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People can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders...All you have to do is tell them they're being attacked and denounce the pacifists for a lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country." 
Hermann Goering

roding Civil Liberties

Since 2001
A British Constitution
We shall (not) overcome
Justice has been debased
42 days: Promises of safeguards
Jacqui Smith and National Identity Register spin
See also

How civil liberties have suffered since 2001

Robert Verkaik 8 March 2008

Labour's inexorable assault on the civil liberties once freely enjoyed by British citizens makes uncomfortable reading for a nation that prides itself on exporting democracy and justice all over the world.

Many of the restrictions were rushed through under the cloak of the "war on terror" while others have been rolled out to allay the fears of those who believe the country is under siege from antisocial behaviour.

But the most controversial have been the Government's attempt to restrict legitimate debate by curbing peaceful demonstration.

The Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 was introduced in 2006 to silence the five-year peace protest of Brian Haw outside the Houses of Parliament by prohibiting unlicensed demonstrations within 1km of the buildings of the legislature. It meant protesters who might previously have received a warning, could be arrested.

Those laws quickly had their impact, leading to the arrest of Maya Evans and Milan Rai at the Cenotaph for reading out the names of UK soldiers and civilians killed in the war in Iraq.According to the human rights group Liberty, the Act also widens the scope of Asbos by allowing unaccountable groups to seek them against individuals, and creates a new criminal offence of trespass on a "designated site" on grounds of national security.

Specific provisions were also brought in against animal rights protesters. The crime of "economic sabotage" not only extended the criminalisation of violent and unlawful protesters but was so broadly drafted as to make criminals of many peaceful protesters. Free speech has been one of the most obvious victims, with offences of "encouragement" and "glorification" of terrorism making careless talk a crime.

Meanwhile, the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006 has extended the offence of incitement to racial hatred to cover religion, threatening to seriously undermine legitimate debate.

But perhaps Labour's most spectacular own goal was the rough ejection of Walter Wolfgang, 83, from the Labour conference in 2005 for accusing Jack Straw of talking "nonsense".

A British Constitution?
By EURSOC 4 March, 2008
Gordon Brown is thought be pondering a written constitution for Britain. It couldn't come at a worse time

In February, Justice Secretary Jack Straw said that he would like to see a written constitution for Britain within the next two decades.

On the face of it, a written constitution for the UK sounds like a good idea. It would, advocates believe, finally codify the sometimes messy "unwritten constitution" which has governed Britain since time immemorial. It would act as a "land grab", securing for eternity numerous inalienable rights which future, less enlightened governments and populations might be tempted to vote away. It would present lawmakers with the opportunity to lay out once and for all the ideal relationship between the House of Commons, the upper house (in whatever form it might take), the courts, the Monarchy and the clergy (currently the established Church of England; in future, who knows?).

Naturally, many advocates of a written Constitution might use the drafting process as a means of reforming certain anachronisms they deem unsuitable for a modern state, or "hub of ideas" - the role of the Monarchy, for one, perhaps disestablishing the Church.

First things first. A written constitution, as Britain's Solicitor General Vera Baird QC says, is some time off. This doesn't mean that it won't happen in the near future. In July, shortly after Gordon Brown succeeded Tony Blair as Prime Minister, the Ministry of Justice published a document with the portentous title Governance of Britain.

The publication of this document, laying out strategic issues to make the executive "more accountable", limiting its powers and "re-invigorating our democracy" was welcome, not least because it's been a while since green papers were brought to the public attention with such fanfare. It's clearly something Brown's team had been brewing for some time.

There is much of interest in the paper. Brown proposes to hand over powers to parliament, such as the right to send troops abroad, to choose bishops, to increase parliamentary scrutiny of other appointments. There are a variety of proposals to make the executive more accountable to parliament, and a list of ways the government hopes to bring democracy and decision-making closer to the people, including continued reform of the Upper House (House of Lords).

Brown's government plans a British "statement of values": "Through an inclusive process of national debate it will work with the public to develop a British statement of values that will set out the ideals and principles that bind us together as a nation", the paper reads."This process will be a dialogue with the people of Britain and between the people of Britain. This will require time, careful coordination and planning to ensure the nation feels genuinely engaged in the debate on Britain’s values. The end point will be a British statement of values that reflects the voices of citizens across the country. The debate will also provide valuable insights into national views on citizenship and Britishness, which may be published after a period of dialogue and feedback."

Following that, a Bill of Rights ("and Duties"). This could add "specifically British rights" to the European Convention on Human Rights which the government said "should not be the last word on the subject."

"It would build on the basic principles of the Human Rights Act, but make explicit the way in which a democratic society’s rights have to be balanced by obligations."

The paper, like green papers before it, is a statement of intent and not a finished document. Indeed, it has rarely been Labour's strategy to declare reform completed, rather it is a continuous process of removal and replacement.

