The Home Affairs Committee report on Identity Cards was planned to be online on Friday from 15.30. (Update: it now seems to have actually gone online sometime on Friday morning).
Our copy (having submitted written evidence) and the press copies were made available at lunchtime on Thursday and were embargoed until 00.01 Friday, but this did not stop the Guardian newspaper from getting a look at a copy even before that, presumably on Wednesday.
The BBC published the report as a .pdf file (volume 1 only, not the oral and written evidence in volume 2), at around half past midnight, ahead of the "official" publication of the report online . Parliament still does not consider the Internet as "official", despite the fact that it is likely that more people will read the full report online, than will read the official paper format.
Why do Parliament, Whitehall and the Press play these stupid "exclusive leak" games ?
Although the Labour dominated Home Affairs Committee report criticises, in detail, the failure of the Home Office to clarify exactly what the ID Card scheme is for, in sufficient detail for it to be costed, they still somehow claim that the scheme is right in principle.
The HAC seems to be confusing "an identity card scheme if properly run and designed could do X", with exactly what this particular Home Office scheme could do, which is not the same thing at all.
They did not recommend that non-biometric ID versions of Driving Licences and Passports should be available during the so called Voluntary phase, even whilst quoting witnesses who said that it was obviously not really voluntary.
They did call for an Independent Commisioner.
They did raise concerns about the audit trail and who would have access to it.
They did raise the huge questions over costs, and about the commercial secrecy excuse for not publishing the Office of Government Commerce Gateway reviews etc.
They highlighted the complete lack of costings for the secure biometric card readers and infrastructure that other Government departments etc would be required to install to use this system.
They claimed that other countries run ID schemes ok, but did not recognise that none of those schemes solve any of the problems of crime or terrorism or illegal working either.
They acknowledged that vulnerable and ethnic groups fear discrimination via the ID card, but this is dealt with by merely calling the on the Government to ensure that it does not happen - somehow by magic, presumably.
They did raise some concerns about address information but came to no conclusion, just asking for the Government to clarify if it is planned to be on the face of the card or only on the database, but did not come out against it being anywhere on the system at all.
The HAC admits that it has not done a very thorough job of examining the Draft ID Card Bill clause by clause e.g. they miss so many of the evil features like section 31 tinkering with the Computer Misuse Act etc.
Similarly their criticism of Clause 13 reccommends a "defence of reasonablness", against the draconian penalties which are planned to be imposed on people who, having paid upwards of ?70 for their Biometric ID card , happen to be given a faulty or damaged one, or whose legitimate card cannot be read because of equipment or infratructure failures over which they have no control.
This criticism is nowhere near strong enough for the con trick which the Bill is trying to pull on the public, namely the attempted transferral of all commercial and legal risk onto the paying customer rather than on the supplier of faulty goods and systems. It should not be a case of them having to defend themselves, it should rather be one of the Government and its sub-contractors paying them compensation for any delays or inconvenience that this causes them, and replacing the faulty card for free, instead of trying to shift all the commercial risk and blame onto the consumer, and threatening to put them in prison.
If the wording of this clause is the result of commercial lobbying by those companies or individuals who stand to make huge sums of money out of the project, then heads should roll at the Home Office, and an investigation into possible corruption should be instigated. However, the HAC did not bother to delve into such matters.
There is a minority report from David Winnick (Lab) and Bob Russell (Lib Dem), the full wording of which appears as a rejected amendment at the end.
The Conservatives voted with the Labour majority, although the "rising star" David Cameron of the "Notting Hill set" did not vote.
David Blunkett is already quoted as ignoring all the criticism, and just focussing on the political go ahead in principle which this Home Affairs Committee report gives him.