Saturday, March 17, 2007

From Wiveliscombe to Barnstaple

Yesterday's House Points column from Liberal Democrat News.

Identity crisis

I have always had a problem with the Christmas story. Not the wise men or the shepherds or the virgin birth, but the idea that the Romans would make every one return home for a census. I’m sure their empire was run more efficiently than that.

It is harder to have such faith in this government. As preparation for the introduction of identity cards, all new passport applicants will be interviewed by the Identity and Passport Service.

That means that each year some 600,000 people will have to travel to their local passport interview centre. Except it may not be local at all.

Which is where Jeremy Browne’s adjournment debate on Monday comes in. The Lib Dem MP for Taunton is an opponent of identity cards, but he was complaining there is no passport interview centre planned for the town. The result will be a great deal of inconvenience for his constituents as they are forced to travel.

It may be, as the song has it, six miles from Bangor to Donaghadee. But it is 28 miles from Taunton to Yeovil and 36 miles from Taunton to Exeter – that’s an hour and 20 minutes on the bus. It’s also 34 miles from Wellington to Yeovil and 38 miles from Wiveliscombe to Barnstaple.

Then Jeremy moved on to population figures. Did you know the population of the Taunton Deane District is around 102,000? That it is 11,730 for Chard and 10,000 for Minehead?

What this cornucopia of statistics showed is the numbers who are going to be caught in the net of the Identity and Passport Service, even in its early days, and the trouble to which they will be put.

Jeremy’s enthusiasm left little time for a ministerial reply. But then that minister was only Joan Ryan.

She is not as bad as Sally Keeble, who used to lean right over the dispatch box , read her brief word for word and cast occasional glances up through her hair. She looked like a timid forest creature who had just heard there was an owl on the wing. But Ryan is deeply unimpressive.

She clearly believes the government need only whisper the word ‘security’ for everyone to fall in line. We shall see.

1 comment:

David said...

I am amazed that 11,730 people live in Chard. "Dwell" or "exist" might be more accurate. It's scarcely life as we know it, captain. I will do my best to make it 11,729 as soon as I can move.