Saturday, July 15, 2006
ID Cards latest policy area destined to go pear-shaped
Strange how when things go bad, they can really go pear shaped. Just look at ID Cards in the last Sunday Times. According to leaked emails from top Whitehall officials, the scheme 'is set to fail and may not be introduced for a generation'. The cards idea first appeared on the radar in 2002 when Blunkett announced a £1billion scheme to deter fraud and terrorism. Instead of dropping the scheme as some had urged it was re-introduced after the election in 2005 and beefed up to include biometric information. David Davis, the Conservative Shadow Home Secretary, posed four pertinent tests of the scheme in June 2005:
i) will it achieve its stated goals? Whilst it would certainly help against fraud, few believed it would deter terrorists like those responsible for the 7-7 explosions.
ii)is the government capable of introducing such a system? Given the abysmal record of the government in trying to make major IT schemes work in respect of the NHS, Criminal Records and many other departments, this would seem to be highly questionable.
iii) is it cost efective? Whilst the government calculated the coast would be £6bn, a careful LSE study produced figures of £19-24 bn. The government rejected such costings but refused to provide detailed costings of its own.
iv) can civil liberties be protected? In June 2004 the Information Commissioner Richard Thomas tols the Home Affairs Committee that he was 'increasingly alarmed' by the plan for which he did not see a 'sufficient rationale' for recording the whole population's name, address, date of birth, gender, nationality plus biometric details from finger and eye scans.
OK, these questions were put by the Oppostion but the answers have been provided here, substantially, by me. ID Cards are expensive, riskily experimental and a violation of civil liberties. I'm afraid this is yet another example of a bad idea being persevered with through the mistaken desire of the Prime Minister to leave a lasting legacy. The sooner it is abandoned the better; but I fear it won't be.
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