Dear Chief Secretary to the Treasury,
I'm afraid to tell you there's no money left.
Signed, Liam Byrne

(Outgoing Labour Chief Secretary to the Treasury. May 2010)

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Whilst nobody was looking

They sneaked this through when nobody was looking. They probably hoped nobody would notice because we're all so worried about MPs expenses, but thankfully some newspapers are on the ball.

Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary who lives in her sister's spare bedroom instead of the apartment the State provides, has pushed through legislation giving HM Revenue and Customs officials the right to look at the information that will be held on the ID database, when it's rolled out.

Here's an extract from the Mail
The Home Office says the ID card scheme will make life easier for both businesses and their customers. Companies will be charged around 60p a time to check details held on the giant 'big brother' database.

Every time a check is made against the ID card, it will be logged on the National Identity Register - and the details made available to the taxman.

Officials hope for up to 770million 'verifications' each year.

The data includes addresses, any second homes and National Insurance numbers.

Firms will be told that using the scheme will cut millions from their annual fraud bills and save them hefty fines for employing illegal immigrants.

Officials believe it will be cheaper for companies to confirm identity through the database than by using current methods such as bills and driving licences. The Home Office said businesses would need a person's consent to check information about them.

Official documents reveal that some 44,000 organisations could be 'accredited' to carry out verification checks.

They range from Whitehall departments, banks and financial institutions to mobile phone and video rental shops.

It comes after Jacqui Smith's announcement earlier this month that members of the public will be expected to have their fingerprints taken at the Post Office or in high street shops and pharmacies when they sign up for a card or passport.

At present, the right to take fingerprints is largely restricted to the police.

A similar report is in the Telegraph.

Mrs R thinks this is all a bit much. When they first proposed the ID card scheme it was meant to be all about protecting us from terrorists - but we saw through that idea. Then they said it would help slow down illegal immigration. Now they want us to believe it will help track down tax fraud.

Mrs R notes that within this report is a bit of an implied threat, if businesses don't sign up to using the scheme, and demand this particular form of ID from people then ... well, we'll have to wait and see what the penalties might be.

Mrs R doesn't object one little bit to the principal of an ID card, she's seen people from other European countries using little plastic cards instead of passports.

Mrs R knows that people in other countries don't understand what all the fuss is about. She knows they don't realise that in Britain the ID card is planned to be an added extra. An extra on top of a photo driving license, on top of a passport, and something that gives no benefit to the individual other than containing - on a small piece of loseable and stealable plastic, and on one single hackable, copiable, sellable, database - every single scrap of their personal information, including details of their most intimate biological make up, something Mrs Rigby will never have the right to see, but which as yet unknown "others" will have access too - all for a "small fee".

All the "spinning", all the lies, all the changes in the story, have not yet convinced Mrs R that this is not an intrusive, overbearing and potentially illegal in terms of human rights, plan for the state to oversee every single aspect of the Mrs Rigby's life, and possibly find legal fault.

So, Mrs Rigby offers a challenge to the Home Secretary. She wants the Home Secretary to tell her of one, just one, personal benefit from this data gathering exercise.

Mrs R suspects that it her only "benefit" will be that she will not be breaking some, as yet unmade, law that requires her to carry this particular bit of plastic on her person every waking moment.

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