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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Fisking Wayne

The Labour MP for Caerphilly, Wayne David was all over Radio Wales this morning criticising Cardiff and Ceredigion Councils for resolving not to co-operate with the introduction of ID cards. Quite why these two Councils were singled out is not clear as I am aware that Swansea has also passed a similar resolution and no doubt other Councils have too.

What is more the National Assembly for Wales has also voted to reject the use of ID cards to access services paid for out of the Welsh block grant. They did so in June 2005 and Wayne's Labour colleagues abstained on the motion. Perhaps this latest tirade is a cry for help, after all he must be feeling a bit isolated in his own party on this issue judging by the lack of enthusiasm for the measure amongst Labour AMs in Cardiff Bay.

Wayne's argument on the radio was that ID cards are essential for national security and the fight against terrorism and that they will assist people in accessing public services. This is of course contrary to the view expressed by Home Office Minister, Tony McNulty, in August last year. At that time he said:

"Perhaps in the past the government in its enthusiasm oversold the advantages of identity cards. We did suggest, or at least implied, that they may well be a panacea for identity fraud, benefit fraud, terrorism, and entitlement and access to public services."

Another interesting comment is that of the former head of MI5, Dame Stella Rimington. On 16 November 2005 she told the Association of Colleges' annual conference in Birmingham that "ID cards have possibly some purpose. But I don't think that anybody in the intelligence services, particularly in my former service, would be pressing for ID cards.

"My angle on ID cards is that they may be of some use but only if they can be made unforgeable - and all our other documentation is quite easy to forge. If we have ID cards at vast expense and people can go into a back room and forge them they are going to be absolutely useless. "ID cards may be helpful in all kinds of things but I don't think they are necessarily going to make us any safer."

Similarly, the Government's official reviewer and overseer of the Country's anti-terror laws had this to say last January:

"I can't think of many terrorist incidents, in fact I can think of very few... that ID cards would have brought to an earlier end."

".......ID cards could be of some value in the fight against terrorism but they are probably of quite limited value. They would be an advantage but that advantage has to be judged against the disadvantages which Parliament may see in ID cards."

"I certainly don't think the absence of ID cards could possibly have any connection with the events of last July."

The Government has claimed that entitlement cards will help to combat terrorism, fraud and crime. The 9/11 terrorists carried valid ID cards; most benefit fraud involves people who misrepresent their circumstances rather than their identity; and the difficulty in clearing up crime is almost always that the criminals are not caught, rather than not identified.

It is also likely that members of ethnic minority groups will be stopped and asked for their ID cards much more often than white people are. This could lead to a serious deterioration in relations between ethnic minorities and the police and other sections of the community.

To add to this injustice requiring the ID card to be used to access public services will rapidly lead to a situation whereby the card is voluntary for most of the articulate middle classes and compulsory for those who use public services and/or can’t argue and resist the need for the card.

The London School of Economics in May 2005 estimated that the cost of an ID card could be as much as £300. If individuals are to be told that they have to pay to hold one and that they cannot access certain services without it then the outcome is that many public services will be unavailable to the poorest and the most economically deprived members of our society. They could find themselves barred from using GPs, hospitals, educational establishments or even from receiving benefits.

Wayne David is whistling in the wind on this issue.


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