Monday, February 12, 2007

More on the Tories and ID cards

In House Points last week I wrote about and welcomed the Tories' decision to come out against ID cards. As I reported:

On Monday David Davis wrote to the cabinet secretary saying a Conservative government would scrap the ID card project. He asked what had been done to protect public funds against the costs of early cancellation. He also wrote to likely major contractors warning them of the Tories’ intentions.
The story has moved on, according to The Register, with this remarkable exchange:
The IT industry has found itself in a handbagging spat with shadow home secretary David Davis over the Conservative party's plans to ditch ID cards should they win power from Labour.

Davis' "official warning" to government said a democratic clause should be written into contracts with ID system suppliers so they could be scrapped if the electorate demanded so.

John Higgins, chairman of IT trade body Intellect, promptly wrote to Davis warning him that the IT industry held such sway over the British economy that the Conservatives would be foolish to mess with them.

Davis's response, sent yesterday, upbraided industry over its creepy anticipation that it would get lashings of gravy from a government project designed to encroach on people's civil liberties.

Higgins had argued that the interests of big business should take precedent over the will of the British electorate.

"It is highly likely that the manner of this intervention will undermine the confidence of the supplier community in any future Conservative government honouring other contractual commitments which may have been entered into by previous administrations."

In other words, should the Conservatives win an election on a promise to ditch ID cards, the previous government's contractual obligations to the IT industry should prevent the new manifesto from being implemented.

Davis retorted: "Your claim to be neither for or against the policy of introducing ID cards in the UK, given the clear commercial interest of a number of your members, is simply disingenuous."
Faced with a spat between big business and a democratically elected government of any colour, we Liberal Democrats should feel inclined to back the government, but it does show the uncharted waters the Tories are now sailing into.

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