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Compromise paves way for ID cards

It appears my faint optimism of yesterday was misplaced. The House of Lords has agreed a compromise on ID cards which means they will go ahead. This Reuters report makes it clear that the cards are the most ambitious such cards to be attempted in terms of the data to which they draw access.

They will prove a costly and oppressive fiasco. Perhaps that is Blair’s main legacy.

72 comments to Compromise paves way for ID cards

  • Nick M

    Oh bugger, best get off to Australia.

  • John K

    This so-called compromise is a complete bag of shite.

    You will still have to put all your details on the National Identity Register, the only difference is that you won’t actually get an ID card. What sort of compromise is that? It will still be compulsory to be on the NIR if you want a passport.

    The Lords lost their bottle. Sad bunch of wankers.

  • Freeman

    What I don’t understand is why a (self-styled) “decent sort of guy” like Blair would want his sons and grandchildren to live in a state ruled by politicians who have such a powerful ID card weapon at their command.
    Then I never really understood why a person who obviously wants to be in control could be happy for so much power to be handed over to the EU.
    Does he really think ahead, or is he actually planning to become another permanent ex-pat and just doesn’t care what happens in the UK.

  • permanent expat

    Permanent expats do care what happens in the UK.

  • David

    Gutless wankers caving in.
    The best we can now hope for is the IT project behind this monstrous legislation will be a copmplete cock up, run years late and be an utter failure. Fairly normal government job hopefully.

  • Freeman

    Permanent ex-pat — sorry for my unfortunate wording. Please accept that my comment was not directed at yourself. It was directed at a PM who could do such things and then walk away from the problems he created.

  • nic

    “Then I never really understood why a person who obviously wants to be in control could be happy for so much power to be handed over to the EU.”

    First Grand Chancellor of the European Imperium?

  • Verity

    What permanent expat said.

  • GCooper

    While one can see why their lordships decided to cave-in (the Parliament Act must have been wagged furiously by the Za-NuLab thought-police), this is still a depressing, degrading decision.

    It serves to remind of us that politicians – all politicians – are actively harmful to individual freedom. No law is passed which does not curtail someone from doing something. And passing laws is what politicians do. It is all that they do.

  • permanent expat

    Freeman: An apology is absolutely not needed as the typing of my monica wasn’t the same as I post. I was aware that it wasn’t personal & understood perfectly the point you were making. While I’m at it though, I will disillusion those who may think that (angry) expatriates like myself have no interest in the UK and its desperate plight. Why else should we post? We are shattered at the decline in all those things dear to us, of which the now Septic Isle was an example to the World. Empires come & go….and their eventual demise, if intelligently orchestrated, can be a credit to their “owners”. The country of one’s birth is an entirely different matter. It’s an integral part of one’s existence. There are those in the UK now, both imported & home-grown (God forgive them because I certainly will not.) who are both actively & passively destroying the fabric of a unique, free & mostly happy way of life built up over the centuries & paid for dearly. It is true that the spectator sees more of the game (tragedy in this case) than those who are playing….& I’ll close now by telling you that the players should be totally disgusted with themselves. The final whistle should be any time now. Tick tick tick……….

  • Mike Lorrey

    If they cock it up like the Canadians did their gun registry, you blokes may yet have a chance.

  • Mike Lorrey

    Oh, btw: y’all are welcome to immigrate here to New Hampshire. Our state legislature just passed a bill finding the REAL ID act repugnant and prohibiting any state agencies from cooperating with it.

  • James

    Mike Lorrey,

    If it’s anything like our gun registry, then we have absolutely nothing to fear ;)

    However, this isn’t simply a case of buying off a few concerned citizens with empty promises.

    There seems to be the possibility of a tiny, slim, glimmer of hope, though. Perhaps I’m being naive, but the BBC are carrying this as part of their article:

    Shadow home secretary David Davis said the deal was “a major climb-down by the government” that made the legislation “just acceptable”.

    “Nobody who does not want an ID card need have one before the next election – and that in itself is worth having,” he said before promising a Conservative government would repeal the legislation.

    Perhaps (just perhaps) if they have the opportunity to become electable again and if they were to incorporate it into their manifesto, then we could have a fighting chance here?

    I await someone to tell me I’m wrong again and to stop being so optimistic.

  • GCooper

    James writes:

    “I await someone to tell me I’m wrong again and to stop being so optimistic.”

    Happy to oblige. The Conservatives will not win the next election. Cameron is unelectable. He dismays the Right, horrifies the Left, while the great unwashed majority of don’t-much-care-either-ways will stick with the same product under the authentic label.

  • Verity

    Yes, GCooper, Dave is unelectable. But they chose him!

