Just when we thought that the Liberal Democrats in coalition had killed off the idea of compulsory ID cards, along comes two former Labour Home Secretaries to try and breath some life into the idea.
As The Times reports, Charles Clarke and Alan Johnson claim that if Theresa May had not abandoned plans to introduce ID cards as home secretary in 2010 then thousands of undocumented British citizens would have had their status regularised. That assertion of course depends on when exactly the Home Office destroyed all the documentation relating to these citizens.
However, attractive as the idea may seem, the civil liberties issue associated with the introduction of biometric ID cards linked to service provision are huge. The downside would include increased stop and search incidents amongst the ethnic minority community. And let’s face it there are other, less intrusive means of enabling British citizens to document their status.
Labour’s proposal for ID cards went much further then just handing people a means of identifying themselves. There was also the huge, expensive and insecure database that would have linked all government information on each individual to the biometric data on the card. It would have enabled an official to instantly download everything the government knew about us just by swiping the card.
And of course, knowing the propensity of government to accumulate information (and to never delete it), in time that swipe could also secure access to medical data, bank accounts, internet history and goodness knows what else. It was Big Brother writ-large.
We should not allow Labour to revive this scheme on the backs of Home Office incompetence about one group of migrants that are legally living here and have citizen status. By all means sort out the documentation, but let’s not undermine people’s privacy at the same time.