28/10/2004

Lib Dems deride ID card scheme as costly and insecure

The Home Secretary's new ID cards will be costly for the public, insecure and will divert funds away from policing, according to the Liberal Democrats.

The Lib Dem frontbencher was speaking after the Home Office announced yesterday that "further improvements" to the ID card would include producing a single, universal ID card for all UK nationals to be issued alongside passports.

A new executive agency will also be set up incorporating the UK Passport Service and working closely with the Home Office's Immigration and Nationality Directorate.

The Home Office made its "refinements" in response to the Home Affairs Select Committee report on ID cards published yesterday.

Lib Dems home affairs spokesperson Mark Oaten said that the cost to the public seemed to escalate with every government announcement.

"It appears that when you next renew your passport you will have no choice but to spend £35 on a stand-alone ID card, on top of a £73 charge for the passport," he said.

“On top of our existing concerns about the card’s ability to tackle crime and terrorism, there is increasing evidence to suggest that biometric technology is not as foolproof as the government claims. At the very least Ministers should find out if the technology works before committing us to ID cards.

The government would be much better off spending the £3 billion set aside for ID cards on getting more police onto our streets, and ensuring that the intelligence services are properly resourced to tackle terrorism, the Lib Dem frontbencher added.

Home Secretary David Blunkett said yesterday that following the Parliamentary report into the scheme, there would also be a standardised on-line verification service that will make the system "more secure against fraud and provide a full audit trail".

Mr Blunkett said: "Biometric ID cards will provide a simple and secure means of verifying identity.

"Together with electronic border controls they will help us tackle illegal migration and working, organised crime, terrorist activity, identity theft, and fraudulent access to public services, as well as helping our citizens travel freely and complete everyday transactions securely and easily."

He welcomed pre-legislative scrutiny and consultation as a "key part" of the long-term approach being taken to introduce ID cards.

(gmcg/sp)

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