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The British government, which came into office May 11, has said it will scrap a scheme to introduce electronic identity cards in the United Kingdom, writes Stephen Gardner. The national identity register on which the identity cards were to be based is also to be scrapped.

Some details of the plan to abandon eID cards were given in a reading of the government’s legislative programme on May 25. The government said it would introduce an Identity Documents Bill to repeal plans to introduce identity cards. The bill will also cancel the next generation of biometric passports that were due to be introduced in the UK.

The former Labour government led by Tony Blair finalised legislation to introduce eID cards in the UK in 2006. The plans were controversial, in particular because the UK has not had an identity card scheme before, and there was a high level of public resistance to their introduction.

However, when Gordon Brown took over from Blair as prime minister, the ID scheme was scaled down somewhat, with an announcement that possession of an ID card would not be mandatory, except for foreign nationals living in the UK. Concerns about the cost of the scheme led to a reduction in the level of its ambition.

The Conservative party, whose leader David Cameron became prime minister on May 11, said before the election it would scrap the ID scheme if elected.

British campaign group NO2ID said the abandonment of the scheme was "a moment to pause and celebrate." However, the group said other government schemes to link databases and identity information, such as a scheme to interlink health records, would proceed and "official obsession with identity and information-sharing... still remains."

A version of this article was published on the e-Forum website.

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