Daily archives: February 19, 2007

Sacrifice What?

I’ve noticed the word “sacrifice”, or variations on it, popping up in discussions of global warming recently. The deniers and nay-sayers gleefully tell us that “ordinary people” won’t be able or willing to make the sacrifices- ie lifestyle changes- necessary to cut carbon dioxide output. I believe they are insulting the very people they pretend to champion, under estimating what the average citizen is capable of.

Sadly, too many Greens have taken up this idea and talk of the troubles we face. All talk of sacrifice suggests we’ll have to go back to the Dark Ages to cut consumption.

It’s all nonsense, of course. What’s needed is a fresh look at just what we’d be giving up and a more honest description of it. So let’s make a few sacrifices. Let’s sacrifice-

Paying too much for bland, boring food that’s over packaged and shipped halfway around the world. Research has shown that local shops and markets are consistently cheaper than the supermarket chains. They’re also friendlier, put more money into the local economy and stock foods you won’t find on Tesco’s shelves.

Burning money running a status symbol that increasingly says bad things about you, that is a danger to everyone on the road- including its occupants- and spends most of its life carting nothing more substantial than air. If people took the time to find the largest car they needed, rather than the ideal vehicle for a trek across Alaska with the extended family, they could save hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds a year without sacrificing any of the convenience and comfort of having a car. Of course, it would be best if they could leave the car behind more often as well, but maybe they’d learn that when they realised how little they really needed it.

Teaching children to be unhealthy and dependent on others. They could walk to school, getting exercise, building self confidence and teaching them to do stuff for themselves. It would probably make them safer in other ways as well. Recognising, and being recognised in, their neighbourhood should help children spot trouble such as the mythical danger stranger if it ever appeared.

Paying exorbitant energy bills because our filament bulbs use more energy making heat than they do making light. Really, when a decent compact fluorescent bulb will pay for itself in less than a year, why do people insist on the false economy of filament bulbs?

That’s just a sample. Next time someone tells you the culture won’t change because of the sacrifices involved try one of them as a reply. We’re all in a position to make sacrifices which actually leave us better off as well as helping the environment. When we’ve pocketed the money from them, more drastic action will be less painful and easier to contemplate.

Tony Blair sent me an email!

Me and 28,000 other people who signed a petition against ID cards.

If you have any links relevant to the points he makes please send them to me/ leave them in the comments and I’ll try to incorporate them into the text.

The petition calling for the Government to abandon plans for a National ID Scheme attracted almost 28,000 signatures – one of the largest responses since this e-petition service was set up. So I thought I would reply personally to those who signed up, to explain why the Government believes National ID cards, and the National Identity Register needed to make them effective, will help make Britain a safer place.

The petition disputes the idea that ID cards will help reduce crime or terrorism. While I certainly accept that ID cards will not prevent all terrorist outrages or crime, I believe they will make an important contribution to making our borders more secure, countering fraud, and tackling international crime and terrorism. More importantly, this is also what our security services – who have the task of protecting this country – believe.

So I would like to explain why I think it would be foolish to ignore the opportunity to use biometrics such as fingerprints to secure our identities. I would also like to discuss some of the claims about costs – particularly the way the cost of an ID card is often inflated by including in estimates the cost of a biometric passport which, it seems certain, all those who want to travel abroad will soon need.

In contrast to these exaggerated figures, the real benefits for our country and its citizens from ID cards and the National Identity Register, which will contain less information on individuals than the data collected by the average store card, should be delivered for a cost of around £3 a year over its ten-year life.

But first, it’s important to set out why we need to do more to secure our identities and how I believe ID cards will help. We live in a world in which people, money and information are more mobile than ever before. Terrorists and international criminal gangs increasingly exploit this to move undetected across borders and to disappear within countries. Terrorists routinely use multiple identities – up to 50 at a time. Indeed this is an essential part of the way they operate and is specifically taught at Al-Qaeda training camps. One in four criminals also uses a false identity. ID cards which contain biometric recognition details and which are linked to a National Identity Register will make this much more difficult.

Secure identities will also help us counter the fast-growing problem of identity fraud. This already costs £1.7 billion annually. There is no doubt that building yourself a new and false identity is all too easy at the moment. Forging an ID card and matching biometric record will be much harder.