It speaks, however, of "the journey towards a new constitutional settlement" although it says the paper itself doesn't represent a blueprint, but "the first step in a national conversation."

At its conclusion, the Governance of Britain discusses the possibility of a new constitution.

It's fairly clear not only from the fact that a constitution is included as the final phase in the Green Paper, but that written constitutions are spoken of in such glowing terms, that the authors of the paper are desperately keen to introduce one. However, cautious voices at the fringes of the drafting party managed to insert warnings that it could take a long time to produce a British constitution.

Still, it remains the goal, and we believe that it is only a matter of time before Brown invokes a new Constitutional Settlement, in the form of a British Constitution.

Why? Because much of the stuff in the Green Paper, produced and released as Brown was rising to an unassailable lead in the polls, has been swiftly forgotten. The autumn's non-election fiasco and looming recession have taken the shine off Brown's first six months, and the intellectual colossus promising a Brave New Britain now looks bumbling, cowardly and not in control of events.

The grandiose declarations about returning power to the people and parliament seem laughable as the government wins a vote to prevent a referendum on the European Lisbon Treaty - something it appears that an overwhelming number of Britons are demanding.

Brown won't give the British a referendum on the EU Constitution - but he might well offer them the opportunity to support a new, "British Constitution", thus appearing to bring the seize the issue of who governs Britain once again.

This is a dangerous time for Britain to produce a new constitution. As EURSOC reported last week, the Lisbon Treaty has a deeply ambiguous, self-amending nature which will have a deleterious effect on national constitutions. National institutions are weakened by the Treaty, and will weaken further still as it generates new annexes in future.

Furthermore, as the report by the establishment strategy thinktank RUSI explained, a decade of ideological effort under new Labour has left Britain and its institutions seriously weakened.

A Constitution, produced under these circumstances, would be written at a time when traditional Britain is weak and Labour's "reforming" Britain, unopposed by any serious opposition party, is in a position of power. It would be disastrous.

Solicitor General Vera Baird QC, who we spoke of before, would likely be on any future Constitutional committee. Indeed, judging from the phrasing of the article in the New Statesman we link to above, EURSOC would bet she was one of the driving forces behind the "Governance of Britain" green paper.

"Labour has enacted a programme of radical constitutional reform since 1997," she writes, "with much still to do."

Keywords like modernisation, rational, coherence, integration crop up in her essay: Those things being swept away are described as "anachronistic."

Baird appears keen on a Constitution, but - summarising her(?) conclusion to the Governance Green Paper, she adds that it could be a long way off. Of course, a week is a long time in politics.

Already, preparations are being made for a British "Supreme Court", doubtless designed to fit into any future constitutional separation of powers.

The left has blown hot and cold about the idea of a British constitution for at least two decades. This year sees the anniversary of Charter 88, a British pressure group calling for consitutional reform. Drawn up at the height of the Thatcher era and taking its inspiration from Vaclav Havel's Charter 77 (what hubris, what self-regard British lefties have!) the Charter's 85,000 signatories supported a "new constitutional settlement" leading to a written constitution.

Former Labour leader Neil Kinnock claimed to have had the measure of most of those involved, denouncing them as "Wankers, whiners and whingers." However, both Brown and his predecessor Tony Blair agree in principle with many of Charter 88's demands - though Brown probably dislikes the  organisation's claims that many EU nations, including all the larger ones, have "special procedures" to ratify the EU treaty, such as "super majorities". Britain will pass the Lisbon Treaty with a simple majority, which surely does not reflect the document's constitutional impact.

So who would write the British Constitution? Solicitor General Vera Baird certainly has the right stuff, at least from a New Labour perspective. From her biography:

"As a key member of Michael Mansfield’s chambers at Tooks Court since 1986, Ms Baird has taken part in some of the key civil liberties cases. She successfully defended the four women charged with Criminal Damage to a Hawk aircraft destined for bombing East Timor, has worked on cases about almost every protest movement in the last two decades from Greenham Common to Menwith Hill."

A veteran "human rights" lawyer, then, with a radical view of Britain's history and those who defend our borders. Just ideal for writing the Constitution. One can understand why Baird wants a written constitution, and take a fairly good guess at what she'd like in it.

It can be assumed that Labour has placed similar radicals in other advisory and consulting positions for the forthcoming Bill of Rights & Responsibilities and indeed the British Constitution. People who see Labour's ideological Long March of the past decade as only the "first steps" towards a New Britain, effectively cleansed of troublesome "anachronisms" and stuffy "traditions."

Imagine if every government elected to power in Britain believed it had the right to bring in wholesale constitutional reform? It would create political and constitutional turmoil in the country. Why does Labour believe its powers go beyond what decades of previous governments have done? Why does Brown's government alone believe it controls Britain's destiny?

There is much to do, they say. Their opponents could argue the same is true for them.


