The Union Jack has been left off the UK identity card
because of fears that it may upset members of the nationalist community in Northern Ireland.
The cards will instead carry the Royal coat of arms along with images of a shamrock, a thistle, a rose and a daffodil to represent the four countries that make up the UK.
Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary, unveiled the image of the card today at St Pancras railway station in London.
On the front of each card is the holder’s name, picture, date of birth, sex and signature.
Like the UK passport, it also displays your nationality, where the card was issued and when it expires.
A chip embedded in the back of the card holds a digital image of the holder’s face and two fingerprints.
People living in the North West will be able to apply for the card from early next year, with the full scheme being introduced in 2012 on a voluntary basis.
Mr Johnson said: “The introduction of ID cards reaches another milestone, enabling the people of Manchester to prove and protect their identity in a quick, simple and secure way.
“Given the growing problem of identity fraud and the inconvenience of having to carry passports, coupled with gas bills or six months’ worth of bank statements, to prove identity, I believe the ID card will be welcomed as an important addition to the many plastic cards that most people already carry.
“The fact that it can be used as a passport when travelling in Europe will be an added advantage.”
The Government was careful to devise an image that would not arouse opposition from nationalists in Northern Ireland.
In an “impact assessment” report, the Government said: “While some symbols have been included within the card’s design to indicate the document has been issued by the UK Government, we have sought to design features which could reflect all parts of the United Kingdom, such as the inclusion of the shamrock to represent Ireland within the tactile features, and we have sought to avoid symbols such as flags.”
The report also said that the scheme must recognise the rights of Irish nationals living in Northern Ireland.
“Irish nationals resident in Northern Ireland can be issued with a version of the identity card which will differ from that issued to British citizens,” it said.
The card will not record an individual’s nationality and so cannot be used as a travel document because only the Irish Government can issue an official travel document to Irish citizens.
The Home Office claims that the cards will act as a proof of age, helping communities to tackle anti-social behaviour and crime by allowing local retailers, including pubs and supermarkets, to make sure they are not selling restricted goods to those who are under age.
The Tories have pledged to scrap the scheme, which they say has already cost Ł200 million, saying it is a waste of money.