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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Blair spins again

Oh dear, is there nothing that will dampen the Prime Minister's enthusiasm for curtailing our liberties? Yesterday, Mr. Blair was making a desperate attempt to get his ID card policy back on track despite the overwhelming evidence that they would be costly and competely ineffective:

Speaking from 10 Downing Street he said ID cards would add no more than around £30 to the cost of a biometric passport - equal to £3 for each of its 10 years of validity.

He said the introduction of the cards would not only provide protection against organised crime, terrorism and illegal immigration, but would prevent benefit fraud, NHS "health tourism" and illegal working, as well as make services more accessible.

In actual fact the latest cost estimates put the price of this initiatve at £18 billion. What is more the claims that the Prime Minister make for ID cards have already been rubbished, not just by the opposition but his own government advisors and ministers.

Alex Carlile. who has worked for some time as the official reviewer and overseer of Britain's anti-terror laws, has changed his mind on ID cards. The BBC reported recently that he had concluded that they would not have prevented the terror attacks on London on 7 July:

"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," he told GMTV.

........"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.

Meanwhile, Tony McNulty, speaking as a Home Office Minister, has also been scathing about his own government's misinformation campaign:

The government has admitted that it has been guilty of "overselling" the case for a compulsory national identity card scheme in Britain and conceded that it will not prove a panacea for fraud, terrorism or the abuse of public services.

Tony McNulty, the Home Office minister now responsible for identity cards, has also admitted that "in its enthusiasm" the government also mistakenly emphasised the benefits to the state rather than arguing its benefits to the individual citizen.

The Transport and General Workers Union has also joined the fray. They issued an analysis of the weaknesses of the Bill when it was going through Parliament, which said that the scheme will prove "costly and impractical, make it more difficult for everyone to access public services" and be a menace to both public sector workers, who will have to deal with angry members of the public, and to race relations.

And who can forget the strongest rebuttal of all, that of the Prime Minister himself. In a speech to the Labour Party Conference on 3 October 1995 Tony Blair outlined how he was going to be tough on crime. This included a passage on ID cards:

"We all suffer crime, the poorest and vulnerable most of all, it is the duty of government to protect them. But we can make choices in spending too. And instead of wasting hundreds of millions of pounds on compulsory ID cards as the Tory Right demand, let that money provide thousands of extra police officers on the beat in our local communities. But the truth is that the best two crime prevention policies are a job and a stable family."

Precisely, Prime Minister. Perhaps it is time to get back to basics on this issue and stop trying to pull the wool over our eyes.


As someone who can say the last criminal to attempt to commit a crime against my person still has the scars, I would like Mr. Blair to tell me how ID cards can help me. Especially when I can also refer to an incident when my wife, returning from shopping to find the house in Accrington has been broken into phoned first the local police them me. At the time I was working in Birmingham.
I arrived only 20 minutes after the police who only had to travel from half a mile away.
A stable family and a job are indeed great weapons in the fight against crime as is the knowledge, firmly planted in the heads of potential criminals that (a) they are not going to have two hours start on the police and (b) if they choose to mug someone who just happens to be a former amateur boxer he will not be prosecuted for deploying any deterrant at his disposal.
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