ID Cards

Notes on the use of ID cards

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  • Created by: Jem
  • Created on: 26-04-13 14:56

Identity Cards

Involves the removal of anonymity; so an infringement of Art 8.


  •          Voluntary ID System: People volunteer to carry ID cards
  •          Universal ID System: All citizens carry an ID, but it is not a legal requirement
  •          Compulsory ID System: All citizens carry an ID card and are legally required to.  Police can demand to see it and forgetting it is a criminal offence.
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National Registration Act 1939

introduced a compulsory ID system as an emergency measure prior to WWII.

Stated: ‘a constable in uniform, or any person authorised for the purpose under the said regulations’ might demand the production of the card either immediately or ‘within such time to such person and at such a place as may be prescribed

 The ID system continued after the war as many bodies, such as the NHS had adopted it into their administration systems.

In 19247, Parliament held a debate on scrapping the cards.

Minister of Health, head of NHS, Aneurin Bevan: ‘citizens ought to be allowed to move about freely without running the risk of being accosted by a policeman…and asked to produce proof of identity

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Abolishing ID cards

·      Two events led to abolition of ID cards:

  •          1950: The Committee on national registration, chaired by Sir Nicholas de Villiers, decided use of ID cards was politically undesirable from a practical administration standpoint.
  •          Harry Willcock: A Liberal Parliamentary candidate refused to produce his ID card for police and was convicted under the National Registration Act.  He appealed to a court under the Lord Chief Justice, and the judgement was upheld.  Though, the Lord Chief Justice sympathised with Willcock and shared his viewpoint. The Lord Chief Justice objected to ID cards because they were being used for trivial matters, damaged police relations with the public and made law-abiding citizens criminals when they forgot their ID card.
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Abolishing ID cards

21st Feb 1952: Government announces the repealing of the National Registration Act

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Post-War Britain and ID cards

  •          June 1988: A bill was presented by MP Tony Favell to create a national ID: Unsuccessful
  •          Feb 1989: A Private Members bill was introduced by MP Ralph Howell for a compulsory ID card system.  He claimed it would be effective in the fight against crime: Unsuccessful.
  •          1989: John Patten talked on introducing a voluntary system, as the costs and drawbacks of a compulsory system were greater than its benefits.  His idea: unsuccessful.
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Post-War Britain and ID cards

  • April 1989: MP Jacques Arnold introduced a bill to give people a unique personal identity number: Unsuccessful.
  • 1993: David Amess wanted to introduce the Voluntary Security Cards Bill
  • 1993: There was a proposal of a voluntary smart card by MP Harold Elleston aimed at reducing credit card fraud.  It would also work for landlords to check the identities of their tenants and ensure they are not terrorists.
  • Football Spectators Act 1989: This Act carried the power to introduce a compulsory football membership scheme, but this was not introduced.
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Reasons Presented for Re-Introducing ID cards

  • Fight Crime
  • Terrorism
  • Fraud
  • Football violence
  • Reduction of Immigration
  • Landlord identity checks on tenants
  • Underage drinking
  • Drugs
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The Labour Government

·         First indication of reintroduction of ID cards was after 9/11.  The idea was for it to be called an ‘entitlement card’ and would a universal scheme linked to benefits and services.

·         The ‘entitlement card’ became and ID card.  There was also a clear indication of the scheme becoming compulsory.

·         The Bill was rejected first time around.

·         But in March 2006: Identity Cards Act 2006

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The Scheme

  • ·         ID cards were to be launched in line with passports
  • ·         2008: People over 16 had their details, including biometric data, added to a National Identity Register.
  • ·         2009: Over 16s in Greater Manchester area were able to apply for an ID card as part of a voluntary system.
  • ·         In Early 2010, there were plans for it to become more widely available.
  • ·         It was expected to be available for the whole population in 2012.
  • ·         The Card contained basic identity information, such as name and address.  A microchip would later hold biometric data. 
  • ·         The system was to be supported by the National Identity Register, which would be monitored by an independent watchdog.
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The Scheme

  • ·         There were fears of misuse of the information on the register, as too many people had the power to access the database.  In response, the Labour government stated that no information on race, sexuality, health, criminal record or political belief would be stored in the register.
  • ·         The database would simply hold information on name, gender and all addresses ever lived at with photos and fingerprints to identify people.
  • ·         Identification numbers like passports and driving licenses would also be held.
  • ·         Labour stated that the ID card system would become compulsory if they had won the last election.
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Current Approach to ID Cards

·         Coalition Government scrapped the ID card system

·         2010: the Identity Documents Act passed.  It allowed for:

o   Existing ID cards ceased to be legal documents 21st of January 2011 for both UK and EU citizens.

o   The destruction of the National Identity Register in Feb 2011

o   The Post of Identity Commissioner was removed.

o   There was no refund for the ID cards already issued, or a recall of them.

Non-EU residents were still required to have a biometric residence permit

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Arguments in Favour of ID cards

  • ·         They could bolster the fight against illegal working
  • ·         Tackle illegal immigration: the UK is the only country in the EU without an ID card system.
  • ·         Protect National Security.
  • ·         Ensure free public service.
  • ·         Protect people from identity theft through the use of biometrics
  • ·         Can be used to check the identity of those who may lie to gain a position of trust, i.e. babysitter.
  • ·         Speed up everyday transactions: easily prove age
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Arguments in Favour of ID Cards

  • ·         Speed up everyday transactions: easily prove age
  • ·         Make it easier to travel in Europe: ID card can double as passport
  • ·         Make the internet easier to use: Both the ID card number and PIN number used together ensure safety.
  • ·         Prevent the need for multiple documents to prove identity.
  • ·         Make it easier to replace missing documentation.
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Arguments Against ID Cards

  • ·         They will not prevent terrorism from organised terrorist groups, as such groups can easily forge ID cards.  The terrorists of 9/11 were also legally living in the US.  Those who are visiting for less than 3 months won’t be subject to ID card system.
  • ·         They Won’t cut crime: there is no difference in the crime rates between UK and EU countries with ID cards
  • ·         They won’t prevent benefit fraud:  This fraud is mostly based on lies about circumstances, not identity.
  • ·         It will encourage discriminatory practices: The ID systems in other EU countries has proved to cause those of ethnic minorities to be stopped more by police.
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Arguments Against ID Cards

·         There are already enough systems to check identity: CCTV, passports, birth certificate, etc.

·         Impracticable and costly: There are too many difficulties surrounding the scheme and the technology needed.  It would also cost a lot.  What happens when the card is lost?

·         It cannot be guaranteed unforgeable: the French ‘smart card’ quickly became a victim of fraud in the 1990s, and was criminally mass produced for a substantial profit.

·         It could make identity theft easier: Over reliance on one form of identification instead of a consistent range: ID card becomes skeleton key: only need to see that.

·         Not justifiable under human rights law: it removes the right to privacy

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