The Sketch: Home Office joins world's religions

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The Independent Online

Wars happen for silly reasons sometimes. I'm not going to be rude about Jenkin's ear; that seems quite a sensible war in the scheme of things. But the Lords hosted a third reading of the Identity Cards Bill. For me, it's already two readings too many.

Is this a suitable subject for mockery? They have changed the wording of a subsection from "physical" to "external". How fine is their linguistics. Howling demonstrators offer to "butcher those who mock Islam" and the Lords consider these invisible distinctions.

However, as the argument evolved, it became clear that the first wording allowed internal characteristics to be registered on ID cards.

I was sniggering from the gallery, I regret to say. The Lords struck out the offending word. As it happens, if internal physical characteristics were allowed on the identity register, the state would provide the legal machinery to collect DNA samples. That's a punchline I hadn't expected, I felt quite winded by humility.

Ministers in the Commons had made assurances that the ID scheme was not a DNA database, but it took this Lords amendment to make that secure.

One further key fact: The figure the Home Office has used to promote the Bill is £50m. Such is the scale, they say, of credit card fraud which ID cards would prevent: half a billion. But the company that supplied the data from which this figure was extracted has repudiated the £504m as "grossly overestimated" and "a good story to scare people with".

The real figure for credit card fraud which ID cards might prevent is £34m. The Government has exaggerated a figure by 15 times.

The Home Office said it had used the £504m figure "for illustrative purposes". The Home Office has joined the world's great religions. It is beyond mockery.