Home Office minister Meg Hillier has said the government wants industry to help drive down the cost of ID cards to the public.
Hillier said that, although the public was largely supportive
of the National Identity Scheme, many people had concerns about the fee involved.
The first cards will be issued at a charge of £30, but Hillier said that, as the volume issued increased, companies should be able to produce them more cheaply.
So will that reduction in price be passed along to the consumer at point of sale or will it make the business of supply more profitable?
She emphasised, however, that most of the cost of the scheme was created not by the cards themselves, but by databases and supporting systems.
Indeed, some five and a half billion pounds sterling just for that (not any supporting infrastructure eg biometric readers, training etc).
But just hold on there!
If I recall correctly, the early plan(s) said that the cost of setting up and running the scheme over the first ten years would be largely recouped by the fees for passports and ID cards (leaving a £1bn deficit to be recouped in other ways, for example the Identity Verification Service).
Who then will pick up the tab for the scheme if the price of ID cards at point of sale is reduced?
We the taxpayer? The private sector? Who?
“Cost is a very important part of this and I am pleased that the work we have done over the past year or so has meant that we have reduced the cost of the scheme by around £1bn,” Hillier told a conference on document security in London on Tuesday.
Hillier said that some 60 percent of citizens are in favour of ID cards and that the percentage has remained steady, despite the huge data loss at HM Revenue and Customs. She predicted that, as ID cards are rolled out, people will realise the benefits of carrying them.
That’s strange, considering that as plans stand at present there are no direct benefits to members of the public. It is all about benefits to the state.
ID theft is a growing problem and it is estimated that two percent of all UK adults are victims. Hillier gave the example of pensioner Jean Hutchinson who “hijacked” other peoples’ identities in one of Britain’s biggest benefit scams. The 65-year-old would look for newspaper stories about people who had emigrated and then use their identities. She defrauded the benefits system of £2.4m, before landing a five-year jail sentence.
“She would not have been able to do that if there had been ID cards,” said Hillier .
If benefits claimants were required to be on the National Register and have ID cards or passports, and if benefits staff were required to check the photos and/or fingerprints and other details against the National Register and the benefits claimant database. Will they be?
A correspondent tells me he has written to Meg Hillier with those very questions.
But this begs the question, why aren’t benefits claimants already subjected to such checks (if they are, why don’t they work?) and why are students and airport workers being picked on as the first victims guinea pigs beneficiaries?
I’m not having a go at benefits claimants. But identity fraud-related benefit fraud is estimated to cost us £50m a year. What problems do airport workers pose? They already have identity cards!
Britain’s most senior prosecutor last night questioned whether the government’s controversial proposal to detain terror suspects for up to 42 days without charge was even directed at “a real problem”.
Sir Ken Macdonald, the director of public prosecutions, renewed his opposition to the proposal, telling MPs that he had “managed quite comfortably” within the current 28-day limit. He revealed that no suspect had actually been held longer than 14 days in the last nine months.
The DPP’s firm stand, five months after he first raised concerns about the issue of 42 days and despite an intense campaign by the home secretary, Jacqui Smith, is bound to fuel a rebellion that already threatens Gordon Brown’s position. He was backed by the former attorney-general, Lord Goldsmith, who was scathing about the proposed parliamentary “safeguards” and warned that they would be seen as another attack on the Muslim community.
The DPP told MPs yesterday: “For our part as prosecutors, we don’t perceive any need for the period of 28 days to be increased. Our experience has been that we have managed comfortably within 28 days. We have therefore not asked for an increase in 28 days. It is possible to set up all sort of hypotheses … Anything is possible – the question is whether it’s remotely likely.“
Macdonald added that it was “a question for parliament whether this is directed against a real problem or not”.
That’s unfair on Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, as she has already admitted it is a hypothetical problem – she wants to put “in a provision for if it becomes un-hypothetical“!
He dismissed a new plea for the extension from the Metropolitan police commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, saying prosecutors were “better placed” than the police to judge whether or not there was sufficient evidence to charge a suspect.
Sir Ian Blair, on the other hand, “indicated that he believed police were better placed than lawyers to know if 28 days was still sufficient”.
This may seem a silly question, but sufficient for what exactly? Sufficient for charging the suspect with anything that can put him away and thereby disrupt his involvement with The Threat™? Or sufficient to uncover the entire Threat™ itself?
The Commons committee examining the counter-terror bill in detail also heard Goldsmith’s attack on the proposed parliamentary scrutiny of the home secretary as “not a great deal of safeguard”. Goldsmith, who left the government less than a year ago, said: “Are you going to ask parliament to simply trust the secretary of state? The case has not been made out for that extension and I can’t personally support it.
The Met commissioner [Sir Ian Blair], however, insisted the police were “pushing at” the limit on holding terror suspects without charge
I don’t understand. In the last nine months, no suspect has been held longer than 14 days. How is that “pushing at the limit”?
and said there had been 15 foiled plots since the July 7 bombings. “Sooner or later, and maybe sooner, something is going to happen to make that insufficient,” he warned.
Let me get this straight – because I have been turning this over and over in my mind for the past couple of months.
What he, Jacqui Smith (former economics teacher), and Martin Salter MP (career politician) & co. seem to be saying is that if there is a dangerous and complex plot, where detention without charge is essential, the police will release the suspects after 28 days and then give up.
Is my understanding correct?
Two more Labour MPs who backed 90 days in Tony Blair’s 2005 Commons defeat – Mohammad Sarwar and Mark Todd – came out in opposition to 42 days yesterday. A leaked memo at the weekend suggested Labour whips feared that at least 50 government MPs would back a revolt. The home secretary has held one-to-one meetings with backbenchers all year.
Why pursue this course? Aren’t there more useful things to be doing in order to counter terrorism? It seems so stubborn, so pigheaded.
How about we turn the argument around? Should the police be able to detain people indefinitely without charge? After all, the state of encryption today means that particular files will take an indefinite time to decrypt – perhaps years, decades, if indeed ever. Should we then detain people potentially for ever? I think all reasonable people would answer no.
So then what would be a reasonable time?
A difficult question but try to imagine yourself in the shoes of the accused. What would happen to your relationships, your family life, your friends, your employment, if you were imprisoned on suspicion of involvement with terrorism for 7, 14, 28, 42, 60, 90 days?
28 days is equivalent to a month – what would happen to your life in that time?