The Home Secretary wants ID cards - but he says people won't have to carry them all the time.
Under his favoured scheme everyone would have to apply for an entitlement card which they would then have to brandish to get certain services - healthcare, for example, or benefits.
We're promised we won't suddenly be asked to carry the cards all the time - but then the question arises, what actually is the point of re-resurrecting an idea that seems to pop up and get knocked down every couple of years.
Jeremy Vine spoke to Mr Blunkett at the Home Office and asked him what he hoped to achieve from the consultation exercise.
I want us to have a robust
consultation. I'd like us to come
to the conclusion, but I can't
predict, that we should have a
universal entitlement card which
would replicate the information
on the vehicle licence and passports,
but allow us to use the card for a
whole multiplicity of identifying
And that is what you want?
I would favour that.
Why not come out and argue for it?
Because the Government are putting
forward an intelligent consultation
over a six month period on a
difficult issue, on which we did
not have a manifesto mandate.
We need, not a party-political,
but a sensible, rational debate.
You say it will be universal. If a
person doesn't register for that card,
what happens to them?
Well, under the way in which
we take the census, of course,
people who aren't prepared to
identify their presence are open
to a fine. We would link this
to accepting that if you're in
our country then identifying
yourself correctly is better than
either not identifying yourself and
allowing you to work illegally, for
instance, or to act fraudulently on
someone else's identity, or, of
course, to be misidentified.
There's nothing at all to merit
wrongful identification. There's
everything in favour of being
correctly identified and being able
to use that identity freely and
Yes, but if people say this won't
be compulsory, registering for it
will be compulsory, won't it?
People will be punished if they
We'd expect people to register.
They might not want to!
There's a second option which
is that we have a voluntary card.
You don't have it unless you want
to have it. It would help marginally,
with correct identification.
What if we go with the first option,
what if people don't register?
Well, you have to register if you want
to drive a car. You have to register if
you want a passport. 38 million people
have a driving licence. 44 million,
including some youngsters, have their
own passport. There's nothing new
about registering. All those people do.
There are a few people, not many in
this country, who have neither of
those documents but do need to
identify themselves for access to a
variety of services, usually, at
the moment, in the private sector.
If you want to open a bank account
you need to identify yourselves.
OK, so this is more about entitlement
to those services. It's not, even
though we're in the Home Office,
about combating street crime, for
It would help with organised crime.
It wouldn't help in terms of normal
Is it supposed to?
Well, that was debated seven years
ago and it was a thumbs down. And
it isn't intended to. But organised
ID fraud is actually growing
expediently. It's estimated to be
1.3 billion for identity fraud
alone. In France they're using
technology to have a PIN number.
They've reduced to a sixth of our
level credit card fraud.
Do you really think, Home Secretary,
introducing a new card, however
technologically complex, is it's
going to cut down fraud?
Well, there are two sorts of card. One
is a plastic card that would replace
the driving licence or passport and
be used for a range of
identifications. There's then the
sophisticated smartcard which would
allow people verification wherever
they were of their entitlement to
that service. That technology is
available. It's more sophisticated
and we need to debate it. Alongside
that, of course, is the biometric
techniques for avoiding forgery.
Biometrics, I mean taking the iris
and being able to photograph that,
which is extraordinary difficult,
even for the cleverest forgers.
It's pretty difficult for the
Government to store 60 million
irises, isn't it?
No, it's no more difficult than for
storing our passport photographs.
But you decided to discontinue the
Conservative scheme, which was a
benefit payment card which only
involved 20 million claimants.
That's because it had to be done
separately, because it was only
done for benefit recipients. This
isn't. This is being piggy-backed
on the back of the DVLA in Swansea
and our UK passport agency all of
which already possess both the
information and in the present
guise, a photo. Now, a photo of
your iris is more accurate and
would ensure that fraudulent misuse
could be cut down. Regrettably,
fraudulent misuse and stealing of
our IDs is growing.
The terrorists who struck on
September 11th didn't
fraudulently misuse anyone's
identity, did they? They went under
their own names.
No, there are two issues here. Firstly,
the US are looking rigorously now at
different forms of identification,
including those entering the country
and if we don't do something here in
Europe we're very likely to find
that we'll need visas to get into
the US. Secondly, I've never
pretended, in fact, I went out of
my way to say it wasn't an
anti-terrorism measure. I was asked
this time and time again after 11th
September. I deliberately said this
is not the moment to engage with
something which is much more about
long-term investment in our
entitlement to services and
avoidance of fraud or illegal
working than it is about
The Home Office has slalomed on
it all over the place, hasn't it? The
Home Office select committee in
2000 asked the Home Office about
having a look into this and they just
rejected it out of hand. I've got the
Home Office response. It said it
would carry the potential for fraud.
You would need all these biometric
features which you've mentioned. The
entitlement card has to be produced
for all services. It would risk
being seen as a compulsory identity
card. Have you addressed all that?
Well, I've said it does risk the
misinterpretation of all that. I've
set all that out in the document. I think
they've taken a bad drubbing after
the failed consultation in 1995.
The difference today is not only
that we have the work of the
licensing and passport authorities,
but they're having to introduce
themselves the techniques and
technology to keep up with what's
happening in Europe and the US.
So let's debate now what will be
required in five or ten years' time.
Let's safeguard our interests. Let's
have a rational debate, rather than
one in a terrible hurry on the back
of recognising we've missed the boat
or made a mistake. I hope people take
it in that spirit.
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