ID CARDS —THE FIGHT GOES ON

I am in a state of rage. It has just gone 7 pm and here I am at Westminster, having somehow got it in my head that now was the time to vote against ID cards on Third Reading, and what do I find but the vote has happened unexpectedly, with no warning, and I have missed my chance.


It was always going to be a forlorn gesture, of course. Because the Tories decided to abstain en masse, and because the poor lobotomised Labour backbenchers were whipped in favour, there was never the slightest hope of stopping the Bill. As it turned out, only a handful of principled Tories stuck up for liberty, and they were duly overwhelmed by the Government.

But I wanted to vote against, because I loathe the idea on principle. I never want to be commanded, by any emanation of the British state, to produce evidence of my identity, when I am doing nothing more than amble down the Queen’s highway, and breathing God’s fresh air. I believe that the state will use the mandatory ID card to store ever more information about us, and I believe that information could be used against the interests of liberty.

Never forget: there was no doubt about the identity of the 9/11 hijackers; the issue was their intentions. Rather than preventing crimes, the ID card will almost certainly become a utensil for the boredom and oppression of the innocent.

If you want to understand the case against ID cards, look at the ruling by Lord Justice Goddard, in 1951, when he decided that they were causing resentment and friction between the people and the police.

I am sorry that I missed my chance this evening to register my protest, futile though it would have been. Perhaps more usefully, I intend to keep up the fight in the media (and in places like this) and to ensure that when we have a Tory government, we scrap this expensive, illiberal, intrusive and almost certainly useless measure.

64 thoughts on “ID CARDS —THE FIGHT GOES ON”

  1. Here, here Boris! Let us walk in freedom, and not be toiled by the need to have a piece of identification, which not only would be mandatory under a Labour government, but which we would also have to pay an extortionate amount of the Queen’s currency for! Abominable!

  2. And one would be pleased to know that I will be protesting against this very idea of the New-Labourians this Monday in Rainham, Kent. Well, leafleting at least. Long live Conservatism.

  3. Oh dear lord. Well at least you apparently had a good stance, unlike the craven cowardice of a party abstaining, but you missed it.

    Count me as a very disappointed constituent.

  4. Why abstain? I always thought that abstaining showed that you didn’t really care one way or other on the issue under debate.

    Surely it makes the result look better for the government to have x abstensions, rather than x votes against the bill.

    Or is the feeling that voting for the bill makes it more ‘legitimate’?

  5. Well said, Boris.

    Yes, the fight does go on. Will the Lords throw out the bill? Let’s hope so. Will the bill be modified? Let’s hope so.

    I have to agree with Lib-Dem Mark Oaten as quoted by the BBC:

    “The Tories are an absolute shambles on ID cards. . . . First they were for ID cards, now they are sitting on the fence. It is no wonder that the public don’t see them as the opposition to Labour any more. It’s time they had the courage to join the Liberal Democrats in opposing this expensive and illiberal measure.”

    Only 11 Tories voted against ID cards. There were 19 Labour rebels.

  6. I too am angry that the Bill has passed this evening. But I don’t have a vote in the HoC. Why, also, did so many Conservative choose to abstain? I suppose that was better than voting for this iniquitous thing, but voting against it, en masse, would have been MUCH better – even if there was no hope of overturning a massive government manjority.

    What chance is there of a future Conservative government repealing the Act (assuming it becomes law) when so many Tory MPs seem to be either wholeheartedly for it, or at best lukewarm in their opposition, if the level of abstentions is a guide?

  7. This issue matters to people. It matters a lot more than you would guess based on news stories. Keep up the good fight!

  8. My gut instinct on ID cards is exactly the same as Boris’. Won’t do much good, will be an extra annoyance from an interfering government, privacy and liberty issues. “I never want to be commanded, by any emanation of the British state, to produce evidence of my identity, when I am doing nothing more than amble down the Queen’s highway, and breathing God’s fresh air” – my sentiments as well.

