02 November 2005

Why ID cards won't be the Labour poll tax.

Thanks for all the hundreds of comments you have posted on this subject. I apologise if I haven't responded to some of your points yet. I'm working my way through them. To be honest it is hard work arguing one side of an argument against so many opponents, you have knackered me out. I've learned quite a lot and have been corrected on a few things I got wrong and I thank you all for that. I just hope I have deepened some of your thoughts about this on your side of the argument.

If the ID bill is passed, I just want to explain why those 11,000 who have pledged not to have an ID card will not stop ID cards becoming compulsory. This will not be another poll tax for the following reasons;

1. The poll tax was far more expensive and you had to pay it every year. I had a bill for £425 back in 1989. This was a huge amount of money back than, it was not surprising there was rioting in London. The cost of an ID card will be hugely different. If people opt for the passport/ID card it will cost around £93 for a ten year period. Quite a bit different. A lot of people just travel in Europe, if they opt for the £30 ID card only, it will be cheaper than the present cost of a passport.

2. I was a member of my local anti-poll tax union and I remember the comical situation of one of our co-ordinators explaining why he had paid his poll tax. Oh they all had good reasons, (its my kids, the wife you see), basically when the going got tough, a lot of these middle class people had too much to lose and it was left to the working class to resist payment. Of course the working class are the strongest supporters of ID cards, so the middle class will be on their own this time and a lot of them will bottle it. There is a big difference between pledging allegiance on a website and actually sticking to it. If half of the middle class co-ordinators could bottle it over something as abhorrent as the poll tax, you can bet more than this will bottle it over ID cards.

3. Unlike the poll tax, withholding payment is no problem for the government. The scheme doesn't become compulsory until 2013. I can just see the conversations going on in middle class households in three years time.

"But Annabel, I've promised the pledgebank I wouldn't get one".

"I don't care Tarquin, we just have to go to Florida this year, you have to get a passport."

"Well ok, Anna darling, but don't tell those NO2ID people".

"Oh I don't think they will be bothered Tarkers dear, I saw Roberta down at the NO2ID campaign and she was awfully apologetic about it, but she explained that her and Rupert just had to go to Kenya this year, once in a lifetime opportunity to use her daddy's house over there, apparently".

4. Precisely because of the doom-laden predictions of the NO2ID campaign, opponents are going to be very surprised when the scheme gets off to a smooth start. The longer a successful launch continues the more opponents will wonder what the fuss was about and opposition will melt away. Unlike the administrative nightmare that was the poll tax, the ID database will run smoothly for the reasons I have already outlined.

5. If only 11,000 can bring themselves to pledge to a website, a lot fewer than this will actually take it to court. A few thousand people just won't be enough to stop it becoming compulsory. It would need millions of refuseniks and rioting in central London to stop it, just like happened with the poll tax, and I just don't think thats going to happen somehow.

51 comments:

  1. "Of course the working class are the strongest supporters of ID cards", where's the evidence for that?

    The major problem with the poll tax was that it did not exempt students!! The Government has learnt it's lesson with the council tax!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Steady on. Firstly, it's very early days yet; most people don't know the details of the scheme yet, and unlike the Home Office, No2ID hasn't had twenty million quid of other people's money to spend on promoting their views.

    The prediction that ID cards will turn into a disaster on the scale of the Poll Tax is not based on idle hope by people opposed to the blasted things. Back in May last year -- with ID cards much less in the news than they are now -- a YouGov poll estimated that 2.8 million people would be prepared to participate in civil disobedience to stop the cards, and 1 million to go to prison.

    Now, obviously it's much easier to tell a pollster that you'll demonstrate or go to prison than actually to do it; equally, when demands to attend fingerprinting at distant enrollment centres and cough up large sums of money start dropping through letter boxes, that may focus people's attention. And even tens of thousands of non-compliers could land the enrollment process in crisis....

    I shouldn't pay all that much attention to the fact that only 11,000 people have pledged so far -- try as we might, we simply don't have the resources to reach everyone who's spotted that ID cards are a dumb idea. And the longer preparations for the scheme go on for, the more cock-ups there are, and the more money is wasted, the more people will realise that they are being asked to spend an enormous amount for something which, even if it worked exactly as claimed by its most boistrous proponents, will not bring any benefit to them.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Oh, and on a slightly different subject... it's rare to actually find an ID cards enthusiast who's prepared to answer questions about the scheme, so: what do you think about s. 13(2), (4) and (8) of the Bill? As you will be aware, the intention of the scheme is to require people to have an ID card in order to get all sorts of public services to which they were previously entitled as of right. The Home Office wants people in the private sector to demand a card too. The new Electoral Administration Bill creates the apparatus for requiring people to have cards before they can vote.

