The 'smart card' will identify the holder using iris-recognition technology. Failure to carry the card will not be an offence but police will be able to order people to present it at a police station.
The charge is aimed at overcoming resistance for the scheme by the Treasury. Until now, cabinet support for a national compulsory ID card has been outweighed by the Treasury, which has objected to footing the estimated £1.6bn bill. While forcing people to pay for the card could add to enticipated objections from human rights campaigners, Mr Blunkett believes that concerns about national security is sufficient to ensure that individuals will be prepared to bear the cost. He discussed the plan with Tom Ridge, the head of the US Department of Homeland Security, in Washington earlier this month, agreeing to develop a joint programme - using the same technology - with the USA, which has already agreed a similar protocol with Canada.
Senior cabinet ministers strongly support the plan for the card, which would use a microchip to hold details including age, place of birth, home address and a personal number to identify the holder. It is also hoped the card could be used to entitle the holder to a range of state benefits, thereby cutting benefit fraud.