The ConDem government may be legislating to get rid of the ID cards project, but they don’t want to pay refunds to people who’ve already bought one:
Ministers are legislating to scrap ID cards but 12,000 people had already bought one, at a cost of £30 each.
In a debate on the Identity Documents Bill, peers backed a Labour amendment by 220 votes to 188 to compensate them, arguing it was an issue of “fairness”.
The Home Office said £292m had already been spent on ID cards and it would try to overturn the vote in the Commons.
For Labour, Lord Hunt said it was not fair to refuse a refund to those people who had bought cards since the 2009 roll-out in Manchester.
“People are simply expected to have this right taken away from them without any compensation or recompense at all. I do think that really is a rather extraordinary principle to adopt and I do think it does impact on the reputation of governments as a whole,” he said.
The government disagreed:
For the government, Lady Neville-Jones said it had always been government policy to scrap ID cards “at least possible cost to the taxpayer”.
“Our primary purpose has been to prevent additional expenditure when we can avoid it. We have no option but to pay compensation to some contractors because we are tied in by the contracts negotiated by our predecessors.
“We don’t agree that there is a contract between the government and cardholders who have received a service and nor do we believe there is any expropriation or rights under it. The cardholders are not the card owners – the card is government property.”
So this is the important bit in the Deputy Prime Minister’s speech, promising a bright, new, un-authoritarian future, with:
Landmark legislation, from politicians who refused to sit back and do nothing while huge swathes of the population remained helpless against vested interests.
Who stood up for the freedom of the many, not the privilege of the few.
A spirit this government will draw on as we deliver our programme for political reform: a power revolution.
A fundamental resettlement of the relationship between state and citizen that puts you in charge.
‘Much in this new Government statement accords with the BHA’s policies we set out in our own manifestos ahead of the election and with the principles of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. We particularly welcome moves to increase freedom of speech, and a reformed House of Lords which, by being fully elected, would necessarily remove the right of Bishops to sit in our second chamber.’
‘We also look forward to making our case for the repeal and revision of unjust, restrictive and discriminatory laws, such as those which require compulsory worship on our school children – a clear violation of their freedom of conscience – and those which unfairly restrict the right to free speech and protest.’
I think Copson is generally right but there are serious problems here. Clegg’s ideas are laudable, but there are as yet no indications as to how he thinks he’ll implement them – moving children of asylum seekers from one detention centre to another (particularly one with a notorious reputation) is not a remotely adequate solution. Much of the push towards ID cards came from within the civil service itself, and there is still an entrenched authoritarian culture in government agencies which needs urgent tackling; just yesterday the new government took the same stand on control orders as its predecessor.
I don’t just expect a repeal of New Labour’s surveillance state laws, I expect a change in culture to uphold the rule of law and to abide by evidence-based policy making. That means not just accepting the European Court of Human Rights’ ruling on the National DNA Database, but abiding by rulings against denying prisoners the vote and on the legality of Section 44 of the Terrorism Act. I’m worried that now in government Clegg is going to pick and choose what works for him and what doesn’t and not challenge the vested interests, defeat of whom really would make the “most significant programme of empowerment by a British government since the great enfranchisement of the 19th Century” much more than overexcited hyperbole.
by Josie Appleton
Both the Lib Dems and the Conservatives have said they would scrap ID cards, and this is good news. What is equally important, however, is the way in which ID cards are used. Citizens in some countries with national ID cards (such as France or Spain) rarely show them on a day-to-day basis. Paradoxically, we don’t yet have cards, but we do have a culture of routine ID checking. “Do you have any ID?” is a question we increasingly face when going about our business in the streets or at work.
A Manifesto Club survey found that people in their late 20s and 30s are being routinely checked not just for buying alcohol, but also for attempting to purchase items such as barbecue skewers, bleach, paracetamol, UHU glue, matches, cigarette papers, even a “gentleman’s manicure set”. Two women in their late 20s had been ID-checked for bottles of wine so frequently that they now carry their passports to go to the supermarket.
Passport checks are becoming routine in working life too. Some organisations have started collecting passport details from staff of 10 or 20 years standing to check they have the right to work in the UK. Universities including Nottingham, Southampton, Lancaster and Lampeter have asked visiting lecturers and external examiners to produce their passports before they can be paid. The musician DJ Moth reports that one of London’s major jazz clubs in Hackney now requires performers to give passport details.
Then there is the downright bizarre. A reader of the magazine Today’s Railways Europe wrote in to say that he was asked to produce his passport in the Luton branch of Thomas Cook, when attempting to buy a copy of Cook’s European rail timetable. He was told that this was for “security reasons”.
