back to article National ID cards might not mean much when up against incompetence of the UK Home Office

The Windrush immigration papers scandal barred Caribbean-born Britons from public services and in some cases deported them because they lacked sufficient documentation. The scandal claimed Amber Rudd's job as Home Secretary. Her replacement, Sajid Javid, is working to sort out the mess. Two of Javid's predecessors, Charles …

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  1. UberMunchkin

    A mandatory ID Card system will not (and should not) be accepted by the population. Beyond the privacy implications and the simple, there is no way I'm prepared to give the government that much data about myself and even ignoring the incredible cost (if it's going to be legally required then you can't charge for it, if you try it will just be a massive string of lawsuits) there is the simple fact that our government is completely and totally incompetent when it comes to anything that involves computers.

    They have no concept of information security, they always, always, leak data and they always award these contracts to the cheapest, least reliable outsourcing company they can find. See the Tax Office and NHS IT infrastructures and systems for a great example of how poor they are at this.

    1. Dr_N Silver badge

      The government already holds all that data on you anyway.

      Without an ID system the UK will never get to back its so called "control" in a number of areas. Including immigration and all the other issues around that which have been blamed on the EU these last decades.

      No ID? No change. It's going to be hilarious watching this dawn on the "Go Home!" brigade.

      1. EastFinchleyite

        The government already holds all that data on you anyway

        Fine, in which case the Government can put it all together and send me my card. I shall file it with all the other important stuff I don't want and never use.

        What I expect is that I will be asked to "apply" for a card. I will be asked for information to justify that application and I will be disadvantaged if I don't or am unable.

        The Windrush generation would have been asked to prove they qualified for a card. A Hostile Environment is not mitigated by a piece of plastic.

        1. Dan 55 Silver badge

          Re: The government already holds all that data on you anyway

          The Windrush generation would have been asked to prove they qualified for a card. A Hostile Environment is not mitigated by a piece of plastic.

          No, the objectives are different. One is to enroll everyone into the ID system, the other is to get lower net immigration figures by any means necessary.

          Therefore, historical NI, employment, and bank account info already on file would have been more-or-less enough information, instead of also having to produce four pieces of official correspondence for every year of residency.

      2. David 164 Bronze badge

        Which is one of the theories I had one why they cancelled Labour government project, so that argument over immirgration would carry on and the tories are always stronger on those grounds than Labour.

    2. JC_

      there is the simple fact that our government is completely and totally incompetent when it comes to anything that involves computers.

      It doesn't have to be this way. Government departments can be (and are) competent and efficient, however, it often serves the purposes of those who would remove all regulation for government to appear incompetent. Hence underfunding and mal-administration.

      As an immigrant I dealt with visas at the Home Office and can assure you that the process was fine under a Labour government and became hellish afterward.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        As an immigrant I dealt with visas at the Home Office and can assure you that the process was fine under a Labour government and became hellish afterward.

        Of course it was fine for applicants, because it was an intentional open door in the belief that immigrants would be Labour voters.

        Through most of the 1990s, net migration was on a modest upward trend, but averaged 50,000 net arrivals a year. Under the Blair/Brown governments this rapidly rose to become an average of around 200,000 a year for the period 1997-2010. That's great for those wanting to enter the UK, or those who believe in an open borders policy. Those with a concern that this creates a need to build the housing, infrastructure and services of an additional medium city every single year might consider it a less desirable outcome. The environmental sustainability of encouraging mass immigration to a country that is a net importer of food, of energy, and runs a persistent trade deficit might also be worth considering.

        1. JC_

          Presumably my down-voters haven't had experience of dealing with the Home Office under Theresa May.

          In my case, they kept my passport for seven months for a single visa application, leaving me unable to travel when a family member was hospitalised. In that time they refused to give any information about the status of the application. That was no fun for me or my family, but it doesn't begin to compare to the Windrush victims.