    But then, I’ve talked about this issue with my German friends, who have said “we have ID cards, they’re no trouble, there’s nothing to be afraid of, why are you all so worried about it?” So I’ve not fully made up my mind…

  9. Richard: It all depends on the way ID cards are implemented.

    We don’t object to passports and driving licences because these are open documents. We know what is written in them and we know what they are for.

    Unfortunately the Labour ID scheme is not for the purpose of verifying identity, it’s for holding information in connection with a central database. Citizens (as far as we know) will not have access to the database and will not know what information is encoded on the card.

    The British Government have never before managed an IT project of this complexity. They will make mistakes. Databases are easily corrupted. If one of the mistakes happens to have your name on it, it’s going to be inconvenient for you, and there are other problems.

    In fact the government could introduce bearer-accessible ID cards which were not linked to a government database and did not encroach on civil liberties, but Labour are determined not to implement this kind of scheme because Blair and Co. want more power.

  10. Simon’s post is just right. Think the passports crisis was bad? Think the tax credits crisis was bad? Think the criminal records check crisis was bad? All the indications are that this has the potential to dwarf all of those, with far larger cost overruns and far more damage to private citizens.

    If the government wanted consent for ID cards, they could start with incremental measures, building on the connections between Unique Tax References, National Insurance Numbers, Passports and National Health Service numbers. Then merge in things like driving licence and other departmental access cards. Show that each stage is manageable and build goodwill.

    That’s not what this is about though. It’s not about rationalising all the labels government put on us and it’s definitely about terrorism (as they’ll surely get “good enough” fakes or find loopholes) or immigration (who needs an ID card in Oakington concentration camp?). This seems to be writing a blank cheque to the home office for a half-baked scheme which they’ll work out later.

  11. Boris misses the vote

    Boris missed the vote on ID cards, he was going to vote against, but the vote was held early. (I think I believe him, it’s possible that some might consider that it’s a way of not displeasing Michael Howard given…

  12. As the token tree-hugging commie faggot contributor it will surprise you all to know that the concept of identity cards worries me not one jot. Having used identity cards on a smaller scale, I find that they help to facilitate speedy access to conferences and so on. Also, I have nothing much to hide. Further I work in IT and know that a unified database containing all of the information that Big Brother wants to know about me is beyond the wit of mankind to specify.
    I am more intrigued by an inference I drew from Boris’s comments – that he would like to see an ‘intention card’ rather than an identity card as a counter terrorism measure. I would like to apply for the position of systems designer for that project when Boris becomes Home Secretary or PM.
    You may all be pleasantly surprised at the improvements the ID card makes to your lives. I was in favour of chip and pin technology until I came to use it, and realised that my habit of not wearing my reading glasses when shopping prevents me from reading the instructions or finding the keys.
    You will deduce from all of this that I am approaching old age. I am trying to cultivate the lines on my forehead to be in the form that it reads “fat bastard” on a bar code reader.

  13. The problem with the government and IT system seems to be their craven insistence on using proven idiots to design them.

  14. Hey Vicus – I’m a commie tree-hugger too!

    Poor old Boris. Only goes to show that there’s precious little balanced representation in Parliament the way the thing is set up at present. If you’re not in government, all you ever get to do is register an objection. Irrespective of the percentage of people you represent.

    Ah well. At least it keeps the argument on the table. And there is an argument against ID cards. Nothing to do with providing proof of identity – we could do a cheap version, without the bottomless magnetic stripe, tommorrow, and we’d all be very happy to help the police find out who we are.

    The stripe’s the thing, you see. It will contain information about us that we have not asked to be put on record. Inevitably, the government is hiding the true likely nature of that information under a canopy of vagueness and doublespeak – but if it contains data about where you live, or have lived, it will sooner or later link into information about what you’ve bought, what financial mistakes you’ve made, and why it might not be a good idea for you to be allowed to open a bank account. In other words, I fear this is being driven by the dead hand of the financial services industry, and it will end in opening a chasm between the poor and the creditworthy that will be irreparable.

    Besides, why on earth should anyone need to know where I live in order to establish my identity? I might LIKE living out of doors, and it doesn’t make me a worse person if I choose to do so.

