Rishi Sunak rejects Tony Blair’s digital identity plan

Sir Tony Blair’s attempt to revive his hated ID card dream was on Wednesday rejected by Downing Street. The ex-Prime Minister joined forces with former rival Lord Hague to campaign for a digital identity record that could be stored on a mobile phone.

It would include details from passports, driving licences, tax records, qualifications and right-to-work status.

Sir Tony and the ex-Tory leader said it would bring the country up to date with the “technological revolution”.

But Rishi Sunak dismissed the proposals after Conservatives warned against the “creepy” move.

The Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “There are no plans to introduce digital ID. Our position on physical ID cards remains unchanged.

“We are already carrying out work to enhance the digitalisation of public services.”

Sir Tony was behind a failed attempt to introduce mandatory physical ID cards during his time in No 10.

The plans were eventually heavily watered down to make the cards voluntary and the coalition government later scrapped the project.

Conservative MP Sir Jake Berry said the Blair/Hague recommendation was “pitch rolling for creepy state plan to track you from the cradle to the grave”.

He added: “As a Conservative who believes in freedom, I will never vote for this.”

Silkie Carlo, director of campaign group Big Brother Watch, said the plan “would be one of the biggest assaults on privacy ever seen in the UK”.

Sir Tony and Lord Hague suggested a shake-up of Whitehall “including digital ID for every citizen, a national health infrastructure that uses data to improve care and keep costs down, and sovereign AI systems backed by supercomputing capabilities”.

Other recommendations included appointing “executive ministers” from outside Parliament to rewire Whitehall’s approach to science and technology, using artificial intelligence to help teachers in schools and provide personalised support to pupils at home and offering tax breaks to stimulate pension fund investment in UK start-ups.

Sir Tony said technology would overcome many people’s concerns about online dangers.

“If you look at the biometric technology that allows you to do digital ID today, it can overcome many of these problems,” he said.

“The world is moving in that direction, countries as small as Estonia and as large as India are moving in that direction or have moved in that direction.”

He added: “Here’s our problem: We’re spending a lot, we’re heavily taxed, and the outcomes are poor.

“So the question is what changes that situation? So if you take, for example, the ambition we have on climate, there is no way we can meet that ambition without changing planning. There’s literally no way we can do it.

“And a lot of these things, they’re not airy-fairy, they’re actually about people’s lives. People already live their lives digitally. The question is whether government and politics can catch up with that reality.”

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