Saturday, 20 April 2013

What's wrong with an ID card for the UK?

OPINION (by Alberto Bullrich) It doesn't seem to have occurred to anyone that the problems about who should pay for what in the UK's NHS could in large part be solved with an identification document, not to mention a good proportion of the crime rate, court costs and an account of all immigrants. Yes, a national ID would cost several billion, but how much would it save in the future?>>>
To begin with, a new ID could be issued to anyone coming into the country for the first time, indicating where that person comes from, inside or outside the EU. In Spain, for instance, all foreign identification numbers - called Foreigner Identification Number (Número de Identificación de Extranjeros, or NIE in its Spanish acronym) - begin with the letter X (for extranjero, or 'stranger'), followed by 7 numbers and another letter. It applies to anyone not born in Spain and is here legally. It is a crime to employ anyone not presenting the proper NIE document.

To obtain one in the UK would involve delivering quite a lot of personal information, which some might be reluctant to do, but for what reason? It would not be an easy process, and would mean a substantial amount of research by the issuing authority: Is this person being sought by any country with which we have an extradition treaty? Are they on a terrorist listing? Have they lived in the UK before and is there anything owing? etc. etc.  An exhaustive search would remove quite a lot of chaff and ensure a more tranquilo future for all.

The number could also apply to the person's tax and health documentation: has he or she paid taxes? For how long? Are they registered with a GP practice? Where? For how long? The person's entire history within the UK could fit on a single chip.

Gradually, other people could be issued with a card. Gradually, so the cost can be spread over a period of time, though the main cost will be in setting up the system. As someone comes out of prison, say, they would get a card. Or leaving hospital, or any institution. Loss or damage of the card and its renewal would cost its holder a significant amount (UK passports are very expensive compared to other EU countries), thus ensuring its proper care.

Anybody not presenting an identification card when attending or being admitted to an NHS facility, or applying for any kind of benefit, would automatically be billed on leaving the premises - either they or their country will pay, as long as there is a reciprocal agreement.

If stopped for a search or any other reason, we would be expected to show this card, which would be the only photo-ID legally accepted, aside from a driving licence which not everyone possesses.

No longer can the bureaucracy or the police be expected to chase up those who lie about where they live or even who they actually are. The cost of having to do so must be enormous; I wonder if there are any figures?

There is a certain very British reluctance about an ID card, but there would also be a rejection of the amount of money it costs not to have one - always supposing anyone has ever crunched the numbers.

Does this sound like a police state? Maybe, but it is not any different to what is used in much of the world. As has been said many times: if you have nothing to hide, why hide?

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