Pilots want end to ID card plan

By Nick Heath 

The government’s controversial ID card project ran into more trouble today, as the scheme was snubbed by both airline pilots and the Scottish government.

Lawyers for the British Airline Pilots’ Association (Balpa) said they are examining whether there are legal grounds to challenge Home Office plans to force pilots to take up the cards from Autumn this year.

Pilots are willing to lose their jobs rather than accept an ID card, Balpa told the Home Office in response to consultation over the introduction of the cards, that finished on Friday 13 February.

The consultation is on the Identity Cards Act Secondary Legislation that will need to be approved by Parliament before ID cards can be issued to airside workers and pilots.

It comes as the Scottish government supported calls for the government to cancel the UK rollout of the £4.7bn scheme, adding they present an “unacceptable threat to citizens’ privacy and civil liberties”.

Scottish minister for community safety, Fergus Ewing, said in a statement: “In the midst of a deep recession, with more job losses announced nearly every day, it simply beggars belief that the UK government is pressing ahead with its costly National Identity Scheme.”

Balpa believes it may be able to mount the legal challenge on the grounds that the Identity Cards Act 2006 gave the ascertain that the take-up of ID cards would be voluntary for UK citizens.

A spokesman for Balpa told silicon.com: “There is a strong feeling that ID cards do nothing to increase security and that they are not going to be used as guinea pigs in this way.

“We have our lawyers looking at whether we could mount a legal challenge on the basis that ID cards were introduced on the basis they would be voluntary.

“This is not the case if you have to take an ID card or lose your job.”

In its submission to the Home Office, Balpa said that forcing pilots to have ID cards “is an affront to the people who for years have been, and continue to be at the forefront in the battle against terrorist outrages”.

silicon.com recently revealed that there are no readers in the UK capable of processing the fingerprint and photo stored electronically on the card.

An Identity and Passport Service spokesman said in a statement: “Balpa have come to us with their concerns and we have spoken to them a number of times about how we can work with industry to resolve these.

“Identity cards will directly benefit airside workers – not just by improving personnel security but also by speeding up pre-employment checks and increasing the efficiency of pass-issuing arrangements, making it easier for these workers to take up their posts and move from one airside job to another.”

“Identity cards will be mandatory for all airside workers, just as other pre-employment checks are today, so that the benefits from the scheme can be realised across the aviation sector.”