BB: ... so Project
Stork is an embarrassing failure, Hall, and the UK is the laughingstock
once again of the European Commission?
JH: That's not quite how I'd put it, Excellency,
BB: I don't care how you'd put it, Hall,
quite frankly, or where. Let's move on ... The National Identity Service.
ID cards. Finished your tour of the provinces. Bit of a flop.
Coming to London
next week, I see, Monday 8 February, big day. The
banks and the retailers have already told you they don't want your
support has fallen so far through the floor, you've had to stop
measuring it. Have you at least got all 61 million Brits on the database
JH: Well, no, Excellency, we are working
on an incremental basis, it's all in the framework
agreement, where we said we're going to be the "trusted and
preferred provider of identity services", we've got nearly 4,000
people on the database, many hundreds of them members of the Home Office,
BB: Four thousand, you say. Not
three thousand. And not 61 million ... OK, what about the terminals,
has every police station got ID card readers, fingerprint scanners,
cameras, biometric matching software, and encryption software? What
about hospitals and GP surgeries? Universities and schools? Pubs and
shops? Banks and airports? Prisons? Have they all got ID card equipment?
JH: None of that equipment is covered
by our £5 billion of petty cash, Excellency. So no again, and
remember, we agreed an incremental approach.
BB: That was over three years ago, when
you took over at IPS. And your predecessors have been on the case for
more like eight years, since the heyday of Blunkett.
I rather thought there might have been an increment by now ... The telecommunications
network. I assume that that's in place. All these police stations and
pubs need to be able to check the database quickly and securely to verify
people's identity. Well?
JH: Well, no ...
BB: You have to register at least 50 million
people over the age of 16. We need biographical information. We need
biometric information. That chap from the National
Physical Laboratory, he said we need a countrywide network of 2,000
registration centres. How many have we got?
Plus 17 of Lord
Mandelson's post offices. So we're on
the way, Excellency, we've asked all
the high street chemists to help, and we've signed a £385
million contract with CSC
to develop the biographical database, and a £265 million contract
to handle the biometric side of it. And IBM have chosen Sagem
Sécurité to provide the biometric technology we need.
That's what the Australians
are using at their airports.
BB: And do these biometrics
work in Australia?
JH: I assume they do but, for security
reasons, the Australians couldn't tell me.
BB: Let me get this straight, Hall, you've
had eight years, an unlimited budget and unstinting not to say uncomprehending
political support, and so far you've signed up 0.007% of the population,
to a system which everyone is meant to believe will protect them against
the imminent threats of crime and terrorism, you couldn't sign up any
more because you haven't got anywhere to sign them up, and even if you
had you haven't got a clue whether the biometrics you depend on actually
work, and even if they do no-one's got the right equipment to use them.
What, precisely, Hall, do you do all day, in that morgue you
ineffably call an office?
JH: Excellency, we are in the vanguard
of identity assurance systems ...
BB: Who told you that? You're not in the
vanguard of anything, man. You're in cloud cuckoo-land. This whole system
of yours is a fantasy. It doesn't exist. There isn't a National
Identity Service. Do you realise the Pakistanis
have already issued 70 million biometric ID cards? Do you realise the
have already got all their immigrants on biometric visas and
they're all hooked up to the EU
master system. And look at the Finns.
Every time a little troll is born, or dies, it's all updated on-line
on their population register.
JH: We like to think of it at Globe
House as an incremental vanguard ...
BB: The dignity of my administration needs
to be considered, Hall. Our USP is comprehensive
efficiency. Customised services are offered to the public based
on the computer manipulation of reams of data gathered by the benevolent
and, above all, tireless surveillance of people's lives. The entitlement
to state benefits is determined by appeal to objective, biometric
tests. Even the
right to work.
There are certain standards expected.
Standards below which the performance of your legions of the living
dead round at Galactic Mansions disgracefully falls. Your only achievement
to date is hopelessly to have confused everyone as to what the benefits
of ID cards are meant to be. No-one knows any more what the point of
ID cards is.
You've got a week, Hall. You've
Saatchi working on the account. And Abbott
Mead Vickers. And Proximity.
Consulting have been doing identity management work for the Home
Office for 10 years. Pull your collective finger out. You've got a week,
to make sure that when this show opens in London, we don't have audiences
hooting at you with derision ...