One of the many disgraceful aspects about the disgraceful ID card programme is the reluctance of the UK government to make key documents available.
For such a momentous change in the relationship of government to governed, it is critically important that a full debate about all the issues be conducted; but without key details of the scheme, that is made more difficult – which is presumably why the UK government has resisted the publication of the so-called “Gateway reviews” so long.
Finally, though, we have gained the right to see these somewhat outdated documents. Despite their age, and the unnecessary redactions, some useful new information has come to light, which more than justifies the long battle to gain access.
There are two astonishing sections in the reviews, both from the second document, written in January 2004. The first is as follows:
The Identity Cards programme’s potential for success is not in doubt. As the SRO and Programme Director recognise, however, there is much work to be done before a robust business case can be established for a solution that meets the business need, is affordable and achievable, with appropriate options explored, and likely to achieve value for money, as required at Gate 1.
We list below some key areas where in our view the planned activities are critical, with recommendations where appropriate.
“The Identity Cards programme’s potential for success is not in doubt”: that is an extraordinary statement against the background of countless analyses, reports and comments by experts in the field pointing out all the flaws inherent in the proposed ID card scheme. The fact that the existence of those is not even *mentioned* is testimony to the complete indifference to those views. The government and its advisors have clearly made their minds up, and anyone else's opinions are just irrelevant.
But, for me, the single most shocking revelation is the following:
There is general agreement that there should be a second biometric as well as the photograph (or digital photograph). On the assumption that DNA would be too expensive, however, should it be fingerprints or irises (or both)?