Tories: Johnson ‘off his rocker’ on ID cards

By Liz Stephens

The government’s plan for national ID cards is a “scheme without a purpose” which will not tackle crime or terror, said the shadow home secretary yesterday.

During a debate for a Tory motion to scrap ID cards, Chris Grayling said home secretary Alan Johnson was “off his rocker” for spending billions on cards which would only help “young drinkers in pubs”.

Mr Johnson denied he had backtracked on ID cards, insisting he was “accelerating their introduction” on a voluntary basis for UK citizens.

However, last week he dropped plans to make them compulsory for some airport staff.

Foreign nationals living and working in the UK will now be the only group of people for whom the cards will be compulsory. 50,000 have already been issued.

Mr Grayling said criminals were hardly “rushing to sign up” for the voluntary scheme, rendering it pointless.

“Where is the benefit to an individual of buying an ID card, and more to the point where is the benefit to the country of spending literally billions of pounds in the hope that enough people may buy enough of the cards to get the money back?”, he said.

He reaffirmed the Tories’ pledge to scrap ID cards if they won the next election.

But the home secretary said the National Identity Register would help authorities “deal more effectively with the problems of identity fraud”.

He added: “To scrap the scheme now, as the motion demands, would be an extremely expensive mistake.”

Keith Vaz, chair of the Commons home affairs select committee, said he still supported the government’s plans, but “less enthusiastically” than before they were scaled back.

Residents in the north west of England will be able to apply for the cards from early 2010. The government also intends to roll out the scheme in London next year – 12 months early.