Identity Cards Bill (Programme) (No. 2)

– in the House of Commons at 1:30 pm on 10th February 2005.

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Votes in this debate

Photo of Des Browne Des Browne Minister of State (Citizenship, Immigration and Counter-Terrorism), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Citizenship, Immigration and Nationality) 1:30 pm, 10th February 2005

I beg to move,

That the Order of 20th December 2004 (Identity Cards Bill (Programme)) be varied as follows:

For paragraph 4 substitute—

4. Proceedings on consideration shall be taken in the order shown in the first column of the following Table and shall be brought to a conclusion (so far as not previously concluded) at the times specified in the second column.

TABLE
Proceedings Time for conclusion of proceedings
New Clauses relating to the purposes and scope of registration and identity cards. 2.45 p.m. on the day on which proceedings on consideration are commenced.
New Clauses relating to the National Identity Scheme Commissioner, Amendments relating to Clauses 24 and 25 3.45 p.m. on that day.
Remaining new Clauses, Amendments relating to Clauses 1 to 23, Amendments relating to Clause 26, Amendments relating to Clauses 33 to 45, new Schedules, Amendments relating to Schedules 1 and 2 4.30 p.m. on that day.
Amendments relating to Clauses 27 to 32 and any remaining proceedings on consideration 5.00 p.m. on that day.

The motion is intended to assist the House in using the time that we have available—[Interruption.] Perhaps Opposition Members might wait for the punch line before they laugh. It is intended to assist the House in using the time that we have available this afternoon for consideration on Report to the best possible effect.

We have made good progress with the Bill so far. Indeed, it was clear from the pace with which we dealt with many parts of the Bill in Committee that, in huge part, this is not highly contentious legislation. I will put before the House the evidence of that.

The Bill has been given proper scrutiny. Indeed, in preparation for it we had a six-month public consultation exercise, starting in 2002. There was an inquiry by the Home Affairs Select Committee, starting in 2003. There was further consultation on a draft Bill in 2004. The Government responded to all those consultations in the way in which the Bill was presented to the House.

On the last sitting of the Standing Committee, on the afternoon of 27 January, we dealt with amendments and agreed to 20 clauses and one schedule—clauses 26 to 45 and schedule 2. That indicates how quickly progress could have been made in large parts of the Bill.

After the first two sittings of the Committee, the Government proposed a timetable motion for the remaining consideration of the Bill in Committee. That was at the beginning of the fourth day on the morning of 25 January. The motion was agreed to only after we had spent an inordinate time debating a group of two amendments to clause 8—one hour and 10 minutes on the afternoon of 20 January followed by a further one hour and 35 minutes on the morning of 25 January. Two and three quarter hours was spent on the same group of amendments.

A group of amendments could have justified two hours and 45 minutes, but I do not rest my case only on the time. The Chairman of the Committee, my hon. Friend Mr. Beard, had to intervene nine times to remind Opposition members of the Committee of the need to keep in order on the morning of the second of those two sittings alone. The debate was brought to a close when, unusually, the Chairman agreed to a motion that the Question be now put. I do not have extensive experience in the House, but I have served on a number of Standing Committees. I have never before known a Chairman of a Standing Committee to accept a motion that the Question be now put. It is clear to me that the Chairman, having intervened of his own volition on nine occasions, had no alternative but to do that.

Photo of Desmond Swayne Desmond Swayne Parliamentary Private Secretaries To Leader of the Opposition

The Minister told us that the proceedings had been uncontentious. Clearly they were not.

Photo of Des Browne Des Browne Minister of State (Citizenship, Immigration and Counter-Terrorism), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Citizenship, Immigration and Nationality)

The hon. Gentleman allows me to reinforce a point that I made earlier, which he clearly did not hear. I shall repeat what I said because I wrote it down. I said that the proceedings in Committee proved that, in large part, this was not contentious legislation.

It was clear to me that, had there been a proper use of the time allotted for the Committee, we would have scrutinised every clause. I had already said that I would be happy to sit late and for there to be another Committee sitting.

W

Not contentious? This is as insulting as Blunkett's intellectual pygmies jibe.

I wonder just at what stage these dismissive words will come back to haunt Des Browne.

