The Scottish Parliament has voted against the UK Government’s plans to introduce ID cards.
MSPs backed a Scottish Government motion stating the scheme would not increase security or deter crime, while raising concerns about civil liberties.
Scots Community Safety Minister Fergus Ewing said the estimated £5bn needed for ID cards should be spent elsewhere.
Mr Ewing told parliament ID cards were a “colossal waste of money”, and that the UK Government could not be trusted to keep the data safe.
“This scheme won’t achieve its primary stated objective of making people safer nor reducing the terrorist threat,” he said.
“We do believe that it poses an unacceptable threat to citizens’ privacy and civil liberties.”
Liberal Democrat MSP Robert Brown said he was uneasy at the decision to issue cards to foreign nationals.
He said: “It goes under the rather unpleasant title of identity cards for foreign nationals, with all the nasty implied innuendo of the recipients being aliens, other people from far-off countries that we know nothing about and probably terrorists anyway.”
Pointing out Holyrood had no jurisdiction on ID cards, Labour’s Richard Baker said there would be no obligation on people to carry ID cards.
He said the UK Government was bringing forward a series of measures to enhance national security and public safety.
He added: “ID cards are a part of that.
“There’s nothing extreme or unusual in the introduction of ID cards and the kind of data which will be on them.”
Well, the introduction of ID cards to the UK is unusual in itself; what is on the National Identity Register, the database behind the card, is unusual, particularly the ‘audit trail’ of every transaction involving the NIR (most transactions won’t involve it, which puts the lie to the ‘gold standard’); and the National Identity Number that will be issued to each of us is not only inherently unusual but also unusual in that it will be used as an index to all sorts of other databases.
What isn’t unusual is that it won’t work as advertised and the proportion of the public who do support the introduction of identity cards have been sold snake-oil.
The government motion was passed by 69 votes to zero, with 38 abstentions [38 all Labour].
Well done Scottish Parliament.
The debate can be read on TheyWorkForYou.
MPs have rejected a move by peers to allow phone tap evidence to be used “in exceptional circumstances” in inquests presided over by a High Court Judge.
The move was intended to allow inquests to take place even though sensitive security information was involved.
MPs voted by 284 to 220 to reject an amendment to the Counter-Terrorism Bill, a government majority of 64.
They have also overturned a move calling for new guidelines on destroying innocent people’s DNA.
The Lords [DNA database] amendment was overturned by 277 votes to 209, a government majority 68.
On phone tap evidence, Mr Coaker told MPs: “The fundamental difficulty with the amendment and where the disagreement has come forward is that inquests must be held with a jury in certain circumstances and that juries are finders of fact.
“The Lords amendment would mean sensitive material would have to be disclosed to the jury for the inquest to proceed and this risks it then being disclosed.”
Hmm, I think he inadvertently misled the Commons there – because what the amendment actually says is that if a coroner is normally a High Court judge (High Court judges are allowed to see this kind of evidence in normal court cases, just not inquests) he can order disclosure to himself, or to the jury, or to other ‘properly interested’ parties. It doesn’t mean that the intercept evidence will automatically go to the jury if it’s disclosed to the judge.
He said the matter would best be dealt with in the forthcoming Coroner’s Bill.
But Mr Green expressed concern that the issue was being “pushed back” into another piece of legislation, as there were “urgent present cases” where inquests could not happen because this particular law was not in place.
Indeed, there are at least two cases – Azelle Rodney and Terry Nicholas – where the coroners have had to halt the inquests because of this issue. Azelle Rodney, by the way, was shot and killed by the police over three years ago, so while the Government faffs about, his family is still waiting to hear the circumstances of his death.
And Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn said the Lords amendment offered a “far better” approach.
He told MPs: “It is too easy for the agents of the state, be they the armed forces or the police or social services or health service, to say ‘well, hang on there’s something very very peculiar and very very sensitive about this’ and go to the judge and say ‘I’d rather this was not disclosed.’”
Remember all that talk about how the National Identity Register (NIR) would be the gold standard of identity verification, and how it and the ID card scheme will stop illegal immigration and identity theft etc?
