The government are letting it be known that this doesn't contradict their existing policy, but their shifting rhetoric remains striking. Last year, we had the then Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, proposing that British citizens should be able to choose between a card and a biometric passport. Earlier this year, Alan Johnson said that ID cards wouldn't be compulsory for British nationals, after all. And now we've got Darling suggesting that the cards are kinda superfluous, really, anyway. To my eyes, it looks like the government's commitment to the scheme is waning.“
"Most of the expenditure is on biometric passports which you and I are going to require shortly to get into the US. Do we need to go further than that? Well, probably not."
If so, it's fairly surprising that ID cards haven't been put, categorically, out of their misery before now. Yes, there's the embarrassment of a major u-turn. But, at the moment, we still seem to be getting a stream of mini u-turns on the issue. Besides, in these straitened times, there could be some political capital in ending an unpopular and expensive policy.