    Now, those sections I've identified give the Home Secretary the power to demand that an individual surrender their ID card, for any reason he might choose to make regulations about. There is no corresponding requirement to issue a new card. The Bill therefore permits the Home Secretary to arbitrarily cut off any person or class of person from services to which they are entitled, and perhaps from a great deal of other aspects of their civic and day to day lives too, by making them give up their card, and refusing to issue them a replacement.

    What is this for? Is it a good thing? Why?

    ReplyDelete
  4. So Chris, when your passport runs out, you are not going to renew it again until the govt drops the scheme?

    How many people do you think are going to follow your lead in giving up foreign travel during the 5 years or more of the voluntary phase?

    s 13.2 It is just the power to cancel a card that has been tampered with or is incorrect. Seems reasonable to me.

    s 13.4 Is just the surrender of a tampered or expired card. Whats the problem?

    s 13.8 is just to do with controlling travel of hooligans. We already do this.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Well, I'm renewing my passport now, which gives me ten years; if the thing isn't dead by then, I suspect we'll be in real trouble.

    Read those sections of the Bill more carefully.

    13(2) does give the power to require surrender of a card which has been tampered with or is "incorrect", but doesn't compel re-issue of a card. (d) and (e) allow him to demand arbitrary people's cards be surrendered.

    13(4) allows the Home Secretary to demand the surrender of an "otherwise invalid" card or for various other reasons which may be specified by order of the Home Secretary.

    13(8) is indeed related to the power to prohibit football hooligans from travelling, but is much more general -- note 13(8)(b). Further, note that ID cards are supposed to be used for much more than travel.

    Between them those sections give the Home Secretary the power to remove anyone's ID card with no requirement to give it back or to issue them with a new one.

    Do you think that's a good thing?

    ReplyDelete
  6. So what are you suggesting, that the Home Secretary is going to pick on people he doesn't like and take away their ID card for no reason?

    ReplyDelete
  7. The only place I see people called Tarquin, Rupert, Annabel and Roberta nowadays are when they're going in and out of the local Labour party meetings...

    ReplyDelete
  8. Of coure, you're right, 11,000 people won't stop it becomeing compulsory. Millions of people opposed (and still do) the war and that didn't mean anything to the government. When people find themselves summoned to attend the local scanning and fingerprinting office, then you'll find the mood change a bit (why didn't someone tell us?)

    When you can't go to you doctor's or the hospital without showing your card and giving your fingerprints, we'll see how popular it is.

    Once the cock ups start interfering with people's ability to do anything and forgetting your card mneans you're not allowed to buy stuff in shops - then you'll see some opposition.

    Just like there are people who don't appear on the electoral roll, there will always be (I'm guessing at numbers), say, a million people who just won't join in - homeless people, travellers and refusiniks.

    This ID card scheme is morally wrong, but it will be sunk by the practicalities.

    By the way, I have also renewed my passport, and if it's not all dead within ten years I plan to have left Briatin for good (I'm not expecting you miss me by the way) - the last time I felt like that was the the Thacther years - I couldn't afford it then, but now I can. I have also stopped visiting the US because of their stupid and unfair fingerprint requirements.

    ReplyDelete
  9. So what are you suggesting, that the Home Secretary is going to pick on people he doesn't like and take away their ID card for no reason?

    Well, I'm not suggesting anything, but that is the power he's giving himself; do you think it's a good thing for him to have that power?

    ReplyDelete
  10. Chris, to answer your question. Yes, I do think it is right for the Home Secretary to have that power. Its like the small print in a contract. The reality is the power is only used in exceptional cases when there is just reason.

    We have a press in this country that will soon highlight any injustice in this system. There would be no benefit for the govt in taking away someone's ID for no good reason.

    Urko, this signifies the crucial difference in our thinking. You think things are going to go wrong, whereas I think there are going to be few problems. I suppose we will have to wait and see who is right. Its a self fulfilling prophecy on both sides. Whoever is right about the success of the register, is going to be right about the opposition to it.

