Orders of the Day — Identity Cards Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:34 pm on 28th June 2005.

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Photo of David Davis David Davis Shadow Secretary of State (Home Office) 4:34 pm, 28th June 2005

May I congratulate the Home Secretary on a bravura performance in which he defended the indefensible? His performance was marked more by good humour than by hard facts—a point that I shall come to in a moment.

I shall start with an observation. If, 10 years ago, I had gone on the radio and said that within a decade a Labour Government would try to do away with jury trials, remove habeas corpus, eliminate the presumption of innocence, introduce punishment without trial and put house arrest on the statute book, I suspect that I would have been locked up. The Government, however, have tried to do every one of those things in the past few years; each time, they have chipped away at the basic liberties that we hold dear and which previous generations fought to protect. Today, the party which promised the generation of 1945 welfare from cradle to grave is about to give this generation surveillance from cradle to grave. We will not be party to such a measure.

The Home Secretary's proposals represent a fundamental shift in the balance of power between the citizen and the state. They are not just excessive but expensive; they are not just illiberal but impractical; they are not just unnecessary but unworkable, which is why this debate is important. The House has a serious choice to make today. We can choose to let the Government take one more step down the road to what their own Information Commissioner called the "surveillance society", or we can draw a line in the sand and say that enough is enough. We choose to draw that line, and invite anyone in the House who believes in liberty and freedom to do the same.

More than 50 years ago, the British courts ruled that the wartime identity card had outlived its usefulness, saying that it turned "law-abiding subjects into lawbreakers". As a result, Winston Churchill's Government introduced measures to abolish the card, but not before the three original purposes of the card had grown into 39 different uses. That is a warning to us all about the way in which Governments of all persuasions will take a mile of one's freedom if one gives them an inch. The Home Secretary will say that 50 years later times have changed, and indeed they have.