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back to article Johnson shuffle returns ID cards to the table

The fate of the UK's national ID card project is looking increasingly doubtful, although new Home Secretary Alan Johnson is unwilling to plunge the knife. Not yet. Johnson has begun a review of the multi-billion pound scheme and wants to look at it from "first principles". The new Home Secretary is apparently more open-minded …

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"first principles"

"I am not a number."

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Coat

Teehee

Johnson shuffle sounds like a good euphemism for most of the government, really.

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First first principle...

Why?

The country isn't made of money. Why is seting up an identity control infrastructure the best thing anyone could do with N billion, where N is a large number?

As I recall, there was NO discussion of the merits or otherwise of an ID card scheme. It just sprang into existence. Suddenly one day we were hearing politicians asserting that this would stop crime, stop terrorism, prevent fraud, and usher in the promised land.....

I would like to know where all this started. Was it lobbying by industry? Was it a Home Office wet dream? I can't believe it was a political idea - they don't believe in spending money to lose votes. Unless we find out how this started and burn the evil out at source, there is no guarantee that it will not return once the recession is over and there is spare money again....

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Not to sqaunder any ones hopes too much...

but Johnsons voting record on theyworkforyou.com suggest that the review is merely a means of him appearing to be open minded.

http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/mp.php?mpid=1648&dmp=1051

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Unhappy

I warned you

Everybody was so pleased that the whack-bag was going, but I did say that the next puppet to take up the post would be given the same instructions by the civil service controllers.

They're just playing the usual game of saying they're different and doing the same thing as before, as though just saying it makes it so.

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@ Dodgy Geezer

I agree completely!

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@Dodgy Geezer

".... burn the evil out at source...."

Are you taking old skool here? Angry mob, miscellaneous farm implements and torches? Wacky Jacqui tied to a stake and surrounded by burning faggots*?

Count me in.

*Will the Yanks please stop sniggering at the back.

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It's easy to see the evidence

Tell him to walk down the local high street telling people that their current passport, driving license, and chip&pin credit cards are not enough legal identification, and they have to pay £95 for a new card which won't work anywhere outside of the country as a replacement for any of those three documents, meaning that they need to carry all four when they go abroad.

Tell them that the whole thing will cost them £90 in Tax before it rolls out.

Tell them that the system will be abusable by humans the same way any other system is (prone to error, tampering, malicious activity), and is not a perfect remedy for identity theft, immigration, or preventing crime.

You know... Honesty. A little bit of honesty for once.

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Rolls eyes

"Or rather he's pressing ahead with the project, but doesn't intend to make carrying the cards compulsory."

Then what the hell is the point!! Honestly - it's all or nothing and I'd really quite prefer nothing.

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They already know what will happen

Think about it. As a country, we must have passports and modern standards require that the passport contain accessible digital info which implies a central database.

So, exactly why does anybody need an ID card scheme that essentially duplicates all the data, but is separate?

Note that the passport office and the id card people are already combined into a single government dept.

So, ID cards will magically turn into slightly enhanced passports which will satisfy all the demands of both. Some PR company will be paid a ton fmoney to come up with a new name for the combined passport/id --- I suggest PISS --- Personal Identification for Stupid Security.

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The trouble is...

... that regardless of the merits of the scheme (and there aren't any to this one), entire policies can - in theory - be changed just by having a new face over the job-title. OK, we all know that there is as much substance to a cabinet post as Zaphod Beeblebrox's presidency of the galaxy, but it troubles me that, even if it is shelved on whatever grounds, the whole stupid idea will float to the surface again like the waste-products of a very fatty meal. Dodgy Geezer and The Original Ash have the right idea - we need clarity and honesty here: where did the idea come from; who is pushing it and why? As I keep saying in various places: when it is convincingly explained to me how the whole scheme of cards and databases benefits the individual more than the government, I'll consider (but only consider) changing my opposition to the things, and not before.

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Go

First principle? Non compulsary?

So how *much* longer will I have to wait now until I get my piece of useless plastic than will end up sitting at the back of a drawer.

Well actually I may have a need for the ID card in a year or so when I have to go back and tidy up the grouting in my bathroom, I used up all my wives loyalty cards for that last time and it's a bugger to get grout off a plastic card so they usually go in the bin after.