    I think I’m right in saying that you don’t have to be British to be an elected MP, and presumably PM. I asked, over on Anglosphere (Link) whether we might get a clever foreigner in to stand for leader of the Conservatives – one who could actually win the election for them. Someone wrote in Guiliani, which I thought was rather good. Or what about John Howard when he steps down? Anders Rasmussen already has a job that’s taking up all his time, but … if it’s true that you don’t have to be British to stand for Parliament, the world’s our oyster!

    But Dave, no. Bag him. Out with the rubbish. So totally, totally unelectable that his leadership even seems like a wheeze.

  • James

    I’m still going to hold out a bit of hope (yes, I know I’m foolish, but I seem to remember a quote on here the other day about pessimists and optimists…).

    There’s plenty of time left for things to swing in their favour (and they’re quite aware of it).

    I’m not necessarily looking for an outright victory- I’d be happy with a hung parliament. I think that that could be all that is required in this context.

    I know Dave isn’t our man, but he’s there for the benefit of the vacuous section of the electorate who believe in Blair and NuLabour.

    I don’t think the rest of the party will let him be as presidential as Blair has been with Labour.

  • Verity

    James – hot tip: Dave’s not going anywhere. The Conservatives don’t like him. Labour will get in again, even if they run Frankenstein.

    Perry wants to see the Tories destroyed and I’m beginning to come round to his point of view. They are so totally pointless. William Hague was given his chance too soon, although he is proving his worth now, as a more mature man. But they handed it to a sleazy car showroom salesman. Matthew Parris famously said the Tories were ready for a toff – why? Why not someone like Margaret Thatcher or Davis, who “came up”, instead of crap Dave with his famously disabled kid and his famous windmill on the top of his house – pressing all the wrong buttons for people who simply want to conserve what is good and move ahead? It is so horribly obvious that Dave wants to conserve himself. He has absolutely no feeling for Britain. Davis does.

    I’m beginning to hate Dave as much as I hate Tone and that is a pretty heavy load to carry.

    Maybe Perry is right.

  • Chris Harper

    What permanent expat and Verity said.

    Difference is, I am British by choice, not by birth, and I cry for my beloved country.

    However, for the benefit of Nick M, here in Oz things are only a bit behind the UK. They (the ubiquitous ‘they’) are starting to talk about an ID card again and Victoria already has the hateful religious hatred laws.

  • John McVey

    Nick said:

    Oh bugger, best get off to Australia.

    Ugh.

    JJM

  • John K is entirely correct. Both the so-called compromises by the Government actually make their position stronger – and not one political journalist in 100 has noticed.

    1. Removal of the mechanism of direct compulsion (as opposed to compulsion by making registration a condition of obtaining such government-issued documents as the government sees fit) from this Bill, only broadens scope for slipping it in with less debate under other legislation.

    2. The opt out for individuals from actually having a physical card for 2 years, which is all that this repulsive deal delivers, is entirely worthless to the individual. (The Home Office has already confirmed that obligations to notify changes in registrable facts will exist from registration, and that they intend to perform verifications (i.e. tracking) using ID numbers regardless of whether you carry a card or not.) All it does is help the Government divert attention from the database to the card by implying the card is a sufficiently important component to be worth postponing.

  • If they cock it up like the Canadians did their gun registry…

    Or our very own Home Office did theirs.

    The brave announcement.

    The farcical result.

    [For overseas readers: That this is still being done on the pretext of the Dunblane massacre is interesting. There have been no other such incidents in British schools since (not that there were any before, and only one other notable mass murder by a crazed gunman in a quarter of a century). There has been a certain amount of gang violence using illegal, unregistered, unlicensed, weapons, of course, but I don’t think even the government is pretending the magic of databases will prevent that.]

  • guy herbert

    The papers quote Burnham on that “compromise”:

    The amendment preserves the integrity of the National Identity Register by ensuring that everyone who applies for or renews a passport has their biometric information placed on the register.

    However, it also goes towards meeting the concerns of those who have argued that the card itself should not be compulsory at this stage.

    A New Labour classic. Nobody has argued that, as far as I am aware. It is a political finesse to invent such a position in order to compromise with it that is highly redolent of Sir Humphrey tactics, which makes the involvement of Lord Armstrong (formerly Cabinet Secretary), a little bit suspicious.

  • Euan Gray

    I think I’m right in saying that you don’t have to be British to be an elected MP

    In order to stand for Parliament in the UK, you must be a British citizen, an Irish citizen or a citizen of a Commonwealth nation. You also have to be over 21 and not the holder of a public office (i.e. not a civil servant, soldier, etc.)

    EG

  • Julian Morrison

    They were never stoppable. They’re a typical “bad idea that never dies”. The only way to be rid of them is the poll-tax way: make them forever onward a metaphor for political career suicide.

  • Morvern

    They were a metaphor for political suicide in Australia after the mass protests against the ‘Australia Card’ in 1987. But now suddenly the Australian government is saying things like “These cards are inevitable – Australians will have to get used to it.”

