In a speech to the Social Market Foundation earlier this month, the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith claimed that “as she goes round the country, she regularly has people coming up to her and saying they don’t want to wait” to be issued with the Government’s new Identity Cards. The Government has suggested that there is a demand for Identity Cards, and that they will prove to be popular amongst the British people.
However, a series of Parliamentary Questions tabled by the Rt. Hon John Redwood MP has revealed that of the 3,073 items of correspondence regarding Identity Cards and the National Identity Database received by the Identity and Passport Service between November 2006 and October 2008, just 1,142 were recorded under the theme of “Wants an Identity Card”, or just over a third.
It is likely the true scale of people’s opposition is even higher than that claimed by the Government. In their answer to John Redwood’s Parliamentary Question, the Home Office only included correspondence sent to the Identity and Passport Service, and not letters sent directly to the Home Secretary or her officials. It may also be that letters recorded under the subject of “Wants an Identity Card” will include enquiries from people who believe they are required to obtain a card now, or those making enquiries about how they can obtain one in the future to comply with new requirements to be placed on foreign students and spouses from outside the EU. These should not necessary be taken as indications of support for the Government’s policy.
John Redwood says: “It is astonishing that, even after putting the best possible spin on the numbers and neglecting to fully provide the information requested, the only figure the Government can come up with is a third of people wishing to receive an Identity Card. This makes it much more difficult to believe the Home Secretary’s claim that there is a demand for Identity Cards from the British public.”
“In fact, public opinion is likely to be much more strongly against Identity Cards than the Minister’s figures suggest. People who are opposed to this measure are not likely to have written to the Identity and Passport Service but to the Minister or her officials directly at the Home Office. It is telling that the Minister has neglected to tell us how many members of the public have written to her directly to express their opposition to this unnecessary and expensive gimmick. The Minister claims this information is not recorded. I suspect that, had there been deluge of correspondence supporting the Government’s plans, she would have been only too happy to tell us about it.”
“Poll after poll has shown that the British people do not want Identity Cards. We do not need Identity Cards, and we certainly do not need the Government’s draconian National Identity Database. They will be costly and ineffective, and will do nothing to protect our civil liberties, defend against terrorism or help clamp down on illegal immigration.”