As a point of historical comparison, the Common Travel Area] has allowed passport-free travel between the Republic of Ireland and the UK since 1923, including throughout the Troubles. Now the Home Office is attempting scrap this agreement and oblige people to show ID documents or be refused passage. Regular travellers on ferries between northern Ireland and Scotland already report that passengers (usually of African origin) are now being pulled out of the queue and asked to show their documents.
Shops and businesses ask for ID under the threat of heavy fines for serving underage drinkers or for employing somebody who is not entitled to work in the UK. Yet like the ID card scheme itself, this is a policy looking for a justification. At base, this is less about combating specific social issues than about the growing state regulation of citizens.
The meaning of ID checks is that we are constantly being asked to (as the posters say) “Prove it!”: to prove our age or nationality, to prove that we are allowed to be where we are, doing what we are doing. The assumption is that unless we can produce documents we are probably not supposed to be here, not supposed to be giving a lecture or buying barbecue skewers.
This culture of checking calls forth ID cards of some kind (unless we just start carrying our passports around everywhere). Companies have sensed a business opportunity and produce proof-of-age cards under the banner of the officially accredited Pass Scheme, “the national proof-of-age accreditation scheme”. One of these cards has the horribly revealing name, Validate UK: “a voluntary proof of age scheme for all ages”.
The illiberal underpinnings of these schemes are clear. To be a UK citizen you must be validated. “No pass, no sale”, says the banner on the Pass Scheme website. And so the demand of “Pass, please!”, so beloved of authoritarian regimes, comes to the British Isles. You do not have a right to pass: you need to prove your legitimacy by proffering your documents. No pass, no sale; no pass, no job; no pass, no ferry crossing to Holyhead.
Challenging this culture of ID checking is as crucial as taking on the ID card scheme itself. As free citizens we should not have to produce our papers at the local supermarket. We must assert again our right to pass.
NO2ID celebrates the ConDemNation coalition’s abandonment of ID cards and the National Identity Register, but gives words of continual warning:
The Home Office, the Cabinet Office, and various other departments have cherished the idea of a population register for decades. The problem is not that it is not going quietly; it is that it is quietly not going. The tendrils of an official obsession with identity and information-sharing are everywhere: from the helter-skelter attempt by Connecting For Health to suck up 30m sets of medical records during the election period, to the secondary legislation that from this autumn requires pubs and clubs to ask for proof of identity in specified forms when checking drinking age.
No2ID started as a tactical response to a single initiative, but we rapidly found ourselves at war with a Whitehall culture of mass supervision that demands we be forbidden from trusting one another, but must trust official databases absolutely. Though I think their hearts are in the right place, I am waiting to see whether Messrs Cameron and Clegg have the stomach for that war. If they have, then there is much to be done.
Still, bravo to the new administration for taking the first step to protect our privacy and autonomy. Rolling back the database state remains a huge task, but it has started.
That assessment is pretty sharp, and it’s one I’ve wondered about over the last couple of years. New Labour’s ‘Safeguarding Identity’ document clearly came straight out of the civil service and just got fronted by successive, hapless Home Secretaries. It and other strategies smacked of officials presenting solutions for the sake of it, then needing their political masters to develop problems to fit into them. It’s very much a cultural problem in Whitehall, which I’m sure wants to sink its tendrils into the coalition, and it’ll be interesting, given the tensions which will affect the Tories and Lib Dems differently, to see how each party reacts to that over time. We’ve won the biggest battle in the war against the database state, but that war is far from over.
It was one of the many authoritarian disasters visited upon us under the New Labour surveillance state, but the ConDem coalition has just announced it’s over. And when I say over I mean over – even the Register has gone:
Both Parties that now form the new Government stated in their manifestos that they will cancel Identity Cards and the National Identity Register. We will announce in due course how this will be achieved. Applications can continue to be made for ID cards but we would advise anyone thinking of applying to wait for further announcements.
Until Parliament agrees otherwise, identity cards remain valid and as such can still be used as an identity document and for travel within Europe. We will update you with further information as soon as we have it.
The question will remain I suppose whether the coalition will tear up New Labour’s ‘Safeguarding Identity‘ document – their insidious attempt to redefine the relationship between the individual and state for the 21st century. If not then there’s scope for the scheme to return, but this augurs well, at least for this area of civil liberties.
After a first week with Labour and the Conservatives (henceforth Labservatives) refusing to talk about civil liberties and human rights, both completely ignoring issues around the government’s authoritarian agenda, the Lib Dems have finally created an opening with the release of their manifesto:
Speaking to the Guardian, the Lib Dem leader said he was shocked by the lack of reference to civil liberties in the Labour manifesto, and highlighted his own plans to scrap the next generation of biometric passports, and its communication base.
He said: “It’s a measure of the authoritarian streak of the Labour party that it didn’t refer once to liberty in its own manifesto.
