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Compulsory identity cards are put on hold

The Times reports that plans for compulsory national identity cards were put on ice yesterday when the Government delayed a decision on a mandatory scheme until “later this decade”.

Although David Blunkett got the go-ahead for a draft Bill proposing a voluntary scheme in this year’s Queen’s Speech, it will only give the Government powers to build a database using information from passports, driving licences and residents’ permits.

The decision is a blow for both the Home Secretary and Tony Blair. The Prime Minister has invested considerable political capital in the project, saying that Britain has to have compulsory ID cards in the future.

However, after weeks of fierce negotiations, mostly at John Prescott’s Domestic Affairs Committee, the opposition of Cabinet heavyweights led by Jack Straw and Gordon Brown proved too difficult to overcome and a fudge was agreed.

In an unusual step, the Cabinet issued a statement after its weekly meeting yesterday. “In principle Cabinet believes that a national ID card scheme can bring major benefits,” it said. “In practice, given the size and complexity of the scheme a number of issues will need to be resolved over the years ahead.”

The Government would proceed “by incremental steps”. First there would be legislation to set up a scheme, “but we will reserve the final decision on a move to compulsion until later this decade”.

Oh great, so we have some time to spread the word. I would not shut down your iCan campaign against identity cards just yet, Trevor. There is also Big Blunkett’s ‘voluntary’ database that should cover 80 per cent of the population, five to six years after the programme gets under way. Also, Mr Big Blunkett does not want to let go of his scheme and insists that it is phased in, with passports and other official documents acting as a first wave of the programme.

It is far from over yet.

2 comments to Compulsory identity cards are put on hold

  • I quite agree that the current reported plans, whilst a set-back for Blunkett do not mean that the issue will die. Quite the opposite, it’s going to rumble on for the foreseeable future, with incremental changes enacted. I.e. the govt is going for an explicit slippery slope.

    Opponents of ID cards will need to be very clear as to what they want, since the incremental approach will most likely be a ratchet that eventually leads us to full blown compulsory-carry cards. There are already a lot of measures in place that may facilitate ID cards or already pose threats which ID cards may pose.

    I await the Draft Bill with interest.

  • Would it be too cynical to suggest that Blunkett is repeating his astute political performance with the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act, where he successfully managed to get Liberty and other civil rights protestors to concentrate on one part of the legislation i.e. detention without trial, which allowed all kinds of other controversial or nonsensical issues to get passed through Parliament “on the nod” with no discussion, let alone opposition e.g. Data Retention, or the astonishing “it is now illegal to detonate a nuclear weapon in the UK, without permission” (if only the Soviet Union had known that it was *legal* to do this previously.)

    The danger is that people will take their eye of the ball and assume that because a 30 billion pund Biometric ID Card system has not started rolling out just yet, that the unification of DVLC, Passport Office etc linked databses, together with the export of this data to othe G* countries (“for securoity reasons”) is not still a mjor threat to the privacy of innocent people, without having any noticable effect on terrorists or serious criminals.

    Even an alleged Draft ID Cards Bill should be meticulously scrutinised and, hopefully, rejected by Parliament.

    There is no need for an ID Card to be a Biometric Smart Card with a centralised database, for instance.