On 21st November what is now known as the Identity and Passport Service launched a 12 week consultation on the secondary legislation required to introduce identity cards. The Identity Cards Act 2006 needs to be supported by regulations before it can be brought into force. Until now only sections establishing criminal offences and concerning forged passports or driving licences have been in use. Now foreigners married to UK citizens or in civil partnerships will need to apply for ID cards to extend their legal stay in the UK, as will foreigners working here or foreign students. Despite vociferous opposition and the threat of legal action from the British Airlines Pilots Association, many workers at airports will also need them. Pilots are threatening a strike.
It will be interesting to see what kind of protest there will be, and no doubt the Government has decided to introduce compulsory cards with salami tactics to head off mass protest. In 1982 Kathy Morikawa, a Canadian married to a Japanese academic, who had been in Japan for 9 years and intended to stay there permanently, just said no when asked to give her fingerprints. Kathy went public, the New York Times picked up the story, and others began to refuse. Eventually the number of resident foreigners refusing reached 13,000 and an Imperial Amnesty was declared. Also a subsequent attempt to introduce universal identification registration resulted in widespread protest, and in January 2006 the High Court in Osaka ruled that the "Juki Net", the residence register, infringed on people's privacy if they objected and that people could refuse to allow their personal details to be recorded.
But will people in the UK simply roll over and allow the State to know all about them? Many people associate the giving of fingerprints with an accusation of criminal behaviour, and no amount of bland reassurance is going to prevent distress.
The cards will carry a photograph and the name of the person. However, all the card will prove is that the person who applied for the card is the person carrying it. It will not prove identity, since it is very easy to obtain a fake referee and false documents, and most inspection of ID cards will inevitably be done without reading the fingerprints. There is nothing to stop a person equipped with someone's birth certificate - easy to obtain - from applying for an ID card in the name of that individual. I have worked for many years as a solicitor. Most of my clients are criminals. I have often been asked to countersign photographs for passports or driving licences, and have been happy to do so, knowing that I am protected by having to sign the application and to endorse the photographs with my personal signature. With ID card applications, countersigning will no longer be required, making fraud very much easier. Also anyone wishing to obtain a false card, who does not want to go to the trouble of applying properly, can easily obtain one speedily over the internet.