Monthly Archives: June 2009

According to the BBC: Home Secretary Alan Johnson has dropped plans to make ID cards compulsory for pilots and airside workers at Manchester and London City airports. The cards were due to be trialled there – sparking trade union anger. Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling said that the reverse in policy was “an absurd fudge” and “symbolic of a government in chaos”. But Mr Johnson said the ID card scheme was still very much alive – despite Tory and Lib Dem calls to scrap it. He said the national roll-out of a voluntary scheme was being speeded-up – with London to get them a year early in 2010 and over-75s to get free cards.

Climbdown on compulsory ID cards

Scott Macnab writes in The Scotsman: THE Scottish Government has stepped up calls for the UK identity card scheme to be scrapped. Recently appointed home secretary Alan Johnson is being urged to cancel the cards as he reviews his new portfolio. The SNP administration has long opposed the scheme, which will cost an estimated £1.1 billion to introduce over ten years. In a letter to Johnson, Holyrood community safety minister Fergus Ewing said: “Given the current financial climate, I believe the UK Government should have better uses for the vast sums of money being spent on this scheme.” The first identity cards were introduced last November for foreign nationals living in Britain, while residents of Greater Manchester will be the first British citizens able to apply voluntarily for an identity card later this year. Ewing said they are an “unacceptable threat to citizens’ privacy and civil liberties” with little evidence […]

Identity cards branded an ‘unacceptable threat to privacy’

James Chapman writes in the Daily Mail: David Cameron will repeal a raft of laws that have eroded civil liberties under plans for the first days of a Conservative government. The Tory leader yesterday warned Labour has created a ‘control state’ with sweeping powers to intrude into people’s private lives. Officials now have more than 1,000 reasons to knock on doors and demand to enter homes, he said, making the UK more like a ‘foreign dictatorship or bygone age’ than a modern democracy. Mr Cameron also attacked ID cards, blanket stop-and-search powers, creeping extensions to the national DNA database, extradition abroad without evidence of wrongdoing and the erosion of the right to trial by jury. The Mail has learned that the Tories will pledge in their election manifesto to bring in a single ‘repeal bill’ to scrap contentious elements of terrorism and crime legislation. This is expected to include laws […]

I’ll end Labour’s Big Brother state: Cameron vows to scrap ...

Computing reports: Commons leader Harriet Harman has been forced to again deny repeated claims in the House of Commons that the government is about to perform a U-turn over ID cards. The deputy Labour leader insisted there was no change in policy but said home secretary Alan Johnson was keeping the plan under review. Pressed further during questions on future government business, Harman said biometric cards are already being introduced for foreigners in the UK and airside airport workers, adding: “If there is any change in that, which I do not expect, he [the home secretary] will keep the House informed.” Harman was responding to a challenge from Tory business manager Alan Duncan over a delay in processing four key statutory instruments required for proceeding with ID cards, with no sign of when they will proceed. Duncan called for a statement from Johnson “to clarify what ministers have been briefing […]

Government forced to again deny ID cards U-turn

David Moss writes in Pharmacy Magazine (text, JPG) about Home Office proposals that pharmacists should collect biometrics for the National Identity Scheme. He concludes: Suppose that 20 per cent of the customers who register their biometrics with you are then informed that they have no right to work. Is that likely to increase the goodwill in your business? Now back to fingerprinting. Traditional fingerprinting works but that is not what the Home Office is proposing. It is asking you to use a new technology, flat print fingerprinting – a glorified photocopying process. And that, as the UK Passport Service found, fails 19-20 per cent of the time. If you have spent your working life as a pharmacist building a dignified and confidence-inspiring professional and commercial reputation, you are now being asked to risk all that on a business opportunity with no scientific foundation. A lot of commercial decisions are difficult. […]

Pharmacy Magazine: Talking Point

Ian Dunt writes on the web site ID cards could cost as much as £2,857 each based on the amount of money the government has already committed to the pilot project, can exclusively reveal. The figure dwarfs former home secretary Jacqui Smith’s claims that ID cards will cost individuals no more than £30 each, unless the government intends to heavily subsidise their production. A Freedom of Information request to the Home Office by revealed the total money spent to date by the department to “design, build, test and operate the technology to support issue of the first ID cards” stands at £20 million over five years. Mr Dunt also comments on the difficulty of getting relevant data from the Home Office.

The cost of ID cards: £2,857 each

Andrew Rawnsley writes in the Observer: George Osborne concedes that his party has previously been “shy” of using the “C” word. In a recent article for the Times, the shadow chancellor declared himself a convert to honesty. “We should have the confidence to tell the public the truth”, that truth being “that real spending will have to be cut” across “many departments”. His candour is, though, still heavily rationed. The Tories remain opaque about where the cuts will bite and how deeply they will go. It is easy to identify ID cards, “quango pay” and “the cost of politics” as candidates for the axe. No one is going to man the barricades to defend MPs’ expenses, quangocrats and ID cards from the chop. All are populist candidates for cuts which will save sums that are absolutely trivial in the context of the scale of the deficit.

