The petition calling for the Government to abandon plans for a National ID Scheme attracted almost 28,000 signatures - one of the largest responses since this e-petition service was set up. So I thought I would reply personally to those who signed up, to explain why the Government believes National ID cards, and the National Identity Register needed to make them effective, will help make Britain a safer place.
Tony wrote personally did he. Yeah right. Sorry to be so cynical but I for one don’t believe a word of it. Maybe I am wrong, but I just don’t see it.
The petition disputes the idea that ID cards will help reduce crime or terrorism. While I certainly accept that ID cards will not prevent all terrorist outrages or crime, I believe they will make an important contribution to making our borders more secure, countering fraud, and tackling international crime and terrorism. More importantly, this is also what our security services - who have the task of protecting this country - believe.
But all those who have committed terrorist attacks on British soil in recent years have had British nationality. So those attacks could not have been stopped by the introduction of cards. Indeed many experts seem to believe that identity fraud may well be made worse by biometrics. Much as I approve of the security services, if Mr Blair is to be believed hey also thought that Britain could be hit by Saddam Hussien in 45 minutes. Colour me unconvinced.
So I would like to explain why I think it would be foolish to ignore the opportunity to use biometrics such as fingerprints to secure our identities. I would also like to discuss some of the claims about costs - particularly the way the cost of an ID card is often inflated by including in estimates the cost of a biometric passport which, it seems certain, all those who want to travel abroad will soon need.
I am all ears –actually people who know me might well confirm that statement.
In contrast to these exaggerated figures, the real benefits for our country and its citizens from ID cards and the National Identity Register, which will contain less information on individuals than the data collected by the average store card, should be delivered for a cost of around £3 a year over its ten-year life.
Hold on, I choose, or in my case I don’t choose to hold a store card precisely because I do not wish to hand over that sort of information. ID cards will be compulsory, if we fail to tell the authorities we are threatened with up to £1000 pounds in fines, with imprisonment a very real option for refusal to play ball with the authorities. I am no great fan of Tescos, but I haven’t heard that they are planning to lock the recalcitrant consumer up, yet. £3 pounds a year over 10n years. Don’t make me laugh. Is he seriously saying that each individuals data will be stored for £30 quid? This is after we have been told authoritatively that the chips will be at risk of malfunction after about 2 years. His estimates seem to go counter to every experience of government grands projects were the costs escalate and spin ever higher like a Texan Tornado, they might touch the ground with the taxpayer but the top is as unknowable until after it has finished. This project has no known end.
Not only that but the studies so far suggest levels of cost that give the lie to his estimates, which given the UK population of 60 million would add up to 1,800 million over ten years. A previous (2006) Government estimate is £5,400 million over 10 years. The first LSE estimate was suggested that they would cost “If all the costs associated with ID cards were borne by citizens (as Treasury rules currently require), the cost per card (plus passport) would be around £170 on the lowest cost basis and £230 on the median estimate”, which would be at least 5.5 times as much. The headline figure suggested by the LSE was £18,500 million, that is, ten times as much as Tony is suggesting today.
But first, it's important to set out why we need to do more to secure our identities and how I believe ID cards will help. We live in a world in which people, money and information are more mobile than ever before. Terrorists and international criminal gangs increasingly exploit this to move undetected across borders and to disappear within countries. Terrorists routinely use multiple identities - up to 50 at a time. Indeed this is an essential part of the way they operate and is specifically taught at Al-Qaeda training camps. One in four criminals also uses a false identity. ID cards which contain biometric recognition details and which are linked to a National Identity Register will make this much more difficult.
Yes they do, but that does not mean you have to chop and slice me. As one senior police officer and a number of security force friends have told me identity is not the problem, its catching the bastards and getting a conviction. We already know who almost every criminal is and the identities of most terrorist suspects. The identity database will not help with that. For that matter one Tony Blair of 10 Downing Street has a range of identities and the police haven’t yet been able to press charges.
Secure identities will also help us counter the fast-growing problem of identity fraud. This already costs £1.7 billion annually. There is no doubt that building yourself a new and false identity is all too easy at the moment. Forging an ID card and matching biometric record will be much harder.
As already mentioned some experts predict that identity fraud will be made easier by biometrics than before. Don’t ever loose your card, never get mugged – which of course could never happen in Blair’s paradise neverland.
I also believe that the National Identity Register will help police bring those guilty of serious crimes to justice. They will be able, for example, to compare the fingerprints found at the scene of some 900,000 unsolved crimes against the information held on the register. Another benefit from biometric technology will be to improve the flow of information between countries on the identity of offenders.
