The House of Lords has backed a Labour amendment to the ‘Identity Documents Bill’ that could still lead to those who bought a National ID card being refunded. David Brownsey-Joyce looks at who would win and who would lose from this.
The Coalition Government has suffered defeat in the House of Lords this last week as debate on the Identity Documents Bill lead to the Lords backing a Labour amendment to offer £30 compensation to any of the 12,000 individuals that have already purchased the soon to be obsolete ID cards.
The Government pledged to scrap the ID cards within 100 days of taking office back in May. Whilst a Bill was written and has made it through three readings it has not yet been made law, so firstly naughty, naughty coalition; you have failed on this pledge, though not for want of trying you just weren’t quick enough.
After all, once the Bill becomes law it will still take a month for the ID cards to be worthless, that takes us up to the end of 2010. Over six months, that is nearly twice the amount of time in your pledge.
So what is the hold up?
Labour are trying to push through an amendment on the Bill that will offer £30 compensation to any individual that applied for one of the ID cards. The Government does not want to offer compensation to those who have voluntarily too part in what was in effect a pilot scheme; that the cards were not compulsory and no one forced individuals to part with money for a card they pledged to abolish from the moment it began to float as an idea in the previous Labour administration.
What we now have are two deeply entrenched positions. Labour are firmly in favour of compensation for those that went along with the scheme, they want £30 for all 12,000 participants, making £360,000; add on say £40,000 for administrative costs and you get to the £400,000 that is estimated by both parties, it would cost to compensate everyone who bought a card.
The Government however believes that the cost of compensating individuals who were under no obligation to take part in this scheme should foot the bill. That the taxpayer should not have to pay another penny in a failed scheme that has already cost £292 million, that’s £24,333 per card.
Each participant so far has cost £24,303, minus the cost of purchase, to implement a Labour vanity exercise that would never have done what it aimed to do because Labour weren’t strong enough to make it compulsory for everyone to have one and for everyone to carry one. If you are going to have ID cards you have ID cards, not something you wave at bars to get served.
For inefficiency Labour are the big losers in this, they had an idea, then they compromised to the point that it failed to do what it was supposed to do, then they rolled it out in a way that was as far from cost-effective as you can get.
The Government however could draw a line under all of this. They could offer a simple rebate to those who have a card and haven’t already burnt it in frustration, this might show them to be all about fairness and in fact it might show them as ready and able to clean up the other guy’s mess. Then again, where does the money come from?
I understand why the Government is fighting to not compensate people who bought ID cards, we now live in an age of austerity and there simply isn’t the money.
In this everyone involved is a loser, the Government is coming off as mean, the Labour opposition as incompetent for the whole mess and those who bought the ID cards as unlucky. I’m just glad I didn’t buy one.