The following Saturday, 17 October, there will be more street stalls in central Manchester and a public meeting at the Friends’ Meeting House in Mount Street.
The decision to use Manchester as guinea pig for the National Identity Database came following a series of step-downs which saw the government forced to shelve other proposals. Following the threat of industrial action by trade unions, plans were scrapped to make ID cards compulsory for pilots and airport workers in London and Manchester. Major UK airlines including EasyJet and Virgin also came out against the scheme, saying that it would add extra costs and risks to an already secure system.
Yet the government has persevered and in October will launch a ‘voluntary’ system open to all residents in Greater Manchester. A card will cost £30 and will contain biometric details of the holder. An additional charge, for the collection of fingerprint data and a photograph is estimated at another £30. As the cards will allow travel through Europe, they are being touted as a ‘cheap’ alternative to a passport, which currently costs 72.
However, so far only 8,000 people (that’s less people than read a paper issue of MULE) have inquired about signing up and a poll conducted by the M.E.N. revealed 81 per cent of Manchester residents would not be taking part in the trial. And despite Home Secretary Alan Johnson’s statement that the scheme is ‘voluntary’, legislation remains in place that will require that, from 2011, anyone applying for a passport will have to sign up to the National Identity Register – the ID database. Meanwhile the appointment of an ID Scheme Commissioner to oversee the implementation of the project this week has been criticised as ‘toothless and irrelevant’, as the new Commissioner cannot investigate criminality, issue any sanction for breach or misuse or even demand compliance with the Act.
Alongside the voluntary scheme, all foreign non-EU nationals who come to the UK to study are already obliged to register for identity cards and it is believed that in the future UK nationals will have to register in order to obtain a student loan.
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