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Home Secretary Alan Johnson reveals the design at St Pancras Station of the National Identity Card card which is to be issued to members of the public for the first time later this year

Home Secretary Alan Johnson reveals the design at St Pancras Station of the National Identity Card card which is to be issued to members of the public for the first time later this year

Home Secretary Alan Johnson reveals the design at St Pancras Station of the National Identity Card card which is to be issued to members of the public for the first time later this year

Home Secretary Alan Johnson reveals the design at St Pancras Station of the National Identity Card card which is to be issued to members of the public for the first time later this year

Handout issued by the Home Office of the new identity card for UK citizens which has been revealed by the Home Secretary

Handout issued by the Home Office of the new identity card for UK citizens which has been revealed by the Home Secretary

Home Secretary Alan Johnson reveals the design at St Pancras Station of the National Identity Card card which is to be issued to members of the public for the first time later this year

Home Secretary Alan Johnson reveals the design at St Pancras Station of the National Identity Card card which is to be issued to members of the public for the first time later this year

Home Secretary Alan Johnson reveals the design at St Pancras Station of the National Identity Card card which is to be issued to members of the public for the first time later this year

Home Secretary Alan Johnson reveals the design at St Pancras Station of the National Identity Card card which is to be issued to members of the public for the first time later this year

Handout issued by the Home Office of the new identity card for UK citizens which has been revealed by the Home Secretary

Handout issued by the Home Office of the new identity card for UK citizens which has been revealed by the Home Secretary

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Home Secretary Alan Johnson reveals the design at St Pancras Station of the National Identity Card card which is to be issued to members of the public for the first time later this year

The union flag has been left off the controversial national identity card in order to recognise the "identity rights" of Irish nationals living in Northern Ireland.

The final design of the identity card was unveiled today in London by Home Secretary Alan Johnson.

A Home Office statement said the ID card scheme must work in a way that "fully recognises the identity rights of the people of Northern Ireland as laid out in the Belfast Agreement".

The Government went on to say it had "sought to design features which can reflect all parts of the United Kingdom, such as the inclusion of the shamrock to represent Ireland within the tactile feature, and we have sought to avoid symbols such as flags".

Irish citizens living in Northern Ireland will be issued with a version of the identity card which will differ from that issued to British citizens.

The Home Office has also assured those who hold Irish nationality or dual citizenship that they will continue be able to apply for an Irish passport even though they are on the UK national identity register.

Speaking at St Pancras Station in central London, Mr Johnson said the card would provide people with a "safe and secure" way of proving their identity.

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The cards will help combat identity fraud, enable the holder to travel to Europe without their passports and remove the hassle of using bank statements or gas bills to show who you are, he said.

Mr Johnson spoke as he set off for Manchester where the cards will become available later this year.

He said: "The identity card is a safe, secure and simple way for people to protect and prove their identity and to travel around Europe but leave their passport at home.

"Given the growing problem of ID fraud and the inconvenience of having to carry passports coupled with gas bills or six months worth of bank statements to prove identity, I believe the ID card will be welcomed as an important addition to the many plastic cards that most people already carry."

On the front of each card is the holder's name, picture, date of birth, sex and signature.

Like the UK passport, it also displays your nationality, where it was issued and when it expires.

A chip embedded in the back of the card holds a digital image of the holder's face and two fingerprints.

The front of the card also displays the royal crest as well as the thistle, the rose, the shamrock and the daffodil to represent the four parts of the UK.

The cards will be made available across the north west of England early next year and across the country in 2011-12.

The Tories have pledged to scrap the scheme saying it is a waste of money.

Mr Johnson said the cards had widespread public support.

"Every time we ask the public 'do you think this is a good step forward, they agree.

"This is a no-brainer."

Last month the Home Office signalled a major climbdown on the cards, stating for the first time that they would never be made compulsory.

Plans to require 20,000 airport workers at Manchester and London City airports to carry cards were also dropped in the face of union opposition.

Critics say ID cards are unnecessary, expensive and an infringement of civil liberties.

The overall cost of the cards, biometric passports and the database to hold the personal information on is predicted at £5 billion over 10 years.

Figures released by the Tories today showed the Home Office has already spent £215 million on the scheme.

Shadow home secretary Chris Grayling said: "The Government has already wasted £200 million that we cannot afford.

"The scheme will cost hundreds of million pounds more, even if the cards are voluntary. It is time this scheme was completely scrapped. "

He added: "Alan Johnson today launches a wing and a prayer scheme based on the hope that people across the North West will sign up for a glossy ID card, and send a message to their counterparts in other parts of the country that the ID card is the hottest property since Susan Boyle."

Anyone who wants a card will pay to have their details collected by high street stores on top of the £30 cost of the card.

Once on the database, failure to keep your details up to date could lead to a fine of up to £1000.

Phil Booth, national co-ordinator of campaign group NO2ID said: "People should read the small print and avoid the con.

"This so-called voluntary scheme means a lifetime of fees and penalties and once you are on the database you never get off."

Around 50,000 foreign nationals have been given their version of the ID card since the cards were introduced last year.

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne said: "It doesn't matter how fancy the packaging is when the product is a colossal waste of money that achieves nothing.

"A designer piece of plastic is not going to combat identity fraud, crime or terrorism. This intrusive scheme should be scrapped immediately."

A poll conducted by human rights campaign group Liberty found six out of 10 people said they were unlikely to volunteer for a card.

Only one in 10 said they would definitely apply for one, while a fifth said they probably would.

Pollsters found 77% said the UK had become a "surveillance society" and 68% said the Government and other public bodies already hold too much information about them.

Campaigns coordinator Sabina Frediani said the North West was being made an "ID card guinea pig".

She said: "How many times can you re-design and re-launch this tired old policy?

"When will the Government realise that there is dwindling public support for a scheme that is as costly to our pockets as to our privacy and race relations?

"I am delighted to say that this damning poll shows that northerners are as sceptical of this ID nonsense as the rest of Britain."

YouGov polled 1,731 adults across the UK earlier this week.


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