          These problems are the predictable result of slashing staffing and creating a "hostile environment". May got what she wanted - a Home Office that's not fit for purpose. It doesn't have to be that way. Governments around the world are competent and in the case of the Home Office, the previous Labour government really was more competent and compassionate. That doesn't mean I want Jez for PM, just a decent Home Office.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            UK Passports abroad are not that much fun either

            It isn't that much fun as a British citizen living permanently abroad trying to get a new passport. At least six weeks without a passport (I used to travel a lot so that was very difficult), having to pay a fortune and the only way to contact them to moan about the mistakes made was to pay something like GBP 1 per minute plus VAT when telephoning. Oh and they delivered a passport with the wrong photograph in it. This was "my fault" apparently. And they delivered the passport, twice, without requiring a signature to my neighbours as I wasn't home. The envelope was marked as not requiring a signature..

            1. 2+2=5 Silver badge
              Joke

              Re: UK Passports abroad are not that much fun either

              > Oh and they delivered a passport with the wrong photograph in it.

              That was meant to be delivered to Israel.

              https://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/mar/24/fco-british-visitors-israel-passport-warning

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: UK Passports abroad are not that much fun either

              It isn't that much fun as a British citizen living permanently abroad trying to get a new passport. At least six weeks without a passport

              Strange. My wife renewed her UK passport recently, from France where we've lived for 20-odd years. 20 minutes on a website, tick the box saying "yeah, I still look like the old photo". She then sent her passport back by registered post, and the new one arrived in two weeks. Easiest it's ever been.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: UK Passports abroad are not that much fun either

                How would she have got back to the UK if her parents (or someone else) were suddenly taken ill during that process?

                What if the passport had been lost or delayed? How would she have been able to return to the UK to investigate or fix the issue?

                That wasn't a risk I was wiling to take.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: UK Passports abroad are not that much fun either

                  How would she have got back to the UK if her parents (or someone else) were suddenly taken ill during that process?

                  Much as she would if there was a delay getting it renewed in the UK and she had an urgent travel need. She would have gone to the Embassy/Passport Office with supporting paperwork and they would have issued an Emergency Travel Document, it's a standard procedure.

                  That wasn't a risk I was wiling to take.

                  Up to you, of course, but it's no big deal. An ETD can be issued very quickly.

              2. Dr_N Silver badge

                Re: UK Passports abroad are not that much fun either

                >tick the box saying "yeah, I still look like the old photo".

                You can even upload a new photo.

                The new passport site is simplicity itself and the TAT was more than acceptable.

                In 20+ years I've never had to fly to the UK to renew a passport.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            re. they kept my passport for seven months

            well, I had mine kept for almost two. Years. Which was, kind of ok, because I was allowed to do what I applied to do, until they stamped my passport to allow me to do what I wanted to do. But it was suffocating, not being able to go abroad. I mean, sure, I could have applied for a new passport in my consulate and left via Ireland, but not practical.

            As to May and "hostile environment", while I do think that every HO minister must have a screw loose, I would guess that her "hostile environment" was not her initiative. It came down from the PM, who wanted a fig leaf for whatever political (short-term) gain his lot wanted to achieve at that time. May was only following the orders (notwistanding certain disturbing traits of characters all HO heads seem to display).

          3. anothercynic Silver badge
            Megaphone

            @JC_

            Presumably my down-voters haven't had experience of dealing with the Home Office under Theresa May.

            I commiserate with you, and for this reason you employ a solicitor (preferably one familiar with HO politics/procedure) who can cut through all the bullshit. They're expensive, but OH. MY. GOD, are they worth the money! Let them deal with the drama, the crap of rude/unhelpful HO staff, you just provide what they need to know to do their job.

            Had to do that a few times and never regretted it (although it left me somewhat poorer).

          4. 's water music Silver badge
            Joke

            In my case, they kept my passport for seven months for a single visa application

            I thought you were complaining about how long it took, not boasting about how quickly you got it fast-tracked. Although I have used the icon to indicate irony, I'm not really joking.

            In the interests of balance I can confirm from, personal experience, that the home office have been fucking over people's lives in the arena of immigration and asylum since well before the coalition government. Perhaps May's genius was to take the famously 'not fit for purpose' department and redefine its incompetence as a performance target.

