By politics.co.uk staff
The government has made a huge U-turn on ID cards, by promising they will never be mandatory.
The move signals the end of the project as it was originally conceived, and clears the way for the project to be abandoned altogether, although home secretary Alan Johnson assured reporters the scheme would actually be stepped up today.
The Critical Workers Identity Scheme (CWIC), which currently applies to airside workers at Manchester and London City airport, has had its compulsory aspect scrapped.
The scheme was originally mandatory, but faced sustained attacks from trade unions and security analysts who questioned its effectiveness on workers who had already been security vetted.
The climb-down follows revelations about how much the government had spent on the project.
A recent politics.co.uk Freedom of Information request found the Home Office had already spent £20 million on the project.
Chris Grayling, shadow home secretary, said: "This decision is symbolic of a government in chaos.
"They have spent millions on the scheme so far - the home secretary thinks it has been a waste and wants to scrap it, but the prime minister won't let him. So we end up with an absurd fudge instead. This is no way to run the country."
The planned pilot in Manchester next year will be expanded to the entirety of the north-west of England.
Foreign citizens staying in the UK over the long term will still have to have a card.
The cards will be free for pensioners.