Submitted by William Heath

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Conservative, Buckingham

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Conservative, Buckingham

I apologise if I prematurely elevated the Minister to the Privy Council. I feel sure that for a demonstration of such loyalty to the Government it is only a matter of time.

Some of us find it peculiarly offensive to be told that such and such an allocation of time was provided in Committee and that members of the Committee had every opportunity to consider the Bill, and so on and so forth. That is because I speak as a humble Back Bencher, or at any rate as a Back Bencher who ought to be humble, who was not fortunate enough to receive the preferment of a celebrated appointment to the Committee. I have not had a chance. I am not very pleased about that and I want the chance today.

Photo of Des Browne Des Browne Minister of State (Citizenship, Immigration and Counter-Terrorism), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Citizenship, Immigration and Nationality)

I am very keen that the hon. Gentleman should be pleased about his contribution to the House. My loyalty to my party in Government is modelled on his own loyalty to his party in Opposition. I look to him as a model of that. I know that he is well qualified to speak on that subject.

I am explaining to the hon. Gentleman and to other Members, who I suspect have not engaged in this level of research into the workings of the Committee, why the Bill comes before the House with certain parts of it unscrutinised by the Committee. The opportunity was there for that to be done and significant progress was made on large parts of the Bill in short measure in Committee. However, a significant part of the Committee's consideration was taken away by filibustering, which was identified by the Chairman and responded to by him. [Interruption.] I say that because I am sure that, in opposing the motion, Opposition Members will make the point that parts of the Bill were not scrutinised by the Committee. It is a legitimate part of my argument and I will continue with the argument.

Photo of Des Browne Des Browne Minister of State (Citizenship, Immigration and Counter-Terrorism), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Citizenship, Immigration and Nationality)

No, I will continue with the argument at this stage.

To offer the opportunity for the completion of the work in Committee, the Government made the offer of additional time, an additional sitting or a late sitting, but that was not taken up. It is clear to me that, at least in part, some Opposition Members were making use of parliamentary procedures to frustrate the passage of the Bill. As a result, we had to divide the timetable today to ensure that all parts of the Bill are properly scrutinised. That is the purpose of the motion. It is a consequence of what was done in Committee.

On Second Reading, the official Opposition voted in favour of the principle of the Bill. We know that Mr. Howard is in favour of ID cards. [Interruption.] I accept that some Opposition Members are against them. When the right hon. and learned Gentleman was Home Secretary in the last Conservative Government, some other right hon. Members who are in the Chamber were also Ministers. They were apparently in favour of them as well. They were part of that Government's programme. The right hon. and learned Gentleman remained in favour of ID cards. In an article in The Daily Telegraph on 20 September, he wrote:

"We must protect our citizens in every way that we can and, in my judgment, that includes ID cards."

He is right. He is no doubt aware that a recent survey found that 88 per cent. of Conservative voters support ID cards.

Photo of Robert Smith Robert Smith Opposition Deputy Chief Whip (Commons)

What has the fact that the Leader of the Opposition supports the Bill got to do with the timetable, which is about allowing time for Back Benchers to take part in the debate? Surely it is precisely when Back Benchers disagree with their Front Bench that parliamentary time should be generous. Given that the Leader of the House has told the House that the current hours for Thursday make it unsuitable for major legislation, will the Minister tell us why the Bill has been scheduled for a Thursday? Does it mean that the Government do not see the Bill as major legislation?

Photo of Des Browne Des Browne Minister of State (Citizenship, Immigration and Counter-Terrorism), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Citizenship, Immigration and Nationality)

As the hon. Gentleman knows, the Bill has been scheduled for a Thursday because the usual channels agreed that the Bill should be presented to the House today, and I am not part of those discussions.

If the Opposition want to allow debate on the Bill, as they suggest that they do, whether from the Back Benches or the Front Bench, they should agree with the motion. Last week, Mr. Mitchell, during a debate on the programme motion on the Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill, said:

"Our debates on programme motions often have the qualities of a choreographed Greek chorus, with outrage expressed by the Opposition about the nature of the motion".—[Hansard, 3 February 2005; Vol. 430, Col. 1024.]

I am offering an opportunity to the House not to do that in these circumstances and to avoid the temptation of the "choreographed Greek chorus". I am offering the opportunity not to fall into that trap and instead to agree that it would be better for us to spend time debating the Bill rather than taking time, at length, to debate the timetable motion. The motion will help order our debate in a sensible way.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell Labour, Linlithgow

I thought it apposite to remind my hon. Friend of the wise words of my first Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, who said that when Front Benches were united they were almost always united in error.

