What’s the hurry?

Re-posted from archive of infinite ideas machine 2004:

Trevor Mendham at The Chestnut Tree points out today’s Independent article ‘Blair to push Europe Bill before election’ [article now behind paywall], in which it is reported that Tony Blair “…has asked ministers to give top priority to two Bills in the Queen’s Speech in November for a parliamentary session that would be cut short by the election. The Bills cover the new EU treaty and David Blunkett’s controversial plans for identity cards.”

David Blunkett is quoted as saying – shortly after the Madrid bombing – that the cards would probably be introduced “more quickly even than we anticipated, and that is because we are living in a new world and with a new threat that we have to take account of.”

Yet since the introduction of the Draft Bill, in his evidence to the Home Affairs Committee, and twice (that I have heard myself) in radio interviews Blunkett has been forced to downplay ID cards’ role in combating terrorism, and illegal immigration and working – the supposed primary purposes of the scheme! There may have been a subtle shift towards identity fraud as a justification – but this is only AFTER the mainstream media seems to have swallowed at least some of Blair and Blunkett’s ‘no significant civil liberties objections’ assertions of last month.

It is quite clear that not only do the Government not acknowledge the serious concerns of a wide range of people – including those within their own party, CESG (111 KB PDF, published by the Government’s own Information Assurance Technical Authority, part of GCHQ), the Law Society, the British Computer Society and many others, expressed during and since their so-called ‘consultation’ period – but that they want to railroad the legislation through without engaging in either proper debate or a realistic assessment of the scheme – e.g. its security model (and alternatives!), the capabilities of the various technologies proposed, etc.

Surely even those in the ‘if you haven’t done anything wrong, you haven’t got anything to fear’ camp (which I refuse to believe is actually 80% of us, when asked the right question) would agree that there needs to be transparent and rigorous examination of any proposed scheme’s practicalities, and free and informed debate on all of the legal and civil liberty issues.

This legislation is so flawed in principle, the scheme so misconceived in practice and both have such far-reaching implications (it’ll be your kids & grandkids that feel the weight of this, folks!) that only something as momentous and controversial as the Europe Bill could possibly mask the rotten stink of its passing.

It’s an Information Society, people, but that doesn’t mean that the Government has a monopoly on – or even grasp of – truth and common sense. It certainly doesn’t mean that they have the right to issue me with my ‘one, true’ identity, based on something of mine that they have (forcibly) taken from me. The choice is pretty stark – resist now, or run the risk of finding it increasingly difficult to resist this and any future Government (of ANY party or persuasion) legislation or measures with which you and your descendents might disgree.

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