Mr David Moss
4 September 2009
Dear Mr Moss,
Thank you for your letter of 5 August to the Home Secretary about the National Identity Service. As I am sure you will appreciate, the Home Secretary receives a lot of correspondence and is unable to respond to each letter individually. Your letter has been passed to the Direct Communications Unit and I have been asked to reply.
The National Identity Service is currently being introduced following a manifesto commitment by the Government. The Identity Cards Act 2006 acts as the statutory basis for the Service and this is one of the Home Office's top priorities and we remain committed to rapid implementation. We are introducing the Service in a way that will deliver most benefit to all of us as quickly as possible. That means a twin track approach which prioritises both increasing public protection in sensitive areas and making life easier for people who will gain most in their daily lives from having or using a secure identity document.
We have started issuing biometrics visas to foreign nationals who wish to enter the UK and require an entry visa, covering over 135 countries. Also, in November 2008 the UK Border Agency issued the first identity cards in the form of biometric immigration documents to foreign (non European Economic Area) nationals.
As announced on the 30 June, the next stages in the rollout of the Service are as follows:
o From autumn 2009, identity cards will be offered on a voluntary basis to members of the public, initially to British citizens who hold a British passport, aged 16 and over and resident in Greater Manchester. Identity cards will also be offered on a voluntary basis to British and foreign nationals (including European Economic Area citizens) working in sensitive roles or locations, starting with airside workers at Manchester and London City airports.
o From 2010 we will issue further identity cards on a voluntary basis, expanding the geographical location to the North West and begin focusing on young people to assist them in proving their identity as they start out their independent life in society. The precise arrangements for the extension of the rollout are being developed.
o From 2011/12 we shall start to enrol British citizens at high volumes offering a choice of receiving a separate identity card, passport or both.
Thus, there is no compulsion for a person to receive an identity card outside of those. issued to foreign nationals under UK Borders Act 2007. This enables the UK to comply with the EU common format for residence permits so every EU country, not just the UK, will now be introducing a compulsory identity card (residence permit) for foreign nationals - irrespective of whether the identity card they might issue to their own nationals is voluntary or compulsory.
The Government has committed that further primary legislation must be introduced before a universal National Identity Service can be introduced. Any future decision would be informed by evidence of benefits, drawn from several years of the Service's operation.
However, there will be no requirement to carry the identity card, although many people may well choose to carry one. There will be no new powers for the police to stop someone and demand to see their card.
You can find out more on our online information service, through the DirectGov website, which is available at: www.direct.gov.uk/identity.
I hope that this addresses the issues raised in your letter and thank you for the time you have taken to comment on this issue.