ID cards back on the agenda in the UK
In the United Kingdom, the issue of ID cards is back on the political agenda now. Prior to the general election of May 2005, the previous bill had to be abandoned when parliament was dissolved (see previous blog entry).
Now the government is bringing it back, and tomorrow (28 June) the bill will have its second reading in the House of Commons. This will be very interesting for a number of reasons:
- The government will for the first time face a vote on a contentious issue with its now reduced majority of 67 in the House – since both Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have pledged to vote against it, and in the face of an as yet unknown number of Labour MPs who may rebel against it (19 did the last time around).
- The UK's largest trade union, Unison, has joined seven other unions such as the Transport and General Workers Union, in opposition to the ID cards scheme. This is important for two reasons: on the one hand, many Labour MPs are union members, and the unions will lobby these MPs to vote against the bill; on the other hand, implementation of the bill may be threatened if key public sector workers may not cooperate (see the report in The Observer).
- The London School of Economics and Political Science today published a report assessing the government's plans and finding that the scheme will cost much more than the figure given by the Home Office, which is some £ 6 bn. over ten years. The LSE report (downloadable here) estimates the costs to be more likely in the region of £ 15 bn. Since the main concern in the UK with regard to the ID cards bill has so far been costs and especially how much every citizen would be charged, this may turn out to be a crucial controversy. Accordingly, the government have tried to refute the claims (listen to the Home Office minister Tony McNulty and the LSE's Patrick Dunleavy on the Today program of BBC radio 4).
- Since all ID card data will also be entered into a nationwide database, rumours about government plans to sell these data to help pay for the costs of the scheme (see the report in the Independent on Sunday) will not be helpful for the government's plans either.