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Sunday, December 24, 2006

ID cards on a slippery slope

This story in the Sunday Telegraph indicates to me that the Government are starting to backslide on their commitment to ID cards as they begin to realise the huge problems that need to be overcome to make the scheme work as envisaged. Not the least of their problems lies in the cost of the scheme and the amount that members of the public will be asked to pay to own one of these cards.

The system of fines that are being set up to enforce this 'voluntary' scheme has 'own goal' written all over it. The paper reports that people will be fined up to £1,000 for failing to return a dead relative's ID card, while women who marry will have to pay at least £30 for a new card if they want to use their married name, risking a £1,000 fine if they do not comply:

People would be charged at least £30 for lost or stolen cards. Based on the 930,000 driving licences lost or stolen each year, this would earn the Treasury more than £28 million a year, say the Tories.


In a separate plan that the Tories say could hit millions of students, Mr Reid admitted that applicants will be asked for "all current alternative addresses". Failure to update the register with details such as term-time halls of residence could result in a £1,000 fine.

There was also anger over the disclosure that all fees and fines will be paid directly into the Treasury's central funds for general spending and not go towards running the scheme.

Students of course, change their address every year and sometimes more frequently than that. Most of them have thousands of pounds worth of debt to their name and very little regard for the needs of government bureaucracy. This particular requirement, which smacks of big brother, could prove to be unenforceable.

As ever it is the cost of the cards that causes most concern. The government continue to insist that people will have to pay £30 for a simple ID card, or more than £90 for one with a passport. Experts, however, claim that the cost of a combined card could be as high as £300, pushing the implementation costs beyond £20 billion.

As the Telegraph points out, the Government claims that these cards will boost security, tackle identity fraud and prevent illegal working, but costs are soaring and the technology has failed in tests. Furthermore, the justification for ID cards has been discredited by Government Ministers and their advisors themselves, who have admitted that the scheme would not prevent terror attacks, could not stop fraud or the abuse of public services, and will not protect us from crime.

The forceful and moderate blog finds an interesting article in the Financial Times from last Tuesday. The paper speculates that the decision by the Home Secretary to axe a huge new computer system that would have held the biometric data, such as fingerprint records, that would have underpinned the new cards and to rely instead on existing systems for national insurance, asylum and passport databases for the scheme, offers the government an escape route.

“It doesn’t close off an ID card scheme,” one senior industry figure said. “But it lets the government proceed with two things it really cares about – e-border controls and an identity management system that will let citizens do e-business more easily with government – while allowing a successor to Tony Blair to drop or significantly amend the ID cards project if that’s what they want to do.”

Maybe the ID card scheme is all-but dead and buried already.


I Sincerely hope so!
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