PASSWORD RESET

Magazine of the Socialist Party, Australian section of the CWI

Britain: Why we oppose ID cards

One of the reasons why socialists are opposed to terrorism is that it opens the way for capitalist leaders to use these attacks to try and justify the introduction of further repressive legislation and attacks on democratic rights.
Blair will most likely use the London bombings to try and force through the introduction of national identity cards (ID cards) and a national register which currently do not exist in Britain.
From ‘The Socialist’ Paper of the Socialist Party in England and Wales.THE IDENTITY Cards Bill proposes that every UK citizen be issued with a “biometric” card bearing fingerprints and other personal details. These would be stored on a new National Identity Register database. Cards would eventually become compulsory.
New Labour say identity cards would help protect people from identity fraud and theft, help defeat terrorism and tackle illegal working and immigration abuse.

So why is the Socialist Party opposed to them?

The scheme is expected to cost £5.5 billion but could be much higher. That money could be spent on health, education, pensions or increasing the minimum wage. The cost of driving licences and passports would increase from 2008, with an “enhanced” biometric passport costing around £85. Eventually people would have to buy an identity card, which on current estimates would cost £40.

There would be a fine for renewing or replacing cards. The fine for failing to have one would be £2,500 and £1,000 for failing to tell the authorities about a change of address or circumstances.

The scheme would entail the use of complex technology. Every previous large IT. system, such as in the passport office and the child support agency have failed resulting in the loss of billions of pounds of public money. And the scheme is bound to be run by a private company making huge profits.

In a leaked memo in 2003 Foreign Secretary Jack Straw warned that the scheme could be a “large-scale debacle”.

The Bill allows information from the register to be disclosed without consent to many different agencies including the police, Inland Revenue and the Department for Work and Pensions. The information on the cards could be increased at a later stage to include details such as political affiliation and campaigning activities.

There would be an increase in police harassment, in particular of ethnic minorities and young people.

The scheme would not help prevent terrorist attacks. David Blunkett himself said in July 2002: “I accept that it is important that we do not pretend that an entitlement card would be an overwhelming factor in combating international terrorism”. Of the 25 countries that have been most affected by terrorism since 1986, 80% have national identity cards, and one third of these incorporate biometrics. Most terrorists operate under their own identity and travel as short-term visitors.

Identity cards are as likely to increase crime as combat it. They will give a lucrative business opportunity to organised crime. Even biometric ID cards are open to forgery. Only 0.6% of benefit overpayments were as a result of false identity. Any savings would be massively outweighed by the cost of the scheme. The police don’t have problems identifying individuals but linking them to crimes.

ID cards would result in rationing public services. We don’t want a system where you could be denied medical treatment or other services because you have not got your ID card. ID cards should be scrapped and the money used to increase public services for everyone.

Prior to the bombings, according to a poll by data company Intervoice, support for ID cards had dropped by 30%. Just 57% of people were now in favour compared to over 80% in an ICM poll in December 2004.

This proposal was facing serious opposition and the prospect of defeat prior to the bombings. Following these events it is now more likely to be agreed to in parliament. Whether it will be accepted by a majority of people, especially young people, is another question.

When Australia tried to introduce ID cards, support for them went from 90% in favour to 70% against in just a few months as people began to realise exactly what they would mean. The scheme was then scrapped.