    Andrew, I think you are half right. All of the political parties are dominated by the middle classes. The main difference between Labour and Tory party members are that Labour members on average are a generation younger. Maybe I should have used Hugo and Camilla to include the Tories in this.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Chris, to answer your question. Yes, I do think it is right for the Home Secretary to have [the arbitrary power to remove a person's ID card, and therefore to deny them access to public services, voting, etc.] Its like the small print in a contract. The reality is the power is only used in exceptional cases when there is just reason.

    OK. I think that gets us to the core of our disagreement. You aren't worried by the possibility of official abuse of power; I am.

    We have a press in this country that will soon highlight any injustice in this system.

    Do you think that there ought to be legal safeguards on the Home Secretary's exercise of the above power, or is the press enough?

    Out of interest, when did you last see the Sun highlighting injustice in (say) the treatment of asylum-seekers in detention camps, or people interned under the Terrorism Acts? Or are you imagining that outraged editorials in the Guardian would be enough of a check on executive abuse?


    As an aside, on the subject of your comparison to "small print in a contract", what's your view on the Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977?

    ReplyDelete
  12. Chris, "OK. I think that gets us to the core of our disagreement. You aren't worried by the possibility of official abuse of power; I am."

    In this particular case, I think that is correct. I will explain.

    I believe that a written constitution is the way to protect our democratic and human rights. ID cards are a neutral issue.

    We live in a (sort of) democracy. There are many restrictions placed on a Home Secretary in practise, no matter what powers the law theoretically gives them. Under our present system the powers of the govt are potentially unlimited.

    Public opinion is still quite powerful. As long as people can get hold of the information about any abuse of power, they can put a halt to any govt carrying out abuses of human rights.

    There are abuses in detention centres and of using internment under the Terrorism Act. These are wrong. I believe that ID cards will actually LESSEN these cases of abuse by making it more likely the right person is detained.

    The Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977 protects against those who try to get away with criminal negligence by inserting a clause in a contract. This is proper and correct.

    If you are trying to draw an analogy here between s.13 of the ID bill and this contracts Act, then I think you are wrong.

    Govts are not the same as businesses. Their prime motivator is public support not profit. There are elections that ensure the govt acts appropriately. This is not perfect, but it is a significant difference.

    I believe it is ridiculous to suggest the Home Secretary will ever be like Robert Mugabe. Stopping ID cards wouldn't offer any protection against this anyway. What we need is a written constitution.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Hello again Neil,

    are you saying that it's only if the UK had a written constitution that there's any validity in your justifications for the Home Secretary's acquisition of the power to deny people the ability to vote, and that you have no argument whatosoever otherwise?

    ReplyDelete
  14. ....Oh I don't think they will be bothered Tarkers dear, I saw Roberta down at the NO2ID campaign

    Is it me, or is this a little snide about opponents of ID - a little sneering maybe? If you think opposition is limited to the Tarquins, Ruperts, Annabels and Robertas, Neil, you are sadly mistaken (as it happens I don't know and have never met anyone with any of these names)- but I think your tone here is just as class-ridden as Thatcher's attacks on the working class which is a real shame. It was wrong when she did it. It doesn't get any better because it's inverted.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Peter Clay3/11/05 1:17 pm

    What is your opinion of the Belmarsh detainees?

    ReplyDelete
  16. I apologise urko, I was being a bit sneering. You are right it is inverted snobbery. I shouldn't have done it, I actually quite like the middle classes.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Peter, it is a disgrace to hold someone that long without charge. I support the campaign for their justice.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Martin, what I'm saying is that this power is there because we haven't got a constitution. That is the problem not ID cards. This clause could be inserted into any legislation. To oppose ID cards because of this clause is to miss the point. The way to ensure against abuse is a written constitution not stopping the ID cards bill.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Neil, If ID cards will reduce benefit fraud, why not just roll them out to benefit claimants?

    ReplyDelete
  20. Neil - fair play to you sir - not many people would've bothered to "own up". Feel a bit guilty for mentioning it now........must be something in my upbringing I suppose.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I believe it is ridiculous to suggest the Home Secretary will ever be like Robert Mugabe. [...] What we need is a written constitution.

    Just as a pure matter of fact, you are aware that Zimbabwe has a constitution?

    ReplyDelete
  22. Chris and Neil,

    you are getting absolutely to the heart of the matter with the powers that would lie with the Home Secretary.

