Monday, 8 February 2010

ID Cards - Young Elmbridge-ites Have their Say

Last week, the Elmbridge Guardian reported the government's surreptitious extension of ID cards to Surrey by stealth. Home Office Minister Meg Hillier responded to widespread criticism with a mix of spin, bluff and bluster.

It is fascinating to see how the justifications for ID cards keep changing. A week ago I posted comment, setting out the principal objections to ID cards: they are intrusive, ineffective and expensive. On Sunday, I put the case against ID cards to the Minister on the BBC Politics Show, which you can watch here (from 33mins).

In the face of overwhelming criticism, the government has all but given up suggesting ID cards can make us safer, by combating crime, terrorism or illegal immigration. Now instead, it claims that ID cards can help us access services - from applying for a job or getting into a night club to travelling. None of these claims stack up - young adults have no problem proving their age or identity, and we already have passports for travel. The flaws in the scheme were highlighted when a man applying to open a bank account with his new ID card in Manchester was refused - because the bank didn't accept ID cards as proof of, err, id.

Meg Hillier dismissed as 'nonsense' the suggestion that the government is introducing the scheme by stealth. Judge for yourself. The dedicated Home Office website explains the roll out will cover London and the North West, but makes no mention of Surrey. Yet the Home Office order that brought the scheme into force lists a range of Surrey post codes - from Thames Ditton and Molesey to Staines. The Minister claims ID cards are 'entirely voluntary'. But, as she was forced to concede on the Politics Show, eventually you will not be able to renew your passport unless you subscribe. And, once on the national identity register, you can't get off it - and face a fine of up to £1,000 if you don't keep all of your personal details constantly updated.

So, on Friday, I went down to Thames Ditton and Molesey to hear for myself what young adults make of this 'deal'. Here's what I found !


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