Saturday, 9 February 2008

Thanet NO2ID meets Stephen Ladyman, Thanet South MP

Thanet NO2ID recently had the pleasure of meeting Stephen Ladyman, Labour Member of Parliament representing Thanet South since 1997. Until the end of last year, Dr Ladyman held the Minister of Transport portfolio in the government. He is now Vice Chair of the Labour Party with special responsibilities in the southeast. He has been an active proponent of the British Identity Card and has voted for the introduction of the ID-database scheme all the way down the line. In short, Dr Ladyman is someone we had to meet.

In the brief time available to us it was not really possible to work through all the complex issues involved with the ID scheme. However, Thanet NO2ID made its dissatisfaction with the scheme known to Dr Ladyman. As we pointed out, the British constitution is very delicately balanced and the ID-database scheme threatens that balance by allowing government to define our identities and gain ownership over our privacy. Dr Ladyman is a patient listener, but he was not impressed with this argument. He countered that the scheme was voluntary and provided a foolproof means of establishing a person’s identity.

To suggest that the government’s ID scheme is “voluntary” is disingenuous to say the least. It is currently voluntary be default—the government does not have the capability to introduce compulsory identity cards for everyone overnight. It is the clear intention of the government to make identity cards mandatory in the future, however, and everything is being geared up with this long-term goal in mind. The roll-out is effectively a giant trial. Interestingly, Dr Ladyman did suggest the scheme might be scrapped if it did not work. That was politic of him, and a tacit admission that identity cards for all is not inevitable.

Dr Ladyman, who has a scientific background and previoulsy worked as a computer systems designer, did not seem too worried about the ID scheme’s security challenges. We did not mention the three million car learners’ records that went missing under his watch, but did the former minister not foresee the inevitability of catastrophic security breaches from centralising so much data on the National Identity Register? The Labour MP’s response was that the database was already in existence, and so much information about us can be found online already. Oh, brilliant. So we should just add to and link-up all that information and put all the records in one place then?

Thanet NO2ID noted that the government’s mishandling and loss of data, overbearing Identity scheme and other related concerns will be a major issue at the next election. NO2ID does not tell people how to vote, but we feel that Dr Ladyman has wrongly bought into the ID scheme and this will have an adverse affect on his and the Labour Party’s fortunes at the next general election. The MP did not agree with this assessment.

Thanet NO2ID applauds the Labour MPs who refused to support the undemocratic and dangerous Identity Cards Act 2006. We continue to seek a dialogue with the Labour movement and also with Dr Ladyman who may yet come to see that the disadvantages of the ID scheme far outweigh any benefits, as seen narrowly, it may afford.

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