ID cards

Identity (ID) cards were part of the National Identity Scheme proposed by the New Labour Government in 2005. Under this scheme, every adult applying for a passport would have had their personal information entered on to the National Identity Register (NIR) automatically. They could also choose to have an ID card, which would have displayed certain information about them. 

The NIR would have been the world’s biggest biometric database, holding at least 50 pieces of information on every adult who remained in the UK for longer than three months.

Your biometric data includes your unique physical traits, such as your fingerprints or the exact make up of face.

When ID cards were first suggested, 80% of the public supported the government. However, later polls indicated that public support dropped below 50%. 

In June 2010, the Coalition Government announced that it was abolishing the ID card scheme and the NIR database. 

However, a centre-right think tank, Policy Exchange, has recently suggested that the government should resurrect the idea of identity cards. 

The report says the new “settled status” system for EU nationals who stay in the UK after Brexit should be converted into a national ID card system. 

Liberty is opposed to ID card schemes because they are:

  • Intrusive. There is potential for a huge amount of information to be held on individuals, and shared with many agencies within the government.
  • Ineffective. There is no evidence to show that ID cards will reduce crime – in fact they could make things worse.
  • Unfair. It is likely that ID cards would have made existing inequalities worse.
  • Expensive. The Government estimated in November 2008 that the ID card scheme would cost £5bn.

Read our detailed case against ID cards.