    Neil says that he is not worried about the abuse of power because:

    "The reality is the power is only used in exceptional cases when there is just reason.

    which is a total non-sequitur.

    If we were to be lumbered with an unscrupulous Home Secretary (or more likely and just as dangerous a well-meaning but incompetent one) Neil's answer is meaningless.

    Neil, perhaps you would like to enumerate the sort of exceptional case where these powers would be needed, but no other existing legislation would work?

    On a wider note, Neil appears to be fixated with the idea - very common in Left-Leaning circles - that the Government and more or less anything in the Public Sector can do no wrong because it is motivated by the public good, that all legislation will always be used benignly.

    This is dreamland stuff. It is not failsafe. It assumes the best and plans only for the best.

    Good legislation should assume the worst. It should look for the loopholes where it might be exploited.

    Surely this is self-evident?

    ReplyDelete
  23. A friend of mine put this rather nicely. Would you be happy with the clowns at the Child Support Agency wielding this kind of power?


    The reason I asked about UCTA was Neil's reference to "small print":

    Yes, I do think it is right for the Home Secretary to have [the arbitrary power to remove a person's ID card, and therefore to deny them access to public services, voting, etc.] Its like the small print in a contract.

    Now, the deal with UCTA is that it's not, generally, possible to put arbitrary punitive terms in the small print of a contract. Like other consumer-protection law, the motivation is the disparity of bargaining power between a consumer and a commercial company.

    It is not surprising that (like most people) you support the principle of legislation to prevent companies from exploiting this disparity.

    Similarly, there is an enormous disparity in bargaining power between an individual citizen and a minister of the executive. What defence have you against the depredations of a Minister of the Crown using a power such as that in s.13? All you can say is, "If you take away my ID card, I shall not vote for your party at the next election"; and he can say, "Ha ha! If I take away your ID card, you won't be able to vote at all. Sucker!"

    So, ought there to be limitations on how the executive can use such power? Perhaps they could even be enshrined in the same statutes which create those powers? Yes, you say, but they must take the form of either,

    (a) the newspapers criticising a government which abuses its powers in a newsworthy fashion; or

    (b) a written constitution.

    Limitations on the exercise of executive power in individual statutes are, you argue, worthless, because they could be amended by later legislation. Of course, they share this feature with written constitutions, and I observe that the Belmarsh detainees didn't benefit much from the freedom of the press, which was mostly used to clamour for harsher treatment of the detainees.

    In any case, even if you believe that a statutory limitation on the powers of the executive is, in general, ineffective, that is still no reason to support the creation of an arbitrary power with tremendous scope for abuse.


    Tell me, would you have been in 1995 happy to see Michael Howard in control of s.13-type powers, unchecked by any legislative safeguards?


    And regarding,

    I believe that ID cards will actually LESSEN these cases of abuse [referring to "terrorist suspects" interned under the terrorism legislation] by making it more likely the right person is detained.

    You seriously think the major injustice with the current detention regime is that they're detaining the wrong people: a simple case of mistaken identity?

    ReplyDelete
  24. http://news.scotsman.com/index.cfm?id=1965122005

    Fingerprint biometrics for access control in a Scottish prison simply fail to work.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Ontario, Canada created a "Health Card" which you must have when you go to hospital. They started this in response to health care system abuse. It is now a photo ID, and nobody minds getting it because makes you feel you are kind of elite. You get it when you go to hospital and are waiting the hours and hours it takes for somebody to see you....
    Now, it makes a bit of a problem if you lose it....but nobody else can use it because it is a photo ID. Like a driver's licence.
    It seems to work. Perhaps this might be a better model for your party's proposal. And because it is a health card, it doesn't have that "Gestapo, Your Papers Please" taint that a general ID card would have.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Stag - People in the UK aren't used to having to prove entitlement to Health Services since they are supposed to be free. I suspect that stopping abuse of the system would be like people's view of traffic congestion - great idea for other people. All that aside - photo ID is far from infallible (not a reason for me to give the gvt my fingerprints), and we'd need a huge extra admin infrstructure to check everyone's cards. I'm also not sure that NHS doctors would be happy to refuse to treat people with no card - and if they didn't, there wouldn't be any point in having a card.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Chris; "you are aware that Zimbabwe has a constitution?"

    Well obviously it has to be a written constitution that protects our rights and is implemented properly.