"Go" because the tiles on my walls can't wait longer than a year, dammit!

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Statsi

> As I recall, there was NO discussion of the merits or otherwise of

Welcome to so called "democracy" in the 21st Century. Decision by dictat, implementation by co-ercion and force. The "people" are merely an inconvenient obstacle to the total rule of the entrenhced self-serving weathly & elite.

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Anonymous Coward

> So, exactly why does anybody need an ID card scheme...

So they can grab the cash from folk like me who don't have a UK passport and still have an old style non expiring paper driving license...

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Is it the card, or is it the contents?

Walk around any town centre at lunchtime and you will see many workers queuing up at the sandwich shops and thiumbing through magazines in WH Smiths, that they have no intention of buying. A significant number of these people will have their work photo-ids hanging around their necks, of clipped to various parts of their person.

Almost everyone has some sort of ID card. They are needed to gain access to factories, offices, your money (think: cash cards). You are issued with one when you pass your driving test, you buy one if youy want to go on a foreign holiday. Personally, I have 9 different cards (4 with photo ID) that are used in some way, shape or form to prove my identity to various people, computers or key-entry systems.

Face it; WE ALREADY HAVE ID CARDS, EVERYWHERE

What we don't have are cards that contain biometric data (though a compelling argument could be made that a mug shot is the ultimate biometric data) and ones that act as the sole, defining arbiter of who you are. Lose your govt. ID card and you're nobody. Have someone else forge a card in your name and you're less than nobody. We know from past experience that no british government has the will or ability to keep people's data secure, so I would suggest that ID cards should not contain any: just name, number (yes, we are all numbers - N.I numbers), a means of visually identifying the holder as the person named and nothing more. If you wish, you could put a nice, red cover around them and use them for foreign travel, too.

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Costs

6bn is the government figure, not counting various costs (like the ones to local councils, which adds 100 quid to your council tax bill). The London school of economics reckons nearer 10bn...

There is still time to join your local http://no2id.net You never know, you might end up on Radio 2...

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@First Principles

One wonders which set of first principles that would be, IT, Political, Human rights. Recent events seem to indicate the politicians wouldn't know a principle if it hit them in the face. Ultimately politicians have no conception of the complexity of society and just how difficult it is to change course, once under way.

Ultimately cancelling now would not save money, the contracts have all been let, and the passport service needs the systems anyway to meet its current and future needs. ID cards are actually a relatively low cost add on to biometric passports.

Not only that the government is big on shared services as a way of reducing costs, so there are probably an awful lot of initiatives out there that are now costed on the basis that ID cards will exist in some form, or other, certainly the processes behind them. So even if Mr. J does say no to ID cards, the next home secretary can say yes, and be a hero because he can do it for a tenth the price of the original.

So no matter what happens, all you can expect is a stay of execution to make Mr. J look good for his leadership bid, sorry, but there it is.

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Joined up government

"The scheme could be a victim, along with privatisation of the Post Office, of Britain's increasingly battered finances and weakened political leadership."

In order to demonstrate "strong" political leadership, the government will press ahead with Post Office privatisation to boost the country's battered finances, then spend the money on ID cards. Which will all get lost in the newly privatised post.

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Black Helicopters

Politcal correctness

Typical politician "he's pressing ahead with the project, but doesn't intend to make carrying the cards compulsory. ... airside staff will have to apply for, and carry, an ID card."

So they are NOT compulsory, but you DO have to carry one. Is this some new form of english?

I look forward to the day all the airports grind to a halt because all the workers forget to carry their non-compulsory cards.

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If it's true...

...that a population gets the government it deserves, then the population of the UK - or at least a majority of them - must be so incompetent and moronic that I'm amazed they are allowed to be outside an institution.

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Paris Hilton

Is the review

Just away to bin something that even nuLabour must realise is going to cost the country an arm and leg and be deeply unpopular without achieving anything?

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@Dodgy

The original plan was for a unified Civil Service database where each branch of the CS only had to go to one place to access the info they needed about you. So, Driving License, Benefit eligibility, Residence status etc... would all be available in one place. The reason for this was to streamline information gathering processes in Whitehall to drive CS efficiency.