  15. > When I am doing nothing more than amble down the Queen’s highway, and breathing God’s fresh air.

    I suppose Boris has to amble now – since his bike is inoperative.

    The cost of ID cards would be astronomical – not that that would worry Labour. (We all know money is water to cheery Gordon Brown.) But the supposed security benefits are negligible, if they can be said to exist at all. (BTW, opportunism from the Lib-Dems on this merely grates. They’ve supported ’em before, and as they are the most willing of all the parties to kow-tow to the EU would definitely implement them when told to, as is only too likely, by that body … if they ever got power – which fortunately they won’t.)

    A word from Schneier:

    ” … everything I’ve learned about security over the last 20 years tells me that once it is put in place, a national ID card program will actually make us less secure.

    My argument may not be obvious, but it’s not hard to follow, either. It centers around the notion that security must be evaluated not based on how it works, but on how it fails.”

    http://www.schneier.com/essay-034.html

  16. Icidentally, here is an interesting story along the same lines.

    “Parents of elementary and middle school students in a small California town are protesting a tracking program their school recently launched, which requires students to wear identification badges embedded with radio frequency, or RFID, chips.”

    If the new British ID card has an RFID chip in, someone – i.e., *anyone with a reader* – could read it while it is in one’s pocket:

    http://www.wired.com/news/privacy/0,1848,66554,00.html

  17. Michael – good point about his bike being inoperative – just as well with the dangerously wet weather we’ve been having recently. Boris and bikes are a constant worry to me and others …

  18. I have carried ID cards about half my life – in Hong Kong and Japan.

    While my main objection to the British scheme is the IT aspect, it may be worth noting what happened in Hong Kong (and Japan, which was different) if I have time to write about it later).

    In Hong Kong everybody has to have an ID cards. They were introduced more than 30 years ago under the British because of the large number of illegal immigrants from China. To get a job you needed an ID card. The police cruised around asking people wearing the wrong kind of shoes to produce them. Invariably people caught in the act of stealing things would be carrying fake cards.

    Naturally the first thing any illegal immigrant had to do after swimming to HK or sneaking over the border was to contact the criminal gangs producing fake cards.

    The government changed the form of the cards several times involving great expense and inconvenience for everybody but each time the gangs learned how to make the new cards. It was an art form, and they diversified into banknotes etc. Some very fine printing was done. At the same time all the illegal immigrants were effectively introduced to the Hong Kong criminal underworld.

  19. As a Traffic Warden and one of the people who might be pushed into enforcing the ID card scheme, might I say that they are the biggest waste of time and effort ever conceived.

    Keeping any such putative database up to date will be a logistical nightmare. I very much doubt whether any of the pro ID card lobby has had much first hand experience of actually maintaining large systems such as the one they envisage.

    Boris, I’m not too worried about you missing the vote. The whole scheme will prove either cost prohibitive, or the systems implemented will crash repeatedly and spectacularly because of a design flaw. It will have flaws because it will have been created by a committee comprised of people who really won’t have a sufficient understanding of the technology required. Just look st the CPS and CSA for examples of how not to design systems. I for one am not overly concerned. The future will prove my case.

  20. They can’t get the trains to work properly and we don’t yet have real time banking in this country whilst some third world countries do(given that the financial institutions at least have the cash to pay for IT you’d think it would have happened by now) so how can they for one minute expect us to believe they can get this ID card thingy to work?

  21. If you had watched Tony Blair on Richard and Judy, you’ve have known that the vote was at 6 o’clock, because he said so.

    What do you mean you never watch R&J?

    Funny, really, how the passage of this awful ID Card Bill through the Commons was hidden from the public by the news of Charles and Camilla. Now, that was a happy coincidence for New Labour, wasn’t it?

  22. It’ll all come to naught because a. Blunk-o, the bill’s chief architect, is now out of government, while Bliar and Clarkus the Bogeyman are only following through to save face, and b. the Lords are already squealing in pre-orgasmic delight at the thought of killing this bill stone dead. Then, once the election is over, Labour will quietly forget the whole squalid folly (it was only kept on as a vote winner, methinks) and we’ll wait another 10 years before this debate resurfaces…

    That, at least, is how I HOPE it happens.

