The transcript of David Blunkett's interview on BBC Breakfast with Frost which has been re-broadcast and partially quoted by other media, even more unsubstantiated claims about the alleged benefits of Compulsory ID Cards:
In the panic to be seen to be doing something against terrorism, the Government seems to be throwing out the baby with the bathwater, and helping the terrorists to win by removing our freedoms unecessarily.
On Sunday, 25 April 2004, Sir David Frost interviewed the Home Secretary, David Blunkett, MP
Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.
DAVID FROST: The Home Secretary has hardly been out of the news in the past three weeks and just when he was trying to get a day off we managed to persuade him to join us from the idyllic Derbyshire countryside near his Sheffield constituency. And we say, therefore, thank you for being with us and good morning David.
DAVID BLUNKETT: Good morning. I don't think they could ever describe me as a living saint. But it's very saintly here at the Cavendish Hotel.
DAVID FROST: Very good, well I don't think Jack Straw's describing you as a living saint at the moment, is he?
DAVID BLUNKETT: We work very well together.
DAVID FROST: He said! That's like a cricket tour. That's what you call playing a straight bat. Tell me something, on this great issue of the ID cards. What is your timetable, your putative timetable, for the introduction and extension of ID cards?
DAVID BLUNKETT: Well, we'll publicly see a draft Bill this week. We'll then have a further consultation on it including opening up some of the complicated technical issues and inviting a development partner from the private sector with expertise to join us. That will be done in the next few weeks. We'll then have a full Bill in the session of parliament beginning in the Autumn.
We'll then of course be able to get underway with transforming the way in which we operate passports, because we're going to build this on the renewal of passports, so that within three years we'll be in a position to start everyone having a biometric passport issued, and along with it a biometric card, and for those who're still not familiar with biometrics that's the specific identifier, the iris of your eye, fingerprint, facial recognition, which because we're putting this on a clean database will not be forgeable, people will not be able to have multiple identifies.
Not even the manufacturers of Biometric equipment make the claim that the technology will "not be forgeable", only David Blunkett and his Ministers ever make this claim. Are they willing to resign if any such forgeries ever do appear ?
DAVID FROST: I see. And when would it therefore be operating voluntarily, and when would you hope it would become compulsory?
DAVID BLUNKETT: Well within three years I hope that we'll have started implementing it and obviously we'll want to get those coming into the country, foreign nationals, onto the scheme as quickly as possible because that will help with voluntary action in relation to protecting services, to enabling us to work with employers on clamping down on illegal working and clandestine entry. We'll then be moving obviously to the population as a whole. Now, I'm hoping that people will want to voluntarily their passport early.
But we're working on the presumption that because this is a technically challenging thing to do, and because we don't want a mess-up, we'd better take our time, do this incrementally so that within seven years we'd start to move towards a position where people would have generally, across the whole population, have got an ID card.
At that point we've agreed that we'll present a report to Parliament on how it's working, the objectives of compulsion and at that point we'll have a vote in both Houses of Parliament through an affirmative order on the floor of the House to actually ensure that we can then bring that in."
The debate on an "affirmative order" in the House of Commons could entail as little as 90 minutes of "debate", with no time for any amendments.
DAVID FROST: Because the thing is David really that voluntary is fairly useless compared to compulsory, because presumably the very people you want to keep tabs on are the ones who are not going to go for a voluntary ID card?
DAVID BLUNKETT: Well it's why I've argued so strongly that it should be compulsory, and that we shouldn't have to have a whole new legislative framework to do it, and I'm very glad that Cabinet colleagues have agreed with that, very strong support from the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister on this. And it's been important to get across why we're doing it - this isn't some sort of fetish, this is about recognising the massive change that's taken place in the world around us.
Firstly because we've got biometrics, I mean, people say to me you couldn't stop the World Trade Center attack, you couldn't stop the Madrid bombing with ID cards. Well, you couldn't with, of course because the Americans although they have an insurance system, do not have an ID card as you know.
The Spanish do. But it isn't a foolproof biometric card with a database, with the ability to test not only the card vis-a-vis the database, but actually the person and the card they hold. That's what will be potentially possible.
