Wednesday, November 24, 2004

National ID Database to Be Created in the U.K.

National identity database to be created
By David Barrett, PA Home Affairs Correspondent
23 November 2004

The widely-expected Bill to create Home Secretary David Blunkett's compulsory national identity card scheme was announced today.

A Home Office spokesman said a draft Bill published in April will be revised and updated in the light of a public consultation and an inquiry by MPs.

It will create a national secure database designed to hold details of everyone living in Britain.

The database - the biggest IT project ever attempted by the British Government - will store details such as name and address, plus so-called biometrics such as fingerprints.

Mr Blunkett believes the database will make a significant contribution towards tackling illegal immigration and working, identity theft and terrorism.

The card will also stop people using free State services such as the NHS when they are not entitled to do so, he has said.

The identity card will be the first seen in Britain since wartime ID papers were abolished 52 years ago.

Opponents claim the ID card will be a major invasion of personal privacy by the State, and could lead to police and Security Services having access to a wide range of information about individuals.

Mr Blunkett has insisted there will be a robust set of safeguards in the Bill to prevent the database being misused.

The Home Office spokesman said that a new watchdog set up to oversee the scheme will be known as the National Identity Scheme Commissioner.

Ministers have already said the biometric cards will start to be phased in from 2007-8, when everyone applying for a new or renewed passport will have to pay a total of £85 for an ID card as well.

The Bill will provide a power to make the cards compulsory at a later date.

Failing to register will carry a penalty, although Mr Blunkett has said it will not be a criminal offence.

The Bill will cover the whole of the UK.

Protesters against the ID card plans were to have their skin "branded" with bar-codes outside the Houses of Parliament as the Queen's Speech took place.

The "branding" by campaign group NO2ID - actually a rubber stamp rendered in black ink - was to be carried out by a demonstrator wearing a Tony Blair mask.

NO2ID organiser Mark Littlewood said the imagery was designed to symbolise the type of society that would be created the ID cards became law.

He said: "The Government's plans for identity cards represent an enormous threat to privacy and liberty in the UK.

"The creation of a national database, which is bound to grow over time, is the moral equivalent of bar-coding the entire population."