The British public is voting enthusiastically for ID cards, claims Home Office minister and long-standing Blair bagman Lord Falconer. Or at least, the "around 1,500 people and organisations [who] have sent in their comments" to the current consultation exercise have split two to one in favour, while "450 volunteers" who're apparently being experimented on are even more pro.
In a press release issued last month, Falconer gets his retaliation in early. The six month consultation runs until the end of this month, but it's probably a good idea from the government's point of view to prepare the way for Home Secretary David Blunkett's inevitable announcement that cards are going ahead on the say-so of next-to-zero UK voters.
It should only take a couple of hours to reverse the poll overwhelmingly, and there are simple step-by step instructions in how to do this at the bottom of this page at stand.org.uk. There's also a useful HTML version of the government's huge consultation document here,, but for the busy libertarian we suggest the government's own recommended executive summary for kiddies, available from the Children's Rights Alliance for England. Spookily, this registered charity, while not formally endorsing the scheme, closely shadows the government's own positive spin.
Overseas readers are possibly not aware that it is a long-standing right of people in the UK not to carry any form of ID. Granted, these days it needs a particularly determined and cussed individual to not carry anything that could be used to at least take a stab at identifying them. And in some circumstances, some people might argue that it might be a tad reckless to argue the toss with the boys in blue when they ask you for ID. But the point is that, because you aren't compelled to have ID, you can't be legally required to prove who you are merely on the whim of some individual or agency.
Nor, at least theoretically, will you have to prove who you are or carry ID if the government's proposals come into force. Because these will not be ID cards, they will be entitlement cards.
They're being sold on the basis of a string of advantages. Notably convenience, because you won't have to keep giving the same information about yourself to various agencies, protection, because they'll cut down on illegal immigration, identity theft and benefit fraud. Stand provides a detailed rebuttal of the various claims (same url as before), but there are a couple of gotchas that particularly interest us.
It's worth noting that the Falconer release pulls out retinal scanning as a particular move the volunteers favour. This to some extent confirms our suspicion that the volunteers are Trekkies or deranged cybermen-wannabes, but closely shadows the consultation paper's apparent inclinations. Fingerprints and retinal scans are both suggested, although as far as we can gather the consultation does not flat-out ask: "Are you in favour of compulsory fingerprinting for everyone who wants to access government services?"
No, indeed not. But again it's worth noting the volunteers think this is a good idea. The consulation document does make it pretty clear that it's intended to be a lot more universal than just a system for interacting with goverment. It refers to "any additional revenue paid to the Government by partners who might wish to use the card to help administer their services," (i.e. they propose to flog the system to the private sector, and suggests "library services or concessionary travel; clubs, such as health clubs which often use cards to control access to their facilities; rail and bus companies for season tickets; retailers for loyalty card schemes; other private sector service providers such as motoring organisations" as examples.
In its basic form, the card will be a version of a kind of passport or driving licence card, and these two themselves will be polished up in order to combat identity fraud. There are standards issues in actually converging the lot into one card right now, but you can think of the one that nails the people without driving licence or passport as a notadriving licence and notapassport card. The consultation regards the three as closely related anyway, and discusses how passport and driving licence would act as entitlement cards, and how fees for them could be used to subsidise the notanID card for poor people, who will then be in a position to prove that they are poor people. This will be done by putting the fees up, naturally.
It also whinges about the difficulties and costs involved in not making the card compulsory (it'll cost an estimated £1.5 billion anyway, and that's before the traditional EDS-style government IT project cost overrun), so it's lucky the volunteers are pro compulsion. Who are they, anyway? We look forward to being told this, and who the enthusiastic organisations are, at the end of the consultation. ®
No. 10 says 1,000 of 1,500 responses (up to December 11) support its entitlement card scheme vs. STAND's online service - 1581 consultation responses have been submitted via this site since January 10
Privacy International has assembled an FAQ on the ID card proposals. PI has also set up two national rate numbers: in favour of the ID Card: 0845 330 7245, against the ID Card: 0845 330 7246. Each message left on these lines is to be converted to an audio file, and then emailed to the Home Office. The government has confirmed that these messages will be regarded as legitimate consultation responses.