Tuesday, February 14, 2006
Why I Don't Want an Identity Card
I've had an email from a regular visitor to this Blog who wonders why I haven't written anything on ID cards, and what my position is on them. To be honest I normally steer away from Home Affairs related matters for a very simple reason. If I come out in favour of what the front bench line is people assume it's just because I used to work for David Davis, and if I have reservations it can be written up as me criticising David. So, unusually for me, I tend to keep quiet. However, as I've been asked the question, my position on ID cards is this. I used to be moderately in favour of them, but having spent six months on the 'inside' I have become a rabid opponent. If I thought they would do anything meaningful to help the fight against terrorism, I'd be in favour. If I thought they would stop benefit fraud, I'd be in favour. If I thought they'd help convict more criminals I'd be in favour. But the simple truth is, they will do little if anything do any of these things. And on top of that they are a massive invasion of privacy and civil liberties and will cost the earth. The Government's case might be more convincing if they hadn't made a concerted effort to trash the reputation and career of Professor Simon Davies at the LSE. Professor Davies and his team have estimated that the cost of ID cards could be as much as £300 each. Since then the Prime Minister and Home Secretary have lost no opportunity to slag him off on the media. Much of his government funding has been cut off and he says he is now living on less than £10,000. He described himself in one of the Sunday papers as the latest David Kelly. A bit strong perhaps, but he's essentially a good man who's telling the truth as he sees it. After the treatment meted out to Rose Addis, Pam Warren and David Kelly I certainly do not want the Government to have access to any more of my personal details than they have already. And now they've also gone back on their manifesto commitment to make ID cards voluntary. It now turns out that if you want a new passport you'll have to pay for an ID card too. Just as well I've just renewed mine. I don't think the Government has won the day on ID Cards yet. I suspect the House of Lords will cause a bit more trouble, but, as I said on News 24 last night, I understand Gordon Brown is not as keen on ID cards as the PM. He will be acutely worried by the cost and the difficulties of implementation. I suspect that in the end the whole project could well be shelved after a huge amount of taxpayers' money has been spent on it.