Archive article from The Socialist Issue 345
What we think
ID Cards - Working Class People Will Pay The Price
David Blunkett has declared that the population of Britain isn't 'allowed' to know how much his ID card scheme will cost, for reasons of 'commercial secrecy'!
We do know, however, that it is expected to cost somewhere between £1.3 and £3.1 billion. The final cost is likely to be far higher.
New Labour can find money for ID cards yet claim they cannot afford to spend tax payers' money restoring the right to free education. The abolition of fees would cost around £1.5 billion a year and for £3 billion a year it would be possible to also introduce a living grant for all students.
Blunkett would rather spend the money on ID cards. He claims that the cards are necessary in order to prevent Britain becoming a 'soft touch' for terrorists. But there is no evidence that ID cards will help prevent a terrorist attack.
After all both Madrid and New York have forms of ID cards. In fact the security services are not arguing for an ID card, explaining that terrorists rarely try to conceal their identity. Nor will an ID card help prevent crime.
Even Peter Lilley - a former Tory minister - says that the police "almost never had problems identifying suspects, only in catching and convicting them".
Instead, ID cards will criminalise law-abiding working-class people. Blunkett is proposing that the fine for failing to have an ID card will be £2,500. The fine for forgetting to tell the authorities that you have changed address or got married will be £1,000!
And although it will not be compulsory to carry an ID card until 2013, we will all have to pay twice as much for driving licenses and passports that double as ID cards from 2007.
Charles Clarke has already declared that it will be compulsory to have an ID card if you want to receive a student loan, and it is clear that New Labour's longer term intention is to make us show our ID cards to receive any public service.
Increase rationing of public services
ID cards are designed to increase rationing of public services. They will also lead to increased police harassment of all those who already suffer from it - particularly young people from ethnic minorities - who are already five times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police.
Any ID card system set up by New Labour is also guaranteed to be chaotic, particularly given their privatisation fetish which means that the new scheme is almost certain to be run by a private company for profit.
Look at the fiasco at the passport office a couple of years ago, or the amount of time and bureaucracy it takes to claim any benefit, and imagine the Kafkaesque nightmare that the ID scheme is bound to be.
However, New Labour is wrong to think that its successful implementation is a foregone conclusion. Britain's last ID scheme was abolished in 1951 as a result of massive public opposition and civil disobedience.
More recently in Australia plans for ID cards were scrapped as initial public support was transformed into massive opposition as the reality of the scheme became clear.
Socialists will campaign to try and ensure the same happens here.