There are no other countries in the world with a working Compulsory Biometric SmartCard ID Card system covering 100% of their population of around 60 million people.
And this will ensure that they can't have multiple identities. 35% of terrorists, I'm told by the security service, use multiple identities and forge other peoples' identities.
Quoting figures attributed to "the security service" simply is not good enough,
So even if the ID Card scheme works as alleged, it would still let through 65% of terrorists ?
How many of these terrorists have legitimate multiple identies e.g. dual French and Algerian citizenship ?
How many of these terrorists have multiple British identities ? Perhaps the Minister of State responsible for the UK Passport Office should resign.
Secondly, we've got this enormous world change in communication, in travel, in people movement, and the exploitation of our services, particularly our health and welfare services, is something what they have to clamp down on.
And thirdly, we'll be able to ensure that through true identity we can actually avoid clandestine entry and clandestine working which is something that obviously leads to mistrust, to lack of confidence, and hence to making it more difficult to have a socially cohesive society where we can clamp down on racism.
How exactlty would ID Cards have stopped the exploitation of the Morecombe Bay Chinese illegal immigrant cockle pickers who died so tragically ?
Which petty officials would check the ID Cards of such people, when they never bother to check anything about them at present ?
DAVID FROST: And in terms of these, the cards. When they become compulsory, and the figure of 2013 has been mentioned, you were talking about seven years and so on. When they are compulsory, in order to be effective, will people need to carry them all the time?
DAVID BLUNKETT: No they wouldn't. It's like a driving licence. They'd have to have them available. And people have said to me well what if they won't get the card. Well, they've misunderstood. In circumstances where it was crucial to have a full identity check and there was not an easy way of getting the card.
You would actually be able to take the biometric of the individual, for instance, if they were being accused of organised fraud, or there was a counter-terrorism raid.
If the police already have enough evidence to arrest someone for terrorism etc.
then ID Card identity is no longer an issue, there are already powers under the Anti-terrorism Crime and Security Act 2001 to fingerprint terrorist suspects, what has theis got to do with ID Cards ?
Even if the person didn't carry the card, they'd be able to check their biometric automatically with the equipment. So it's more than simply having a card.
This is about true identity, being known, being checkable, being used in order to ensure we know who's in the country, what they're entitled to and whether they're up to no good.
So what happened to the principle of "innocent until proven guilty" ?
DAVID FROST: And will you, as you bring out this Bill, do you think you will have the support of all your Cabinet colleagues, or all except the four or five who are opposed to the idea?
DAVID BLUNKETT: No, we've had the most extensive discussion over two years. I first raised this in a Cabinet committee two years last January.
And since then we've discussed it to the point where we've reached a sensible consensus based on securing all the necessary safeguards in relation to civil liberties and at the same time an incremental approach that obviously takes into account peoples' correct identification of the fact that government as a whole, all governments, have not had a good record in relation to introducing new technology and new technical developments.
What "safeguards in relation to civil liberties" exactly ? Where are the criminal penalties for those petty officials who might be tempted to abuse the Central Database ?
Because we're building it on the passport agency, because UK passports is going to be introducing biometrics whether people like it or not, because that's the way the whole world's going - Europe and North America - biometrics being demanded in terms of visas and passports on entry.
So why does the UK not demand Biometric Identifiers to be recorded from United States travellers to the UK, even though they demand this of all UK visitors to the USA ?
There is no international consensus yet on Biometric Passports, nobody can even agree on which Biometrics to use.
It is very sneaky to claim that Biometric Passports are inevitable, they are not, and not even the International Civil Aviation Organisation, an unelected, undemocratic United Nations standards setting body, has actually finalised any such Biometric Passport standards.
Passports functionality is only a small fraction of an ID Card system (how many holidays or business trips abroad outside of the European Union) does the average person take each year ? They will have to present a Compulsory Biometric ID Card many more times a year, if it is to be used to try to catch a tiny minority of terrorists.
We're going to experiment with that from tomorrow. Ten thousand people will be invited to have biometric passports.
