Monthly Archives: May 2010

Jane Fae Ozimek writes in The Register: When the country is being asked to get ready for cutbacks, the last thing you’d expect is for civil servants to be squandering millions of pounds of public money now – and racking up huge bills for the future – or perhaps you would. That is the allegation made by Phil Booth, national coordinator of No2ID. He claims that in the weeks up to and since the election, NHS Connecting for Health has ignored a national agreement with GPs and Trusts to go slow on populating the Summary Care Record system, and has organised a nationwide blitz of 30 million mailshots, representing a spend of £7.5m in the last few months alone.

Time to kill the zombie health records

Chris Williams writes in The Register: David Blunkett this morning claimed he may sue the government for a refund on his £30 ID card, which new laws will render worthless by the end of summer. The former Home Secretary and political originator of the ID cards scheme went on Today this morning to explain why he was right to introduce the scheme and the ConDem coalition is wrong to scrap it. Blunkett’s cheerleading for ID cards led to the Labour government spending £257m on the scheme for nothing. Mr Blunkett’s interview on the Today programme can be heard here.

Blunkett threatens to sue for £30 ID card refund

According to the Economist online: Opponents of ID cards present this as a victory for ancient British liberties. Reflexive journalistic cynicism aside, it is true that one of the clearest areas of common ground between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats is opposition to the rather authoritarian instincts of the Labour party (although the two parties differ in exactly where they draw the line between liberty and security, as we argued last week). There will be few losers, apart from some IT contractors (who will be compensated) and the 15,000 “early adopters” who paid £30 for the dubious privilege of getting their cards early (who will not be). Public support for ID cards has been falling steadily since they were first announced in 2003 by David Blunkett, then the Home Secretary. That probably reflects fading memories of terrorist attacks, as well as the dawning realisation that there is little money […]

No ID cards, please, we’re LibCons

Alan Travis writes in The Guardian: The timetable for the dismantling of the £4.5bn national identity card scheme is to be spelled out today by the home secretary, Theresa May, when she publishes the legislation delivering the coalition promise to cancel it. The 15,000 identity cards issued under an “early adopters” pilot scheme are to be cancelled without any refund of the £30 fee to holders within a month of the legislation reaching the statute book. The publication of the identity documents bill today marks the end of a eight-year Whitehall struggle over compulsory identity cards since they were first floated by the then-home secretary David Blunkett in the aftermath of 9/11. According to the New Statesman’s leader-writer: The first Queen’s Speech of this new government promises to light the bonfire of New Labour’s authoritarian vanities. The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition’s pledge to “restore freedoms and civil liberties through the abolition […]

Theresa May to spell out timetable for scrapping ID cards

Hugh Muir writes in the Guardian’s Diary column: Yes, truth will out. And yesterday must have been a sad day for the sad Labour types who actually believed that we might embrace identity cards. The Queen’s speech put paid to that: ID cards rest in peace. People such as former home office special adviser Clare Montagu, who put her money where her mouth was and got herself a voluntary ID card – the like of which her department was until recently billing as a “secure and convenient way for people to prove their identity”. And wielding the card, she ventured into a branch of HSBC to withdraw money. Alas, the cashier took one look at it and called the manager. Said manager took it away and came back moments later, saying she had merely wanted to see what an ID card looked like. Curiosity satisfied, she declared that without a […]

Truth will out

John McDonnell, MP for Hayes & Harlington, has declared his candidacy for the Labour leadership. He writes in the Daily Mirror: Apart from a few mentions in the Mirror you most probably won’t have heard of me. That’s because, to be frank, for the last 14 years I have been in the political wilderness. Why? Because although I am a Labour MP I refused to support many of the disastrous New Labour policies that lost us so many of our supporters. Unlike the other main leadership candidates, I voted against the war in Iraq, opposed the privatisation of our public services and refused to vote for the waste of money on madcap schemes like ID cards and Trident. PublicWhip lists how Mr McDonnell voted on ID cards legislation in the last parliament.

John McDonnell: I am not Old Labour or New Labour ...

Andrew Porter and James Kirkup write in the Daily Telegraph: Both the coalition parties campaigned on a pledge to scrap Labour’s ID card scheme. That promise will be delivered by an Identity Documents Bill. Approximately 13,000 people have already bought ID cards, which were introduced on a voluntary basis last year. The cards – which can currently be used to travel in Europe without a passport – will be invalidated and individuals who paid £30 for them will be forced to purchase a passport instead. Chris Grayling, the former shadow home secretary, had signalled that there would be refunds for cancelled cards. But he was denied the post of Home Secretary, which went instead to Theresa May. The Government will now say that it cannot afford the estimated £500,000 cost of making and administering the refunds at a time when it is announcing £6 billion of cuts.

ID card scheme will be scrapped with no refund to ...

Patrick Hennessy writes in the Sunday Telegraph: A late draft of the Queen’s Speech, obtained by this newspaper, reveals that the Government will spell out an ambitious programme of at least 21 Bills to be introduced in the next 18 months. Within days, the coalition Government intends to bring in key school reforms and scrap plans for ID cards. The paper carries a detailed list of bills in the legislative programme: BILLS FOR IMMEDIATE INTRODUCTION Identity Documents Bill (Home Office). The imminent scrapping of identity cards and the planned National Identity Register is already being foreshadowed on the Home Office website. This Bill will enact a policy that both coalition partners put forward but the fact it is one of the first three pieces of legislation to be unveiled is a boost for Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems’ civil liberties agenda. … BILLS TO BE INTRODUCED BEFORE SUMMER RECESS […]

Queen’s speech revealed: David Cameron’s 500 day programme to change ...

