Via the UK Press Association (link here) and the Guardian (link here) comes the confirmation that, as promised by the Home Officesix months ago, the ID cards scheme has finally been launched in Manchester. However, as seems to be the norm with this project, there’s a catch.
But the launch was overshadowed by the revelation that the cards are available only to people who already have passports, or whose passports expired this year.
Everyone else wanting a £30 ID card will first have to sign up for a passport at a cost of £77.50. [UKPA]
Which would seem to suggest that the government’s assertion that an ID card would offer an alternative form of documentation to a passport may be somewhat ingenuous. As Phil Booth of NO2ID says:
“The Government claims ID cards are a handy alternative to a passport is bogus.”
“You have to have one already so you will pay another £30 and set yourself up for a lifetime of fees, penalties and compliance.”
“Once you are on the database you will be obliged to update Whitehall’s register on you for the rest of your life.” [UKPA]
As usual, the Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, is presenting the benefits of signing up as being:
“[…] a means to prove and protect [applicants’] identity in a quick, simple and secure way.”
“It can be used by young people as a convenient and universal proof of age and as a credit card-sized alternative to the passport when travelling in Europe.” [Guardian]
We seem to have lost the previous vague claims that ID cards would variously “reduce fraud”, “combat terrorism and organised crime” and generally “deliver real benefits to everyone” [Via].
And, of course, there’s no mention of the privacy and data sharing issues; the security of the national database which is being compiled from all the personal data (including fingerprints and facial scans) – or the contentious requirement that “those living a Dual Gendered Life” (trans people, in plain English) who don’t have a Gender Recognition Certificate will be required to hold two cards [Via].
As if that wasn’t sufficient reason to be concerned there is, I believe, yet another issue which the government is avoiding saying too much about. Yes, the ID cards scheme is voluntary but from next year, if you want a passport, you will be required to apply for registration on the database (whether or not you opt to have an ID card). Maybe I’m just being paranoid, but it’s hard not to think that, once established, the requirement for registration will be introduced at a later date (eg for access to state benefits, driving licenses, CRB checks, etc).