Citing Terror Issues, Britain Plans ID Cards
By ALAN COWELL
Published: November 24, 2004
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LONDON, Nov. 23 - Invoking a global threat of terrorism, the British
government announced plans on Tuesday to introduce national identity
cards for the first time since the World War II era. An opposition
legislator said the government wanted to create a "climate of fear" in
advance of elections expected next year.
The proposal was in a list of 37 draft laws outlined by Queen Elizabeth
II on behalf of the government at the ceremonial opening of Parliament.
While the queen summarizes proposed legislation, the list is drawn up by
The most contentious law was the plan to introduce a national identity
card in 2008, a measure the government asserts is needed to fight
terrorism and organized crime. The queen said Britons "live in a time of
global uncertainty with an increased threat from international terrorism
and organized crime."
Speaking later, Prime Minister Tony Blair said, "With terrorism, illegal
immigration and organized crime operating with so much greater
sophistication, identity cards in my judgment are long overdue."
But opposition Conservatives and Liberal Democrats assailed the plan as
an effort to raise levels of fear in Britain in the hope of winning
votes in elections that could be held next May.
The government announced other security-related moves on Tuesday,
including proposals for new counterterrorism legislation and for a new
police unit akin to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Britain ceased issuing national identity documents to its citizens 52
Identity cards are commonplace in many parts of Continental Europe. But
in Britain, opponents argue that their use will infringe on civil rights
because they will be accompanied by a national database. The cards are
expected to include names, addresses and so-called biometrics, like
computerized fingerprint records.
Outside Parliament on Tuesday, protesters accused the government of
mounting what one demonstrator, Mark Littlewood, called "an enormous
threat to privacy and liberty." They brandished a rubber stamp in the
form of a supermarket bar code, saying the government's plans for a
database were "the moral equivalent of bar-coding the entire
Previously announced plans called for the introduction of identity cards
around 2008, when Britons applying for a new passport would be required
to obtain an identity card at the same time. The government wants to
make the cards compulsory at a later date.