    Blair says the same kind of thing, “This is the way the world is going.” Why are they inevitable I wonder? Who is driving this and who is making it inevitable?

  • Matt

    A question: will Irish passport holders resident in the UK have to be registered in order to work or otherwise?

  • Morvern

    Foregin nationals will have to be registered as well.

  • DJM

    EG: “not the holder of a public office (i.e. not a civil servant, soldier, etc.)”

    When did the rules change to disallow soldiers? At the outset of World War 2, Fitzroy Maclean couldn’t be both an MP and in the civil service — thus he stood for Parliament to get out of the civil service, enabling him to join the army as he’d actually wanted (and which the civil service hadn’t wanted him doing). He then served in the army and as MP for Lancaster at the same time.

  • To be fair, when the Australia Card idea was floated by the Hawke ALP govt, the concept of an ID card wasn’t that unpopular, but a campaign was run against them and they steadily declined in popularity.

    If the Libs are considering a card, and it sounds like they may be, the fight against them hasn’t even started – and it’s a political venture fraught with risk. The Libs understand this and realise how much latent hostility exists in the community towards ID cards – hark at them trying to label it an “access card”, not an identity card.

    Fucking arseholes.

  • Johnathon is right: it is a capitulation: nothing more than a two-year delay on some aspects.

    Julian is right: a National Identity Scheme (NIdS) is inevitable.

    Concerning this, I looked carefully in 1995 when biometrics were, I think, first proposed. The technology was not viable then. The technology will be viable next time. The technology might just about be viable now: this is for what should be done, which is not necessarily what this government plans to do.

    Finally, Guy is sad. And I am very very sympathetic.

    However, the NO2ID strategy was (and is) wrong.

    There is a case for providing the NIdS as a service to citizens, business and government. Whether registration is compulsory or voluntary in law, it will become effectively compulsory in practice; this is for that large proportion of the population that lives a normal modern life.

    The problem is that, in addition to the useful primary benefits of the card, we (the people and their oh so well informed parliamentary representatives) are in the process of allowing law to be passed that takes us more steps down the Orwellian path than is necessary. [See link to semi-technical presentation ]

    In this, NO2ID are, at least, partly to blame. By taking their own, totalitarian, stance, they have diverted us from the important, and winnable, issue of constraining the law to the necessary – rather than to that desired by statists. [And all government becomes, and its bureaucracy always is, essentially statist; this is why we have parliament (including particularly the House of Lords: men and women mostly past the stage of personal ambition, except for their children and grandchildren).]

    What we should do now, and always should have done, is to curtail the power of the executive to that necessary and desirable. This includes:

    (i) Limitation of the data entered on the National Identity Register (NIR) to that essential for the primary purpose of an NIdS for the people, namely: name, contact address, date of birth, photograph (for what it’s worth), NIR Number, and some biometric information (see below).

    (ii) Legislation to prevent over-zealous officials (that includes the whole of government) from abusing the system and from bullying of citizens. As now, and always, there should never be compulsion to carry or show the Card (though life might and would, sometimes, be more difficult without it).

    (iii) Restriction on the power of the executive and its agencies. In particular there should be an independent (and all-powerful) commissioner appointed by and reporting directly Parliament. Also, every search of the NIR, in support of criminal investigations (eg fingerprint database searches) or national security, should require a warrant from a high court judge.

    (iv) Use for confirmation of identity should be constrained, by the technology (which is fully possible for the NIR, excepting only illegal acts by insiders), to be CONFIRMATION ONLY of information knowingly and freely provided, on each separate use, by registered persons.

    (v) Limiting retention of information on the audit trail to a period specified separately by each registered person. Note audit trail information is useful, as additional security against ID Card misuse and identity fraud. However, the party at risk (the registered person) should have the right to decide, balancing their concerns over privacy and civil rights against those of ID Scheme misuse and identity fraud. This period should only be extended by a warrant from a high court judge for purposes and period(s) specified in any warrant.

    Finally to the technology.

    Biometrics have four primary and, in my opinion, legitimate uses. Firstly to detect multiple applications, which would only be made covertly for illegal and other illegitimate purposes. Secondly, any only where really necessary and voluntarily by registered persons, at Points of Use (PoUs) to confirm identity. Thirdly, for identification of uncooperative persons arrested for serious crime; here such use should be authorised by a police officer of at least the rank of Chief Inspector. Finally, in emergencies for identification purposes, such as identification of seriously injured persons (eg for medical purposes) or of those who have died.

