Nick Raynsford got back to me in response to my questions arising from his previous message – I wanted some specification of what risks he proposed ID cards would protect London from, as well as a little clarification of the actual cost of benefit fraud due to identity abuse. Here is his reply:
Thank you for your further fax. Being able to identify people accurately and quickly does help improve intelligence gathering when an offence has been committed. Whilst ID cards did not prevent the Madrid bombing there is strong evidence that it assisted the police in the arrests which followed.
There will be a great deal of public discussion and debate about the use of, and concerns about abuse of, the ID cards during the course of the draft bill. I have no doubt that the concerns you have will be fully aired at that time.
I regret that a full ministerial diary prevents me from attending the event on the 19th.
So now ID cards will police catch people who have committed a crime – not something suicide bombers are particularly worried about. Not a protection.
Regarding the cost of identity based benefit fraud, evidence given by the Department of Work and Pensions to the Home Affairs Select committee looking into ID cards put the figure at £50m – a mere 1.7% of the estimated cost of ID cards (at least £3bn). This means that the cards would have to work perfectly for nearly 100 years before breaking even in terms of protecting us against benefit fraud. No chance of that happening, and when the costs inevitably turn out to be significantly more, that justification shrinks further.
So do we have left – identity theft. The only cases of identity theft that would be thwarted by ID cards would be those that involve face to face transactions, something that most ID fraudsters avoid already. And most ID theft involves running up debts with private companies. The ID card scheme that is being proposed would make it difficult for private companies to verify ID more rigorously than they do now without significant costs. Most credit card companies haven’t introduced photos on cards – is this a cost analysis – would they be willing to pay to access an ID card system and take biometrics from customers? If not then identity theft won’t be stopped by ID cards.