Compulsory ID cards plan ditched

Author: By Jack Doyle, Press Association

In his first major policy announcement as Home Secretary, Mr Johnson ditched a
trial scheme that would have required some airport staff and pilots to carry
the controversial cards.

The schemes, at Manchester Airport and London City Airport, will instead be
voluntary.

He also ruled out ever requiring the public to own a card. Previously,
ministers said ID cards could become compulsory once 80% of the population
was covered.

The cards will still be compulsory for foreign workers, Mr Johnson said.

Mr Johnson said: “Holding an identity card should be a personal choice for
British citizens – just as it is now to obtain a passport.

“Accordingly I want the introduction of identity cards for all British
citizens to be voluntary and I have therefore decided that identity cards
issued to airside workers, planned initially at Manchester and London City
airports later this year, should also be voluntary.”

Asked if the cards would ever be made compulsory he said: “No”.

“If a future Government wanted to make them compulsory it would require
primary legislation,” he added.

Mr Johnson said he still believed the cards would help improve security at
airports.

But he admitted the Government had allowed the perception that the cards would
be a “panacea” that would stop terrorism.

Listing the benefits of the scheme at a press conference in central London, he
did not at first mention tackling terrorism.

Instead he said the cards would help stop illegal working, people trafficking
and ID fraud.

Mr Johnson said he was an “instinctive” supporter of ID cards and said he
wanted to “accelerate” the delivery of the cards.

A pilot scheme covering Greater Manchester will be extended to the whole of
the North West of England from early next year, Mr Johnson said.

Jim McAuslan, general secretary of the British Airline Pilots’ Association
(Balpa), said: “This is a sensible change of approach and one which we
welcome.

“Balpa has always had aviation security high on its agenda and has a number of
ideas on how we can improve airport security which we will be pursuing with
the secretary of state for transport.

“But we have never seen the national ID card as an improvement to security and
we are glad that the new Home Secretary has listened to us.”

Balpa said that under the original plans, pilots would have been required to
have a national ID card before they could apply for a pass enabling them to
get to their aircraft.

The consequence of this would have been that individual pilots would have been
forced to have an ID card or automatically lose their job, said the union.

Mr McAuslan added: “Balpa will be stressing to its members the new voluntary
nature of the scheme. We will also be monitoring airport operators to ensure
they stick to the new rules and don’t bring in compulsion by the back door.”

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