The government has slowed down its plans for the controversial ID card scheme, although it maintains it is determined to push ahead with the project.

It is introducing changes to the scheme to allow the use of passports or driving licences instead of ID cards. Plans to require passport applicants to get an ID card have also been withdrawn.

Non EU nationals who want to live or remain in the UK will be required to have ID cards from November, and students will be encouraged to take up the cards from 2010, according to Home Secretary Jacqui Smith.

The announcement marked a considerable scaling back of former prime minister Tony Blair’s plans to drive through a compulsory ID card scheme.

Implementation timetables have been pushed back and plans to take a range of biometric data have been reduced to fingerprints only.

The Tories have threatened to cancel the scheme if they form the next government and shadow home secretary David Davis said: "The government may have removed the highly visible element but they have still left the dangerous core of this project.

"The National Identity Register, which will contain dozens of personal details of every adult in this country in one place, will be a severe threat to our security and a real target for criminals, hackers and terrorists.

"This is before you take the government's legendary inability to handle people's data securely into account."

Ministers want businesses to develop "biometric enrolment centres" where passport and ID card applicants will be fingerprinted.