Column: Taxing time as tide turns in ID card debate


Jo Swinson campaigns against ID cards

THE 9/11 terrorists who hijacked the planes and flew them into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania all had valid means of identification.

The terrorists behind the Madrid train bombings of 2004, which killed 191 people and wounded more than 1,500, all had valid ID.

Closer to home, most benefit cheats lie about their circumstances, not their identity.

Yet the government insists that the ID cards they¹re so keen to inflict on us will help thwart terrorists and crack down on benefit cheats.

Tony Blair got just 36 per cent of the mandate at the recent election, but he still feels comfortable imposing this unnecessary, expensive and controlling system on the people of Britain.

The issue of ID cards sparked a fierce debate in the Commons the other day.

It’s an interesting issue, because public opinion has changed quite a lot since the idea was first floated.

Many more voters now oppose the introduction of ID cards than used to be the case, particularly when they find out what the cost will be.

The scheme will cost the taxpayer billions of pounds to set up and run and individuals will also have to pay for their cards.

It’s been estimated that it might cost around £100 for the integrated passports with ID cards carrying biological information such as iris scans.

Lots of people I’ve spoken to can think of better uses for this money, both in terms of Government spending priorities and what they would like to spend their hard-earned £100 on.

The cost is certainly a good argument against introducing ID cards.

What concerns me the most, though, is how having these cards will affect people in their day-to-day lives.

Having to carry them everywhere will ultimately be the likely scenario, as will producing them before accessing public services like NHS care.

Fortunately, in Scotland the Lib Dems have secured an agreement that the cards won’t be needed to access services which the Scottish Parliament controls.

But this will be an extra layer of hassle, with no real benefits. If you are worried about taking your child or an elderly relative to hospital, the last thing you want to think about is ensuring that your ID card is safely in your purse or wallet.

What are they for? I know my constituents want to feel safe from the threat of terrorism and will not want others to cheat the benefits system but these ID cards won¹t make a blind bit of difference.

Despite some Labour rebels voting against the measure last week, it won the vote in the Commons.

The next step will be to see what the House of Lords will do.

If, as I hope, they vote down the whole idea, then Tony Blair will have to decide if he can justify continue to press ahead with the cards.

*****

ON Monday there was a heated debate about the merits of local income tax as a replacement for the council tax.

This was a big issue in East Dunbartonshire during the election, so I decided that I should try to intervene.

Fortunately, I was called to speak, and was able to express the concerns of some constituents in Bishopbriggs, who only last Friday impressed on me why the campaign to scrap the council tax should continue.

As the council tax is not based on ability to pay, it’s especially unfair to those on low incomes, such as pensioners.

During my research, I uncovered a shocking fact, namely, that the poorest people pay six per cent of their income in Council Tax, whereas for the richest it is just 1.5%.

Surely this must be wrong?

A review is currently being held in Scotland about how local tax should be structured, so I’m hoping that they see sense and get rid of the unfair council tax. A local tax based on income would be a much fairer alternative.


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