Blunkett changes ID card scheme

Plans to combine new compulsory identity cards with passports and
driving licences have been dropped by Home Secretary David Blunkett.
The changes to the controversial scheme comes in response to MPs who
said the plans were badly thought out.

“You will have no choice but to spend GBP35 on a stand-alone ID card,
on top of a GBP73 charge for the passport.”
– Mark Oaten Lib Dem spokesman

Mr Blunkett also promised to allow the whole scheme to be overseen by
a new independent watchdog.

The legislation to allow ID cards is widely expected to be promised in
next month’s Queen’s Speech.

The Home Office’s official response to the Commons home affairs select
committee inquiry into the project said: “When cost, implementation
and risk considerations are assessed together, we now think the option
of a free-standing card is more attractive.”

The new cards will include “biometric” details of each cardholder,
such as their fingerprints, an electronic scan of the dimensions of
their face or a scan of the iris of their eye.

Approved agencies will be able to check those details against a
central database.

Phased in

The government believes the cards will help combat illegal immigration
and working, terrorism and identity fraud.

Benefits to the public, the Home Office says, will include people not
having to worry about using driving licences, passports or bank
statements to prove their identity.

If they are introduced they will be the first national ID since the
Second World War ones ended more than 50 years ago.

They will be phased in – people will get them at the same time as they
renew or get a passport – and eventually be compulsory to have, though
not to carry.

The Home Office had originally planned to phase in ID cards from
2007-2008 by bringing in new passports which would include a microchip
bearing biometric data and would double-up as ID cards.

Instead, passport applicants from 2007-2008 will get a new biometric
passport and a separate ID card.

“The majority preference in research was that the ID card should be a
separate document,” a Home Office spokesman said.

Creating a single organisation to implement the scheme would also
improve accountability and possibly be cheaper, he added.

Costs hike?

John Denham, Labour chairman of the home affairs select committee,
said the changes made it more likely the “essential scheme” would
succeed, although further work on the details and costs was still

There would have to be careful scrutiny of the aims of the scheme, the
new commissioner’s powers and the safeguards against misuse of the
system, said Mr Denham.

“If we can get these areas of the Bill right, the ID card scheme can
be placed on a sound legal footing,” he added.

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Mark Oaten suggested the
biometric technology to be used on the cards was not as foolproof as
the government claimed.

He argued the money would be better spent on more police and better
intelligence efforts against terrorism.

Mr Oaten said the costs of the scheme for the public were going up the
whole time.

But the Home Office said the prices remained unchanged: people would
pay either GBP35 for a stand-alone ID card or GBP77 for a passport and
ID card together.

It was not true to suggest people would be charged twice for the
biometric tests, said a spokesman.

Conservative shadow home secretary David Davis said the Home Office
should be able to introduce effective ID cards which curbed terrorism,
serious crime and the “flood” of illegal immigration as well as being
cost effective.

He added: “If these criteria can be met without sacrificing civil
liberties they should be introduced soon – not in 10 years time. The
terrorist threat is real and is here today.”