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A Question of Identity

Following the murder of a Manchester Police officer during an ant-terrorist arrest yesterday, I wonder how many people would be in favour of 'All' asylum seekers and refugees carrying identity cards from tomorrow morning or risk immediate imprisonment or deportation. It's an emotional issue at a time of public risk and the privacy lobby - the thin line of protest and debate between us and the Home Office - have their own view on what should and should not be done as regards the question of entitlement or Identity cards. What do you think? Read on....

David Blunkett gave a keynote speech on his proposed entitlement/identity cards today - but once again conspicuously failed to explain what exactly the proposed £1.6 billion cards would be for.

He did, though, concede that "people need more information", and are "hungry for knowledge" on the implications and practicalities of cards and for the answer to the simple question, "what's the Government up to?". Those questions arose from the Government's focus groups - and, from Mr Blunkett's acknowledgement that members of the Cabinet have "different views" on ID cards, are presumably being raised there too. But the wider public still aren't being told the answers.

The Home Office has rejected the idea of holding open public meetings - despite Mr Blunkett implying the contrary today - and has organised none. In fact, the only public meeting held on this issue before today was organised by Privacy International, Liberty and FIPR.

Simon Davies, director of Privacy International, says: "Mr Blunkett concedes that the Cabinet is split. "He may not be listening to public opinion, but clearly some in the Cabinet are. Responses to the consultation are now running at least four-to-one against the Government's proposals".

Simon Davies

Ian Brown, director of the Foundation for Information Policy Research (FIPR), says: "The Home Secretary is still casting about for problems to justify this expensive and increasingly unpopular initiative. He has, though, admitted that ethnic minorities will quickly have to carry the card to produce when stopped by the police".

Mark Littlewood, campaigns director of Liberty, says: "The government should ditch its ID card plan. The more people hear about David Blunkett's scheme, the less they like it. Billions of pounds spent so the government can snoop on innocent British citizens is money wasted. If the Home Secretary goes ahead with this ludicrous proposal, he will face trenchant opposition from across the political spectrum. The time has come to call a halt".

Mr Blunkett was speaking at the Information Commissioner's conference in London today.


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