Sunday, June 26, 2005

ID cards 'will not make us safer'

ID cards 'will not make us safer'

Plans for ID cards are in turmoil as the government gears up for Tuesday's vote on the issue, the shadow home secretary David Davis has said.

The cards are "unnecessary, unworkable and unlikely to make our streets and communities safe", he says in the Mail on Sunday newspaper.

But minister Patricia Hewitt said the cabinet had had "lengthy discussions" and it was the right thing to do.

A second reading of the Identity Card Bill is due to take place on Tuesday.

Health minister Mrs Hewitt, a former chairman of the National Council for Civil Liberties, told Sky News the controversial cards could be used to "deal with the growing problem we have got with identity theft and fraudulent use of benefits and other services".

Commons test

The Commons vote comes days after Home Secretary Charles Clarke dismissed claims that the ID cards would cost £300 to buy.

It represents an unhealthy shift in the balance of the relationship between the citizen and the state
David Davis

Tuesday's vote will be first test of MPs' opposition to the bill since it was abandoned before the general election.

Then, 19 Labour MPs rebelled over the issue.

The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have both pledged to vote against the proposals in this parliament.

But BBC political correspondent Reeta Chakrabarti said rebels did not think a government defeat was on the horizon, although they did want to push forward their arguments against the bill.

'Stealth tax'

Continuing in the Mail on Sunday, David Davis said: "In Labour's Britain there is a sense that we are all now guilty until proven innocent.

"As if to reinforce this point, they now want us to carry around a plastic card with our name, address and photo on it so we can prove who we are all at all times.

"This is something which I instinctively oppose. It represents an unhealthy shift in the balance of the relationship between the citizen and the state."

The cost of carrying card was "another stealth tax", he added.

Home Secretary Charles Clarke recently dismissed suggestions the cards could cost as much as £300 - but did concede that the official estimate charge of £93 per card was "merely indicative".

[It will be a] failure of Dome-like proportions, only infinitely bigger
Bob Marshall-Andrews, Labour

The Home Office predicts the total cost of running the scheme, in conjunction with a new biometric passport system, over 10 years would come to £5.8billion.

Mr Davis said the money could be "better spent".

He said: "It would, for example, cost just £26m to introduce proper checks on people entering and leaving the country through our ports.

"That would be a simpler way to achieve some of the objectives for which ministers claim they need ID cards."

'National scandal'

Labour rebel Bob Marshall-Andrews also spoke of MPs' concerns at the proposals, saying there was a "very heavy groundswell of opinion" against the legislation.

He predicted between 20 and 30 Labour MPs would sign up to a rebel amendment to the bill.

Speaking on GMTV's Sunday programme, the MP for Medway said the scheme would be a "failure of Dome-like proportions, only infinitely bigger.

"It is going to be a national scandal," he said.