W

Very apposite indeed. Hooray for the Father of the House.

Submitted by William Heath

Photo of Des Browne Des Browne Minister of State (Citizenship, Immigration and Counter-Terrorism), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Citizenship, Immigration and Nationality)

I always listen to the wisdom of the Father of the House and have enormous respect for his views. Part of my argument, if only by implication, is that I am not that certain that there is unity between the Front-Bench teams on the Bill. The motion will help to order our debate in a sensible way and I commend it to the House.

Photo of Humfrey Malins Humfrey Malins Shadow Minister, Home Affairs 1:40 pm, 10th February 2005

I urge my right hon. and hon. Friends to vote against the programme motion, for the simple reason that it is the latest in a long line of insults to the House of Commons. We face a Government who are determined to ride roughshod over elected Members of Parliament and to get their own way at any cost. They have consistently ignored the principle of proper parliamentary scrutiny. I shall take a look at what happened in Committee in a moment but, make no mistake Mr. Deputy Speaker, this is a major Bill with major implications for the lives of all of us. As my hon. Friend Mr. Shepherd said in a question a little while ago, it touches on the sensitive relationship between the individual and the state, so it has enormous implications for civil liberties, and it is not just about identity cards.

The Bill's principal purpose—not understood widely outside the House—is the creation of a national register or database under which people will be obliged to provide dozens of pieces of personal information to the Government register, to which many others will have access. If one does not supply that information there is a penalty—some say a fine—of £2,500. The Bill is clearly important and has huge constitutional and civil liberties implications.

Photo of David Winnick David Winnick Labour, Walsall North

As someone who has made it clear that I am not in favour of the Government's proposals, having written a minority report for the Home Affairs Committee and voted against the Bill on Second Reading, may I put it to the hon. Gentleman that, whatever the Government's failure to provide time, we are where we are? If the purpose of the main Opposition party is to utilise all the time allowed to debate the programme motion, that would effectively result in less time to debate the matters of substance before us. It would be most unfortunate if that were its tactic, because it would aggravate a situation in which the Government have not provided the time that we would like.

Photo of Humfrey Malins Humfrey Malins Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

I have enormous respect for the hon. Gentleman who, throughout proceedings on the Bill, has opposed the Government. If the debate on the programme motion takes time away from the debate on new clauses, it is the Government's fault, not ours.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

I hope that my hon. Friend will not be seduced by the argument of David Winnick. We must assert the right to scrutinise legislation. The only way in which we can do so is to speak in these debates and vote on these timetable motions. If we do not do so, we are not performing our duty.

Photo of Humfrey Malins Humfrey Malins Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

My right hon. and learned Friend is right, as always. What power do we have? All that we can do in practice is speak in these debates, make our protest known and vote when the time comes. That is what we are going to do.

If ever a Bill needed detailed and thorough scrutiny in Committee, this is the Bill. It did not receive it, and that was the Government's fault. I shall tell the House what the Government did. At a stage in Committee when he did not have any justification whatever for his charge, a Government Back Bencher falsely accused the Opposition of over-long speeches and filibustering. It was an absurd allegation that was utterly rejected by the Committee Chairman. Throughout our proceedings, we had kept to the point. Yes, there were long speeches, but the Minister made a speech in excess of one hour. I do not criticise him for doing so—he was giving a lengthy, if unsatisfactory, response to points that we were making.

Following that absurd intervention by a Government Back Bencher, the Government introduced knives or what people outside the House would call a viciously short timetable for the rest of the Bill. As a result, whole clauses were not debated or scrutinised. Part of clause 8 was not debated; clause 9 was not debated at all; clauses 10 and 11 were not debated at all; clauses 23, 24 and 25 were not debated at all. Those important clauses deal with the commissioner and his or her powers, as well as the provision of information about an individual without their consent. None of those clauses was debated, so they were not subject to any scrutiny. By any standards, that is a disgrace.

