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Lords defeats for British government on ID cards and Terrorism bills

Posted by James Hammerton @ 10:06 pm on 17 January, 2006.
Categories privacy and surveillance, political liberties, democracy and the rule of law.
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The House of Lords has passed some opposition amendments to both the Identity Cards Bill and the Terrorism Bill.

Regarding the Identity Cards Bill, it has been amended so that the government must disclose their estimates of the full costs of the scheme before it can go ahead:

The victory by Tory and Liberal Democrat peers together with some Labour rebels means that Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, will have to come up with hard figures for the scheme, which an independent report has warned may cost as much as £19 billion over the next decade, about the same as the development and purchase cost of the Royal Air Force’s new Eurofighter.

The Home Office will now have to present its costings to the Commons and the National Audit Office, meaning that Labour MPs opposed in principle to what has been mocked as a “breathing licence” will get another chance to vote against it.

Furthermore:

Yesterday’s vote of 237 to 156 follows two reports from the London School of Economics warning of the potentially colossal price of equipping every adult in Briton with a card. The only figure made available by the Home Office so far is one for annual running costs of £584 million.

But that refers only to the Home Office and not to other departments that will have to alter systems and install equipment such as “readers” capable of verifying biometric data.

In addition, there is no mention of the enormous capital cost. The LSE has warned that the charge for each card may have to be £300 just to cover costs.

The Government has concealed its estimate on the grounds that IT companies bidding to supply hardware and software would use it as a minimum start point in negotiations. But that argument was rejected by opposition peers, who said that such a lucrative deal would have companies scrambling to undercut each other.

Clearly the government will say anything to try and hide the full cost to taxpayers represented by this scheme. Having to produce a full costing of the scheme may help those who wish to see it kicked into the long grass, by delaying it further.

Meanwhile the Lords have also passed amendments to the Terrorism Bill, removing the offence of glorification of terrorism and redefining the offence related to publishing a terrorist publication so that someone would commit the offence only if they acted recklessly or with intent.

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