The case against ID cards
The ID card scheme signalled a shift in the relationship between the individual and the state – where information is not just shared when necessary, but shared unless there is a reason not to.
There are plenty of other arguments against ID Cards. They are:
- Crime - There is no evidence that crime levels in countries that already have ID Cards (such as France, Germany, Italy and Spain) have been reduced by having ID cards;
- Terrorism - Terrorists, especially suicide bombers, generally want to hide their intent not their identity. The 2005 Madrid train bombers carried ID cards which did not prevent them from committing their horrifying act. Even former Home Secretary Charles Clarke admitted that ID cards would not have stopped the London bombings in 2005;
- Identity fraud - This rarely happens face-to-face but instead most often occurs online, which ID cards wouldn’t affect. In any case it is highly likely that false ID cards would be created by those intent on committing face-to-face identity fraud and, with so much information stored in one plac,e the National Identity Register (NIR) would be vulnerable to those intent on doing us harm;
- Benefit fraud - The Government’s own statistics show that 95 per cent of benefit fraud is due to lying about circumstances, not about identity;
- Illegal immigration - Asylum seekers already have to carry identifying documents.
While the legislative scheme created in the 2006 Act did not compel people to carry ID cards, there was nothing to stop this becoming a further innovation down the line. It is likely then that ID cards would have heightened the inequalities that have been seen with ethnically biased stop and search practices. Those from minority ethnic groups would be more likely to be stopped and asked to produce an ID card, further damaging race relations.
ID cards could eventually have become an internal passport, carried by anyone who might face questions about their immigration status.
The Government estimated in November 2008 that the ID Cards scheme would cost £5billion, excluding external costs. This money would be far better spent ensuring agencies such as the police are properly resourced.
ID cards were priced at £30 or more, and it was proposed that carriers would have to pay again to replace lost cards, when moving house or changing their name. Fines of £1,000 could have been charged to people who did not notify the authorities of changes in personal data.
Intrusive and unsafe
Large amounts of information (including former addresses and immigration status) would have been held about individuals on the NIR, with the likelihood of more being held in the future.
This information would have been shared with many agencies within the government and also sub-contractors with scope for extension into the private sector.
The government’s record of losing sensitive information raised doubts about its ability to manage this much new information securely. In 2007, for example, Her Majesty’s Revenues & Customs mislaid millions of people's personal financial details.