ID cards could have prevented the Windrush scandal, two former Home Secretaries say.
Theresa May scrapped plans for ID cards in 2010, but Alan Johnson and Charles Clarke say that, had she introduced them, the Windrush citizens would have had the required documentation to prove their right to stay in the country.
In a joint letter to The Times, they wrote: “Theresa May’s ideological and unwise decision to ditch the Labour government’s scheme immediately as she took office as Home Secretary has left her and her beleaguered successor with no idea how to tackle the most pernicious form of immigration: illegal entry, usually organised by people traffickers.”
The Identity Cards Act was first introduced in 2006 under Tony Blair’s government – despite him initially opposing the scheme.
In 2010, then-Home Secretary Theresa May repealed the Act.
Any ID cards that had already been issued became invalid and the associated database was destroyed.
But Clarke and Johnson say a scandal similar to Windrush could happen to EU citizens living in the UK after Brexit.
“The problem will become worse when we ‘take back control’ and lose the institutional cooperation of our European neighbours that has done so much to block cross-border crime.
“Biometric cards remain the best way to prove and so protect a citizen’s identity, which is why most major European countries have them.
“It’s time to put identity cards back on the political agenda and give everyone confidence that those using our services are fully entitled to do so,” they said.
Johnson also said that the blame for the Windrush scandal should lie with May rather than Amber Rudd – but admitted Rudd was “not in command of her brief”.
“It was her ‘hostile environment’ policy that has led to this crisis and if, for purely political motives, she had not dropped identity cards none of it would have been necessary in the first place,” he said.