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Orders of the Day — Identity Cards Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:53 pm on 20th December 2004.

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Photo of Neil Gerrard Neil Gerrard Labour, Walthamstow 8:53 pm, 20th December 2004

That is absolutely true. Millions of entries will go on to the database each year as it is created, so the potential for error will be enormous.

Let me turn to privacy and the relationship between the individual and the state that the database will give rise to. Once a database of this nature has been created—the Bill contains powers for the Secretary of State to add more information to the database by order—it is absolutely inevitable that there will be function creep. There is no question about that. The Home Secretary more or less admitted earlier in the debate today that compulsion will be necessary. Without compulsion, the people who will not be on the database will be exactly the sort of the people whom the Home Office and Ministers say that they want to keep track of using the database. Being on the database and having an ID card must be compulsory; otherwise the whole structure will fail apart. Of course, the people who will be last to register will be those who want to keep their names off it, plus people who are elderly or infirm and so on.

Who will have access to the database? We know from the debate and the regulatory impact assessment that banks and retailers, not just Departments, may have access to it. The Home Secretary even suggested that someone might check the database when people rent a video. Every time that someone's details are checked on the database—perhaps for a financial transaction, travel or whatever—all that information will be recorded. There will be an audit trail of every piece of information, every time that the database is accessed to check someone's particulars. I do not believe that the state should be collecting that sort of information about individuals.

If I choose to have a Sainsbury's loyalty card and the company collects information about me and sends a Christmas card to my cat, or something like that, I am not really worried about it. It is my choice to have that card, and I know what the consequences are. I do not believe that the state should collect such information.

If people start to realise what is implied and to think about the possible uses of those audit trails and the information that is held on the database, I believe that public opinion will change very rapidly. At the moment, a lot of people say, "Oh well, if I've done nothing wrong, I've got nothing to worry about." That is the wrong answer to the wrong question. People need to ask themselves what benefits will accrue from this vast expenditure. The one saving grace is that this will turn into a hugely expensive fiasco.