Dishonesty is not the best policy on public spending

Jerry Fishenden writes in The Register: UK Identity Card 1.0 is in deep trouble. It’s running late, and if the Conservative Party wins next year’s election it’ll be scrapped. Its original architect has changed his mind, and even some Cabinet members are starting to see it as a needless expense. But if we pull the plug, what then? The cards may go away, but the issue won’t. Problems associated with identity, privacy and security will remain burning issues facing both the technology industry and wider society. But the irony is that the UK is well placed to develop a model identity framework for the 21st Century. Unlike many other countries, we don’t have the problems of any existing, legacy national identity scheme to encumber us. We have a clean slate. We could have got this right and shown the art of the possible. All the more reason to be dispirited […]

So what we do when ID Cards 1.0 finally dies?

Ben Chu writes in The Independent: Is the Government about to perform a U-turn? There are rumours in Westminster that support in the Cabinet for ID cards is receding. And there were reports at the weekend that the new Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, has ordered a review of the policy. But Mr Johnson also described ID cards this week as a “manifesto commitment”. And while there might be grumblings about the wisdom of ploughing on with the scheme in the Cabinet, it would be a considerable humiliation for the Government to scrap a policy that it has doggedly clung to for some four years. So ID cards might not be officially binned, but do not be surprised if ministers decide to kick the scheme still further into the long grass before the next general election.

The Big Question: Is the writing on the wall for ...

According to the Guardian leader-writer: The single greatest threat of the new ID infrastructure is to personal privacy, and it is barely touched by the headline row about whether cards should be issued or not. The danger is that individuals will get chewed up in – or, worse, randomly regurgitated by – a monster database. The amount of information stored on Britain’s wartime ID cards quadrupled in a few short years. The bureaucracy’s natural hunger for ever more data will only be encouraged this time by the fact the scheme lacks a single clearly defined purpose, and because of the potential for automatic updates each time the card is used. The devil lurks in the detail of regulations stipulating which information can be held and when it can be shared. Politicians need pressing even harder on these obscure rules than on whether to issue the cards.

ID cards: Slippery plastic

James Boxell writes in the Financial Times: The government’s controversial ID cards scheme appeared to have been kicked “into the long grass” on Wednesday, after the Home Office backed away from a commitment to award a key contract to produce the cards for British citizens this autumn. The so-called “card design and production” contract – for which Fujitsu, IBM, and Thales UK were bidding – would have been one of the costliest stages in the £4.8bn project to introduce a national identity scheme. The Home Office conceded the delayed contract might not be awarded until autumn 2010. Given that the Tories have pledged to scrap the scheme, however, it would be unlikely to see the light of day in the event of a Conservative victory in the next general election.

Home Office delays ID card contract

Chris Grayling, shadow Home Secretary, writes on the Guardian Comment is Free site about the ID Cards Scheme: Yet the underlying truth still remains, this is the wrong project at the wrong time. The wrong project because of the civil liberties issues it raises, and the very real doubts that it will make a difference in the battle against terrorism and organised crime. I have met virtually no one in the policing and security world who thinks ID cards are an essential part of what they need to do in the future. Wrong time because we just can’t afford it. With public deficits soaring, and the government already planning huge cuts to public services, spending billions on ID cards is just not the right thing to do. And yet the project is still moving ahead rapidly. That’s why I took the decision to write to all of the five companies […]

Stopping ID cards

James Slack writes in the Daily Mail: Labour has passed law after law which has been used to strip away our most fundamental rights and freedoms. Today, Lord Steyn, a retired Law Lord, gives his own accurate and withering summary of some of them. The former judge warns that ID cards, and the national identity database which will store the personal data, are steps towards a ‘Kafkaesque’ society and that there is ‘absolutely no evidence’ the cards would protect the country against terrorism. Also in his line of fire are the DNA database – the world’s largest, and which even after inadequate Government reforms will still contain samples taken from entirely innocent people for up to 12 year – and the presence of CCTV cameras on every street corner. ‘The Home Office now proudly asserts that comprehensive surveillance has become routine. If that is true, the resemblance to the world […]

Somebody should inform the Government that The Trial was meant ...

Several national papers report David Cameron’s “Cameron Direct” talk in Norwich on Monday 15th June. Rebecca Gough writes in a local paper, the Norwich Evening News: But the biggest round of applause all evening was in response to a question asking for reassurances on ID cards which Mr Cameron would said he “bin”. “One of the first things I’ll do is ask my new home secretary to go into the Home Office and find the papers and tear them up and put them in the bin.” As polished as ever, Mr Cameron answered each question with barely a hesitation but he continued the debate on ID cards and adopted a German accent. It prompted some laughter but also raised eyebrows. He had added that the only way identity cards would work is if people had to carry them all the time – but said it would be un-British for someone […]

Whistle-stop trip to city for Cameron

Nicholas Watt writes in The Guardian: Alan Johnson, the home secretary, is to press ahead with the introduction of ID cards in limited areas of Britain, but is making clear in private he will do little to introduce them across the country. Amid reports that he was planning a U-turn on the £5.3bn policy, Johnson said he would stand by Labour’s manifesto commitment to introduce ID cards.

ID cards policy to continue, Alan Johnson says