ID cards ‘in intensive care’

National identity cards will be given to British citizens two years later than planned, it has emerged.

Leaked Home Office documents given to the Conservatives show the planned rollout of ID cards to British citizens has been delayed until 2010.

It was originally planned British citizens should be given ID cards from 2010, with foreign nationals subject to the legislation later this year.

Shadow home secretary David Davis said the delay showed the planned ID card scheme was “in the intensive care ward”.

Gordon Brown is reportedly less enthusiastic about ID cards than his predecessor Tony Blair, who promised to include legislation for compulsory ID cards in Labour’s next election manifesto.

Earlier this month, Mr Brown appeared to show more tentative support for compulsory ID cards, describing it as simply “an option” and pointing out it would be subject to further parliamentary approval.

It is thought the delay has also been prompted by security concerns as ministers grapple with the logistics of gathering and safely storing vast amounts of data.

Shadow immigration minister Damian Green told the BBC: “It’s clear that there are enormous practical difficulties in putting 50 different pieces of personal information including addresses of 60 million British citizens plus lots of foreigners into a single database.

“I think the reality is just beginning to bite ministers on this, so this delay is the first sign of reality intruding, let’s hope there are more to come.”

The leaked Home Office documents show Borders Phase 1, where ID cards will be rolled out to foreign nationals, is set to begin this year. From 2009 cards will also be issued to people “in positions of trust”.

But Borders Phase 2, when the cards will be introduced to all British Citizens, is schedule to begin in 2012, two years later than previously thought.

An Identity and Passport Service spokesman said: “We have always said that the sheme will be rolled out incrementally.”

But Mr Davis said the delay was intended to stop ID cards becoming an issue at the next election, planned for 2009 or 2010.