We shall (not) overcome... Nuclear protest survived six Tory governments. But not New Labour
Kim Sengupta 8 March 2008

Fifty years after historic march, protest camp at atomic weapons base is outlawed in a new blow to civil liberties

It survived six Tory governments, the end of the Cold War and the rise and fall of mass marches against the British nuclear deterrent. But after 50 years in which the tradition of peaceful demonstration has been maintained outside the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston, the New Labour era has finally done for one of the most famous symbols of protest in British political history.

Today would have seen the latest gathering of the band of women who have assembled on the second Saturday of each month since the 1980s to object to the continuing development of the United Kingdom's nuclear deterrent. Instead, following a High Court ruling this week, the protest tents are being removed, demonstrators are being threatened with arrest and "no camping" signs are being erected.

From being a symbol of the right to protest, Aldermaston has become the latest testament to the desire of successive New Labour governments to curtail the right to assemble, demonstrate and object to government policy.

Evidence from the Ministry of Defence to the High Court cited "operational and security concerns". In their High Court appeal, legal representatives for the Aldermaston women argued that the by-law which ostensibly took effect last May banning "camping in tents, caravans, trees or otherwise" amounted to an unlawful interference with freedom of expression and the right of assembly guaranteed by articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights. David Plevsky, appearing for the Aldermaston Women's Peace Camp, said the new regulations were "criminalising the peaceful, traditional and regular activities of the AWPC".

It cut no ice. Before the ruling, Sian Jones a member of the peace camp, said: "If we don't win this review our very existence will be under threat. But there are also wider implications for the long-held right to protest, which is such an important part of British society. Aldermaston has been known as a place of protest for the last 50 years, and this year is the 50th anniversary of the first CND march there." That battle has now been lost.

As a result of the heavy-handed prohibition of a long-running series of protests which have never resulted in violence, a march this Easter to Aldermaston – intended to commemorate the pioneering protest of 1958 – has now taken on a wholly contemporary significance. After a series of assaults on the right to protest around Westminster and beyond, the 2008 trek through Berkshire is set to become the latest chapter in the fight to wrest back civil liberties that New Labour appears determined to take away.

The CND is planning a 50th anniversary day of action on Easter Monday, when the atomic weapons establishment is to be surrounded by a "human chain" to highlight what it says is the stifling of legitimate protest. The police have warned that anyone causing an obstruction during that protest is likely to be arrested and prosecuted.

Kate Hudson, the chairperson of CND said: "We feel this is an extremely serious matter where the long-established and hard-won right to protest is now under attack. People are extremely worried about the weapons of mass destruction being produced at Aldermaston and it is unrealistic of the Government to think that they will not take part in expressing their views. "We hope that on Easter Monday people will not only come because it is the 50th anniversary of the first march but also to show the need to defend their civil liberties."

One campaigner planning to take part, 57-year-old Margaret Jefferson, from west London, said: "I think it is essential that people make a stand on this issue. I had stayed at that peace camp as have so many others without posing any threat to anyone. What is this Government afraid of, what do they think we will do?

"We live in a very dangerous world as it is and with the end of the Cold War there is even less justification for nuclear weapons. As long as these weapons are here there is the risk that a version of them will come into the hands of terrorists."

One of the most famous figures to participate in 1958 is too frail to be there on Easter Monday. But there is no questioning his ongoing commitment to the protest and outrage at the modern Labour Party's complicity in its suppression.

Michael Foot, the former Labour leader, who marched with his late wife, the actress and author Jill Craigie, said last night that he was "deeply saddened" to hear of the camp being closed down, and especially dismayed that this should happen under a Labour government.

"We thought the cause was right and just and we were glad to take part in these marches," Mr Foot said. "I think it is wretched that they are now thinking of shutting down the camp after it had been goingsuccessfully for more than 20 years and I am sure Jill would have felt the same way as well.

"The governments at the time sometimes behaved very badly towards these protesters who were simply exercising their rights in a peaceful way. But these were Tory governments, the Labour Party supported them as I recall, I was the leader at the time. But times seem to have changed."


Justice has been debased in the fight against terror
The Observer, Feb 17 2008

How have the principles of British justice been applied to counter the threat of al-Qaeda terrorism? Strangely and inconsistently, according to evidence revealed in two court cases last week.

First, the High Court heard a legal challenge to the 2006 decision by then Attorney General Lord Goldsmith to stop a Serious Fraud Office investigation into alleged corruption in an arms deal between BAE and Saudi Arabia. At the time, the government insisted that 'national security' concerns meant the case should be dropped. Saudi Arabia, went the argument, is a key ally against terrorists. The SFO was threatening this strategic partnership by snooping around claims - unproven - that Saudi officials were bribed.