    "Limitations on the exercise of executive power in individual statutes are, you argue, worthless, because they could be amended by later legislation. Of course, they share this feature with written constitutions, and I observe that the Belmarsh detainees didn't benefit much from the freedom of the press, which was mostly used to clamour for harsher treatment of the detainees."

    Written constitutions usually require a two thirds majority to be changed and protect against such human right abuses and safeguard electoral democracy.

    This is a far better safeguard than the current lawmaking where a party with just 35% of the vote has absolute power. The press could be a lot freer than present and I argue for laws similar to those governing the broadcast media on impartiality. The point is that some elements of the media have picked up on the Belmarsh injustices. Big enough public opinion will make the govt change policy. This obviously isn't enough, but I'm not going to object to a ID card bill on the grounds of one clause. Like I say, we need a proper constitution and electoral system to protect us against this sort of abuse.

    "Tell me, would you have been in 1995 happy to see Michael Howard in control of s.13-type powers, unchecked by any legislative safeguards?"

    To be honest, these sort of powers are already causing problems in the US, where people are arbitrarily disqualified from voting. It is a symptom of having a poorly written constitution and (like us) an undemocratic electoral system. This is a separate issue from ID cards.

    "You seriously think the major injustice with the current detention regime is that they're detaining the wrong people: a simple case of mistaken identity?"

    If they were only detaining people who wanted to blow us up, I wouldn't have a problem with it and don't think anyone else would either.

    PG, "perhaps you would like to enumerate the sort of exceptional case where these powers would be needed"

    Where maybe an illegal immigrant with no right to vote has aquired it through a false identity. I know there is other legislation to deal with this, but there are probably many areas of law that are duplicated, this doesn't mean they are necessarily wrong. This clause is worrying but stopping ID cards will not affect abuse of power like this.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Well obviously it has to be a written constitution that protects our rights and is implemented properly.

    OK. Again, can we have a specific example of what you mean, rather than this abstract ideal? Perhaps you could start by stating which rights ought to be protected?

    I'm not going to object to a ID card bill on the grounds of one clause.

    Ah, are you now saying that you do object to the powers in s.13?

    As a hypothetical question, how many clauses would you have to object to before you would argue that the whole thing should be given up as a bad job?

    Like I say, we need a proper constitution and electoral system to protect us against this sort of abuse.

    Is that a reason to give ministers new powers susceptible to abuse now?

    (I'd have thought that a consistent position would be to refrain so far as possible from any legislation -- and especially legislation which creates new powers to abuse -- until a written constitution were implemented, but then I'm not a written-constitution-fetishist, so I don't really understand how these people think.)

    To be honest, these sort of powers are already causing problems in the US, where people are arbitrarily disqualified from voting.

    Sorry, what's the argument here? "A similar problem already exists in another country, so we may as well reproduce it here"?

    If they were only detaining people who wanted to blow us up, I wouldn't have a problem with it and don't think anyone else would either.

    That is a question of intention, and not identity. The two are not the same, however much ID card enthusiasts would like us to believe that they are.

    In your hypothetical scheme where only "people who wanted to blow us up" were interned, how would you discover these people and divine their intentions? Once their intentions had been divined, why intern them rather than prosecuting them? What error rate would your procedure have, and what safeguards would you use against errors?

    ReplyDelete
  29. Sorry, I wasn't clear about "abuse of the Health Care System. I'll try not to take up too much time, but you DID ask... I was originally going to say "No kidding, you mean a cruise ship full of cancer patients trouping onto London Dock wouldn't be turned away! Hey, sounds like a potential business plan to me!" But that would be pretty snarky!
    Our heath care system is much like yours I think, but we get a LOT of people coming in and using up our resources. It is all done at the provincial level, so people are coming from other provinces, and from the US and Mexico looking for the free ride that Canadians get. It is this abuse which needed to be curbed because the expense was getting too high to bear....some estimates were that as much as 40% of our health care budget was paying for unregistered foreign visitors to get treatment. (I think it was much less...but you can see what a political football it became!) Now of course, the problem is pretty much solved. You show your health card, you get treated. Nobody is turned away from emergency treatment in either the US or Canada, by the way. But nobody is admitted to long term expensive care unless they can get a health card....which means a picture, and a sponsor, and considerable interest from the government of the day. Nobody is forced to get a card either...just if you want hospital care.

