Clause 5 — Applications relating to entries in Register
Identity Cards Bill
John Gummer (Suffolk Coastal, Conservative)
I am not opposed to the concept of identity cards but I oppose the misuse of the English language. I am surprised that my relatively close neighbour, the Home Secretary, is trying to argue what he knows will, in parliamentary language, not be accepted by most people as being close to the truth.
Anyone who read the Labour party manifesto believed that the Government proposed that identity cards would, at least initially, be introduced voluntarily. The Home Secretary now suggests that, somehow or other, getting a passport is a voluntary concept. A passport is a right. It is what the Government give us to say who we are when we wish to pass ports to go to other countries. We have a right to have it and no Home Secretary should deny it to us unless there is a genuine reason of state for his doing that. To tell us that we cannot have a passport unless we are prepared to pay extra for something that we do not want is not to suggest that we have a voluntary choice. It is, in any language except parliamentary language, untruthful to suggest that. I say to the Home Secretary very directly: no one outside this House believes you. No one thinks that what you say, as a translation of the Labour party manifesto, is what anyone else ever thought, and those on the Benches behind you do not believe it either, because they are honourable men who understand what the English language says—[Interruption.] Well, there is one lady there who does believe you, but most do not.
If this country moves from a position in which to hold a passport is our right, we shall move to a position that Britain has never been in before. I do not have a passport because I want one; I have one because it is my right to have one, should I require it. For the Government to say that I cannot have a passport unless I comply with their proposal also to have an identity card is to make that compulsory. When I next apply for a passport, I shall want an identity card because I am in favour of them in principle. So of course I shall ask for one. However, those who do not wish to have one should not be forced to have one. That is the difference between voluntary and compulsory.