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Public opposes ID cards, govt admits

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The UK government has finally admitted that the majority of responses to consultation on its ID card scheme were strongly opposed to the controversial idea.

For months the government has neglected to include responses generated via the Stand Web site in its official figures, despite earlier assurances that such responses would be counted. Prompted by parliamentary questions, the Home Office has decided that the Stand responses would be counted individually (and not as a block vote) after all.

This revised calculation means that the overwhelming majority of consultation responses were against ID cards, not for, as ministers had previously claimed.

In responses to a parliamentary question, Home Office minister Beverley Hughes told MP Anne McIntosh over 5,000 of the 7,000 responses to a public consultation on ID cards were opposed to the scheme, the BBC reports.

"5,031 emails have been received via the Stand Web site. 4,856 expressed views against an entitlement card scheme, 44 expressed views in favour," she said.

An additional 131 responses contained "obviously false" names and were discounted from the government's revised tally.

For months government minister have stuck to figures, based on 2,000 other responses to the Home Office consultation, that claimed two-third of the public are in favour of an ID card. Counting in the Stand figures turns this assertion on its head.

So what next? Results of the public consultation are not binding on the government, and the Home Secretary, David Blunkett, seems to be strongly committed to going forward with the creation of an ID/entitlement card scheme. The Home Office favours ID cards containing biometric information and linked to a national database. Although ostensibly voluntary, over time it will be increasingly difficult for individuals to travel or deal with government without such cards (see 'Blunkett to intro UK ID cards, via £25 passport tax').

Home Office minister Hughes said the government will be analysing responses to the consultation over the next month. It appears there'll be little further action on the scheme until after the summer recess.

Meanwhile Privacy International, the human rights group which has campaigned heavily on the issue along with Stand, is calling for a further round of public meetings on the government's ID card plans. The Home Office is yet to respond to its request to send along a representative to such a debate. ®

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