This turned up today. It's exactly what I expected. And I hope others will rip into it unmercifully. Because it reads to me as "I'm right. You're wrong. And the critics are all lying".

E-petition: Response from the Prime Minister

The e-petition to "scrap the proposed introduction of ID cards" has now closed.
The petition stated that "The introduction of ID cards will not prevent terrorism
or crime, as is claimed. It will be yet another indirect tax on all law-abiding
citizens of the UK". This is a response from the Prime Minister, Tony Blair.

The petition calling for the Government to abandon plans for a National ID Scheme
attracted almost 28,000 signatures - one of the largest responses since this e-
petition service was set up. So I thought I would reply personally to those who
signed up, to explain why the Government believes National ID cards, and the
National Identity Register needed to make them effective, will help make Britain a
safer place.

The petition disputes the idea that ID cards will help reduce crime or terrorism.
While I certainly accept that ID cards will not prevent all terrorist outrages or
crime, I believe they will make an important contribution to making our borders
more secure, countering fraud, and tackling international crime and terrorism.
More importantly, this is also what our security services - who have the task of
protecting this country - believe.

So I would like to explain why I think it would be foolish to ignore the
opportunity to use biometrics such as fingerprints to secure our identities. I
would also like to discuss some of the claims about costs - particularly the way
the cost of an ID card is often inflated by including in estimates the cost of a
biometric passport which, it seems certain, all those who want to travel abroad
will soon need.

In contrast to these exaggerated figures, the real benefits for our country and
its citizens from ID cards and the National Identity Register, which will contain
less information on individuals than the data collected by the average store card,
should be delivered for a cost of around £3 a year over its ten-year life.

But first, it's important to set out why we need to do more to secure our
identities and how I believe ID cards will help. We live in a world in which
people, money and information are more mobile than ever before. Terrorists and
international criminal gangs increasingly exploit this to move undetected across
borders and to disappear within countries. Terrorists routinely use multiple
identities - up to 50 at a time. Indeed this is an essential part of the way they
operate and is specifically taught at Al-Qaeda training camps. One in four
criminals also uses a false identity. ID cards which contain biometric recognition
details and which are linked to a National Identity Register will make this much
more difficult.

Secure identities will also help us counter the fast-growing problem of identity
fraud. This already costs £1.7 billion annually. There is no doubt that building
yourself a new and false identity is all too easy at the moment. Forging an ID
card and matching biometric record will be much harder.

I also believe that the National Identity Register will help police bring those
guilty of serious crimes to justice. They will be able, for example, to compare
the fingerprints found at the scene of some 900,000 unsolved crimes against the
information held on the register. Another benefit from biometric technology will
be to improve the flow of information between countries on the identity of

The National Identity Register will also help improve protection for the
vulnerable, enabling more effective and quicker checks on those seeking to work,
for example, with children. It should make it much more difficult, as has happened
tragically in the past, for people to slip through the net.

Proper identity management and ID cards also have an important role to play in
preventing illegal immigration and illegal working. The effectiveness on the new
biometric technology is, in fact, already being seen. In trials using this
technology on visa applications at just nine overseas posts, our officials have
already uncovered 1,400 people trying illegally to get back into the UK.

Nor is Britain alone in believing that biometrics offer a massive opportunity to
secure our identities. Firms across the world are already using fingerprint or
iris recognition for their staff. France, Italy and Spain are among other European
countries already planning to add biometrics to their ID cards. Over 50 countries
across the world are developing biometric passports, and all EU countries are
proposing to include fingerprint biometrics on their passports. The introduction
in 2006 of British e-passports incorporating facial image biometrics has meant
that British passport holders can continue to visit the United States without a
visa. What the National Identity Scheme does is take this opportunity to ensure
we maximise the benefits to the UK.

These then are the ways I believe ID cards can help cut crime and terrorism. I
recognise that these arguments will not convince those who oppose a National
Identity Scheme on civil liberty grounds. They will, I hope, be reassured by the
strict safeguards now in place on the data held on the register and the right for
each individual to check it. But I hope it might make those who believe ID cards
will be ineffective reconsider their opposition.

If national ID cards do help us counter crime and terrorism, it is, of course, the
law-abiding majority who will benefit and whose own liberties will be protected.
This helps explain why, according to the recent authoritative Social Attitudes
survey, the majority of people favour compulsory ID cards.

I am also convinced that there will also be other positive benefits. A national ID
card system, for example, will prevent the need, as now, to take a whole range of
documents to establish our identity. Over time, they will also help improve access
to services.

The petition also talks about cost. It is true that individuals will have to pay a
fee to meet the cost of their ID card in the same way, for example, as they now do
for their passports. But I simply don't recognise most claims of the cost of ID
cards. In many cases, these estimates deliberately exaggerate the cost of ID cards
by adding in the cost of biometric passports. This is both unfair and inaccurate.

As I have said, it is clear that if we want to travel abroad, we will soon have no
choice but to have a biometric passport. We estimate that the cost of biometric
passports will account for 70% of the cost of the combined passports/id cards. The
additional cost of the ID cards is expected to be less than £30 or £3 a year for
their 10-year lifespan. Our aim is to ensure we also make the most of the benefits
these biometric advances bring within our borders and in our everyday lives.

Yours sincerely,

Tony Blair

Useful Links

10 Downing Street home page

James Hall, the official in charge of delivering the ID card scheme, will be
answering questions on line on 5th March. You can put your question to him here

To see his last web chat in November 2006, see:

Identity and Passport Service

Home Office Identity Fraud Steering Committee

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[ 19-Feb-07 6:53pm ] [ ]