According to Public Servant magazine: A report has criticised the government for spending billions on IT projects and not having much to show for it. According to the Centre for Technology Policy Research, the public sector spent approximately £21bn a year on public sector IT. Yet it said it was “difficult to find any compelling examples of direct productivity gains and improved public services”. The report said the Transformational Government strategy, launched in 2007, was driven by the “chimera of theoretical operational efficiency savings”. “Transformational Government was an anachronistic and ultimately ineffective approach from which the UK has only recently begun to distance itself,” it added. The “National Identity Scheme” was planned to be the foundation for Transformational Government, intended to link together all data held about the individual by different government departments. The Centre for Technology Policy Research report is available here. The Executive Summary says (in part): The […]

No gains identified after £21bn spend

According to the Independent’s leading article: In politics, context is all important. At the Liberal Democrat conference in Brighton in 2006 Nick Clegg, then the party’s home affairs spokesman, made a speech in which he promised a “great repeal act” to sweep away all of Labour’s illiberal legislation. Though the address went down well in the conference hall, it made little wider impact. Yesterday, Mr Clegg made a remarkably similar speech to an audience in London and successfully grabbed the national spotlight. The difference, of course, is that this time Mr Clegg is in a position to deliver on his promises. There is much to cheer liberal hearts in the Deputy Prime Minister’s programme. He sounded the death knell for ID cards, the national identity register, biometric passports and the database of 11 million children. None of these will be missed. The pledges to review the libel laws and defend […]

Some long-awaited cheer for liberal hearts

Andrew Grice writes in The Independent: A “power revolution” in Britain will be promised by Nick Clegg today as he tries to put his personal stamp on the Government in his first major statement as Deputy Prime Minister. The Liberal Democrat leader will hail his programme of political reform as the most ambitious and radical since the Great Reform Act of 1832. He has told aides that the coalition government has given him the opportunity to implement the changes that he came into politics to pursue. In a speech in London Mr Clegg will promise a “wholesale, big bang” rather than piecemeal approach, including: * scrapping the identity card scheme and second generation biometric passports; * removing limits on the rights to peaceful protest; * a bonfire of unnecessary laws; * a block on pointless new criminal offences; * internet and email records not to be held without reason; * […]

Clegg makes his bid for a place in history

Matthew Ryder, writing on Guardian Comment is Free, says that the Labour government’s policies on ID cards and the DNA database contributed to its downfall: Those of us who grew up as Labour voters were stunned by the party’s attitude towards civil liberties during their 13 years of government. The individuals who have had to deal with control orders, the more byzantine aspects of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, or have applied to have their DNA removed from the database after being wrongly arrested, know personally the unfairness of those measures. But the wider public also recoiled at what it saw. Such measures are anathema to British culture. On most other issues – the economy, Europe, public spending – the Tories and Lib Dems failed to persuade the public that Labour was wrong. But on civil liberties, Labour’s proud tradition – and the soul of its core support – was […]

Civil liberties crucial to Labour revamp

Graham Titterington writes on Ovum’s Straight Talk news service: The project was in reaction to the 9/11 terrorist incident and had confused objectives and incoherent use cases. It was intended to deliver an identity system for every adult in the UK, but “identity” was never defined. The government promoted the vision of a card that would solve most of the world’s problems, including illegal immigration, terrorism, illegal working, and even crime – although it would not be issued to the juvenile age group, which commits many crimes. It would control access to services such as the National Health Service, but whether it would be used just when registering with a service or on every visit was never made clear. The card was to be a “gold standard of identity,” incorporating biometrics such as iris scans and fingerprints, and based on a “clean” database with everyone enrolling in person. The project […]

The end of the UK ID card project

Henry Porter, writing in The Observer, described the Coalition strategy to ensure that the abolition of Identity Cards is enacted as quickly as possible: The Queen’s speech, now being drafted, will establish a Freedom or Great Repeal bill – the title has not yet been chosen – as a major part of the coalition’s legislative programme. All the areas detailed in the agreement between the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives, such as the abolition of ID cards and the children’s database (ContactPoint database??), the further regulation of CCTV and the restoration of right to protest will be in it. Measures that weren’t in the published agreement will reassert the right to silence and protect people against the huge number of new powers of entry into the home allowed by Labour. Separate from this will be a complete review of terror legislation that will assess 28-day detention, control orders, section 44 stop […]

The voices of liberty have triumphed and Britain is better ...

Robin Henry writes in The Times: Ed Miliband announced today he would stand against his brother David in the Labour leadership contest. The former secretary for climate change launched his bid to lead the party in a speech distancing himself from the previous government and setting out his “idealist” vision for the future of Labour. Miliband, 40, told an audience at the Fabian Society, a Labour think tank, that the party had lost touch with its “values and people”. He also criticised the party’s recent record on civil liberties, citing the ID cards scheme, and claimed its election campaign suffered from having “too many men and not enough women”. However an unsigned article in eGov Monitor suggests that Mr Miliband’s opposition to ID cards is a recent phenomenon: And now we have to believe he was always for public service reforms and he was against his boss Gordon Brown putting […]

Ed Miliband joins Labour battle