After the Committee's proceedings had finished, the Joint Committee on Human Rights reported. It said that the Government's identity card and register proposals raised "serious questions" about possible breaches of human rights and it regarded Ministers' failure to explain why they believed their Bill was compatible with the Human Rights Act 1998 as "deeply unsatisfactory". I warned the Government on day one of the Committee that the Joint Committee would shortly report, and I suggested gently, because that is my style, that they wait for that report so that we could consider it during our deliberations on the Bill. The Government did not take any notice of my suggestion whatsoever. It is ludicrous that we had to go through the entire Committee stage without the benefit of that important report.

One might ask whether there was a good reason for that unseemly hurry and ridiculous rush. I believe that the main motive of this utterly discredited Home Office is to secure some last-minute headlines before the general election. It wants to give the appearance of being tough, but it has completely ignored the need for proper parliamentary scrutiny of a vital Bill. Today, Members on both sides of the House wish to speak to amendments and new clauses that they have tabled, including David Winnick and his hon. Friend Mr. McNamara. The hon. Member for Walsall, North is wholly against his Government and has as much right as any hon. Member to speak to his amendments. Mr. Salmond and his colleagues have tabled a number of amendments and they have the right to speak to them.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the perverse effects of this truncated procedure is that it dissuades hon. Members from becoming interested in a Bill, as they know that they do not have an opportunity to discuss it on the Floor of the House or, indeed, in Committee?

Photo of Humfrey Malins Humfrey Malins Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

My right hon. and learned Friend makes a good point. Increasingly in recent years, right hon. and hon. Members have wondered what is the point of tabling an amendment or coming to the Chamber to try to debate something, as there will be a guillotine and their contribution will be cut out. That has a serious impact on parliamentary democracy.

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Conservative, Suffolk Coastal

I very much agree with my hon. Friend, but I hope that he accepts that because many Conservative Members take such comments seriously, we need a constant reminder that when we are returned to Government automatic guillotining will stop. That has not been stated with sufficient strength, and until my hon. Friend does so his comments lack moral authority.

Photo of Humfrey Malins Humfrey Malins Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

My right hon. Friend makes an interesting point. I can only speak personally and I choose my words with care: I hope that when we are returned to Government, considerably more time will be made available for vital Bills of this sort.

Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Conservative, Stone

On the point that my hon. Friend so ably made about the impact on the House of Commons, does he agree that the extent to which people are concerned that they are being effectively cut out also contributes to the lack of turnout in general elections? People who witness what is happening and see that it is such an invasion of constitutional rights and civil liberties say to themselves in a state of fury, "The House of Commons is impotent and decisions are taken without regard to the people we have elected." They then do not bother to turn out, so it is the destruction of democracy as well.

Photo of Humfrey Malins Humfrey Malins Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

My hon. Friend is right. The situation contributes to lack of turnout not just in elections, but, I venture gently to suggest, among colleagues throughout the House of Commons who feel that it is not worth turning up.

Photo of Mr John Taylor Mr John Taylor Conservative, Solihull

Does my hon. Friend agree, perhaps along with my right hon. Friend Mr. Gummer, that one of the best ways of ensuring that all this guillotining is not necessary is to introduce fewer Bills so that they can all be considered properly?

Photo of Humfrey Malins Humfrey Malins Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

My hon. Friend is right—there is far too much legislation and far too little scrutiny. Today we have Report and Third Reading, and we have less time than my hon. Friend Patrick Mercer had for his private Member's Bill last Friday. I refer also to the report quoted earlier from the Select Committee on Modernisation, which mentioned restoring longer hours on Thursday to take substantial business. If this is not substantial business, I do not know what is.

Today should be the chance for all Members of the House to express their views on the detail as well as the principle of the Bill. The Government have taken that chance away from all of us by giving us a matter of a few hours—not even one full day—to debate the vital issues. When times for votes are taken out, the position is even bleaker and even more unfair.

Today, we cannot stop the Government driving a steamroller over Members of the House. Today, we cannot stop the Government showing their contempt for Parliament. But we can still—thank God—protest, and I hope that our protest is heard by the millions of people outside this building who care deeply about parliamentary scrutiny and parliamentary democracy.

W

Quite right Humfrey. And we care also about the quality and nature of the information architecture for civil, political and commercial life on-line. There is a fear that the vast majority of MPs don't really understand the implications of triple biometrics stored on a central register which is to be used for on-line verification even for trivial applications (with indefinite storage of ech registrable event). And that MPs dont understand enough about the interoperable, networked, secure and privacy friendly alternatives availble.

