Government faces ID Cards setback

The Identity and Passport Service has suffered a setback in its planned rollout of ID cards, in the form of a vote by the Trades Union Congress to resist the National Identity Scheme, “including consideration of legal action to uphold civil liberties”.

The motion states “”Congress sees absolutely no value in the scheme or in improvements to security that might flow from this exercise and feels that aviation workers are being used as pawns in a politically led process which might lead to individuals being denied the right to work because they are not registered or chose not to register in the scheme.”

IPS has already stated its intention to make airside workers register for ID cards as some of the first people to receive them under the provisions of the Act (the cards to be issued to foreign nationals in November this year are ID cards, but will be issued under the UK Borders Act rather than the Identity Cards Act). The idea of forcing them upon airport workers struck me as dangerous when it was first announced; there seems to be little benefit in issuing to that particular group first when they’re already subject to their own identifying credentials that work perfectly well; and more importantly whether or not they object to them, the initiative is a great bargaining tool for the unions to use against the Home Office.

It will be brave government that picks a fight with the TUC over this at a time when the leadership is under threat; my guess is we’ll see this idea fizzle out and another less powerful group of individuals will be selected for early adoption.

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Toby, you could be right that another group will be chosen by a government hellbent on introducing ID cards in the teeth of opposition from all quarters. But they have all ready proposed ID cards for students. The government thinking seems to be that as students mostly need grants, if they make the issuance of the grant dependent on the ID card then students will be forced to get them. The chorus of opposition from the student body has been even louder than that from BALPA and the TUC. A pathetic attempt to win students over with a web site called my life my Id has boomeranged, with almost all entries on the site being anti ID cards, and many proclaiming they will not register for one no matter what. So who do you chose next? Foreigners have been targeted,as they have no vote. But there is a risk here, because the government is going to run into EU legislation on discrimination between British citizens and other EU citizens. So this £5bn (or £20bn, pick a number) scheme will initially to be restricted to non-EU visitors and residents. Everyone else is going to fight tooth and nail to avoid it. The government has clearly forgotten what their original objective was. But perhaps Gordon Brown's successor will have the good sense to scrap the whole thing. If not it looks like another poll tax.
Even my sister-in-law, who, on the face of it, is a supporter of the scheme, when asked "can you see sufficient benefit to yourself to warrant applying for and paying for an ID card" had to admit that she probably would not bother. So they will either be issued on the back of passports over the next ten years, and always be optional, or be compulsory. Even if compulsory I would guess that they are unlikely ever to achive greater than 90% coverage. There will always be a few operating on the margins of legality who would rather not be that well known, unless not having one is made a criminal offence so the police can become involved. I think that the British Cussedness that saw us resist Hitler to the bitter end will kick in at this point. The Government are currently engaged in an exercise in Frog Boiling but we are not frogs.
the ID card fiasco is yet another example of poor Government systems design. From the outset this policy has been positioned as the introduction of identity cards, a highly sensitive subject. A lot of the furore could have been avoided by re-positioning the scheme as an extension of the Passport service. We already have two-part driving licenses so why not a two-part passport? The paper passport is, of course, essential for citizens travelling abroad so needs to be retained. The "plastic passport" would be a convenient medium for occasional use within the UK. By extending the current Passport systems, we could build on the existing identity database, without introducing the unnecessary complication of a new ID card database, with all of the inherent cost and complexity. There would be no need for constant synchronisation between the Passport and ID systems because they would be one and the same at the technology infrastructure level. Given the likely cost of development for a new ID card system, the Government could instead afford to issue free passports to all qualified citizens. Am I applying too much common sense?