“Civil liberties and individual freedoms are part of the DNA of the Lib Dems. It makes a compete mockery of the claim by Gordon Brown that he can speak for progressive voters in other parties when his own party has turned its back on one of the cornerstones of progressive politics.
The manifesto, part of which has been seen by the Guardian, proposes to set up a “stop unit” inside the Cabinet Office responsible for preventing anti-libertarian legislation, including the creation of new criminal offences.
Now that really is a clear blue line between the parties. I fully accept that many outcomes of the authoritarian project have been accidental – the RIPA legislation for example hasn’t been used remotely as intended, and nor for that matter has Section 44 of the Terrorism Act, although it’s probably debatable whether either piece of legislation was ever necessary. Joined up thinking like this is what we were promised in 1997, but it never happened.
The Liberal Democrats claimed scrapping biometric passports could save £3bn over the course of a parliament, the first time the party has mentioned this saving. It also calls for regulation of closed-circuit television, measures to stop councils spying on people, and new guidelines to prevent unfair extraditions to the US.
The manifesto says the Lib Dems would stop children being fingerprinted at school without their parents’ permission and promises to restore the right to protest by reforming the Public Order Act to safeguard non-violent protest.
Restrictions would be introduced to narrow the scope of injunctions and there are proposals to protect free speech and investigative journalism.
Very nice. It’s something which was discussed last night at the Hostile Reconnaissance event. Grand principles are being brushed aside in the name of ‘security’, and it’s time particular protections such as these were itemised, codified and legislated for.
The party is in favour of reforms to the English and Welsh libel laws: corporations would have to show damage and prove malice or recklessness to mount a successful court challenge against journalists. The party also calls for a £10,000 cap on individual donations, down from its previous pledge to impose a £50,000 cap.
More like it yet again. Just what were Labour promising again?
At the manifesto launch on Wednesday, Clegg will promise to scrap control orders, which can use secret evidence to place people under house arrest, as well as reduce the maximum period of pre-charge detention to 14 days. The second-generation biometric passport, which includes fingerprints, is not due to be scrapped by the Tories, even though they do propose to drop the national identity register.
What’s clear here is that the Lib Dems are committed to rolling back the authoritarian agenda itself. The Tories are promising to make tweaks here and there and changes of focus, but the agenda itself under them would without question remain. These commitments give voters a reason to vote for them actively, rather than just voting against the other main parties. I wonder though what pressures they would find themselves under if they really were in government, given that (again as came out in the Hostile Reconnaissance event last night) the party is wedded to neoliberal economic policies? So much of Labour’s agenda has arisen from that reality, and I wonder what any Lib Dem’s views on this are.
But the Lib Dems will argue it is not necessary to spend billions of pounds on storing fingerprints in passports, and say Britain already has a type of biometric passport known as an e-passport, which stores 16 facial measurements (along with your name and passport number) in the chip at the back.
Clegg said he would also scrap the communications database for which companies would be paid to store information about everyone’s email and internet use, including storing data about what you do on social networking sites such as Facebook and online computer games.
It sure sounds good. Is it now incumbent for as many of us as possible to vote Lib Dem at any cost in order to express our feelings on this vitally important issue?
The government is pressing ahead with the piloting of the ID cards scheme in Manchester, despite Manchester’s complete and utter indifference:
96% of respondents in a recent Manchester Evening News online poll opposed the scheme. Fewer than 2,000 people in the north-west have “expressed interest” in the ID cards, and that number includes opponents like myself.
Despite lack of interest, the government is still pushing ahead with the scheme, spending £230,000 every day to bring it about. Its current claims are that it is a cheap, convenient way to prove your identity.
An ID card costs £30 initially, compared with £77.50 for your first adult passport – but for now you need a passport to apply for an ID card. Regardless, the ID card scheme costs every taxpayer about £300. It would save money if the government instead gave everyone a free adult passport when they turn 16. The passport cost has also increased from £42 in 2005, only £8 of which can be justified for meeting international standards for the insecure “e-Passports”.
I don’t need to carry about vast quantities of paperwork with me on a daily basis to prove my identity or address. I rarely need anything more than my bank card to talk to my bank. A card that lives in my wallet is something I’m more likely to lose – and risk the fine for not reporting a lost ID card..
Clearly, I don’t want an ID card and shouldn’t register. But why am I protesting against it? It’s a voluntary scheme, and people can take it or leave it, right?
