Daily Mail, Saturday, September 15, 2001

Blunkett hint on ID cards "to protect democracy"

THE U.S. outrages could hasten the introduction of identity cards in Britain, the Home Secretary said yesterday.

David Blunkett said such a system could play a role in combating illegal immigration.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, he said: "We need to think through and debate how we protect our freedom and democracy while actually maintaining that freedom and democracy".

He added: "Those are very difficult issues but they are ones we are going to have to address if we are to protect the most basic freedom of all, which is to live in peace and without fear".

Mr. Blunkett refused to give his own views on the matter, saying he wanted to return to the issue later in the autumn "when things have calmed".

He continued: " I wouldn't want us to debate this issue purely on the back of the attack in the U.S. If we are going to consider such issues we need to do so in a much broader context of citizenship and entitlements".

His remarks will fuel speculation that the Home Office is moving towards some kind of ID system to crack down on illegal immigration. ID cards would make it easier for employers to tell whether a potential worker was legally resident in this country.

Immigration Minister Lord Rooker said recently that the ease with which migrants could work illegally in Britain encouraged them to come here instead of other European countries, most of which demand citizens carry official identification at all times.

The Government has been accused of introducing ID cards by stealth through the new driving licence, which has a photograph.

An ID system - costing up to 600 million - would be criticised by human rights campaigners as an infringement of civil liberties.

John Major's government proposed a national identity card in 1995 to fight crime, eventually plumping for a voluntary scheme.

The plan was dropped after Labour came to power in 1997.

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