The court was told how Tony Blair put 'irresistible pressure' on the SFO. Documents were shown revealing that BAE had directly lobbied the Attorney General. It was alleged that the Saudis had warned of an increased security threat to Britain if the case continued. Lord Justice Moses said one interpretation was that 'a gun had been held to the head' of the government. The national security case, it is alleged, was deployed as an argument of last resort, when the real reason for stopping the investigation was to protect commercial interests.

Separately, the Court of Appeal last week ruled that Lotfi Raissi, an Algerian pilot accused of involvement in the 11 September attacks, was wrongly imprisoned. Mr Raissi had the multiple misfortunes to have attended the same flight school as one of the 9/11 hijackers, to have moved to London shortly after the attacks and to be of Arab descent. He was identified by US authorities as a suspect and detained in Britain, pending extradition, for several weeks. In 2002, a judge found there was no evidence against him. But it has taken him a further six years to win recognition that his initial detention was unjust.

What do these two cases have in common? The answer is that they show how fragile the rule of law can be whenever anti-terror policy is invoked. BAE executives accused of corruption wield influence at the highest level of government such that the allegations can be kept away from court. By contrast, just a hint of suspicion around Mr Raissi was sufficient to have him imprisoned without trial. The spectre of al-Qaeda, however bogus in each case, was a trump card that swept all other considerations from the table.

Both cases expose the guiding principle of the Blair government in its approach to combating terror: that the ends justify the means; that civil liberties and due process are luxuries for a society at war and can be suspended for the greater good of collective security.

That is a dangerous creed at the best of times. It is particularly inappropriate when the ends in question - protecting democracy and the rule of law - are themselves undermined by the means. Absolute executive power is no remedy for terrorism.

When Gordon Brown became Prime Minister, he tried to distance himself from his predecessor's approach. He spoke encouragingly about Britain's liberal tradition and the importance of judicial and parliamentary checks on government. But on the key ideological question - are practices that debase justice permissible in the fight against terrorism? - he has wavered. He remains wedded to an extension of the time police can detain a terror suspect without charge from 28 to 42 days.

The case of Lotfi Raissi should be sufficient to illustrate how ill-judged that is. Suspicion turned, in the minds of prosecutors and police, into certainty without any evidence. It is worth noting that, had Mr Raissi been detained in Saudi Arabia, he would doubtless have been tortured. He may even have confessed, despite his innocence. That is how justice works when the goal of defeating terrorism is used to justify all means.

Thankfully, British courts still enjoy independence and can hold government to account. The evidence they threw up last week should make Gordon Brown reconsider his draconian anti-terror plans.


42 days: Promises of safeguards are a complete sham
Open democracy. 21 Feb 08

OurKingdom is supporting Liberal Conspiracy’s campaign against 42 days detention, and will be publishing a series of posts about it over the next few weeks. Labour rebels will decide whether the bill passes or not. For a full list of those who rebelled last time (on 90 days detention), including email addresses, click here.

Stuart Weir (Cambridge, Democratic Audit): Home Secretary Jacqui Smith is doing the rounds at Westminster busily reassuring Labour MPs that she has put in place strong safeguards against abuse of the government proposal to take “reserve powers” to hold terrorists suspects for up to 42 days without charge.  Some MPs who were initially opposed to the proposal are persuaded.

But they should not be.  Set aside for the moment the point that there is no case for extending the 28-day period (I will come back to that in another blog), the government’s safeguards are a sham that the parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights report, Counter-Terrorism Policy and Human Rights: 42 days, ruthlessly exposes.  Indeed, the very idea that Parliament might debate whether it is justifiable to invoke the 42 day limit in any particular case is far from being a safeguard - it carries the serious risk that it might prejudice the trial of any people who were actually detained.  Parliament’s proper role, as the Joint Committee reminded the government, is to create the framework for countering terrorism, not deciding who should or should not be detained.

What’s more, the idea that invoking the 42-day period would be “subject to parliamentary approval” is a sham upon a sham.  Do the maths.  Even if both Houses vote against the order, it would almost always be made towards the end of a 28-day detention; and so it will lapse after those affected will have been held for 42 days since the order, even if countermanded, has a life of 30 days.

It is of course the courts, not Parliament, that should scrutinise the use of powers to deprive people of liberty, and here the government promise of  additional judicial safeguards is yet another sham.  The Joint Committee took evidence from David Ford, head of the Counter Terrorism Bill team, who said in terms that the government’s new proposals were “not really extensions”.  Finally the committee established that the only additional “safeguard” was that applications for 42 day periods of detention would require the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions - which is not a “judicial” safeguard at all and anyway it is already the case that the Crown prosecution service applies for extensions of detention, not the police.

So the protection of people’s liberty will still depend upon existing judicial safeguards that the Joint Committee has already shown to be inadequate.  The Guardian’s Simon Hoggart compares Jacqui Smith to her namesake Delia.  But hers is a cooked-up recipe which Labour MPs should not swallow.