  23. Very interesting hearing the perspective of the traffic warden helping to enforce the would-be cards

    Good to have your balanced input Bill

  24. Boris, don’t worry about missing the vote. Just fight on against this who thing. It’s not just id cards – it’s the whole civil liberties issue. Until the Tory party comes to it’s senses I’m afraid (along with many MANY people I know) I’ll be votiong Lib Dem.

  25. Aye, until Tories get themselves sorted out I am probably going to vote Lib Dems. Altough under Duncan Smith you would of gotten my vote, even a year ago under Howard, but now, no.

  26. “Because the Tories decided to abstain en masse, and because the poor lobotomised Labour backbenchers were whipped in favour, there was never the slightest hope of stopping the Bill”

    What is this?! No wonder people just aren’t bothering to vote they’ve given up hope! What is the point of MP’s if they don’t vote with thier conscience or represent thier constituents views? Looking at my own it seems they just waffle on in the local press about the litter in the local park, gee-whiz. Earning every penny then. Thank the Lord for Boris Johnson and the few who vote as they feel not as they’re told. Simon and Bill have got it spot on but Tories beware: “at best lukewarm in their opposition” is pretty much how the party is generally regarded.

  27. Very Well Said Boris! Its just more control going into the hands of government, this country gets worse and worse all the time that devious, controlling psychotic is in charge.

  28. ID cards do not prevent terrorism – just ask the Spanish. And, to those that say you have nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide, I point you to the use the nazis made of ID cards…and a quote from Martin Niemoller, Nazi prison camp survivor, 1892-1984:

    “They came for the communists, and I did not speak up because I wasn’t a communist; They came for the socialists, and I did not speak up because I was not a socialist; They came for the union leaders, and I did not speak up because I wasn’t a union leader; They came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak up for me.”

    Can you imagine what would happen if, say, the BNP came to power here – and ID cards were in use?

    Very disappointed, Boris! Do we assume that Cherie distracted you so that Tone could nick your bike wheel and prevent you from making it to the vote?

  29. Also:
    “One of the fundamental contrasts between free democratic societies and totalitarian systems is that the totalitarian government relies on secrecy for the regime but high surveillance and disclosure for all other groups, whereas, in the civic culture of liberal democracy, the position is approximately the reverse” – Professor Geoffrey de Q Walker, Dean of law at Queensland University

  30. Very disappointed that the conservatives vast majority did not care and abstained, I fail to see a good reason to vote for the party that did not care about ID cards, I did vote last time for them but not sure now

    with exceptions, good to know boris was against it, also does anyone know why the vote was held early, bit unclear about house of commons regulations

    ironic have to rely on house of lords to oppose this mesure now

    alan

  31. Like Boris, I am totally opposed to ID cards. The Labour Party has an obsession with legislation and grand schemes. Every time something is not working they come up with yet another plan for more legislation to change it rather than sort out the running problems. No minister has given us a single example from experiences in other countries of what will be improved or prevented by our having ID cards. They will massively interfere with out liberties and those who need fake passports, fake driving licences, etc. will get fake ID cards as well. Whatever the mind of man can conceive, the mind of the criminal can deceive with a copy.
    The Tory Party will have problems for ever as long as it flops around in an orgy of indecision in the way it has on ID cards. Could there be any more obvious attack on our basic freedoms? Alan may think it ironic that we have to depend on the House of Lords to defend our freedoms but with a huge Labour majority and a useless House of Commons that has been a fact of life on many matters in recent years.

  32. Each department of State is actually controlled by the people it is supposed to be controlling.
    -Yes Miniter

    Under communism the system requiring everyone to carry ID card wherever you happen to go worked very well.

    I say, “Bring Them On,” the sooner the better!

    Most nations in the post cold war climate have come to feel the same when legislature is in session as when a baby gets hold of a hammer.

