UK Home secretary and award-winning serial threat to freedom David Blunkett is set to foist identity cards on the UK public under the cloak of dealing with ilegal immigration. The UK public prints (here's one) report that the legislation will be brought in this autumn, "as part of a package to tackle illegal working by migrants" (spot the cloak, people) and Blunkett intends to put a policy paper recommending cards to the Cabinet during the next six weeks.
Radio 4's Today programme incidentally revealed that the alleged "entitlement" cards are referred to as ID cards internally at the Home Office anyway, so we can safely dispense with that piece of smoke, which in any event is a difficult tag to maintain if the system is being operated as a stop and search programme largely aimed at people of darker complexion.
Blunkett, who is absolutely convinced that he has a direct line to the Great British Public and that his critics are all namby-pamby liberals living in Hampstead, no doubt calculates (wrong word - 'believes with messianic fervour') that a crackdown on asylum-seekers, a term that is rapidly becoming synonymous with 'illegal immigrants' will popularise the ID cards. He may however find the scheme less popular when said Public learns that it will cost £1.6 billion (in uk.gov pre-contractor money, so you can guess £4 billion on non-delivery five years late), and that they will be shouldering the bill at £25 extra on top of their next passport or driving licence fee.
The results of the Home Office's consultation on ID cards are likely to be released shortly. Responses to this were initially pro in a negligible sort of way, and subsequently overwhelmed by online negatives. Worryingly, however, a Home Office minister recently claimed the response had been in favour, suggesting either that she wasn't awake or that the online response had been discounted.
To celebrate ignoring a consultation it had effectively tried to keep secret anyway, the Home Office seems to have removed the consultation document from its site. If it's there, it's no longer obvious, even if you try to get it in Welsh. Update: It can now be found at http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/comrace/entitlements/fraud.html Try not to read too much into 'entitlement' turning into 'fraud.'
As we recall the £25 tab is on the high side of the options it contained, and means passport and driving licence revenue will be used to cover the cost of cards for poor people. The "entitlement" origins of the card mean that it is at least ostensibly to be used for transactions with government, benefits and the like, so although Blunkett is now shamelessly punting it for entirely different reasons, this will surely still have to happen. Plus having legal but suspicious-looking poor people, quite possibly of colour, knocking around with no ID cards kind of undermines your ability to nail illegal versions of same.
So everybody's going to have to have one, and passport and driving licence applicants are going to have to pay for them all. Course, it's still "voluntary"... ®