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Law lord lashes out at ID cards

"The idea should be abandoned"

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Lord Steyn, a former Law lord, is calling for the government to abandon its national ID card scheme because it is an unacceptable invasion of privacy and will not help to solve the various problems they keep claiming it will solve.

He outlines the different claims made by the government in favour of ID cards. First we were told they would fight terrorism, then we were told they would help protect our identities - which al Qaeda terrorists were trying to steal. Finally the focus has been shifted to foreigners - non-EU citizens will be the first group required to carry the cards.

Steyn, in a speech tonight, will say: "The immigration pretext is simply another way of getting the public conditioned to the use of ID cards....The third reason advanced by the government, viz combating crime, is a Home Office fiction. We all subscribe to the fight against crime. But there is quite simply no evidence that the national identity register will serve to combat serious crime."

He identifies the Home Office's various attempts to get people used to the idea of ID cards by phasing in their introduction.

Lord Steyn also accurately assesses government competence in running an IT project. He asks how PA Consulting can be a Home Office "development partner" for the ID card scheme when the same company lost a memory stick containing 84,000 prisoner names, dates of birth and expected release dates. He also mentions cases of civil servants engaging in ID fraud and asks: "should the British public have confidence in the scheme the government proposes to introduce?".

Steyn also questions whether there is any chance of the government bringing the project in on budget. He casts doubt on supposed Home Office research which claims the public are in favour of ID cards, Steyn believes the debate is moving away from the government on this issue.

In a final broadside Steyn quotes Voltaire:

Voltaire said that the civil wars of Rome ended in slavery, and those of the English in liberty. He wrote that the English were jealous of their liberty. So they are. The commitment, by and large, of the British people to European constitutional principles and ideals does not require us to adopt an ID card system.

In my view a national identity card system is not necessary in our country. No further money should be spent on it. The idea should be abandoned.

Steyn notes that even in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and the paranoia of George Bush and Dick Cheney, and despite the Patriot Act and the Homelands Security Act, there was no attempt to introduce identity passes in the US.

There is an abridged version of the speech here.

In a separate speech, Tory security spokeswoman Baroness Neville-Jones - a former diplomat and chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee - said it was time to roll back the Big Brother state. She promised a Tory government would limit use of the Snooping Act (RIPA), strengthen the role of the Information Commissioner's Office, examine the reduction of database building by government, and more closely oversee data sharing between departments. ®

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