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UK ID Card Scheme to Cost £5.6bn

Posted by That Other Mike on 08/11/2007

Yoink.

ID card scheme ‘to cost £5.6bn’

Ministers say the cards will help protect people against ID fraud

The projected cost of the identity card scheme will be £5.612bn over the next 10 years, the Home Office says.

The figures, which are for October 2007 to October 2017, cover the set up and the operational expenses of the set up and the operational expenses of the scheme.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7084560.stm

This rather… expected news (UK governments underestimate costs worse than any cowboy builder) has prompted a new flurry of argument over the Brown government’s continuation of the Blair plan for a national identity card. A lot of objections are focussing on the planned cost, which is of course huge, with the expected responses from other parties:

Lib Dem spokesman Nick Clegg said it was a “vast waste of taxpayers’ money” which should be spent on more police.

The Conservatives also oppose ID cards and say they would scrap the scheme in favour of a dedicated border police force.

The LibDem response when facing anything from the government lately is a kind of kneejerk populism, so no surprise there, while the Tories have taken to approaching the issues in a slightly-softer way than their pre-Cameron little Englander frenzy, while still playing quite strongly to Middle England; both attempt to decry the cost while actually arguing in favour of it somewhere else.

Other responses included:

Phil Booth, of the anti-identity card group No2ID, said the Home Office was “keeping billions off the true cost of the scheme”.

He said: “The conveniently sliding budget looks only to the rosiest future, and fails to acknowledge the biggest black hole of all, compulsory interrogation of the entire adult population.”

While he makes a legitimate point, surely a group like No2ID should be arguing solely from the point of view of ID cards being an infringement of people’s civil liberties? I find the cost argument fairly repugnant when it comes to arguing in terms of any civil liberty; the use of it when applied to the death penalty actually infuriates me. When someone’s life or civil liberties are on the line, cost should not be an issue in determining whether to go ahead with a scheme.

All of that aside, we really come to the crux of the matter with the final paragraph, which is a pretty accurate summation of the government’s position:

The government says that ID cards will help protect people from identity fraud, will tackle illegal working and illegal immigration, and disrupt criminals and terrorists’ use of false identities and ensure free public services are only used by those entitled to them.

I think these claims deserve dealing with one by one.

identity fraud

Right. Because having a single document has caused an end to identity fraud in the US and Australia. Let’s talk sensibly, people; there is a reason that we still use the phrase: Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. A single document creates a sense of trust in people, especially when claims of its uniqueness and security are bandied about, which conversely makes fake IDs easier to pass. Minor flaws are more likely to be overlooked in a trusted document.

illegal working and illegal immigration

Perhaps, although it does bear mentioning that this will probably only work if police have a right to stop and demand ID, which is itself a further infringement of civil liberties. Also, the current crop of laws and documents aimed at deterring illegal working are, either through lack of enforcement or what-have-you, unable to stop the practice. People who hire off the books anyway won’t necessarily be deterred by the requirement to see IDs any more than they are by the current requirement to show NI cards.

ensure free public services are only used by those entitled to them

This might work, although it’s going to require that a lot of personal information be on centralised files somewhere, which is itself worrying.

disrupt criminals and terrorists’ use of false identities

And here we come to the crux of the matter, which nobody has yet explained – how, exactly, will this work? And even if someone can explain it to me, how does use of a real identity prevent someone from becoming a terrorist? IIRC, the WTC attackers entered the USA under their own names.

The Labour Party has been in a drift towards authoritarianism for a long time now, and it seems that this trend is unlikely to change any time soon. ID cards are simply another symptom of this growing tendency for centralised control which seems inherent in New Labour.

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One Response to “UK ID Card Scheme to Cost £5.6bn”

  1. […] only the ability of the Labour Party to govern but also its commitment to civil liberties include the ID cards fiasco, as well as a […]

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