  33. Imagine there’s no imagination; it’s easy if you try

    Real ID Act Passes House By Wide Margin
    As a follow-up to my February 9 posting, Controversy Surrounds Real ID Act, yesterday evening the House passed the bill (96% of Republicans supporting, 78% of Democrats opposing), which “Prohibits Federal agencies from accepting State issued driver’s licenses or identification cards unless such documents are determined by the Secretary to meet minimum security requirements.” These requirements include that the ID have “Physical security features designed to prevent tampering, counterfeiting, or duplication of the document for fraudulent purposes…[and] A common machine-readable technology, with defined minimum data elements.”
    http://news.com.com/House+backs+major+shift+to+electronic+IDs/2100-1028_3-5571898.html

  34. Jozef, if the issue was just carrying an ID card i don’t think people would be too upset. The issue is the database that the government hopes to link to the ID cards that is the issue. And the uses that THIS information may be put to.

    And your saying “under communism the system requiring everyone to carry ID card wherever you happen to go worked very well.” is a poor example as communism was a repressive and authoritarian regime. Or was that a subtle use of irony that passed me by?

    I wonder, if the Lords reject the proposal, if new liebour will try the parliament act again?

  35. Alan,

    You don’t want to vote for a party that doesn’t care about ID cards? But they do care. It was the conservatives that brought up ID cards in the 80s again. Micheal Howard was the minister.

    🙂

  36. Ach, Psimon …

    My apologies, I was brought up on a steady communist diet of the theatre of the absurd and it is in my temperament to doublespeak whenever I spy little Men of Steel with too much oxygen. Even my publisher is coined – the Double Dragon Publishing 😉

    George Orwell wrote in 1948 about niniteen-eighty four & two thousand and four: To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.

  37. The Tories are Terrorists!

    A nice article which provides a ‘raison d’etre’ for the whole ‘vote against Tony’ campaign. It talks of the Govt using fear of terrorism as a way for them to get away with eroding civil liberties, as well as fear…

  38. “under communism the system requiring everyone to carry ID card wherever you happen to go worked very well.”

    I didn’t read history but I’m under the impression that communism failed.

    The government are fighting to ban foxhunting – why? Is the method of killing fluffy foxes really a priority in todays society? Not farming methods then or stupid legislation from Brussells crippling the farming community. The government are fighting for ID cards – why? It is NOT going to make our lives safer, it will be hugely expensive and with thier track record of computer systems, probably a hugely expensive mistake. Is it any wonder the electorate are suspicious of TB’s motives when his argument for the idea just isn’t true? What is this government doing for us?

    I’ve come ’round to the idea that, with yourself as an exception, what is the point of MP’s?

    In a communist society everyone is equal but some are more equal than others. And everyone is happy if you all do as you’re told. Deja vu?

  39. So you missed the chance to abstain on something you wanted to vote against Boris? You can’t complain that your Party is being sucked into this authoritarian chasm by Labour – it’s your lot that created it in the first place.

    Because you’ve tried to outflank Labour on asylum, we’ve got a choice between two xenophobic parties.

    Until your party can offer leadership and be seen to do something principled, you will never reduce your minority. You could start by voting against ID cards on priciple because they are wrong – even if it gives Labour the chance to use it to paint you as being ‘soft on….’ whatever it is we’re not supposed to be soft on this week.

  40. > Because you’ve tried to outflank Labour on asylum, we’ve got a choice between two xenophobic parties.

    It doesn’t follow. That’s a _non-sequitur_. Abdicating responsibility for the nation’s borders and those who might cross them (which Blair has done, despite promises to the contrary) is not to be equated with “not being xenophobic”.

    Rather it’s lunacy – and self-satisfied lunacy at that. And unless it is combined with a willingness to throw one’s own home open to whoever may want to enter it, it is *insincere* into the bargain. I’d listen respectfully if Epictetus said that, because he had no lock on his door:

    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&lr=&q=epictetus+lamp+theft&btnG=Search

    A remarkable man.

    But I’d not take it from anyone else. And neither will the electorate. It has more sense. The average person has more sense, and more moral awareness, than to want to create this kind of situation – which is good for no one – out of a wish to strike _bien pensant_ attitudes:

    http://www.city-journal.org/html/12_4_the_barbarians.html

    It is, in any case, an irrelevance. Asylum seekers have to carry ID as it is.

