A new identity for paper records

The predictions of chaos at the tills on Valentine's Day as people struggle to adapt to new chip-and-pin cards should surely provide a valuable lesson to the government in its troubled efforts to introduce identity cards – when it comes to plastic, the British are a nation of technophobes.

If retail giants such as B&Q are not prepared for the deadline on introducing chip-and-pin readers at the check-outs, what hope is there for the necessary infrastructure to be created to make plastic ID cards an effective tool against terrorism?

If the government really wants to succeed in making us all carry our most secret details upon our person, maybe they should concentrate on introducing something a little more low tech and reminiscent of Britain’s finest hour – second world war identity papers.

Surely a technology that was able to frustrate the considerable military might of the Nazi war machine should be able to dispatch a few fanatical terrorists?

Rekindling memories of patriotic 1940s Britain might also help the chancellor’s efforts to revive a sense of unified national purpose with a Union flag on every front lawn.

There would be no risk of people forgetting their pin numbers with paper ID because they would not be necessary. All you will need to protect your most personal details with a paper ID is a sturdy leather wallet.

Citizens might even be persuaded to pay a little more money towards the ever-spiralling cost of the proposed ID system if recent experience of attempts to introduce smart plastic cards are anything to go by.

Londoners have had a choice between using a plastic card or paper tickets for travel on public transport since the introduction of the Oyster card several years ago. The far more advanced and efficient Oyster card is by far the cheapest option and yet thousands of travellers every day opt to pay over the odds for a paper ticket. If bus users in London are prepared to pay almost twice as much to travel on a paper ticket than the new-fangled Oyster card, think how much more they might pay for a paper ID than they are currently willing to shell out for the high-tech option the government is so keen on.

A rubbish idea

Labour appears to have missed out on an opportunity for joined-up government in its waste-management proposals, published on Tuesday.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs wants to burn a lot more of our rubbish because it is apparently an environmentally friendly way of producing power. Not only does it enable us to make good use of materials that are difficult to recycle, such as cardboard, but the burning of waste provides one-third of the UK’s renewable energy.

However, only two days earlier Ben Bradshaw, the junior environment minister responsible for waste, said the government was considering charging people for producing more than an acceptable amount of domestic waste.

Surely if rubbish is such a useful source of green power, the government should be encouraging people to produce more of the stuff to help feed the nation’s appetite for electricity and to reduce the need for landfill. Instead of fining those who conscientiously produce bin liners full of refuse, the government should be considering the introduction of a scheme to reimburse council tax payers for their valuable contribution to the national grid.

Building the future

St Modwen Properties, the regeneration specialist that owns the former Rover factory site at Longbridge, on Monday announced a 15 per cent increase in profits, highlighting that there is often more money to be made turning British factories into supermarkets and housing than actually continuing to make things in them.

Although St Modwen hopes that Nanjing Automobile Group, the Chinese carmaker that bought MG Rover last year, will continue operating at Longbridge, the property developer is only negotiating for it to use one-quarter of the 400 acres available. The rest will be a mixture of offices and hundreds of homes. Longbridge is not the first car manufacturing base to be subject to such changes.

Vauxhall’s former home at Luton is undergoing a similar transformation after General Motors announced its plan to close the plant just over five years ago.

Given the demand for housing in the Thames Gateway, it can only be a matter of time before the Dagenham plant gives up on the idea of manufacturing diesel engines and embraces the opportunity of turning the site into a Tesco supermarket and acres of affordable housing. Everyone will have somewhere to live, if not a job to go to.

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