    Digital signatures can be used on ID Cards, as they can on passports and driving licences, to raise exceptionally high barriers against counterfeiting. Checks of digital signatures can be made off-line (ie without access to the NIR) with suitable card-reading computer equipment. This itself is beneficial, even without biometrics, as digitised photographs can be checked manually. What digital signatures do is prevent partial substitution of data linked together; eg it stops substituting a photograph of an impostor against otherwise legitimate identity details. Digital signatures do not stop replication/cloning of ID Cards, passports and other identity documents. Use of smart chips with tamper detection provide some (perhaps extensive but not totally foolproof) protection against cloning (as it does with the latest credit/debit cards).

    The NIR, as an important central database containing private information, should be subject to the most stringent IT security measures and staff vetting. Access, except for PoU identity confirmation, from the Internet would, obviously, not be provided; it represents too high a security risk. Development, use and maintenance of the software and private data by those outside the full jurisdiction of UK law is also highly undesirable. The only sort of exception to this should be identity confirmation at international borders by foreign immigration official; this would, of course, be confirmation only of information freely provided by the passport holder.

    Again, I’m very very sad for Guy and his hardworking and sincere colleagues on NO2ID. I invite them to move their campaign to that outlined above.

    Best regards

  • Derek Buxton

    Sadly we have been let down by the House of Lords in this case as in so many others. They seem to be capitulating to the evil Tone just as the judges have done. We now have no safeguards for our traditional freedoms and way of life. No current party will challenge the descent into a police state any longer.
    R I P Great Britain, sunk by treacherous Scots, Welsh and English politicians motivated solely by envy, malice and greed.

  • Derek Buxton

    Sadly we have been let down by the House of Lords in this case as in so many others. They seem to be capitulating to the evil Tone just as the judges have done. We now have no safeguards for our traditional freedoms and way of life. No current party will challenge the descent into a police state any longer.
    R I P Great Britain, sunk by treacherous Scots, Welsh and English politicians motivated solely by envy, malice and greed.

  • Thon Brocket

    Idle speculation: how about pre-empting the bastards by setting up a private-sector ID-card industry? It would be cheap, efficient and voluntary; accomplish all the “good” objectives that have been mooted at least as well as the State scheme; make the State scheme seem idiotic by comparison; and make money for the good guys. It could be implemented on the fast track – competition would see to that – and be up, tested and running long before the State scheme has stumbled up to us, roaring incoherently and clutching its neck-bolt.

    Then all we have to do is force the G to accept a private ID in lieu. No ideas there.

  • David

    They’d just legislate against it.

  • permanent expat

    Oh yes, Derek Buxton………….regrettably, yes. And the waffling continues apace. Where are the tumbrels taking us, I wonder?

  • Andrew Duffin

    Mike Lorrey: “y’all are welcome to immigrate here to New Hampshire”

    Unfortunately we are not. It’s about as easy for one of Tony Blair’s subject to get an immigrant visa for the US as it is for us (or you, for that matter) to fly to the moon.

    Sad but true.

  • Simon Jester

    Nigel,

    in addition to the useful primary benefits of the card

    What “useful primary benefits”? Your post does not detail them; you appear to regard them as self-evident.

    Your description of NO2ID as “totalitarian” is truly Orwellian, in the same sense as the use of the “Ministry of Truth” for the propaganda ministry (aka the BBC). Are you ignorant of the meaning of the word (in which case “extremist” might be a better choice), or are you just another ZaNuLabber?

  • Matt

    Personally, I think Thon’s idea is genius.

    But the private card would have to be accepted as valid in all the places that a passport/ID card would be to work.

    So that’s all the banks, hospitals, councils, airlines, ports of entry etc. – and it has to be said that it’s somewhat unlikely that The State would be willing to accept the competition and inherent loss of, ahem, democratic control.

  • Julian Morrison

    Nigel Sedgwick: you’re mistaken. It is fundamentally not possible to limit the scope of a wish-list item like ID cards. Start with an arbitrarily innocuous law, and successive home secretaries will “crack down on evasion” by adding yet more misfeatures. “You want the cards to work, surely? We just need this one little extra intrusion…”

    NO2ID are correct. There is no such thing as a compromise. Stand firm on the absolute principle, because there’s nowhere else to stand.

  • @Julian

    In what special way do you think the proposed National Identity Scheme is different from any other aspect of government?

    Parliament licences government. Parliament can chose what to licence. It is often difficult for Parliament to decide what it is best to do. That does not stop parliamentary democracy being the best (compromise) arrangement we have.

    Answer my question!

    Best regards

  • guy herbert

    Nigel,

    However, the NO2ID strategy was (and is) wrong.

    I should explain why we have taken, and continue to take the route we have, rather than the meliorist one you suggest. It’s because this is a political battle, not a technical one.

    A meliorist line cannot succeed because almost nobody understands the technological and institutional distinctions involved: neither the public or the politicians do at all, and the scope for educating them is very little. The advocates of a totalitarian identity management system would run political rings round any attempt to promote better alternatives, because to the general public, and the media and political classes, the options would be entirely indistinguishable. They could say they were doing one, while doing another, and no amount of clucking by geeks would make anyone who matters any the wiser. The utter incomprehension in the media that making a register soonest and leaving a card till later is not a significant slackening of the scheme illustrates this.