  41. This has nothing to do with the subject matter here – but I just want to give everybody on in this comment thread a big uber sloppy hug just for the sheer hell of it. Due to the fact that this morning I am in a most wonderful mood :>

  42. Clearly, Nick has been nicking copious bottles of brandy too 🙂

    Romance is in the air today across the universe … But in Washington, the buzz continues about The Kiss No, not Gustav Klimt’s famous painting. It’s the big fat one an exuberant President Bush planted on Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman’s right cheek as he waded through the Capitol crowd after the State of the Union a couple of weeks ago.
    http://nomoremister.blogspot.com/2005/02/romance-is-in-air-today-across-land.html

  43. Would the Tories repeal the ID laws IF the were elected/able? Er, no. Hopefully the lords will scupper this. Personaly, I wouldn’t trust the Tories not to sell my grandma the minute I wasn’t looking and, as has already been pointed out, Howard tried this on years ago – obviously IT is vastly more sophisticated now, so it can be much more costly and easy to break…

  44. I can’t imagine how it will help to prove identity unless you make it compulsory to carry it. Imagine the hassle if you have to take it everywhere and you get mugged or lose it. I bet you’ll have to pay for a replacement. Surely there are better things for the government to be doing.

  45. Strangeblueghost, you don’t need to carry it for it to be useful to the government and its agents. Part of the biometric data stored (centrally) is a scan of your face. This can be used with face recognition software to monitor exactly what you are up to (in the presence of a cctv camera). This technology is at least 10 years old – a cell of alledged IRA terrorists were arrested ten years ago after being spotted (on cctv) using the London Underground. 3 million people a day use that system, and no human could have spotted 5 faces in a crowd that big (especially if they had no idea who to look for!). Over 90% of the worlds cctv cameras are in this country, we are the most watched country in the world.

    But at least we are still (currently) anonymous!

    If only Orwell had foreseen computers…then everyone really WOULD be frightened now!

  46. Cute speech last night, Boris. Definitely the man of the moment. Personally, I think you were made for the Arts job – can’t quite picture you as Shadow Trade and Industry Sec. (or similar). That IS a compliment, by the way.

    Do you think you’ll ever be offered it back?

  47. Psimon, have you seen Minority Report? Not for the whole precrime sci-fi bit, but for the background it’s cast against…

  48. The thing is it’s not necessary to keep the biometric data in a central database to prove identity; you can store them on the card and just keep a card ID on a database so you can say if a card is valid or not.

    Then readers could be portable, and display the card embedded data.

    Right now how would police patrols be able to use the proposed card? The data transfer would be rather large if they needed to pull a photo from a central database over a mobile/celluar link.

    Information on the card would also allow a certain amount of control, you, the card holder could authorise display of data with a “chip and pin” like system. So, if as Labour wants, you need to identify yourself to the video store the video store system could be written to just display the photo upon your authorisation and takes away the need for every place that wants to validate id to have links into a central government database.

    It would also make passport control abroad easier. If every EU country used the same system they wouldn’t need links into each others databases, just the same “Show me the biometrics on this card” system.

  49. Boris Johnson missed the vote

    Boris Johnson apologises for missing the Identity Cards bill vote. Many members of his party chose to abstain on the vote. Abstention will let us walk into the disasterous scheme. We need action from our MPs!

  50. Barry is absolutely right.

    The verification of identity does not require centralized administration. Your ID card could be under your own control and still be viable.

    Some people at the Home Office must understand this, even if senior bureaucrats probably don’t. What is infuriating about this whole project is that they won’t discuss the key technical aspects of the scheme in public.

    It’s a bit like your doctor not telling you what illness you’ve got – because you wouldn’t understand – except that in this case the doctor doesn’t understand either!

  51. ID theft

    Hackers in California have stolen sensitive data, including social security numbers, on 35,000 people from a company working for the government. It’s happened before. California now has a unique law requiring customers to be alerted if there are …

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