Pilots ready to seek legal action over ID cards

The British Airline Pilots Association union has warned it may seek a judicial review of the government’s ID cards scheme to prevent pilots being forced to carry identity cards.

By Natasha Lomas | As part of a phased introduction of ID cards, the government has stipulated that people working in certain ‘sensitive areas’ such as airports will be required to hold an identity card from mid-2009. Foreign nationals will also have to carry the cards, with theirs set to be issued from next month.

A spokesman for the British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa), which represents more than 10,000 airline pilots – some 90 percent of the UK workforce – said: “The possibility of [seeking] a judicial review is very high on the agenda.”

“[The review] would be on the basis that we are told repeatedly by ministers that the ID card scheme is voluntary but how can it be voluntary if we stand the prospect of losing our jobs?” he said.

The Balpa spokesman said pilots are of the view that security at airports can be tightened by implementing a national airport pass scheme, rather than by forcing them to carry ID cards. “We’ve been on at the government for a long time to standardise and have a national airport pass which in fact would do the trick but the government’s refusing to go down that line,” he said. “They say it’s up to individual airport owners.

“[But] you don’t have to go through the ID card route… It’s a false premise. Security can be tightened in other ways.”

Balpa’s national executive has already had several meetings with the government to voice its objections to ID cards, and further talks have been offered, according to the spokesman, which the union intends to take up.

However, he added: “Ministers tell us, ‘well, it’s going to happen anyway’.”

Additional primary legislation would be required for ID cards to become compulsory for every UK citizen or resident and, according to the government, there is no timetable for its introduction.