    “No to the database state” on the other hand is maybe comprehensible to, and consequently just about sellable, to the publics that matter, though we are nowhere near succeeding yet.

    All the institutional and technical constraints you specify are desirable things, but you cannot get them by simply asking for them. This is being promoted for the convenience of the state; your interest as a citizen is not a consideration. Only political pressure to kill the scheme in its present form would give any motivation to the state to change it.

  • Julian Morrison

    Nigel Sedgwick: I have no more fondness for parliamentary democracy than I do for ID cards, and for much the same reasons. Nor indeed for democracy of any sort, except as a phase in a controlled exit from dictatorship. Property and democracy are mutually inimical.

    In the short term, ID cards are easier to get rid of. They’re also powerfully symbolic – they’re a microcosm of the debate: who owns the individual?

  • Thon Brocket

    But the private card would have to be accepted as valid in all the places that a passport/ID card would be to work.

    In the real, non-G, world things are accepted on whether or not they work , and at the right price. If, for instance, airlines preferred to use SamizdatIdCo’s card because it was quicker, cheaper and more reliable than the State scheme, you would have serious, high-level lobbying pressure against the State scheme from the airlines. Local councils might be swayed, and NGOs. We might be able to outflank the whole horrible idea, if we move quick enough.

    There’s already a big body of techniques and technology out there – credit cards, access-systems technology, big databases, encryption and validation technologies – that I’m sure could form the building blocks of a quick-and-dirty system.

    Anybody in here interested in putting together a business plan?

  • @Simon

    By all means, substitute “extreme” for “totalitarian”.

    I do indeed view the primary benefits as obvious. Apologies if the obvious to me is unclear to you.

    Primary benefits: To provide the people with sufficent means to reliably identify themselves to each other, businesses and government, as far as they deem this useful. To allow one to know the only (or all) the identities of someone who is “doing business” with you, to the extent and certainty that you need to know them, rather than to the extent that the person wishes to disclose them (while trying to gull you). To help the police and emergency service etc, in very limited and proper circumstances, in identifying people if possible.

    This is also covered, though not explicitly as primary, under my above posting, on what biometrics provide. Finally, it is covered, explicitly under the term “primary” on slide 3 of the references presentation: link to semi-technical presentation

    Also, is there any chance you might overlook the imperfections in my language etc (slight or gross according to view), and concentrate on the main arguments against (or even for) my view, if you have any that is?

    Best regards

  • @Julian, who wrote: “Nigel Sedgwick: I have no more fondness for parliamentary democracy than I do for ID cards, and for much the same reasons. Nor indeed for democracy of any sort, except as a phase in a controlled exit from dictatorship. Property and democracy are mutually inimical.”

    Well, then it seems we have no common basis on which to resolve, or understand the extent, of our disagreement on the NIdS. Accordingly, I wont try further.

    Best regards

  • Julian Morrison

    BTW, the Tories are making the right noises. What’s surprising is to see them offer civil-liberties arguments in amongst the pragmatic ones.

  • @Guy, who wrote: “A meliorist line cannot succeed because almost nobody understands the technological and institutional distinctions involved: neither the public or the politicians do at all, and the scope for educating them is very little.”

    I understand your argument, even if I do not agree with it.

    Personally, I am of the view that we have a right to expect our parliamentarians to understand the issues on which they are deciding; we do, after all, fund them for assistants and researchers and much information is in the public domain. On issues they do not understand, or have no view on, they should avoid voting. If this is rather a large number of issues, they should stand down.

    Furthermore Guy, you think you understand the issues, and I agree that you do. Clearly (I hope), I understand most of the technical issue and (again I hope) many of the political issues. You and I are thinking guys, but not so special that we should not expect our MPs to be of similar or greater ability in understanding the world in which we live.

    Anyway, back to the urgent issue.

    What are NO2ID going to do now, given that the extreme policy phase (at least of polite argument and lobbying), or is that non-meliorist, seems to have passed by?

    Best regards

  • Julian Morrison

    Nigel Sedgwick: we already have ID cards that are sufficient to identify us to business. They’re called “credit cards”.

    BTW, it’s hardly sporting to demand a debate so loudly, then yourself back out so precipitously!

    I know why I’m against ID cards: on the broad conceptual scale, I own myself, the government doesn’t own me. On the medium scale: there is nothing good they can do with that information. On the small scale, it’s none of their darn business!

    Why are you against them? Or, are you, even?

  • Julian Morrison

    What No2ID should do: switch focus from political advocacy to direct “civil disobedience”. Maintain absolutism. Make nice with the Tories.

