UK Compulsory National Identity Cards (ID Cards)
Briefings - Tony Blair, 27/06/2005
At the PM's regular press conference today, Blair began by trying to defend the
discredited ID Card scheme:
|Tony Blair||Response from Trevor Mendham|
Right, I am going to talk to you about identity cards, because the Bill will have its
second reading in the House of Commons. I am confident we can get the Bill on the statute book,
and I am also confident that in principle we have public support for this measure.
If this were genuinely an Identity Card scheme, he might indeed have public
support. In fact it is an intrusive Identity Database scheme. The more that people learn
about what that means, the less they like it.
People recognise the benefits of a scheme that will allow us to tackle identity fraud more
effectively, bear down on illegal working, illegal immigration, abuse of our public services
and help in the fight against organised crime and terrorism, and these are all strong
arguments for moving forward with identity cards.
There is no evidence that the proposed scheme will make a significant impact on any of
these areas. These are not "arguments", they are at best "hopes" and at worst cynical
attempts to find any excuse to justify this increasingly unpopular scheme.
However, there is in addition, and this is what I want to focus some time on, a very compelling
and unique argument in favour of this as a result of the changes both in technology and then
consequential changes in practice right round the world, and this is I think the most important
part of answering the Question, well why now are we saying it is important to introduce this
measure? There is now the technology to move to a biometric passport, that is a document with
fingerprint and facial recognition of the holder, and to move to that biometric passport will
require an interview and then obviously getting the facial and fingerprint biometrics.
Blair seems to have been entranced by the lure of technology. The argument "we can so we
should" is extremely dangerous.
Even if the biometric technology were proven - which it is not - it would simply
enable an ID Card scheme. It would not justify it. Unless the scheme can be
justified in terms of privacy and civil liberties then the availability of new technology
In a time also of intense global insecurity, there is now an unstoppable political momentum
across the developed world for countries to use the opportunity of the new technology to make
their borders more secure. That is why in May 2003 the International Civil Aviation Organisation
said that facial biometrics should become standard practice in the 188 countries that belong to
the ICA. All G8 member states, for example, are now committed to issuing biometric passports,
all have programmes in place to issue biometric passports, and most will have done so by 2006.
Australia and New Zealand will issue biometric passports this year, Canada will start next year.
The USA passed legislation, post-9/11 that countries whose citizens do not currently need visas
to holiday in the States must begin issuing biometric passports by the end of October 2006, or
risk facing visa restrictions. And nearly 4 million UK citizens, as you know, visit the US every
year and obviously we don't want them to have to have the inconvenience of what is a £60 tourist
visa every time they holiday in the US. The European Union has also agreed that member states'
passports should start containing facial biometrics from mid-2006 and fingerprints from 2008,
and that visas and residents permits for non-EU nationals should also be issued with biometrics.
So the impact of all this - and this is the essential first step in this argument - is that we
are going to be in a position where we have to make our passports here in the UK biometric if
UK citizens are to continue to enjoy the right to travel freely around the world, and equally
we need other countries to move ahead with biometrics if we are to have the most modern border
controls here in Britain. And as we tighten our immigration and asylum controls we will have an
electronic border system that will allow computerised embarkation checks from 2008.
No-one is arguing about making passports more secure. A passport is a specific document
used for a specific purpose. It is used for crossing borders. The ID card will become an
internal passport - a completely different thing.
Blair is attempting to conflate biometric passports with the ID Card scheme. Don't be
Many countries such as Australia will comply with the new biometric passport standards - without
introducing ID Cards and an intrusive National Identity Register.
The government is imposing ID cards on us not because it has to but because it wants to.
|>>> On to page 2
Back to the list of briefings
UK ID Cards - Introduction
Contact Trevor Mendham