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

No, it is not misleading. Presumably, the police will have card readers that will make the process quicker, unless the hon. Gentleman is assuming that they will work off the biometrics. We have already heard that millions of our fellow citizens cannot provide those biometrics, so there is genuine concern that the Government will end up having to make such a requirement. I do not like to say so, but there is an intrinsic dishonesty in the way in which the Bill has been presented. The possession of a card has been presented as voluntary initially, then compulsory. This has not yet been said, but eventually it will become mandatory to carry one. We cannot otherwise achieve the benefits, including the Madrid benefits rightly raised by the Home Secretary. That is a dishonest way in which to present the Bill to the House.

I return to the more general point. The system that the Home Secretary is proposing will be far more sophisticated than that of the 1940s, the 1950s or the first war years. That makes it all the more important that what he is proposing is not open to misuse. The identity card itself is just the plastic embodiment of a much greater and potentially more pernicious thing—the new national identity register. That is what the Bill is essentially about.

The register is a massive database containing detailed personal information about every person in the country—a database that can be accessed by officials and public bodies without permission and without the person whom they are looking up ever knowing that it has happened. The Home Secretary talks about people exercising their rights under the Data Protection Act 1998. Very few people will do that, and it may be an expensive process. He did not outline any actions on the costs of that process, but if he wants to intervene, I will take a comment from him.

The individuals concerned may not know about that access, but the Government will, and they will keep a record of every time the card is used. They will know where we are and what we are doing. The Government's own Information Commissioner—remember, created and appointed by the Government, not some partisan person from outside; the person whose job it is to worry about the information handled by the Government—says that is "unnecessary". He says it is

"particularly worrying and cannot be viewed in isolation from other initiatives which serve to build a detailed picture of people's lives, such as CCTV surveillance, the use of automatic number plate recognition, recording vehicle movements for law enforcement, and the proposals to introduce satellite tracking of vehicles for road use charging".

Such a vision was originally set out by a man called Blair who changed his name to Orwell and wrote a book called "1984". It was supposed to be a warning, not a textbook.

Not long ago the Prime Minister was caught saying:

"Instead of wasting hundreds of millions of pounds on compulsory ID cards . . . let that money provide thousands more police officers on the beat in our local communities."

In that quote he was attacking what he called "the Tory Right". Today it is his new Labour Government who want to spend thousands of millions of pounds forcing us to sign up to be members of our own country.

As yesterday's report from the London School of Economics found—I do not want to give the Home Secretary dyspepsia—

"With the exception of Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong and Cyprus, no common law country in the world has ever accepted the idea of a peacetime ID card".

The Prime Minister has always been concerned about making his mark on history. That is quite a legacy to leave.