A couple of hours of debate wont be enough even just to confirm or allay this fear, let alone to raise a better alternative.

Submitted by William Heath

Photo of Mr Richard Allan Mr Richard Allan Shadow Spokesperson for the Cabinet Office, Cabinet Office, Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Trade and Industry) 1:52 pm, 10th February 2005

I do not wish to speak for long on the motion, but I want at least to place on record the disgust felt in my party at the Executive's lack of regard for Parliament.

The Minister said that a Greek chorus was the appropriate metaphor for the current circumstances. I am quite a fan of Greek tragedy. If I remember correctly, the role of the chorus is to explain to the audience the narrative of the protagonist rushing headlong to their doom. In the context of the Bill, being in a Greek chorus is quite an apt metaphor for what we are doing.

The Bill is complex and has significant technical, financial and privacy implications that cannot be covered under the programme motion before us today. Its complexity has grown during the passage of the Bill thus far, so there are many areas that need further clarification that we will not have time to deal with.

Photo of Alan Reid Alan Reid Opposition Whip (Commons)

My hon. Friend is quite right: there is simply not enough time to discuss all the important amendments that have been tabled. For example, between 3.45 and 4.30, there are three sets to consider, but a vote on the clauses that finish at 3.45 would take out a quarter of an hour, and a vote on the use of information from the register would take another quarter of an hour. Even if the debate on the use of information from the register takes only a quarter of an hour, we will have no time to discuss all the later amendments that affect Scotland and remote rural areas.

Photo of Mr Richard Allan Mr Richard Allan Shadow Spokesperson for the Cabinet Office, Cabinet Office, Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Trade and Industry)

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his intervention; the amendments are important, as I have said. The Scottish National party did not have anyone on the Standing Committee, so this is its only opportunity to raise issues—my hon. Friend Mr. Carmichael also raised them, and there was an interesting debate about them—about people who live in remote Scottish areas.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that he made a serious point about the disabling of minority parties? If minority parties are not represented—[Interruption.]

Photo of Michael Lord Michael Lord Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. We must have no more interventions from a sedentary position. If hon. Members want to intervene, they must stand up and do so in the proper way.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

If minority parties are not represented in the Standing Committee, as was apparently the case in this instance, Report is the only opportunity that they have to speak on the detail of the Bill.

Photo of Mr Richard Allan Mr Richard Allan Shadow Spokesperson for the Cabinet Office, Cabinet Office, Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Trade and Industry)

The right hon. and learned Gentleman is entirely correct and I have a lot of sympathy with his point. I come from one of the more compact parliamentary parties in this Parliament and for us to cover all legislation is a challenge. Report is an important opportunity for smaller parties to intervene—and if that is curtailed there is nowhere else for them to be heard.

Photo of Des Browne Des Browne Minister of State (Citizenship, Immigration and Counter-Terrorism), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Citizenship, Immigration and Nationality)

I will not disappoint the hon. Gentleman and I am grateful to him for giving way. He made an enormous contribution to the debate in Committee, but he must tell the House that his party had two people on the Committee, only one of whom was ever present at any time.

Photo of Mr Richard Allan Mr Richard Allan Shadow Spokesperson for the Cabinet Office, Cabinet Office, Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Trade and Industry)

That is known as teamwork: we were running a relay operation. The serious point is that it is difficult for smaller parties—they will speak for themselves—to cover all the Committees that take place in the House, and Report remains an important part of the structure of legislation for precisely such purposes. I do not think that it has ever been the tradition that smaller parties cover every single Standing Committee.

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Conservative, Suffolk Coastal

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the other problem is that there are disagreements within parties about such Bills? I happen to be very much in favour of the principle of the Bill, while others in my party take a different view. This is the only opportunity that we all have to show what parts we agree with and where we might want alteration, so that there can be greater consensus. With a Bill of this sort and of this importance, that consensus becomes very important.

