Today the House of Commons will be rubber stamping the Second reading of the controversial Identity Cards Bill.
The new Home Secretary Charles Clarke has spun an article in The Times, again, even before he has spoken a word to Parliament as the new Home Secretary.
Is this really the best that he can do to justify the ID card scheme ?
ID cards defend the ultimate civil liberty
"From preventing benefit fraud to winning the War on Terror, why I am supporting today’s Bill
I HAVE long been a strong supporter of the benefits of identity cards. I became convinced of the advantages as a weapon in fighting crime when I was Police Minister from 1999 to 2001. I backed David Blunkett’s proposals when we discussed them in Cabinet and as Education Secretary I told the Home Affairs Select Committee last April of my personal support for the principle.
That is why I will today propose that the House of Commons gives a second reading to the Identity Cards Bill. I have been urged by opponents of this measure — such as Charles Kennedy and the Liberal Democrats — to “pause for thought” in the entirely forlorn hope that I will abandon the whole idea.
However, I believe that — quite apart from the security advantages —"
Nobody from the Government has explained exactly how these supposed security advantages are meant to work against terrorism etc. They have said that the ID cards will not have to be carried at all times, which makes them rather useless for Police "stops and searches".
"there will be enormous practical benefits. ID cards will potentially make a difference to any area of everyday life where you already have to prove your identity — such as opening a bank account, going abroad on holiday, claiming a benefit, buying goods on credit and renting a video."
Renting a video is not a Public Service which is likely to be abused by terrorists or illegal immigrants is it ?
Do you really want low paid video rental shop assistants to be able to look up your details on the National Identity Register ? Why is a credit card not sufficient proof of identity for the purpose of renting or buying a video ? Couldn't a cash deposit of a sum equivalent to the purchase cost of a video be sufficient to obviate the need for any identity check at all for the purposes of video rental ?
How can people believe that this is not an Orwellian "Big Brother" state proposal, when the Home Secretary is seen to be thinking of using ID Cards to monitor the freedom of video rentals ?
"The possession of a clear, unequivocal and unique form of identity — in the shape of a card linked to a database holding biometrics — will offer significant benefits."
There are many possible "modern" ID card schemes, and even ones using Biometric Identifiers, which do not require a card linked to a central database to work securely or efficiently.
There is no good reason for people to be forced to have only a single, unique name. Currently, under common law right, provided that different names are not used to defraud, you can have as many names as you want, which is something that the proposed ID Card plans will destroy.
"Moreover, their help in tackling fraud will save tens of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money. Some £50 million a year is claimed illegally from the benefits systems using false identities. This money can be far better spent improving schools and hospitals and fighting crime and antisocial behaviour."
The Government's own latest underestimate of the cost of the scheme, published in the Regulatory Impact Assessmentwhich still does not include the number or cost of Secure Biometric Readers and associated Infrastructure, is over £5.5 billion
So even assuming that all of identity related benefits fraud could be eliminated with this ID card scheme, which is unlikely, it will take over 100 years to recoup the cost of the ID card scheme from benefit fraud savings !
"This drive towards secure identity is, of course, happening all over the world. Under current plans, for example, from next autumn British tourists who need a new passport will have to get a biometric one to visit the US or get a biometric visa."
The vast majority of people in the UK will never visit the USA, why should we pay for those who choose to do so ?
Why has the Home Office failed to impose a reciprocal requirement on US visitors to tthe United Kingdom ? Border controls between countries should be the same in both directions.
"We will — rightly — have to bear the costs of introducing the new technology to enhance our passports anyway."
No we do not. The International Civil Aviation Organisation is a United Nations body. The United Kingdom is a Permanent Member of the UN Security Council. If the UK Government wanted to veto the controversial plans for insecure RFID tagged facial biometric chipped Passports, they could do so.
The ICAO Biometric Passport standards, are incompatible with the planned UK ID Card, so there is no saving to be made, even at passport control, where at least two sets of equipment will be required to cope separately with Passports and with ID cards, which, under European Union rules, are valid for travel within the 25 states of the European Union.
"We should take the opportunity of that investment to secure wider benefits such as those I set out here.
Of course, the Bill may be amended at the various stages of parliamentary discussion, and I will look carefully at all constructive suggestions to improve our proposals. But I have to say that my commitment to the principle of ID cards is very strong and will not waver, mainly because I think that they will help to make everyone a bit safer, at no real cost to civil liberties."
We do not want to be "a bit safer" at any "cost to civil liberties".
"For example, a secure identity system will help to prevent terrorist activity, more than a third of which makes use of false identities."
Here we go again. Would that be more than a third of all terrorists worldwide, who use false British identities ?
We doubt this somehow, as we doubt previous claims made by David Blunkett Des Browne, Peter Hain etc. whose often repeated versions variously substitute, "over one third" with "up to thirty five percent" and "terrorists and organised criminals" for "terrorists", and "multiple identies" for "false identities", depending on who they are spinning a line to.
