British citizens who refuse to provide personal details for the planned “voluntary” national identification card have been told they will be denied passports and be unable to leave the UK.

James Hall, CEO of the Identity and Passport Service, the agency charged with running the National Identity Scheme to provide ID cards to all residents of the UK, confirmed many privacy advocates’ fears this week when he revealed those who opt out of the program will be unable to obtain or renew travel documents.

Hall made the revelation during a national “webchat” where questions were submitted by the public.

In response to a questioner asking what would happen to those who refused to join the nearly $11 billion program, Hall answered, “There is no need to register and have fingerprints taken – but you will forgo the ability to have a passport.”

According to a government website:

The National Identity Scheme is an easy-to-use and extremely secure system of personal identification for adults living in the UK. Its cornerstone is the introduction of national ID cards for all UK residents over the age of 16.

Each ID card will be unique and will combine the cardholder’s biometric data with their checked and confirmed identity details, called a “biographical footprint”. These identity details and the biometrics will be stored on the National Identity Register. Basic identity information will also be held in a chip on the ID card itself.

Additionally, applicants for the ID cards, which will first be issued in 2009 to anyone seeking a passport, will be required to supply personal details, including second homes and driver’s license and insurance numbers.

Phil Booth, of the privacy-advocacy group NO2ID, told the London Daily Mail, “The idea that ID cards scheme is voluntary, and people can opt out, is a joke.

“There are all sorts of reasons why people need to travel, not just for holidays. There is work, visiting relatives. What are these people supposed to do? It stretches the definition of voluntary beyond breaking point. They will go to any length to get personal information for this huge database. Who knows what will happen to it then?”

The ID-card bill only advanced through Parliament after assurances were given that those who needed a passport and did not wish to participate in the National Identity Scheme would have the choice to opt out.

But, as implemented, the only opt-out for British citizens is that they will be able to refuse the physical ID card but, if they wish to travel abroad, they will have to provide the same information for storage in the national database. They will also still have to pay the nearly $200 fee charged for both an ID card and passport – or stay in the UK for the rest of their lives.

Some 6.6 million people apply for travel documents in the UK each year.

“This comment confirms long standing suspicions that the government’s claim that the ID database will be voluntary is simply not true,” said Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Nick Clegg.

“The voluntary claim is serving as a fig leaf for a universal compulsory system. Once again the government’s ID card plans are being pursued behind the backs of the British people.”

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