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.