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ID Cards

John Simkin

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What do you think about ID Cards. This letter appeared in today's Guardian:

The proposed introduction of identity cards will be a highly expensive mistake. ID cards were last used in the second world war when our principal opponents were fascists. The cards were subsequently dropped because they were seen as an unacceptable infringement on civil liberties. It is anathema to us in the trade union movement that a Labour government should try to reintroduce them. It is a sorry state of affairs when even the Tory party and the Liberal Democrats are opposed to this big brother idea.

The reported costs of the scheme vary from day to day. It is clear, however, that this scheme is based on unproven and flawed technology. The number of costly government IT failures is too long to list. The money that will be squandered on this scheme would be far better spent on investment in health and education, or solving the pensions crisis.

Our black members have expressed serious concerns that the primary purpose of ID cards will be to single out ethnic minority groups for unfair treatment. Experience abroad shows that black people will have to produce their cards more often. Our members working in frontline services will be expected to act as unofficial immigration police. And to add insult to injury, the technology is less effective for black people, with a false refusal rate of one in five for iris scans (the most "reliable" biometric).

The last time ID cards were seriously debated in parliament, Labour MPs opposed them. Alastair Darling said: "The idea that every individual would have his or her life story on a little metal strip on a little plastic card is objectionable ... a card could include an individual's medical history, work progress, financial status, what he did, where he did it, and where he was stopped. All that information could be revealed by passing a card through a computer terminal. That is a great step and I should be reluctant to take it."

We see no difference between then and now. ID cards will cost billions and resolve nothing. We call upon parliamentarians to raise their voices against the deeply flawed ID cards bill. This Labour government needs to be saved from itself.

Barry Camfield

Asst general secretary, T&G

Keith Sonnet

Deputy gen secretary, Unison

Paul Kenny

Acting gen secretary, GMB

Mark Serwotka

General secretary, PCS

Jeremy Dear

General secretary, NUJ

Billy Hayes

General secretary, CWU

Keith Norman

Acting gen secretary, Aslef

Bob Crow

General secretary, RMT

Paul Mackney

General secretary, Natfhe

Ruth Winter

President, FBU ·

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