Home Office to consider ID card ads

The Government is considering a plan to use advertising to help

fund the cost of issuing identity cards to everyone in Britain.

The Home Office has launched a feasibility study into whether including

ads on the cards could reduce the estimated £1 billion cost of

introducing them. The move comes after the Treasury opposed plans for ID

cards by David Blunkett, the home secretary, on the grounds that they

would be too costly.

Blunkett has been forced to rethink his plans after they were seen as

part of the Government's clampdown on terrorism in the wake of the 11

September attacks in the United States.

The home secretary wants to introduce a "citizenship card" which would

entitle people to social security and other state benefits and might

also be used as a photocard passport. He had announced plans to bring in

ID cards for asylum-seekers, but extending them to the whole of the

population remains a controversial issue and is opposed by civil

liberties groups.

Downing Street has yet to be convinced that the Government should go


"We are still at an early stage," a Government source said. "But we are

looking at ways of reducing the cost of a scheme and advertising could

play a part in that."

The Passport Agency has carried out successful trials of a card with

fingerprint and face-imaging technology that bears encoded information

about the holder. Although the feasibility study was about a new travel

document, it is seen as a prototype for a new ID card.