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Tories tell Cabinet Secretary they’ll scrap ID cards if they win the next election

Posted by James Hammerton @ 9:11 pm on 7 February, 2007.
Categories privacy and surveillance, British politics, the database state.
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As reported in Iain Dale’s diary, shadow Home Secretary David Davis MP, has written to Cabinet Secretary:

I am writing to you in relation to the Government’s planned roll out
of its national identity card scheme, commencing this year. You will be aware
that there is a longstanding convention that one Parliament may not bind a
subsequent Parliament. As you will also be aware, the Conservative Party has
stated publicly that it is our intention to cancel the ID cards project
immediately on our being elected to government. You are now formally on notice
of our position and fully appraised of the contingent risks and associated
liabilities arising from the national identity card scheme.

In light of these risks, I urge you to consider very carefully the
government’s position, in advance of the roll-out of the scheme later this year.
As a matter of financial prudence, it is incumbent upon you to ensure that
public money is not wasted, and contractual obligations are not incurred,
investing in a scheme with such a high risk of not being implemented.
In particular, I would be interested to know what provision, if any has, been made
in the relevant contractual arrangements to protect the Government - and public
funds - against the costs that would be incurred as a result of early
cancellation of the scheme.

Furthermore, the Tories’ website now has an official anti-ID card campaign page.

Clearly the Tories think there are votes to be had in opposing this scheme, to the extent that they are now in a position where failure to follow through in government will lead to credible accusations of doing a U-turn, or of misleading voters. They are publicly warning civil servants that they’ll scrap the scheme if they win, which means they will need to act on this pledge if they’re not to appear dishonest.

However, there is no specific pledge to scrap the national identity register, the most intrusive and sinister part of the project, though the web page states “A Conservative Government will scrap the ID cards scheme”.

There is still some semantic room for them to drop the bits of plastic whilst continuing to develop the database, e.g. by linking it to biometric passports instead (which would gradually morph into a defacto ID card later on).

A commitment to repeal the Identity Cards Act 2006 would go a long way to removing this ambiguity in their statements.

Finally there seems to be an error on their web page which, near the bottom, states:

“From 2009, unless you opt out, when you renew your passport you will have to visit a Government ‘interview centre’ and give the Government your fingerprints in order to get an ID card.”

From 2009, all applicants for passports will have to go to an interview centre and give their fingerprints. The “opt out” is only for getting the physical ID card — i.e. you still have to be interrogated if you “opt out” and the details stored for when the ID card is made compulsory. You’ll also still have to pay for the ID card despite opting out. All “opting out” does is delay the day when you have to get the bit of plastic.

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