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Govt derided for 'Yes Minister' ID card scheme

Bill Goodwin

The Information Commissioner criticised the government yesterday for failing to produce a clear business case for spending more than £3bn on a national identity card system.

Richard Thomas accused ministers for giving a Yes Minister-style "Sir Humphrey" rationale for the scheme, which failed to explain how ID cards would tackle crime, terrorism, or illegal immigration.

Thomas told MPs on the cross-party home affairs committee that he was increasingly concerned about the privacy implications of the identity card scheme and the adequacy of safeguards presented in the government’s draft bill.

He criticised the government for failing to give a clear rational for creating a central register containing personal information the entire population, and for failing to clearly define how that information would be used.

"The introduction of such a register marks a sea change in the relationship between state and the individual. It is, therefore, essential that a clearly defined proposal is brought forward detailing how the scheme is intended to work in practice," he said;

The government should give individuals the right to check the accuracy of data stored about them on the central database, an option prohibited by the government’s draft bill, Thomas told MPs.

Ministers were criticised for describing the ID scheme as voluntary, when in practice people would not be able to opt out of receiving ID cards when they renew their passports and driving licences.


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