The £4.7 billion roll out of ID cards has hit a hurdle after an airline pilots union warned it would take legal action to prevent pilots from being forced to take part in the scheme.
Under the scheme, pilots will be the second group obliged to use ID cards after foreign nationals during a roll out next year. Foreign nationals will start receiving their cards from next month. From 2012, everyone applying for a passport will be put onto the National Identity Register.
But the British Airline Pilots Association, which represents over 10,000 pilots, said its members were angry at being chosen as “guinea pigs” to test the cards.
“The government have said citizens will be able to choose whether to have an ID card, but then pilots are being told they must have it,” a Balpa spokesperson told Computerworld UK. “We’re considering a legal challenge to make sure there is a judicial review.” Pilots are also concerned about their job security if they refuse the ID card, the spokesperson said.
Balpa said it is not convinced that ID cards would improve airport security. “We want to have an airport security card instead, across all UK airports, that is tightly controlled. But the government is leaving it up to airport management, which is no good when there are different owners of airports across the country.”
The government insisted the ID scheme was on track and would improve airport security. A Home Office spokesperson added: “Our latest proposition for the first implementation of the scheme has been developed following feedback from industry representatives and we are continuing to engage with them on the detailed plans.”
Pilots are not the only group who could present a problem for the scheme. It is understood that the government intends to encourage students to enrol on the national identity register as part of aims to start off voluntary enrolment, but some are rallying against the plan, according to lobby group NO2ID.
A NO2ID spokesperson said: “We’ve had a lot of contact with NUS [National Union of Students] branches and the general council.”
A number of local councils also object to the scheme. Over 35 have filed motions against any compulsory introduction of the cards, according to NO2ID. They include Birmingham City Council, Devon County Council, Newcastle City Council and Liverpool City Council.
“Local authorities will bear the brunt of a large chunk of the costs of the scheme, by having to integrate their systems including card readers and networks, with the central database,” said the NO2ID spokesperson.