Photo of Mr Richard Allan Mr Richard Allan Shadow Spokesperson for the Cabinet Office, Cabinet Office, Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Trade and Industry)

That intervention was entirely helpful. People often say that the debates in the House are meaningless because all parties come in with a single party Whip and troop through the Lobby, not having listened to the debate or changed their minds. This afternoon, we are dealing with precisely the sort of issue on which people will engage in debate and on which they may change their minds, as has been shown by the course of our proceedings so far. It is on precisely this sort of issue that we need additional time on Report.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Conservative, Buckingham

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. Given that most members of the public have not seen the selection of amendments for consideration today, would the hon. Gentleman agree that it is important, in order to underline the gravity of the situation and our complaint, that people should be aware that there are 150 minutes in which to debate no fewer than 77 new clauses and amendments? In other words, even if there were no votes, which is not realistic or desirable, there would be fewer than two minutes for the consideration of each. That is an outrage and an insult.

Photo of Mr Richard Allan Mr Richard Allan Shadow Spokesperson for the Cabinet Office, Cabinet Office, Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Trade and Industry)

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for those mathematical calculations. Even at the speed at which I customarily speak, it would be difficult to get through those amendments in that time.

Briefly, I shall tell the Minister off, if I may, in my own gentle style for one point that he made in his introduction. He said that there were certain points on which we made progress in Committee. I will be completely honest: there were times when we had too little time in Committee and on other occasions people spent too long debating matters that did not need so much time. I am not going to pretend that everything in Committee worked smoothly, but the reality was that the Committee did not have sufficient time overall. There were occasions on which hon. Members such as I felt that we ought to assist in making some progress in order to get on to other things, so we did not spend as much time debating clauses as we wanted. Having tried to be co-operative and helpful, we find it a little difficult to have that thrown back at us afterwards, as if to say, "You went through these clauses quickly, so everything was fine and they were non-contentious." I want to put that on the record because it is not an entirely fair comment.

If we stick to the timetable that we have before us, hon. Members will be asked to vote—I must be careful with my imagery—for a pig in a poke. That is the correct metaphor to describe what we are being asked to buy: something about which we do not have sufficient detail. In my party, we do not want to buy this pig at all. We have made our position clear on the Bill. The Conservatives have explained that they do not yet know enough about the pig, and that what they have seen they do not like. I understand that they are officially planning not to vote at all. However, we will be united in voting against the programme motion, which is essential if we are to have the detail that we need to make a proper informed decision. That is, after all, what we should be here to do.

Photo of Richard Shepherd Richard Shepherd Conservative, Aldridge-Brownhills 1:59 pm, 10th February 2005

The programme motion is nearly as bad as it gets. It is not quite as bad as the instrument that the Government use to deem that a Bill has been considered, but it is close. Most Government Members would accept that to deem without consideration is an outrage. The programme motion does not even pretend that we will consider the Bill.

As Mr. Allan has pointed out, the Bill is essentially an enabling Bill. It gives huge powers to the Secretary of State, but what do those powers enable him to do? The point about a pig in a poke is correct. The House has a right to examine the Bill.

The Minister takes a lofty view of Committees, which are for the convenience of the House. In years gone by, Bills were traditionally taken on the Floor of the House in order to meet the reasoned observations of hon. Members. We have all been elected and all represent a point of view. We should all have the opportunity to express how the Bill may bear on our constituents and to form a judgment whether the legislation merits passing.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

Does my hon. Friend agree with this proposition: by curtailing debate, the Government are showing contempt for the views of hon. Members and, more importantly, for the views of the public, who might seek to use their representative to express their views?

Photo of Richard Shepherd Richard Shepherd Conservative, Aldridge-Brownhills

I have spoken so often in debates on guillotine motions that I sometimes think that my remarks are explicit, when they are merely implicit. I am grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend for yet again underlining one of the crucial reasons why we have parliamentary debate.

An early-day motion has been tabled to point out to hon. Members and Members of the other place how lamentable the process has been. As my hon. Friend Mr. Malins has pointed out, the EDM lists the clauses that were not debated—clauses 8 to 11 and 23 to 25. Is that a mere technical matter in an enabling Bill that should not fuss us? Clause 8 sets out the procedure for issuing identity cards. Is that a small matter and should we have the right properly to consider it? Clause 8 concerns matters such as issuing identity cards and designating documents.

Clause 11 contains the power to require information for validating the register. It is enormously important because it is crucial to the operation of the scheme, but it has not been debated. Clause 11(1) places a duty on a person to provide information to the Secretary of State for the purposes of verifying an individual's entry on the register. Not unreasonably, we would like to discuss that duty.

