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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

How things change in 30 years

It is time for the annual unveiling of sealed government papers and in particular documents that reveal that back in 1978 the then Labour Government considered introducing ID cards as part of the fight against illegal immigration.

However, a draft statement for Home Secretary, Merlyn Rees, concluded that the introduction of identity cards “would require major changes in practices and powers reaching far beyond immigration control”. It labelled the idea as “unacceptable” and “objectionable” adding “In the past such changes have been contemplated only in war: the Government does not believe they could be justified on immigration grounds alone.”

No doubt the Government will argue that the war on terror justifies their plans to bring in ID cards now however there is considerable expert opinion to the effect that this is nonsense. In fact ID cards will have little impact on the fight against terrorism, which is best fought on the basis of gathered intelligence and proper resources for our security services.

As I pointed out back in August 2006 the then Home Office Minister, Tony McNulty, himself 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."

On 16 November 2005 the former head of MI5, Dame Stella Rimingtonshe 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 in January 2006:

"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.

All in all the conclusion reached by Merlyn Rees in 1978 still stands. The changes to our way of life required to introduce ID cards make them unacceptable and objectionable. They will not work, they will generate a whole new criminal industry in forgery and identity theft and they will lead to discrimination against the poorest in our society. And that is before we have even looked at the security of the databases that are required to make them work.


This present government better start building more prisons before it introduceds ID cards, because I for one won't be carrying it, ditto loads of other people I know won't be carrying ID cards.

In addition, I won't be paying any fines imposed by the Magistrates, so get a cell ready.

G. Lewis
Ogmore Lib Dems
I have just read on the Wales on Line web site that 77 ID cards belonging to North Wales Police have gone missing or stolen in the last year. If so many police ID cards can go astray go easily how many ordinary cards are going to go missing each year with obvious consecquences for security
Nice one!
The missing link here is the children. I have enough trouble ensuring that my children don't lose more valuable items such as mobile phones, etc..

In the past 12 months my children (two of them) have lost 3 mobile phones. How, in this world, am I supposed to ensure that they don't lose their ID Card? If they do, will they be hauled in front of a magistrate?

Also, will a parent be responsible for ensuring that their children go out with their ID Card every time they leave the house?

Would the parent be legally liable to ensure that their children are carrying their ID Card?

I'm sorry but I fear for the direction this country is going. More akin to Nazi Germany for goodness sakes!

I'm sorry but I do feel so passionately about preserving our freedoms in this country. The way I see it, the more freedoms we sacrifice the bigger the victory the terrorists claim.

Where will it end?

I think it was Benjamin Franklin who once famously said:

"Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both."
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