Tories launch attack on ID cards

The Conservatives have today launched a major new offensive against ID cards, pledging to scrap the project if they win the next election.

Shadow home secretary David Davis has launched a new press and web campaign against the identity cards scheme, and is also trying to scupper the project by writing to potential contractors to warn that funding for the scheme could end after the next election.

The move comes as he launched an attack on the government’s plans to allow police to hold terror suspects for up to 90 days without charge, giving support to the archbishop of York’s claim that it was akin to the methods used in a police state.

Mr Davis has written to the cabinet secretary, Gus O’Donnell, warning that he must act now to ensure the taxpayer does not lose out if the ID scheme is cancelled early because the Tories come into power.

“In light of these risks, I urge you to consider very carefully the government’s position, in advance of the roll-out of the scheme later this year,” he wrote.

“As a matter of financial prudence, it is incumbent upon you to ensure that public money is not wasted, and contractual obligations are not incurred, investing in a scheme with such a high risk of not being implemented.”

However, home secretary John Reid said the move proved the party’s “lack of leadership on security” and argued: “They can’t be trusted with Britain’s safety.”

“ID cards will be a key tool in protecting Britain in the 21st century. They will help secure our borders, boost the fight against illegal immigration, combat people trafficking and protect our country against the terrorist threat,” he said.

Mr Reid added: “David Davis has shown today that he and David Cameron talk tough while acting soft.

“They will the ends whilst constantly opposing the means to protect the people of this country. They are more interested in political point-scoring than backing Labour’s tough and necessary measures to keep the country safe.”

Writing in today’s Guardian, Mr Davis referred to the warning by archbishop John Sentamu, that 90-day detention similar to methods used under Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, saying: “I would not put it so starkly, but he does have a point.”

He argued there was no evidence to “persuade us to give up fundamental freedoms – and risk making Dr Sentamu’s words come true”, adding that claims that police could “imagine” needing 90 days to question suspects without charge were not enough.

And he stressed: “Liberty is not best defended by sacrificing liberty – certainly not on the say so of a government desperate to clutch at any measure that might make it look robust and competent.”