Bill for ID cards goes up by another £52 million

What would you rather spend an extra £52 million on: a huge IT project to keep tabs on innocent people or things such as more police to catch criminals? I think you can guess my answer! Today’s Guardian has the story about the bill for Labour’s ID cards scheme going up and up – and this on the button quote from my colleague, Chris Huhne:

The problem is not the ease with which we can give up sensitive personal data, but the ease with which the Home Office loses it. Costs are already spiralling out of control without a single card being issued.

If you haven’t yet, do go and sign the Liberal Democrat petition against ID cards at

Appearing on Any Questions?

Friday was a long, long day! Crack of dawn start to get to York to meet various youth and equality projects. First stop was to meet the Equalities spokesperson at the Council (LibDem minority control) – Cllr Keith Aspden – who briefs me on the groups I will be meeting.

A quicke radio interview with Minster Radio and then off to meet the CVS – the Community Voluntary Sector – who have fantastic facilities where a number of local voluntary groups operate from as well as facilitating rooms for meetings. Seemed a very well-developed and properly functioning centre – and a model for how perseverance over many years can eventually pay off with proper facilities. And proper facilities, well-designed and pleasant – then in turn create the right environment to encourage all of this good work to continue. A lot of work goes on here to get young people, often the most challenging young people, into work and/or training.

Mad dash onto Castlegate Centre – which is a fantastic drop-in and one stop shop for 16-25 year olds. The downstairs is all modern and beautifully designed with the help of young people to make it an environment they feel comfortable about coming to. And they do. Remarkably successful – young people can just drop in and find help for any number of issues – be it housing, counselling, training – whatever. A pretty inspiring outfit – and again – the people who had fought for it and were running it – totally committed and dedicated.

I then visit York Racial Equality Network, where about 25 people from a variety of ethnic backgrounds have come to tell me their anger and disappointment that the vital work they do is under threat. The Council support them – but the Commission for Equality and Human Rights has, despite assurances, not funded them this year and this is threatening their very existence. Whilst it would be true to say that York is not the diversity capital of this country, nevertheless there is a growing number of black and ethnic minority residents. Add in an influx of Easter Europeans and the issues of pressures on public services, social cohesion and the rest are just beginning to arise. Better to tackle these in proper and timely fashion than wait until real problems hit us. Also there are issues that arise when numbers are relatively few rather than many – issues of isolation, exclusion and race hate incidents.

The York Racial Equality Network is the only organisation doing the work that is needed in this area. Indeed, when the Commission needs to consult or disseminate information in the York area, they themselves turn to the YREN to do this for you.

If the Commission is not minded to reverse their decision (as I have written to them to ask that they do), then I’d very much like to know how they expect the work to support individuals experiencing racial harassment, victimisation and discrimination to continue – and who would be there to disseminate information from the Commission and respond to consultations.

Last stop of the day in York is to the University to meet students who I help launch a campaign against ID cards. Outside of the usual reasons – that they won’t work, won’t stop terrorism, won’t help identity fraud etc – the students are fearful that they are now going to be pressured into having an ID card.

Train leaves York late – so I miss my connection to Maidstone in Kent where I am going to do any questions. I finally arrive and have time for a quick egg and chips with Jonathan Dimbleby and Claire Fox (another guest on the program) then off to the school for the live show. Tony McNulty and Jeremy Hunt are the other two panellists.

The questions were what I expected – 42 days detention, the sudden glut of political memoirs, 10p tax etc – but there did seem to be at least three questions that led back to – yes – you’ve guessed – Gordon Brown and his miseries. I was surprised they didn’t ask about schools testing – but I guess Gordon took precedence.

Jonathan called me Liz (again – he did it last time too) and I corrected him on air – and he said to make amends I could call him David (his brother’s name) which I did! I like Jonathan and I like Any Questions. AQ gives you far more time to answer and discuss an issue than Question Time – but they are actually quite different animals. Afterwards we have drinks and bits with the local people and the staff and students of the school the program comes from. And then finally – back to London.

Another day, another set of tales about data being lost

Back in January I blogged about the Government’s record at losing data (they lose lots of it, year after year). So this blog posting caught my eye – which lists a whole set of other instances of the Government losing our data in the last few weeks.

There’s one common conclusion from all the cases – the more data the Government has about us, the more that ends up getting lost with all the risks to privacy and identity theft that follow. Which is another good reason to be opposed to their plans for a mandatory national ID cards scheme (in addition to the many other reasons – such as its huge cost; the money could be far better spent on other, more effective crime-fighting measures).

Identity cards: another good reason to oppose them

Today’s news that the Government lost a record number of pieces of personal data in 2007 is another good reason to oppose their plans for identity cards. (The Telegraph has more details on these figures, released today by Nick Clegg.)

There are many problems with Labour’s scheme (such as the huge cost – the money would be far better spent on other ways of fighting crime which we know would work, unlike a huge new IT project – which may well fail!) – but one of them is the risk to our own privacy and safety from the identity database the scheme requires.

It will hold tens of millions of records of personal information – just the sort of thing that people who want to swindle us, pry on us or otherwise misbehave can exploit. And on last year’s form – we really can’t expect the Government to keep this data safe! And that would apply to other Governments too – putting all that sensitive and valuable data into one place is just too risky.