    Nobody feels it is a violation of freedoms. It is kind of interesting and germane to the discussion since it seems to actually work. Unlike most other attempts at poll taxes or gun owner data bases. Mind you, there IS a Social Insurance Number which provides a unique identifier number of course, but it is so watered down, it is not even recognized AS a form of I.D. It is just there so that the officialdom knows me from all the other "John Smiths" there are in the world. The Revenue Department uses it, the hospital uses it, and when I served in the military, it was my service number. The card per se has NO information on it, all the information is on a computer someplace in "the system".

    I'll keep quiet now....

    I just wish there was half as much top notch discussion going on in MY neck of the woods as is going on here! It is fascinating guys!

    ReplyDelete
  30. Stag - Interesting contributions. One thing about health tourism is that although the government has tried to use it as an excuse for ID cards, it (The gov) has no reliable data on how big the problem is. We are also in a situation where many other Europen countries have free health care already - so travelling to us may no be so attractive.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Chris,

    s.13 is something that I do object to, in that it is not needed. But I doubt very much it could be used in the way that you suggest or that it is in the bill for any sinister reason. Though yes, you are right, it shouldn't be in there in the form it currently is.

    A clause like this, that I'm very sure won't be used in the way you suggest, is not a reason to object to a bill I believe will be overwhelmingly beneficial. Hypothetically the more clauses like this in the bill the more I would have to reconsider the bill, but it would take a high number. I think it would need a clause far more clearcut than this one to make me reconsider. This clause is just not going to used in the way you suggest. You seem to be suggesting that it is going to be used to pick off political opponents and prevent them from voting. This would be golden for the media, and no govt that carried out such an action would survive public opinion.

    ReplyDelete
  32. This clause is just not going to used in the way you suggest.

    The government has REPEATEDLY abused other recently granted powers. Many examples have been given already by other posters. Why should this legislation be any different?

    ReplyDelete
  33. If they're only going to use the clause for the "legitimate" reasons you've suggested, why aren't the powers it gives restricted so as to be usable only in those cases? Do you think that the government would accept an amendment to that effect? (If "yes", how many other non-government amendments have been incorporated into the Bill so far?)

    ReplyDelete
  34. Like I've explained, it would be practically impossible for the govt to use this clause in the way you suggest.

    The problem the govt have in listening to each and every objection to the bill, is that they know that most opponents motives are not to improve the bill, but to stop it altogether.

    I doubt there is a bill that has ever been passed that has been perfect and satisfied every single opponents concerns.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Like I've explained, it would be practically impossible for the govt to use this clause in the way you suggest.

    I think you've mis-spelled "asserted".

    Really, Neil, given that every other bit of anti-terrorism legislation brought in lately has been abused (Walter Wolfgang? protestors at arms fairs? people walking on cycle-paths?), why do you think the Identity Cards Bill wouldn't? Oh, you say, the press wouldn't allow it. But the press only operates retroactively, which might be too late; and the press only defends the people it wants to, whereas the law is there to defend all of us.

    Would you actually be happy to give up on the courts and leave the Sun as the guarantor of your freedom?

    ReplyDelete
  36. Generally the govt have a lot of powers at present, but I don't see people's lives in ruins. ID cards won't give the govt any more power than they already have. Of course there will be abuses and failings. There are abuses and failings of a lot of aspects of the way our lives are organised. I feel we are just going around in circles here. On balance, I trust the govt to do the right thing in the vast majority of cases, you don't. That seems to be the difference. A system doesn't have to be perfect (in fact no system is) for it to be of general benefit.

    ReplyDelete
  37. ID cards won't give the govt any more power than they already have.

    That's complete nonsense, as you well know. The Identity Cards Bill creates scores of new powers for the government.

    On balance, I trust the govt to do the right thing in the vast majority of cases, you don't.

    Crap. Why don't you stop lying about your knowledge of what other people believe?

    You have no evidence that I "don't believe that the government will do the right thing in the vast majority of cases". To be honest, I don't know. However, the question is not whether they do right by "the vast majority" of people, but by everybody, and I am certain that these powers will be abused, because all the other similar arbitrary powers this and previous government have been abused.

    Civil liberties are not there for the government to dispense with in individual cases if they want to. They are there for everybody, and whereas you are keen to give them up for some spurious saving of money (which you can't justify, and is likely to prove completely fictional) I do not think that we should give them up simply because it's trendy to do so and Tony says we should.

