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Orders of the Day — Identity Cards Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:29 pm on 20th December 2004.

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Photo of Mark Oaten Mark Oaten Shadow Secretary of State for Home Affairs, Home Affairs 6:29 pm, 20th December 2004

I am conscious of the fact that other hon. Members want to speak.

Finally, I want to deal with the most farcical element of the Bill: whether the system is voluntary or compulsory. I cannot understand where the Government are heading. Although I would still oppose the system, intellectually it would be a lot better if it were compulsory. That would stack up, and the Home Secretary would have been able to answer the question asked by my hon. Friend Simon Hughes because the scheme would have included the powers for which the police might be looking.

In my village, my neighbours will have to carry an identity card in a few years' time. I will not have to do so because my passport is not up for renewal until 2012—lucky me—but that is a two-tier system. [Interruption.] The Minister says that people will not have to carry the card, but this is not about whether people have to carry it; it is about whether they must have an ID card in the first place. The problem is that I will not need an ID card, but my neighbours or my wife may have to have one. It will be compulsory for some, but not for others.

We are walking into a system that is, frankly, chaos. Some people must have the card; some must have one at some point in the future; others will never have to have one because they do not have a passport; but, at an unknown point, which the Home Secretary will decide, we will all need a card. That is a complete mess. A two-tier system will be created in relation to the proof of identity that people will have to carry, and the implications of that are wrong.

When the card becomes compulsory—I am sure that that is where we are heading—what will it be like for 80 or 90-year-old pensioners to be told that they have to turn up at registration centres to have their fingerprints taken and their irises and photos scanned because the system has suddenly become compulsory? If the Home Secretary thinks that 80 per cent. of people will still be in favour when the public realise that that will happen, he has got another think coming.

Here we have a £1 billion project that looks set to go over budget, a piece of plastic and a database that will do nothing to tackle terrorism and crime, a system that is neither compulsory nor voluntary and a database that will make the CSA mess up look like a tea party. This is also a debate about changes to our country and to society. If people look like illegal workers or terrorists, they can be stopped. People will have to turn up to centres to have their fingerprints and irises scanned. If they visit a GP or an accident and emergency department, they will have to submit a scan and prove who they are. I urge hon. Members on all sides of the House to reject the Bill. I am afraid that, tonight, a Labour Government, with Conservative support, are turning us from nanny state into a Big Brother state.