[hat-tip Guy Herbert]
Jacqui Smith on Today, with James Naughtie (realaudio stream, hat-tip Andrew Watson), my transcript follows:
JN: What are you going to tell us today about the next steps?
JS: Well firstly I’m going to spell out the timetable for the issuing of ID cards. I’m actually, unlike Nick [Robinson] suggested, going to demonstrate how what we’re proposing today will speed up the introduction of ID cards. As you’ve heard, from this year we will introduce on a compulsory basis start to introduce ID cards for foreign nationals [see earlier article].
Next year, because we think that actually there are twin [only two now?!] purposes to ID cards: firstly to ensure that people’s um ID is securely locked to them, that it’s much more difficult for others to pretend to be somebody else, we can be confident that they are who they say they are; we’ll start by introducing ID cards for people that work in sensitive locations, like airports; in 2010 we’ll offer ID cards on the basis of the convenience that they offer to people when they are trying to access services to young people, starting off on their life, needing to prove their identity when they open a bank account or get a loan or start their first job [do they find those activities difficult now?]; and in 2011, yes alongside passport renewal, but also separately to that as well, we’ll start a major roll-out of ID cards across the country.
JN: And when will you consider the question of compulsion? [I assume he means compulsion for everyone, not just airport staff and young people]
JS: Well, we’ve been clear from the beginning – David Blunkett said back in 2003 [actually he said it wouldn't work unless everyone had one] – that really while they are big benefits of making ID cards as widespread as possible, and that’s why what I’m proposing today will ensure that, we need to be clear that there is public acceptance, we need to be clear that the technology is there [you mean, we aren't clear about that already?!] and of course Parliament will have the final decision as to whether or not and when entry on the Identity Register became compulsory.
JN: But you’re not going to get to that decision, judging by what you just said, until after the next election. In other words, it probably won’t be a matter for, well, it might be a matter for you personally, or some successor, but it won’t be a matter that’s going to be decided before you have to go to the polls as a Government.
JS: No, it won’t be, but actually Nick suggested it would be well into the 2020s before we’ve had widespread roll-out. In fact what I’m announcing today means that we’ll be able to achieve that widespread roll-out actually in less time than ten years from the time we start issuing ID cards.
JN: You say, “widespread roll-out” – how many people, let’s say when the next two years have passed, do you think will have ID cards?
JS: Well, we think that there are about 200,000 people that are working in airports, we’ll be looking at tens of thousands of people, up to hundreds of thousands of people, getting foreign national ID cards, and then in 2010 well it depends because it’s voluntary on how many young people choose to take it up, but you know there are potentially millions of young people who could then take up the opportunity
to be branded like cattle[sorry, got carried away there]
JN: Well let’s just examine one or two of these points. How exactly does an ID card fight terrorism?
JS: Well, firstly, there is no single, simple way in which we deal with terrorism, but what is clear is that Al Qaeda themselves for example advise those planning attacks to try and seek multiple identities, to try and steal identities, it’s clear that if you want to cover your tracks actually getting a false identity is one way of doing it.
The national ID system, by linking your identity securely to a biometric like your fingerprints makes that much less likely to happen, and therefore makes all of us better protected, if we can be more certain that other people, particularly those that are working in sensitive roles and locations [surely they should already have ID cards specifically for those roles and locations? I can't see the scheme replacing these] are who they are they are.
JS: And that is an important benefit of the system.
JN: Let me quote to you Ian Angel who is professor of information systems at the LSE, who said that the various schemes here to collect people’s identity voluntarily at first except in some circumstances like in airports will create a very large data pool in one place enhancing the risk to the public in the event of unauthorised access, hacking or errors. Now, the point about an error is that it’s worse than not having an ID card at all because if it’s wrong then the whole system collapses. Now, what people are thinking of, as they listen to you now Home Secretary, is that this is a Government that lost 25m people’s details in the post.
JS: And of course we need to learn from those experiences.
JN: Yeah they’ve gone though.
