PRIME Minister Blair yesterday urged support for ID cards, and a national database on everyone, for ‘less than £30’ above the cost of new ‘biometric’ passports.
This was before he was asked at his weekly Downing St press conference if he was then saying that he wants fingerprint and eye scanners in every home computer, shop, bank, post office, Jobcentre, hospital and workplace, and anywhere else that the ID cards would have to be produced.
Blair tried to avoid the question.
He said that the cards would ‘simplify’ life for everyone and could be used not just to access public services, but for everyday transactions.
But experts later said that even the fingerprint technology for biometric passports has not been tested yet.
Saying that the cards were at the ‘centre stage of the political debate’, Blair stressed that the biggest gain would be the creation of a centralised computer database by the state.
Blair was pressed to say if he wanted compulsory ID cards for everyone, only months after legislation was passed through parliament saying that the cards should be ‘voluntary.’
‘It’s up to people to decide, look. . . This is a voluntary scheme,’ he said.
‘It’s not like the government’s going to go in and force everyone to do this, but I think everyone will see over time the sense of doing this.
‘If you’re not a UK national, you’ll have to go through a system in order to prove your identity – this is a more secure way of doing it.
‘The register allows a simple check of your biometric facial scan and fingerprint, to check someone’s identity, and it’s secure,’ he claimed.
‘It doesn’t mean you can never have a situation of difficulty.
‘When you boil it down, it’s not about civil liberties, but modern life. The way of life is changing.’
He added: ‘There is no other way of checking who’s got a right to be here and who hasn’t.’
Defending the scheme against civil rights opponents, Blair said that the ‘advent of new technology has completely changed the argument. . . a national identity system has benefits it never had before.
‘The national identity register will allow people to know that their prospective, for example childminder or carer, is indeed the person they claim to be.’
He added: ‘We will be able to compare, for example, some 900,000 outstanding crime scene marks with finger prints held centrally.’
He concluded: ‘This is part of a new infrastructure – it’s a product of the modern world . . .
‘This is often put in terms of civil liberties, but actually I think this is an argument about modernity.’
• Second news story
BLAIR SQUIRMS OVER SADDAM EXECUTION
PRIME Minister Blair angrily refused to say that he was opposed to the execution of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein at his weekly Downing Street press conference yesterday, despite the fact that he is opposed to the death penalty.
An irate Blair had a bad-tempered exchange with Adam Boulton from Sky News, who pressed him for an answer on the question.
Boulton said: ‘What Trevor Kavaner even calls the barbarism of executing Saddam Hussein is not much of an argument for modernity, is it, and especially since the process by which he’s been tried is one in which the British and American governments have been complicit.’
Blair responded: ‘On the first point, I’ve got nothing to add about to what people said about the trial yesterday.
‘But as I said to you just a moment or two ago, I think it’s an extraordinary thing they have been able to do this – Margaret set our position on the death penalty.’
But Boulton interrupted: ‘Well no, I want your position, you’re the prime minister, you’ve been in Downing Street for ten years, she’s been foreign secretary for five minutes, do you think Saddam Hussein should be executed?’
An irate Blair said: ‘Well excuse me, thank you very much, I’ve just said she’s set out the position for the government yesterday and that’s all I want to say on it, right!
‘Our position on the death penalty’s well known but actually. . .’
‘So he should be executed?’
‘I’ve just said our position on the death penalty’s well known, we’re opposed to it, as Margaret said.’
‘Are you opposed to the execution of Saddam then?’
‘But obviously since we’re opposed to the death penalty, we’re in exactly the position that she described . . .’
‘Are you opposed to his execution?’
‘Adam, that is just enough thankyou very much – because I happen to want to express myself in my own way, if you don’t mind!’ Blair exclaimed.