Wednesday, February 16, 2005

ID Cards: Law by the Back Door

Lib Dem blogger-MP Richard Allan has sounded the alarm on a serious possibility that might get the ID Cards Bill into law without a full debate through the Lords. The government has already demonstrated its willingness to push through the Bill by applying a guillotine to all the Commons stages, shortening the available time for debate and line-by-line scrutiny. Surely, a little more of the aforementioned scrutiny might have picked out horrors like Section 6, the clause that permits the government to discriminate between different "specified groups" of citizens and force them to have (or not have) IDs - and the explicit exclusion of such people from the provision supposed to guarantee that no-one will be denied NHS treatment (for example) if they don't have an ID card. Or maybe, had there been a little more time, the MPs might have spotted the clause that gives the Home Secretary the right to NOT correct the identity database even if it is proved to be wrong and he or she accepts that! Perhaps someone might have raised the questions of safeguards against unauthorised access to the data, the transfer of data to other countries or organisations, the enormous cost of the scheme, or the likely IT procurement fiasco.

Or perhaps, given the chance, our representatives would have wasted it and sheeped off for another very long lunch at the Cinnamon Club. But we'll never know.

Allan points out that there is now the possibility of the Bill being passed under the wash-up procedure, which permits Bills that have not completed the legislative process at the end of a Parliament to become law if they have the "support" of both houses. This means it would skip much of the Lords stage and dodge a final vote.

So, if you haven't already, would you consider heading off to WriteToThem and make it clear that this is not going to happen? Talking points: it's not the card it's the database; it won't do anything against card-not-present fraud, the biggest category of identity crime; it will only help fight terrorism if the terrorists are polite enough to register with their real names; it certainly will record every time and place the card is checked, monitoring everyone's movements; all other government IT projects are disastrous so why not this one?;why can't they say how much it will cost?; what about Section 6?

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