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ID cards, a necessary evil?

Manchester has pioneered the way with a voluntary £30 identity card scheme: but should we even be contemplating ID cards?

Published on May 8th 2009.

ID cards, a necessary evil?
Yes: - 46%
No: - 54%

Whatever the supposed benefits of Britain adopting identity cards, they certainly divide the nation. As usual Manchester is at the forefront of the debate. This week it was announced that Manchester would trial a voluntary £30 identity card scheme (or possibly £60 when the price of data collection is included).

But should we even be contemplating ID cards?

Those who support the idea, including Gordon Brown’s creaking government, talk about improving national and personal security. They say that in making the most of biometric data on a single card, we can help prevent the bad boys of terror and even the run-of-the-mill crims from doing much of their dirty work.

In particular ID cards will be good for us, the pro-voters say, in preventing identity theft whilst also making benefit fraud much harder.

Others argue that ID cards are stupid and morally indefensible. This argument goes that they are an assault on people’s liberty both symbolically and practically. They are a denial of virtues held to be British for centuries, a step too far in a nation already groaning under the weight of CCTV.

Part of the UK’s self-image is that we, unlike other nations, do not have ID cards, that we walk our streets without having to prove to anyone who we are. Dated though this idea may be in the age of having to show utility bills to get bank accounts it still carries weight. Historically ID cards have only been for wartime and we are emphatically not in a wartime situation.

At the same time there is nothing to guarantee that criminals and terrorists won’t find ways of sidestepping the legislation, there is no guarantee that for the billions spent an effective block can be placed in the way of determined terrorists. In which case there appears no justification for the cards unless it’s all about government being intrusive, wanting to worm its way into every crevice of our life. Some argue the government might even use our identity for commercial gain to sell on data to businesses who might be interested.

Is this you?

Perhaps the most telling criticism is a practical one, and also one of timing. The price of the ID card scheme is estimated to be £5bn and we all know what happens to government cost predictions on vast schemes such as this.

As Graham Stringer, MP, and Confidential columnist, told this website: “In the present economic climate there are better ways to spend the money. Let me say that I voted for the card but the recession has shifted the argument; there are other priorities. This money should be spent on education, training and health. I have always been concerned given the previous record in these areas whether a database as big as this would work effectively. The risk, given the recession, is no long worth it, the money should be spent on what can improve the situation, not what might do."

A further question specific to the Manchester scheme is why would anyone volunteer to pay up to £60 for an ID card when they've paid for a passport, a driving licence and so forth? By force is one way. Already there are stories of airport authorities coercing staff to take up the card on the government's behest, so these people may have to 'volunteer'. But for the rest of Greater Manchester if we voted 5-1 against paying the 'tax' of a congestion charge, which may have delivered tangible benefits, why on earth would anybody volunteer to pay a £60 'tax' for this?

Do you agree with Britain adopting ID cards? Vote yes or no on the Homepage.

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52 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Tom HilesMay 8th 2009.

The local no2id group is active and welcomes new participants: http://manchester.no2id.net/ - monthly meetings in the city centre.

esquiloMay 8th 2009.

"Manchester has pioneered the way". No, Manchester has been dumped on / coerced to / whatever to deal with the inevitable failure of this stupid idea. Do we, residents of one of the most forwarding thinking of all cities, a city that helped repeal the corn laws and gain suffrage not just for women but all of us, that was prepared to starve to aid the abolition of slavery in the USA, really want to be remembered as the breeding ground of a (voluntary-for-now) piece of plastic that all people could be obliged to carry and forced to produce. No chance. As a Labour supporter of long standing, for this alone, perhaps the time has come for our dream to go back in the drawer and accept a new administration. To our politican friends: When you stop looking for ways to improve our lives and instead seek to control us ever further, your professed desire to serve your country has deserted you. Claim what expenses you can for now and prefer for redundancy.

esquiloMay 8th 2009.

doh "Prepare"

CastlefieldMay 8th 2009.

This is because we voted no for the congestion charge isn't it.

AnonymousMay 8th 2009.

A voluntary scheme that costs £30 to take part in and yet has no benefits simply will not get any signups - regardless of how screwed up an idea it it in the first place. What we need to do is look to anyone that actually takes part, and ask ourselves why. Be very suspicious of anyone that signs up, it's because of something we're not aware of. Don't be paranoid, don't be disobedient, just don't get involved.

