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ID cards face Scots opposition
Proposals to introduce identity cards, laid out in the Queen's Speech, could lead to tensions between the Westminster and Holyrood governments.

BBC News | May 17, 2005

The Queen confirmed a bill allowing the introduction of ID cards as a means of countering identity fraud on Tuesday.

However, earlier this year MSPs voted against them and the Scottish Executive said they would not be used in devolved areas like health and education.

The Queen's Speech covers government plans for new Westminster legislation.

New health and education bills will not apply in Scotland due to devolution.

However, other bills will have an impact north of the border.

These include a Welfare Reform Bill to tackle incapacity benefit and an Asylum and Immigration Bill to tighten security at borders and the introduction of a points system.

Fingerprint details

Plans for ID cards are expected to be the most controversial, particularly in Scotland.

The bill received its second reading in the last parliament - with the Conservatives abstaining and the Liberal Democrats opposed, along with 19 Labour backbenchers - but had to be shelved when the election was called.

However, when the matter was debated in the Scottish Parliament in February, Labour sustained a rare defeat.

The measures were branded "regressive" and a threat to personal freedom during a debate called by the Scottish Greens at Holyrood.

The Lib Dems, Labour's coalition partners in the executive, abstained during the vote, but they have said that they are opposed to identity cards being used to access services.

The executive has said that when ID cards are introduced Scots will not be required to use them to access devolved services such as health, education and transport.

They will, however, be needed for areas reserved to Westminster such as welfare benefits.

Under the bill, having false identity documents will become a new criminal offence and a National Identity Register will be established - containing details such as fingerprints of every British citizen.

It will also allow ministers to begin charging an estimated £87 for so-called "biometric" cards which store fingerprint and other details on a tiny microchip.

The details on the card can then be cross-referenced against a national database before the holder can see a doctor or use other public services, such as schools or libraries.

The bill also provides a power at a future date for making the cards compulsory - and introducing penalties for those who fail to register for them.

'Seriously flawed'

A new Home Office agency, incorporating the functions of the Passport Service and working closely with the Immigration and Nationality Directorate, would issue the cards.

The Scottish Green Party, who have been vociferous opponents on the plans, branded the register a "big brother database".

MSP Patrick Harvie said: "In terms of civil liberties, this scheme threatens to set Britain back decades.

"The ID card and national database scheme is seriously flawed, will be extremely costly and will not tackle terrorism.

"On the issue of benefit fraud, it is little more than a distraction from the billions that go unclaimed every year.

"Once introduced, who knows how future governments will use the database."

He called for the Scottish Executive to make a statement to Holyrood on the issue.

The Queen's Speech saw the introduction of about 45 bills for MPs and peers to debate by November 2006.

Many of these are new measures but there are a number of old ones that were introduced last autumn but did not receive parliamentary approval due to the election.

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