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Wednesday, January 18, 2006 

More on ID cards: Poor old Blair just can't get a break.

Now he's even got his mirror image attacking him over the scheme. Granted, David Davis had enough intelligence to originally oppose the highly-illiberal, huge costing and unnecessary pieces of plastic, but it must hurt to be attacked by someone who's so clearly in love with nearly everything about you:

Plans to introduce identity cards risk ending up as a "monument to the failure of big government", Conservative leader David Cameron has warned.

His comments, during prime minister's questions, follow a report which estimates they will cost £14.5bn.

The prime minister said they were needed to fight identity fraud and illegal immigration.

Mr Cameron asked: "With rising deficits in the NHS, huge costs of pension reform and tighter pressures on public spending, how can you claim that spending at least £600m a year on your ID cards scheme is a good use of public money?"

Identity cards are already known to be hopeless in tackling illegal immigration, as has been shown in Spain. As for identity fraud, once the cards are forged, and they will be, it will be even more difficult for those who find themselves victims to put things right. Still, at least Blair is no longer pretending that they will prevent terrorism.

It doesn't stop with Cameron. More bad news for the government as yet another report savages the government's plans and points out that those bidding to run the IT scheme behind the cards have been involved in previous fiascoes:

Corporate Watch, a Quaker-funded research group in Oxford, says that some of the companies now being consulted by the government about possible involvement "have previously overseen disasters in public sector IT work". They included the US giant EDS, BT Global Services and PA Consulting. "While companies involved in these projects must take some of the blame it would be a mistake to ignore the role of poor planning and mismanagement by government departments," the group's report states.

It blames huge, over-complex schemes that fail to deliver promised benefits. Acknowledging months of controversy over the civil liberty and cost implications of the scheme, due to start in 2008, Corporate Watch says "relatively little attention seems to have been paid to the significant practical problems of implementing ID cards and the National Identity Register", which will eventually hold data on all 60 million UK biometric identities.

Ministers are adamant that their critics have mixed motives, including a gut hostility to ID cards, which they say are inevitable in an era of identity fraud, global crime and terrorism - not least because biometric passports will be introduced this year.

In other words, ministers are tarring the opposition with the same brush: the same people who are always against everything. It's the same tactic they used when trying to push through the 90-days legislation, and when trying to get support for the Iraq war. The reality is that the government has failed to explain how they will help in the fight against all three of those things mentioned in the report, and their case isn't helped when the former head of MI5 says they would be useless in the fight against terrorism. Again, they return to the false argument that because biometric passports are being introduced ID cards also should be - despite the EU leaving the decision to individual nation states. As the Guardian leader points out, the government has to make its case that they are needed on the grounds of necessity and practicality; and neither case has been made.

This government has shown time and again that civil liberties are not there to be respected, but to be tampered with and restricted, and ID cards will do exactly that. That's why they are so desperate to pass them onto the statute book. Expect before long to hear Blair arguing that the police say that they are needed as justification.

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