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Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Be nice to Lembit day

Just for David Cornock I have decided that this is 'be nice to Lembit Opik day'. David seems to think that my criticism of the Welsh Liberal Democrats Leader in previous posts was because I objected to him commenting on devolved mattters. That is not correct. My complaint was that Lembit was making up policy on a devolved matter without consulting with the relevant spokesperson. By contrast I am of course a model of good practice! I may comment on non-devolved matters but normally I do not make it up as I go along, I try to stick to party policy. (Yes those last two sentences were written tongue in cheek).

Anyway, in today's Western Mail, Lembit has an excellent article on ID cards. You could not get a cigarette paper between Lembit and me on this issue. Perhaps though my name is not so easy to misspell:

And what about errors? The Government has a terrible record with new computer systems. What happens to people whose details are entered in error? With a name like Lembit Opik, I'm used to misspellings. Goodness knows the dangers facing me. Goodbye Lembit pik, hello Lemsip Optic? Very funny - until they cut off your benefits because of a data input error.

What worries both of us is the flimsy justification being put up by the Government for this scheme:

It's clear Labour's love of ID cards is a love of super-simple answers to complex problems. Recently, Labour politicians talked of banning "hoodies." If ministers believe changing a young person's jumper will change a young person's behaviour, it's hardly surprising they believe a bit of plastic will make us secure.

ID cards actually take the problem a stage further. They invert the relationship between the state and the individual: instead of the state having to justify itself to you, you have to justify your identity to the state. And you pay for the privilege - up to £100 per ID card - a tax on being you.

According to Radio Wales, the Home Secretary has announced that the price of an ID card is to be capped. Presumably, this means that the Government has abandoned its insistence that the scheme should be self-financing. It will be interesting to see how much the taxpayer will have to fork out to get the technology working - and how many police officers that money could fund!
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