Monday, March 20, 2006

ID Cards: The Observer Gets it...

This ID project is even more sinister than we first thought

The insidious erosion of our civil liberties will accelerate dramatically if the government wins the battle over identity cards
You may have noticed the vaguely menacing tone of recent government advertising campaigns. Here is a current example: 'If you know a business that isn't registered for tax, call the Revenue or HM Customs - no names needed.' Another says: 'Technology has made it easier to identify benefit cheats.'
Whether the campaign is about rape, TV licences or filling in your tax form, there is always a we-know-where-you-live edge to the message, a sense that this government is dividing the nation into suspects and informers.

Reading the Identity Cards Bill, as it pinged between the House of Commons and the Lords last week, I wondered about the type of campaign that will be used to persuade us to comply with the new ID card law. Clearly, it would be orchestrated by some efficient martinet like the Minister of State at the Home Office, Hazel Blears. Her task will be to put the fear of God into the public at the same time as reassuring us that the £90 cost of each card will protect everyone from identity theft, terrorism and benefit fraud.

The ads might imagine any number of scenarios. Here is one. 'Your elderly mother has fallen ill,' starts the commentary gravely. 'You travel from your home to look after her. She has a chronic condition but this time, it's a bit of a crisis and you need to pick up a prescription at the only late-night chemist in town. Trouble is, she has mislaid her identity card and you never thought to get one. Under the new law, the pharmacist will not be able to give you that medicine without proper ID. So, get your card. It's for your own good - and Mum's.'

It became clear last week that the government will do anything to get this bill through parliament, including ignoring its own manifesto pledge to make the cards voluntary, a fact that we should remember as each of us entrusts the 49 separate pieces of personal information to a national database. By the end of last year, the government had already spent £32m of taxpayers' money on the scheme and, at the present, the expenditure is edging towards £100,000 a day. No surprise that Home Secretary Charles Clarke dissembles about Labour promises.

Labour's manifesto said: 'We will introduce ID cards, including biometric data like fingerprints, backed up by a national register and rolling out initially on a voluntary basis as people renew their passports.'

It turns out that there is nothing voluntary about it. If you renew your passport, you will be compelled to provide all the information the state requires for its sinister data base. The Home Secretary says that the decision to apply for, or renew, a passport is entirely a matter of individual choice; thus he maintains that the decision to commit those personal details to the data base is a matter of individual choice.

George Orwell would have been pleased to have invented that particular gem. Yet this is not fiction, but the reality of 2006, and we should understand that if the Home Secretary is prepared to mislead on the fundamental issue as to whether something is voluntary or compulsory, we cannot possibly trust his word on the larger issues of personal freedom and the eventual use of the ID card database.

Clarke has now established himself as a deceiver, even in the eyes of his party. Labour democrats such as Kate Hoey, Diane Abbott, Bob Marshall-Andrews and Mark Fisher all understood that the Lords' amendments of last week simply sought to underline this concept of a voluntary scheme, which complied with the 2005 manifesto. Oddly enough, the compulsory provision of personal information to the government database is not the greatest threat to our freedom, though it is in itself a substantial one. The real menace comes when the ID card scheme begins to track everyone's movements and transactions, the details of which will kept on the database for as long as the Home Office desires.
(Full article)


Are the MSM finally awakening from their slumber regarding the ID cards issue?

No to ID cards Campaign site.

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