Grumous asked: "Did I hear Jacqui Smith correctly on the radio - the national identity database(s) will be immune to hacking because it/they won't be online?"
Yes, mate, you did. You also ask: "Am I being very stupid..."
No. But Jaqui Smith is. As I've already said she isn't the sharpest knife in the drawer and she has been badly briefed (as well as badly coiffed and tailored).
Firstly, she evidently has no clear idea of what she means by 'online' because she almost certainly cannot distinguish between a departmental ethernet LAN, an inter-departmental WAN, and the internet. Nor, I am sure, has she any idea of the difference between the physical internet (as in a global system of WANs linked together by TCP/IP) on the one hand and the web (as in http-based interlinked documents) on the other.
Secondly, as others have pointed out, if the data is not available via some form of network how the fuck does she imagine remote users of the system (your immigration official at a port for example) will query it? By smoke signal?
Thirdly, she seems to imagine (or, rather, she has been told to say) that 'hacking' - or, cracking as I suppose her to mean - is somehow solely an internet phenomenon.
But UNLESS the ID database is held encrypted on mainframes isolated from ANY network, operated by totally loyal closely-vetted personnel and guarded by the SAS some motivated smartarse will crack into the system. Possibly by means of a clever hack but more likely by exploiting a position of trust.
When it comes to IT and security, the woman's obviously pretty clueless. But probably no more so than most politicians.
Oh, by the way, please actively support No2ID, people.