Johnson, who was recently promoted from Health Secretary to the Home Office, had been scheduled to make a low-key announcement last Tuesday, abandoning plans for ID card trials at two airports which would have made carrying them compulsory for some pilots and airline staff.
After doing so, however, he went much further and declared: “I want the introduction of identity cards for all British citizens to be voluntary.”
A government source said: “No 10 knew Alan was going to make the airports announcement. But they had no idea he would simply tear up the entire policy as far as compulsory cards were concerned.”
Brown has always insisted that he backs moves towards making ID cards compulsory — despite protests from Labour MPs and a pledge by the Tories they would abandon them if elected, saving an estimated £2 billion.
A Downing Street spokesman last night denied there was a “rift” between the Prime Minister and Johnson.