This Passport Office trial is not technically about ID Cards. The Invitation to Tender published in the Official European Journal was to investigate the possible use of Biometric Technology for a SmartCard Passport only valid for for travel within the European Union. The sample of 10,000 self selected users is not large enough to be statistically valid to highlight any problems with performance and reliability of a computer system that would need to register 60 million people.
The Home Office are one of the worst Government Departments when it comes to successful Information Technology systems, all of which have been much smaller and less complicated than what is required for Biometric ID Cards
The system will have to cope with 12 million UK citizens who do not have UK Passports, plus the entire population of the Irish Republic who currently have no requirement to show a Passport or to Register visit or live in the UK.
We'll then be able to build on that. And because we're building on that the cost of actually issuing the card as opposed to placing the biometric on the database linking it to the passport and the card, will only be ?4 over a ten-year period. There'll be a very substantial additional amount needed in order to update our whole passport security over the next 10-13 years. So that cost would come anyway.
DAVID FROST: But so, in fact, how much, I mean people are going to have to pay for these cards aren't they? How much will it cost them for the cards, and will the overall scheme David cost, as people are saying, three or four billion?
DAVID BLUNKETT: Well that's the whole cost rolled up over 13 years. I mean it's a meaningless sum. The set-up costs will be over the next three years around, I'm averaging it, around 200 million a year. It starts smaller and builds up.
The actual card cost will, over ten years, and we've built in a very substantial leeway here because obviously we don't want to be accused of having made up a figure that doesn't stand up to scrutiny, will be an extra ?35. ?31 of that over the ten-year period would be required to bring up to date, to make secure, that passport and visa regime with biometrics. In other words, we're being transparent about it. We could easily without a card simply have increased year on year the price of a passport.
I mean it's gone up over the last 15 years at an extraordinary level anyway. We're not, we're being absolutely transparent and saying this is the cost, you will have to pay it, as other countries demand biometrics for passport, visa and entry requirements.
Let's be straight with each other about it, the extra ?4 on top of that over a ten-year period with concessions for low income and for older people, and a free card for entry into the system at the age of 16 - all of that can be met from the charge I've just described.
DAVID FROST: So, the person, the individual, will be out of pocket to what sum? Just the ?4?
DAVID BLUNKETT: Well, they'll be out of pocket for ?4 over ten years over and above the charge that would have to be made to bring out passports up to the security that we will have in ten years' time right across the developed world.
These figures simply do not add up. Until the Government publishes published a detailed Invitation To Tender detailing exactly what the system is meant to do there cannot be any accurate costs and it is meaningless to say how much the cost to the individual will be.
Why do they not promise to make the scheme free issue to everyone (thereby saving the need for yet another intrusive "means tested benefit" for the poorest people), if it is such an important and vital part of the national infrastructure ?
The Home Office has not dared to even estimate how many billion pounds the infrastructure of expensive, secure, Biometric Readers (i.e. similar to the Banking system's Automatic Teller Machince network) is going to cost, and who is going to pay for it.
As you know, because you're a frequent traveller to America, there's an argument going on at the moment as to how quickly they want to bring in requirements for biometrics in relation to their entry clearance regime.
And the discussions I've been having with France, Germany, Italy and Spain in particular, there are also other European countries, indicate that they're obviously going to move towards this as part of what's known as the Schengen travel area, because they know that they're just as much at risk.
Is David Blunkett saying that the UK is now going to join the controversial Schengen Information System, which we currently have an exemption from ?
And those who don't take these steps will obviously become prime targets, not just for terrorists but for organised criminals, for gangs exploiting immigration controls, for clandestine entry. So it's really down to us, and as we have the only true free health service in the world, health is a particular issue.
How much extra money will need to be wasted turning the National Health Service into a branch of the Immigration Service ? Shouldn't Doctors and Nurses be bound by their Hippocratic Oath and still treat people no matter wether thaey have an ID Card or not ?
And I believe and have always believed, that entitlement comes from contributing into a service and then being able to draw freely on it. A something for something regime. And that's why we need to protect it. "