Then the powers that be realised no bugger in the universe was going to vote for that so they decided to tack on a "value add". The idea of an ID card was born. The ID card was originally going to save us from that scourge of modern society... football hooliganism. This was famously described by Lord Taylor (of *that* Taylor report, yes) as using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. Now, of course, we have evil immigrants, benefit fraudsters and terrorists so the "nut" got big enough for the Labour govt to bring the sledgehammer back out of the shed, reckoning they could sell it to the masses as more appropriate this time.

It isn't, of course, but the ID Card did not come first, the database did.

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@SmallYellowFuzzyDuck

"I used up all my wives loyalty cards"?

Worried because the cards will make polygamy more difficult? ;-)

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Saving Lives?

How many lives will be saved by spending these billions on this ID card scheme?

How many lives could be saved by spending these same billions in other ways instead?

How many lives could be saved by not spending these billions, cutting taxes by the amount saved, letting the economy benefit as a result, resulting in more tax revenue in the future due to a more prosperous economy, which can then be invested in such things as health?

As long as we pour billions and billions into various, often flawed and usually highly inefficient, uneconomical schemes in the name of combating terrorism, we burden and drain our economy in ways that merely translate threatened terrorism into other forms of social and economic damage. And we're usually amplifying the damage in the process.

We've basically got a government that is letting terrorists get us to drain and burden our own economy in response to their threats of terrorism. They get us to weaken ourselves, and we seem to go along with it. Well, our government goes along with it, anyway. If we carry on like this, we run the risk of ending up like the Soviet Union did (or North Korea now), where the economy is so burdened with defence spending and investments that it can no longer carry the weight. That's quite the opposite of defeating terrorism.

In the wake of the London bombings of July 2005, we, the people of London and the UK, spontaneously responded to those atrocious attacks with perhaps the best possible response: We're Not Afraid. We didn't run away. We didn't bow down in submission. We didn't panic. We didn't let ourselves get goaded into battles of the terrorists' choosing (Sun Tzu would approve). We didn't suddenly demand that the government take away our liberty in exchange for security. Instead, we simply refused to let the terrorists achieve anything more than death and destruction.

Unfortunately, our cowardly government did not follow our lead. They have let us all down.

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re: They already know what will happen

" I suggest PISS --- Personal Identification for Stupid Security."

So the copper will be able to say "i'm taking the PISS" ?

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Tory promises;

The Tories have promised to scrap it, eh? Like Labour promised it wouldn't be compulsory then tied it to passport applications... I wouldn't be at all surprised (if the Tories get in) that when the time comes to review the scheme they find that "It's too far advanced to scrap".

@Pete2: It's not about the cards, it's about the underlying database.

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Re: Is it the card, or is it the contents?

We all know that any card they come up with will last about a year before someone hacks it. Oyster Cards, Chip & PIN, they all have a shelf life. We should not expect to carry anything that cannot be quickly and easily verified with a central source, so if we are going to have to a have a country-wide ID system, they should start by simply requiring all government departments, banks, etc, to store our National Insurance number as a unique key, and see how many frauds that throws up first. All without a card in site, and it would prove very quickly if the system has any merit. Which it might if they stopped thinking about closing stable doors for just a moment.

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$2bn saved by canning it? Not any more

All the contractors who got a slice of the ID card pie are aware of the likelihood of it being canned, and are frantically ensuring their contracts are bulletproofed so that in the event it's canned, they still get paid. It's going to cost us a fortune, and there's no way out of that now.

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Joke

Why don't they just use passports?

What's wrong with previous used systems, like communist workers card. Borg Id number chips.

A tattoo on the arm. 666?

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Multiple forms of ID work better

It is better to require multiple forms of ID. If you have one form of ID then the criminals can focus on these.

It is rubbish that the cards will not be forged due to "biometrics" as one MP put it. All biometrics will prove is that the card contains your retina scan, DNA or other attributes. It does not prove the information on the ID card is valid.

When applying for an ID card you will still have the process where someone will have to vouch for you. Sure, they will toughen this up, but once someone has stolen your identity and registered an ID card with it then you're screwed.

It's a similar argument to the banks saying chip and pin is secure and don't believe ATM fraud is possible. They believe so much in the technology being secure that they won't listen to anyone who says otherwise.