Jacqui Smith and National Identity Register spin, trying to hide the Crosby Report

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has now followed her dismal NuLabour / Old Labour extremist predecessors, by delivering a torrent of weasel words and nonsense in support of the wretched National Identity Scheme.

Her speech and the associated National Identity Scheme Delivery Plan 2008 both seem to be designed by the Home Office spin doctors to try to deflect the attention of the media and the wider public from the Crosby Report, publication of which appears to have been suppressed for about a year by Gordon Brown.

This report, Challenges and opportunities in identity assurance< Crosby Report (.pdf), is by Sir James Crosby, the former head of the HBOS bank, and deputy chairman of the Financial Services Authority. He has outlined some common sense approaches to the issues of Identity Assurance, based on what consumers , citizens and the business world want and accept, rather than the Police State centric plans of the current National Identity Scheme.

At an early stage, we recognised that consumers constitute the common ground between the public and private sectors. And our focus switched from "ID management" to "ID assurance". The expression "ID management" suggests data sharing and database consolidation, concepts which principally serve the interests of the owner of the database, for example the Government or the banks. Whereas we think of “ID assurance” as a consumer-led concept, a process that meets an important consumer need without necessarily providing any spin-off benefits to the owner of any database. This distinction is fundamental. An ID system built primarily to deliver high levels of assurance for consumers and to command their trust has little in common with one inspired mainly by the ambitions of its owner. In the case of the former, consumers will extend use both across the population and in terms of applications such as travel and banking. While almost inevitably the opposite is true for systems principally designed to save costs and to transfer or share data.
Obviously such common sense, is an anathema to the out of touch control freak politicians and bureaucrats in the Home Office and Downing Street, whose National Identity Scheme bears very little resemblance to what Sir James Crosby has identified as being necessary or feasible.

The BBC reports the full transcript of Jacqui Smith's speech given at the NuLabour political think tank Demos, which contains spin and nonsense almost worthy of Blunkett or Clarke.

It is too full of waffle to go through every line, but here are the slimiest bits which oozed off the screen at us:

It is only right, of course, that the politics of personal information should be subject to intense scrutiny and robust argument.

This is not a debate confined to government alone, but one which now affects almost every aspect of our daily lives as citizens and consumers.

This Labour Government tries to ignore all the opposition and criticism of their pet scheme.

We all need to be able to prove who we are - quickly, easily and securely.

That is not true for most situations in modern life. We may have to prove our rights or entitlements to goods or services, but that does not mean that we always have to betray our personal details to untrustworthy strangers, bureaucrats or criminals, through the ~one size does not fit all~ centralised biometric database scheme which the Government is wasting our money on.

And it will provide us with the reassurance we need that others who occupy positions of trust in our society are who they say they are as well.

How exactly do you encode "trustworthiness" into a plastic ID Card or a centralised national database ?

That concern should make us question closely those who are charged with managing our personal information on our behalf.

And it should make us think carefully about the responsibilities they have to live up to.

Some claim that recent cases highlight the difficulty of entrusting sensitive information to anyone, let alone the state.

I will argue today that it is precisely because of public's interest in secure identity that we need more effective mechanisms for protecting identity and safeguarding personal information.

The National Identity Scheme will help deliver this.

Neither the HMRC Child Benefit Award database scandal, nor the Ministry of Defence recruitment laptop disaster would have been prevented, or ameliorated by the National Identity Scheme.

Neither of these scandals has yet been fully investigated, and no heads have rolled, except for one senior civil servant at HMRC who was immediately employed by another Government Quango for a six figure sum. Neither HMRC nor the MoD have reestablished public trust in their management and systems.

Because your name will be linked by your fingerprints to a unique entry on the National Identity Register, you will have much greater protection from identity theft - no-one will be able to impersonate you, like they can now, just by finding our your name and address and personal details.
Most so called identity theft happens online or over the phone, for which this particular ID card scheme is worse than useless.

We have listened to people's concerns.

They have listened to them, and then carried on regardless, despite the severe warnings from the world's IT Security and technical Identity Management experts.

The way in which we are designing the National Identity Register, with separate databases holding personal biographic details physically and technologically separately from biometric fingerprints and photographs, will greatly reduce the risk of unauthorised disclosures of information being used to damaging effect.
So what ? Most of the unauthorised disclosures will be through people who already have full , legal access to the combined systems, but who are stupid, lazy, under pressure or corrupt i.e. normal human beings.

There is nothing particularly more secure about using multiple physical systems to store the data, if they both provide their own sections of the data into a single report or web page.

This very web page you are reading now is composite output from at least two webservers, run by two different companies, physically in two different countries, but you as a authorised user, still have access to all of it, nevertheless.

This is in addition to existing plans for tough penalties for such disclosures - and I should make it clear that none of the databases will be online, so it won't be possible to hack into them.

