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EDITIONS
Thursday, 4 July, 2002, 05:38 GMT 06:38 UK
Blunkett backs ID card plan
ID card and David Blunkett
Everyone in the UK could be issued with a form of identity card, if proposals floated by Home Secretary David Blunkett become law.

Introducing a six-month consultation period, he said he favoured the introduction of so-called entitlement cards.

ID options
Compulsory to have card, but voluntary to carry it
Voluntary scheme
Scheme targeted at particular groups
Whether each should have a unique personal number.
Should number be National Insurance or new one?
The move could herald the first ID scheme in the UK since wartime identity documents were abandoned over 50 years ago.

Conservative home affairs spokesman Oliver Letwin said his party would not object to a strictly defined benefit entitlement card.

He suggested, however, that Mr Blunkett's statement was full of "obscurity and spin".

For the Liberal Democrats, Simon Hughes said he had no objection to a debate on the issue but added that his party had in the past come to the conclusion it was a bad idea.

Opposition lines up

Opponents of ID cards, ranging from civil liberty groups to MPs from each of the main parties, attacked the plans for benefits "entitlement cards" even before they were published.

The home secretary acknowledged there was always a "danger of bureaucracy" with such schemes.

But he insisted that by bringing existing identification together such as driving licences and new passport cards the system could be made efficient - even self-financing.


Since 1952 we have managed successfully in peacetime conditions not to have such a decision

David Winnick
Mr Blunkett faced a barrage of opposition after suggesting ID cards in the wake of 11 September.

Ministers say they are neutral about the idea and want to hear the public's opinions.

But Mr Blunkett said: "I am not going to disguise my own enthusiasm for an entitlement card system."

The consultation will allow the government to test the appetite for the new cards and try to come up with a way to meet critics' concerns.

The Superintendents' Association and the Police Federation have already said the scheme would help them do their jobs.

Home Secretary David Blunkett
David Blunkett wants consultation exercise

An Association of Chief Police Officers' spokesman, Staffordshire Chief Constable Roger Baker, welcomed the proposals.

While John Abbott, director general of the National Criminal Intelligence Service, said: "An entitlement card could have a major impact in the prevention of certain areas of organised crime - e.g. widespread benefits fraud."

But a spokeswoman for democracy campaign group Charter 88 said: "We should not need to carry a card and have our privacy infringed in order to affirm our right as citizens to have use of public services like education and health care."

The director of civil rights organisation Liberty, John Wadham, said: "ID cards make us suspects not citizens; that's why all innocent citizens should oppose them."

Mr Blunkett outlined to MPs a series of situations in which he believed the cards would prove useful.

He said they could provide "a simple, straightforward and verifiable way to establishing the right to work legally".

Rejection is 'ridiculous'

Former Conservative cabinet minister Peter Lilley has pointed out that he considered the idea in the 1990s but rejected it after police said it would not help them.

Oliver Letwin, Conservative shadow home secretary
Letwin says ministers are trying to nationalise police forces
David Winnick, Labour member of the Commons home affairs select committee, said: "Since 1952 we have managed successfully in peacetime conditions not to have such a decision.

"If the government insists, it will carry the day but I think there will be quite a lot of opposition from all parties."

The "entitlement" cards would be used to clamp down on fraud by checking rights to receive NHS treatment, education and state benefits.

Logistical difficulties

Mr Blunkett said it would not be compulsory to carry the card - something critics say would render the scheme pointless.

Computerised cards could store a photograph, fingerprints and personal information including name and address.

Basic plastic cards would cost 1.3bn, with the bill for cards able to hold data like fingerprints and iris patterns put at 3.1bn.

Chris Mullin, chairman of the Commons home affairs select committee, said he was not ideologically opposed to the idea but ministers had to show it was worth spending that money.

The Child Poverty Action Group has warned that any moves towards ID cards for people claiming welfare benefits singled out the most vulnerable.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Margaret Gilmore
"Ministers believe it can be highly effective in fighting fraud"
Home Secretary David Blunkett
"We would welcome views on a universal entitlement card"
Karen Bartlett, Charter 88
"People are not going to be fooled"

Talking PointFORUM
ID cards
The experts answered your questions
 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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03 Jul 02 | UK Politics
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