  • Simon Jester

    Nigel,

    None of your proposed “benefits” require a mandatory, state-based scheme – and many of these hypothetical benefits will not be available unless it is mandatory to carry such a card at all times, something which not even ZaNuLab are currently proposing (AFAIK).

    Slide 3 of your presentation refers to “functions” of an ID card, not “benefits”.

    The only time I concern myself with “imperfections” in your language is where they significantly distort, or even reverse, its meaning – as in your Blairite* use of the word “totalitarian”. You still haven’t indicated whether your misuse of this word was through ignorance.

    * – Eric or Tone, take your pick.

  • Simon Jester

    Incidentally, does anyone know why David Davis instructed Tory MPs to vote for the legislation that he claims to want to repeal if the Tories are elected as the next government?

  • John K

    It seems that passport applicants will not only have to go on the NIR, they will also have to pay for the ID card, even if they decline to have one.

    I don’t think I have ever heard of a more meaningless concession in my life; it consists of the government generously allowing you not to have something it is forcing you to pay for. If the Mafia behaved like that you’d complain!

    I still think there is a lot to play for here. Most people have a vague understanding of what an ID card is. When they find out how much it will cost them, and that they will have to turn up at a specific time at a specific location to have their mugshot and fingerprints taken, they will be appalled. I foresee massive civil disobedience by default: huge numbers of people will simply not be arsed to turn up to be tagged at the whim of an official. I really don’t think the bureaukrauts have got any idea how difficult this process will be. It’s hard to get people to go on marches and demos, but when the best form of protest is to stay at home watching the telly, then we might just be on to a winner.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    In the short term, ID cards are easier to get rid of. They’re also powerfully symbolic – they’re a microcosm of the debate: who owns the individual?

    Bullseye.

  • Matt

    Thon,

    I think the main advantage to be gained comes from junking the database entirely.

    If the biometric information is all on the card, and that is held solely by the individual with no centrally-held copies, then I think that my concerns, for one, would be overcome.

    An independent authority (the issuers of the card) could then verify the validity of the card via commonly available public encryption and certification technologies. I don’t think that the risk of cloning is necessarily any higher in this scheme than in the government’s model. And there will be fakes and clones under the government’s model.

    None of this requires the information to be held centrally by the government, and were they to object to such a scheme, it would clearly expose to all and sundry that there were, perhaps, other reasons for the government being so keen to run it themselves.

    Even if the scheme never went ahead, this is surely a worthwhile end in itself.

    Maybe this is what NO2ID would be better off spending their time looking into…

  • John K

    Maybe this is what NO2ID would be better off spending their time looking into…

    I doubt it. First, it is not and never will be on offer. The state wants the NIR, that’s the whole bloody point as far as they’re concerned. Secondly, it’s far too wishy-washy as an argument. ID cards are one of those things you just have to be for or against, there is no middle ground.

  • Adam Gleave

    Nigel Sedgwick: You seem to be relying on being able to legislate what you want, and it being magically like that. As I think even Blair understands, that is not the case.

    Even ignoring that issue, having an “indepent (and all-powerful) comissioner appointed by and reporting directly [to] Parliament” – although, sadly, proboably an imporvement – still doesn’t account for them being corrupt, mistaken, stupid, etc and for them not being able to… errr.. do anything? Really, what WILL they be doing?

    I think what’s rather telling in your argument is “excepting only illegal acts by insiders”. Exactly. And how are you going to stop that? And, anyway, we can’t trust parliament. Not having this database acts as a buffer for abuse that would require it.

    Additionally, most of what you suggest can – and should – be done via other means. A proof (why should I need to prove?) of your identity utilising digital signatures (which could include biometrics, so no need to have a database attatched to it) has a reasonable purpose (although I still am opposed to it as I just don’t think you can trust them not to put the biometrics in a database anyway).

    As for using it for identification for “medical purposes”, I can’t see I see the point; the only thing I could see would be containing information that is useful medically (e.g. lists of allergies); but that certainly doesn’t need what’s suggested!

    And if you must have this, it can at least be voluntary. If I choose to miss out on all these “benefits”, that’s my problem; right?

  • Matt

    John K,

    With us or against us, eh? Very Dubya. Obviously I am against or I wouldn’t be here.

    But do you not though think there is any value in a strategy that would enlighten the general public about the true nature of the government’s proposals?

    If you can demonstrate publicly that there is no technical reason for the government’s central NIR, by creating a competing scheme that achieves the same level of identity verification with the individual still holding their biometric identity information sovereign, would that not be a valuable service performed?

  • John K

    If you can demonstrate publicly that there is no technical reason for the government’s central NIR, by creating a competing scheme that achieves the same level of identity verification with the individual still holding their biometric identity information sovereign, would that not be a valuable service performed?

