The whole ID card debate [BBC Q&A] has not even been at the top of the political agenda for weeks or maybe even months, but today the final die has been cast that means I have to abandon my position on the issue of sitting on the fence for ideological reasons.
First of all, what do I think of ID cards? Simply put, I have no problem with them in principle. I carried a carte d’identitÃƒÂ© spÃƒÂ©ciale when I lived in Belgium and it was very useful when travelling in the Schengen zone, proving who I was at the bank, video hire shop etc., rather than using the multitude of utility bills and other such nonsense that you need to prove who you are in the UK.
Hence I’ve been OK with the idea of carrying an identity card in the UK, providing there was some, however vague, future prospect of the UK joining an EU passport free zone. On the other hand, the card scheme is expensive and the rationale used for its introduction by the government has been more about control and preventing terrorism than giving a service to citizens.
Anyway, John Reid, our beloved Home Secretary, has today announced a set of ludicrous border controls to be introduced between now and 2014 that will basically enforce inward and outward bound checks on everyone at every border to the UK. For details of this, see this Guardian article. This means that not only will we be forced to carry ID cards by 2010, but we will also have some of the tightest controls at our borders of any country in the world, and, oh, while we are on the subject, Britain also has the most CCTV cameras filming its citizens too… This really is starting to resemble something from 1984.
Further, when a whole range of government policies are crying out for more cash, John Reid has managed to lever a doubling, yes, a DOUBLING of cash for border controls. And all of this is in today’s climate where illegal immigration into the UK is even down on the numbers of a few years ago. Blair seems to have given Reid a carte blanche to sort out the bad headlines in the Daily Mail and he’s doing that with a repulsive gusto. It’s abhorrent.
As far as I understand it, the new ID-Cards contain biometric identifiers, just like the new EU passports (at least for those member states participating). The data will be store on RFID-Chips which are not considered particularly safe. There might be also a huge database whith all the accumulated data, so it doesn’t look to nice…
In the old days it was just a suspect who got fingerprinted.
Now it’s everyone (same will be introduced for ID cards in Germany soon)
There used to be this idea that once you were within the British Isles you were somehow supposed to be generally free and not obliged to prove who you are to anyone – even if you were stopped on the street by the police for example. This old-fashioned notion is why people like my parents would tell you they don’t like ID cards.
Now, I don’t believe that stuff in any case – we have CCTV cameras on every street corner etc. – so we should move to a more continental European model of identity. That would imply being able to prove who you are when you need to, but an acknowledgement that people can and do move across borders.
In short, the UK seems to be going both ways at the moment – ludicrous strengthening of the borders AND a new ID card scheme. We are taking the US (borders) and European (ID cards) approaches, both at the same time, and then adding some more on top.
I hate so much about all of this, and the ID cards themselves are the part I don’t hate too much! I just loathe the developments in the UK that seem to point towards an ever more Orwellian police state.
I may be a little dense, but I’m not understanding why the UK is making such a big thing out of introducing ID cards. Why is it that ID cards must also mean the tightening of borders and checks? I’ve had an ID card since I was 14 (as is provided by law) and as far as I know having an ID card is no real big deal anywhere. So why this fuss, with the risk of stirring public opinion against the introduction of a system, that really makes sense and makes everything so much easier??
Hmmm. I probably should join, to add to the long list of things I am already a member of… Although I do fear I might at heart be a bit statist for Liberty.
Liberty don’t seem to have caught up with these developments yet but their page on ID cards is worth a look:
The list of categories on the left of the page makes the same links as you between ID cards and CCTV etc. Time to join (if you haven’t already)?