A National Identity Register / ID Card Quotation to rival those of Blunkett or Clarke, in its utter, provable, stupidity.

Identity fraud costs the UK £1.7bn a year.
The Old Lie - we keep pointing out that this figure is an utter falsehood, as do any of the organisations whose guesstimates have been abused to compile it., but the Labour politicians still keep trotting it out

See Andy Burnham's "£1.7 billon identity fraud" figure is as false as the previous £1.3 billion one

Would Jean Hutchinson have been able to commit her crimes if she had been asked to give a photo and fingerprint as proof of her identity when she registered each new benefit claim? The answer is no.
A simple check against the National Identity Register would have revealed the real person's face and fingerprints.

So how exactly was she caught without any such scheme in place ?

The vast majority of benefit fraud does not involve fake identities, but simply people lying about their actual circumstances, and using their real names and addresses and bank account details.

All major high street banks are now using the IPS Passport Validation Service to carry out check to prevent money laundering.
Given the estimated billions of pounds of money laundering which they fail to detect these checks plainly do not prevent most money laundering., yet they have cost hundreds of millions of pounds to implement, at great inconvenience and expense to innocent customers.

The amount of Terrorist Finance which has been frozen or seized, would not pay for the second or third home of a Member of Parliament, let alone prevent any real terrorist campaign.

All applications are now checked before a visa is issued - and so far more than 11,000 have been identified as people previously fingerprinted in the UK as part of previous immigration cases or asylum applications.
The results of these fingerscan matches are communicated to our visa officers abroad in minutes, so that we can refuse visas.

To roll out this sort of technology on a national scale to 60 million people, would need the system to be capable of accurately checking hundreds of fingerprints per second, not one set every five minutes.

The old-fashioned stickers and paper immigration documents that can be subject to fraud will become a thing of the past.
From November this year, we will start to replace them with compulsory biometric identity cards for foreign nationals who come here to work and study.

Within three years, all new applicants arriving in the UK will be issued with a card.

Why are they assuming that all non-EU immigrants and visitors need Another Smart Card ? Many of them, e.g. from the USA or the Commonwealth, will have their own ICAO standard biometric Passports - will this Home Office system fail to interoperate with them ?

Locking people to one identity will help in our fight against human trafficking, illegal working and benefit fraud.
The first foreign national identity cards will be followed next year by the first identity cards for British citizens.

The first argument for the national identity scheme is that it will offer us better protections - as individuals and as a society.

Why are they trying to conflate and confuse the functions of an international passport belonging to a law abiding foreigner, with an internal UK ID Card scheme ?

One does not require or need to depend on the other.

The first cards will therefore be issued, from 2009, to groups where there is a compelling need for reassurance that someone is who they say they are.
Where is the National Identity Scheme Commissioner, who is supposed to provide some scrutiny of this scheme ? This person needs to be appointed immediately, if he or she is to be capable of effectively monitoring the first victims of the National Identity Register scheme at the end of 2008.

We plan to start with people working in our airports, to support the already impressive action this sector is taking to ensure the integrity of its checks and systems.

Ruth and I agree that identity cards can help to deliver a strengthened identity assurance regime - making pre-employment and security checks easier for airside workers such as baggage handlers, check-in staff, aircraft engineers, and immigration and customs officials.

By introducing identity cards for up to 200,000 airside workers as a condition of their employment in such sensitive roles, we will see how the National Identity Scheme, offering a national standard for security, can add value over and above the efforts of any one sector.

Are we seriously meant to believe that there are actually 200,000 airside workers who have not already passed far more stringent tests than the NIR and ID Card will provide ?
If not, then why not ?

How many illegal immigrants, terrorists, drug smugglers or human slave traders are currently working for the Home Office as "immigration and customs officials" ?

Will Jacqui Smith resign as Home Secretary if one such person is found to have infiltrated her own Department ?

There is a desperate need for interoperability between all the different airline and airport ID card schemes, contactless smart cards for door entry etc. but adding Yet Another Card, based on different technologies, will only make the problems of systems integration and cross certification much, much worse ! The access security problems at airports do not require a National Identity Register to solve them, only a small fraction of the money which will be wasted on duplicating the checks which are already routine.

And I am keen to take forward discussions with other groups who operate in positions of trust in our society, which could include Olympics security employees and those involved in protecting our national infrastructure, such as power stations.
Our test with each of these groups should be whether their participation in the scheme makes arrangements for checking their identity more secure - thus offering greater public reassurance - and whether it makes life easier, not just for employers, but for employees as well.

How will losing a day of productive work to be registered on the NIR, make things easier or cheaper either for employees or employers ?

