The Sketch: £15bn to end servitude of carrying a utility bill obsolete

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The Independent Online

There was no oral statement in the Commons on ID cards because (or so Harriet Harman told us) there had been no change in the policy. This makes it the first time in BBC history that the Home Secretary has appeared on the Today programme's 8.10 slot to announce that nothing had changed.

On the other hand, two documents on the subject were lodged in the Commons laying out the "delivery plan" for identity cards.

David Davis provides relief to those of us who trust too much, or love Gordon too much, or are too lazy to doubt the Government's supranational wisdom. His questioning spreads alarm and despondency in equal measure and is much valued. Now you'll have to do with Carr alarm. Eee! Eee! Eee! I'm not annoying you, am I?

Ms Smith's documents begin with the words, "How the scheme will benefit you". Then she claims that the cards will "make it practically impossible to create multiple identities". That isn't a benefit to me. I can't imagine circumstances where my having access to more than one identity would be a bad thing.

Only one other advantage is suggested. "You will no longer have to rely on a utility bill... to prove your identity." Billions of pounds; a vast electronic apparatus which changes the balance between citizen and the state... to free us from the servitude of carrying around a utility bill.

It needs live parliamentary questioning. On the radio, the Home Secretary said that the al-Qa'ida handbook recommends multiple identities. Are we spending £15bn to get a bunch of scruffy criminals to change a paragraph in their operating manual? I can't believe this is the best use of public money.

You could have your fingerprints read at border control, Smith tells us. Aha! Now I feel like David Davis. Actually, a photographer once mistook me for Davis outside the Commons. Luckily, I had a utility bill on me and was able to put her right.

Fingerprints read at borders. That means the database would have to be online. But the Home Secretary told Today that the National Register wasn't going to be online. For security reasons. So people can't hack into it.

Not online? As a security measure? This is going to be so secure as to be unusable. I've asked it before: why can't we just use these new biometric passports to do 95 per cent of the things the identity cards are said to do?

PS: I must pay tribute, as they say, to Dennis Skinner, who voted for a referendum this week. He walked through the Aye lobby surrounded by Tories. They were everywhere, touching him, even. George Romero is bidding for the screen rights.