MP's this week backed plans for the introduction of ID cards in England. Tony Blair must have heaved a sigh of relief at this. The vote on ID cards was seen as one of the biggest tests of his authority since becoming Prime Minister. The controversial cards will be linked to a National Database, containing personal details of every citizen living in England, including biometric information. Anyone applying for a new passport in 2 years' time will have to purchase an ID card as well. This is the government's way of gradually introducing the cards until they eventually become compulsory for all English citizens.
Some countries, including Belgium and Portugal already use ID cards. Surprisingly the U.S. isn’t amongst them probably because photo driving licences are so widely used. After September 11th, maybe their country’s government will have a re-think on this too. It could be argued that here in the U.K. we now have photo driving licences too so why the need for ID cards?
Supporters of ID cards stress that they would help in the fight against crime and terrorism. In addition they would help prevent identity fraud, which is currently a growing problem in this country. Only last week there was a story in the press highlighting this. Top British comedian, Harry Hill, had been robbed of thousands of pounds from his building society account due to identity fraud. Anything that prevents this sort of thing happening has to be good for us? But apparently not say the critics.
Some people are wary of the new scheme. Critics say it takes away our civil liberty and gives a sense of “Big Brother is watching”. It reminds me of the sixties tv series, “The Prisoner”, and Patrick McGoohan's famous line, “I am not a number, I am a free man!” Even The Law Society are sceptical saying that the police don’t have problems identifying criminals, just linking them to crimes that have been committed. There is also the money issue and the cost to taxpayers of implementing the new system.