National ID Cards

John Redwood
Freedom Today, July 2nd 2003

Whenever the government makes a mess of something, it usually takes it out on those it has messed up. It creates traffic jams by failing in its transport strategy. It then decides to tax the motorist who is suffering from the lack of good roads or a good public transport alternative. It fails to deliver a better Health Service in Scotland by spending much more of our money there than in England. Then it says we need to pay yet more tax in England to spend the same as they spend in Scotland!

Whenever the government messes up, you can bet your bottom dollar they will limit your freedom, to punish you for their mistake.

Their latest assault on our freedoms comes because they have failed to tackle illegal immigration properly. It's just typical. Because some people come into this country on forged passports or no passports, and blend into the cash economy, we are now told the rest of us who pay our taxes and have a National Insurance number are going to have to buy an Identity card as well.

I have never heard more arrant nonsense in my life. The new model Identity card, we read from official behind-the-wall briefings, will be a panacea. It will curb crime, reduce benefit fraud and banish illegal immigrants overnight. Just like that! If I thought it could do one quarter of those things I would want two - but of course it will do none of the above. The briefings are not so much behind the wall as off the wall.

Take crime, for example. Do you really think burglars will take their ID cards with them on a case, and obligingly leave them like calling cards as they trundle your video or digital TV out of the back door? Or do you think if you try to arrest them during the course of the job they will put their hands in their pockets, draw out their ID card, say "It's a fair cop, gov" and hand you the card so you tell the police who it was?

Or take benefit fraud. At the moment, if you want to claim a benefit, you need a benefit book. There are meant to be checks to ensure the right people claim the right amounts of money. You can be asked to prove your identity if you are unknown to the counter clerk. The system should be able to issue the right number of books to the right number of people, and to establish who everyone is from all the records the state already keeps.

We all know that some big criminal rings play this system easily. They have agents using forged or stolen books to claim benefit. I am sure they would be quite capable of adding forged or stolen ID cards to their repertoire if they were needed as well. Given the massive sums dished out by the state there would soon be a good market in ID cards for benefit claims.

Which brings me to stopping all those illegal immigrants. You and I might think the obvious thing to do is to stop them at the port of entry. I don't know whether the government has noticed, but Great Britain is an island. To all those who mastered just a little geography at school it is clear that illegal immigrants, in the main, come in through a few big ports of entry. Get Heathrow, Dover, Folkestone, Gatwick and Felixstowe right, and you would take care of most of the problem.

You do not see hundreds of small boats pitching across the Channel every night with stowaways. You do not regularly hear the thud of parachutes as asylum seekers leap from their light aircraft over darkest Kent. There is no need - they come by Eurostar or ferry, or they fly into a main airport. Surely the best way to stop illegals is to intercept them at the point where they have to show passports and explain themselves on first arrival? If they have come from France, Belgium, Spain or Germany - where many of them do come from - we should be able to send them back, as they are safe countries.

Now the government tells us it cannot get agreement from France for this simple approach. The French, we are told, advise us to introduce identity cards to solve the problem instead. How on earth could that work?

The theory goes that if we all had to carry these wretched cards about with us wherever we went, then the police could stop anyone at random and ask to see their card. If the illegal immigrant was silly enough to be wandering around anywhere near a policeman without a forged or stolen card, he might be challenged and could be returned to one of Mr Blunkett's immigrant centres.

What a preposterous set of "Ifs". It assumes we all have to carry them all the time and could be prosecuted for not carrying them. If you said all you had to do was drop into a police station within the next 24 hours if you did not have it with you, they become useless. No self-respecting illegal immigrant would bother to show up, nor would they give a true name and address. Would I be sent to jail if I had wandered to the bottom of my garden with the secateurs and had forgotten to hang my card around my neck? Would it be a stiff fine if I popped out to the garage to refill the car without my ID in my wallet? We would soon have very full jails with a new criminal class, courtesy of the control freaks.

It assumes there are enough police on the streets to do this sort of thing. Yet the police tell me they have too much to do already. It assumes the constabulary would be allowed to challenge any foreign looking person as often as they liked without falling foul of the discrimination laws and Human Rights Act. I dread to think what it would do for our tourist industry, as each African or Asian party was asked for the umpteenth time to show their passports and visas, just in case.

It assumes that if they did by chance find an illegal immigrant they could do something with them. But Mr Blunkett's centres are not prison camps - people could leave them again as surely as the authorities tried to take them there. It assumes that whilst people forge passports they would be unable or unwilling to forge Identity cards.

Some tell me ID cards did work well in the war. So did rounding up Germans and suspicious persons and putting them in prison; but that does not make it the right thing to do today in peace time when we want to live in a free and open society. So did shooting visiting German pilots down and mining the beaches, but that too could be bad for the tourist trade.

Come off it government. What you really want to do is to make us more like a police state, where whenever we move we have to have a card to show who we are. Like all these things, it will be an expensive pain in the neck to all of us law abiding saints, whilst not offering much of a barrier to the profit making people trading sinners. We will end up paying the bill, either through our taxes or through a charge for the card. Meanwhile don't hold your breath. The burglar will still be eyeing your video, the illegal immigrant will still be clinging onto the train, and the government will still be reporting billions of welfare fraud.
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