ID cards bill returns to the Commons

MPs are due to vote later today on the government’s controversial plans to introduce identity cards.

A small number of Labour MPs are expected to vote against the scheme, which is already opposed by both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats.

The bill is widely expected to pass its second reading this evening, in spite of Labour’s vastly reduced majority, following the May General Election.

The vote follows the publication of two damning reports on the ID card scheme yesterday. One report, from the Information Commissioner, said that the cards, which would include biometric details, such as fingerprints and iris scans, would create a “surveillance society”.

The other report by the London School of Economics (LSE) raised a number of concerns, including a suggestion that the scheme could cost between £10.6 billion and £19.2 billion – much higher than the government’s estimate of around £6 billion.

The LSE report said that the cost of an ID card, including a new biometric passport, would be between £170 and £230. The government had estimated that the cost would be £93.

The Prime Minister criticised the LSE report, branding the figures “absurd”. Mr Blair said: “No government is going to start introducing something that is going to cost hundreds of pounds to people. That would be ridiculous.”

However, Mr Blair refused to put a cap on the possible cost of the scheme.

Home Secretary Charles Clarke stressed that the cards would only cost between £20 to £30 more on top of the cost for the biometric passports. He also branded the LSE report, which had described the ID card scheme as “too complex, technically unsafe and overly prescriptive” as “technically incompetent” and dismissed criticisms from civil rights groups. He told BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme: “They will allow people to identify themselves and ensure that the data that is held about them is data about them not someone else. In that sense they are a means of attacking the ‘Big Brother’ society.” Mr Clarke also said that there would be no compulsion for anyone to show their ID card on the street.

However, Shadow Home Secretary David Davis told the Today programme that the Conservatives thought the ID card scheme had “no benefits, huge cost and serious risks to civil liberties and privacy”.

Ann Black, a member of Labour’s National Executive Committee, also criticised the technology involved in the creation of ID cards, claiming they were “bad science”.

Ms Black said that pilot trials conducted by the government found that their fingerprints did not identify one in five people.

She also claimed that four million would not be identified if iris recognition was relied upon. She said: “The foundation for the scheme simply isn’t there in scientific terms alone.”


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14 February 2006
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Government to re-introduce ID Cards Bill
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