Home secretary Jacqui Smith announced today that the ID card rollout is on schedule, and that the first cards will be released to residents of Manchester this autumn.
The government intends to release the cards gradually to ensure that UK retailers and service providers have the necessary equipment in place to deal with take-up, such as chip and Pin readers.
"Our next steps will be for other cities to follow Manchester's lead before full national coverage from 2012," said Smith.
Local residents wanting to apply for a card have been told to sign up on the government's Directgov web site, which will inform users when the cards become available in their area.
The Home Office is planning to allow post offices, high street pharmacies and photographic shops to offer application processing services. The organisations will be given equipment that will record fingerprints and take photographs.
Smith said that it will not only be private companies that benefit from offering the service. "Their customers will benefit from being able to quickly provide their biometrics while they are out doing the shopping," she said.
However, security experts have warned that such a move would put individuals' data at risk.
"Post offices, pharmacies and shops are certainly convenient places to apply for a card, but the public will need to be convinced of their security credentials before handing over their personal details for processing," said Jamie Cowper, European director of marketing at data protection firm PGP Corporation.
Identity cards are already in use by foreign nationals to show that they have the right to work in the UK, and the Home Office said that plans are underway to ensure that 75,000 are issued for this purpose by November.
Young people will also be able to start using the cards before the rest of the population, starting from 2010.
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