ID cards of ‘limited value’ in terror war

“I cannot think of a terrorist incident in which ID cards could have brought the incident to an earlier end. Generally, from a security viewpoint, in the curtailment of civil liberties, I think Parliament is so unenthused about ID cards. It’s a debate, not a reality.” LORD CARLILE

Story in full IDENTITY cards would be of limited value in the fight against terrorism, the government’s own reviewer of anti terror legislation has warned, in a dramatic reversal of his support for the controversial measure.

Lord Carlile, a Liberal Democrat law lord, said that the cards would not have stopped the 7 July bombings and added that he had changed his mind on the issue.

His U turn will be a serious setback for the government, as it faces stiff opposition in the Lords on the Identity Cards Bill and renewed scrutiny in the Commons from the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and its own back benchers.

Although ministers are expected to overturn the defeats in the Commons, opposition to the cards has strengthened on cost and security grounds.

Lord Carlile added his voice to those of the sceptics yesterday, telling GMTV’s Sunday Programme: “ID cards could be of some value in the fight against terrorism but they are probably of quite limited value.

“I cannot think of a terrorist incident in which ID cards could have brought the incident to an earlier end. Generally, Good Fake IDs from a security viewpoint, in the curtailment of civil liberties, I think Parliament is so unenthused about ID cards. It’s a debate, not a reality.”

Compulsory ID cards would not “get through” parliament but a voluntary scheme might be accepted by the public, he added.

Ministers’ previous insistence that ID cards would remain voluntary were undermined last week when Lord Falconer, the Lord Chancellor, said they would eventually be made compulsory.

The only way to make the scheme work was for people without a passport to carry one, Lord Falconer said.

On 17 January, peers voted to block the scheme until its full costs were known. They also voted for more security provisions and for more controls on who can access the data involved.

Although the Home Office has predicted that the scheme would cost British taxpay ers 584 million, this is wildly out of line from estimates of up to 19 billion provided by the London School of Economics.

David Cameron, the Conservative Party leader, has strengthened his party’s opposition to the scheme, saying the project risked ending up as a “monument to a failure of big government”.

But ministers are determined to press ahead with the cards. Scannable Fake ID Tony Blair has dismissed the LSE’s study, saying it was conducted by experts who objected to the cards on civil liberties grounds.

Yesterday, David Blunkett, the former home secretary, also urged the government to push ahead with plans for ID cards without compromise. He said a voluntary system would not work. “You either have a proper, organised, verifiable, almost impossible to break system of identity which has the database, or you don’t,” he said.

Identity cards were crucial to track who was in the country and who was accessing public services such as the NHS, he said.

The government’s card scheme was this month voted the biggest “technology loser” project by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers’ a leading international professional association in their Spectrum Magazine.

The judges drew on experts’ criticism of the measures, and cited an article in The Scotsman by Jerry Fishenden, the national technology officer for Microsoft, who warned that the required database would lead to a massive rise in fraud.

Awarding the cards plan the “worst technology project” award, the IEEE said: “The design of the system is based on unreliable and inadequate technologies that could result in privacy and security problems. scannable ids