Feeds

UK ID cards – the incredible shrinking consultation

Disappearing the opposition - every Home Secretary's dream...

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

UK Home Secretary David Blunkett plans legislation to introduce ID cards this autumn, but possibly has a small problem in transforming the verdict of what must surely have been a heavily anti ID card public consultation into a favourable one. The Home Office does however seem to be trying.

Some months back Home Office minister Lord Falconer happily said the consultation was running in favour of the cards, which were then pitched as "entitlement cards." The heroic number of "people and organisations" who'd then commented amounted to 1,500, but this was swiftly overturned by an extra 6,000 whipped up by Privacy International and stand.org. Then the plot thickens.

The consultation ended in January, so it seems rational to expect the results at some point in the foreseeable future, especially as Blunkett will be presenting his proposals to the Cabinet shortly. This is perhaps complicated by the consultation having been pitched at entitlement whereas Blunkett now has illegal immigrants and terrorists in the crosshairs, but at the very least it's tidier to deal with the idea you had first as you move on to the next one.

Home Office ministers however have shown worrying signs of tidying up in odd ways. In April minister Beverley Hughes told the Commons that 2,000 responses had been received, a number which is of the order of the 1,500 Falconer prepared earlier, and which therefore sounds strangely like a consultation in which 6,000 or so online responses have been miraculously disappeared. Simon Davies of Privacy International made enquiries about this, and made an Open Government request for statistics and related information concerning the consultation. Yesterday, however, Davies says a Home Office official told him this request had been rejected.

Davies further claims that Privacy International had previously been "informally notified by Home Office officials that a decision had been made to 'collapse' the 6,000 responses into one or two by treating them as a single petition." Which might explain how 8,000 could become 2,000, and how Beverley Hughes could be happily giving Parliament the lower figure several months after the 6,000 were submitted.

The Home Office claims the Open Government request was rejected owing to a question submitted by Anne McIntosh MP asking the number and preferences of responses sent via stand.org. The existence of this question, they argue, means provide Privacy International with the information would be a breach of Parliamentary procedure. Davies disputes this, and in any event they don't seem to have given McIntosh any numbers yet either.

Government officials deny that the numbers have been fiddled and say there's "no question of changing the statistical emphasis."

So that's all right then. And The Register has a modest proposal in the interests of clarity and open government. First of all, tell Beverley Hughes about the numbers of submissions and the "statistical emphasis." Then, should this turn out to differ from what she has already told Parliament, she can always tell Parliament the real story too. Having done this, and having dealt with any necessary drilling down to provide a response to Anne McIntosh, there should be no great problem in answering Privacy International's request.

Sorted? Well, up to a point. The basic difficulty is that over the next few months David Blunkett should really be telling the public a few things too, and that is the case whether there were 2,000 responses, 8,000 responses, or a mysterious confection of the two. In any and all of these, we have a "consultation" exercise which was so deeply obscure as to be almost a state secret, so the best way the Home Office could honestly pitch it was as a consultation of nearly nobody whose ballot box was stuffed online by the privacy lobby. So the spoilsports invalidated our invalid consultation.

And while we're being honest, we could also admit that the reasons being put forward now by Blunkett for ID cards are materially different from those covered by the invalidated invalid consultation. Which - no doubt you've been counting - probably invalidates the invalidated invalid consultation.

So Blunkett should tell the public why he now wants ID cards, explain how and why they'll work, make it clear that the public will have to pay the whole bill through a passport and driving licence tax, then, er, have a consultation? But a proper one would be good - the UK government sure as hell needs the practice... ®

Related links:
Privacy International
stand.org

HP ProLiant Gen8: Integrated lifecycle automation

More from The Register

next story
BBC goes offline in MASSIVE COCKUP: Stephen Fry partly muzzled
Auntie tight-lipped as major outage rolls on
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
White? Male? You work in tech? Let us guess ... Twitter? We KNEW it!
Grim diversity numbers dumped alongside Facebook earnings
Bose says today is F*** With Dre Day: Beats sued in patent battle
Music gear giant seeks some of that sweet, sweet Apple pie
Amazon Reveals One Weird Trick: A Loss On Almost $20bn In Sales
Investors really hate it: Share price plunge as growth SLOWS in key AWS division
There's NOTHING on TV in Europe – American video DOMINATES
Even France's mega subsidies don't stop US content onslaught
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
Too many IT conferences to cover? MICROSOFT to the RESCUE!
Yet more word of cuts emerges from Redmond
Chips are down at Broadcom: Thousands of workers laid off
Cellphone baseband device biz shuttered
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.