This spurious figure, even taken at face value means that over sixty five per cent of terrorists must use their own names anyway. "Multiple identies" are not necessarily "false identities", there are millions of people , and a few terrorists, with perfectly legal dual nationality e.g. dual Irish and United Kingdom ,dual French and Algerian etc.
So how will a scheme , which even if it is perfect, will only slightly inconvenience a small percentage of terrorists worldwide, actually make us any safer from terrorist attacks ?
"It will make it far easier to address the vile trafficking in vulnerable human beings that ends in the tragedies of Morecambe Bay, exploitative near-slave labour or vile forced prostitution."
How exactly will it do that ? Is Charles Clarke saying that the dead Chines cockle pickers or Asian or Eastern European prostitute slaves are regularly interviewed by the police and immigration authorities, who, instead of saving them, let them go back into the clutches of the unscrupulous gangmasters and pimps, for want of identity documents ?
One of the reasons that pimps have a hold on prostitute slaves is that they confiscate their passports etc. and play on the fear that there is no escape from their clutches, because the slaves will get into trouble with the police.
How will Compulsory ID Cards make this better ?
"It will reduce identity fraud, which now costs the UK more than £1.3 billion every year.
Here we go again. Identity Fraud - a study" (241Kb .pdf) was a Cabinet Office report published in July 2002. It did not reccomend that ID Cards were a solution to fraud. However, the Home Office keeps on trotting out the unscientific guesstimate published in Annex B: of this report. These figures are literally finger in the air guesses, but they are being portrayed by the Home Office as hard facts.
Neither the Home Office nor the Cabinet Office has bothered to repeate even this inadequate research in 2003 or 2004, so there is not even a guess available to see if the changes in various security measures such as passport delivery via allegedly secure courier rather than by postal mail, or credit card "Chip and PIN" has made any difference to this figure or not.
There is no such single crime or offence as "Identity Fraud". It is not the same as an occaisional fraudulent credit card transaction, for instance, most of which happen online via the Internet, which is an area, where the hoice of a Biometric ID card, is a bad one, as biometrics are useless over the Internet - nobody can trust them !
The Home Office does not even bother to collate "Identity Fraud" or "Identity Theft" crime statistics, either from the Police, or from the British Crime Survey.
How can they even tell if the situation gets better or worse with the introduction of ID Cards ?
How can they honestly base a multi-billion pound project on such a wobbly foundation ?
I believe that some critics of our proposals are guilty of liberal woolly thinking and spreading false fears when they wrongly claim that ID cards will erode our civil liberties, will revisit 1984, usher in the “Big Brother” society, or establish some kind of totalitarian police state. Those kinds of nightmare will be no more true of ID cards, when they are introduced, than they have been for the spread of cash and credit cards, driving licences, passports, work security passes and any number of the other current forms of ID that most of us now carry."
So although Charles Clarke rejects David Blunkett's term "airy fairy" , he is using the term "liberal woolly thinking" against his critics instead.
There is a big difference between the Biographical Footprint of multiple, limited, voluntary forms of identity and authorisation,most of which are free and a single point of failure compulsory centralised biometric Government database which you have to pay for as proposed in the Identity Cards bill.
If the ID card is only in addition to all these other forms of Identity, it is "woolly thinking" to pretend that any tangible benefits will accrue
"In order to reinforce this point, the Bill does not make it compulsory to carry a card, nor does it give powers to the police to stop individuals and demand to see their card. Neither will the database which accompanies the card hold information such as medical records, religion or political beliefs."
The ID Card per se is a red herring, as acknowledged by former Home Secretary David Blunkett, who was keen to have a centralised biometric database, and fantasised about mobile biometric readers in the hands of the Police, which would not require an ID card to be carried at all times.
Why has the option of having a secure, forgery resistant ID Card without a centralised surveillance database not been presented as a possible choice by the Home Office ?
"Of course, ID cards cannot solve every problem. But — properly and carefully introduced, as they will be — they can be part of the solution. There is no contradiction between the introduction of ID cards and the wide range of other measures with which the Government seeks to fight crime."
The biggest contradictions are the massive waste of money, that should be spent on other things, and the fundamental change for the worse in the trust relationship between the Government and the People.
"I claim that the ID Cards Bill that I am introducing today is a profoundly civil libertarian measure because it promotes the most fundamental civil liberty in our society, which is the right to live free from crime and fear."
This claim is made by all Police States.
How do ID Cards and centralised databases protect us from fear and mistrust of their abuse by current and future Governments and petty officials ?
"Both in practice and in principle ID cards are right. I hope that they will gain wide support throughout our society, and the sooner the better.
Charles Clarke is Home Secretary "
We do not agree with the Identity Cards Bill, either in principle or in practice.