29 April 2009
David Blunkett’s latest comments on the National Identity Scheme are at best absurd. The circular logic deployed by the former Home Secretary borders on mendacious.
In words described as ‘a major shift’ (Evening Standard) and a ’significant U-turn’ (Guardian), Blunkett called at a trade conference yesterday for the ID card and National Identity Scheme to be scrapped in favour of introducing compulsory biometric passports for all. (1) But the descriptions are wrong.
To be clear: Blunkett, the godfather of the National Identity Scheme in its original form in 2003 – and before that of the ‘entitlement card’ – is suggesting scrapping a nominally ‘optional’ (2) biometric-based, database-backed ID card, that you would be compelled to register for on applying for a passport, and replacing it with a compulsory, biometric-based, database-backed passport. (3)
He then added: ‘Most people already have a passport but they might want something more convenient to carry around than the current passport and may be able to have it as a piece of plastic for an extra cost.’
The former minister suggests something smaller and more ‘convenient’ – a wallet-friendly card perhaps? (4)
NO2ID (5) spokesman Michael Parker said:
Since he left the cabinet, Mr Blunkett’s comments on the identity scheme have been variously confused, reckless and wrong.
His latest addition is bafflingly to advocate replacing one scheme with another that is almost identical – all under the guise of a U-turn. This is deranged.
It doesn’t matter what shape it is or what they call it – you would still be interrogated for your personal details; they would still take your fingerprints; and there would still be a database through which the Home Office would track you for the rest of your life.
Blunkett’s approach to ‘abandoning ID cards’ is remarkably similar to the smoke and mirrors approach taken by the Home Office itself earlier this week when announced that the Interception Modernisation Programme in the form of a ’super-database’ of all communications traffic would be ‘dropped’… Yet, the substance of the scheme – to intercept and store all the details of to every citizen’s every communication for official use would be kept intact – just the practical problems of storage and management delegates to Internet Service Providers themselves.
(1) See http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/8022791.stm
(2) The Identity Cards Act 2006 allows the Home Secretary to ‘designate’ documents that would require registration on the National Identity Register database before they can be issued – for example, passport, CRB certificate, or driving licence, without which you would ‘voluntarily’ be choosing not to travel, work or drive.
(3) The upgrade of passports under Royal prerogative without debate in 2005 has been used since then as a pretext to build sytems that are intended to be part of the wider National Identity Scheme. With the objective of merging the two the UK Passports Agency has been absorbed into a rapidly expanding Identity and Passport Service.
(4) The current proposal for the ID scheme is that an ID card would either be purchased with a passport as a package, or might be obtained separately for a £30 registration fee. Once a citizen’s personal details have been registered on the database, part of the application process, the legislation says an identity card must be issued itself, and the citizen would be obliged to keep all details updated for life.
(5) NO2ID has been since 2004 the national non-partisan campaign against ID cards and the database state. See http://www.no2id.net/dbstate.php for a list of ‘database state’ initiatives that NO2ID is actively opposing, and http://www.no2id.net/datasharing for how it all fits together.