UK: "The Government intends to introduce, a national compulsory ID cards scheme using an individual biometric identifier linked to a new national database" - David Blunkett, Home Secretary
- to fight "terrorism" and give "the freedom to do easily things like travel to Florida on holiday" - David Blunkett, Home Secretary
The quotes above are how the UK government presented the idea that UK citizens - who have never had ID cards in the whole of their history except during the Second World War - should accept the idea of compulsory ID cards.
The government today (26 April) published a 120 page document, including a draft Bill, to introduce "voluntary" ID cards (which are not voluntary if you have to get a new passport or driving licence) and in the long-term for compulsory ID cards for everyone resident in the UK. The Home Office says it is intended to start the scheme in 2007-2008 but is silent on the "second stage" when most of the population will have either a passport-ID card or a driving licence-ID card. Estimates are that is likely to take at least 10 years, ie: 2017, see: Report
Tony Bunyan, Statewatch editor, makes the following initial comments:
"This Bill seeks to cynically exploit peoples' fears over terrorism when the government knows that ID cards will do little or nothing to stop it.
ID cards will be compulsory for everyone who renews their passport or driving licence after 2007 and for those "prescribed" by the Home Secretary. Swingeing fines and imprisonment face those who refuse to "apply" if they are "prescribed" or for anyone refusing to allow their biometrics (eg fingerprints) to be taken from them.
As the details become public the opposition to living in a society where state and commercial surveillance becomes apparent is going to grow"
1. Biometric ID cards: It is going to be compulsory for everyone who renews their passport or driving licence after 2007 (clause 8.6) to have an ID card and to go to an "enrolment centres" and compulsorily have their fingerprints and photos taken. A person has to "apply" thus implying consent but have no choice. Failure to do so will be an offence bringing prison or large fines..
2. The term "prescribed description" of those required to register peppers the Bill. It could apply to failed asylum-seekers (as the consultation paper suggests) or to everyone over 16 or to everyone with a criminal offence or everyone arrested whether charged or not etc. The Secretary of State has the power to indefinitely extend the list of those required to register.
3. On a constitutional level the power to make ID cards compulsory (clause 7) is so substantial it should be subject to separate, future, legislation.
4. An extraordinary number of powers to extend the scope of the Bill are left to Statutory Instruments (secondary legislation) - where the government lays down an Order and unless even a majority of MPs and Peers object it goes through. Such powers should be strictly limited.
5. The powers to extend the use of an ID card to get access to public services (eg: health or education) in clause 15 should be the subject of separate legislation as it is beyond the primary scope of the Bill.
6. Clause 20 on "Disclosures without the consent of the registered individual" allows the "secret state", MI5, MI6, GCHQ, and all law enforcement agencies to have access to the data held. This will allow the agencies to conduct "fishing expeditions" by combining data from the Register with data from other sources such as passport and driving licences and commercial bodies like banks and credit agencies. This will cover "serious crime" as defined in the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) which includes "conduct by a large number of people in pursuit of a common purpose".
This power can be extended under clause 23 to any "description specified" by the Secretary of State.
7. One example being cited is that although the carrying of ID cards will not - for now - be compulsory it will be possible for police on the street to check on the spot the fingerprints of a person held on the National Identity Register.
8. A "National Identity Scheme Commissioner" is to be created under clause 25 who will be as "toothless" as all the other Commissioner appointed to monitor the surveillance of telecommunications and the intelligence and security agencies. There is not a single case on record where a complaint has ever been upheld by these "Commissioners".
9. The government briefing suggests - like the EU - that an important reason for biometric ID/passports is that the USA demands that you cannot go there unless you have one. If people want to go to the USA - a fraction of those who travel abroad - then they will have to consent to be possibly interrogated and have their fingerprints taken and it could be argued that this is their choice.
10. Contrary to media reportage the government's own briefing admits that the cost of a "combined passport/identity card" or a "combined driving licence/identity card" will cost between £73-£75.
1. Press release from: Privacy International
2. Statement by: Liberty
3. See: Statewatch: The history of ID cards in the UK
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