The governement’s controversial ID card scheme is rolling on, despite opposition party plans to scrap it all together if they gain power at the next election
The government’s controversial ID Card scheme has been extended to young people in London despite concerns from privacy activists and commitments by the opposition to abandon the project in the event of an election win later this year.
The government announced this week that after being launched in Greater Manchester and the North West, the £30 cards are being made available to young people in London. The chief selling point touted for the plastic cards is that they provide a more compact form of ID than the traditional passport for travelling in Europe or getting into bars or clubs.
“Young people across the capital buying alcohol, computer games and DVDs, going to the cinema or to a club, know how important it is to have a recognised proof of identity which is easy to carry.
Research by the Identity and Passport Service shows that over half of lost and stolen passports belong to people under 30, and a tenth of those are lost by people using them as ID on a night out,” the government states. “As an ID card fits snugly into a wallet, it should help avoid the card becoming lost.”
Identity Minister Meg Hillier has authorised anyone aged 16 to 24 who lives in London, and holds a current or recently expired British passport, to apply for a National Identity Card from 8 February 2010.
Commenting on the news, Richard Hurley, communications manager at CIFAS the UK’s Fraud Prevention Service said ID cards will be another “tool in the toolbox” in the fight to prevent fraud. “In time, when everyone has a National Identity Card, it may well become the ‘Gold Standard’ for establishing an individual’s identity,” he said. “It may eventually replace all other documents for this purpose, and be relied upon as the sole proof of identity, but this will depend on the level of public and corporate confidence in the National Identity Card.”
But despite the government’s attempts to tout the benefits of the ID card, privacy experts and the Conservative opposition remain opposed to the technology and the database underpinning it.
“We will scrap the ID cards scheme, and use some of the savings to build more prison places, provide more drug rehabilitation for those in custody and create a dedicated Border Police Force,” the Conservatives state on a web page detailing their opposition to the scheme.
The opposition party in particular questions the UK government’s ability to manage the large and complex database associated with the card project. “The introduction of ID cards will see almost 30 separate pieces of personal information about you – including your name, date of birth, previous addresses, photograph, signature, fingerprints and other biometric details – stored in one place,” the Tories state. “The potential for another data loss disaster is huge – and that is why it’s vital that everyone who is opposed to ID cards joins our campaign today.
The ID cards scheme was one of the government IT projects identified by a recent investigation by The Independent newspaper, which stated that so-called “botched” computer systems had cost the UK taxpayer over £26 billion. “The £5 billion National Identity Scheme which was originally budgeted at £3 billion but costs have risen as opposition continues. The scheme now looks to be a dead duck after the Tories pledged to scrap it, and last July the Government said the ID cards would no longer be compulsory,” the article stated.