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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Brown tries to reassure on ID cards

Despite his planned comeback having been derailed slightly by Peter Hain's problems, the Prime Minister has moved today to try and reassure us all that ID cards are not some evil big brother device.

The BBC report that he has suggested that ID cards may not become compulsory for all Britons:

Anyone getting a passport from 2010 will have to get a card, and ministers had said they would be compulsory for all if Labour won the next election.

But, in an apparent softening of that line, Mr Brown described compulsion only as an "option" which is "open".

In reality though there is little difference between this statement and the position of Tony Blair:

The current scheme will see anyone applying for a passport having to give their biometric details for a national identity register, although it will be possible to opt-out of getting a card until January 2010.

The decision not to make getting ID cards compulsory immediately for all, came as a result of Parliamentary opposition to the scheme.

Instead, in February 2006, MPs voted to back a government compromise requiring new legislation before it becomes compulsory for all citizens to get an ID card.

The then prime minister Tony Blair said the government had "won the argument" on ID cards and legislation introducing them would be a "major plank" of Labour's next general election manifesto.

And the Home Office's website says that the National Identity Scheme "will eventually become compulsory... this means that all UK residents over 16 will need to have an ID card".

But, asked at his monthly Downing Street media conference if ID cards had to be compulsory for all citizens in order to be effective, he replied: "That's the option we have left ourselves open to but we haven't legislated for it."

Former Home Secretary David Blunkett, who introduced the initial identity card scheme, is quoted as saying that Mr Brown's words are "in line" with the compromise struck with MPs. But he added: "In my opinion, without it being mandatory, there is little point in doing it."

Phil Booth, of anti-ID card campaign group No2ID, agreed that the scheme could not operate as the government intended without being compulsory. He said there needed to be a "fundamental U-turn" and said the comments might have been a case of Mr Brown softening his language to appease Labour MPs who were against the cards' introduction.

In other words there is no change to the Government's intent to eventually have everybody carry an ID card irrespective of their personal wishes. Whatever happened to Gordon Brown's spin-free government?


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