Saturday, 1 July 2017

Passport or identity card?

That old chestnut of the identity card was raised again recently by journalist Philip Collins in The Times of 30 June. In it he identifies three concerns which, in his view, could be alleviated by the provision of an identity card: illegal immigration, terrorism and use of public services by the unentitled. He mentions that identity cards are compulsory in over one hundred countries, citing Belgium, Germany and Israel among his examples. I am ambivalent about identity cards. His suggestion that it would be simple to make it illegal to employ a person who did not possess a valid id card sounds sensible; that NHS benefits should be unavailable to non-holders, likewise. I am not certain that his suggestion that requiring anybody hiring a white van to show an id card would assist counter-terrorist officers is grounded on rational thinking.

UK wartime identity card 1943

The tenor of his article possibly betrays the technique which will eventually be used to reintroduce the id card in Britain: that of 'parasitic vitality'. It was used to enforce the National Registration Card under the 1939 National Registration Act. It quite simply means that you make the card desirable to the public by denying them access to goods or services without it. In 1943 the cards were re-issued and tied to the ration card. You want to eat? – You need an id card. After the war they were linked to the holder's NHS number.

In trying to look at the arguments for and against the introduction of an id card in a dispassionate manner I cannot but help the reflection that, for example, for the three countries mentioned above, Belgium, Germany and Israel, have they solved their illegal immigration and terrorists problems by the use of an identity card? 

Whenever a card is used it will have to be checked. Who will do the checking?
How will they be trained? Do we need yet another document? The journalist, Philip Collins, in assessing the system for checking the movement of people into and out of the UK observes that, 'An identity card that, where relevant, contained a holder's visa status would make this process a lot easier,'

We already have such a document. 

It is called a passport.

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