Home Secretary to rethink ID cards

A review of the principles underpinning the government’s £6billion national identity card scheme is among the first orders of Alan Johnston, the new home secretary.

Unnamed sources close to Jacqui Smith’s successor confirmed to the Sunday Times that he was “more sympathetic” to the scheme’s potential threat to civil liberties.

Mr Johnson, widely seen as the most credible rival to Gordon Brown, will also look at the progress of the plan, which Labour is still bound by its manifesto to deliver.

Even if the identity cards and database are scrapped, biometric passports, featuring fingerprint data and iris scans, will still be introduced, officially from October 2010.

This will reassure De La Rue, the secure-document firm, which has just won the 10-year contract to create the next-generation of British passports in a deal worth £400m.

Both the opposition parties still maintain they would scrap the ID scheme, however, with the Conservatives estimating such a move would save the taxpayer about £2bn.

Any decision by Mr Johnson to abandon parts of the scheme would also endear him to Labour’s backbenches, which are widely in support of his call to rethink its principles.

Number 10 played down his review, reportedly saying: “As you would expect the new home secretary has asked for full and detailed briefing across a range of key issues”.

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