Clause 23 has also not been discussed. It concerns:

"Rules for using information without individual's consent".

If the world at large knew what this Government are about in their construction of a security and police state, it would be truly alarmed by databases that can be accessed by other people and information that must be given under the threat of law. We want to know to whom the information must be given and for what purpose.

Clause 23(1) states that information—photographs, signature, fingerprints or other biometric information—provided under clauses 19 to 22 may be authorised only when the Secretary of State, an omnipresent individual who wants to know everything about us,

"is satisfied that it would not have been reasonably practicable for the person . . . to have obtained the information by other means."

For example, if fingerprint information were recorded on the register, the police would first have to search their own register of fingerprint records before requesting information from the register. That is an illustrative example, but it touches on how the Bill will encroach on the very privacy of our lives.

My hon. Friend the Member for Woking has mentioned the work of the Joint Committee on Human Rights. The Bill has been galloped through with less than 28 hours of consideration in Committee, and we are discussing the heart of the Bill—issuing ID cards, the commissioner and databases. The strongest civil liberties argument is that we have seen no detail because we are examining an enabling Bill. The Bill's vagueness, which is inappropriate, was a principal concern of the Joint Committee on Human Rights. How will the Bill affect an individual's privacy?

I do not accept that we should reduce ourselves to nothing, which is the presumption of all those Labour Members who say, "Let's get on with it. Let's consider the Bill and do what we can." The matter concerns one of Parliament's primary functions, which is to look at that to which we give the power of law—if only the Leader of the House could remember his own dual duty. We must solemnly ask ourselves whether the procedure is right.

This is not a party matter. When we vote on the programme motion, which concerns the suppression of the freedom of expression of elected Members of Parliament, we should make a personal judgment. Some might say that that contradicts the purpose of the modern Parliament, because we are merely party men who must do as we are bid. We are, however, individuals who represent human beings—our constituents. Should we agree to a meaningless and monstrous consideration that defeats the very purpose for which we are sent here?

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Parliamentary Leader (Westminster), Spokesperson (Constitutional Affairs; Treasury), Leader, Scottish National Party 2:07 pm, 10th February 2005

The Minister has confirmed my determination never to hire him as an advocate if I am on trial for anything at all serious. He has said that the Bill is non-contentious. The title might be non-contentious, but much of the rest is highly contentious.

The Minister has said that the timetable motion will allow debate. That would be true if it had enough time in it, which it clearly does not. As has already been pointed out, my hon. Friends and I have tabled no fewer than nine amendments to a key passage of the Bill, but that passage has been allocated 45 minutes of consideration, almost certainly half an hour of which will be taken up by voting. Those nine amendments affect Scotland, a country which the Minister might remember from time to time, but not one of them is likely to be reached under this disgraceful timetable motion.

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Conservative, Suffolk Coastal

Will the hon. Gentleman not be taken in by the Government's use of the word "timetable"? "Timetable" suggests that time is available; this is a guillotine motion that is designed to cut off debate. It is a foreign motion and a foreign word and we should pronounce it in a foreign way. We should vote against the guillotine motion.

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Parliamentary Leader (Westminster), Spokesperson (Constitutional Affairs; Treasury), Leader, Scottish National Party

The Conservative party is embracing all things French—I knew that it was only a matter of time before that happened.

Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Conservative, Stone

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that in the light of the disgraceful way in which the Government continuously introduce programme motions, the more that personal liberty is put at risk, the more certain one can be that one will get less time? We should call the motion a garrotte.

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Parliamentary Leader (Westminster), Spokesperson (Constitutional Affairs; Treasury), Leader, Scottish National Party

I always agree with the hon. Gentleman, except when I disagree with him. Nevertheless, his point is substantial. The timetable motion makes it impossible to reach any of the nine amendments.

The Minister said that we should examine the splendid example of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill. Some of us tried to debate that Bill on Monday, when two extraordinary things happened. First, a whole series of amendments was no longer applicable because at the last minute the Government removed the bit of the Bill to which the amendments referred; such was the spatchcock nature of the legislation. Secondly—this is almost unprecedented in the history of this place—the Home Secretary had to adopt other parties' amendments, including one from the Scottish National party. The Government, in headlong retreat from aggravated trespass in Scotland, found themselves having to assimilate the amendments of other parties and then found that, under the timetable, they did not even have time to explain why.I know that the Minister has been preoccupied with this Bill, but he should look at what his colleagues are doing before he cites another Bill as a splendid example of examination and parliamentary democracy.

