One must wonder at the paucity of expertise within the Labour party when a self-confessed luddite, such as Lord Alan West, is called upon to defend the highly-technological, but fatally-wounded, ID card scheme (cost £4.945bn according to Lord Al).
Last night, opposition Lords kinda tore the poor sod a new arsehole. Not difficult considering the subject matter is now holed below the water line. Lord Roberts took another well-aimed pot-shot anyway, though, for good measure.
Lord Roberts (Liberal Democrat): We know that until about 10 months ago — I am waiting for the Government's updated figures — 216,000 people had gone through the personal passport interview procedure. Not a single one was refused a passport.
Lord West (Labour): The whole purpose of the interview for a first-time passport is to deter bogus or multiple applications for passports. The fact that few bogus applications have been picked up does not necessarily mean that the system is not working; it means that people are wary when they are making those applications.
So Al, what you are saying is that to avoid being identified as bogus, those who would normally attempt to gain a bogus passport just didn't apply.
Surely the same would apply to every perceived benefit applied to ID cards by Labour?
Would it be useful for counter-terrorism, Al?
Lord West: ... when I was asked about this in my first week, I said that its prime role was not as a counterterrorist measure but that it would stop people having lots of different identities. We know very well that al-Qaeda, for example, has at least 30 identities for their people. They will not be able to do this when biometrics are attached.
If it is voluntary, Al, they won't need to. They merely need to make sure they carry on making bombs instead of applying.
What about crime, tax avoidance, that sort of thing?
Lord West: ... information from an individual's entry on the national identity register can be provided to a limited number of government departments for defined functions, and to specify who can receive information on behalf of the prescribed individuals in the security and intelligence services, the Serious Organised Crime Agency, the police and Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs.
So gangsters, criminals, and tax evaders will avoid picking up a form from the post office. Anyone else silly enough to apply will have their biometric details available to those nice people at the cop shop or the revenue. Nice one.
We can use them for travel though, Al insists.
Lord West: The regulations make provision for a national identity card that will be issued to British citizens and British subjects with a right of abode. As this card will include the holder's nationality, it will be valid as a travel document within Europe.
Rather like a ... err ... passport then, Al. Yes?
Al seems to really like them, though. He reckons they are quite natty.
I will have no difficulty in having one. It will be jolly useful and I look forward to having it in my wallet
Mind you do keep it in your wallet though, me hearty. We wouldn't want a repeat of that unfortunate data-losing incident, now would we?
It emerged at the court martial that he removed the documents from the MoD without permission, carried them in his coat pocket when they should have been in a security briefcase and failed to tell the MoD immediately of their loss.
Pleading guilty to negligence and charges of breaching security, he told the court martial that he had taken the documents home to Portsmouth to work on them. He lost them while walking with a friend in Sonning, near Reading.