On Brown, ID cards, and the forgotten “voluntary entitlement card”

The BBC is suggesting that Gordon Brown may be “softening” the Labour position on Identity Cards:

But, in an apparent softening of that line, Mr Brown described compulsion only as an “option” which is “open”

Yeah, right. This coming from that party that originally touted ID cards as “voluntary entitlement cards”, claiming at the time, that the cards were not ID cards in disguise. This also coming from the party that deliberately excluded people opposed to the “voluntary entitlement cards” from the public consultation (or, at least those who use e-mail or fax) and concluded – erroneously – that the public supported VEC’s. This is the party that, when it finally – and inevitably – changed the name of Voluntary Entitlement Cards to Identity Cards, claimed that the public supported ID cards on the back of the voluntary entitlement card consultation, thereby making debate as to the validity of the original consultation moot.

The Labour government under Blair – of which Brown was a part – has consistently lied about its position on the ID cards. I cannot believe that Brown is going to abandon the compulsion his party has gone to such lengths to conceal. And that would appear to be the case. The word “open” apparently appears in this quote:

But, asked at his monthly Downing Street media conference if ID cards had to be compulsory for all citizens in order to be effective, he replied: “That’s the option we have left ourselves open to but we haven’t legislated for it.”

This isn’t an option they’d left themselves “open to”, this was a position they were effectively forced in to when faced with rebellion from Labour back-benchers combined with the Tories and Lib Dems. They haven’t legislated for it because they’re not required to legislate for it until 2010. David Blunkett appears to agree:

Former Home Secretary David Blunkett, who introduced the initial identity card scheme, said Mr Brown’s words were “in line” with the compromise struck with MPs.

That compromise, of course, being that ID cards could be introduced but “compulsion” (which, incidentally, means specific legislative compulsion to have an ID card with legal penalties for not complying, not compulsion linked to renewing a passport) would require further legislation – i.e. parliamentary approval – later on. This was essentially the Labour gamble: get the ID card to pass in principle whilst they have an overwhelming majority in the Commons, then delay the question of compulsion hoping they win the appropriate election with a sufficient majority for it to pass muster. If they insisted on compulsion, the ID card would not now exist even in principle.

Interestingly, on the last point Blunkett made, Blunkett, No2ID and myself all agree enthusiastically:

But he added: “In my opinion, without it being mandatory, there is little point in doing it.

Bingo. Not that it will worth with compulsion, but at least with compulsion it has a point. So why did they pretend that it as a Voluntary Entitlement Card, and why has the Labour government never been held to account for that lie.


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