Having multiple forms of ID means you're not putting all your eggs in one basket.

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Scrap ID Cards NOW!!

We don't want every detail of our lives stored in some central database, for identity thieves to plunder, and for a future repressive government to use to enslave us. We don't want to be subjected to draconian fines whenever we fail to tell the government that we have changed our address, or our bank account, or our lover.

We don't want to pay £50 or £100 or £200 for the "privilege" of having a card, without which we can't get a passport, without which we can't leave the UK. Plus ££(£) more to travel to a government office where we'll be finger-printed, retina-scanned, photographed, and ritually humiliated ("interviewed") . Note that this as-yet-undecided fee is one reason for the uncertainty over whether it'll cost six billion or twenty. £200 times 60M is £12bn.

We all know that services are going to have to be cut, and taxes raised, to balance the country's books. Start the cutting here - a scheme of absolutely no benefit to anyone except for a closet Nazi like the un-lamented jackboot Jacqui. It's one bit of public expenditure which I'm quite sure no-one will miss.

Take note. Unless Labour does the biggest about turn of all time, I will be voting Tory, without even considering any other issue. This assault on our liberty is far more important than anything else, and must be scrapped before the data is gathered. Later would be too late.

Where's the mushroom-cloud icon? That little flame isn't nearly hot enough.

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Stop

I quite like the idea of an identity data base.....

I just don't like the ideas of:

A half arsed, insecure, centralised repository of loads pf personal information that if it fell into the wrong hands would cause me intense personal difficulty and cost - without recourse.

The prospect of being compulsorily required to carry a card just so that I can live.

The presumption that the people of Britain are all potential serious criminal and must be under scrutiny, perpetually.

The creation of the database is to be immensely costly, its maintenance likewise, its development into something useful even more so...

The likelihood of any politician developing a spine rigid enough to stand up to the UK and European Civil servants is vanishingly small so have absolutely no doubt that Mr Johnson will find that everything is in order and the database and cards developments can proceed....

Ahhh, I love the smell of corrosive cynicism in the morning.... DO YOU REMEMBER THAT MR BLAIR!!!

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Security

On the issue of usefulness I recall a posting I have made on another article. If we have one point of verification we have one point the criminals will attack. History has shown that when there is a signal point of security people always focus on that. If you don't know what I mean just think for a moment how popular Windows software is for attacks.

Before we all start thinking of complex ways to undermine the ID card you may like to think about how secure pay by phone parking is?

I like most thought that sending a message to pay by text would possibly be exploited by some sophisticated blue tooth technique but in a recent programme of the real hustle all the con men did was put up a fake sign with their text number on it. They could not even be bothered with answering the phone! Instead they got the marks to send their credit card details by text only. Of course people complied with the request on the official looking post, because we are socially conditioned to accept road side notices.

So before you text think! Is that the right number?

The lesson is that no system will remain secure for long if the reward for braking it is high enough, so lets scrap this now.

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Contracts

My understanding is that no government can enter into a contract (for the country) with someone that would disproportianately burden a succeeding government.

Personally, i'd love to see the contracts disolved, i'd equally then like to see the companies involved crawl out of the woodwork and try to sue for breach of contract.

Without having seen the specific wording, I suspect the weasly types don't actually have a leg to stand on, when it comes to the "reasonableness" test of the contract. I.e. is the contract massively beneficial to one side rather than the other.

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MnM
Heart

good pic

groaning proles akimbo!

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for Dodgy Geezer

"Was it lobbying by industry?"

as a matter of fact, it was. A certain high-ranking minister who just happens to be my local MP and an old pal of my mum and ad from years back 'fessed this up to me a couple of years ago.

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@Ted Treen

"... amazed they are allowed to be outside an institution"? - Surely that's why the politicians think the whole damn country has to be turned into a secure prison camp, since they obviously regard us with such comtempt.

My New Political Model: the Bathwater model of society.

Definition: The scum floats to the top.

We need to skim it off, and soon.

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Yes Minister

Big Brother episode. Covered it all ... you can probably find it on the 'tube if you have a free half hour.

Far from new, clearly been around in concept for 30 years.

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IT Angle

@JassMan

"So they are NOT compulsory, but you DO have to carry one. Is this some new form of english?"