            1. Mike Pellatt

              @'s water music: "Perhaps May's genius was to take the famously 'not fit for purpose' department and redefine its incompetence as a performance target."

              Oh, you deserve 1000 upvotes for that one. Superb.

              And then she claimed that her civil servants were being over-zealous for, errrrr, implementing the hostile environment that was her policy. And anyway, it was all the fault of the Windrush people for not having the documents that they errr, didn't need at the time or for decades afterwards. Kafka must be so impressed.

          5. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Or as a UK citizen living overseas. Dave Cameron and his chums from Eton decided that overseas embassies could no longer issue replacement passports. Their solution was that those of us living overseas should post off our passports to the Home Office and a new one would be turned in due course.

            Of course the reality of being in another country with no way to leave if that passport is lost or delayed never occurred to them.

            I'm fortunate in that I was able to afford (just) the cost of flights back to the UK, hotel accommodations in Liverpool, and the extortionate cost of one day renewal processing, but there are many people who are not able to do that and then had to just post off their passport and hope a new one would be returned.

            It's astonishingly incompetent

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Of course the reality of being in another country with no way to leave if that passport is lost or delayed never occurred to them.

              How is that any different from posting it to an embassy in the country where you live? We don't all have the embassy close enough to go in person, even if they'll do same-day service (which most won't). Even when you lve in the UK renewal is usually done by post, unless you pay extra.

              It's astonishingly incompetent

              Maybe if you'd tried it first instead of spending money looking for a way around it you'd have discovered otherwise. Based on 6 renewal experiences I can say that the new online+post to London model is easier, with faster turnaround, then posting all the paperwork to Paris ever was. It's a much more competent service now.

        2. JC_

          The people who arrived under Blair/Brown were EU citizens using their "freedom of movement"; luckily for them, they didn't have to deal with the Home Office.

          If you think there are open borders, then head to an airport. The UKBA really does exist.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            The people who arrived under Blair/Brown were EU citizens using their "freedom of movement"; luckily for them, they didn't have to deal with the Home Office.

            Absolute crap. In rough terms, the net EU migration over the period of the Labour government in question was about half of the net non-EU migration. The data's publicly available, you could even look it up yourself. Take 2005, net EU migration to the UK, 96,000 and non-EU net migration 198,000.

            You could choose to net off British citizens emigration by destination, on the basis that swapping a Briton for a Spaniard has little net demand effect on services and infrastructure. In estimated terms (based on previous government analysis) for 2005 that'd probably make net EU migration to the UK around 55,000, and the non-EU migration around 150,000.

            Whichever way you look at it, the Labour government intentionally let far more non-EU citizens than EU citizens, whilst this country's services, housing and infrastructure were not then (or now) able to cope. I presume you think we should go back to letting in those sorts of numbers?

            1. Adrian Midgley 1

              To run the services

              build the houses and contribute to the infrastructure.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "The environmental sustainability of encouraging mass immigration to a country that is a net importer of food, of energy, and runs a persistent trade deficit might also be worth considering."

          Several countries, including India and Australia, have indicated that any post-Brexit trade agreement will have to include easier immigration and work access to the UK for their nationals.

          During the referendum Leave campaign - government minister Priti Patel said that she wanted to replace any EU immigrants with those from the Indian subcontinent.

        4. cosmogoblin

          So Labour welcome immigrants, and the Tories create a "hostile environment".

          Wonder why they believe most immigrants would be Labour voters...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        As the hubby of an immigrant, it was also fine under a Conservatuive government in 1995 when we spent the afternoon in Croyden.

      3. LucreLout Silver badge

        Government departments can be (and are) competent and efficient

        Ok, name one?

        In 40+ years I've never dealt with a Government department that was the least little bit competent.

        1. David 164 Bronze badge

          The passport office, 100% competent and I have never had any problems with it.

    3. jmch Silver badge

      The problem is with taking the simple concept of ID card and shoving more biometrics and personal data into it than you can wave a stick at.

      Where I'm from , everyone gets a birth certificate number when they are born, at at 16 everyone is issued with an ID card based on that number, which is then the unique identifier for all government services. Immigrants get a card and corresponding identifier when they are granted residency / citizenship. The card has a photo and basic details (name, DoB, registered address). You're not obliged to carry the card with you (so no 'papers, citizen!').