    I think you’d get completely bogged down trying to explain such a concept, and anyway, as I said, it is not and never will be on offer. The whole point of this scheme is to render the citizen as unsovereign as he can possibly be. That’s the whole attraction of the scheme to government. They will never offer the system you are proposing, and to try and argue for something which neither the government nor anti-ID campaigners want would be a waste of time.

  • Thon Brocket

    John K:
    The Great Dense Electorate won’t spot any of this until, suddenly, compulsory registration is upon them. They’ll start making a noise at that point, and if we can point to a successful cheap voluntary non-intrusive private alternative, then that will be a serious weapon against a potentially electorally-wobbly government.

    You’re against a compulsory database. So am I. So is everyone here. I’m not against anything voluntary, even an ID card when it’s the subject of a free contract. I’m a libertarian.

    Sure, the Government won’t like it. It’s conceived as a weapon against them, after all.

  • KevinR

    Maybe in practice politically it’s got to be a matter of for or against at least initally.

    However even fierce opponents of the ghastlly proposed ID/Database scheme (including me) might accept that you ought to be able to prove who you are if, for example, claiming resources from the State.

    So maybe we also need to have a solution lined up whereby you can have verification without identification. You can prove who you are without the State being able to pick you out of a crowd. And there is no need for a central database.

    Possible solutions to this are discussed in this article from Wired magazine:

  • Thon Brocket

    Possible solutions to this are discussed in this article from Wired magazine:

    Now, that’s the sort of thing I’m thinking of. I’m hugely encouraged that there are people out there doing this for real, if not yet in the UK. Shows it’s a practical proposition.

    Time to get moving?

  • Paul Marks

    Yes, this costly and oppressive mess will be Mr Blair’s legacy – but only part of it.

    Mr Blair has long used the word “libertarian” as a “boo word”.

    To him “Politics is Freedom” (Bernard Crick, he of “citizenship”, “In Defence of Politics” 1962).

    Mr Blair hates the idea of liberty as a limitation on government power – such a concept offends his most basic beliefs.

    Sadly most people either think that Mr Blair believes in nothing (a total pragamatist would not have many of things he has done), or is “rightwing” (in the sense of “free market”).

    This double deception (Mr Blair the pragmatist, and Mr Blair the supporter of the free market), is the most remarkable achievement of spin in my lifetime.

    Mr Blair has vastly increased government spending, greatly increased taxes, imposed a network of regulations that violate economic freedom and civil liberties (although, in reality, there is no great J.S. Mill style division between economic freedom and civil liberties). And yet people think him either a pragmatist or a supporter of the free market.

    I wonder if Mr Brown (that fanatical hater of all British, and Scottish [see the fate of the historic Scots regiments], tradition) will now be able to pass himself off as a patriot.

    For all their mutual hatred, Mr Blair and Mr Brown have worked closely together on all the main objectives of the government.

    Whether it is expanding the Welfare State, trying to destroy independent families, selling out the nation to the E.U., working to undermine civil liberties (and so on).

    Both men have also got their people to blame the other for certain things.

    Mr Blair’s people say that the vast increase in taxes and spending was Mr Brown’s fault (Mr Blair supported every step of it).

    And Mr Brown’s people say that he had his doubts about both handing over power to the E.U. and about the undermining of civil liberties (I suspect that this is also a pack of lies).

    Still perhaps the worse thing that Mr Blair and the rest of New Labout has done is to give us Mr Cameron.

    The Conservatives, by supporting Mr Cameron, have given up the role of opposition. They have decided that New Labour can not be defeated, so they must become just like it.

    Some claim this is a deception in reverse – that if elected the Conservatives would turn out to be devoted to freedom. Look and listen to Mr Cameron and those close to him – do you believe that they are secret supporters of freedom?

    The Liberal Democrats are not really interested in fighting big government (they fall into the J.S. Mill trap of trying to divide economic liberty and civil liberties).

    So Britain has no opposition in Parliament.

    That is Mr Blair’s legacy – the “Progressive Consensus”. The acceptance of every greater statism.

  • Euan Gray

    although, in reality, there is no great J.S. Mill style division between economic freedom and civil liberties

    Of course there is. Consider Kong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan.

    EG

  • nic

    Thanks for linking that article, KevinR. Those sort of verification systems were exactly what I thought would be a reasonable compromise.

    EG- If anything, those examples show that you can have economic liberty without social liberty but not social liberty without economic liberty. You might have just shown that economic liberty is a mere pre-requisite for social liberty and that is how to distinguish them.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Euan, of course you are right that it is possible to have a liberal economic order and a fairly authortarian political system (you could have also mentioned Chile under Pinochet, for instance). That said, open, and liberal market orders tend in time to encourage political liberalism elsewhere, which seems to be the pattern, albeit uneven, in East Asia. There is nothing inevitable about this, of course.

  • guy herbert

    Of course there is. Consider Kong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan.

