Minister Phil Woolas Fails to Show Up for ID Card Expansion Event in Cambridge

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010. 6:11pm

Gathering outside Cambridge's Post Office where minister Phil Woolas planned to launch an expansion of the ID Card and National Identity Register.

Gathering outside Cambridge’s Post Office where minister Phil Woolas was supposed to launch an expansion of the ID Card and National Identity Register.

At 8am this morning I joined about thirty others outside the main post office in Cambridge waiting to greet Labour Minister Phil Woolas who was scheduled to be arriving for an event launching ID Cards for foreign nationals.

I don’t want to live in a country where ID cards are compulsory and where the government maintains a national ID database. I joined those at the post office this morning to try and ensure Mr Woolas is reminded of the opposition to his government’s proposals. I don’t want to see the UK build an even larger and more oppressive state infrastructure; and I don’t think every interaction I have with the state ought be linked as that creates the potential for a minor mistakes to result in enormous consequences.

ID cards have been issued to overseas students and other categories of foreign nationals for a few months now. From today more migrant workers, ministers of religion and sports people are required to go through the process of obtaining an identity card. By starting with these groups the government are picking on an easy targets to get a scheme underway which would then rapidly snowball to encompass the whole UK population – at first not via explicit compulsion but though the denial of driving licenses and passports to those not willing to volunteer to join the national identity register.

Cambridge benefits enormously from the large number of people from other countries working and studying here. I think it is wrong to be ramping up the bureaucracy and charges which we subject our visitors to; I think we really risk more people choosing not to come to Britain if we treat everyone as suspects. Quite why Woolas chose Cambridge for the launch when scheme will damage the city so much and the city is such a hot-bed of anti-ID database sentiment I can’t imagine; he may simply be exceptionally badly advised.

I cannot believe that Labour will go into the next general election sticking to their current policy on ID cards and the national ID database. The scheme is enormously expensive, some estimates suggest costs of £20 billion, there are very few, if any, benefits which will arise from this spending and I think it ought be right at the top of the list of places were significant savings in public expenditure can be made.

No2ID has an excellent page outlining many of the problems with the government’s ID card scheme.

Who Was There

Cambridge’s Liberal Democrats attended in-force with three of those seeking to be the Liberal Democrat candidate in the next general election – Julian Huppert, Belinda Brooks-Gordon and Julie Smith present. Conservative candidate Mr Hillman was also there with a Conservative contingent. No2ID co-ordinator Andrew Watson brought his group’s banner, posters and badges along and there were a couple of independent individuals like me.

Lib Dems Protest – But Don’t Use their Power

Liberal Democrat run Cambridge City Council has passed a motion opposing ID Cards, I thought their action, while in the right direction, was rather weak as it didn’t commit the council to any substantive action, for example it didn’t rule out the council using the cards and database themselves and didn’t result in the council taking steps to ensure that people won’t be required to obtain an ID card and go on the national ID register to obtain council services (for example the council requires those applying for parking permits to transfer their driving licenses to the address for which they are seeking a permit – an action which will result in an entry on the National Identity Register being created).

Labour View

While it is a Labour Government introducing ID cards Labour’s parliamentary candidate in Cambridge, Daniel Zeichner, has not made his own views on the subject clear. . In June 2007 I watched him defend ID cards at a No2ID meeting at Parkside; where he appeared to me to be taking a position indistinguishable from that of the Government. He has since commented on my website to say “I have argued for changes to the policy on id-cards “, his has recently explained his contribution to the public meeting as being due to him explaining the governments position rather than expressing his personal agreement with it.

Finding out About the Visit

Following the protocol that requires MPs to be notified when Ministers make official visits to their constituencies Cambridge’s MP David Howarth had been told about the launch; he in turn tipped off local activists who were able to muster the group which was impressively large given the time of day, freezing conditions and few hours notice given. The Minister however did not turn up, apparently as he was unwilling to leave London due to snow. There was no snow in either Cambridge or London, but there was a little in-between. Trains were running.