      I know historically UK has not had ID cards and for some reason has seen them as oppressive (that 'papers, citizen! thing'), but in reality everyone who has to buy or rent property, work legally and pay tax, open a bank account etc etc has to show some proof of address / ID which means in practice that "the man" knows who you are and where you live. The only thing a lack of ID cards does is make it more difficult to deal with banks etc.

      There is a case to be made for ID cards with a minimal set of information. It's also important that government backend databases are not all automatically linked to each other and that access is limited on 'need to know' only, but that's true whether the databases are indexed by a unique ID number or by any other key that references a private person

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "I know historically UK has not had ID cards and for some reason has seen them as oppressive (that 'papers, citizen! thing'), [...]"

        The UK had identity cards in WW2 - and they had to be produced on demand within 48 hours.

        In 1951 there was a pivotal case when a motorist refused to show his ID card to a policeman who had demanded it. The post-war atmosphere was primed for public discontent about "papers please" powers - and ID cards were then abolished.

        "Let us have the credit for 'setting the people free'," wrote one [Tory] Treasury minister in 1952, [...]

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          The UK had identity cards in WW2 - and they had to be produced on demand within 48 hours.

          How true. In fact I still have mine.

          Having lived and worked in countries where you have to have an ID card or carry your passport all the time I have never understood what all the fuss was about or which political party started the fear campaign against them.

          1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

            Having lived and worked in countries where you have to have an ID card or carry your passport all the time I have never understood what all the fuss was about

            I often go out without my wallet, phone, even keys at times. As I'm not up to criminal activities, I'm not going to carry around some bloody id card.

            Sure, get one for use at the bank etc. if need be, but compulsory? I can't understand how anyone could be OK with that - or why you think people like me only think this way because of some past Government propaganda.

      2. MonkeyCee Silver badge

        ID isn't the problem

        @jmch

        I've said it before, there's not any point having a "no ID cards!" attitude if the environment is one when many essentials (shelter, work, healthcare) require you to present ID.

        For all the huffing and puffing that the British do about this, there didn't seem to be any real objections to the creation of this environment. So either people did not realise what was happening, or felt that the objections to ID checks would be silly.

        In the Netherlands we've got a digiID system, where you have a central ID, and pretty much all other services require you to use that to authenticate and confirm stuff. I've not got an actual ID card (passport and GBA suffice for most things) and I've only been asked for my papers in reasonable circumstances.

        @ubermunchkin

        "Beyond the privacy implications and the simple, there is no way I'm prepared to give the government that much data about myself "

        That seems an odd attitude. Either the government already has that data on you, by being born in the UK. More so if you're on the electoral roll, have a passport, drivers licence, own property etc. Oh, and if you have a bank account or mail delivered to your house or are the chief tenant.

        So the only way the government doesn't have information on you is if you're not from the UK, entered illegally and live illegally while not working, driving or renting. Which seems pretty much an edge case.

        "It's also important that government backend databases are not all automatically linked to each other"

        Nah, that would be helpful and stuff. They'll just keep feeding into GCHQs central database of goodies.

        1. UberMunchkin

          Re: ID isn't the problem

          @JMCH

          "That seems an odd attitude. Either the government already has that data on you, by being born in the UK. More so if you're on the electoral roll, have a passport, drivers licence, own property etc. Oh, and if you have a bank account or mail delivered to your house or are the chief tenant."

          It's not that odd an idea. I don't trust the government to behave responsibly with my data therefore I'm not prepared to give it to them. I don't have a passport or driver's license, I don't own any property (rental costs are so high I abandoned the idea that I could afford to buy myself a place to live back in my early 30s), I rent a room privately from a friend and I give my bank the absolute minimum amount of information about myself (Name, Address, Phone Number).

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: ID isn't the problem

            I don't trust the government to behave responsibly with my data therefore I'm not prepared to give it to them.

            Pointless, they have it anyway. Probably the serial number of your tinfoil hat as well.

