Nosemonkey's EUtopia

In search of a European identity

The Biometric Information Roadshow

Ever heard of that? Me neither, and – like the majority of UK political bloggers – I’m a geek about these things.

A google search turns up nothing, yet here’s a report from Morley Today, the website of the Morley Observer & Advertiser, a wee rag from up north as far as I can make out, which seems to suggest that the government is spending yet more of our money on a low-profile propaganda trek around the country. So low-key, in fact, that they’ve brought out the utterly anonymous Joan Ryan, MP for Enfield North and apparently the Under-Secretary of state for nationality, citizenship and immigration.

Ryan was apparently appointed, with little fanfare, on 6th May, and has an overwhelming number of really rather important responsibilities, including:

ID cards
the Forensic Science Service
refugee integration
extradition and judicial cooperation
the Criminal Records Bureau
Home Office research and science
improving regulation
design and green issues

In other words, technically she’s in charge of ensuring all those nasty foreign criminals are deported, providing internet security for the entire country, using the latest forensic techniques to track down criminals and terrorists, helping immigrants become acclimatised to the British way of life, keeping track of everyone who’s committed a crime in this country, and every single research project in the Home Office (even though these were all put on hold last week for no apparent reason), as well as implementing the single most complex and expensive IT project in history with the ID cards scheme.

It’s quite a portfolio – has John Reid got anything left to do? And what about her supposed boss, Immigration Minister Liam Byrne – what does he get up to all day?

Still, Joan seems to be just the sort of Labourite they need to pimp this ID nonsense to the ignorant masses. Although she’s only spoken in six debates in the last year (595th out of 646 MPs) – and apparently only once in both 2003 and 2004 – she’s attended 93% of Commons votes (23rd out of 644 MPs). You’ll doubtless be unsurprised to learn that she was strongly in favour of all of the most controversial Blairite legislation, from the anti-terrorism nonsense through ID cards, foundation hospitals, student top-up fees and the Iraq war inclusive.

But still, what is this “Biometric Information Roadshow” and why is there so little information available about it? Well, after some digging, apparently it was launched in Manchester back in September, and offers some wonderful attractions:

“Members of the public will be able to have their irises and fingerprints recorded”

Yay! Sign me up! Where do we get our barcodes tattooed? Forehead, or back of the neck?

But still – if their aim is to improve recognition of the benefits, why so little promotion? Why such a no-mark MP fronting the thing? Are they beginning to doubt their little scheme, or is this a new approach, attempting to convert us all one at a time (and harvesting our biometric details in a fun and informative way as they go, naturally)?

How much effort would it have been to set up a page on the Home Office’s website for those of us unfortunate enough to have missed this lovely roadshow? How are ignorant refuseniks like me (not that it did me much good) going to come around to seeing the benefits of this massively expensive and unnecessary new instument of state control – sorry, valuable tool for tackling fraud, terrorism and organised crime – if there’s no readily-accessible information about it? Why do I have to rely on stumbling across a link to a story in a local newspaper from a town which I couldn’t point to on a map to find out about a government information initiative about an important topic that will affect us all?