    There are abuses and failings of a lot of aspects of the way our lives are organised.

    That is not an argument for creating new opportunities for abuse of power. It is an argument for removing existing opportunities for abuse.

    Surely this simple point is not beyond your powers of comprehension?

    ReplyDelete
  38. Chris: I should have said 'I suspect you don't'. You are right I shouldn't have put words in your mouth.

    What extra powers will the govt have as a result of having ID cards?

    No system is perfect, that is not a reason for not having it. You have to look at the advantages and disadvantages and make a decision which is best. I think ID cards have more advantages. The only minority I can see having their civil liberties taken away by ID cards, are criminals. I 'suspect' you disagree.

    ReplyDelete
  39. What extra powers will the govt have as a result of having ID cards?

    Here are the first ten in the Bill, from its first 6 clauses:

    s.1(1) power to create Register.
    s.2(2) power to compel entry in Register for persons entering the UK.
    s.2(3) power to deny registration to persons otherwise entitled, by description.
    s.2(5) power to vary information in an individual's entry in the Register (without any duty to keep it correct).
    s.2(6) power to prescribe format etc. of NIR Number.
    s.2(7) power to modify minimum age of registration.
    s.3(5) power to vary information recorded in Register.
    s.4(1) power to prescribe certain documents as "designated" (and hence compel applicants for them to also be registered).
    s.5(4) power to compel individuals to attend at an enrollment center, etc., and vary information to be extracted at enrollment.
    s.6(1) power to compel registration otherwise than with applications for designated documents.

    -- do you see what I've done there? Perhaps if you're not yet satisfied that the Bill creates numerous new powers, you could continue reading (from s.6(2) onwards) and list any powers you find there.

    The only minority I can see having their civil liberties taken away by ID cards, are criminals.

    Have you read any of the examples you've been given on this point?

    ReplyDelete
  40. These powers don't amount to a hill of beans in my opinion. I want to know exactly; how people are going to be disadvantaged, why the govt would want to do that, and how the govt would get away with it?

    ReplyDelete
  41. We've answered those questions before, and you've lied that no disadvantage would acrue. Surely even you can see that (say) being compelled to pay for an ID card will put everyone at both direct disadvantage -- monetary loss -- and indirect disadvantage -- loss of privacy, increased vulnerability to identity fraud, etc.

    ReplyDelete
  42. No I can't, because you won't admit that there are potential efficiency and fraud savings from ID cards that more than make up for this £3 a year outlay. We just aren't going to agree are we?

    ReplyDelete
  43. Let's see the evidence for those savings -- come on, we've been waiting for weeks!

    ReplyDelete
  44. The potential savings from ID fraud alone are massive. £150 million a year is sure to be an underestimate. Around half of even this underestimate would be enough to cover the predicted maintenance costs of the scheme. Theres your evidence.

    ReplyDelete
  45. "The British Bankers Association states that general banking losses due to ID fraud amount to £50m per annum. ID cards will assist in tackling this problem by providing stronger identity checks." -- Scheme Benefits Overview from identitycards.gov.uk

    "Losses resulting from plastic cards being used by fraudsters using a fictitious identity cost £505m per annum. Although initiatives are already underway to tackle this problem, an ID Card Scheme will help prevent crimes such as fraudulent applications for cards, criminals taking over card accounts, and fraudulent cash advances."

    (a) it's not clear how this is done and (b) the problem could be solved fairly easily by the banks, but they don't make the checks because they can push the cost of fraud to the user and the merchants.

    http://www.finfacts.com/intcard.htm has lots of info on this. If you look at the breakdown by type of fraud, you'll see that most of it is by counterfeiting cards (presumably non-chip cards, given the 2000 date), and that much of the rest is lost/stolen/intercepted in post.

    Are you going to require a biometric verification with every card transaction (which isn't in the bill at all), or do you accept that the impact on fraud will be small?

    There's one other thing which I think you've overlooked: it was initially a big struggle to get "phantom withdrawals" recognised as a problem as the banks claimed the system was secure. This left people out of pocket and in some cases wrongly charged with fraud. I expect a similar problem to happen with ID cards as nobody will believe they can be forged.

    ReplyDelete
  46. Peter Clay: Very interesting links, thanks.

    "Are you going to require a biometric verification with every card transaction (which isn't in the bill at all)"

    I would like to see that. I think although it isn't in the bill, a lot of venders will require it once the scheme becomes widespread.

