisted all along that the multi-billion pound scheme would be funded through fees and not taxes.
Sir James also came out against including a digital image of the cardholder's fingerprints on the microchip in each ID card. For security reasons, the card and database should only hold some elements of a biometric, he said.
His report was published alongside a new Government timetable for introducing a universal ID scheme by 2017.
From the start of 2010 young people will be able to get an identity card if they chose and will be issued with a unique personal identity number. Later that year the scheme will be opened up to voluntary applicants of any age.
From 2012 - after the next general election - anyone applying for a new passport will automatically be fingerprinted and 49 pieces of personal information logged on the database. This is three years later than planned when the scheme was first proposed after the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001.
In another change from original plans, Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, said it will be possible to decline the card itself and rely upon a passport as an identity document. Ministers might even revive the idea of linking the database entry to the driving licence.
There had been suggestions that Gordon Brown was cooling on the ID project because of the cost and civil liberties implications. But far from being a retreat, the announcement was designed to show that the Government is still committed to the project.
Miss Smith said the aim was to make coverage of the population ''universal'' by 2017. Officials said by that date, around 80 per cent of adults would be covered.
At that point, or possibly earlier, there will be a vote in parliament to include the rest of the population still not on the register.
Miss Smith said there would be greater involvement of the private sector in delivering the scheme. There would also be a drive to encourage more people to join the scheme voluntarily. As a result, Miss Smith said the Home Office could scale back the projected £5.4bn cost by around £1bn.
The Tories have promised the scrap the scheme if they take power after the next election, likely in 2010. David Davis, the shadow home secretary, said: "The government may have removed the highly visible element but they have still left the dangerous core of this project.
"The National Identity Register, which will contain dozens of personal details of every adult in this country in one place, will be a severe threat to our security and a real target for criminals, hackers and terrorists.
"This is before you take the government's legendary inability to handle people's data securely into account."
Shami Chakrabarti, director for Liberty said: "Yet another re-launch of the ID scheme looks suspiciously like a new sales pitch for the same bad product. '
'ID cards remain disastrous for our purses, privacy and race relations. A slow soft sell won't change this thoroughly bad idea."
Phil Booth of NO2ID, which campaigns against the scheme, said: "This is a marketing exercise.
"Whether you volunteer or are coerced on to the ID database, there's no way back. You'll be monitored for life.
"That's why the Government is targeting students and young people, to get them on before they realise what's happening."