HM.Gov say it's for 'security' but they actually mean 'We are trying to identify fuzzy-wuzzies who have stayed to long. We have been unable to lock them all up in substandard conditions and, as we all know 'cos it's in the papers, all baggage handlers are thieving terrorist suspects'.

Presumably they will only issue (volunteer to have a card or get sacked) cards to people working past the passport check-in as the cards won't be required in the U.K.

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'doesn't plan to make carrying the cards compulsory'

Uh that's not a change of policy. The existing legislation says that it will not be compulsory to carry the card, but it will be compulsory to register with the database. IIRC Charles Clarke proposed that compulsion might be included in the next Labour manifesto, but that hasn't been mentioned since he was kicked out of the Home Office.

So this sounds like spin to me.

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Re: Was it a Home Office wet dream?

I'm not saying this is proof, but that was a long time ago:

http://www.yes-minister.com/ymseas1b.htm#YM 1.4

(Site "optimised" for IE, I'm afraid.)

-A.

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Psss

....can someone whisper into jonnymans ear to have a look at scrapping IMP & MIT while he's at it?

Cheers.

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Anonymous Coward

ID Cards are a good idea

Not everyone has a driving licence or a passport, which can make it difficult sometimes when you need ID. Same goes for my wife who doesn't have even a work ID.

So the idea of a standardised assured ID Card is an idea we both like.

The proposals are, however, an abomination and should be scrapped forthwith

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How do I get one?

Nobody has ever asnwered my very fundamental question about these cards - how do I prove who I am in order to get one? If the idea of them is that none of the existing forms of proof of identity - passport, driving licence, etc. - is sufficiently secure (because they can be forged) then how do I prove who I am when I apply for my all singing all dancing ID card? On the other hand if the issuing authority is going to accept some existing form of ID then why do I need the ID card? Clearly I can already satisfactoriy prove my identity!

I'm also concerned that people are putting too much faith in the biometrics making them incontrovertible proof of identity, and this has nothing to do with my scepticism about biometrics. For the few agencies that will (eventually) have the equipment and the links to read the card and compare it against the database then it will be fairly secure. The problem is that it will be used in all sorts of other situations to prove ID where you are dealing with somebdoy - your local shop, a hire car company, a pub doorman, whatever - who won't be able to make that check. Just so long as you can produce a convincing forgery (ie. it looks and feels right) then it will be accepted, which puts it back on a par with existing identity documents. So what's the point?

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Isn't it great...

...that the government will get to spend a shed load of out money on a project that will be scrapped when they loose the next election, which lets face it, they will.

Actually, I wonder if there are any openings for contractors on it... It's gonna be good money, and at the end of it you don't need to have produced anything!

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@ EvilGav 1

“My understanding is that no government can enter into a contract (for the country) with someone that would disproportionately burden a succeeding government.”

You might try to explain this to the current government, which is at present spending money that will have to be paid back by taxes that will burden our grandchildren.

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Stuff the ID cards. Its the NIR that needs to die

Sir Sham Cad's story has the ring of truth about it. But that would expect departments *other* than the former department of Wackiness to be gagging for it's introduction. Interest seems luke warm.

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@ID Cards are a good idea

Yup, totally agree, as long as

a. its use is agreed by referendum

b. any public servant (civil servant, politician, policeperson) or other person employed on the use of the system is , by due process, found guilty of abusing the system or losing data gets ten years, no remission, hard labour.

Otherwise. NO THANKS

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Joke

However much you reshuffle the pack...

Another easily identifiable joker always gets pulled out...

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@Evil Gav 1

"My understanding is that no government can enter into a contract (for the country) with someone that would disproportianately burden a succeeding government"

Nice theory. Your not an American by any chance?

Only the US Govt. reserves the right to unilaterally cancel contracts without compensation.

A situation that gives companies which routinely deal with Uncle Sam a rather warped business structure, the so called gubmint con-tractor.

HMG (AFAIK) follows normal contract law rules but has few (or *no*) contract lawyers. And of course if a government *really* wants something to continue it will permit its contractors to put in ludicrous penalty clauses (cancellation payment equal to next X years operating *revenue* would be suitably stupid). I rather doubt this stupid situation will change any time soon.

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