    "This left people out of pocket and in some cases wrongly charged with fraud. I expect a similar problem to happen with ID cards as nobody will believe they can be forged."

    I know they could well be forged, you know they will be forged, I'm sure the govt recognise this as well. Fighting fraud is a security 'arms race', an evolutionary struggle between criminal and law enforcement. Introducing biometrics will be like anti-biotics and bacteria, it will put us ahead of the criminal for a while but eventually the security will have to be improved. I'm not stupid, I know there will always be ways around security, biometrics just makes the criminals job much harder.

    ReplyDelete
  47. Theres your evidence.

    1. Please for the love of god learn to use apostrophes. It's actually physically painful to read things so ill-punctuated.

    2. Sources, please, or some other reason to believe your claim. Preferably references to econometric studies with robust methodology, rather than numbers plucked out of the air.

    ReplyDelete
  48. Sorry about lack of apostrophes!

    The £150 million is quoted from your friends NO2ID

    ReplyDelete
  49. OK. So the £150 million/year comes from looking at the government's figure of £1.3 billion/year and working out how much of that figure is made up of estimates which aren't -- like the insurance example he gives -- flat out lies. So I'd treat the £150 million/year as an upper limit, if giving it any credence at all. And as Gilligan points out, even the Government doesn't claim -- as you do -- that ID cards could prevent all that fraud.

    Really, there are two issues with typical "identity theft":
    1. Banks lose money by not paying enough attention to who they're transacting business with.
    2. Banks then try to rip off their customers by failing to compensate them when losses from fraud occur in their customers' names.

    So, for a concrete example. Suppose that somebody rings up a bank and explains that they are Neil Harding and they want to borrow some money. The bank run a credit check on you and issue the loan. The fraudster arranges for the money to be paid into his own bank account and absconds.

    What's happened here is that the bank has made the silly mistake of handing over money to some third party while thinking that it's handed it over to you. None of this is anything to do with you: it's just a matter for the bank.

    Now they try to recover the money from you; that's the point at which you become a "victim" of identity fraud, and that happens only because of the bank's incompetence. In principle, when you demonstrate that you did not arrange the loan, the bank will go away and mind its own business.

    The solution to this problem is for the bank to check that it's giving out money to the person it thinks it's giving out money to in the first place. They resist doing so because it is expensive, and there is no incentive for them to make the process of getting loans more inconvenient.

    Now, at this point, you want me to believe that ID cards are the solution to this problem. But they're not -- if banks wanted to establish the identity of borrowers properly, they could do so now, and if they don't, the fact that the borrowers might have ID cards, NIRNs and so forth won't make any difference.

    The solution to this problem is to stop banks harrassing people over money they don't owe, thereby encouraging them to take precautions against handing out money without checking who they're giving it to. ID cards really have nothing to do with it.

    This is why I keep asking you what you mean by "identity theft" (and, I suspect, why you haven't answered) -- most of it has precious little to do with identity, and nothing to do with identity cards.

    ReplyDelete
  50. Have you ever considered that the reason it is not worthwhile for a bank to do more checks than they do is because, without ID cards there isn't much difference between checking someones ID a lot and not at all.

    It is just so easy to have a false identity at the moment it isn't worthwhile for them. With ID cards it would become far more cost effective for them to do the checks.

    I know how a grandmaster at chess feels now when he plays five or more opponents at the same time. I've been fielding hundreds of questions a day, its not surprising I miss the odd point.

    But if I do miss anything, point it out. I don't miss anything deliberately I can assure you. The harder the question the better. In fact I try to answer what I think are the more difficult points first.

    ReplyDelete
  51. "So I'd treat the £150 million/year as an upper limit"

    I can't let you get away with that statement.

    How can it be an upper limit, when even the NO2ID site admits 'known ID fraud' is an underestimate of real ID fraud? Also this was a 2003 figure and ID cases rose 500% between 1999 and 2003. Like I say, predicted 'known ID fraud' at that rate would be £750 million by 2008 when the scheme starts. Remember this is probably a serious underestimate of the problem, but this figure is massively more than the £85 million maintenance costs of the scheme. ID cards in reality would only have to solve a fraction of the problem for the scheme to break even. I think it would solve a considerable amount of this fraud, but I've never claimed it would solve ALL of it.

    ReplyDelete