I am writing to firstly ask about your opinion and standing on the Identity Cards Bill currently going through the House of Commons, and secondly to put forward the case that the system as proposed in the Bill should be argued against as strongly as possible, for a number of reasons.
I feel that this issue is a particularly important one, as the sheer scope and scale of the proposal means that every single one of us shall be affected directly by it. Furthermore, the insistence of the Government to press on with it, regardless of the research or sentiment in front of it, means that it is practically impossible to stay unopinionated on the matter - to avoid the issue is to allow the Bill through unchecked. For these reasons, I would be grateful to hear your position on the subject, as my designated representative.
I am also aware the Bill may well be undergoing its Second Reading very soon - probably before Christmas reaches us. Hence, I implore you imperatively to consider the various effects the proposed scheme will have on every aspect of people's lives, and to raise as many concerns about the scheme as possible during its upcoming discussion. It is not just a matter of what we, as a country, have to win and lose if the Bill goes through, but also an important decision that will determine the relationship between Government and the population as we move onwards into the 21st Century.
So far, there have been a lot of messages from Labour about why such a scheme is necessary, how popular it is with current opinion, and how fears of an authoritarian, Orwellian society are unduly paranoid. While I will avoid going into depth on the myriad details here for brevity's sake, I do take issue with much of the over-simplified and dismissive rhetoric put forward by proponents of ID. I also note, in an increasing amount, the number of people who feel similarly when given a more complete view of the impact of an ID scheme. In this regard, I feel that there has been a huge amount of "branding", as it were, on the part of Labour - that the idea has been "sold" to us all along rather than properly debated, and sold using partial truths and promises that will be impossible to keep.
As a result, the public opinion figure often quoted by David Blunkett et al in support of the scheme - 80% in favour - is now so hopelessly out of date (around 2 years so) that its mention is meaningless. Indeed, the much more recent consultation on compulsory Identity Cards (from April to July of this year) found that support has dropped to 31%, with 48% against the proposed scheme. As the consultation was self-selecting, it makes sense that an even larger percentage nationwide are currently unaware of the issues surrounding the scheme - a fact that the Government seem quite happy to leave unaddressed.
A large part of my own, personal resistance to the scheme relates to the open-endedness of the Bill, alongside the current direction of Labour (and even, perhaps, UK politics) towards a less transparent, police-led society. While I am not so excitable as to take Orwell's "Big Brother" scenario out of its position of extremity, and into that of a plausible outcome, there are still many decisions being taken and intents being expressed by Labour that worry me greatly.
For instance, over the last few years we have seen (and continue to see): - At least 9 people held for 3 years without trial, most at Belmarsh Prison - Around a 2.5% conviction rate under terrorism legislation - in August, 99 people had been charged out of 609 arrests, and only 15 had been convicted - Increased use of CCTV and road cameras as a tracking facility as well as for monitoring - Intent to put in place trials without jury, following the next election
On the other hand, there have been extremely few reasons for trusting the Government with so much control over the life of an individual - or indeed every individual in the UK. Thus, when the Bill states that the Police and Intelligence Services will have near-unrestricted access to the information kept within the National Intelligence Register (section 19 of the Bill) - without having to ask the individual in question - I feel it is only fair and, indeed, necessary to question the motives of the Government, and to consider just what control over ourselves we are giving up as a population.
Many people claim that "if we have nothing to hide, then we have nothing to fear." My fear under such a far-reaching, overly-invasive system is that we - the electorate - have so much less say over what is questionable, and what isn't. By handing the power to track individual activities in such detail to the Government, we are also handing over the power to decide what is right, what is wrong, and what is the correct way to go about things. This we have already started to see under heavy-handed anti-terrorism legislation, and continue to see as Anti-Social Behaviour Orders set about diverting us from a compensation-led system (which is equally rotten) to a poorly-thought-out legal mandate one.
I hope I have put forward my main thoughts on the ID Bill with some clarity, and look forward to hearing from you in the near future. I would be happy to discuss the matter further and/or in more detail with you if wished, as well as to supply references to any of the statistics or points made above. Most of all, I hope that we get the chance to debate this Bill sensibly in Parliament, rather than simply watch in wonder as yet another badly-thought out Act is hurried swiftly through to avoid scrupulous attention.
Thank you for reading. Yours faithfully,