The House of Lords has been scrapping Identity Cards this last fortnight. Sort of.
It’s not simply a matter of “scrap the ID scheme”, as the coalition government promised. It’s like one of those magic tricks: the Identity Documents Bill will make ID cards vanish but – tadaah! – the government will still be holding the powers that made them so objectionable in the first place.
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This ID scrapping bill won’t be enough “to stop the development of a ‘papers please’ culture in Britain,” says No2ID in its brief on the legislation.
That ‘papers please culture is the one in which bus conductors have been replaced with revenue inspectors. It’s the one in which a jolly whistle and the ting-ting! report of a portable ticket machine have been replaced with the hiss of a walkie talkie and the rustle of bomber jackets as they huddle round.
No2ID takes particular offence at how the ConDem’s ID legislation will make it a criminal offence with up to 10 years imprisonment to try and carry off a false ID.
There are no end of reasons why someone might justifiably goof some busybody official into thinking they are someone they are not. They might want to send Transport for London’s heavies the the wrong way for a start.
Or they might want to get lashed before they are 18. No2ID reckons the last government lost no time in seconding its terrorist-nabbing ID legislation to the task of bagging underage drinkers.
Yet the strangest thing about the ConDem’s ID Doc’s Bill are in is its Clause 10. And they are its data sharing powers. The ConDem’s will with this bill introduce a wide power for linking disparate data sources to passport records, to keep them for police intelligence and to extend them at the home secretary’s discretion. Just the sort of powers they protested about in opposition.
IBM will meanwhile continue operating the stump of the ID system, the National Biometric Identity Service (NBIS) database, as a database of foreigners. Liberty notes rather politely the “divisive and objectionable” fact foreigners will still have to carry ID cards in Britain.
It as though the nation has forgotten the plot to The Great Escape, though it is possibly the most replayed movie in history.
Not that you can compare British officials to Nazi commandants. The ID Docs Bill doesn’t give them the power to take you into the woods to have you shot if you have the wrong papers. They will merely have the power to send you to prison for 10 years.