Remember, the National Identity Register and/or ID Card will be in addition to all the other identity and physical access control tokens and computer logon or encryption devices which these employees will still have to use - it will add to the complexities, risks and costs,

As we move towards wider participation in the scheme, IPS will also offer a tailored service for those who work in positions of trust, who choose to have an identity card, and who wish to use that to fast-track checks on their status as part of their job.
Working with the Criminal Records Bureau, a trial conducted by IPS shows that the time taken to perform a criminal records check could be cut from 4 weeks to as little as 4 days, with extremely high levels of user satisfaction.

Requiring fingerprints to help perform Criminal records Bureau checks is an entirely separate matter from an ID register / Card scheme. Again, one does not depend on the other.

This ID Card is of no use for postal or online application, which is how the vast majority of CRB checks are done, and where the biometrics on the card or on the central register cannot be checked against the live person.

Alongside these groups, we will start to make identity cards available to young people on a purely voluntary basis in 2010.
It will be up to each young person to decide if they want one.

I believe there are clear attractions in the scheme.

It will make it easier to enrol on a course, apply for a student loan, open a bank account, or prove your age - especially as we get tougher on sales of alcohol to those under-age.

All the ID cards aimed at Yoofs for precisely these purposes, like the Connexions Card, have been utter failures. Why exactly will the vastly more expensive National ID Card be of any use to this age group either ?

The important thing for everyone on the National Identity Register is that their unique identity details are locked to one person - themselves.
No-one else can pretend to be them, and they can't pretend to be anyone else.

Provided that you are not intending to deceive people for financial or oter gain, it is still not yet ilegal to use multiple names e.g. Cherie Booth QC is also Cherie Blair, the wife of the former Prime Minister Tony Blair.

How exactly is Jacqui Smith 's scheme going to preserve this ancient right ?

And let me be clear on the Government's position on compulsion.
We have always said that there will be no requirement to carry and present a card.

That has not changed, and will not change.

And there will be no compulsion, either, in having to apply for a dedicated identity card for the purposes of proving your identity.

Your passport could also be used.

As more and more people participate and register, and as more and more people realise the benefits of participation, I want to see the scheme become universal.

At least 20% of the population is, even according to the Government's own opinion polls, completely opposed to this scheme. Tens of thousands of supporters of the cross political party NO2ID Campaign have pledged not to be forced into such a compulsory scheme. Some of them are willing to face fines or even prison, on this matter of principle.

A Universal scheme, therefore, does mean Compulsion, no matter what weasel words a Labour politicians tries to use to spin it.

We have always made clear that requiring everyone to be on the Register is a decision for the future that would need primary legislation.
The way we are now approaching the scheme will lead to a significantly quicker take-up of its benefits.

Quicker than what, and by how much ? The original milestones in the project have already been missed.

And one of the strengths of this choice is that now people will be able to get a card when they want, rather than wait until they renew their passport.
What people actually want is a cheaper Passport, and no registration on the National identity register and no ID Card.

This means that we can now aim to achieve full roll-out by 2017 - two years ahead of previous plans.
More weasel words - by 2017 the original plans were for rather more than just a roll out of ID Cards which are of no use to anyone except when dealing with Home Office monopoly "services".

What exactly, in this rapidly de-scoping project, is now classified as "full roll-out" ?

The drive for a more consumer- and market-led delivery of the scheme, and the use of passports as well as cards to roll it out more widely, will among other things, have powerful implications for the cost of the overall scheme.
Unlike any other programme I can think of in Government, we are required by law to give the latest estimate of costs to Parliament every six months.

Incredibly, the Government have proved themselves to be incapable of actally delivering even their own secretive and heavily censored Section 37 Cost Reports on time at the 6 monthly intervals which they are bound legally to do, by their own wretched Identity Cards Act 2006.

By far and away the most accurate estimate of the cost of the scheme is the one produced by IPS, which is currently negotiating the contracts and managing the procurement.
Last November's Cost Report estimated the current and projected costs of issuing passports and identity cards over the next 10 years at £5.4 billion.

When we publish our next Cost Report in May, I expect to see almost £1bn removed from the headline costs.

That is a genuine reduction in the costs of the scheme - and means that we can maintain our commitment that identity cards will cost no more that £30 when they are introduced.

How is anyone seriously meant to believe these deliberately vague 6 monthly Cost Reports ?

If Jacqui Smith really wants to convince the sceptical public that the project is running smoothly, she should publish the the OGC Gateway Reviews of the scheme, something which her Government has wasted public money on fighting against our right to see such documents, under the Freedom of Information Act.

The Government were in the High Court only earlier this week, still trying to suppress our Freedom of Information Act request, for the earl Stage Zero and pre-stage Zero Gateway Reviews of the Entitlement / ID Cards Programme, as it was known 6 years ago, under the notorious David Blunkett, the then Home Secretary.

We are also determined to realise the full benefits to national security from the national identity scheme.
In particular, the Identity Cards Act allows information to be shared with law enforcement agencies where this is necessary for national security or to counter serious crime.

This is the only area in which information will be shared.

