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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 3 July, 2002, 10:08 GMT 11:08 UK
Should Britain introduce ID cards?
Home Secretary David Blunkett faces opposition from his own backbenchers over plans to introduce entitlement cards for benefit claimants.

A senior Labour backbencher David Winnick warned that there would be widespread political opposition to the card which many fear could lead to the compulsory identity card for everyone.

Civil liberties groups have always resisted the idea of compulsory ID cards, which they see as an infringement of personal privacy.

Would ID cards for everyone be a workable policy? Are they an encroachment on people's privacy?


This debate is now closed. See below for a selection of your comments.

I'm much more concerned about widespread government snooping on e-mail and telephone usage

Dermot Dobson, UK
I already have to carry an identity card when I leave the country - a passport - and I don't consider an inland ID card to be a significant extra encroachment on my privacy. I'm much more concerned about widespread government snooping on e-mail and telephone usage.
Dermot Dobson, UK

Are we becoming a big brother state? Everything we do today in one form or other is tracked by the government or other organisations. Whether you have a store loyalty card or a credit card it is all one big conspiracy to keep tabs on all of us. Having an ID card will be just another nail in the coffin of liberty for all citizens of the UK.
Mark, UK

Once I was completely against the (whole stupid) idea but after spending two years in Sweden I am now a convert. The benefits outweigh the advantages. If you have done nothing wrong you have nothing to worry about. They are also useful as ID for other things too.
Pete, London, UK


The authorities already know everything about you

PAS, UK
Yes, ID cards should be introduced into the UK. If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear! And so you carry a card around with your picture on it - so what! The authorities already know everything about you.
PAS, UK

I am fundamentally opposed to ID cards on the principle that I do not want my government to have yet more draconian power over my life.
Andrew, UK

In Canada we have ID cards, for medical services, and for Senior Citizens. I cannot understand why people in the UK are so much against the idea. After all, what else is your driving licence other than an ID card?
Robert Conway, Canada

What is the use of ID cards? In the US everyone has a driver's license but people still make fake ones. Carry an ID card for what? People will always make fake ones.
Layla, UK/USA


A nice idea in theory

Graham, UK
I lived for ten years in Brazil, where ID cards are compulsory. I never felt it infringed on my liberties - apart from being a nuisance to remember to carry it - but I also never got the impression that criminals were inhibited by it. They either buy a fake or steal someone else's. Also, the bureaucracy for a law-abiding citizen who loses it (or has it stolen) is horrendous, as I'm sure it would be here. A nice idea in theory, but in practice a waste of time.
Graham, UK

It never ceases to amaze me how people in the UK acquiesce to state control. It is a myth that the UK is a free society, when there is already so much surveillance and restriction. Perhaps the introduction of formal ID cards might wake people up to the fact that they are not as free as they think.
Alan Mehew, Thailand (ex UK)

Everyone's missing the point here. ID cards aren't dangerous, the central database behind them, controlled by the government is the problem. They are different from passports and photo driving licences because we will be expected to carry them at all times and because of the data which they give the government access to.
Alex, UK


The implication that I need to carry proof of identity simply to stroll down the street is insulting

Jim Tackett, USA
My objection to mandatory ID cards is the implication that our identity is granted to us by the government. The implication that I need to carry proof of identity simply to stroll down the street to buy a loaf of bread is not only dangerous in principal as a matter of privacy, I find it personally insulting.
Jim Tackett, USA

Every time I use my debit card a record is made of when and where I was at that time. Every time I use my mobile phone and my phone at home, a record of the calls are kept. I drive through areas with CCTV and my car registration number can be recorded. I log on to the internet and my every move is registered. So the fact that I might be expected to carry an ID card with me doesn't phase me at all. Is it an invasion of privacy? What privacy!
Philip, England

The point being missed here is that a centralised ID card system represents a lot more than another NI card, driving licence or suchlike. The entire ethos of introducing a closed membership system to a constituency with details collated and kept in database is against human freedoms. Saying you have nothing to hide is ultimately worthless when the same group who holds your information sets the agenda.

A government system profitable for anything from corporate targeting to entrapment and underhand surveillance is not something they have either the need for or the trust of the populace to introduce, and no moral panic over muggers, 'terrorists' or people who apparently aren't worthy of living on our land should surpass this infraction of our human rights. "Those who give over a little safety for freedom deserve neither safety nor freedom" - Franklin. Government is a tool to serve the people, not the reverse.
Phil M, England

I suspect Phil M has been watching far too many episodes of the X Files. We do not, contrary to what he clearly believes, live in a conspiratorial society. While genuine mistakes do take place in essence we live in a just, fair and decent society. The introduction of ID cards has no more curtailed the freedoms of our European neighbours than it would us. If ID cards help, in anyway, to defeat crime and curtail illegal economic immigration then it is a good thing and should be applauded by all right minded adults. I have lived in Eastern Europe for the last three years, in Moscow and Warsaw, and have carried my passport with me at all times as formal identification. I have never felt that doing so was an impediment of my freedoms.
Chris McGeachin, UK

In Mexico, we use ID cards. It works great, and we do not feel that it threatens our democratic rights at all.
Eugenio Marroquín, Mexico

As a weapon against terrorism or illegal residents the cards pose no more of a deterrent to such individuals. I think the blurb about terrorism is meant to drum up support for the idea of the card, as in today's climate people are quick to jump behind all measures that claim to attack terrorism or illegal asylum seekers and the government knows this. A much better marketing strategy would be to highlight the usefulness of having such a card. All the information currently stored on random cards and in books can be accumulated and stored centrally making modern life a lot easier. It's a good idea, simply marketed badly.
Andrew, Germany (UK Citizen)

