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Blair defends identity card plan

BBC | November 6, 2006

Tony Blair has said he will push on with the ID card scheme - saying that as with CCTV and DNA the issue was one of "modernity" not civil liberties.
He told his monthly news briefing all non-EU nationals will need them to work or access public services from 2008.

The cards would tackle identity fraud, illegal immigration and solve crimes, the prime minister insisted.

The Conservatives, Lib Dems and other critics oppose ID cards on cost, civil liberty and effectiveness grounds.

'On schedule'

Mr Blair insisted the project was on budget, saying biometric passports had to be introduced anyway and, they made up 70% of the cost of ID cards.

ID cards will become compulsory from 2008 for non-EU overseas residents who come to Britain for more than three months, Mr Blair said.

They were not a "complete solution" to problems such as benefit fraud, illegal immigration and terrorism, he added.

But the accompanying National Identity Register would "help improve protection for the vulnerable, enabling more effective and quicker checks on those seeking to work".

Cash for honours

Identity cards are not due to be compulsory for Britons until 2010. Both the Conservatives and the Lib Dems say they would scrap them if they won the next General Election.

Mr Blair said the issue of ID cards and other issues such as anti-social behaviour, CCTV cameras and the DNA database were often portrayed as civil liberties issues.

But, he said, he believed that it was more an issue of "modernity" - the need to use new technology to tackle the new types of crime.

He said there needed to be a wide debate on the issue, adding that he wanted to get across to people the point that ID cards would allow people to protect their own identity.

Mr Blair, who was asked many times about the death penalty to which Saddam Hussein was sentenced on Sunday, said he opposed the death penalty in general, but said it was a decision for Iraq to make.

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