Jarrol Mike FurorMay 8th 2009.

Didn't they have something like this in East Berlin about 60 years back?

Karen HMay 8th 2009.

I think when the measure becomes law for ID cards becomes coercive rather than voluntary Mancon should start a campaign for civil disobedience in which we sign up to not sign up. I'm a Labour man but if the Tories are going to get rid of this attack on my civil liberties than I'm voting Labour.

unieuphMay 8th 2009.

they say part of the reason is the number of passports lost each year. So their solution is to make a card much smaller than a passport, and hence more lose-able

PaschaMay 8th 2009.

Who cares about all this guff about civil liberties anyway. All I know is you can use an ID card instead of a passport to travel to Europe. £30 for an ID card or £72 for a passport? Kerching! No brainer. Ibiza here I come!

Henry HuntMay 8th 2009.

Er...Pascha...are you mad? Who cares about civil liberties? You mean you don't as long as you get an easier path to lying on a beach. Bit shallow don't you think, especially in this city people have died for civil liberties in the Peterloo Massacre and at other times.

Thomas JeffersonMay 8th 2009.

Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety deserve neither Liberty nor Safety

eugeneMay 8th 2009.

CCTV first...DNA records of the innocent still being kept...the local govt using Terrorist legislation to spy on people who put their bins out on the wrong day...now proposals to keep a record of everyone you call and text...proposals to track who you contact on Facebook/Myspace etc...proposals to track and record what websites you visit....the list goes on and on, and people aren't worried about civil liberties?We have one of the oldest democracies on the world. This should be protected at all costs. Oppose these measures...write to your MP at http://www.writetothem.org get onto the http://www.no2id.net website, write to your local paper, contact the Home Office and protest and we will stop this archaic, outrageous plans as this is just the beginning..

George Orwell.May 8th 2009.

I did warn you.

emma graceMay 8th 2009.

Castlefields got a point...we're being punished for rejecting the ConCharge. And does anyone know how often you will have to renew an ID card?

Tom HilesMay 8th 2009.

Webchat on MEN website with No2ID, today at 2pm: www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/…/1114379_id_card_web_chatKaren… - No2ID are doing exactly as you suggest, asking people to pledge not to sign up to the scheme.

DescartesMay 8th 2009.

Nah we're not being punished - this is all the work that was planned pre-congestion charge. Had it gone through the council would have said that this is the benefit, city wide improvements, new trams etc etc. As it is, the work needs doing anyway so it's being done. It's hardly the first time this kind of thing has happened, anybody else remember the one way system being put in?

scoteeeMay 8th 2009.

Call me stupid but surely my passport,bank,drivers licence and council tax declarations etc, etc already offer the authorities my personal details and as such are held by both credit ref agencies and national government.So why all the fuss over a card which will no doubt only be obtained through the offering of latter items used for personal identification.To me it seems we're just doing the governments job for them. Paying £30 for the privelage of proving that they have given us papers to show them who we are tells me that the administration has lost all contact with it's own citizen numbers.Poor border control, changes in European legislation and the acceptance of immigrants means they dont have a clue whos who and how many there are of anybody.There now appears to be a need to make sure we are who we say we are, because in truth they havent got the foggiest and the whole thing smacks of incompetence.the comments on here are true no -one seems to want to lead the country anymore just sign of their expenses and gain more political muscle to further line political pockets and their own careers.

CastlefieldMay 8th 2009.

On the post congestion charge punishment debate. Is 'Gallaghers' the only company in the North West to be able to do any kind of road, sewer, pipe works. They are everywhere, they seem to get every council contract going!

scoteeeMay 8th 2009.

east lancs- the governemnet can't protect us with the information they already have on us.All of our identities are held on systems as I previously pointed out.if a criminal wants to get hold of your details at that level then he will do, simple as that.As for the government abusing the details for their own ends,what new detail would the card offer them that they dont already have? Sometimes I think peoples reaction develops a lack of thought and when challenged they have already set their mind on a subject,consequently original rationalle develops in to a stuborn crusade.The only information they dont have on me 'east lancs' is my ex-wife's Pay as you go mobile phone number and they are more than welcome to that....

scoteeeMay 8th 2009.

