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ID cards bill given second reading

I’m disappointed, but not surprised, to see this on the BBC News homepage:

Government wins key Commons vote on ID Cards Bill by majority of 31. More soon.

With Labour’s majority severely reduced, I was hoping that pointless legislation would no longer get through the House of Commons. Yet, even after watching the debate for most of the afternoon, I still see no reason for ID cards to be introduced. Maybe I’m just stupid.

One of the main arguments for ID cards in recent days, and the one apparently favoured by Mr Blair, has been that biometric passports are being introduced, and we might as well have ID cards at the same time. To me, this makes no sense. Only people who apply for the new passports will get ID cards, so why not use their passports as ID?

Charles Clarke has now conceded that ID cards won’t really help in the fight against crime, but does claim that they’ll help against serious and organised crime – the example he chose to cite on the Today programme was drug smuggling. Why would anyone smuggling drugs do so with a fake ID? It would just be one further possible trigger for suspicion. Somebody trying to smuggle drugs into the country would surely do so in a way as to appear as inconspicuous as possible. If they’re currently trying to do that using forged passports, then I suggest their logic is slightly twisted.

As for terrorism: The people who commit terrorist offences rarely use fake ID. Again, using fake ID only increases the chance of getting caught. The key to successfully committing a terrorist offence is surely to use people who would not raise any suspicion in their day-to-day lives, but are under the control of the lead fundamentalists. Not to try and get through security checks with fake ID.

And finally, the argument put forward that this should serve as a single form of unquestionable ID is dangerous. The ID cards are to carry three pieces of biometric data, since using only one doesn’t provide suitable efficacy. Now Charles Clarke is making a big deal of the fact that this will mean you’ll no longer have to collect lots of documents together to open a bank account, get a library card, or get a copy of your criminal record in a CRB check. Unless he’s planning on equipping every bank, library, and CRB representative (which include thousands of members of councils, universities, churches, youth groups…) with an iris scanner, facial recognition software, and fingerprinting devices, then these people will not be able to check the biometric data, and so these cards end up being no more secure in day-to-day use than normal photographic ID. So to then announce that this will serve as a sole form of ID makes it much easier to commit identity theft offences, as only one document will need to be forged.

So as far as I can see, our elected representatives have voted to divulge far more about our lives than ever before to governmental departments, and allow them to store this data on computers that will probably not be as secure as they should be, and that will probably cost more than the government says, for no tangible benefit. And the majority wasn’t even that narrow. Good one, guys.

This post was filed under: News and Comment, Politics.

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Comments and responses

Comment from Emanuel Goldstein

    21.43, 01/07/2005

“I still see no reason for ID cards to be introduced.”

To paraphrase the election slogan,

“It’s not the ID cards, stupid, its THE DATABASE.”


Buy my book — The Theory and Practice Of Oligarchical Collectivism — available at all good bookstores.

Comment from sjhoward (author of the post)

    12.58, 02/07/2005

I expect the database will exist thanks to biometric passports whether or not the ID cards do. So that’s not a good argument either.

Comment from Emanue Goldstein

    16.21, 02/07/2005

“I expect the database will exist thanks to biometric passports whether or not the ID cards do.”

Duh, you just do not get it do you. Not everybody will have a passport, but the ID cards will be compulsory for everybody who attains the age of majority.


People who refuse to register for the government’s planned ID card scheme could face a “civil financial penalty” of up to £2,500, it has emerged.


Already the Establishment is denying that the database contents will be available to those prepared to pay, which obviously means that they are considering doing just that.


Buy my book — The Theory and Practice Of Oligarchical Collectivism — available at all good bookstores.

Comment from sjhoward (author of the post)

    17.25, 02/07/2005

But the question remains – why not simply make passports compulsory for the 60% of non-holders? Why bother issuing another bit of plastic, at increased cost?

And not all of the establishment is saying that the details in the database will not be available to commercial organisations:

Immigration Minister Tony McNulty said banks would be able to verify card details against a database – for a fee. But he said any claim the information would be sold was “without foundation”.

Not to mention:

The Independent on Sunday newspaper reported card-holders’ details could be sold to private companies for an initial cost of £750 each.

The paper said ministers had started talks with private companies to pass on personal details for “an initial cost” of £750.

So if this is something they’re trying to hide, they’re not doing a good job of it.

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