Brian Paddick writes… Chairman Mao might have backed Labour’s ID card plans, but Lib Dems won’t

In the House of Lords today, Labour tried to resurrect the National Identity Card scheme with some support from the Conservative benches. The Government Home Office minister countered that it was too expensive and ineffective in that those we would most want to carry an ID card are the least likely to carry them.

Liberal Democrats object to the compulsory carrying of identity cards on principle, as an infringement of the liberty and the right to privacy of those lawfully going about their business but there are other reasons why a national identity scheme should remain dead and buried.

Not one of the tragic deaths or horrific injuries inflicted by terrorists in recent times in the UK could have been prevented had a national identity card scheme been in place.  The identities of the bombers and would-be bombers of the London transport system in 2005 were quickly established. The identities of the murderers of Lee Rigby were never an issue.

Lord Reid, the Labour Party Home Secretary who introduced the UK ID card scheme that was swiftly stopped by the Coalition government, argued that European countries had national identity cards so why don’t we?  There are two answers. If we were part of the Schengen Agreement, allowing the freedom to travel between European Countries without passport checks and bearing in mind the porous nature of Europe’s external borders and the current terrorist threat, there would be more of a pragmatic case for an ID card scheme.  I think we are as likely to join the Schengen Agreement in the foreseeable future as we are to join the Euro.  Thanks to Liberal Democrats in the coalition government, the policing of the U.K. border has been strengthened to obviate the need for a national identity card scheme.

The second answer is Paris. Despite the requirement of all the European Countries through which the alleged mastermind of the Paris attacks passed, that everyone must carry an identity card, his free movement from Syria through Greece and intermediate countries to France made no difference to his ability to coordinate such a murderous atrocity. In any event, unless it is a requirement in Syria to carry an ID card and unless he decided to comply with that requirement, the fact that there was a compulsory national identity card scheme in the countries he travelled through, it would have made no difference.

I am sure Chairman Mao would have supported Labour’s attempts to bring back a UK national identity card scheme but Liberal Democrats will continue to resist any and all attempts to erode our civil liberties in an attempt to provide a false sense of security.


* Brian Paddick Is Liberal Democrat spokesperson on Home Affairs. He was Deputy Assistant Commissioner in London's Metropolitan Police Service until 2007, the Lib Dem candidate for the London mayoral election in 2008 and 2012, and a life peer since 2013. He is joint President of LGBT+ Lib Dems.

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  • Good grief are they still trying that? There’s no case whatsoever for an ID card scheme, even if we do join Schengen, which I very much hope we do (the case for it is very much strengthened by the need for co-operation to deal with terrorism).

    The conservative and labour taste for pointless bullying authoritarian and costly security theatre is a very strong argument for voting LibDem.

  • Dave Orbison 27th Nov '15 - 8:43am

    Good article let down with the cheap dig about Mao no doubt a reference to John McDonnell. But this further underlines the muddled thinking with LibDem leadership re Labour. Lord Reid is a pro war authoritarian typical of Blairities who I abandoned for the LibDem years ago. Tim Farron’s appeal to the ‘moderate’ Labour MP’s to join the LibDems is aimed at precisely those that would support this ID card nonsense. Yet the mocking reference re Mao shows a focus on attacking those aligned with Corbyn who, on this policy, would be totally anti ID card. If the Labour Party does split, more likely a few disgruntled MPs who have no regard for democracy within the party, they may well jump ship. From my perspective, good riddance as for the LibDems, perhaps a case of careful what you wish?

  • Roger Roberts 28th Nov '15 - 8:00am

    My intervention on Question asking that Identity Cards be introduced –
    -“: I welcome the Minister’s statement that there will be no rethink of identity cards. Knee-jerk reactions often lead to massive expense and total inefficiency.Labour introduced the personal face to face interviews when people wanted to get their first passport . In the first four years after it was introduced 1.5 million interviews took place, of which only 12 were rejected, Also to process these interviews , 68 offices were opened in the UK,Since then 30 have been closed . One Tory peer estimated that the cost for those years was a” third of a billion pounds “!

  • Good points made by Dave Orbison.

  • It was the ‘cheap dig’ about Mao that made me read this, so I think it was worth making. personally 🙂

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