Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Full steam ahead!

Hansard reports yesterday's debate on ID cards.

Alan Johnson spoke in positively messianic mode regarding the benefits of ID cards saying that he was:
"more convinced than ever that the national identity service is a sane and rational policy that needs to be implemented rather than scrapped, and accelerated rather than delayed".
Part of his amendment to the Conservative motion to scrap ID cards follows:

...accepts that a universally accepted biometric passport or identity card linked to a national identity register will help secure the identity of an individual and reduce the incidence of multiple identity fraud; further recognises that for certain groups, including young people, an identity card will enable them to provide proof of age and more broadly enable people to travel throughout Europe..... there will be a choice between identity cards and biometric passports; and notes the fact that any decision on whether membership of the scheme should be compulsory would require further legislation.”

The shadow Home Secretary, Chris Grayling was definite about the National Identity Register:

The truth is that the national identity register establishes a level of data collection that goes far beyond anything that has ever been required for passports or that even needs to be required for a system of biometric passports. It remains our intention... not to proceed with the national identity register. One of the first acts of an incoming Conservative Government will be to cancel the ID scheme. The scheme and the register are an affront to British liberty.

He did not rule out biometric passports and the data collection necessary for these whereas Chris Huhne said:

I am not sure that I would accept that it is necessary to store biometric data. After all, the document would have the biometric data and it is an additional guarantee of veracity. Why is it necessary to go one step further and store it centrally?

Meanwhile Alan Johnson has asked the UK Border Agency to look at speeding up the issuing of identity cards to foreign nationals here and it would appear that this has the approval of the other main parties.

This government has previously stated that: Designation is not the same as ‘compulsion’ as there is no penalty if someone chooses not to apply for a designated document.

However, once one has applied one cannot 'deregister' and failure to update your details could result in swingeing fines; there's a certain Catch 22 element to all this. Perhaps this is why statutory instruments relating to the scheme,which were due to be debated this week, have now been postponed?

The last words go to Alan Johnson stating that our lack of ID cards:

.. puts us in stark contrast to other European countries, most of which have a central and secure way of registering and tracking people’s identity. Identity cards do not create or extend the Big Brother society; they are an attempt to control it. (Laughter.)

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