Pilots no longer forced to get ID cards

ID Card

The government will no longer require airside workers in Manchester and at London's City airport to have identity cards.

The two airports signed up to trial the controversial ID card scheme, which would have seen all airside workers including pilots forced to have a card - a move which riled some unions.

Instead, the new Home Secretary Alan Johnson has said such workers will trial the cards on a voluntary basis.

Now, the only people in the country for which an ID card is compulsory are so-called foreign nationals, such as overseas students or foreigners who have married British citizens. So far, 50,000 such people have received the cards.

Once the card is fully rolled out, it will not be compulsory to buy one, the government has said, but citizens will need a biometric passport or an ID card in order to leave the country.

The government denied that the airport move meant it was stepping back from the cards and connected database, both of which have been heavily criticised - especially by the Conservative Party, which has promised to scrap the scheme if elected.

Instead, the government said it was looking to speed up the roll-out.

Home Secretary Alan Johnson said in a statement that the cards were key to "asserting identity in everyday life," which was why the Home Office was looking to "see their introduction speeded up."

Phil Booth, the national coordinator of lobby group NO2ID, said the move was indeed a climbdown, but wasn't the end of the National Identity Register.

"This humiliating climbdown still doesn't mark the death of the ID scheme, but is rather part of the ongoing attempt by the senior officials in the Identity and Passport Service to fortify the scheme against cancellation, and to bind the hands of a future government," he said in a statement.

Click here to read all you need to know about the ID card plans.