Why would you want an ID card?

Did you see today’s press release from the Home Office about how great ID cards are? Despite any evidence that this actually happens, they keep asserting that people can’t wait to get their hands on them. Everyone is so keen that they’re going to start issuing them to volunteers before the 2012 official start.

It seems that they’re backing off a little on the anti-terrorist claims, but here is the new list of benefits.

In her speech she stressed that in those areas where identity cards are delivered first residents, businesses, local authorities and others will reap the rewards the cards bring including:

  • a universal and simple proof of identity that brings convenience for organisations and individuals ? that means an end to the disorganised use of photocopied bank statements, phone bills and birth certificates
  • the Service will give you control of who can see your personal details ? that means an end to revealing details about your finances or personal life just to prove who you are and where you live
  • ensuring that foreign nationals living, working and studying here legally are able to easily prove their identity and prevent those here illegally from benefiting from the privileges of Britain
  • convenient travel in Europe using the identity card.

I’m not sure even taken at face value this adds up. How often do you have to prove your identity using bank statements and bills? I can’t accurately remember the last time I need to do this. Maybe a couple of years ago when I opened a new bank account.

The control of data sounds useful, except the Government really doesn’t have a great track record for keeping personal information out of the wrong hands. Unless that personal information is MPs expense claims of course.

Limiting the ability of foreigners to claim benefits would be great. If it worked. But it won’t. If people are prepared to enter the UK hidden in shipping containers, in the back of lorries and other inconvenient (at best) methods, is the difficulty and legality of forging a ID card really going to deter them?

And lastly, a convenient way of travelling around Europe. You mean, like a Passport? I already have one of those. And a common way to get an ID Card is going to be… when you apply for a new passport. So I now have two documents instead of one. In what way is that convenient?

Okay, so some of these grumbles are “relative.” I may not be inconvenienced by proving my ID very often, but if it’s cheap it may be worth it. They say: “It is intended that the fee for a British citizen?s identity card issued in 2009 or 2010 will be ?30 or less.” So before the vast majority of the population get one it will be ?30 or less. There’s no indication of the costs after that, presumably because they don’t know what will go wrong with it. Or put another way: it will be more than ?30. If you think I’m being cynical, feel free to go away and Google for successful Government IT projects. I’ll wait.

They also say that “approximately 70% of this cost will need to be spent in any event to implement secure biometric passports.” So by their own numbers ID Cards will cost ?1435m ((“The latest (Nov 2008) estimated cost of the Service for the next 10 years is ?4,785m for UK citizens, including the issue of both passports and identity cards and ?326m for foreign nationals.”)).

That’s a lot of money to spend so you can travel to Europe using a different document than you usually use and avoid digging out a few utility bills every year or two.

So in conclusion, it’s expensive and won’t do what they say it will. What are ID Cards for again?


One response to “Why would you want an ID card?”

  1. I don’t see one single benefit here. Having recently applied for a credit card, I needed to supply proof of identity – it was inconvenient, but I can’t see how having an ID card would have made it more convenient. Travelling: as you point out, we have passports. Non-EEA nationals who want to live and work here already get a visa in their passport that proves their eligibility, so an ID card won’t help them much. And illegal immigrants, well, you covered them already. Benefit fraud is largely conducted by Brits, so claiming that it will reduce foreigners abusing the system is misdirection, at best. #2 baffles me: you’ll still be showing personal information when you hand over an ID card, so that argument goes out the window…

    The only actual benefit I can see is for non-EEA nationals who are subject to Schengen visas for travelling around parts of Europe. If a UK ID card will replace the need for them to apply for Schengen visas, that would be truly helpful. But the UK could also get rid of that need by joining the Schengen agreement in the first place…!

    Conclusion: I’m with you. Why do we need ID cards?