Home Secretary Charles Clarke in his Commons Third Reading speech on the Identity Cards Bill, managed to repeat, yet again, some of the discredited arguments which he has used before.
I believe that it will not remove civil liberties but will give an individual greater control over his identity.
Some have alleged that the Bill will create a Big Brother state. I do not believe that. I believe that it will help to control that state.
Readers of this blog should not be surprised if we agree with Charles Clarke that "this Bill will not create a Big Brother state".
It can be argued that NuLabour have already put enough legislation on the Statute Books to create the legal basis for a Police State at the drop of a hat e.g. the Terrorism Act 2000, the Anti-Terrorism Crime and Security Act 2001, the Civil Contingencies Act 2004, the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005, the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005, the forthcoming Terrorism Bill 2005 etc.
It is just NuLabour's lack of a clear ideological vision of anything except hanging on to power, and their self delusion that they are doing this all for the public good, combined with the silent resistance, or perhaps just inertia, of the judiciary, the civil service, the police and the military which has prevented the worst and most blatant form of a Police State being inflicted on us. The lack of a current major economic or public health disaster has also contributed to preserving the status quo, for now.
We totally disgree that "it will help to control that state."
The alleged safeguards and oversight in this Bill are totally inadequate.
He went on to say:
"Let me reassert the benefits of the scheme. First, ID cards will help to tackle identity fraud, which now costs the UK economy and society more than £1.3 billion a year.
We are fed up with calling this claim "misleading", the constant repetition makes it a downright lie, which has been exposed several times
e.g. Evening Standard: Andrew Gilligan demolishes the £1.3 billion identity fraud hype.
Secondly, a secure identity system will help to prevent terrorist activity, more than a third of which makes use of false identities.
This is yet another often repeated falsehood
Are these false British identities being used by terrorists ? How about the two thirds who presumably use their real identities ?
This is a repetition of disgraced former Home Secretary David Blunkett's misleading spin before the Home Affairs Committee about false or multiple identitiies which has been repeated over and over by Blunkett, Brown, Clarke, McNulty and Burnham ever since.
Thirdly, identity cards will make it far easier to control immigration and illegal working,
The Metropolitan Police's Operation Maxim seized thousands of falsely applied for and fake identity documents used by illegal immigrants, serious criminals like human traffickers etc. The vast majority of these, over 93%, were foreign documents , not British ones. Even a perfect UK ID Card scheme will therefore have almost no effect on terrorists or serious criminals or on illegal immigrants.
and British citizens will be able to use their identity cards instead of a passport to travel in Europe.
What is the supposed advantage to the individual of an ID card over a Passport for this purpose ?
Fourthly, ID cards will secure the more efficient and effective provision of public services"
How ? None of the other Government Departments are willing to dip into their own budgets to pay for this, are they ? Most of the integration needed for "joined up e-government" e.g. sorting out common name and address records, can be done without a mandatory centralised biometric database. See the Treasury's "plan B" Citizen Information Project
The Government has not even given cost estimates of the infrastructure and integration costs for other Government Departments and Public and Private sector bodies which might perhaps use the National Identity Register. This information has not even been made avaolable to the Home Affairs or Public Accounts Select Committees which are meant to scrutinise this sort of multi-billion pound project.
Even fundamental questions like "how many times a day/week/month/year will an individual NIR record be checked, has not been even guessed at. How can even a willing IT industry come up with reasonable cost estimates if the precise size and scope of the systems which they are meant to design is simply uknown ?
What figures the Government have guessed at, for say the cost of Biometric Reader equipment in the Regulatary Impact Assessment for the Identity Cards Bill of £250 to £750 per biometric reader, is utterly contradicted by their published figures in the Regulatory Impact Assessment for the E-Borders project in support of the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Bill (another Home Office Bill). The estimates for the purchase and installation of by the relatively few biometric readers and infrastructure needed for airports and ports, simply to handle the much less sophistacted task of ICAO compliant Biometric Passports (which will only need much simpler and cheaper biometric readers than the proposed UK ID card, in a much more secure and controlled environmnt than where most ID Card readers will have to operate, works at an average of £27,000 per biometric reader installed.
The scheme will not create threats to privacy or change the way we live our lives, as many have alleged. We have never proposed a scheme under which it would be compulsory to carry a card or which would require the production of an identity card to the police. The Bill also sets limits on the information that can be held on the register. It will not contain information about criminal convictions, financial records or political or religious opinions. Indeed, on Report, we have just amended the Bill so that it will not be possible to add a police national computer number to the register.
But your National Identity register Number can be added to the Police National Computer, without your permission.
Is Charles Clarke also saying that there will now not be any audit trail of each and every time a lookup from the Police national Computer is made of your NIRN or other details ?
No one will have access to the national identity register other than those operating it. What the Bill allows is for information to be provided from the register either with the consent of the individual or without that consent in strictly limited circumstances in accordance with the law of the land.
Later on he said:
Since the debate on Second Reading, the project has been through a further Office of Government Commerce review on business justification. The review confirmed that the project is ready to proceed to the next phase. An independent assurance panel is now in place to ensure that the work is subject to rigorous, ongoing challenge by experts, as well as major period reviews by the OGC process
Don't hold your breath, for information which has been refused even to the Home Affairs Committee, or the Public Accounts Committee.
The Government has refused to publish any real details of the previous Office for Government Commerce Gateway Reviews of the Identity Cards Project, even in a form where any personal details of the civil servants or external consultants' details has been redacted, despite our Freedom of Information Act request and Internal Reviews and Appeal to the Information Commissioner.
We expect the Office of the Information Commissioner to issue a Preliminary Decision Notice on our appeal, hopefully by the end of October.