I am a UK citizen living in Spain. Here you have to carry your passport or some form of photo identification with you at all times. The advantages far outweigh the cons as most places want some form of ID when you pay by credit card.
Clive L, Spain

ID cards are a fact of life in many Asian countries and if recent events force us to consider the introduction of ID cards for all, we may have to accept it.
Vijay K Vijayaratnam, UK


Those with nothing to hide will not fear an ID card

Stephen McQuillan, NI
Here, in Northern Ireland, we have had a photograph on Driving licenses for years. I was very surprised to learn that the UK mainland has no requirement for photographic ID on driving licenses. This must impact accident insurance. As many have already said, those with nothing to hide will not fear an ID card.
Stephen McQuillan, NI

I couldn't care less if ID cards are brought in or not. As soon as I receive mine I shall destroy it, I'll never carry one, no matter what the law says....
Simon Soaper, England

I can't see a problem with an ID card. How would it be any different to a passport? Which most people have voluntarily anyway. It would more convenient, in that it would fit easily in your purse/wallet and aid in proof of identity and age in countless situations.
Emma, England

In Norway we have a 11 digit 'ID' number with the first 6 digits being your date of birth. My employer/tax man/social security/pensions/ insurance companies/local council/driving licence/passport etc all use it and the police have access to it. You need it to open a bank account. The number is on my bank/credit cards as is my photo. It does not bother me at all. It is an effective ID. It is maybe a bit over the top, but it does not seem to bother Norwegians.
Justin, Norway

I don't have to carry my driving license/passport with me at all times or risk a fine. Leave me alone, if I'm not doing anything wrong you don't need to tag me. It isn't necessary and those who want to get round it will. Fake ids may well make it easier to obtain benefit by fraud rather than harder.
AK, UK

I am still in possession of my ID card which was issued in 1942 and shows my name, address and National Health No. I fail to see why anyone would object to an ID card, surely it would make life simpler in the long run.
Jan, England


The idea that this will help the fight against terrorists is absurd

Graham, UK
One remarkable thing for me is that I find myself agreeing with Peter Lilley. The cards are not only an imposition upon the individual by the state, they also completely fail to produce any meaningful results. As Lilley has pointed out the police have said that identifying people is not their problem. The idea that this will help the fight against terrorists is absurd. The saddest thing is that the Labour Party is introducing a scheme that will inevitably criminalise the poor far more than it will impinge upon the middle classes.
Graham, UK

If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear. Only criminals and benefit fraudsters can oppose this move surely. I carry my new credit card style driving licence as handy ID with me everywhere, so I suppose another ID card would be superfluous. However, not everyone has a driving licence, so I would support this as a common sense move.
Jon Cooper, UK

I've been unemployed since February and claiming benefit. I have lost count of the number of job applications I have had to state whether I'm legally allowed to work in the UK. At interviews I have to present my passport and a passport photo for identification at later stages. Oh how much easier it would be to present an ID card!
John Knight, England.

Fakes will be available within days. People will claim they lost them, change their name, lie whatever. It's a waste of money.
Tom, UK

I would welcome an ID Card so long as it can be used in combination with NI Number, Driving, NHS number, Blood Group and can be used as proof of address. Unless you have something to hide what is the problem. Come on how many times have you been asked to produce 3 types of id to open a bank account apply for loans etc the card could be the answer to this problem. This would also help curb illegal immigrants. However the Government should not expect us to pay for these cards as we do for the Picture Driving licence, after all it is for their benefit and people do not like paying for these things.
Vince S, United Kingdom

Why? There has never been a time in Human history where it's been this easy to track and regulate people. You (and most everyone in the 1'st world) have a multitude of cards (passport, drivers license, etc) and monitoring devices already, there is no need for yet another encroachment of a individual's freedom and privacy. The very concepts of freedom and privacy are what need reinforcement at this time, not ever more Orwellian nonsense.
Stephen Kenney, USA


Most European countries seem quite satisfied with them yet a vocal few in the UK see it as something to be feared

Neil, UK

ID cards work everywhere else in Europe; also we already have multiple forms of ID in the UK . I would have no problem with being issued with an ID Card. Most European countries seem quite satisfied with them yet a vocal few in the UK see it as something to be feared.
Neil, UK

I have been opposed to ID cards for some time but recent changes in our society (street crime, fraud and, dare I say it, illegal immigrants) make me think that they should now be introduced. However they should be universal and not aimed at one particular section, such as benefit recipients. Also, the information recorded on them should be the basics of a person's identity, not extended information in coded form etc.
Paul B, Oxfordshire, UK

Everyone in Europe has ID cards and the issue doesn't seem to cause too much consternation so what's the problem. Oh sorry, we live in Britain where do-gooders and so called civil liberty groups carry such sway.
Ian C, UK

I'm all for ID cards. I had one as a student, and now I have one for work. They can put my fingerprint, a DNA sample and my inside leg measurement on it for all I care. I'm not sure I'd want to work with, or live next to anyone who resisted having one, quite frankly.
Richard, UK

I for one will strongly resist any such card. You don't have to be a criminal to value your privacy. I don't want Big Blunkett watching me.
Trevor Mendham, England

What is at issue here isn't the carriage of photographic I.D; the obvious concern is the personal details which can be encrypted thereon which can then be accessed by anybody with the will to do so. If the I.D. consisted of a piece of laminated cardboard with a photograph, name, date of birth, blood group and any drug allergies on it ( I.E. details which could save my life in the event of an accident ), I wouldn't have a problem with it. Any other data stored on the card, printed or otherwise, would make me question why the government deemed it necessary to include such information. It would appear that George Orwell was spot on when he wrote 1984; he was just a little inaccurate with his dates.
Chris B, England


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Background/analysis
 VOTE RESULTS
Should Britain introduce ID cards?

Yes
 56.60% 

No
 43.40% 

2470 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

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