Well yes. It depends though on whether or not you want ever to leave the country on holiday or on business again. It’ll depend on whether or not you want to end up at university. And with function creep already driving the Independent Safeguarding Authority’s Vetting and Barring Scheme (VBS), that’ll only be the tip of the iceberg. Voluntary yes, but compulsory by stealth. It strikes me that Manchester though has already moved beyond those arguments – the city both doesn’t know the pilot is taking place and doesn’t see the need for it. And why should they? As Home Office minister Meg Hillier said to them:
“But another real benefit is that once you have registered no-one can steal your identity” and “the databases will be very secure – think Police National Computer. No-one will be able to download information and it will not be on PCs on people’s desks.”
Except haven’t I read they’ve already been cloned? And since when are government databases secure? People’s information won’t be safe on ID cards, and given that abundantly clearly innocent people are being accused of terrorism merely for taking pictures of sunsets or high streets, how can anyone have any faith in why the government needs this scheme to succeed? Of course the reason why they need it to succeed is quite sinister: they want to recast the entire nature of identity for the 21st century. ID cards are a vital component for how these people see people’s relationship with government in the future, and they will use any argument, threaten every punishment, conceal every truth in order to make it happen. It must be resisted at all costs, not just ignored. Hillier went on to say:
“The penalty charges are really an encouragement to keep info up to date – this only actually affects your address. The main beneficiary of up to date address is the card holder so we don’t envisage many people not complying.”
See? ‘We’ll punish you for your own good.’ It’s authoritarian and quite quite despicable.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown has suggested that ID cards will be abandoned:
Only another 20 minutes to go. The hall is almost full now. The latest reports are that Brown is going to announce plans to allow voters to “recall” MPs found guilty of misconduct (an idea first floated this year by Nick Clegg).
And I’ve just heard that he’s also going to announce the suspension of the ID cards programme.
Alan Johnson has already said he was opposed to making them compulsory, and so it’s not clear what practical impact this new move will have. But it’s bound to go down well with ID-sceptics – a fairly large proportion of the Labour party.
Clearly though, as DigitalID points out:
The identity cards will be compulsory if you want to get a job and to travel in Europe. The Criminal Records Bureau and the Home Office wants to make the livelihood of the people dependent on this system. Lastly, these ID cards would be directly linked to the police stations and this scoring system will decide the suitability of their jobs.
What a colossal fraud. The Home Office has a whole identity strategy which is entirely dependent on ID cards; they won’t abandon the scheme. They are indeed manoevering to make getting a job dependent on having an ID card. They have already made your addition on the National Identity Register immediate, upon renewing your passport. And of course skilled migrants coming to the UK with a job offer will be forced to carry ID cards from the beginning of next year. Not compulsory? Great rhetoric, but it’s yet another lie.
The government, dissatisfied with public indifference to ID cards has decided to patronising us into allowing our identities to be privatised:
The Identity and Passport Service (IPS) will unveil animated fingerprint characters this week to promote the scheme to businesses, ahead of a consumer campaign in early 2010. The first wave of activity aims to build recognition among those businesses that will be regularly presented with cards by consumers. These include those in the retail, finance and education sectors.
‘The government is wasting vast sums of taxpayers’ money on the scheme,’ said shadow home secretary Chris Grayling. ‘Instead of marketing the scheme, it should be scrapping it.’ The Conservative Party has pledged to axe the cards if it wins the next general election.
It’s really shocking that a government which a) doesn’t have money to spend on needless projects and b) needs a big idea which works to catapult it into the next general election to give it a snowball’s chance in hell of winning should be continuing with its ID cards adventure. But it’s also not surprising. Home Secretary Alan Johnson’s committed the Home Office to a wholesale redefinition of identity for the 21st century (one defined by government, surprisingly enough), so despite his attempts to have us believe ID cards are dead, we still have a fight on our hands.
The Register has noticed that the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) is looking into using biometric, ID card-based data for its disclosure process:
Proposals to use ID cards are being quietly developed alongside official “research” into how to incorporate fingerprint data into employment background checks, which was alluded to in the Criminal Records Bureau’s most recent business plan.
“This research is still in the early stages of feasibility and several options are being considered as part of this work, including options for the use of ID card data and fingerprints,” a CRB spokeswoman said.
“We really are in the very early stages of looking at the possibility of introducing biometrics into the Disclosure service. It would therefore be inappropriate to comment or speculate on any detail as yet.”
Forget for a moment the false dawn of biometrics, does anyone really think this won’t happen, considering how desperate the government is to find new, underhanded ways to compel people into having ID cards? Despite what Alan Johnson would have you believe, the government’s identity strategy is dependent on everyone having an ID card. And as the Register points out, the Independent Safeguarding Authority’s (ISA) impending Vetting and Barring Scheme (VBS) will put enormous extra pressure on the CRB, who will no doubt look for the most seductive solutions to reduce their already appalling error rate.
Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security – if you don’t want this nightmare scenario, then it’s time to join NO2ID.