Finally, let me say this to the Minister—

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Parliamentary Leader (Westminster), Spokesperson (Constitutional Affairs; Treasury), Leader, Scottish National Party

No, I will not take further interventions because I am anxious to complete this point.

I smell a debacle. We are informed under the freedom of information legislation that the retreat from the exchange rate mechanism cost £4 billion. I suspect that this debacle will cost double that. In days to come, when the Minister looks back at the wreckage of a once promising parliamentary career, and as this hangs around his neck like an albatross, he will say, "I wish I'd listened to Alex Salmond on 10 February 2005. I wish I'd allowed those amendments on Scotland and on the rights of the Scottish Parliament and of people in far-flung areas of Scotland to be debated, because if I had, perhaps I and the Government would not be in the ridiculous position of spending £8 billion on a pile of nonsense."

W

Spot on, but parochial. It would be nice to think of Des wishing he'd listened to a whole load of people across the UK and decided to do things differently. But he'll be long gone when the full cost is counted.

Submitted by William Heath

Photo of Mark Fisher Mark Fisher Labour, Stoke-on-Trent Central 2:11 pm, 10th February 2005

This is a major Bill because it takes us into wholly uncharted waters in terms of the relationship between the individual and the state, yet we are trying to discuss it in one afternoon—the shortest of the week. It may not be a constitutional Bill, but it is semi-constitutional, in that it distinguishes a new era for the relationship between the individual and the state. A sane Parliament would give it at least two full days of debate.

Like other hon. Members, I supported the Bill on Second Reading, but with considerable reservations. I did not object to the card itself, but had many reservations about the details, such as the role of the commissioner, what will be on the register and our ability to access and change erroneous material on it. I was hoping, and thought that I had assurances from the Government, that many of those things would be addressed and changed in Committee, but I cannot see that they have been. This is the first opportunity for Back Benchers such as me, who have serious and growing reservations, to hear the debate and participate in it—yet, as hon. Members on both sides of the House have said, we simply will not have enough time.

This is a hugely important Bill and once we pass it, the relationship between individuals and the state will never be the same again. I regret bitterly that this afternoon we will be so constrained in our consideration. The Government are making a huge error.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham 2:13 pm, 10th February 2005

It is a pleasure to follow Mr. Fisher, with whom I agree so often on such matters.

The detail of the Bill has been examined fully by my hon. Friend Mr. Shepherd and I will not repeat what he said, but I would like to summarise my objections.

We are perpetrating a fraud on the electorate because we tell them that Bills are discussed, but this Bill has not been discussed. It is also a fraud on the judiciary, who often say when interpreting legislation that Parliament decided on it after consideration. We are not considering and we have not decided. We are dissuading hon. Members from becoming involved in legislation, because they know that they will not have a chance to speak to the detail.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

If I may just finish this point, of course I shall give way.

We are disqualifying the minority parties from playing a proper role in the discussion—

It being forty-five minutes after the commencement of proceedings on the motion, Mr. Deputy Speaker put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair, pursuant to Standing Order No. 83A(8).

Question put:—

The House divided: Ayes 220, Noes 131.

Division number 80 Identity Cards Bill (Programme) (No. 2)

Aye: 220 MPs

No: 131 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Nos: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Absent: 304 MPs

Absents: A-Z by last name

Question accordingly agreed to.

Photo of Humfrey Malins Humfrey Malins Shadow Minister, Home Affairs

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We now have no more than 18 or 19 minutes to discuss no fewer than 24 amendments and three new clauses. That is a disgrace. It gives us no chance to make meaningful contributions. Is there any way that the Government could be persuaded through you to take the proceedings out of today and return on another day when we can have a proper debate? Otherwise, the proceedings are a farce.

Photo of Michael Lord Michael Lord Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

The hon. Member will appreciate that the Chair is not responsible for the result of the Division. The programme motion is now in place and we must proceed with the debate.

Photo of Michael Lord Michael Lord Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

I have dealt with the matter sufficiently for the time being. I do not want to prolong debate on it. We should move on.