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7 comments/updates on “Minister Phil Woolas Fails to Show Up for ID Card Expansion Event in Cambridge

  1. Martin

    Good to see such a turnout at 8am this morning, far too early for my liking…

    Given that your second paragraph has a typo in, perhaps it’s a bit much to criticise the KH blog for the same thing! :)

  2. Richard Normington

    The Conservative County Council is against ID Cards. It passed the following motion, seconded by Cllr Susan Normington, in October 2008:

    This Council notes the Government’s plans to introduce ID cards. This scheme will have an effect upon all of the people of Cambridgeshire. This Council believes:

    1) That the disadvantages of such a scheme will outweigh any likely benefits to the people of Cambridgeshire
    2) That the scheme will do little, if anything, to prevent terrorism, crime or fraud
    3) That the national database that underpins the identity card scheme may facilitate criminal fraud, terrorism and potential state abuses of human rights
    4) That the ID card and database proposals are likely to fundamentally alter the relationship between the state and the individual
    5) That a dedicated border police force would do more to protect the people of Cambridgeshire from terrorism than a National ID Card scheme, and using some of the estimated costs to improve drugs rehabilitation for offenders would provide better value for the taxpayers of the County. Estimates of the scheme’s total costs range between £4.7 billion and nearly £20 billion. Cambridgeshire residents will be required to pay £93 for a passport and ID card together.

    This Council resolves to:
    1) Make representations at every possible stage, reiterating this Council’s opposition to ID cards
    2) Take no part in any pilot scheme or feasibility work in relation to the introduction of the national identity cards 3) Make it a policy of the Council to ensure that national identity cards would not be required to access council services or benefits unless specifically required to do so by law and to only co-operate with the national identity card scheme where to do otherwise would be unlawful.

  3. Richard Article author

    The latest City Council motion was passed in December 2008; I attended that meeting; the minutes of the section dealing with the ID Cards motion is below:

    08/82 MOTION: National ID Car[d] Scheme

    Councillor Pitt proposed and Councillor Ward seconded the following motion:

    The City Council welcomes the decision of Cambridgeshire County Council
    on 21 October 2008 to oppose the National ID card scheme.

    The Council also notes with concern many recent developments in the
    development of the database state:

    1) The introduction of biometric ID for foreign nationals here for legal
    reasons such as study and as the spouses of British nationals.
    This could have an impact on Cambridge’s universities.
    2) The decision to make national ID cards compulsory for air-side workers at
    airports which will add no extra security.
    3) The decision to potentially fine people £1000 for not telling
    the government about changing their name after marriage.
    4) The implementation and extension of the universal child database.

    The Council reaffirms its motion of 24 February 2005.

    The Council regrets the decision of the County Council not to affiliate to the
    No2ID campaign and calls on the County Council to reconsider.

    The Council also calls for other local authorities to join the County and City in
    opposition to the scheme.

    Under Procedure Rule 13.8.1, it was agreed to deal with the business at the

    Resolved (by 22 votes to 0) that the motion be agreed as set out above.

    I have located a copy of the original 2005 motion which was reaffirmed. That states:

    4) make it a policy of the council to ensure that national identity cards would not be required to access council services or benefits unless specifically required to do so by law.
    5) only co-operate with the national identity card scheme where to do otherwise would be unlawful

    I don’t know what that means in terms of my example with the driving license renewal; but it is a middle way which has been chosen. The council have not decided not to accept the national ID card as a form of ID for example.

  4. Andrew Watson

    Great to see so many people there, and thanks for the write-up. We tried hard to get the “traditional” media interested in covering the protest. Cambridge NO2ID issued this calling notice at lunchtime the day before:

    David Howarth MP also issued a press release, the meat of which is on his web page:

    In the event, only 209 Radio came along, but as a result will broadcast a background piece on the ID cards scheme soon. Cambridge NO2ID also issued a follow-up press release and photo:

    Again, no sign of coverage, but I suppose “Minister doesn’t come to Cambridge” isn’t much of a story. :-)

  5. Andrew Watson

    OK, I take it back about the lack of coverage – there’s a short piece and a copy of our photo on page 10 of the 7th January edition of the Cambridge News. Not bad!

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