Government plays for time over ID cards

Update: The Home Office has disclosed that 4,856 people sent emails via Stand's Web site that opposed the introduction of entitlement cards, but the final result of the consultation hasn't yet been revealed

The government is still refusing to disclose the result of its public consultation on the introduction of entitlement cards, even though the process closed over five months ago, it has emerged.

Home Office minister Beverley Hughes said on Wednesday that the government believes that analysis of the responses to the consultation could take until the end of this parliamentary session, or even longer.

"It is hoped that we will have completed our analysis of responses before the summer recess," Hughes told parliament, in response to a question from Adrian Bailey MP. The summer recess begins on 17 July.

This analysis will be heavily scrutinised once it is published, after fears emerged that the government is planning to ignore thousands of responses that opposed the introduction of entitlement cards.

The government has said that entitlement cards, which would include an individual's personal details and possibly also biometric data, will help to prevent identity fraud and illegal workers. They are likely to cost upwards of £1.5bn to introduce -- most of which would go to technology companies. Opponents, though, claim that they will actually work as ID cards.

Civil liberty groups Stand and Privacy International's efforts resulted in almost 6,000 people taking part in the consultation through the organisations' specially created Web site and phone lines.

Beverley Hughes also revealed earlier this week -- answering a question from Anne McIntosh MP -- that a total of 5,031 emails were received by the government via the Stand Web site. Of these, 4,856 opposed the introduction of entitlement cards and 44 were in favour, with the remaining 131 discounted because they contained "obviously false information" or were duplicates.

A total of 798 people also took part in the consultation through two telephone lines set up by Privacy International, one for people who supported the introduction of ID cards and one for those that opposed it.

Statements made by government ministers since the consultation closed had implied that these 6,000 responses might be bundled together into a single petition and not treated as individual views.


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