Prime Minister says there is "no longer a civil liberties objection" to ID cards

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At his monthly press conference the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, said that identity cards will be introduced "more quickly than even we anticipated". He said that the government had won over those who opposed the controversial measure for civil liberties reasons.


"You mentioned earlier there might be a need to adjust terrorism laws further and you made reference to ID cards. Can you tell us more about that? And I thought the Cabinet had decided to defer ID cards for a few years?"

Prime Minister:

"There are certain issues that are going to come up in the near future about terrorism laws and what we need to do in respect of that, and the ... will publish proposals on it. But we need to make sure that in the light of fresh information and operations such as the one that we have just seen that we are keeping our law up to date with the reality on the ground. The second point in relation to ID cards is that I think there is no longer a civil liberties objection to that in the vast majority of quarters. There is a series of logistical questions, of practical questions, those need to be resolved, but that in my judgment now, the logistics is the only time delay in it, otherwise I think it needs to move forward."

Tony Bunyan, Statewatch editor, comments:

"It is not for the Prime Minister to tell us that "there is no longer a civil liberties objection" to ID cards, that is for the people to decide when they know the full facts.

The consultation process on ID cards ignored thousands of objections and the promised Bill has yet to be published. What we do know is that the government is intending to introduce compulsory biometric passports (with 5 million people every year having to present themselves at "enrolment centres") and biometric driving licences, both to be renewed every 5 or 10 years. There is to be for the first time a national population database and a NHS database with everyones personal medical records on a central database run by BT. And the Childrens' Bill will create a database of all children and parents.

We also know that under EU plans there is to be the surveillance of all travel by air inside the UK and outside and that there is to be the mandatory retention of all communications data (records of phone-calls, e-mails, faxes, mobile calls and internet use).

But we know too that the only protection against the misuse and abuse of this mountain of personal data is the Data Protection Act which quite simply does not work because it lacks resources and real powers of enforcement - even the European Commission's belated review admits this.

The Prime Minister may be right that people think this is all necessary in the "war on terrorism", the battle against organised crime and to stop "illegal" immigration - fears played on daily by the government. But on the other hand he may be wrong. People may decide, when they put all the pieces together, that if democracy is worth defending against these "threats" that privacy and civil liberties are the defining features of that democracy"

Sources - ID cards

1. 1.4.04: BBC
2. Conference at LSE on the Childrens' Bill: Conference (link)
3. Childrens Bill: Text of Bill (pdf) Explanatory Notes (link). Section 8 gives cause for concern as databases could be set up to include every child and every parent
4. The Register
5. Statewatch: The history of ID cards in the UK

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