ID cards – compulsory or not?

By David Meyer | It’s not going to be compulsory to carry around ID cards. Honestly. So said Stephen Harrison, policy director at the ID & Passport Service, when asked today at the Westminster eForum on ID cards, surveillance and data protection.

Further questioning elicited more explanation: no, you won’t have to carry it around all the time, only when you want to use public services. Then: it’s “not a tool for police to demand your papers”, but if you are suspected of committing a crime, police can ask you to prove your identity, as before. Eh? This brings us back to “what’s the point then?” – in a system that’s supposed to stop terrorism/whatever, there’s no benefit to having ID cards unless everyone has to carry them around all the time. Stop Joe Criminal and give him the option of popping along to the police station later to bring in his ID card, and you think he’ll show up?

In any case, you’ll automatically register for an ID card if you renew or apply for a passport, so pretending that it’s not compulsory in any way is frankly a joke. Some honesty on such matters would go a long way to convincing people that the system is not malevolent – if that is indeed the case – and hobbling one of the key bodies that’s scrutinising the scheme’s introduction is not exactly helping matters.

Oh hang on [looks through notes from today’s eForum]… “The government has said it will look at further legislation for compulsory registration in the future” (Harrison again). That’s more like it. Call a spade a spade.