Tony Blair sparks anger with ‘creepy’ plan for every Briton to be issued with a ‘digital ID’ to hold their passport, driving licence, tax records, qualifications and right to work status
- Tony Blair and William Hague call for digital ID for people to have on their phones
- They say plan should form part of ‘reshaping of the state around technology’
Sir Tony Blair was today accused of pushing a ‘creepy’ plan for every Briton to be issued with a ‘digital ID’ as part of a ‘reshaping of the state around technology’.
The former prime minister, together with ex-Tory leader William Hague, has called on the Government to introduce a digital ID that people can have on their phones.
This would hold details such as their passport, driving licence, tax records, qualifications and right to work status.
Sir Tony – who attempted to introduce ID cards while in Downing Street – insisted that new biometric technology would overcome concerns about online dangers.
He and Lord Hague have insisted that a ‘fundamental reshaping of the state around technology’ is needed amid a ‘radically’ shaping world.
But critics hit back at the push for digital IDs, with ex-Tory chairman Sir Jake Berry branding it ‘a creepy state plan to track you from the cradle to the grave’.
Campaign group Big Brother Watch condemned Sir Tony for ‘reviving failed proposals for an intrusive mass digital identity system and a database state’.
Sir Tony Blair, together with ex-Tory leader William Hague, has called on the Government to introduce a digital ID that people can have on their phones
Sir Tony and Lord Hague, pictured during their time as prime minister and leader of the opposition, insisted that a ‘fundamental reshaping of the state around technology’ is needed
The pair suggested a digital ID on Britons’ phones could hold details such as their passport, driving licence, tax records, qualifications and right to work status
Sir Tony and Lord Hague unveiled their proposals in a joint article for The Times, in which they said ‘politics must change radically because the world is changing radically’.
‘We are living through a 21st-century technology revolution as huge in its implications as the 19th-century Industrial Revolution,’ they added.
They warned that current politicians were ‘in danger of conducting a 20th-century fight at the margins of tax and spending policy when the issue is how we harness this new revolution to reimagine the state and public services’.
Outlining their proposals for a shake-up of Whitehall – including digital IDs for every citizen – they also called for ‘a national health infrastructure that uses data to improve care and keep costs down, and sovereign AI systems backed by supercomputing capabilities’.
The Times reported the pair’s plan, published in a report with more than 40 recommendations, included:
- Limiting the Treasury’s power to manage science and technology investment.
- Appointing ‘executive ministers’ from outside Parliament to rewire Whitehall’s approach to science and technology.
- Using AI to help teachers in schools and provide personalised support to pupils at home.
- Offering tax breaks to stimulate pension fund investment in UK start-ups.
In an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning, Sir Tony highlighted how countries ‘as small as Estonia and as large as India’ are moving towards digital IDs.
‘If you look at the biometric technology that allows you to do digital ID today, it can overcome many of these problems,’ he added.
Ex-Tory chairman Sir Jake Berry branding the proposal ‘a creepy state plan to track you from the cradle to the grave’
Downing Street today appeared to rule out taking up Sir Tony and Lord Hague’s advice.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: ‘There are no plans to introduce digital ID. Our position on physical ID remains unchanged.’
Amid a backlash at the pair’s proposals, Sir Jake – who was Tory chairman under Liz Truss’s premiership last year – posted on Twitter: ‘Pitch rolling for creepy state plan to track you from the cradle to the grave.
‘As a Conservative who belives in freedom, I will never vote for this.’
Big Brother Watch director Silkie Carlo said: ‘Sir Tony and Lord Hague are absolutely right about the need for the UK to take leadership in technological innovation.
‘But this means protecting people’s rights and privacy, not reviving failed proposals for an intrusive mass digital identity system and a database state.
‘Mandatory ID systems increase state control over individuals’ lives and rarely live up to the extraordinary benefits technocrats tend to attribute to them, and these were the reasons cited in Parliament when Blair’s failed ID card scheme was scrapped in 2010.
‘A sprawling digital identity system of the type described by Sir Tony and Lord Hague is utterly retrograde and would be one of the biggest assaults on privacy ever seen in the UK.’
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