2nd August 2018


August 2 2018,

The Times

ID cards could give us greater freedom

The future of our borders policy after Brexit will force us to look at introducing national identity cards. We must get away from the notion that this will mean stern, finger-jabbing officials demanding ID cards from law-abiding citizens. We must and can ensure that Britain does not become that sort of country.

Had ID cards been universal, the position of the Windrush generation would have been safeguarded. ID cards would have ensured that they quickly established their identity and residence rights with a small pocket-sized document. Much injustice and anguish could have been avoided.

Indeed, if anything, the Windrush affair has shown how an ID card could complement our sense of fairness, love of liberty and respect for the law. The public reaction to the Windrush debacle has underlined society’s essential decency and humanity, rather than cast doubt on it.

There are many cases when an ID card would allow us greater freedom. Most of us routinely carry a driving licence, bus pass, membership card, security pass or bank cards. They all contain information that we hand over with alacrity umpteen times a day. Many of these cards carry a photo and signature. So why not an ID card that establishes our identity and residence?

If we can accept that ID cards do not constitute an assault on civil liberties, we can also be open to the other ways they could make life so much easier. Helping people establish their right to claim benefits, as well as their age, address, next of kin, blood group and health records in case of emergency, are just a few advantages that could flow from ID cards. While ID cards would also undoubtedly help in tackling illegal immigration, that should not be seen as their primary purpose.

European countries, and not just EU member states, offer a variety of systems that could be adapted for Britain. We can learn from these schemes, some of which have been in place for decades and have evolved along with technology.

As Labour and Conservative MPs, we have long held the view that Britain needs its own ID card scheme. We will be taking this proposal further by tabling a motion for debate in the House of Commons.

Of course there will be questions about what information should be included on the cards. We agree with David Blunkett’s suggestion that our passports should be the starting point. A debate will give politicians the first big opportunity to address such questions.

Frank Field is Labour MP for Birkenhead and Sir Nicholas Soames is Conservative MP for Mid Sussex