JS: But let’s be clear, one of the reasons why of course people worry about their date about about information about them being lost is because it is relatively easy simply by knowing somebody’s name, address, date of birth, where they were born, to be able to claim benefits, open a bank account, set up a completely different identity. What we add with the National Identity Scheme is we lock somebody’s identity – I’m able to lock my identity to something unique to me, my fingerprints, which means if somebody gets hold of information about me, they cannot use that in the same way they can at the moment.
First, secondly you made the point about databases – it is not the case that large amounts of information will be kept on one database. Firstly, it’s actually a relatively thin amount of information necessary for the National Identity Register, much less than is kept actually on other public or private sector databases. [um, please give us examples of current databases that store more than the information (and with similar information to) set out by the ID Cards Act 2006]
JN: How many pieces of information on each person?
JS: Roughly about the same amount [ie not the same amount] of information we keep on the passport database; nothing about your medical records, your tax [but your ID no. will be used as a key in those other databases], your other access to government services [lie: every time your identity is checked it will be recorded in the Register (the audit trail)]. Secondly, it’s not all kept on one database, actually we will keep separate your biometric, your fingerprint and photo information, from your biographical information.
JN: It must be linked, otherwise there’s no point in keeping it.
JS: Well, it will be linked, but access to those biometrics will only be available to highly security cleared individuals [like the MOD?]with a whole range of other security arrangements in place as well.
JN: Well, let me just put-
JS: And sorry, can I just say something about the hacking system?
JN: Very briefly.
JS: This is not online, this, cos others have said you can hack in, this is not a database [no, it's two!] that is online [so how will a bank, for example, be able to verify my identity?] so it will not be possible to hack into it to that extent.
JN: When you say students will want to take this up – there is an obvious problem here. You say to students, this is going to be useful to you. What if for all sorts of reasons because you’ve got an objection to the whole concept you don’t get an ID card. You’re immediately going to be [inaudible] because you don’t have an ID card. In other words it’s compulsion by stealth, isn’t it?
JS: No, let’s be clear, we already need to be able to prove who we are quickly-
JN: Exactly – without a national identity card.
JS: Yeah but [and she does this annoying patronising, scoffing, laughing tone] actually, you know, now if I want to go and open a bank account, I have to go down there with a wodge of documents including my passport, my utility bills, my bank statement [I've never been asked for a bank statement]. Now the idea that is not [scoffing laugh] giving away more personal information about myself than a simple ID card, is one I think is wrong. [that's right, but your scheme isn't a simple ID card is it Jacqui? scoff, scoff]
Secondly, actually, and it’s not just students incidentally, we’re offering this to young people who are starting out in life, needing to prove their identity, when they get their first job, when they get a loan, open a bank account, we believe that that will actually help people to who perhaps don’t have some of the other forms of ID that’s now necessary, to prove who they are [students and other young people can't get bank accounts, loans or jobs? scoff, scoff]. It is more secure but more importantly it is more convenient for people as well. [more convenient than a passport and a bit of paper? scoff scoff]
JN: And a one-word answer – it is clear that you are not going to put the question of a compulsory ID card to this Parliament.
JN: Jacqui Smith thank you.
She also said that from 2011 people renewing a passport would not automatically have to get an identity card, as originally mooted, but would instead have the option of collating their biometric details onto their passport.
It doesn’t matter, you will still be on the National Identity Register, the database(s) behind the cards.
In a speech in London Ms Smith said that the first Britons to get the ID cards will be those working airside in Britain’s airports, such as baggage handlers and cabin crew.
This important debate raises fundamental questions about our parliamentary democracy, and about the role of Parliament and its relationship with the people. In our system of government, we do not have a legal test for whether we should hold a referendum, but we do have a clear principle, based on precedent and for many years supported by all the main political parties. Where there is a shift in power of a fundamental nature, it must be put to the people. That is the question that I want to address today. However,
“every time we have such a referendum it is, in a sense, an abdication of responsibility by the House and the Government of the day. This Government intend to make no such abdication of their responsibilities; nor do they intend to invite the House to abdicate from its responsibility.”—[ Official Report,
21 February 1992; Vol. 204, c. 627.]
When the Foreign Secretary fought the 2005 general election on a manifesto that promised a referendum on the issue, did he put out a personal statement saying that he was opposed to the holding of that referendum?
No, I did not.