Saturday, January 21, 2006

Creeping Compulsion

We will introduce ID cards, including biometric data like fingerprints, backed up by a national register and rolling out initially on a voluntary basis as people renew their passports.
- Labour Party manifesto 2005
It's a cliche but sometimes you wonder whether New Labour have already complied their own Newspeak dictionary.
Voluntary (adj.)
Done or undertaken of one's own the government's free will
Anyone who needs to travel oversees as part of their paid employment would certainly have difficult with the suggestion that applying for a passport is a voluntary decision.

But the real worry in the manifesto commitment is the use of the word "initially". The government's strategy has been clear for quite some time. The first step was to sell this as a voluntary scheme even though it's clear to anyone with two brains cells to rub together that a voluntary ID card scheme cannot possibly even begin to deliver any of the alleged benefits which have been attached to it.

It was obvious from the start that this was a first step on the road to compulsion. It was obvious that the government were deliberately downplaying the idea of compulsion in order to establish the idea of a national identity register while intentionally not explaining that you would have to be forced to register, law abiding citizen or not, if the scheme was to have any useful purpose. It was obvious that this was yet another example of the Blair government displaying a total lack of respect for the intelligence of the people of this country.

Worryingly, it appears that the government now believe that they have "moved the debate on" to the extent that they can openly start to discuss forcing people to register.
The question is should you require - and I think ultimately, unless there is compulsion, you won't get the benefits of an ID card system - is it right to compel those that don't have a passport also to get an ID card? I think it is, I think it will become inevitable that you need reliable means of identification, both to stop people stealing your identity, and also making it much, much easier for you to deal with the state. You won't every time you want to change something have to fill in a long form, life will just become much easier.

I think the government takes the view that to get the full benefits they will ultimately have to become compulsory."
- Lord Falconer, 20/01/06
This will need a vote in parliament. Falconer is the first to start the softening up exercise.

The government will, of course, wait until the register is already up and running and costing money before they actually put this to the vote - "Look, what I'm saying is, we have this system in place, and it is simply common sense to make the best possible use of it in order to protect the citizens of this country".

I'm on this list.* Are you?

* Strictly speaking, I'm not. I'm one of the 11,000+ people on the earlier pledge.

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