I also believe that the National Identity Register will help police bring those guilty of serious crimes to justice. They will be able, for example, to compare the fingerprints found at the scene of some 900,000 unsolved crimes against the information held on the register. Another benefit from biometric technology will be to improve the flow of information between countries on the identity of offenders.

The National Identity Register will also help improve protection for the vulnerable, enabling more effective and quicker checks on those seeking to work, for example, with children. It should make it much more difficult, as has happened tragically in the past, for people to slip through the net.

Proper identity management and ID cards also have an important role to play in preventing illegal immigration and illegal working. The effectiveness on the new biometric technology is, in fact, already being seen. In trials using this technology on visa applications at just nine overseas posts, our officials have already uncovered 1,400 people trying illegally to get back into the UK.

Nor is Britain alone in believing that biometrics offer a massive opportunity to secure our identities. Firms across the world are already using fingerprint or iris recognition for their staff. France, Italy and Spain are among other European countries already planning to add biometrics to their ID cards. Over 50 countries across the world are developing biometric passports, and all EU countries are proposing to include fingerprint biometrics on their passports. The introduction in 2006 of British e-passports incorporating facial image biometrics has meant that British passport holders can continue to visit the United States without a visa. What the National Identity Scheme does is take this opportunity to ensure we maximise the benefits to the UK.

These then are the ways I believe ID cards can help cut crime and terrorism. I recognise that these arguments will not convince those who oppose a National Identity Scheme on civil liberty grounds. They will, I hope, be reassured by the strict safeguards now in place on the data held on the register and the right for each individual to check it. But I hope it might make those who believe ID cards will be ineffective reconsider their opposition.

If national ID cards do help us counter crime and terrorism, it is, of course, the law-abiding majority who will benefit and whose own liberties will be protected. This helps explain why, according to the recent authoritative Social Attitudes survey, the majority of people favour compulsory ID cards.

I am also convinced that there will also be other positive benefits. A national ID card system, for example, will prevent the need, as now, to take a whole range of documents to establish our identity. Over time, they will also help improve access to services.

The petition also talks about cost. It is true that individuals will have to pay a fee to meet the cost of their ID card in the same way, for example, as they now do for their passports. But I simply don’t recognise most claims of the cost of ID cards. In many cases, these estimates deliberately exaggerate the cost of ID cards by adding in the cost of biometric passports. This is both unfair and inaccurate.

As I have said, it is clear that if we want to travel abroad, we will soon have no choice but to have a biometric passport. We estimate that the cost of biometric passports will account for 70% of the cost of the combined passports/id cards. The additional cost of the ID cards is expected to be less than £30 or £3 a year for their 10-year lifespan. Our aim is to ensure we also make the most of the benefits these biometric advances bring within our borders and in our everyday lives.

Yours sincerely,

Tony Blair

Useful links

10 Downing Street home page

James Hall, the official in charge of delivering the ID card scheme, will be answering questions on line on 5th March. You can put your question to him here http://www.pm.gov.uk/output/Page10969.asp

To see his last web chat in November 2006, see: http://www.pm.gov.uk/output/Page10364.asp

Identity and Passport Service

Home Office Identity Fraud Steering Committee



I owe some people money. It adds up to a four figure sum (maybe just over the edge into five). I’m paying it off as best I can, a regular amount every month.

One person owes me money that adds up to a four figure sum. They’ve promised to pay some of it back next month. We’ll see.

The Inland Revenue owe me a four figure sum, according to my self-assessed tax return. I’m still waiting for them to confirm my calculations and send me the cheque.

That is all you need to know about my relationship to debt.

An we'll be movin' on, An' singin' that same old song

I saw him dancin’ there by the record machine
I knew he must a been about seventeen
The beat was goin’ strong
Playin’ my favorite song
An’ I could tell it wouldn’t be long
Till he was with me, yeah me, singin’

I love rock n’ roll
So put another dime in the jukebox, baby
I love rock n’ roll
So come an’ take your time an’ dance with me

Joan Jett – I Love Rock and Roll

Bad, bad images in my head


I may be a bit wrong. Every time I hear or read a headline that starts with a variation upon “Condoleeza Rice today had a three way” my mind switches off and I miss the rest of the sentence because I’m having bad, bad thoughts.

If they said the same about Bill Clinton I’d just sort of tut and carry on.