Shared with whom, precisely ?

Is Jacqui Smith promising to amend the Identity Cards Act 2006 Section 1, or has she simply not bothered to actually read what it says ?

4) For the purposes of this Act something is necessary in the public interest if, and only if, it is--

(a) in the interests of national security;
(b) for the purposes of the prevention or detection of crime;
(c) for the purposes of the enforcement of immigration controls;
(d) for the purposes of the enforcement of prohibitions on unauthorised working or employment; or
(e) for the purpose of securing the efficient and effective provision of public services.
So is she really claiming that there will be no data sharing for the prevention or detection of non - serious crime, the enforcement of immigration controls, illegal working, or for the vague catch all "for the purpose of securing the efficient and effective provision of public services." ?

Given the propensity for function creep by bureaucrats with access to databases, we simply do not believe her.

All other organisations - whether government or business - will only be able to use the scheme to verify someone's identity if they have their prior permission.
Verification services used by large scale private sector companies, e.g. airlines or banks etc. will create their own shadow, parallel versions of National Identity Register data of their customers, simply due to the economic logic of saving whatever money the Government plans to charge them for each use of the Verification Service.

These subsets of the NIR, with their own copies of your biometric details, once verified the first time, will be stored and traded on corporate systems, outside of the control of the UK Government, probably around the world, especially for global companies like airlines or credit card companies.

It is our clear and firm intention to hold only the minimum number of details required to identify an individual.
As I have set out today, the duty of public protection and the impetus for greater citizen convenience are the two drivers for our plans for the National Identity Scheme.

It is inconceivable, indeed, that in today's world people should not have a single, simple, safe way of securing and verifying their identity.

What is inconceivable is that the Government is creating another tempting Terrorist or Foreign Intelligence Agency target, part of the Critical National Infrastructure i.e. all the eggs in one Single Point of Failure basket (multiple physical database servers notwithstanding)

The debate on identity cards evokes strong feelings - and that is only to be expected in an area of public policy which rests on the interaction of the individual and the state, and the clinching role of shared personal information in that relationship.
Writers have always found fertile ground in setting the individual and the state at odds with each other in the battleground of ideas, and the battleground of ID.

On this subject, it's apparently compulsory to mention Orwell and Huxley.

The works of these and other dystopian novelists, have not been taken as a dire warning, but as a blue print for this Government's policies.

And as anyone who has caught an episode of the current BBC1 political thriller 'The Last Enemy' will know, if there are not cock-ups to point to, then there are always plenty of conspiracies to fall back on.
The fictional cock-ups pale into insignificance compared with the real life IT disasters and Data Privacy Breaches, involving billions of pounds of public money and the personal details of tens of millions of people, which this Labour Government is directly responsible for.

'The Last Enemy' transports us to a Britain of the not-too-distant future, where personal information has become the weapon of a surveillance state against its own citizens, and where a super-database called 'TIA - Total Information Awareness' appears to fuse state of the art technology with a rather draconian reinterpretation of the art of the state.
It all makes for a good drama.

But - to turn an old adage on its head - we should never allow a good story to get in the way of the facts.

When we return to the real world after an hour or two in front of the telly, how useful are these fictions for our daily interactions as citizens with government? How much of ourselves do we recognise in these champions of individual liberty, as we pursue our own personal missions with bureaucracy to pay our tax bill or register a change of address? Very little, in all honesty - because the role that we as citizens and as consumers of government services are looking to the state to perform - and to perform quickly, securely, and at our convenience - is one of protection, verification, facilitation.

All Police Surveillance Nanny States claim that they are repressing people's freedoms for their own good.

Jacqui Smith and her Labour colleagues have broken the relationship of trust between the Government and the people, which, to be fair, had been damaged by the previous Conservative Government, but not to the same extent.

Rather than thinking of the state as an opponent of our liberties, set on thwarting our personal ambitions, in this context the role of government agencies is to defend our interests, to offer reassurance and trust, and to working in the most effective way possible to ease and to enable our lives.
That is what the role of Government agencies and the civil service used to be, before they were politicised by NuLabour apparatchiki and spin doctors at the top, and crippled with bureaucratic ineptitude and budget cuts at the lower end.

As we have said before, "Come back Sir Humphrey Appleby - you may have been a devious manipulative civil service mandarin, but at least you were a competent one", something which cannot be said of the current crop of real life politicians and apparatchiki who have destroyed the old civil service ethos.

When will this National Identity Register scheme be killed off for good, and replaced with a more humane and useful system for the real benefit of individuals, rather than for the bureaucrats and control freak politicians ?

See also
The left should beware the rightwing wolf in civil liberties
Thanks to New Labour, we can say goodbye to our civil liberties
Liberal Paternalism, another manoeuvre
Liberty is a subject they won't teach in Brown's nurseries
Civil liberty praise for Scotland
Political detentions

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