Identity card pilot scheme mocked by MPs

May 20, 2009 at 9:53 am Leave a comment

idcardgraph

Proposed dates for introduction of ID cards in the UK

by Lawrence Dunhill

Jacqui Smith came under fire in the Commons on Monday as MPs mocked her voluntary ID card pilot scheme.

The £30 cards are set to be introduced in Manchester this autumn.

Lib Dem MP John Leech (Manchester Withington) thanked the Home Secretary for keeping a straight face while predicting the cards would become popular in the city.

He added: “How low does the take-up need to be before the Government realise that they have very little support and that the ID cards scheme is a complete waste of money?”

Ms Smith countered: “Research consistently shows that about 60 per cent of the British public support the scheme and less than 25 per cent disagree.

“People will have the opportunity…to get the security and convenience that comes from being able to prove their identity far more securely than they can now.”

Labour MP David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire) expressed concern about the scheme’s cost and for those people already signed up for the cards.

“The cost of identity cards has surged by a further quarter of a billion pounds to the present figure of £5.3 billion,” he said.

“Does the Home Secretary believe there is a risk that the Manchester citizens who signed up for the card—no doubt in the fiction section of the central library, while having a continental breakfast—have signed away their privacy for life and given a blank cheque to this and, perhaps, future Governments?”

Ms Smith would not alter her tone: “I know that my hon. Friend would not want the facts to get in the way of an amusing question. He is wrong: the costs have not increased in the way in which he suggests.”

Tory MP Sir Patrick Cormack took up the attack.

“Can the Home Secretary not acknowledge that, whatever the precise cost, it is an enormous one, and that the scheme is never going to happen because no sane Government will pursue it? So why does she not chuck it?”

The Home Secretary gave another sigh at the line of questioning.

She said: “There are already people in this country who have identity cards in their hands and in their wallets.

“We have already issued 30,000 identity cards to foreign nationals, and by November this year that figure will be 75,000. The hon. Gentleman might want to wish the scheme away, but it exists in this country now.

“The idea that there are large sums of money to be saved by doing away with the scheme is completely fallacious.”

Finally the shadow minister for immigration, Damian Green (Ashford), stepped up to Tory cheers.

“With every month that passes, it becomes clearer that the ID card scheme will never be introduced,” he said.

“There are billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money at stake, so will she pledge today to publish the details of those contracts (already signed up to create the system) and the break clauses in them, to remove any suspicion that she is trying to tie the hands of her successors and land the British taxpayer with a huge and unnecessary bill for a discredited policy?”

Ms Smith gave a barbed riposte: “I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is not proposing that I put commercially confidential information into the public domain—leak it, perhaps?”

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