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Manchester united against ID cards, ID minister finds

All the supporters live somewhere else apparently

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The put-upon people of Manchester got the chance to quiz Home Office minister Meg Hillier on ID cards yesterday, while Parliament got an update on the national identity register - the database at the heart of the project.

Sir Joseph Pilling told the Home Affairs committee that 538 people were now on the database - one of them foreign the rest Brits. Pilling is the UK ID czar and is described as "an independent voice... safeguarding the public’s privacy and identity rights", although he's been a Home Office Sir Humphrey since 1966.

Meanwhile, Meg Hillier spent part of yesterday responding to questions from readers of the Manchester Evening News.

This grassroots, reach-out web chat was an enormous success in turning round public opinion using just reasoned argument - think Peel's speech on the Corn Laws. The online poll carried out by the paper, clearly not astro-turfed by any special interest group, found four per cent of respondents were in favour of the cards against 96 per cent of people who were against it.

This didn't faze meg though, who told the audience that around two thirds of the public couldn't wait to get their hands on an ID card. So, there you are, ID cards are like Man United - all the supporters live outside Manchester.

Otherwise the web chat repeated other Home Office half-truths.

Hillier said: "But another real benefit is that once you have registered no-one can steal your identity" and "the databases will be very secure - think Police National Computer. No-one will be able to download information and it will not be on PCs on people's desks."

Regular readers won't need reminding of the government's rubbish record of managing the DNA database , the criminal records databases or the complete failure of the prisoner tracking database.

She also said that less than 100 "highly security vetted" people will have direct access to the database - which suggests that not many requests will be made of it, or they'll be working very fast.

Hillier also reminded the Mancs of the penalties for anyone failing to update the register with their correct address, which, really, are all for their own good.

"The penalty charges are really an encouragement to keep info up to date - this only actually affects your address. The main beneficiary of up to date address is the card holder so we don't envisage many people not complying."

Of course, if the biometrics confirm your ID, what's your address got to do with it?

And with that she said, "I'm sorry I can't stay longer - it's been an interesting discussion.®

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