‘THIS WILL BE LABOUR’S POLL TAX’ – says angry demonstration against ID cards

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Gate Gourmet locked-out workers on the picket line yesterday near to the factory at Heathrow
Gate Gourmet locked-out workers on the picket line yesterday near to the factory at Heathrow

‘WE will not be numbered, tagged and fingerprinted.’

That was the message from hundreds of demonstrators outside parliament on Monday against the government’s plans to introduce biometric ID cards over the next two years.

There was real anger as MPs prepared to vote on the bill, with demonstrators declaring that they would refuse to have a card and be placed on a national identity database.

‘No b –– d’s going to scan my eyes!’ declared one opponent of the scheme.

Others said the scheme was ‘more frightening’ than George Orwell’s ‘1984’ and that it would be ‘Labour’s poll tax’.

Anthony Brodowski, from London, said: ‘I don’t want to sit around at home while the government tries to introduce these cards.’

Civil rights group Liberty said: ‘Expert after expert has rubbished the claims that ID cards will help substantially in any aspect of our lives.

‘In reality these plans will end up an enormous and expensive failure.

‘The London School of Economics has projected final costs in excess of £20 billion. This will make it the largest and most costly public project in Europe.

‘But the greater cost will be to our society, as we move from one based on trust to one requiring continual proof of identity.’

David Clements, a member of No2ID and Liberty, told News Line: ‘ID cards will have a serious, negative impact on the relationship between ordinary British citizens and the government.

‘Much of the technology is untried on schemes of this scale.

‘The largest iris recognition scheme that has been rolled out applies to about 10,000 people and they want to roll out a scheme using much the same technology to 60 million people!’

He warned: ‘People’s access to health care, benefits, law and order services, will be defined by how accurate the readers for the cards are.

‘And even if they’re 99 per cent accurate, that means 600,000 people will be screwed over!

‘The technology is not that good and never will be – according to experts in the biometrics industry and other security experts, like Bruce Schneier.

‘By putting all our ID eggs into one basket – ID cards – we’re creating a Titanic which everybody claims is unsinkable, but when it is inevitably broken, everything will go.

‘No longer will individuals own their identity: it will be owned by the government and sold by the government – and what has happened at the DVLC rather demonstrates they are prepared to sell this stuff to even the sleaziest customer!’

Liberty director, Doug Jewell, warned News Line that anyone applying for a passport would be told to register for the ID cards scheme.

‘This is compulsion by the backdoor’, he said, ‘and once again the government is trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes.

‘The fear with all of this is that you start off with no compulsion and that, by the end, you will have to carry it at all times, and that if you’re from a black or ethnic community you’re going to be asked to produce this much more often.’

John Pollitt had come up from Hampshire to oppose the plans.

‘For me, the idea that an agent of the state can come up to you and demand your papers is contrary to the notion of a free-born, free-thinking Briton,’ he said.

Paul Lewis, a member of No2ID from Reading, said: ‘I’m a software engineer and I know a bit about some of the technology involved and I think most people know that all of the government’s schemes for software have failed completely.

‘They tried to integrate all doctors’ surgeries and that was a disaster. They’re almost certainly going to cock it up and it will cost a fortune – an estimated £20 billion.

‘But the real reason I’m opposed to them is, if you take the example of World War Two, there were ID cards with three official uses and within ten years – by the time they stopped rationing – they had 39 uses.’

He added: ‘At that time everything involved paperwork. But now all this information is going to be placed on one database.

‘Every single use of every single card will be recorded onto the database.’

He said there was even talk of creating ‘a European citizens ID database’.

NO2ID coordinator Phil Booth addressed the demonstration and said the government was again misleading the public.

‘If they called this the National Registration and State Surveillance Act, they would be more truthful,’ he said.

Owen Blacker, technical manager of No2ID, said: ‘The government intends to include around 50 items of identification, from name and date of birth, to previous addresses and immigration status, on the database behind the cards, which is what we really ought to be worried about.

‘Any information on the card, either visibly recorded or encoded on a magnetic strip or on a microchip, should be available to the card holder.

‘It seems that the government is planning to have a card and a database which holds data on every individual which we will not be allowed to know about.’

Nathan Naylor, from London, said: ‘When you start living in a state where information on everyone is collated by political or commercial organisations, it will become easy for them to take liberties.

‘What right does anyone have to control that information?’

Mike Phillips, assistant branch secretary of civil service union PCS, at the Department for Education and Skills, said his union was opposed to ID cards.

He told News Line: ‘We don’t trust this government to use them in any way that would safeguard people’s civil liberties.’

Bob Barron, another PCS official, said: ‘It’s our responsibility to protest at such draconian measures.’

Phillips said the TUC should call for non-cooperation with ID cards.

‘During the poll tax campaign, the members of my union were opposed to the poll tax and we advocated mass non-payment and it was defeated.

‘I think civil servants in the Home Office will be very concerned about implementing this scheme.

‘They say there isn’t enough money to employ civil servants and 104,000 jobs are under threat, and yet they say they’ve got money for this obscene white elephant.’

Sevi Yesildalli, a member of the PCS national executive, said it was TUC policy to oppose ID cards.

‘Yet the only way this went out from the TUC to my union was through its anti-racism committee and that is how we made our members aware of it,’ she said.

Kevin Stevens, from London, also said ID cards were ‘the most unpopular measure since the Poll Tax.’

He added: ‘I’ve signed to refuse to accept one and I think everyone should join the campaign.

‘I think the trade unions should tell their members to refuse to have ID cards as well.’

Vicky Pulman, from Watford, said: ‘My gut reaction is to oppose this measure. I’m not going to give my fingerprints to anybody. I am not a criminal.’

Helen Hale-Martin, from Blair’s Sedgefield constituency in Durham, said: ‘These cards will become quasi-compulsory.

‘They will affect people in certain jobs, people who have to have police checks as part of their work.

‘There’s talk about forcing those people to have ID cards, even if they don’t want them, and I think the trade unions should take strike action in opposition.

‘Loads of their members could lose their jobs for refusing to apply for these cards.’

Barbara Frost, from Reading, said: ‘I will not have an ID card. They will not stop terrorism.

‘It’s anti-democratic, we will have no civil liberties left, and it’s being brought in under false pretenses.

‘We have no control over what goes on it. We want to know what’s going on it.

‘Will you need to wear a Star of David if you’re Jewish and who will have access to all this information!’

Anthony Frost said: ‘The home secretary has said it will have no effect on terrorism. He also said it will have no effect on ID fraud.

‘People are going to be fined and persistent offenders who don’t cooperate are going to be imprisoned.

‘The only real reason for an ID card, under what is a very authoritarian government, is to control what the population does and also to get to know what every person is doing in their daily lives.

‘The government is spending large quantities of taxpayers’ money on recording every single car movement in the country.

‘They even want to photograph every house in the country to see who has built an extension and give them a Council Tax bill!

‘At the Labour Party conference last year, 262 people were arrested under the Terrorism Act 2000, including Walter Wolfgang, who was bundled out of the conference for protesting at the war in Iraq.’

Liberty member Gemma Cannings said: ‘It’s a bad scheme, it’s against civil liberties and I will never have one.’