    Indeed, though Taiwan is showing signs of growing social liberalism. Singapore is the PM’s preferred model.

  • Euan Gray

    EG- If anything, those examples show that you can have economic liberty without social liberty but not social liberty without economic liberty

    Inevitably there must be some degree of social restriction, since absolute liberty isn’t possible. It’s perhaps going too far to ban smoking in all pubs, but equally most would consider it reasonable to prohibit people jerking off in the street. The question is where the line is drawn and why it is drawn there – prevention of force and fraud isn’t enough, nor are private property rights, and nor is ostracism. Indeed, ostracism only works if there is a generally accepted morality, and these days in most of the west there isn’t.

    Absolute economic liberty isn’t possible either, and so there must also be some economic restriction. If there isn’t, then you *will* get market abuse, fraud, deception, cartel, etc. Whatever the theories may say, these things really do happen in the absence of regulation – any glance at history will show this, although the dogmatist might (and often does) close his eyes to reality when it contradicts his theory. Libertarians and Marxists both seem to be very good at this. Pretending these things don’t happen, or only happen with state facilitation, doesn’t alter reality even if it does make you feel better about your ideology.

    But whatever social system you want, it will generally only work if the economy is sufficiently strong to provide enough money to enough people to enable the generality of the people to do what they desire. There must therefore be a balance in both economic and social liberty as independent concepts, and a balance between the concepts in order to promote that compromise between economic and social liberty that is appropriate to meet the general desires of the society in question, because all things in life are compromises. Furthermore it must be appreciated in this regard that what works and is desirable in one society may not work and/or may not be desired in another society – this is the danger of insisting on a dogmatic universalist view, whether that view be based on communism, anarchy, or democracy-‘n’-markets.

    This is why I am a pragmatic conservative rather than an ideologue.

    In general, however, a system which prefers economic liberty to social liberty will function better and last longer than one which prefers the opposite balance, although the degree of preference is important, since *excessive* economic liberty, especially when coupled with *excesisve* social regulation, will probably lead to social unrest and hence instability. As far as ID cards are concerned, I do consider this to be an unnecessary measure, but the fact that it could be done without massive active unrest, without affecting the economy and without the sky falling in does tend to confirm the thesis that there is a clear distinction between economic and social liberty and that one can indeed have one without the other. People will accept a loss of social liberty as the price of economic comfort, after all.

    EG

  • PaulG

    Cameron can’t be trusted on this. David Davis is more sincere and I think he is genuinely against the cards but then again he’s not party leader.

    The next election is likely for 2010. I think Labour will decline in popularity as the ever increasing stealth taxes take hold. So they will hang on. But the Tories need a net gain of 126 seats. Not a chance in hell. However it will be much easier for labour to lose 50 or so. The Lib Dems could, say win 70 seats under Ming Cambell if they play their cards right.

    So a hung parliament is a real possibility, implying no compulsory ID card including passport applications or otherwise. The Libs will stick to their principles on this. If parliament is not hung, this implies
    Labour Government – ID cards. Tory Government – ID cards. Simple as that.

  • Euan Gray

    But the Tories need a net gain of 126 seats. Not a chance in hell.

    Compare the 1950 election when the Labour majority was reduced from 140 something to 5, and then in 1951 there was a Conservative victory. It’s hardly impossible.

    However it will be much easier for labour to lose 50 or so. The Lib Dems could, say win 70 seats under Ming Cambell if they play their cards right.

    How likely is that? The reason the LDs have increased their representation lately is not because of any intrinsic merit in their platform, but because of a reduced electoral turnout which is caused principally by people who hitherto voted Conservative simply not turning out at all, and *that* is due in part to disillusionment with the political process but more to the perception of the (until recently) more dogmatic Conservative party as incapable of governing.

    Now the Conservatives have moved closer to the political centre, their popularity has markedly increased and that of the LDs decreased. It is quite likely, ceteris paribus, that the next election will show a significantly increased Conservative representation and a reduction in LD representation. Furthermore, increased LD representation is more likely to help Labour than Conservatives.

    EG

  • PaulG

    Well thats your opinion Euan.

    With the electoral arithmetic against the tories, 126 is highly unlikely, even with 2007 boundary changes. The Tories would have to be 6-7 points ahead of Labour at least. What makes you think that is going to be likely ? Labour is always going to do well in its heartlands.
    It takes far less votes to elect a Labour MP than a Tory. Cameron is too much of a flip flopper. Most people don’t know what he stands for.

  • Richard Thomas

    Tick tick tick

    I nominate this as some kind of slogan.

    Rich

  • Bernard W Joseph

    National identity cards are coming, like it or not. We have just started them in the United States. All the weeping, teeth gnashing, and garment rending will do no good. Any ordered objection here will likely face the 82nd Airborne Division which Bush will bring back from Iraq in a blink.