Another great question from Lynne Jones MP:
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what estimate she has made of the number of records against which each biometric taken for the purpose of enrolment in the identity card scheme will need to be checked when the scheme is fully rolled out.
Verification checks of biometrics identifiers will be made against the card in most cases using the biometrics stored in the chip, for example if the facial image or fingerprint biometrics are verified as part of an immigration check at the border.
Only in specific circumstances, for example if an ID card has been lost, would verification of identity take place against the biometrics held on the National Identity Register.
Such checks will provide a very secure and reliable means of proving identity.
Provided of course that someone hasn’t tampered with the card / made their own.
I think the issue here is once again the inconsistency of government rhetoric. We have been sold a scheme that is supposed to be the gold standard of identity verification – because it involves the National Identity Register.
ID cards will be forged and tampered with. There is a vulnerability if the NIR is not checked on presentation of a card or passport. This risk might be acceptable when picking up a parcel but I fail to see how it is acceptable at the border. And then of course they have lost some of the functionality of the system - recording details of transactions involving identity checks, such as border crossing.
Of course, as Andrew Watson points out in this thread on the NO2ID forum, the LSE came up with a rather more practical and privacy-friendly method some years ago, which the Government was vehemently against, to the extent of making personal attacks on those involved with it. As Andrew points out, it’s interesting how the Government’s proposals are being forced to comply with reality.
Essentially, the ID card scheme won’t work as advertised.
Home Office has no idea how many false matches will result from fingerprints with the ID card scheme
A great written question:
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what estimate she has made of the number of false matches likely if fingerprint biometrics alone are used for the biometric verification for the identity card scheme after the enrolment of (a) one million, (b) six million, (c) 40 million and (d) 60 million individuals.
And the response:
The Identity and Passport Service is still in the process of procurement of specific biometric systems, hence we are unable to give an estimate of false matches that may occur. In the event of an uncertain fingerprint match the scheme will make use of human fingerprint experts to resolve uncertain fingerprint matches from the automated fingerprint matching system.
This procedure is used in all large-scale fingerprint systems to control false matches and the process will apply irrespective of the size of the database.
So the Home Office is going to have to consult fingerprint experts when, for example, you apply for a new passport or identity card and you happen to be falsely matched with other people on the database.
The Scottish Parliament is expected to vote decisively against the introduction of ID cards.
However, the policy is reserved to Westminster and the first cards will be issued this month to foreign students entering Britain.
It is planned to make them available to everyone in the UK by 2012.
An SNP motion condemning ID cards as an expensive invasion of civil liberties is expected to be backed by all parties, except Labour.
The Scottish Government has rubbished the plan, claiming the UK-wide scheme would cost £5bn, but would not boost security or deter crime.
The Tories, Liberal Democrats and Greens are expected to back the SNP’s position, during a government-led debate in Holyrood.
Good for them.
Labour attacked ministers for debating an issue reserved to Westminster.
Scotland’s public safety minister Fergus Ewing will argue that ID cards will do nothing to fight crime or improve national security and would have serious implications for the civil liberties of ordinary citizens.
The first biometric cards are being issued to students from outside the EU and marriage visa holders this month, before being issued on a voluntary basis to young people from 2010 and for everyone else from 2012.
The UK Government has said claimed there is strong public demand for ID cards
Labour’s justice spokesman at Holyrood, Richard Baker, said the SNP should be bringing forward more important issues to debate.
“At a time when our prison system is at breaking point through overcrowding, corners are being cut in an effort to hit police recruitment targets and when crimes of dishonesty on our capital city are increasing, it says everything about the Scottish Government’s failure of leadership that they have chosen to use parliamentary time to debate a UK issue outwith their control,” he said.
Er no, they have control over devolved matters – how, for example, ID cards will be used in Scotland. So Baker is dishonest or incompetent.
But Baker’s point is interesting, in that we can turn it back on him: in a time of financial hardship, something every member of the public is undoubtedly concerned about, why is the UK Government (the Labour Government) talking about spending £12bn (that’s £550 for every household in the UK) on yet another intrusive mass surveillance database system?