The government has announced the end of ID cards in the Queen’s speech, but those who have bought a card will not get a refund
People who paid for a UK identity card will not be given a refund after the scheme is repealed, even though the cards will be invalidated, according to measures announced today in the Queen’s Speech.
Opening the new session of parliament, the Queen gave a list of measures including the Identity Documents Bill, which will result in the scrapping of ID cards and the planned National Identity Register.
This will be one of the first three pieces of legislation passed by the coalition government, and gives a boost to the Liberal Democrats’ civil liberties agenda, within the plans of the coalition government.
However, a spokesperson for the Identity and Passport Service has confirmed that current card holders will not be offered refunds. “We have always been clear that ID cards represent an unnecessary intrusion into the privacy of the individual,” the spokesperson told V3. “The government is introducing legislation aimed at reversing such an erosion of civil liberties and this will be done at the lowest possible cost to the taxpayer.”
Out of pocket
It is estimated that roughly 13,000 people in the UK have paid for ID cards since the scheme launched last year. The previous government launched pilots in Manchester in November 2009 and in London in January 2010, but support for the scheme has remained limited. The cards cost £30 – considerably cheaper than an adult passport, which can be purchased for £77.50.
The Conservative Party previously promised to issue refunds for the cards, but the government is now expected to say that it cannot afford the estimated £500,000 cost of administering refunds at a time when it is announcing £6 billion of cuts. However, following today’s announcement, the Home Office will still face the difficult challenge of disentangling the ID card scheme from the passport system.
According to the Telegraph, officials now admit that a net saving of only £86 million will be made over the next four years from scrapping ID cards, as the bulk of the scheme’s costs would have been recouped through the £30 charge. This saving makes a relatively small dent in the government’s planned £6.25 billion spending cuts this year, which also include the closing of Becta – the government agency promoting the use of technology in education.
Also in the Queen’s speech is the Freedom Bill, intended to curb the surveillance state by limiting the use of CCTV and of DNA databases and other identity registers. Both the Tory and Liberal Democrat parties have supported the rolling back state intrusion, and other projects such as the Interception Modernisation Programme are likely to be reviewed the the coming months.
The government’s emphasis on the need to protect civil liberties has been welcomed by human rights organisations including Liberty and Amnesty International. “Repairing the UK’s reputation as a champion of justice and fairness, both at home and abroad, must be a priority,” said Amnesty International UK campaigns director Tim Hancock earlier this month.