No it wont, but what it will do is drive an even greater wedge between the police force and the general public. “Papers please!”, just doesn’t sound right in English. Improve the flow between countries. Hold on a mo, is that you promising to send my data abroad? This is the Treaty of Prum that you are talking about which your Minster agreed to last week, DNA sharing across Europe because 7 countries demand it. All part of the EU Constitutional process I am afraid.
The National Identity Register will also help improve protection for the vulnerable, enabling more effective and quicker checks on those seeking to work, for example, with children. It should make it much more difficult, as has happened tragically in the past, for people to slip through the net.“Protect the vulnerable”! I thought that was the Children’s Index, how will an ID register do that? I thought it would just have our names, addresses with our biometric details on it. Why would it have our employment history, our family status on it? After all it is to protect us from terrorism and crime.
Proper identity management and ID cards also have an important role to play in preventing illegal immigration and illegal working. The effectiveness on the new biometric technology is, in fact, already being seen. In trials using this technology on visa applications at just nine overseas posts, our officials have already uncovered 1,400 people trying illegally to get back into the UK.
Firstly immigrants will not have to have an ID card, because they are foreign… next if and when they are found they are then given leave to abscond by this God awful government.
Nor is Britain alone in believing that biometrics offer a massive opportunity to secure our identities. Firms across the world are already using fingerprint or iris recognition for their staff. France, Italy and Spain are among other European countries already planning to add biometrics to their ID cards. Over 50 countries across the world are developing biometric passports, and all EU countries are proposing to include fingerprint biometrics on their passports. The introduction in 2006 of British e-passports incorporating facial image biometrics has meant that British passport holders can continue to visit the United States without a visa. What the National Identity Scheme does is take this opportunity to ensure we maximise the benefits to the UK.
So abroad does it therefore we have to as well. That is no argument. Many countries have the death penalty, should we? If Americans want us to have visas, then so be it. Given that one of our recent exports has been terrorists I can understand their caution.
These then are the ways I believe ID cards can help cut crime and terrorism. I recognise that these arguments will not convince those who oppose a National Identity Scheme on civil liberty grounds. They will, I hope, be reassured by the strict safeguards now in place on the data held on the register and the right for each individual to check it. But I hope it might make those who believe ID cards will be ineffective reconsider their opposition.
When the Children’s Index was announced the Government made the same meaningless assurances about data protection, then blithely suggested that the children of politicians and “celebrities”, would not be registered because upwards of 400,000 civil servants will have access to the database. So much for these assurances.
If national ID cards do help us counter crime and terrorism, it is, of course, the law-abiding majority who will benefit and whose own liberties will be protected. This helps explain why, according to the recent authoritative Social Attitudes survey, the majority of people favour compulsory ID cards.
I am a law abiding citizen, and I don’t believe you. Interestingly the in the recent YouGov poll, whilst support for the identity card element of the scheme was 50%, with 39% opposed. Support for the national database was weaker, with 41% happy and 52% unhappy with the prospect of having their data recorded.
I am also convinced that there will also be other positive benefits. A national ID card system, for example, will prevent the need, as now, to take a whole range of documents to establish our identity. Over time, they will also help improve access to services.
Personally I am happy that there a range of voluntary IDs, and am unhappy with the concentration of all my information in one place, especially with the Government. Think we all know that if all our 4 digit pin codes are the same then our security can be seriously compromised. It works the same way for ID.
The petition also talks about cost. It is true that individuals will have to pay a fee to meet the cost of their ID card in the same way, for example, as they now do for their passports. But I simply don't recognise most claims of the cost of ID cards. In many cases, these estimates deliberately exaggerate the cost of ID cards by adding in the cost of biometric passports. This is both unfair and inaccurate.
This is what the HoC Science and Technology Committee said about Blair’s response to the LSE figures,
67. We are disappointed by the nature of the Government's reaction to the criticisms outlined in the LSE reports. We believe that the way in which the LSE reports have polarised the debate regarding identity cards, whether intentionally or not, has been detrimental. The Home Office would have been better advised to put together a dispassionate critique of the LSE Identity Project Report rather than seek to undermine its credibility and motivation.
As I have said, it is clear that if we want to travel abroad, we will soon have no choice but to have a biometric passport. We estimate that the cost of biometric passports will account for 70% of the cost of the combined passports/id cards. The additional cost of the ID cards is expected to be less than £30 or £3 a year for their 10-year lifespan. Our aim is to ensure we also make the most of the benefits these biometric advances bring within our borders and in our everyday lives.
No you aren’t