        2. anothercynic Silver badge

          Re: ID isn't the problem

          MonkeyCee, but you know its roots, yes? "IHRE PAPIERE!"

          Oh yes... the Nazis have a lot to answer for... But the one indirect effect it's had is that the Netherlands have one of the most pain-in-the-ass Data Protection regulators in the EU (in one sense even more anally retentive than the Germans, ironically). They take citizen privacy *really* seriously because of that.

          Most European countries have always had the requirement of registration of foreigners at their local police station (read some historical paperwork around the turn of the 1900s where it was an expected courtesy to make yourself known to the local authorities), and that's also why some (old) hotels still ask for your passport (to hold on to).

          Back in the old days when births were registered locally, birth certificates were... well... basic. Once more authoritarian regimes came into being (notably the Fascists in the 20-30's and the Apartheid regime in Africa in the 50's) or wars required this (ask the Japanese-Americans in the US and Canada about their internment during the wars), there was a requirement to register all citizens centrally to enforce the withholding/grant of benefits/rights correctly and strictly.

          The UK has a Citizen Card which is a HO- and police-approved ID card that gives you proof of age and photo ID (which is nice if you don't have a driving licence). Of course it's not accepted EEA-wide (because that requires biometrics).

          1. Dan 55 Silver badge

            Re: ID isn't the problem

            The UK has a Citizen Card which is a HO- and police-approved ID card that gives you proof of age and photo ID (which is nice if you don't have a driving licence). Of course it's not accepted EEA-wide (because that requires biometrics).

            I think the only reason it's not accepted is it's not a state-issued ID. There are countries in the EEA which issue ID cards without a chip, and many of those with a chip just have the photo stored on it as the biometric data.

            Whackypedia

        3. anothercynic Silver badge

          Re: ID isn't the problem

          That seems an odd attitude. Either the government already has that data on you, by being born in the UK. More so if you're on the electoral roll, have a passport, drivers licence, own property etc. Oh, and if you have a bank account or mail delivered to your house or are the chief tenant.

          Being on the electoral roll or owning property does not automatically mean you're a citizen, you *do* realise that, yes? Ditto for bank accounts or having mail delivered to your address... All that proves is an address (and someone by said name living there). Driving licences are not proof of citizenship either. The UK requires some countries to exchange their driving licences for a UK licence within two years of arrival (notably Commonwealth countries who have a compatible licence scheme). The EEA licences are valid in the UK under EU regs. Country of birth (as registered on the driving licence) is not an indicator of citizenship either. :-)

          This also goes for the rest of the EU... I hate biometrics, but since I was able to read my own passport with a government-reg scanner and see what's on there, I'm a little bit more relaxed about it. The 'biometrics' kept on there are literally just a digital image of your face and the machine-readable data that's on the page in the passport anyway. The only thing it does *not* have that EEA passports *do* (for those signed up to the full Schengen agreement) is fingerprints. Quite frankly I don't see why that would constitute an issue for a passport (an ID card on the other hand... well... *waggles hand*).

        4. tiggity Silver badge

          Re: ID isn't the problem

          I have NHS and NI number, they are sufficient to identify me - no need for an additional ID card/ stealing my biometric data - you just know UK govt would keep full iris scan, fingerprints instead of just a hashed version so they were "covered" for changes in biometric hashes....

        5. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: ID isn't the problem

          environment is one when many essentials (shelter, work, healthcare) require you to present ID

          I'm going through this at the moment - as the co-executor of my mums will, I have to prove my ID. I have an old-style paper driving license (I don't see the need to pay for a new one every 10 years and I'd rather keep all my current driving entitlements[1]). I also have a passport that expired 5 years ago (other half hates travelling - especially by air or sea..).

          Most banks want you to produce one of those two in order to prove your ID. They will (reluctantly) allow you to present non-photographic evidence of ID (Council Tax statement, utility bill etc) but only after some argument. I'd actually be OK with an ID card if I could be sure that it wouldn't represent a large attack vector for ID theft..

