by Michael Fern
The home office is set to announce the plan today, beginning the £4.7 billion project. Foreign students and people whose visas are based on marriage to a British citizen will be the first groups affected.
The Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, said: “The first identity cards for foreign nationals […] demonstrate our commitment to preventing immigration abuse and protecting the prosperity of the UK.
“In time identity cards for foreign nationals will replace paper documents and give employers a safe and secure way of checking a migrant’s right to work and study in the UK.”
There have already this week been fears voiced that foreigners could take their skills elsewhere if Britain becomes “too unfriendly” in it’s regulation of immigrants.
Dr Geraint Bevan and others commented in the Herald that: “If this scheme is continued it will lead to less fee income and lower international status for Glasgow’s universities. Fewer of the world’s star performers in every field will choose to make their homes here than do now.
“We value the contribution that these gifted people currently make to our institutions and our society. We think our country should treat them as guests, not criminal suspects. “ID Cards for foreigners” is not just a small-minded slogan; Glasgow will suffer culturally and economically.”
This affect on the Scottish economy will come regardless of the Scottish Government’s stance on the issue. The Government voted 69 to one against the introduction of ID Cards last week, despite Labour MSPs abstaining. This has been described as a futile gesture, however, as the Scottish Government has no jurisdiction in the area of ID Cards.
Bill Aitken, the Conservative MSP for Glasgow, said: “An identity card scheme would be acceptable if it worked, but the basic fact is that it simply will not. The ID Card scheme is an unnecessary measure which should be scrapped.”
The scheme also came under fire in Westminster. Shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieves called it “a gimmick with a price”, claiming that the cards would do nothing to stop illegal immigration or terrorism.
Fresh concerns were raised earlier this month when it was revealed that the charge for ID Cards could be as much as doubled due to the private sector’s involvement in collecting biometric information. The price of the scheme has already risen to almost £5 billion. The so-called “hidden charge” was described by Chris Huhne, spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, as an “incredible cheek”.
Information on ID Cards can be found on the Home Office’s website.