Dear god, can they be *more* stupid?

Nov 21, 2007 21:49 · 545 words · 3 minute read

I’m still shaking my head over Datagate. Mainly over the sheer incompetent idiocy that personifies Alistair Darling. Here’s the exchanges in the Commons yesterday, courtesy of Hansard and They Work For You:

In reply to George Osborne, he said this:

The last point that the hon. Gentleman makes is in relation to identity cards. The key thing about identity cards is, of course, that they will mean that information is protected by personal biometric information. The problem at present is that, because we do not have that protection, information is much more vulnerable than it should be.

Then later on, a Tory backbencher, Douglas Carswell, asked this:

If the Government have managed to lose 25 million confidential personal records in this way, how can we possibly trust them to run an ID card scheme nationally?

Darling replied:

As I said, one of the problems is that the information we have at the moment can, in certain circumstances, be used for fraudulent purposes by people who have no right to use it. The point about ID cards is that because they will introduce biometric information they will mean that one can be more certain that the person asking for or dealing with that information has a legal right to do so.

That puzzled me - whether the ID card has biometric information or not tells you absolutely nothing about whether the person asking for information has any rights to do so. The biometrics are related to the ID card holder, not the inquirer.

At first, I put this down to the fact that standing at the Dispatch Box probably isn’t the best place to be devising cogent answers to questions, although skill in debating is allegedly one of the success criteria of a politician. But then later another Tory, Andrew Rathoban, asked another question:

The Chancellor has given my right hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr. Lilley) and my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich (Mr. Carswell) reassurances that any personal information stored for ID cards will be safe. However, after this astonishing display of incompetence, why would anybody have any faith in the Government or trust them to be able to keep personal information secure?

Darling replied:

For the reason that ID cards match up biometric information with the information that is held, so that the person holding the information knows that the person asking for it is legally entitled to it. That is the difference between many other systems, which do not have that biometric lock, and the ID card system, which would have that biometric lock. It seems to me that that would give me and the hon. Gentleman, as individuals, far more protection than there is at the moment.

Same answer. Which I find astounding. Darling would have been extensively briefed before walking into the Commons chamber, and you can be damn sure that ID cards and their whys and wherefores would have been part of that briefing. So either he’s fundamentally misunderstood the nature of biometrics as they relate to ID cards, or the briefing he’s received is completely wrong. Either way, the second most senior member of the Government doesn’t understand something that is going to get upwards of £20 billion hosed at it. For fuck’s sake…