People who are in the process of gender reassignment will be able to apply for two ID cards, it has been revealed.

The government’s controversial ID card system is voluntary, and the new £5 billion scheme has been criticised by opposition parties and civil liberties groups.

The Identity Cards Act became law in March 2006 and the Home Office are rolling out biometric residence permits for foreign nationals in 2008, with the first ID cards to be issued to British citizens in 2009.

ID cards will be issued to critical workers at Manchester and London City airports late next year.

“If that project is successful, the cards could ultimately be required identification for all critical airport workers,” according to the Home Office.

“From 2010, young people will be offered the chance to sign up for cards. And, from 2012, ID cards will roll-out for the general population.”

Trans people will be issued a card in their birth gender, but those undergoing treatment to change sex will be allowed to buy a second card in their new gender.

Under new proposals citizens will face a fine of £125, rising to £1,000, for failing to register a change of address or other changes in circumstances, while the government also said homeless people can register a park bench as their address for the purposes of ID cards.

The government claims the cards will be useful in fighting terrorism, crime and identity theft.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said:

“Protecting the public is a top priority for the government, and identity cards, including those for critical workers, will bring increased protection against identity fraud, and help protect our communities against crime, illegal immigration and terrorism.

“As identity cards begin rolling out, starting later this month with foreign nationals, we will quickly see that a single, convenient and secure way of proving who someone is will bring real benefits to this country.”

The Tories oppose the scheme.

“At a time of economic hardship, the public will be dismayed that the Government plans to fine innocent people for inaccuracies on the Government’s own database,” said Shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve.

“The Home Secretary has confirmed the worst element of the scheme – a single, mammoth and highly vulnerable database exposing masses of our personal details to criminal hackers.”