One of the great fears of those who campaigned against ID cards in Britain was that, as soon as the cards were in place, officialdom would start inventing reasons to demand to see them – the ‘your papers please’ problem, that a police officer or official in a country with ID cards demands to see your papers just to show who’s boss. To quote Richard Littlejohn, writing in the Sun in 1994 and quoted by Matthew Engel in the Guardian (and how often does that happen?):
Don’t be taken in. If we ever get identity cards, they will be used to bully, nanny and harass us by the police, government officials and assorted gollywog inspectors and muesli wardens.*
Well, we got identity cards, then we got rid of identity cards, but we still have plenty of identity checks. The government is considering some new ones, such as for those wanting to rent accommodation (intended to spot illegal immigrants, likely to affect everyone); some of these were introduced by the government alongside the development of ID cards; and some date back decades. I’ve reviewed some for the Register – and found a distinct lack of logic in several cases.
If you take a domestic flight, some airlines may not want to see ID at all or may accept the likes of their own loyalty card, while one demands passports for everything. (Guess which one. Begins with Ry.) If you stay in a hotel and you are an “alien” (not British, Commonwealth or Irish… the legislation is four decades old, and sounds it) you have to provide your passport details, just in case the police want to know. The hotel has to keep everyone’s name and address for a year – and of course, non-alien criminals would tell the truth when filling these out, and alien criminals would definitely not pretend to be from one of the long list of ‘non-alien’ countries.
However, daft rules can change, and I end the article with the fact that until last year, the NorthLink ferries to Orkney and Shetland demanded photo ID to sail… and now they don’t. Said NorthLink’s MD Stuart Garrett:
Halting the need for photographic identity cards will make it easier for people to make spontaneous visits. It also makes the Northern Isles feel welcoming and inclusive from first impression.
He also announced nicer seats, better showers, on-board Wi-Fi, and a bigger bar. Book your trip now, and take it as easy as the locals. (Or the seals on Sanday, at least – the link goes to their live webcam. Terribly privacy-invasive.)
The full article is here.
* And since quoted in my ID cards book Card declined: How Britain said no to ID cards, three times over – available here.