Oh well disingenuous it may be but should someone want to steal my identity and create an Afghan linked drugs ring to my sainsbury's supersaver account then ill just have to take that risk.Im not in favour or denial of the facility and to be quite honest I am willing to bet you my Matalan card that I will never own one...

andyhMay 8th 2009.

we the people (feel an oasis song coming on)voted no to the congestion charge so do the goverment in their london based ivory towers really expect the people of this northern city of ours to vote yes to i.d cards. i dont think ,so pay for the priviledge of making it easier for the goverment to control us whats next micro chip implants???. in my opinion their are little or no advantages to this crazy scheme.note to goverment leave us alone the majority of us mancs have our mind and wont kowtow to whitehall

east lancsMay 8th 2009.

Fair enough, but how do you fancy about somebody cloning your card, altering the biometrics, then cleaning out your bank account(s), credit card(s), etc? The idiocy of all this is that it's a vote loser for Labour, yet they continue ahead. Probably due to the US initiative which will - inevitably - be linked to our own.

scoteeeMay 8th 2009.

all those things can be achieved now east lancs.It's just another card in your wallet.

east lancsMay 8th 2009.

No Scoteee, it's not just another card in your wallet. Please (and no offence intended) go and read up about how these cards will work, what's on them, and what your obligations are. If you don't change your tune then, you're clearly a government infiltrator ;o)

Outraged of WilmslowMay 8th 2009.

The only people I'm in favour of keeping closer tabs on is these "International Students" who sit all day in cyber cafes on the Cheetham Hill Road planning terrorist attacks on the Arndale etc.

CTUMay 8th 2009.

Jack Bauer wouldn't stand for this s**t.

Smells A RatMay 8th 2009.

Funny how the vote went from an overwhelming ~80% against to 50/50 in a matter of minutes earlier this evening...

EditorialMay 8th 2009.

Smells a Rat you're probably right. If you multiple vote then you can affect the main poll. Our ote scheme is a sort of honesty box until after the re-design and relaunch of the site in three weeks or so. But it takes a certain sort of sado to do what you've said happened. At the moment it takes more than 30 clicks to change one percentrage point so whoever altered the poll would have had to click 900 times to shift it 30 pecentage points. We therefore conclude that the person is an idiot and a bored one. Also one with no faith in democracy.

GordoMay 8th 2009.

Sorry everybody. It was me.

east lancsMay 8th 2009.

Ed, your summation summarily sums it up succinctly.

The Real GordoMay 8th 2009.

This is me, Gordo, and I didn't plug the sodding vote. I will be taking a peek at your details sonny...

eugeneMay 8th 2009.

east lancs, love your almost alliteration!

cherrydropsMay 8th 2009.

If the government is setting this up you can pretty much guarantee that half the data will be missing or inaccurate anyway! I don’t care what the government know about me- as I don’t do anything that they would have the least bit of interest in anyway- at least not anything that they couldn’t find out about pretty easily anyway! I agree that fraud could be a big problem- but isn’t it already? We talk about and infringement on civil liberties, but you don’t think that when you’re asked to show ID in a pub, or to get on an aeroplane? Personally I find those awful telesales companies far more frustrating than the idea of a card that holds my details!

eugeneMay 8th 2009.

a little insight into why they are www.thisislondon.co.uk/…/article.do…

Matt ArrowsmithMay 8th 2009.

Has anyone thought that this is being trialed in Manchester (see history lesson above) because very few people will buy one and old GB can say 'the people didn't wan't it and I listen to the people'?? Seems to me this is a get-out for a government that's changed it's mind but can't afford another u-turn...

alan barnesMay 8th 2009.

The cards are a smokescreen. This is NOT about a 'handy' plastic card, this is about building detailed database profiles on UK citizens. This government's pathological obsession with the ID card scheme and their need to have access to all of our internet records and phone communications would seem less sinister if they actually told us truthfully what they wanted it for. Instead they tell us nothing. Ministers throw smoke grenades and recycle old arguments they know full well are bogus. GCHQ have been nothing but shady and obstructive. So we can only conclude that the purpose of this mass data, iris and fingerprint trawl is to build up detailed profiles on us all. China does this, Hitler did it, Robert Mugabe does it and the East Germans of the 1970's were experts at it. Let's be clear, I am NOT accusing the government of wanting to commit genocide, or torture people/disappear people or any of the other preposterous and deliberate exaggerations ministers throw back at their opponents when they make such comparisons. But I am saying this. Currently our government are laying exactly the same totalitarian foundations as those regimes did when they began. How long before the ID database logs our political views, thoughts and voting habits? With free access to our emails and text messages it is simply another small step. This government are either arrogantly and moronically playing with fire or they are capitulating to technology companies and/or darker forces within the civil service. We need to know. We would not let strangers steam open our post, know intimate details about our children or read our private emails and text messages. So why are we allowing State appointed strangers to do this? This government must be stopped. Manchester and the rest of the UK must refuse ID cards and enrollment at all cost.