          [1] I know of several people who have had various entitlements 'lost' - one actually had the code for his motorbike test pass removed which got him into trouble when he got stopped while riding his bike.. Fortunately, he had kept an old version of his license so he could prove that he had passed. But the DVLA still made him pay for a new license to fix their error.

          1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

            Re: ID isn't the problem

            Legally, an expired passport is a valid form of ID, as it demonstratably demonstrates who the holder is, it just isn't a valid form of travel documentation.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: ID isn't the problem

              Legally, an expired passport is a valid form of ID, as it demonstratably demonstrates who the holder is, it just isn't a valid form of travel documentation.

              Even that's not a hard & fast rule. I have French friend living in the UK who discovered his passport had expired months ago, when he was due to return to France on holiday. He called the embassy to ask what to do, they told him he'd be able to re-enter France on the expired passport but would need to get a new one before he could travel back to the UK. He had no problem wity the travel.

        6. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: ID isn't the problem

          "So the only way the government doesn't have information on you is if you're not from the UK, entered illegally and live illegally while not working, driving or renting. Which seems pretty much an edge case."

          So if they've got all that information why would they need to issue me with an ID card - they know who I am?

        7. Tinslave_the_Barelegged Silver badge

          Re: ID isn't the problem

          > I've said it before, there's not any point having a

          > "no ID cards!" attitude if the environment is one

          > when many essentials (shelter, work, healthcare)

          > require you to present ID.

          Well there you have the problem. It's not the ID cards per se, it's the use that will be made of them. Remember Napoleon's accusation that Britain was a "nation of shopkeepers"? What that still means is that Britain is a nation of middlemen, with a peculiarly enlarged strata of underlings, all of whom thrive on the little bit of power that is within their domain. We even have a name for the way this group acts - job'sworths. Already, my wife had the experience of going to the bank to get change. She had her bank card, and was asked to verify it with her pin. Yet the jobsworth still asked her for additional ID. Now multiply that example by millions of others, all getting off with their little display of power, asking you for your ID when you buy bogroll.

        8. J.G.Harston Silver badge

          Re: ID isn't the problem

          Every time I see GCHQ and CCHQ it takes me several second to work out which I'm reading.

      3. illuminatus

        I'd broadly go with this. And we kind of have that single identifier anyway: the NI number. We'd just need to issue it at birth, not at 16

        In the run up to the 2010 election I was very much against compulsory ID as laid out by the government of the time. This partly because of the possibility of being compelled t produce, but mostly because of the nature of the data they were proposing to store, and the ownership of it I was very concerned about the idea that while the government gave you the responsibility to keep the data accurate and up to date, the law specifically ensured that the state were not under any obligation to change that data. It was positively kafkaesque in conception. Add to this a procurement and project process that would likely add feature creep, and shifting requirements, the likelihood was that we would have ended up with a hugely expensive system with lovely huge holes everywhere. Just look at he mess we've had with SSO for government services (with two entirely separate systems) to prove what a car crash it would likely be.

        1. Stu J

          NI Number is already created (if not formally "issued") at birth, as anyone with children who have "Child Trust Funds" will no doubt have spotted that their child's unique reference number follows a suspiciously familiar alphanumeric pattern...

          1. 2+2=5 Silver badge

            > NI Number is already created (if not formally "issued") at birth, as anyone with children who have "Child Trust Funds" will no doubt have spotted that their child's unique reference number follows a suspiciously familiar alphanumeric pattern...

            Yes. All children born in hospital get an NI created. As you say, 'they' try to tell you it doesn't happen until age 16 though. Which might be true for the <1% born at home.

        2. Paul Hargreaves

          NIv6

          > the NI number. We'd just need to issue it at birth, not at 16

          Sounds like we're going to need NIv6...

      4. ciaran

        Some things the government should know..

        I think the government should know all the people who are legally resident, if for no other reason than to tax them. So there should be government-issued cards with your name and face. From there you can bring along any other documentation to prove anything you need proving like your date of birth. I see no reason to put your age, sex, social status into the card.

        The card should have an ID number which should mean absolutely nothing - it should just be an external key into a database, and it should change every time you renew the card. The card should have an expiry date, of course.

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