More people now oppose Labour’s proposed ID cards than support them, a poll for The Daily Telegraph has found.
Just 43 per cent of those questioned said they favoured the introduction of a national identity scheme compared with 48 per cent who were against. It is the first time YouGov has found more against than in favour.
When the ID scheme was first proposed by the Government in 2003, YouGov found 78 per cent supported it and just 15 per cent were opposed.
Since then, there has been a gradual erosion in support for ID cards and the recent loss of the country’s entire child benefit records on two CDs seems to have tipped the balance.
Yesterday, it emerged that the Department of Work and Pensions let a contractor keep two discs with thousands of benefit claimants’ details for more than a year.
The last time the pollsters asked the same question in July 2005, shortly after the London bombings, 45 per cent were in favour and 42 per cent opposed.
The poll findings will be another blow to ministers who have been adamant that the ID project would proceed despite the child records fiasco.
ID cards are due to be introduced from next year for foreign nationals and from 2009 for all British citizens applying for a new passport.
The charge for a combined ID card and passport will be more than £100 in order to fund the £550 million annual cost to the Home Office.
Ministers have said the project should be self-financing and not a drain on taxes.
The Government has made a number of claims for the advantages of an ID scheme, including making it easier to track terrorists and criminals, bear down on ID fraud and tackle illegal immigration.
But the recent disclosure that illegal immigrants were licensed to work as security guards by a Government agency and the ease with which the personal data of 25 million families were lost have clearly been a blow to public confidence.
There is also a growing number of opponents who would pay a fine or risk prison by refusing to hand over their details.
Phil Booth, of the campaign group No2ID, said: “Clearly a majority no longer trust that the Government can secure their personal information.
“It’s hard to say whether proceeding with an ID scheme that will log your every application for credit, or registration with a clinic and add fingerprints to the data that officials will then lose or compromise is more pig-headed or foolhardy. Either way, public opinion is against the scheme now.”
David Cameron recently told the Prime Minister that the public would find it “bizarre” if the Government was not willing now to “stop and think” about ID cards.
However, at the weekend Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, continued to defend the scheme and said the inclusion of fingerprints would ensure the data’s security.
“I will be able to be confident that my identity… will be linked to my fingerprint so just knowing who I am, where I live and what my bank details are will not be enough to be able to take my identity,” she said in a television interview.
“It is an increased protection even against times when people’s biographical details are stolen or lost.”
The Government has dropped plans, on cost grounds, to build a new database for the scheme. It will instead ”piggy-back” on an existing Whitehall IT system.