AnonymousMay 8th 2009.

hear hear, AB

simonbMay 8th 2009.

There's a facebook group and a petition too...http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=84537576547 or www.ipetitions.com/petition/mcragainstidcards/… which focuses the campaign on Manchester. There are others too as listed above..Proud to be Manc. Proud to be free.

simonbMay 8th 2009.

I think Alan Barnes is spot on. This a dangerous insidious scheme. A billion pounds to be spent...I'm alarmed that there seems to be such indifference to this scheme. It should be Labour's Poll tax..There are people being arrested all the time now ( and these are not just scare stories) for innocently taking photographs under the anti-terrorism laws. Added up all these separate pieces of legislation are very dangerous to the liberty of our children, not just us.Come on Manchester, get angry!

All seeing EyeMay 8th 2009.

While it would be nice to do away with having to produce 3 utility bills & a signed declaration from a priest just to open a bank account, I fail to see the necessity of all the information they're asking for. In fact, it disturbs me. The government has missed an opportunity by it's approach & I doubt Manchester will wear it. I certainly won't be.

east lancsMay 8th 2009.

eugene, ta but my "almost alliteration" is actually "sibilance".... god I'm a boring c***

barbara aMay 8th 2009.

Mancunians seem to be the guinea pigs for a lot of things. I was really proud of Manchester when we voted out the congestion charge. We should do the same with ID cards, they carry no benefits whatsover. Law abiding citizens would pay, as usual, criminals would get them illegaly, as usual. They are just more bureaucracy! Are we supposed to believe that the countries that already have ID cards dont have exactly the same problems as us. Rubbish!It will keep even more control of those who dont actually need controlling

andyhMay 8th 2009.

bring on the revolution

gordonisamoronMay 8th 2009.

"preventing identity theft"? - How does that work when all your details are on ONE easy to nick and copy card? The Russian hackers will be into it in no time.Come on Manchester give it the "Congestion Charge" treatment.

GordoMay 8th 2009.

Took a double take at that moniker Gordonisamoron, thought you were having a go...

DigMay 8th 2009.

How would Mancunians be guinea pigs for the congestion charge? Hasn't London had one for a few years now?

DigMay 8th 2009.

Have you found the culprit who impersonated you earlier Gordo? String the cheeky bugger up.

gordonisamoronMay 8th 2009.

Not you Gordo, the one at No. 10.

suffragette cityMay 8th 2009.

The majority of posters are spot on. The government justifies itself to us we do not justify ourselves to the state. With over 50 pieces of information and carte blanche to use it as it wants this government's National Identity Database scheme is sinister, wrong and gives the balance of power very firmly in the state's corner.I too thought that it was a way out for them as one poster said, but they seem very set on it. If this becomes compulsory, then we will be presumed guilty and only able to verify that we are a legitimate citizen by proving it!! How perverse. We still have a proud tradition of presumption of innocence. Don't do the state's dirty work for them. I am innocent, have nothing to hide but fear indeed the growing totalitarianism of the state.

CGLeviMay 8th 2009.

In countries where they are compulsory they are FREE - What is this £30 - a tax on existing?? Why not provide ID cards free for all those without a driving licence or a passport? And will they help the so-called fight against terrorism? No. Anyone hell-bent on dubious activities of any sort will find a way round the ID problem as always has been the case for centuries. And can the UK afford the time and expense to be spent on this ludicrous exercise..NO.

Milo WhizzbangMay 8th 2009.

I want my Freedom and Liberty not Their Security!!!!!!984 was warning not a blueprint!!

PaulMay 8th 2009.

It seems like a major part of the rationale of these cards is 'national security'. I'm not against the idea in principle, but I just don't think it will have much impact at all in terms of security. Atrocities will always be a possibility, if those who plan them are determined/organized/lucky enough - card or no card. Also, given the inadequacy of today's bureaucracy, I doubt that anywhere near 100% of the population will be accounted for. And I expect that most of those who do not end up getting an ID card will be the ones who are here illegally/unofficially - and the ones most likely to pose a threat.

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