You can help stop them by signing the Liberal Democrat petition against ID cards here.

Why this week has brought good news for your personal data

Well – having been banging the drum for a long time that one of the problems with Labour’s national mandatory ID cards scheme is the risk of all that personal data being abused, misused or mislaid – I think you can guess my views this week! But good to see – as Liberal Democrat Voice reports – that the latest polls now show a decisive majority against ID cards.

So – if all the problems of people’s personal data being lost by the government has helped to highlight some of the problems with ID cards, perhaps some good will come from it all after all. As I said back in September 2006:

The introduction of ID cards will allow our personal data to be shared without our consent. Even the tightest security will eventually be breached. ID cards will only hold limited information but there are 52 categories of ‘limited’ information that can and will be held which will build up a pretty comprehensive picture of us and our lives.

How my appearance on Sky went

Crack of dawn it was off to Highgate Village to get ALL the Sunday papers ahead of my first paper review on Sky with Adam Boulton and John Kampfner (New Statesman). I wanted the papers in good time to have a decent look through them. The main story I raised was the appalling tale from The Observer about how the Government is trying to hide the true cost of identity cards.

Now, nice Gordon has been trying to convince us all he’ll be a new broom, all open and transparent – and goodbye to the days of New Labour spin. But put to the test – he’s decided he wants to keep the costs of ID cards secret. Not such a new broom after all!

We also roamed over Gordon’s desire to bring back the argument over detention without charge. Show me evidence, real evidence – and I will vote to protect my countrymen with an extension. But last time it was a lot of hot air and bravado – but not a single shred of solid evidence that 90 days is needed.

John Kampfner rather outshone me on the Russian stories I thought – but then he was Moscow correspondent and has written a book on Yeltsin’s Russia – so he should know more than me!

And then there was Joanna Lumley – confronting a man with a gun in a bar! Living up to her pre-Ab Fab role of Purdy in the Avengers – well nearly – apparently the gun fell on the floor and she kept the man talking until the police arrived. Go Joanna!

Political bloggers

Speech to the Government Smart Forum. It was a bit like walking into the lion’s den to give the Liberal Democrat position on ID cards (against) because – as the Chair pointed out – most of those in the room stood to gain financially from the relentless march of the ID and smart cards.

In the event it was good fun – and seemed to go down well. And given what the Chair said, I though it was a moral victory that in the straw poll vote at the end the room was pretty evenly split – only marginally in favour of database and ID card! But as the Chair also pointed out – those who voted against may not have been against the card or database – just the idea of this Government implementing and administering it!

Straight on to interview with Channel 4 for a package on blogging. There is a small, but definitive band of us who the media come to for stories about political blogging. Guido Fawkes, Recess Monkey, Iain Dale, me and David Miliband – on the whole. The blogs are all quite different and we all have a different approach and purpose with our blogs.

Ben Cohen, the interviewer, asked me which blogs I read – and I had to confess very few. To be frank as an MP I don’t get any time (although I would love to spend my time doing so) to enter the blogging community in that way. He asked me what I thought of David Miliband’s blog, and I had to confess I had never been onto that site – although I have heard it is pretty bland. Hey – he’s a Labour Minister – what did you expect?

The interesting point Ben brought up was that both Tories and Lib Dems are encouraging their troops to get involved in blogging but Labour isn’t – and therefore is missing out on this movement which is at times breaking news itself. But an army of bloggers saying whatever they wish – Labour nightmare! Especially at a time like now … (Though they shouldn’t be scared. At the time of my party’s leadership travails earlier this year, it was tricky to blog at times – but being able to communicate via blog helped me explain to people what I was thinking and why and things were better for that).

The Lib Dems are taking blogging more and more seriously – indeed I’ll be handing out a “blog of the year” award at this year’s party conference. (If you are a Lib Dem blogger going to conference, see the blogging tips on the party’s website).

And lastly – Blair’s ‘announcement’. I thought it was masked incandescent anger. As for Gordon – he did what Blair forced him to do: give him support. If Labour have any sense (and judging from early rumblings after the announcement sense isn’t their strong card at this moment in time) they will now shut up and concentrate their fire on the Tories. But that would mean breaking some very ingrained habits. We will see!

ID cards – good news

No they haven’t gone away – although the Government was forced into delays etc. But the worm is turning. As predicted – and as happened in Australia and Canada – initial high levels of public support for ID cards are falling away as people became more aware and knowledgeable about the realities of identity cards (and their huge cost – let alone database dangers).

A new poll from ICM has a majority against ID cards for the first time (and I love the Home Office spokesperson’s excuse given in the story!).

You can still help the campaign – visit

ID cards

Got my new passport this morning! If you remember – I applied for a new one before my old one was due for renewal as a protest against the Government’s plans to introduce ID cards. You may or may not know that if you apply for a new passport in future, you will automatically have to have biometric information taken and be put on the National Identity Register (the new big brother database). And this is the first step to the ID card that goes with it. But if you renew your passport now, you can put off those steps for a decade – by which time they’ll have been an election or two, and – with a bit of luck! – the plans will have been stopped.

You can get more information on how you can renew your passport too (if you have one) at